Independent, liberal, creative, not-pushy secondary independent education SE or SW London

(57 Posts)
mmoob Fri 19-Apr-13 14:58:05

I'm looking for it all...

I am considering moving to either Greenwich/Blackheath OR Richmond/Kingston area. I am looking at (independent) secondary schools to see if the move is remotely feasible.

Both children are dyslexic but bright, creative and full of beans. They will need some extra help getting through some of the GCSEs but I want to find a school that can give this but also help them to really excel in the areas they are good at - i.e. the less academic areas - arts, after-school activities etc. A school that genuinely celebrates all-round achievement, not only exam results. A relaxed atmosphere with lots on offer/going on, particularly in creative subjects (art, DT, textiles, pottery, drama, music etc etc.). Co-ed or girls only both fine (daughters).

Some of the more nurturing schools I have considered in the past seem very small and slightly claustrophobic - and their size can often limit the extra opportunities available (for children who often depend more on those out-of-class opportunities).

Only looking at Independent schools at the moment as they will need the smaller classes for focus and support - and that is their experience to date.

Any schools leap out at anyone?

They will have to GET IN to these schools too - i.e. those with tough entrance exams will be a struggle.

Any thoughts much appreciated.

racingheart Fri 19-Apr-13 19:33:17

St Dunstan's?
Hampton Court House? (I know there have been some very colourful MN posts about that school, but friends of mine send their DC there with fantastic results - lovely, happy children thriving in laid back, quirky atmosphere.)

Zhabr Fri 19-Apr-13 19:45:53

Surbiton High?

thewhistler Fri 19-Apr-13 20:17:30

I was also going to say St Dunstan's where I know a couple of young people, and Emmanuel.

Royal Russell pretty small and wasn't quite good enough at the theatre for a really talented young man I know, but did well by a dyslexic sportsman.

I assume Alleyns and Dulwich too pressurized? The latter tests every boy for dyslexia in days 2 or 3 and has excellent sen support. Trinity v v good at music theatre and art, don't know about the sen side.

mmoob Fri 19-Apr-13 21:35:22

Oh wow thanks for all the really helpful comments. St Dunstan's looks interesting... Would be interested to know more of its reputation. Does it have a reputation for being the school for all the less bright children/those who don't get in elsewhere - or do parents of bright children also choose it for the ethos? If so, what is the general impression of what that ethos is? Is it very 'trad'?

Have also considered Hampton Court House but feel unsure given some of the feedback... I like quirky too so maybe I should actually go an visit it...!

Love the sound of Alleyn's but just don't think the girls would stand a chance of getting in... Sadly.

Need to look at Trinity... Is that the state school? Generally the SEN provision at secondary level in state schools is weak... unless you have a statement (which we don't). But an amazing state school is definitely worth considering.

Emmanuel - where do most of the students live?

Thanks again for all the help all of you who have replied so far.

RMSeries2 Fri 19-Apr-13 21:50:46

Think people are referring to Trinity in Croydon? Indy.

RMSeries2 Fri 19-Apr-13 21:51:55

Have you considered Chestnut Grove? It is state, and so I don't know how they would deal with dyslexia but it might be worth looking into. Very good for art I believe and I've been hearing good things about it lately.

PanelChair Sat 20-Apr-13 00:18:17

Trinity in Croydon is a boys' school until sixth form, and Dulwich College is a boys' school all through.

BeckAndCall Sat 20-Apr-13 07:44:49

Look a bit further out at Frensham Heights in Farnham - I thought your description was from their brochure it so fits the bill!

55 mins from Farnham to London on the train. Or 20 minutes down from Woking.

thewhistler Sat 20-Apr-13 07:47:22

Hadn't picked up they are both girls. Trinity doesn't take girls before 6 th, dulwich not at all.

The people I know at st d are not rejects from.elsewhere, their parents or they chose it for the ethos. Lots of music, pretty good art, lots going on, was my impression. Lots of foreign trips, interesting extra curriculum. Of course, any school is what you make of it.

mmoob Sat 20-Apr-13 09:28:30

Hmm the whistler St Dunstan's does sound interesting...

Frensham Heights probably does fit the bill BeckAndCall but I never considered it as thought it was too far out (distance wise!)... I'd better look at the train timetables!

