Primary schools in Islington - state & independent

(35 Posts)
hawthorn23 Fri 09-Nov-12 23:38:57

We are relocating to London in January 2013 and need to find a school for our 5 year old son. We have decided to live in Islington and would be very happy for him to attend a good local community school but have been advised by the LEA that places across the borough are very scarce. I have investigated private options too, and am mostly getting knocked back due to schools being oversubscribed - some will not even take a wait list application. We have been offered a place at Dallington School, and have been given reason to hope for a place at Rosemary Works Schools. The Gower School has not been a complete no, but I am fairly sceptical that an offer will be made in time.

I am concerned that Dallington will not offer enough structure for our son, something we have been advised by his kinder teacher is good for him, ie gives him a sense of security. Does anyone have any relevant experience that will help us determine whether our fears are well founded or not? I will et an opportunity to visit the school in a few weeks.

I would also like to know if anyone has thoughts on whether it will be wise to persevere with the state system. I have pressed for information about the application process, schools that do have vacancies but the LEA has not been forthcoming - I guess they are a very busy outfit. I am worried that my son could be without any school for sometime, or that he will be allocated to a school that is pretty poor, far away from where we live, or even in another borough altogether. I will be very happy to be told I am panicing unnecessarily!

I have been in touch with some schools directly and got the impression some do have places such as Copenhagen Street - they have been really friendly and easy to deal with so far - does anyone have children at this school, or any knowledge of others' experiences?

I was told that schools would be the most stressful aspect of relocating to London, and so far that prediction has been spot on! Any advise at all will be extremely gratefully received!

Islingtonprimaries Sat 10-Nov-12 09:06:12

hello have name changed as don't want to be outed.
My children are at a well regarded Islington primary. We think it's fab. It's oversubscribed, but there are always places popping up throughout the year - lots of people apply while always having the intention of going private, people move etc. In one of my kids' reception classes there was apparently a tiny catchment (I think 600m), but in the end about 5 kids ended up joining the class who'd be rejected in the first round of offers, but spaces came up mid term and in January. So don't worry, there are places especially mid year as lots of families who might have wanted a particular school initially, won't want to move their children.
It partly depends on whether your child will be going into reception or year1 I suppose. I suspect it may be easier to go into a year 1 class. I honestly think you'd probably only have to wait for a few months at most to get into either of these years at this particular primary (not saying it's the one you want, but as an example of one that is oversubscribed at the outset).
Copenhagen I'm sure has places because I think it was undersubscribed in the first place. I have heard it's a very nice school but I'm not sure whether you're going to get the sort of people who might have potentially gone private - can you see me skirting round a class issue here?
I wouldn't touch Dallington or Gower with a barge pole. Gower is the only private school I've known where droves of people leave it. At least three families in my kids' school and I know of a further three or four. Dallington had to close a class in one of the upper years because there were so few pupils. If I were going to go private I'd want somewhere really blue chip with a great track record, not somewhere proprietor run and possibly dubious. But that's just my opinion.
If you want to pm me I can ask at my children's school whether there's any likelihood of places in January, especially if you can let me know roughly where you're going to be living. Not saying you're interested in this partic school but it's a nice, mixed, high achieving one.

hawthorn23 Sat 10-Nov-12 10:37:05

Thank you so much for all of your very useful input - it is so wonderful to hear from a parent instead of admissions officers! I do feel more confident about sticking with the community school path and will pm you about your children's school - thanks again

camgirl Sat 10-Nov-12 10:45:49

Not so familiar with community schools .. others are better placed to advise..

If you are thinking of private, have you looked at The Lyceum or St Paul's Cathedral School? The Lyceum might have a place, and we know several children who are very happy and thriving there. SPCS might be worth a look for possible 7+entry.

Dallington is actually really great for up to year 2. They do have a problem with the later years as many children move on after year 2. But I'm fussy and I would be more than happy with it for up to 7+ and would then be looking at SPCS etc

camgirl Sat 10-Nov-12 10:46:48

Oh yes, just to second that I know families who've left Gower and were not thrilled with it.

