Best Schools in Surrey (Both State, Grammar & Independent)

(21 Posts)
penelopewellingtonbowes Tue 27-Nov-12 11:54:47

Hi All,

We have recently moved from Surrey to Kent.

I was wondering what does the forum think of the schools in Surrey as we may send our grandkids to a Surrey school.

My sons attended John Fisher in Surrey during the 1990's selection policy; as Catholics we qualified for places after attending interviews/music places & auditions-the school was highly-selective back then. Now it uses a points system like the London Oratory.

Some of my friends sent their boys to Whitgift and St John's Leatherhead which are meant to be outstanding fee-paying schools.

With Kent we have the benefit of the 11+ but I am quite tempted to put them on the train to Fisher or even The London Oratory in central London.

Any parents or GPs in a similar position? There is an incredible choice of schools across the 2 counties.

PWB

tiggytape Wed 28-Nov-12 10:28:53

PWB - All of the schools you mention have excellent reputations.

If you are looking at state schools in Surrey, you may already know that selection by interview is now banned. Schools can still select on faith criteria (a form from the priest confirms attendance at mass and baptism).
To get a place, you would need to fall into one of their highest selection criteria which normally involves early baptism and regular attendance at mass over a number of years. Even then they have more applicants than places and siblings, medical needs and proximity to the school are all used as tie-breakers which may or may not help you depending where you live. It really depends on how many others in the same category apply, where they live and if they have siblings at the school.

The private schools you are considering will have no such considerations - they select on entrance exams and interviews only. The exams are considered increasingly competitive - so much so that St John’s for example has introduced a pre test from 2011 to weed out applicants at age 11 before allowing them to take a further exam prior to 13.
Surrey also has the 11+ exam for state grammar schools (there are some boys' grammars close to Whitgift: Wallington and Wilsons) and these are highly competitive. Unlike Kent, there is no distance priority for the state grammars and top score wins. They get close to 1500 - 2000 applicants from all over London for less than 200 places.

All of the schools you mention are excellent schools so it may be a case of narrowing down other aspects that are important to you in a school (sports or faith, specialisms, co-ed or single sex) and also looking at them with a view as to how likely your grandson’s would be to qualify for a place on either the exam, the distance or the faith criteria set.
Like London, the main problem in Surrey isn't finding a good school, it is qualifying for a place at a good school.

mummytime Wed 28-Nov-12 18:06:45

Please note there is a big difference between Surrey La, which has no grammars, and places with a postal address like Sutton or Kingston or Croydon which may do.

For the best State schools in Surrey (LA) you have to live in the right area; for the best Catholic State schools you have to: live in the right area, got to the right Primary and be practising Catholics (I'm thinking of St John the Baptist for example).

tiggytape Wed 28-Nov-12 18:15:48

Yes - it is confusing but it doesn't matter much for the grammar schools since you don't get priority for places by living in Sutton or Surrey or anywhere else and also, you apply to them via your own local authority.

As OP had mentioned Whitgift, Wilsons and Wallington are the obvious grammars for her to consider because they are all boys' and within 1.5 - 2 miles of Whitgift. They have have a Surrey postal address, are in the borough of Sutton but are actually located in Wallington! But again that doesn't make any difference to applications or the chances of getting a place

For all other schools (apart from those grammars and private schools), address does matter. But again it doesn't matter in the sense of whether the school is technically in Surrey or in Sutton (John Fisher comes under Sutton even though it is nowhere near the town of Sutton and has a Surrey address for example).

All that matters is how well you fufill their criteria and, if there is a tie breaker, how close you physically live to the school.
The borough boundaries don't matter and don't count against you. Only the distance in miles or metres matters.

TalkinPeace2 Wed 28-Nov-12 19:20:36

"best"
for what
music
art
sport
science
languages
SEN support
overseas trips
affordable to 93% of the population

there is no "best" despite what the idiot Gove says.

Padar Sun 02-Dec-12 15:38:12

There are many excellent schools in Surrey, depends what you are looking for ! Are you looking for boarding schools ? How old are the children ? You have to register well in advance.

penelopewellingtonbowes Mon 03-Dec-12 16:10:54

Hi Padar,

Both of my grandkids were at Laelham Lea (Fisher's prep school across the road) and now are at good state primaries in Kent.

My eldest Grandson is 15 and wants to board at the new Whitgift boarding facility (South Croydon) or take the train from Kent to Surrey every day and do his A-Levels at John Fisher as many of his prep school friends are there and he likes the 'feel' of the school.

