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Good prep school areas within an hours commute to Piccadilly Circus

(69 Posts)
Nitig Wed 12-Dec-12 08:36:46

Hello Moms
I NEED help and probably loads of it.
We are soon moving to London from Singapore on a rather short notice! I expect us to move by end of January 2013.
I have two daughters 10 (year5) & 6(year 2). I have been recommended, that I send my girls to a prep school, so that the older one can try for a grammar school at 11+. As we are moving in the middle of the school year, our options for schools seem to be really limited.
My husband's work place is close to Piccadilly Circus. We haven't decided the area we want to live in, for everything would depend upon the school. I am hoping to find a 4 bedroom house in a decent area for about 3K per month.
Could you ladies please recommend suitable schools, residential areas, helpful websites etc for me to get going.
As of now, I am completely clueless!
Thanks in advance.

Needmoresleep Wed 12-Dec-12 09:44:10


Not that many areas with Grammars, and some are super-selective which means they may only take the top 2%.

Kent and Essex may be good places to start. You could try reposting in those sections on the elevenplusexams website.

Prep schools close to central London are mainly focussed on private school entry and so wont work for you. You should also have more choice in rental property as you go a bit further out.

breadandbutterfly Wed 12-Dec-12 09:49:51

Send your dcs to independent secondary schools rather than trying to 'buy' a place at a grammar school. Leave the grammar places for those who can't afford private schools. No need to send your dcs to prep schools - if they are bright, it is money down the drain - they will get into grammar schools or good independents at secondary anyway.

3K a month - take your pick of nice areas.

jennycrofter Wed 12-Dec-12 09:57:42

Start with commute from to give you some ideas of distances and times.

Rightmove can then give you an idea of rentals by postcode. Your 3k should get you something ok, in a nice area, with some outside space. Primelocation often has the nicer homes, but the search facilities aren't as effective.

Personally, I'd look around Richmond, just for quality of life, and excellent state schools, as well as private. That's really personal though.

Good luck! smile

hifi Wed 12-Dec-12 10:00:01

You will be lucky to get a 3 bed flat for that amount near central London. 3 bed flats for that price in hampstead which has loads of prep schools. Otherwise you will have to look a lot further out, maybe Barnet. Loads of grammars there.

hifi Wed 12-Dec-12 10:02:14

breadandbutterfly Wed 12-Dec-12 10:02:53

Who 'needs' to live in Hamstead or would wish to have kids in central London?

Within an hour's commute to Piccadilly Circus, the OP can take her pick.

But really - don't go for a grammar. Leave them for the kids whose parents can't afford 3K a monrh on rent.

hifi Wed 12-Dec-12 10:04:18

LIZS Wed 12-Dec-12 10:10:37

Most areas within/just outside M25 would fit the bill commute-wise so you need to be more focussed. ISC website has a search option and reports on schools , or Good Schools Guide . Pot luck on spaces at any particular school though, Grammar tests are often early in Autumn and most preps don't prepare specifically for state tests whereas independent schools 11+ are December/January.

LIZS Wed 12-Dec-12 10:32:37

It may be worth considering schools which go through to 18 as they will prepare the children well for its own entrance test for the senior school, rather than expect your dd to move again, possibly leaving her new friendship groups, in 18 months' time.

horsemadmom Wed 12-Dec-12 11:35:18

3k for a house/flat in Hampstead is PER WEEK not month. Look in Ealing on that budget.

TheWave Wed 12-Dec-12 11:42:14

Amersham for grammars? Ickenham for Hillingdon American school (feepaying)?

TalkinPeace2 Wed 12-Dec-12 13:06:14

£3k a month I cannot imagine getting much in London.
House down the road from me in the manky bit of the sticks goes for £1200 a month.

grovel Wed 12-Dec-12 15:37:08

The Ascot area has loads of prep schools and decent houses for £3k.

Use Rightmove to look at properties ( Search Ascot.

Try looking at Lambrook School as an example (

Ascot is 50 mins by train to Waterloo.

These are just example sites to get you started.

Good luck!

sicutlilium Wed 12-Dec-12 15:40:33

Useful commuting tool here:

sanam2010 Wed 12-Dec-12 16:46:09

In and around Richmond or Hampstead as others have suggested. But also don't limit yourself to grammar schools as a secondary options as there are very very few around London - and getting into Tiffin Girls or Henrietta Barnet is far from guaranteed. For the top prep schools in London I suggest checking out the website, it is somewhat focused on central london but also covers new free schools and prep schools in places like Hampstead and Richmond/Barnes.