Never heard of Chestnut Grove RMSeries2 so will check it out, thank you.

I will keep on looking! Thank you everyone. Any more ideas keep 'em coming!


mmoob Sat 20-Apr-13 09:31:41

And sorry, clearly I wasn't clear enough about them being girls!

SanityClause Sat 20-Apr-13 09:35:36

Bromley High is easily commutable from Greenwich. Blackheath High, which is closer doesn't have such a good reputation, although I know someone with a DD there who is very happy with it.

mmoob Sat 20-Apr-13 09:45:52

Also (sorry more questions!) what is the ART like at St Dunstan's in particular? A fantastic and thriving Art dept is essential for DD1 and good languages for DD2 - is there a school that could satisfy both?! Anybody know how good they are with SEN?

mmoob Sat 20-Apr-13 09:57:17

Thank you SanityClause. Do you think the 'High' schools (assuming they are branches of GDST?) would consider taking dyslexic girls and be likely to support them? Maths is a huge problem so that means entrance test 'fails' unless the school is genuinely open minded about SEN.

A big mistake in my view - how many very intelligent people do you know who can't do maths? I know plenty....

AcrylicPlexiglass Sat 20-Apr-13 10:08:25

I think you should definitely consider state as well as private with that remit.

Brit school would be good for the arty one, once she was 14.

AcrylicPlexiglass Sat 20-Apr-13 10:20:35

St Dunstans is the sort of place I would really resent paying for! Perfectly nice and good school and children are very happy there afaik but practically indistinguishable from many of the good comps in the area except that it costs money and has a more homogenous intake- less wide in terms of ability, race, social background, as you'd expect. I think there is an entrance test? And I'm not sure how good they are with sen either. One of my friend's sons who has ADHD did not get in despite passing the test and my (possibly unfair) impression was that they did not want to deal with the ADHD. However, they may be different with sens that usually have less behavioural impact such as dyslexia. The lad concerned was a bit of a handful at the time though he has thrived in a more supportive state school and 4 years later is a pleasure to be

thewhistler Sat 20-Apr-13 10:37:36

A friend's dyslexic dd goes to sydenham high and seems to be doing well, afaik. Maths def not a strong point for her, but she's pretty good at art.

You'll ask.

mmoob Sat 20-Apr-13 11:50:04

You make some good points AcrylicPlexiglass re state schools but it's always such a gamble (with ALL of them, to be fair!). We haven't ruled out state for the right one.

Brit school is a very interesting suggestion. Do you (or anyone?) know if you can get by there if you are not an outgoing stage-performer? Daughter very good creatively, and I know they have a visual arts stream, but very shy and does not push herself. Would assume Brit school is teaming with amazingly outgoing, extroverted and talented performing arts kids and she would vanish into nothingness despite her quiet talents and dedication to arts subjects... I wonder if anyone has any thoughts on that.

Will look into Sydenham High, thewhistler - thanks for that... sounds like it could be a possibility. As you can imagine the worst thing for a dyslexic child is to be marked out as the child who is struggling on at the bottom of the class for the whole x years of their secondary education... And it's so hard to predict if your child will be that one...

hatchypom Sat 20-Apr-13 12:16:31

Notre dame Cobham they have been amazing with my dd sen

AcrylicPlexiglass Sat 20-Apr-13 12:31:23

I think and hope so as my son starts there in I wouldn't describe him as shy but he is certainly not an outgoing stage performer either! Though the school is still best known for its unique performing arts curriculum, the art, design and media strands have a growing reputation and popularity and I think attract many less obviously super-extrovert characters. Brit is very good for SENs and pastoral care, I have been told. The staff at the open day and interviews we attended seemed very supportive and sane as well as wildly enthusiastic about their subjects and the young people were far more down to earth than I had anticipated. It seems like a really good school.

Copthallresident Sat 20-Apr-13 12:33:51

mmoob I have two dyslexic DDs who went to one of the most academic schools in SW London and certainly didn't bounce along at the bottom, indeed some of the more academic schools have excellent support for dyslexics. It isn't really that there is an identifiable "bottom" All DDs have strengths and weaknesses. These schools all pride themselves on valuing arts and other activities as much as the academics. I would have thought your best bet would be to go and visit schools that you think from your Ed Psychs report they would be capable of getting a place at (LEH for instance say that their pupils will exceed the 95th percentile on reasoning scores) and see what feels right for your DCs. I honestly think any out of the selective schools would actually provide the sort of education you describe.