The younger boy is 10 and would like to go to Fisher- as he is very sporty and Fisher has good facilities (comparable to some indies) I could see him doing well there.

I would be interested to hear from other parents/grandparents about their boys commuting to Fisher or Whitgift from Kent.

Ladymuck Mon 03-Dec-12 17:20:04

Penelope, I'm afraid that unless your grandkids are in care then they are very unlikely to get a place at John Fisher unless they move back locally. The school has to rank its applicants. Those with siblings at the school get priority, and after that it is children who were baptised under a year and with regular mass attendance. Within that category the boys are ranked on distance to the school, and it is unlikely that anyone as far away as Kent would get in. I guess if you really wanted them there, then it might work if the eldest got a place at 6th form before the youngest was applying for year 7, but I suspect from their ages that that won't be the case. Sutton will be able to give you the category and distance of the last admitted candidate for the last few years if you ask (the school would probably do so too). Unless your grandson wouldn't be able to pass 11+ then I suspect that the Kent grammar will have better results than John Fisher.

In terms of 6th form, Whitgift is good, but if you're looking at boarding anyway, then he would have a wide range of schools to look at. When we looked at schools such as Dulwich College, we found that staff familiar with the range of schools were querying why we'd bother to drive past say Whitgift to get to Dulwich. So equally why travel to Croydon if you have Tonbridge and Sevenoaks on the doorstep?

SoupDragon Mon 03-Dec-12 17:23:36

I agree - I can't see how they would get into John Fisher from Kent.

penelopewellingtonbowes Tue 04-Dec-12 21:22:48

Thanks Ladymuck and SoupDragon,

Yes I have since looked into this, apparently some boys from Bromley and Beckenham get into Fisher but you're right it's not like back in the days of old when boys came from all over, Tonbridge, Crawley et cetera. Even North London!

John Fisher's results are superior to some Kent grammars like Gravesend Grammar and Chatham House. 37% of Fisher's boys went to top 500 Universities between 2005 and 2009 according to FT tables; including Oxbridge, UCL and Ivy League.

We will probably have to try and get eldest an interview at Whitgift then. Tonbridge and Sevenoaks are a bit too liberal/we want that Catholic 'grammar school feel' Fisher offers and Whitfgift is pretty serious too, if not more so.

PWB

DoesntTurkeyNSproutSoupDragOn Wed 05-Dec-12 07:22:20

I live in Croydon and, AFAIK, it's tough to get into JF even from here! A friend changed primary in Y6 to up her DSs chances.

DSs are at Trinity, even though Whitgift is just down the road.

penelopewellingtonbowes Wed 05-Dec-12 08:41:41

The more I learn from being on this forum tells me secondary school education has changed a lot since the 1990s. Seems like John Fisher is still oversubscribed, but that nobody gets in based on ability/interviews these days, which makes it harder for people like us (now living so far away from the school to get in).

When I put my two sons through Fisher the school was ranked behind Whiftgift, but ahead or at the same level as Trinity. It seems that John Fisher 'creams off' less of the boys it would like to admit these days and unfortunately Whitgift, Trinity or further afield the couple of Grammars in London Borough of Sutton scoop them up.

Like I say, when my boys were at JF the school was taking a number of boys from Kent and Sussex by means of its selection policy.

DoesntTurkeyNSproutSoupDragOn Wed 05-Dec-12 10:02:17

I don't think JF has any kind of academic requirement does it? I didn't look (what with not being catholic!) but I thought it was primarily commitment to Catholicism and distance now.

Trinity has been steadily improving and I think it's at least on a par with Whitgift now. Competition for the Sutton grammars is high now as there isn't that option for Croydon and, if you aren't a church goer, good state secondaries are few and far between.

Ladymuck Wed 05-Dec-12 12:20:37

The local position is very different from how you may remember it. JF is still the more sought after Catholic boys comprehensive (certainly given that Thomas More is the local alternative!) for those who don't make the cut for the gramar school, but as date of baptism is so key that non Catholics ignore it, and there is no screening by ability. It certainly isn't regarded locally as a particularly academic option, especially as they are a sports specialist school. Generally those who are most academically able are heading for Whitgift/Trinity or the Sutton or Bromley grammars (or further afield if they want co-ed). If Tonbridge is too liberal for your liking, then Worth is becoming popular with the Catholics at Cumnor House. You should also look at The Judd grammar in Tonbridge which I think you will find to be a close match to the JF you fondly remember, but it is very academically selective. That said, only points in the 11+ count for a place and you could get in from all over Kent and Surrey. I think over 80% of GCSE grades were A or A*.

penelopewellingtonbowes Thu 06-Dec-12 10:31:14

Thanks DoesntTurkeyNSproutSoupDragOn & Ladymuck,

You're right; I just checked Fisher's admissions and it is completely non-selective nowadays. Like I said during the 1990s it was one of the few schools operating a very complex admissions policy, which screened boys and their parents by way of interviews and some (boys) by ability.