WineOhWhy Sat 10-Nov-12 10:51:38

A lot of islington parents do the rat run to hampstead schools or into the city for private schools. A middle ground is to send them to the children's house school for a couple of years which is a lovely little school which goes up to y2. You woud then be looking at 7plus entry to the likes of UCS or highgate, or st Paul's cathedral school in the city has a 7 plus entry or there are often vacancies at other schools. 7plus is not for everyone but does have the advantage of prolonging the rat run for a couple of years and making some local friends at a really nice school.

hawthorn23 Sat 10-Nov-12 11:39:52

The Lycuem has a waiting list of 22 and St Paul's Cathedral has closed its waiting list as has Charterhouse Square School - I have looked around at Hampstead schools but think we have resolved to go local. I will look into Children's house - it seemed so small, it is the only school in Islington & Clerkenwell I have not approached. perhaps I will just in case there is a casual vacancy. Thanks again for all input

BulaKula Tue 20-Nov-12 22:31:32

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BranchingOut Wed 21-Nov-12 07:46:31

Sorry to bear bad news, but priority for Children's house is given to children who have been though their nursery. However, it may be worth seeing if anything comes up.

Dallington - quite a 'free range' approach. If you love it, you love it....my husband toured and felt it was an hour of his life that he rather wanted to have back!

Gower - I have visited. My two doubts were a lack of extension in some of the mixed year group teaching, plus I have also heard that the head is pretty poor at handling disagreement. Apprently her line is: 'well, if you don't like it then we can easily fill your place'. However, the atmosphere in the classes was lovely and the children seemed happy.

Best advice is just to look very carefullly at where you are buying/renting.

BranchingOut Wed 21-Nov-12 07:48:02

Oh yes, if you want to access hampstead schools there is actually a bus that goes through islington - a USA style school bus with chaperone.

BranchingOut Wed 21-Nov-12 07:49:19

Rosemary works?

It seemed fine but is a bit out of the way if you live in the central belt of Islington.

have a look.

skandi1 Wed 21-Nov-12 08:21:15

The other posters are correct. It's very hard to find acceptable schooling in Islington, even if you are willing to pay handsomely.

This isn't what you want to hear. We lived in islington for 7 happy years and loved it but ended up selling our beautiful house just before my oldest reached school age as we could not find a decent school, state or private, for her.

We are now in North West Kent and my daughter attends an excellent pre-prep. Here we had the choice of 4 top notch preps and 3 ofsted grade 1 state schools within a 2.5 mile radius of our home. All with spaces/within catchment.

There is a trade off here. As poor as school choices may be in Islington, it does offer a fab lifestyle and so convenient for central London. Where we are now feels "villagey" but within London sprawl. So not quite so trendy and a bit suburban.

EmpressOfTheMadBoxOfFrogs Wed 21-Nov-12 08:21:37

DD went to a wonderful Islington state primary (wonder if it was the same one, Islingtonprimaries? We looked at the Gower and Dallington, but the Gower looked pretty boring for the older ones and Dallington just felt chaotic. The place DD ended up at was perfect, very hands on, close parent-school communication, and they really got her interested in learning. PM me if you'd like the name.

Farewelltoarms Wed 21-Nov-12 09:11:56

Think that's a bit harsh Skandi - there is a dearth of private schools, but there are plenty of good state ones if you're happy with a broad social, ethnic and economic mix. There are plenty of good/outstanding primaries - ok maybe not all grade 1 but in terms of value added, they're pretty amazing.

skandi1 Wed 21-Nov-12 09:20:59

Farewell. In Islington our three closest state schools were ok but they were all church schools and we did not qualify for a place through religion. Two of them had taken only 2 children the previous year on distance of 100 yards. So we would not have stood a chance.

We had friends living close by who started attending church every Sunday a year before their son was due to apply. Their attendance record was rejected as it wasn't from birth so no place for him. They lost their appeal.

I don't think I am being harsh.

Farewelltoarms Wed 21-Nov-12 09:35:10

That's very true of Highbury but not of all bits of Islington (which is of course not really one area, but a massive borough so perhaps we're both generalising from our own experiences). And unfortunately that faith school red herring is true of lots of bits of London, but that's a different issue. The faith schools in my bit of Islington aren't sought after for some reason and so don't skew the intake of the other schools.
Anyway, you sound very happy in Kent and we're very happy in urban idyll with our local school. I think there is a certain degree of laissez faire required to stay in such a mixed bit of the city.

skandi1 Wed 21-Nov-12 09:51:07

I would have preferred to stay. It's a great place to live.

