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Milton Keynes preps - is it really such a dreadful place?

(31 Posts)
arizonagirl Fri 03-Sep-10 21:16:05

Just seen the house prices in Milton Keynes - wow, how cheap are those prices compared to Surrey!!!!

I know Milton Keynes is slated so much so have never considered it...until now!!!

Is it really that bad (I know it is very new so hasn't got that olde-worlde charm) but what is it like as an area to live? And any thoughts on the schools/preps there?

Would appreciate some thoughts.

AlCrowley Fri 03-Sep-10 22:11:20

I moved to MK 8 years ago and I love it. I've lived all over the country but I definitely prefer it here.

Yes, it's new but it does have pockets of olde-worlde charm in the little original villages like Woughton and Newport Pagnell. The grid roads get slated but they mean that traffic jams are almost unheard of and getting all the way across the city takes no more than 20 minutes, not to mention, it's almost impossible to get lost!

And because it's all planned, the shops are all next to each other and theres plenty of parking nearby. The Theatre district is brilliant for a night out because everything is together. The parks are great too - cambell park in the very center of the city is sheep grazed rather than mown to keep the carbon footprint down!! There are trees everywhere. I love that it's all so neat

Can't tell you much about schools as my two are both still pre-school but I know there are lots to choose from. Some are brilliant and some are bad. Avoid Stantonbury would be a good tip and most of the schools in Bletchley unless you are Catholic. AFAIK Shenley School, Loughton, Middleton, Monkston and Oakgrove are the best at the moment.

arizonagirl Sat 04-Sep-10 09:35:15

Thanks AICrowley - sounds nice. Is that really it though - one response about how nice it is. Says rather a lot. However, AI, you have convinced me to take a little look - thank you : )

sonotboden Sat 04-Sep-10 10:01:40

if you have stockbroker belt money and want to live round here look at woburn, woburn sands etc. there are of course private schools and many go to the private secondary schools at Bedford.

tbh, i think that most people who live here would be somewhat put off by your offensive thread title.

lamplighter Sat 04-Sep-10 10:16:11

I lived in Newport Pagnell for years but would not have considered Milton Keynes - just to new and souless for me. I can understand why people love it though. It is clean, easy to get around etc etc.

Have a look at the surrounding towns and villages as well. Turvey, Olney and Stoney Stratford are all beautiful.

AlCrowley Sat 04-Sep-10 10:22:36

You did post after 9pm on a Friday night! Most people are either out or on the bumsex threads

TBH, the MK mumsnetters are notoriously quiet - I should know, in one of my other guises, I am an MK MN Tsarina and the local board is very quiet.

Funny, cause there is tonnes to do with children in MK and lots of Mums about. The Families Information Service put together a booklet that gets sent out every so often detailing activities, toddler groups and schools. I'll see of I can find a link as they might be quite helpful for you....

arizonagirl Sat 04-Sep-10 10:27:19

Snotboden - point taken. Might be seen as an offensive title. Tbh I find that a controversial title does seem to help get a good response (even when it doesn't reflect my opinion in the slightest). And I obviously don't agree with my title or I wouldn't be asking - from what I can see Milton Keynes looks a really good place. And it was voted number five place to live in the country recently for value for life. So I am just curious and suspect people have been really unfair about the place. You know how it is, it's like chinese whispers - however unfounded.

Lamplighter - thanks for the post too smile

AlCrowley Sat 04-Sep-10 10:37:51

Activities for children in MK

Parks Trust Events for September

Plus, there's the snowdome for year round skiing and snowboarding, they're about to open a massive indoor climbing center, Willen Lake has a watersports center, a railway and a tree-top climbing thing, a weely 5k run, occasional fun fairs and annual dragonboats, there's Gullivers Land. Last month saw the International Festival. There's loads to do.

And 'new' is relative in most places. Our house is 25 years old and within MK. Plus there are plenty of self builds. It's not all sterile boxes.

FozzieMK Sat 04-Sep-10 12:17:17

Having lived here for 28 years I agree with the posters above. I wouldn't want to live anywhere else tbh but it suits us perfectly. Everyone has their own opinions of MK, in fact most people who seem to be dead against it when pushed nearly always admit they've never been here or have just visited 'the shops' or 'the bowl' once!