Trouble with Hampton Court House is that those who have been a problem at other schools tend to end up there, I am sure the school is what it says on the tin but DDs wouldn't go there because of some of the difficult characters they know who have ended up there.

The thing about SW London is that we are spoilt for choice of good private schools, especially for girls. The ones that have most buzz about them at the moment are Kingston Grammar (new Head) and Latymer Upper, but all the rest are solidly good too so it is a matter of where your DDs would best thrive and there is no substitute for going and seeing. Have you heard of Radnor House, new and well thought of by parents but a bit more mainstream than Hampton Court House.

Copthallresident Sat 20-Apr-13 12:36:30

BTW Do not include Ibstock Place in your list, they actively discourage any sort of SEN.

Piemother Sat 20-Apr-13 12:37:27

Probably too far but look in st christopher in herts. It's fab grin

Elibean Sat 20-Apr-13 15:08:19

mmoob, we are in Richmond Borough (though not as far out as Kingston) and I have a bright, creative, very slightly dyslexic and definitely arty dd1 in Y4 at a local state primary. We're looking at our local state school (which is on the up, just been to visit it), Emmanuel, and possibly a couple of others not yet defined...

But as Copthall says, I had a distinct impression from Ibstock that any SEN are not very welcome. Such a shame, because 10 years ago it wold have been a great school for dd1 sad

mmoob Sat 20-Apr-13 16:22:55

Thanks Elibean, yes, Ibstock's OLD reputation was perfect for children like ours... It's not easy to find somewhere that will accept them, support them but still have high aspirations for them as we know they are still bright and capable of great things! They just don't quite fit the standard 'boxes' in education today.... What do you think you'll end up with?

Copthallresident - I agree that lots of the schools have good support for dyslexics but somehow they are impossible to get into if you are dyslexic - I think lots give the support for those who started there from a young age or somehow sneaked in! It's a mystery to me as entrance exams seem designed to basicially deter any dyslexic child however bright....

Perhaps I am too cowardly about it and they would be more generous in the marking of the exams than I think...

Copthallresident Sat 20-Apr-13 17:14:07

mmoob To my knowledge Latymer, LEH, St Georges Weybridge all give extra time in entrance exams. The proportion of dyslexics in all those schools, around 10%, match the proportion in the general population, as you would expect. At her entrance exam DD was one of only two already diagnosed and given extra time, and both got in, but by GCSE there were 17 getting extra time, very bright dyslexics can find coping strategies so that problems manifest themselves when they have to work at a higher level or are faced with more demanding exams. She actually got in to all four schools she tried for, and she has severe problems with writing and reading speed (10th percentile) as well as short term memory and processing . Certainly the exams for the most selective schools focus more on ability than attainment, and will have reasoning type questions rather than straightforward tests of knowledge, so they will get the expected proportion of dyslexics who have that level of ability. Ironically it was the less selective schools , eg the Highs, who had the most straightforward exams but Surbiton at least have a very good record of taking and supporting those with Specific Learning Difficulties.

GCSEs were an absolute nightmare though, and just starting to go through same for AS sad

mmoob Sat 20-Apr-13 17:55:13

Sounds like you are in the same boat then Elibean - it's tricky isn't it...?

I am aware that Ibstock USED to be the right kind of place - shame it's sold out really - there is definitely a gap in the market round there...

Cophthallresident I think what you say is right - that a lot of the schools do have good dyslexia support, but my impression is that most of them won't knowingly let the dyslexic kids in (through stringently 'academic' entrance criteria), as they don't want to become a magnet for the SEN kids it seems... I think the dyslexics that get through the net often come up through junior departments or excel in the the 3Rs and possibly have other issues that don't obviously impact their English/Maths scores... These kids do brilliantly as they have good SEN support and are in with all the bright kids and have high expectations made of them. My worry is HOW do you get your children in to these schools if they are likely to fail the maths exam and spell badly and buckle under time pressure?