I was not surprised about the state provision and the faith schools but I was very surprised about the private sector in the area. For secondary there are some really excellent private schools.

We had put DD on the list for the Gower School. However changed our minds based on a neighbours very poor experience.

In all honesty, my "urban idyll" in Islington was somewhat shattered the day I had to walk past two groups of 10 and 11 year olds from two local faith primaries engaged in a knife fight on the corner of the road adjacent to mine.

Pleasenomorepeppa Wed 21-Nov-12 10:03:33

I'm in Islington with DC due to start school next year. We can't send her to a private school & are on the outskirts of all the schools apart from faith schools.
I would suggest if you want to go to a state school, try to look at some of them regardless of what you've heard & what their Ofsteds say.
Some of the schools rated outstanding are not all they're cracked up to be. I know of one that friends of mine who are teachers in this area wouldn't send their children to & another friend without DC's who works for Ofsted isn't keen on it either!
It also depends what you want from a school.

Farewelltoarms Wed 21-Nov-12 10:21:31

Indeed Nomorepeppa - we were blown away by our kids' school which really isn't one of those (or wasn't then) very sought after.
Scandi, that must have been horrible for you, witnessing the fight. It's much easier to have the necessary chill if you haven't had to see anything like that (on the contrary, we've left our car keys in the car door overnight and they were there in the morning). I do think there is such an element of chance and the vagaries of schooling/estate agency about where one can end up. We were going to move further out, but nothing came up that we liked. We might have gone private, but our local school changed dramatically just when we needed to. It feels very right for us to be where we are, but it wasn't preordained and could as equally been so different. Ditto for you - the school local to you might have changed its admissions (happened to a friend in Primrose Hill), you might not have seen horrible fight etc.
But generalising again, there was a bit of an exodus just pre-reception to places like St Albans and Kent, and I would say that on the whole, the mothers (they tended to be the driving force for move) were more anxious than those who stayed, a bit less que sera sera. Time will tell whether we were right to assume all will be well!

trifling Wed 21-Nov-12 10:28:06

Moving into a London area after the normal admissions round is really tricky. I don't think the privates are great in Islington either and my best advice would be to move as close as you possibly can to a good state with an intake of at least 60 - so you are first on the waiting list - and if necessary prepare to start elsewhere or homeschool. Have you seen round Dallington? I don't think lack of structure would be hard - reception everywhere is basically play anyway. You could start there or Rosemary Works (which people often seem to use as a waiting room for state) and hope for state place to come up.

catastrophewaitress Wed 21-Nov-12 12:41:28

OP. To answer your first question, Dallington is not known to be particularly structured shall we say. No first hand experience of Copenhagen but have looked extensively at other primaries in the area, both state and private. We are happy at our local community school - PM me if you want more details. There is always some movement in inner London, places do come up, but how long you'd have to wait is anyone's guess. Do you have an address sorted yet, as that will influence your choices to a significant degree?

Methren Fri 23-Nov-12 23:30:09

OP, I live in southern Islington and I know parents who have/had children at Dallington, Gower and several of the local state primaries.

In your shoes, and providing finances aren't an issue, I would take the place at Dallington. My reasoning would be as follows. It is a small school with (ime) friendly parents and nice children. Although it has a reputation for being "unstructured", this is less likely to be an issue in a small school with small classes than in a large state primary with classes of 30. By taking the place there, you have a "safe option" while you look around at state primaries local to you, put your name on waiting lists, etc. If a place comes up at a state primary you prefer, you move your DS. If there are no state options you are happy with, or you find you like Dallington, he can stay there. Practical pros: Dallington has no uniform, so if you did end up moving him, you haven't wasted money buying kit you only use for a short time. Cons: no after-school care or holiday programme.

Gower I would avoid. I know parents that are perfectly happy with it, but I have been, quite frankly, shocked at the school's inflexible and insensitive approach to working with parents over serious issues such as managing a child's chronic health condition. It is very over-subscribed for Reception, but the school premises are small and it is not clear how they will manage for space if most of the children currently in KS1 stay on. Gower has wrap-around care and a thriving holiday programme, but also a long and complicated uniform list that would be annoying to have to invest in if you were not sure that your DS would remain at the school long-term.

CruCru Sun 25-Nov-12 17:46:43

This is all really helpful - watching with interest.