You could also look at Haberdash Aske School for girls - it's a private school that goes up to A-level but as it is outside of central london (but should be within an hour's commute) fees are lower. One of the top secondary girls' schools and more affordable fees.

hifi Wed 12-Dec-12 16:50:12

Hampstead 3k a week? Ehhh?

EnjoyResponsibly Wed 12-Dec-12 16:52:57

Try Sevenoaks, quick overland commute to London.

Also Rochester area with fast train to St Pancras (20 mins).

Both have preps and grammar schools.

(But don't tell Seeker grin)

JoanByers Wed 12-Dec-12 21:52:19

You could try e.g. Guildford, which has three very good independent girls schools St Catherines, Guildford High, and Tormead.

All three run from 4-18.

Prep schools generally don't prep for grammar, but for senior independent schools.

There is a well-regarded state comp, George Abbott, you will need to be within about a mile of it, but check the exact rules on this. 38 minutes into Waterloo, then two easy and not absurdly crowded stops on the Bakerloo Line to Piccadilly Circus.

If you do want to be in George Abbott catchment you will be over a mile from the station I believe, downhill by bicycle to the station in the morning though.

Gordon's School is located in West End, and is a pseudo-private state school for the fortunate few who can get within its tiny catchment. Results extremely good for a (pseudo-)comprehensive.

If you see rightmove, you can see that properties are advertised with the distance from the front gate of Gordon's!

The first house there, at £2.5k PCM, is a little small IMO for the money, but you are paying for the school.

Basically what you would do here is rent that house till your older daughter has gained admission to the school, and then subsequently you can move to somewhere closer to a station for commuting to London and the younger sibling would get admittance based on sibling policy.

Coworth-Flexlands the local prep would probably have spaces immediately.

For the first year till you've got your school place, you'd probably drive to Brookwood station, from where it's 36 minutes by train to Waterloo.

Subsequently you could move somewhere within walking distance of Brookwood station, or Woking station, which has a 27 minute journey time into Waterloo, and is still a reasonable journey for your daughters to Gordons.

In terms of grammars there are quite a few in London, but admission is in each case highly competitive, and it's much easier to buy access to a comprehensive-for-the-rich like one of those above, than to buy access to a super-selective grammar school. Some parents spend five years torturing their children with four hours of daily 'which ridiculous shape comes next?'-type questions, but it's no guarantee of success; if your older daughter has done a CAT test in her current school, then that will gives some indication of her chances of success - scores of 115+ in all areas would be a starting point, less than that and you probably won't succeed with admission to super-selectives.

Kendrick school in Reading is a very good (girls) grammar school, and there's a list of acceptable postcodes for applying on their website. There are also four (mixed) grammar schools in Slough, each with differing admissions policies (one is Catholic), and there is an area between Reading and Slough of overlap between these.

Reading itself is a bit urban and gritty, but it has very fast trains to London (29 minutes). It's 10 minutes from there to Piccadilly Circus, though add in time to change trains and walk at the other side.

Reading probably has more crime than all of Singapore, though that's not saying much really, and there's a lot of shops and amenities.

Within a few miles of Reading you've got some proper millionaires hideouts, like Pangbourne and Henley (which would be well within catchment for Kendrick), although the journey time is inevitably much longer.

Something like this, however, is a short cycle ride from the train station, and therefore just under an hour door-to-door to Piccadilly Circus:

It goes without saying that you wouldn't find anything like that in London for that money.

Failing Kendrick admittance (and it is very competitive), the Abbey is the local girls private school but there are dozens in easy admittance.

Obviously the state school system in the UK favours the rich and mobile, and moving in Y5 you've got the optimum opportunity to cherry pick the very best education money can't buy (you just have to buy/rent the house!), prior to Y6 applications and then hopefully a sibling policy to get in younger sister in the future.

Counties with more comprehensive (ahem) grammar school systems are essentially Kent and Bucks, and in those you need to be bright, but not exceedingly so to pass, since the entire county is covered. Main commuter towns would be Amersham (relatively slow train, 37 minutes), Beaconsfield (22 minutes, very affluent town), and High Wycombe (a bit grotty, 30 minutes), all into Marylebone. In Kent, you are probably looking at Sevenoaks (very expensive, but the train is direct to Charing Cross (in 35 minutes), which is essentially Piccadilly Circus, so need to take a tube, just walk).