Kingston Grammar sounds great but I ruled it out as I thought they just would not get in. My beef is that many of the best art depts are in the schools which select on academics - not on art! I'll have a look at Radnor House too, thank you. Appreciate your positive take on the school situation in SW London though - perhaps I am being too harsh and the system is softer than I perceive it to be. Let's hope so!

tiredaftertwo Sat 20-Apr-13 20:07:13

mmoob, I've got dc at one of these schools (an academic one). I wondered where your impressions are coming from? I don't know much about it - but my impression was they were pretty upfront that they do and can support dyslexia, for example, but other sen not. We certainly know kids who got in without a diagnosis who are clever but not great and getting stuff down in organized, accurate way. I think the school's attitude is they can teach that. My guess is being weak at maths might be more of a problem. The criteria are the exam and the interview and the school report, for pretty much all of them - it is not as if there is a defined bar you have to clear.

Anyway, whichever impression is more accurate, you have nothing to lose by asking the schools you are interested in directly and honestly. Good luck

lisad123everybodydancenow Sat 20-Apr-13 20:10:09

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

MintyyAeroEgg Sat 20-Apr-13 20:20:22

I have a friend with a dyslexic dd at Sydenham High. But unfortunately don't know anything else about the school, sorry!

mmoob Sat 20-Apr-13 22:09:50

Copthallresident I'm very heartened by what you say, again. Perhaps the schools are more sympathetic than I realised. On non-verbal reasoning both girls score fantastically which I understand is a good sign of more innate intelligence. It's the maths... Behaviourally they are fantastic too. So that's good too. Perhaps I need to aim higher for them to get access to those great art departments and after school clubs!

Tiredaftertwo I think you might be right in that I need to speculate less and talk to the schools more! Thank you.

I'm afraid Herts is too far lisad123, but thank you.

Second time Sydenham has been mentioned too, so worth considering too. Thank you.

Thanks again everyone for your insights and positive take on situation.

Happymum22 Sat 20-Apr-13 23:42:16

Priors Field in Godalming, near Guildford is great for dyslexics - fab SN support. Very much the view results aren't what drives the school (but results are good and excellent value added). They run extra tuition 1-1s and workshops during and after school to help those who need support getting their grades up. My close friend's DD is there and she did a maths breakfast club for the weeks before her GCSE and some sort of science support sessions too. The creative side is outstanding and loads of opportunities to get involved with a huge range of activities. Lots of clubs and a non-pushy attitude. Approachable staff.

Happymum22 Sat 20-Apr-13 23:47:51

Sent that before I meant to..
Was going to add they are great at getting the girls to get the best results possible. It is not as selective as previous schools mentioned like LEH so very different atmosphere. They are great at balancing getting the best results and finding each girls niche, what she does succeed at, and providing so many opportunities that it is a real rounded education.

Wobblypig Sat 20-Apr-13 23:52:14

Have you considered Hall school Wimbledon?

mmoob Sun 21-Apr-13 08:59:01

Ooh prior field sounds really good.... Will check it out, never heard of it.
Will check it out. The Hall seems good but perhaps a little too geared for SEN than I feel my children need, but not certain. I do think it looks too small. For us... A very good thing for some kids. But thank you for the suggestion!

mmoob Sun 21-Apr-13 09:47:53

Priors Field - looks brilliant, need it to be closer to London!!

Needmoresleep Sun 21-Apr-13 10:21:10

I think Copthall is right (as always...)

The very very academic schools may demand girls who are good at everything, but the rest can't. Whatever you read on Mumsnet, there are not enough of these kids, who can also pay fees, to go around.

The test probably is:
1. Are your girls strong enough in their better subjects to get good A Level results and into a RG University?
2. Are they able to get "over the bar" in their weaker subjects.

Getting through GCSE at an academic school requires quite a lot of processing text and numbers. They need to be able to do this otherwise they will struggle, which no one wants.

If however, with support, extra time in exams, and their own commitment, they can keep up in their weaker subjects till GCSE and if there are A levels they can choose which they will find relatively easy, they should be sound candidates. Worth talking to schools and being open.

