Camden Girls vs Fortismere vs Dame Alice Owens vs Ashmole vs Mill Hill County High

(21 Posts)
Helenac123 Mon 23-Sep-13 22:58:46

Ok this is my first Mumsnet post and I dont know all the 'dd' terminology etc, so don't cut me down! Well my dd is in year 5 so we are in the process of looking at secondary schools! She is quite academic so we are applying for grammar schools like Henrietta Barnett and Latymer, and good indies like NLCS and Habs Girls but obviously there is a lot of competition and there are no guarantees so we are looking at good state options as well. Could someone shed some light on which school they think is the best option?

Helenac123 Tue 24-Sep-13 00:19:43

I've done some research, and here's what I think, but there's so much information to process I think I might have confused myself some more!:

Camden Girls:
Pros: 2nd highest FT ranking for schools I've listed at 300, music places, Good Size - only 120 a year, outstanding ofsted, v. expensive catchment, school of choice for Labour MP's daughters, Geri Halliwell went there - good or bad?
Cons: Banding so only 25% are top band clever - bit confused on how it works?, its Camden so street-smarts may be needed?, no uniform could be too arty-liberal? only girls so could affect social skills with boys? buildings seem tired? On Wednesdays and Fridays school ends at 2.55 after period 7 - why is this?

Fortismere:
Pros: safe area, million pound catchment again, outstanding ofsted, mixed, hysteria talk on miniscule catchment dominates Mumsnet
Cons: lowest FT ranking for schools I've listed although still high at 401, massive - 243 a year, no uniform could be too arty-liberal? no selection? buildings seem tired?

Dame Alice Owens:
Pros: Best FT ranking for schools listed at 140 with A level results beating fully selective Latymer this year! (as to be expected with half the cohort selected via academic/music and the most of the rest siblings of those selected although there are handful of catchment places stretching to about 3 streets away) outstanding ofsted, mixed, good discipline, safe area, uniform
Cons: 200 children a year - bordering on large? buildings seem tired? draws from a large catchment so worried about having local friends? remote area - out of London and hard for me to get to work :S

Ashmole:
Pros: outstanding ofsted, safe area, mixed, uniform, good discipline, impressed with new state of the art facilities, music places
Cons: 2nd Lowest FT ranking for schools I've listed although still high at 357, massive - 232 a year

Mill Hill County High:
Pros: quarter of cohort selected via academic/music/dance with siblings of those selected entering also, mixed, uniform, good discipline
Cons: only good ofsted, massive - 240 a year, not sure if safe area?middling in FT ranking for schools listed although still good at 309 yet Camden Girls ranks higher with no academic places, buildings seem tired?

So yeah, if anyone could shed some light on which school they think is the best option that would be great smile

rootypig Tue 24-Sep-13 00:22:26

Camden ime is not known for turning out academically inclined graduates. Dame Alice Owen is the standout school on your list. (NLCS of the indies). Good luck getting her in.

Helenac123 Tue 24-Sep-13 00:28:12

Thanks rootypig, its just Dame Alice Owen's website says you have to move into catchment 2 years before application so the beginning of year 4 and dd is already in year 5 so unless we can get a selective place it may have to be moving in catchment for one of the other 4.

rootypig Tue 24-Sep-13 03:02:09

Sorry - I was working on the basis that you are looking at all of these through selection, not catchment. Is that not the case? When you say she is 'quite' academic is she in the top two in her year at primary? that is basically what you're looking at for North London schools. (I say this not as a parent, my DD is 10mo, but as a former 11+ tutor smile)

Is there a reason Henrietta Barnet isn't on your list?
www.hbschool.org.uk/

rootypig Tue 24-Sep-13 03:49:38

Ahhhhh have just read your first OP more carefully. I see. You are considering catchment back ups. HB presumably has no catchment. Sorry!