I can give you some information about the schools though. I have 2 children aged 10 and 14. Although we live in a 'nice' area of MK the schools in our catchment are dire. My eldest started off in a little village school near us which can only be described as appalling. We removed her and put her in a local Prep school where she flourished. That is the problem with Milton Keynes, look it up in the exam league tables, the state schools are poor. I have friends who have sent their children to state schools in Northampton to avoid the one in their own catchment. Both my children are now at private school in Bedford. The bus company that transports them from MK to Bedford takes 2000 children every day! They are just one of the companies and obviously there are those that go to school by train and car. Around a third who leave the Prep schools go on to the grammar schools in Buckingham and Aylesbury. Maybe the mass exodus every day is the reason why MK schools are not that great? Leaving Junior\Prep schools is a real headache for parents I know - where do we send them next?

IMO I would think seriously about moving here unless you are going to use private schools or your children are so super intelligent that they will succeed whichever school they are in. If you do decide to go down the private route or hope for the over-subscribed grammar schools, remember that your children will probably (like mine) be getting on a bus at 7.15am to travel miles, not returning until 5.30pm (depending on school end time).

Great choice of housing - poor choice for schools.

redskyatnight Sat 04-Sep-10 20:35:20

I also live in MK. I agree that it is very ."different" from other areas but you do get used to it and there are lots of advantages over other towns in terms of easy access (no traffic jams) and everything you could need within 10 minutes drive.

I disagree with the PP about schools. As with any area of course there are bad schools but there are also very many good ones. At secondary level there are several Ofsted outstanding secondary schools. The one failing secondary school has recently been replaced by an Academy and its first crop of results have been a massive improvement. If you do go down the private route there are several preps in MK but I don't believe any good secondaries - as PP says, parents who go private tend to send their children to the Harpur Trust schools in Bedford at secondary or try for the Bucks 11+.

The schools have also very much improved over the years - MK altered its school changing years about 6(?) years ago (it used to have schools running 4-12 and 12-16, now it is 4-7 and 7-11). I agree that that did knock the school system for six but you wouldn't see the effects of it coming into the school system now.

If you don't fancy MK itself it's also worth noting that there are many "nice" little villages nearby and that MK is very close the both Bedford with its middle school system and Bucks with grammar schools.

BlackandGold Sat 04-Sep-10 22:18:07

I've lived in Newport Pagnell since 1983 and both my DCs went to the local secondary school, Ousedale, which is considered one of the best.

I believe the other reasonable schools are Walton High, Shenley Brook End and Denbigh plus St Pauls if you are Catholic

We enjoy living here, good shops, eating out, local places to visit plus we are close to the M1 for visiting other friends and it's only an hour on the train down to London.

Maybe look at the market towns of Stony Stratford and Olney plus the villages such as Stoke Goldington, North Crawley, Sherington etc - all are lovely places in which to live.

arizonagirl Sat 04-Sep-10 22:23:12

Thanks so much for the detailed replies smile. Feeling confused now though - really like the sound of Milton Keynes and was planning to go there for a weekend soon. But schools are a really important factor for us - the primary reason for us moving. Wondering why everyone is shipping out to Bedford - not a good sign.

So all the preps are not that great too - any recommendations on which are best? We were looking at the Milton Keynes Preparatory. Not good that there is not much choice for later. Guess it's good, redsky, that there are some good secondary schools but it sounds like MK might not be the place to go for a great choice of schools.

Oh well, might have to think again. Perhaps take a look at Bedford. Do really like the sound of Bucks but everywhere is sooo expensive...apart from Milton Keynes. Decisions, decisions. Thanks for your advice!

MrsSchadenfreude Sun 05-Sep-10 08:54:11

Live in one of the small villages outside of the grid - all those mentioned (Olney schools are great). If you are going private, Akeley Wood has a good reputation, or Thornton College (girls only). Don't know MK Prep at all. An alternative would be to move to a village within the catchment area for Royal Latin Grammar (Buckingham), but if your child doesn't get in, local state schools are (not surprisingly) not great and most who can opt for private at this stage.