If they are unlikely to be strong RG candidates, then you need to be looking at less academic schools. St Dunstans, St Benedicts? Streatham High? Surbiton High? I agree with what others have said about Ibstock. They treated a friend's SN child very badly.

mmoob Sun 21-Apr-13 11:02:05

Needsmoresleep this is very helpful sound advice, thank you. Again another positive take on the situation - i.e. that they can't all have children who are good at everything.

Your message really focuses my mind. You are right, the schools view the children with an eye to their future potential. Knowing what the children will be capable of at this stage is tricky - I would say that one is borderline and the other would be OK - but that's also based on their current work ethic and not necessarily on potential.

Your selection of the less academic schools we should consider is helpful too - hadn't come across St Benedicts...

Thanks for your thoughts and time.

Copthallresident - it's really interesting to hear your experiences re entrance exams etc. Again very heartening. Dreading the GSCE thing already!

Trippingthelightfantastic Sun 21-Apr-13 11:30:35

My best fiend sends her DC's to St Dunstans they are generally very pleased with it they've been there since yr 3. But when she recently looked at the popular local 6th form comp she was more impressed enthusiastic young teachers both her and her DD thought it was better than St Dunstans the only reason why they didn't do it was because she could not do her choice of A levels.
A word of warning they've brought in very bright children from China who live with UK families to improve their exam results.

Copthallresident Sun 21-Apr-13 11:43:28

mmoob Actually I am not sure the most selective schools do expect them to be good at everything. My DDs are very different, one a Science geek, the other's strengths are in emotional intelligence and empathy, humanities (4 essay subject ASs Agh!) and drama/singing. Neither is at all sporty (typically uncoordinated dyslexics). I think what they are looking for is strengths and talents but not necessarily all round.

Well the GCSEs would have been bad enough, except that Gove decided to make it worse, I suspect from the English Lit results at DD's school that all 17 who had SpLDs must have been marked down more than in previous years for spelling etc. all did significantly worse, as in dropped two grades, than predicted angry and it is going to get worse, but that is another thread

mmoob Sun 21-Apr-13 11:56:28

Copthall OH NO re GCSEs, what a nightmare... so demoralising when you don't even know where the goalposts are...

I am sure that selective schools know that most have strengths/weaknesses but I guess it depends how much they are willing to overlook the weaknesses for the benefit of the strengths?

Trippingthlightfantastic very interesting what you say about St D's. I do worry about the games independent schools play to get overall grades up etc. It's so hard to get the straight facts. Schools can SAY they are not results-driven but then it's a results-driven market and they need to get the numbers in from a business point of view. Similarly parents SAY or even FEEL they are not results-driven but they want the school to bring the best out of their children if they are paying £... and the only quantifiable way of knowing that is via results. There should be a 'happiness' and 'confidence' scoring system (or similar!) with publicly published results to add to all the exam grades.

Thanks for all your thoughts everyone.

Needmoresleep Sun 21-Apr-13 13:27:12

Also on schools I would second the suggestion of Radnor House. There is a real shortage of school places for boys, and as a new school have inevitably picked up more boys than girls and will probably want to balance their numbers.

Also, though I know nothing about it other than my daughter has had matches against them, St Augustine's Priory in Ealing. I also heard something about plans for a new private secondary in Chiswick to be developed by two good local preps schools, but have no idea of timescale.

Also the Harrodian?

Happymum22 Sun 21-Apr-13 17:12:23

mmoob- priors field isn't far from london! can flexi board or weekly board too if that helps- they do mini buses up to london on fridays/sundays.

Can get a 40 minute train direct waterloo to godalming and then there are school minibuses which do station runs each morning and evening. It is do able if you think it is a really good fit for your DDs.
Loads of cobham/esher/putney/london girls.

mmoob Sun 21-Apr-13 18:11:25

Thank you Needmoresleep - I'll check it out.

Happymum22, I wouldn't consider boarding but where to the daily London commuters travel from do you know by any chance? I suppose the rail links will be the obvious way of finding out...

Thanks for your help!

Needmoresleep Sun 21-Apr-13 18:31:12

A further thought.
Some children do much better at the top of their year group, others enjoy having clever peers and a more challenging academic environment even if it means being in the lower half of the year group.