nextyearitsbigschool Tue 24-Sep-13 06:51:35

Geri Halliwell went to Watford Grammar not Camden Girls so that is one less thing to consider. Mill hill County is in an extremely safe and expensive area what made you think it wasn't?

alpinemeadow Tue 24-Sep-13 07:07:43

I agree the huge ones sound huge, but presumably that could mean there are more varied opportunities as they can offer more options - i don't know? Would be interesting (for op!) to hear from people with dcs at 'mega' schools, about the advantages and disadvantages. It may in some ways be a good thing?

hotsummer Tue 24-Sep-13 07:11:14

You will find that MHCHS has much less academic places (only 24 I think). Also DAO and MHCHS both have certain post codes you can apply from whether you go for academic or catchment places. If academic, how about Latymer (Edmonton) ? Also has post code criteria though. Ashmole is not selective but on a tight catchment so where you live is crucial unless you're making a quick move ! If that is the case you cannot move anywhere that would put you in catchment for all of these choices.

Moominmammacat Tue 24-Sep-13 15:26:03

It's easier to get into Habs than Owen's ... know plenty of girls who got into the former but not the latter.

Helenac123 Tue 24-Sep-13 18:22:56

my main worry about "supersized" schools is that dd's primary school has only 30 a year so to wouldn't going to a secondary with 240 a year be a massive step, hard to get to know everyone and pastoral care could suffer?

3littlefrogs Tue 24-Sep-13 18:31:59

Owens is a fantastic school. The size really isn't a problem. Each year group is like a small school with a head of year, deputy head of year and class tutors for each class of about 30.
The location is a pain. Catchment area means the house outside the main gate though. It changes hands frequently for stupid amounts of money. 1800 applicants at least for 60 places every year.

I looked at Henrietta Barnett and Habs and hated both.

Mill Hill county is maths and science orientated but there are music and dance places. I have been told by parents there that the music is excellent.

Latymer is in a bad area. This was the reason I didn't consider it.

I have heard very good things about Fortismere.

I don't know anything about Camden or Ashmole.

Helenac123 Tue 24-Sep-13 19:01:13

In our area of N12, all the parents at dd's primary are harping on about Fortismere and how they have moved into catchment etc (not to mention all the sub-half mile catchment hysteria on Mumsnet) yet I on the open evening I just felt the teaching wasn't that great, just trading on reputation to attract the middle classes and letting private tutoring get results, not to mention quite laissez-faire attitiudes and some of dd's friends' sisters which go there starting to dress like slappers (!) :S

LePetitPrince Tue 24-Sep-13 23:32:05

I don't know Camden or Ashmole but the rest of these schools are not "bankers". Certainly DAO, MHCHS and Latymer are as tricky to get into academically as Habs, St Alban's etc.

AidaN8 Wed 25-Sep-13 00:07:19

Well, my son started in Fortismere last September and it has been such a disaster that we had to actually pull him out. That said, if you have a bright child who fits in, then it might be a good choice. They do vertical tutoring as of last year and are split into Colleges.

Eekk1 Mon 30-Sep-13 07:20:52

Hi. I came across this discussion while looking for something else on the internet. My days as a mum worried about secondary school transfer are long gone. But I do have direct experience of DAOS as a mum so thought I would share. My oldest is just starting his second year at uni and my daughter is in year 12, lower sixth in old money. My son took the entrance exam, and got a place on the waiting list and my daughter started as a sibling.

Generally the school is absolutely fantastic. Almost all the teachers are great and have a very good repor with the pupils. Lessons are mainly fun and interesting and discipline is not draconian but good.

Pastoral care seems good, although as it is a big school you have to ask sometimes for issues to be looked at.

The buildings are a mush mash, some good, some old and tired. They are spread out a lot and there is no real heart to the school buildings. A brand new science block is almost finished, to join the maths and technology block finished a couple of years ago, the very good music rooms and auditorium ( go to a concert if you want to get a real feel for the school, anyone can buy tickets, not just family, and people not connected with the school do, the music is amazing).