If you venture further out into the less affluent parts of Kent, property prices are lower, and the high-speed rail link is now in place. 18 minutes from Ebbsfleet Int'l to St Pancras, and a short drive from somewhere like this: Although a bit of a trek to school.

Nitig Thu 13-Dec-12 11:35:45

Thank you all for great suggestions.
The websites are all coming in handy and I hope I am able to get a grip on things soon.
A couple of questions though:
1. I understand that staying out of London means better house for the same price and also longer commute to workplace but is there anything else, one loses out on while staying out of London.
2. What are Pseudo- Private state schools?

Thanks a ton for all the help.

JoanByers Thu 13-Dec-12 12:34:35

Gordon's is a state boarding school. Weekly boarding costs money, though not close to as much as a real private school, though I believe you have to have special justification to get a weeky boarding place anyway.

So called day boarding is free, but because the catchment area is so tiny, the school is in some respects more exclusive than actual private schools, which will let anybody in who has the cash.

Other state schools have policies designed to keep people out, e.g., catholic schools may insist you were baptised before the age of 12 months, c of e schools may want you to polish the brass to earn points, and so on. All of these policies are essentially designed to exclude the hoi poloi without officially saying so.

If you live in London proper then you will probably find more diversity in terms of restaurants, shops, etc. but also more traffic. If you live somewhere particularly central, then escaping by car for the weekend becomes excessively time-consuming, so you end up staying in London all the time. Which suits some people obviously. If you live in zone 6, then that doesn't apply so much because the m25 is close at hand. If you want to spend much of your time in London, stay there, as it is not particularly cheap to get in by train for a day out if you plan to do it every weekend.

grovel Thu 13-Dec-12 14:03:27

Nitig, prep schools outside London tend to have much better facilities - particularly for sport. That's simply because they've got more land.

One advantage of commuting from outside London is that you get a seat on the train! That may sound stupid but my husband loved it when we moved out - 45 minutes sitting was infinitely preferable to 25 minutes standing on the Tube.

Most towns around London have a cinema complex and a wide choice of restaurants.

Xenia Thu 13-Dec-12 14:12:50

Live in Radlett and send them to Haberdashers girls or North London Collegiate - these are in the top 5 to 10 of schools in the UK of all kinds of exam results.

My daughters went to those schools - one at each.

If you wanted to be right in the centre of London you would go for St Paul's School (girls) which is again one of the best in the whole UK.

JoanByers Thu 13-Dec-12 15:27:09

grovel, you don't get the same choice of restaurants out of London, and 'cinema complex' is not terribly sophisticated either.

Just for example, just-eat (online takeaway) offers, for London SW1:

4 American
3 Bangladeshi
1 Brazilian
1 Caribbean
5 Chicken
26 Chinese
16 English
2 French
61 Indian
3 Iranian
43 Italian
12 Japanese
2 Kebabs
3 Korean
6 Lebanese
2 Malaysian
1 Mexican
4 Middle Eastern
1 Nepalese
48 Pizza
1 Russian
1 Spanish
11 Sushi
9 Thai
1 Turkish

By comparison, for say Beaconsfield, you have:

9 pizza
1 Thai
6 American
3 Chinese
3 English
12 Indian
7 Italian
1 Kebabs
1 Pakistani

So if the OP has a hankering for borsch, or a baguette merguez, she'll find it in central London, but not in the sticks somewhere.

No guarantee of a seat on the train either, it does depend where you get on. It really is worth trying the commute at the appropriate time of morning to see how crowded it is with fat bankers, and whether you'd be better off with a 1st class eason or whatever.

LIZS Thu 13-Dec-12 16:30:22

I don't think anywhere within that distance of London misses out particularly. Even most rural areas have access to a multiplex cinema, swimming pool, shopping mall etc within a 20 minute drive. Horses for courses, so if you enjoy city life then stay in inner London but you will live in a small apartment/house without much garden if any. If you lived further out , countryside and seaside are within easier reach and you could have a more comfortable size house and garden. I would warn you that even finding 2 spaces in the same school , private or state, especially if one child is under 7, could be tricky. Some private preps only start at Year3 and all will restrict class sizes .

I've no idea what you are referring to as pseudo private state schools !

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