Even less selective schools will have some clever kids. Confidence is a big issue for dyslexic kids. They may be as good as the others in understanding concepts, but may be much slower in class, struggling with copying down from the board, or getting class work written. This can be demoralising.

Also depending on how effectively they develop coping strategies and whether the dyslexia is picked up early enough, they can move up or down their cohort during their secondary years. I suspect more damage can be done by placing a child in a very academic environment and have them feel they are not good enough, than to be top of the year and switch at sixth form.

My, non scientific, suggestion is to look at the sort of kids they are most comfortable with socially. If they hang out with quite a "swotty" group, then look for a school where they will be with like minded kids. Ditto with sporty kids, arty kids (which I think is where you started), quiet kids who need nurturing, or "the popular girls". Schools which allow self esteem to be built through things other than academic ability are important.

Happymum22 Sun 21-Apr-13 18:51:01


Guildford/Godalming/Woking/Worplesdon/Haslemere have a very fast commuter line into London. It takes me 30 mins direct to London Waterloo from Guildford with trains running about every 10-15 mins.
East Horsley/Bookham/Effingham//Cobham/Oxshott are also commuter towns- the train is a tiny bit slower from these but not as busy once on the train.

This is the options to be a reachable distance from Priors Field to be a day girl. In terms of generally I'd agree looking at the rail links is the best way. I'm sorry I only know this surrey direction well, not the other home counties.

mrsshackleton Sun 21-Apr-13 20:04:10

Harrodian is supposed to be great for dyslexic kids, surprised no one has mentioned it.

The cleverest person I know, also extremely successful, went to St Dunstan's.

mrsshackleton Sun 21-Apr-13 20:04:33

Oh sorry, needmoresleep did mention Harrodian!

mmoob Mon 22-Apr-13 13:01:16

Thank you everyone. All very sound advice and much appreciated... I'll let you know if we ever get any closer to a decision! Thank you all for your time and thoughts, really fantastic. So glad I asked...

Elibean Mon 22-Apr-13 21:48:35

Good luck deciding, mmoob smile

Yes, it is tricky. But everyone says the hardest part is before, and once they start seondary one wonders what all the fuss was about - oh I hope that is so!!

Great shame about Ibstock. Friedrich Froebel would turn in his grave sad

snowsjoke Mon 22-Apr-13 22:21:27

have heard that Blackheath High School is very supportive of girls with special needs and the results are good too. Quite arty and the pastoral care is great.

snowsjoke Mon 22-Apr-13 22:22:20

have heard that Blackheath High School is very supportive of girls with special needs and the results are good too. Quite arty and the pastoral care is great.

harrassedswlondonmum Tue 23-Apr-13 09:31:33

The new school mentioned in Chiswick is called Kew House. It is just over Kew Bridge, on the Chiswick side, next to Brentford Leisure centre.

It opens for business in September 2013.

tigerellatomato Tue 23-Apr-13 11:06:34

Kew House may not be a good choice if your daughters are sporty as it's based in an old office block with no sports grounds, and little outdoor space.

ConfusedMummy1 Fri 03-May-13 03:17:22

Have you considered Colfe's school in Lee. It's not far from Greenwich/Blackheath. It's good all round school, strong in sports, art and music. Lots of out door space, which sports field and swimming pool on site. Class size 20 max. Goes from pre prep up to sixth form. My child is very happy there. I met a mum recently that moved her DS who is bright but has SEN to year 5 from Blackheath Prep and she's very happy she did. I'm not convinced Blackheath High School supports SEN that much.

elittleb Tue 14-May-13 17:11:28

mmoob - if you can get down to see Prior's Field, you'll fall in love with it. Non stressy and non hot housing (but still happy to administer a royal ass kicking to my underperforming DD upon request :-) )

Clever girls perform well, less clever / SEN girls are encouraged and supported to achieve the best they can. A competent, approachable teaching staff, good leadership, lots of workshops to support learning.

More value added activities than you can shake a stick at. All qualities and talents in the girls are valued and celebrated. One thing my DD said is that she'll try anything at PF because no one ever takes the mickey out of you.

From a parental point of view, our year group is as jolly and sociable as you will find at secondary level. It's all rather pleasant. Just move a few miles further out of Kingston area!

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