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Moving to London with tots- where to start?

(7 Posts)
lily3 Sat 10-Nov-12 00:43:25

We are planning a move to London (from Los Angeles) with 12mo. old twins (b/g). We are still deciding what area to settle down in, but I think Notting Hill and St Johns Wood are at the top of our list.

Now that our move is confirmed, it's time to learn about schools but I feel completely overwhelmed. We want a private education and we don't mind if our twins are split up (at same sex schools). I nearly had a heart attack when I read that some of the private schools accept admissions within days of birth! Boy, am I behind.

I'd really appreciate any tips or advice on where to start. Of course we initially assumed we'd send our twins to "the best" private schools in the city, but it seems this might be quite a challenge in terms of actually getting them in.

Do you first apply to primary schools and then worry about preschool after? Or do the preschools feed into the primary schools?

As far as American vs. British system, does anyone know anything about the American school in SJW? I'm wondering if it is a hindrance if our children plan to stay in the UK to attend university. Is it known as a good school?

In LA/NYC, a celebrity or well-known person can basically get their child into the school of their choosing, does London work the same way? I'm curious how the children are picked...

Ughfootballseason Sat 10-Nov-12 08:11:20

If you have enough money I would register my childrenfor every decent pre-school around and also for the nurseries.

Some preps have a pre-school attached and you can also go to an independent pre-school.

Daycare nurseries will also deliver the pre-school curriculum so you could put them in one as babies and not have to move them later before school starts.

Independent pre-schools are notnthe same as independent schools and willnhave all children going to them. Pre-school (nursery) education is funded a term after a child turns three and that's when state nurseries will take them for ammax of 15 hours per week. Independent pre-schools will take them from 2/2.5 and the state will fund at 15 hours that setting once the childnis three and the parent pays any extra. Therefore these children are very likely tom goon to state schools. Even a pre-school attached to the private school willnhave many children not staying on because they are largely state funded whilst there.

I would however put my name down for lotsnof nurseries because they having waiting lists purely down to the baby boom rather than their excellence. State nurseries will be allocated by distance the term after thenchild turns three, which mean if you have a late spring born,mustarding in summer there may be noplaces left until September because winter horns have taken all the places form January formthe rest of the academic year. Keeping up? ;).

Lots of private schools are academically selective, therefore it doesn't really matter when you registered. Don't forget that most people who have registered early will have registered at several places so a waiting list of 40 will not be as bad as it sounds.

Find out if an attached nursery gives preference to your children for entry into the school.

Don't panic, you're still early on in the process and there are many great schools to choose from. Don't get hung up on a 'best' school at the moment as you might well think it doesn't suit your children when they're three.

Sorry ifnthis is garbled but I'm in a rush.

Mominatrix Sat 10-Nov-12 08:32:50

Hello Lily3.

Of the two places you have at the top of your area list, Notting Hill is a better choice. To that list, I'd also add Hammersmith/Chiswick for location, green spaces, family friendliness, and ease of commute to the best private schools.

Yes, there are the rumoured put-your-child's-name-in-the-womb places, but in reality, there is so much movement on those lists due to the transient nature of many Londoners and everyone always manages to get a spot at their desired schools. Additionally, some schools are assessment based at 3-4, so there is no need to feel pressured at this point.

In terms of searching for pre-schools, I'd do a simultaneous search (once you have decided on an area). In the areas you are looking, there are many, many lovely pre-schools and there is no need to worry about finding a spot in one. In terms of feeders, you are speaking more of nursery level and some of the schools you are looking at do have their own nurseries attached.

I am American, and I would not look at the American school if you are even thinking of your children staying on to go to University in the UK. Additionally, it would be better if your children attend local schools to assimilate to the community and their new home. It would also be better for you as social life tends to form around schools here, specifically primary schools.

You can start your children off at the same school, but many of the pushiest pre-preps (the ones with the best records of getting children into the top schools at the next level) seem to be single sex. Additionally, there is a disconnect in the English private system between the timetable for girls and for boys. Boys attend pre-prep until 7or 8 when they take the 7+/8+ for the top preps (Westminster Under School, Colet Court (St. Paul's Prep), Kings College Junior School), but girls will remain until 11. If you decide to keep your son at a prep which is not linked to a senior school, they will have to take pre-tests at 11 and Common Entrance at 13. Confusing, I know. No need to master the intricacies of the system yet, just have an idea of what is to come.

In terms of selection, most do it by first accepting siblings then by order the applications came in. Others will have an assessment where they are looking for teachability and fit of the children/parents with the school. In terms of fame wedging your way into a desirable school, not sure about this. Probably does help, but not in as blatent way as in LA/NYC.

lily3 Sat 10-Nov-12 10:55:06

Thanks you for all the info!

I see that there is a boys and girls school in Notting Hill, Pembridge Hall and Wetherby. The starting age is 4, so that does that mean I should get our application in right away? Or do I first get them into a nursery school and then apply to these schools later on? (If so, what age do I apply?)

Do you think it would be possible to get them in to these NH schools or is it a long shot...

Mominatrix Sat 10-Nov-12 11:12:19

Yes, yes - get your application into those 2 schools soon - don't wait until you sort out nurseries. They will give you the run-around about long wait list, blah-de-blah - just remember that these lists move very quickly.

Bink Sun 11-Nov-12 10:47:15

What's driving your move? Is it work, and if so, where is the office and how can you get there? What routes can the commute take (inc. how long) and what neighbourhoods are along those routes? If only one of you is working, does the other one actually need close/direct access to the centre of London?

If schools are important to your choices, be aware that SJW and NH have some particular challenges for schooling ... you might at this point have a shade of possibility of W'by and PH for reception (call them direct on Monday, you'll get an answer on the spot) but you are much much more likely to be told no way, I'm afraid, and nothing about waiting lists - you are most likely to be told that the waiting lists closed some years ago. Getting your children in post-reception to those schools by a casual vacancy is more possible (it's what we did, yr2 and yr5) but reception is the crunch application, and getting a place is in some circles treated like a competition to show you won at. It's a side of life in this bit of London that I have got quite tired of.

If you chose to live further out (I second the Chiswick suggestion) there are other schools, just as good a quality of life and interest, less stretched and less show-us-the-money facilities (and people). You would even then be in a position to use good local state schools - which, when they are good, are very good - which is more likely to be an option out of the centre of London.

If you do want to review private schools in London, get yourself a subscription to the Good Schools Guide online, and if you want to get an overview of the currently 'prestigious' preps, Tatler (the society magazine) has just done a Schools of the Year supplement, which will give you the set of names people aim for.

wotachoice Sun 11-Nov-12 13:42:17

I would go for St John's Wood and register with the prep schools round there and with the Hampstead preps too. You can then go for UCS for your boy and South Hampstead High for your girl at 7 or even for Highgate (mixed) Channing (girls) or bus both of them to Habs at 7 or 11. If you hold out till 11 you can then add City of London boys and girls or even Westminster. Mill Hill is a co-ed day and boarding school with incredible facilities and buses from SJW and is a 20 minutes bus ride and is quietly and confidently improving by the year under the new head. ASL has such a high turnover that if you are staying in London long term I wouldn't bother with it.

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