The villages north of MK on the Bucks/Northants borders are lovely (Hanslope, Castlethorpe, Stoke Goldington etc) but feed into not v good secondary schools (tho primary are fine) - Stantonbury (vast, alleged drugs problem), Road (just gone into special measures) and Radcliffe (improving).

Bedford villages are nice, but the town itself is not. DH calls MK-Bedford-Northampton the "Chav Triangle"...

AlCrowley Sun 05-Sep-10 10:33:48

You could try the Northampton border. My SIL's live in Wootton and Hackleton and both send their children to Hackleton primary which is a really good school with amazing results - but quite overtly CofE with a school prayer said everyday and crucifixes in each classroom which is too much for me. Only half of Wootton gets into the school but if you can get a house there then that would be the best choice as Hackleton village is in the Roade catchment and as MrsSchadenfreude says, Roade School is struggling at the moment. Wootton boys have the option of taking the entrance exams for Northampton Boys School (which is where the new Dr Who went ) and has really good results too. Wootton is about a half hour drive to MK.

It's worth remembering that a lot of the schools in MK are new too and are yet to be tried and tested. A friends daughter was one of the first year of pupils to do GCSE's at Oakgrove last year and did really well. I had heard good things about Middleton School too (it's been the choice from many friends of mine) so I'm shocked that it hasn't been mentioned as a good school by anyone.

Our catchment school atm is Stantonbury so we're going to have to move before DS gets that old.

I know a teacher at Royal Latin Grammar if you need any info on it.

MrsSchadenfreude Sun 05-Sep-10 13:17:03

Yes, Middleton has good reputation. We escaped before ours hit secondary, so avoided the secondary school dilemma. But had we stayed there, I think I would have paid and sent the DDs to Thornton.

FozzieMK Sun 05-Sep-10 13:48:22

arizonagirl there are 3 Prep schools in MK, MK Prep, The Grove Independent and Bury Lawn. Some years ago Bury Lawn (a GEMS school) had a lot of problems from which it is still recovering, MK Prep is a typical high achieving Indie which has a flat fee and charges for every optional extra and The Grove is a good school which uses the 'all-in' approach to fees. Both the Prep and The Grove are feeder schools for the Bucks Grammar schools as far as I know. So in reality for local Prep's there are only 2 choices. Further afield for Preps there are Swanbourne, Thornton (Catholic - boys until the age of 7 I think), Bedford and Northampton Indies. I have had friends with experiences of both MK Prep and The Grove. I have also known people who have changed from one to the other for various reasons. I would look at both as they are very different in thir approach and usually your gut instinct is the best yardstick. I haven't heard anything bad about either of them to be honest.

If you are thinking of Indie's for your senior school choice, maybe these links will help to compare the MK Secondary schools GCSE results for 2009 with the Bedford Independents: ton-keynes-gcse-alevel-league-tables ford-2009-gcse-a-level-league-tables

It's worth noting that the non-selective Bedford Independents have better results than the MK state schools.

Fiddledee Sun 05-Sep-10 16:33:19

terrible accents

mummyinbeds Sun 05-Sep-10 23:48:04

We live just over the border in Bedfordshire. Close enough to MK to use the facilities but have the advantage of Bedfordshire schools (fantastic village lower school at the moment). I love living close to MK but not sure I'd want to live in the city - too much of a country bumpkin!

Jajas Mon 06-Sep-10 00:10:04

MK Prep - friend of mine had terrible time there, removed her children to Thornton and Swanbourne respectively and vastly improved.

Any views on Akeley Wood? Sorry to jump in but curious also as may consider moving down that way in the future.

BraveGirl Mon 06-Sep-10 08:37:21

I moved to MK in 2002, living first in Stony Stratford, then in Olney and now in a tiny village ner Newport Pagnell. Whatever you like, MK can offer. I preferred the older, more traditional areas, but there are new and modern as well.
For me, the biggest reason I love MK was highlighted this weekend when we went to a wedding in Exeter. It has no traffic problems and is so easy to navigate around.
Shopping is fab and parking is cheap compared to many other towns (as long as you know where to park).