Back then you had to list Fisher as your first option, ahead of any comps or other selective schools-John Fisher only accepted first choice applicants.

21% of John Fisher's boys went to selective universities which compared to Trinity (66%) is a big gap than during the 1990's.

Ultimately the middle classes have to realise that highly selective church schools like London Oratory and John Fisher are no longer an option/alternative to fee-paying schools. Sad but true.

penelopewellingtonbowes Thu 06-Dec-12 10:33:03

What I meant was they are no longer highly-selective!

ercroydonmum Thu 06-Dec-12 12:28:00

PENELOPE,

i remember when JF was selecting its kids. We like you sent our DS to Fisher's prep school laleham lea when laleham lea were prepping boys for Fisher's entrance interview, religion test and for music places at the time.

I remember staying late with DS and his father on 4 evenings to practise interview technique with LL teachers-he wasn't ever going to get one of the music or academic places so the religion test and interview was our only way.

In the end one of the masters at John Fisher tripped us up by asking DS in depth questions more appropiate for an altar boy and we lost out.

As we had to choose JF as our number 1 option (you could not apply for Grammars and London Oratory ahead of Fisher if you wanted any chance of getting a place) we had to send him to Worth in Crawley hmm until he was 16 at which time we sent him to Fisher's 6th form. Messing up the religion test cost us over 60 grand angry

Fisher sounds like it is much more of a standard non-selective school today.

misscorkingdaleoftheshire Thu 06-Dec-12 17:23:28

penelopewellingtonbowes, ladymuck-

John Fisher is a definite no-no for our youngest boy-his elder sister was at Coloma (also in Croydon) but left in 2002 with good grades, his elder brother passed his Fisher interview and sang for a music place in 1997. He received a great education leaving with 3 good A Levels and winning a place at Leeds University.

My husband (Stowe) and I (Roedean) wanted a good education for our children, but without paying the fees and all the baggage that comes with a Public school education- we did look at some of the Grammars close(ish) to Guildford (Wilsons & Wallington Boys & Girls) but we really liked Fisher and Coloma because of the kind of parents and boys who were at the school at that time, all of them had been interviewed and selected to some degree. We knew full well the qualities found in the parents and pupils was to do with selection.

Anyway our young son who is just finishing up at Surrey prep will be going for Wilsons (Grammar) and London Oratory (RC) as John Fisher is not a good school anymore IMHO. AFAIK there are hardly any prep school lads there now and the middle class have abandoned it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! With all due respect we saw some of the parents coming in post-selection and they were completely different.

ercroydonmum Tue 18-Dec-12 19:42:47

MCDS- You are being a little tough on John Fisher.

Naturally the prep-school cohort have since left the school, but John Fisher still attracts decent boys and parents.

It's just not selective any more - it was basically a independent school alternative for many parents in the 1990's, as it operated an almost unique selection policy.

Results are still good- just not outstanding any more, besides how easy was it for ordinary Catholics to get into it pre-ending of selection? Our state schools shouldn't be highly-exclusive, selective and divisive as JF used to be.

JoanByers Tue 18-Dec-12 22:43:16

Where does this child live? Whitgift and St John's are both good schools, but not aimed at the very brightest.

ercroydonmum Wed 19-Dec-12 11:08:46

JoanByers,

I think PWB (or at least her grandkids) are attempting to shuttle them across Kent and Surrey to get to John Fisher-but as explained this is no longer possible as John Fisher doesn't take boys from 20-30 miles out anymore.

I think the London Oratory could still be an option, if you had girls it might be possible to get them to pass the 11+ or 16+ music scholarship but even Kent to Shirley (Croydon) would probably be too far these days.

This whole thread has a common misunderstanding that John Fisher, London Oratory, Coloma are no longer selective-you are either Catholic enough to get in or not, there are no academic places, music places, religion places, interviews or exams today. Except for a tiny minority for Coloma and Oratory.

Whitgift gets good results out of average and high-ability boys, PWB- I would look at Tonbridge School, Judd and Sevenoaks over John Fisher- it's just too far.

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