The grounds are good, including lots of fields, a lake and woods. My son seemed to have perminatly muddy trousers from playing in the woods and rolling down grass hills, not many schools where they can do that?

This maybe brings me to the point about why the school is so good. Respect, trust and high expectations. They let years 7 and 8 play around a lake and in woods and fields. They probably are supervised but the kids think they are being trusted to be sensible. Similarly lessons might include listening to cricket on the radio or bouncing against walls to see what a gas molecule feels like. Interesting, engaging and the pupils are treated with respect and the same is expected back. But they work hard, maybe sometimes without realising it.

The school does not weed out pupils after GCSEs although I think about 7 in my daughters year did not carry on. Out of 200 not bad. They are also relatively free about what A levels can be taken, expecting good grades in relevant subjects at GCSE. I think the only restriction is on double maths where people need A*. A massive number of pupils take science at A level, I think chemistry is the most popular. And about 10 to 15% get offered places at Oxbridge each year. Almost all others seem to go on to good universities if they want to.

With 65 academic places, 10 music places and about 25 I think closest to the school places, around 100 places a year go to siblings. So there is a real family feel to the school, which i suppose might not be present in fully selective schools? This is important tothe school and there is much cross year support between pupils.

The pupils have their own form groups, then different teaching groups. There are also lots of clubs and activities and some amazing trips abroad so they tend to meet lots of others while forming firm friends in their form and main teaching groups.

Pupils are expected to work hard, and with a significant rump of very very able kids the overall expected standard seems to be high. This can put pressure on the less academic siblings, who may feel that a B is tantermount to a fail! Potentially a problem depending on personalities and abilities. Personally it has meant our daughter, who was bang average at primary school academically, has done much better than we thought she would at GCSE, and the school has really brought out her potential. She wants to be a doctor now. But being in lessons with the super able might have knocked her confidence a bit over the years.

There are problems, as with anywhere I expect, some of the teachers are not as good as they should be (and boy do the kids complain) and some of the kids can be spiteful and badly behaved at times. But generally it is a well run place with a very unusual set up. kids who go there should count themselves lucky and make the most of the opportunities it provides.

Like any big school ere will be many different experiences and perceptions, this is my take on 8 years association with the school, but others may say differently.

Happy to answer questions.

Evageorge Mon 30-Sep-13 21:19:11

If you want a site that helps you be as objective as possible about secondary choice, I always recommend www.how-to-choose-a-school.org
Have a look. It's genuinely helpful.

micky Sat 05-Oct-13 21:29:20

Hello AidaN8 would you mind saying why Fortismere was a disaster for your son? We are considering it for our son and I would therefore be interested to hear your views.

Terezita Wed 15-Jan-14 13:03:59

Having taught languages at Fortismere, this is my point of view. It is great school for a bright and confident child, the A* student type, but if your child is stuck in a bottom set, and that is fixed for 3 years (year 7-9) then s/he will hardly progress. And yes, most kids are tutored from the start in order to avoid the bottom sets. There are major behaviour issues in bottom sets, which makes it hard to actually teach the subject. A typical B or C student will have a hard time. The focus is on the top students and the ones with SEN. It all depends on the child.

lu9months Thu 16-Jan-14 21:46:10

my son started at latymer in sept and is very happy, and we are really pleased with the school. it is true, its not in a middle class area, but it is a great school with excellent pastoral care and wonderful art and music. it seems to turn out confident, pleasant and well adjusted kids and has very good results. I was not very impressed with mill hill county or fortismere when we looked round. the archer academy is a brand new secondary in east Finchley which looks very exciting.generally I think you have to look at the school and go with your instinct - and your daughters feelings too. good luck.

phr1 Mon 12-May-14 03:35:18

What about Alexandar Park School? Especially vs Fortismere?
And can you please say a bit more about the new school in Finchely?

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