Secondary schools are all purpose built, large and modern - some only built in the last few years so it is difficult yet to assess how good they are.
Stantonbury Campus is the largest school in the country, with over 2600 students. It is "vast", but because of its size, has some of the best facilities around, inc. swimming pool, theatre, athletics stadium, specialist equipment and rooms. It has no more of a drug problem than any other secondary school. It is one of those love or hate things, and if you are considering schools is worth a visit. Personally I love the ethos of the school - everyone is equal (right down to teachers sharing toilets with students and first name terms!) - but I accept it isn't everyone's cup of tea. One of the students got 14 A* GCSEs this year - they get the results, just don't always shout about it!

FozzieMK Mon 06-Sep-10 13:26:50

Jajas - Quite a few children join Akeley Wood from the Prep my daughter's attended, however most of these seem to be boys. Akeley Wood is a Cognita school. We looked at both the Prep and the Senior schools a few years ago. The Prep is based in a large, old, remote building between MK and Buckingham and seemed to have a very regimented feel. The senior school is a few miles away in a village and had a tatty cramped feel at the time, although I understand they have carried out some building work since we looked at it a few years ago. It seems to take almost as long by school bus to get there from MK as it does to get to Bedford or Aylesbury. Both ourselves and another child in my daughter's year were treated badly by this school whilst we were applying for places, which is probably why it doesn't enter my mind when thinking about local schools. On reflection, I personally think that Akeley Wood would've been a bit 'rough and ready' for our daughter who was very quiet and shy. I know that many children are happy there so our experience may have been unusual. I do know there was a lot of problems when Cognita took over the school and new pupils were offered a substantial discount on fees whilst the existing pupils had their fees maintained at the same level. This resulted in quite a few leaving the school. Again I suspect the only way forward is to go and look at the schools and make your own judgement.

kat2504 Mon 06-Sep-10 21:58:26

I work in a school in Woburn Sands. Plenty of our kids live in MK. MK isn't all that bad and has nice amenities. lack character and charm but has pretty much all you need and some of the newer estates have lovely houses. Over the border in Bedfordshire we still have the three tier school system. Some lovely villages around woburn/aspley guise area but houses more expensive there. We had very good ofsted this year, one of our upper schools where the kids move on to had good/outstanding I believe. Think MK has a worse rep than it really deserves to be honest.

Chezznie Tue 07-Sep-10 13:16:55

Hi everyone, I am new to mumsnet, but am really pleased I have found this website. It is full of really interesting information that is so relevant to bringing up children! I am a mum of two teenagers, who certainly do have their moments... so any advice or tips on dealing with moody teenagers is always appreciated! I was reading up on Prep schools in MK a moment ago and thought I would just comment on it. Both of my children went through Milton Keynes Preparatory School. My daughter has since moved onto a grammar school. We moved my son to Akeley Wood School at the beginning of September 2009 and Icannot begin to tell you how fantastic this change has been for our son. We really feel that we have found 'The School' and have decided that we will be moving our daughter across for her A levels next year. The school has had an enormous amount of capital invested in it over the past couple of years so the facilities are second to none. With regards to the education, I cannot fault it. The teachers are really approachable and my son has been so very happy this past year. The added bonus to this is, his grades have improved considerably! I really do feel as though they value my child and I could not recommend the school more highly. Hope this helps!

gardenshrub Tue 07-Sep-10 13:42:15

I live on the northampton border, close to where Alcrowleys Sil's are, in Grange Park. Dh & I moved here 5 years ago from Kent so we could afford a nicer house & I also have family in MK.

I really like living here, it takes about the same amount of time to get into MK as it does Northampton from here. The schools are good too, my closest primary school, Woodland View, was marked outstanding by ofsted. The next closest school Caroline Chisholm, takes children from 4-19years & was also marked outstanding by Ofsted.

Pre dc I worked in MK & found it was a great place to be. Its easy enough to get around & as others have said there's loads to do.

Jajas Wed 08-Sep-10 22:40:35

Fozzie, thank you for your insights and interesting Chezznie to hear more information on Akeley Wood. Welcome to MN by the way smile!

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