Farewelltoarms Tue 27-Nov-12 17:31:57

Sorry to drag up this quiet thread, but I get very irked by the cliche that all schools in Islington are rubbish.
I also hate league tables but am linking to a Wilshaw/ofsted approved one here
news.sky.com/story/1017056/ofsted-postcode-lottery-for-good-schools that 89% of primary schools in Islington are good or outstanding. This is the sixth highest authority in the country.
Yeah I know Ofsted's not completely trustworthy but it does give some indication that Islington is hardly a black hole for good primaries. I think bits of it (mine certainly) are a black hole for middle class parents willing to give their local school a chance. And whatever the opposite of a blackhole is for parents who believe that any private school is good just for being private (hence the proliferation of these sort of small, unproven ones with no outside space).

CruCru Wed 28-Nov-12 22:25:43

Part of the problem is that many of the secondaries get results that I find unacceptable (less than 50% getting 5 A to Cs). Therefore I think that if you are considering a private secondary (eventually) then you either have to tutor your child to get in or send them to a private primary who will do the tutoring for you.

Having said that, I would be pleased if DS got into my local state primary. In many ways, it's preferable, closer with a mix of backgrounds. But I have applied to private primaries in case he doesn't get in to the state one.

EmpressOfTheMadBoxOfFrogs Thu 29-Nov-12 01:23:07

<waves to CruCru

We wouldn't touch two of the secondaries near us with a bargepole but we're really happy with DD's comp near Finsbury Park. It's reasonably small, kids seem well behaved, results are good and teachers are very hands on. DD's really happy. Anyone who wants the name PM me.

AuntAda Thu 29-Nov-12 08:26:58

Crucru, there's a logical flaw in assuming that if only X% of a school's cohort get 5 A-C, then that translates into an X% of your child getting acceptable grades.

Whereas in fact what you need to do is to look at the grades achieved by the top of the cohort (assuming your child is likely to be in a higher-achieving band). I wouldn't worry about a school with a low-ish % of 5 A-Cs if there were a reasonable number of kids at the top end getting 9 or 10 As and A*s. Conversely if the overall % of A-Cs was higher, but the top achievers were getting mainly Bs and Cs with only a smattering of As and A*, then that would concern me more. Does that make sense?

I know a dc now in the 6th form who went through Highbury Grove when it was a 'don't touch wiht a bargepole' school. He got 10 As and A* at GCSE, and he wasn't the only one. As long as you can see that the school is doing well by its highest achievers, there's no reason to assume that they won't do well by your child, iyswim.

Empress: HFS?

EmpressOfTheMadBoxOfFrogs Thu 29-Nov-12 16:58:19

Not HFS, AuntAda (Barry?) although I know they're meant to have improved.

EmpressOfTheMadBoxOfFrogs Thu 29-Nov-12 17:04:38

Grrr no sorry I'm thinking of Diana Barry's Aunt Josephine. You've got to be Aunt Ada Doom grin

AuntAda Thu 29-Nov-12 17:42:31

Yy, Aunt Ada Doom obv. smile

CruCru Fri 30-Nov-12 09:02:37

Hi to Express and AuntAda.

I do see your point. Having said that, I went to a comprehensive where a bright, ambitious kid could (and did) do well, despite the average results not being brilliant. Once we got into streaming, it was great. Before that, however, it was ghastly, with bullying and kids rioting in lessons. If I can avoid that for DS, that would be great.

Express, I will PM you about the school.

Farewelltoarms Fri 30-Nov-12 12:52:35

There's two issues CruCru - whether or not you want to stick to state for secondary. Second issue is, if you want to go for private at secondary level, how much better prepared will your child be if they go private for primary (and they as you say do the tutoring for you). I feel that very few private primaries round these parts offer something substantially more than the states. If my ds went to the Hall I'd probably chill about the whole secondary selection thing, but I wouldn't if he went to Gower/Dallington. I'd only go private if it totally absolved me of any responsibility to do Bond papers with him.
Even if you believe that private primaries do the tutoring for you, you have to weigh up the fees/commute of going private against the onerousness of a bit of tutoring.
But anyway, you want to go state anyway...

CruCru Fri 30-Nov-12 16:39:49

Hi Farewell, yes, if we can get into the State primary round the corner, we will go there.

If we did go private, DS would ideally go to one with minimal or no uniform. Some of the ones we've looked at have things like boaters and blazers which I'm not so into. But that is another thread.

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