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Dallington school London - any views please

(33 Posts)
rktb Tue 09-May-06 06:44:14

Considering moving dd1 (age 6) from state school to independent school. Her confidence at school is low (she is not at top or bottom of class and struggles with the little or no attention she receives in the middle as she causes them no problems/raises no eyebrows). We think she is a bright girl whose confidence is getting in the way of her learning. Dallington is one of two schools we are choosing between (we live NE London and do not want to drive to Hampstead). Like small class sizes and warm atmosphere without lots of pointless rules but have heard of lots of people pulling their children out of the school after the early years part too. Any views would be gratefully received. It is decision time for us.

goldenoldie Tue 09-May-06 09:17:26

My DS1 is in the senior part of St Paul's Cathedral school and I have seen quite a few Dallington refugees join St. Paul's over the last few years.

Most parents speak highly of Dallington, feel it ideal for younger ones but not 'structured' enough for the older child. All depends on the child I suppose.

I remember going to look at Dallington a few years ago and thought it all looked a bit chaotic, but it has probably all changed now.

3mum Tue 09-May-06 09:24:45

I second what goldenoldie says. It has the reputation of being a rather bohemian school and some parents do tend to move their children to more academically pushy schools. That said I had a child there for a year (its a long story why we left, not really related to the school) and I was happy with it. Nice kind atmosphere and produces lovely happy children. I think the work is pretty good too, its just not as pushy as some.

I'd just say to check what the plans for succession to the headmistress are as she must be getting on a bit now.

Which other school are you considering?

frogs Tue 09-May-06 09:35:16

rktb, if you're going to move, I'd go for the other one. I do know people who've been v. happy with Dallington, but they tend to be people who've chosen it as an alternative to St Paul's Steiner school. Or who want an alternative to state primary that isn't quite so, well, state.

For a quiet little girl who is needs lots of individual attention and encouragement but also gentle nudging to achieve her potential, C is probably more the ticket.

Have you looked at Gatehouse in Vicky Park? That's sort of midway between D and C, ie. mixed and a bit more structured than Dallington, but not a supercharged hothouse. Having said that, one MNer has just moved her children away from there, but possibly for different reasons.

When do you have to let the schools know your decision? If you fancy that cup of coffee, let me know. Can't do Friday this week, but could do Wed or Thurs.

All the best.

NotQuiteCockney Tue 09-May-06 09:38:36

Oh, I'm moving my DS1 away from Gatehouse (to St Paul's). I think Gatehouse is ok, but a bit old-fashioned. Too much homework in early years, presumably to prove to parents that the school is better than the state primaries that it's competing with ...

NotQuiteCockney Tue 09-May-06 09:39:29

Oh, St Paul's Cathedral, not Steiner. I did look at the Steiner website, but I'm not a huge fan of homeopathy etc, so it wasn't an option for me.

rktb Tue 09-May-06 14:27:18

We were offered a place at Gatehouse and we did not like it - too old-fashioned/traditional and we saw a couple of children standing in corridors having been sent out of class - not our style, would think they have the resources to sort out the problem with the child. Something a bit lame about the teaching we saw too.

The liberal bohemian in me genuinely likes that side of Dallington. Dallington also feels quite urban which i like (though no space/playground is quite a price to pay for that!). If the liberal style genuinely works and you get decent results and happy children all achieved in a positive way (because the children are self-motivated) then i am all in favour. I suppose that is the million dollar question about the place. I guess that maybe the gamble you take is that your child does not shine and you decide they need more bossing about (to put it bluntly), un-right-on though that may be. It would be interesting to know if people moved children because of FEAR of them not doing well (fear of the unconventional style) or because their children were genuinely falling behind. How can I judge this - any ideas?

But looking at the schools the children go on to from Dallington, they all seem ok, an average mix of the good ones and the 'lighter' ones (maybe a few more of the lighter ones than other non-selective places) so they can't be going that far wrong academically, surely?

If the ethos really promotes happiness and confidence as it is child-centred, that is good surely. But perhaps that 'lack of boundaries' can actually damage confidence at some level in some children? Food for thought.

Thanks everyone for all your thoughts so far.

rktb Tue 09-May-06 14:29:51

We have not considered St Pauls because we think it is just too far away.

rktb Tue 09-May-06 14:57:47

BTW i don't mean to slate Gatehouse - may have just been a bad day that we went and an unfortunate class that we watched. We thought the head was lovely. I have heard of lots of people that love it too, just didn't click with us on the day we saw it. It is also quite far away from us, which does not help!

goldenoldie Tue 09-May-06 15:11:27

Welcome NQC - did you go the the summer fair last year? It is coming up again soon and is well worth going to if only to pick up some second-hand uniform bits (OK, I lie, it is well worth going to for the Pimms tent...............).

rktb Tue 09-May-06 15:11:35

3mum what you say re: 'Nice kind atmosphere and produces lovely happy children' is pretty powerful really. That is more important than all the good exam results put together.

Our other school is Cavendish in Camden - non selective sweet all-girls Catholic (we are not catholic but only 40% of intake is). So it is quite a different thing. Cavendish more conventional academically but class sizes bigger and less 'family' feel (I guess all girls doesn't help) so I wonder if it will hit the spot on the confidence front or not. Frogs thinks so, and it does sell itself as a 'caring' place, but staff/pupil ratios are higher. Maybe i put too much emphasis on them. Dallingotn is about 14 to teacher+assistant, Cavendish is up to 24 with teacher only. Is this significant or am i too hung up on it because we are at state school at present?

My mum says that in a good private school where discipline is not an issue, the bigger class size won't be a problem. Perhaps she has a point.

Indecision indecision. Any views gratefully received!!

rktb Tue 09-May-06 20:16:18

Frogs, thanks so much for your continued help with this... The only day i could do this week is, you've guessed it, Friday! It was interesting what you said about D being 'an alternative to state primary that isn't quite so, well, state'. It made me wonder whether or not that is more what we ARE looking for - less of a huge shift culturally from what we have at present i guess. I don't know exactly what is so 'state' about Dallington - is it the chaos/freedom (lack of teacher-control?) and the lack of drilling the children?

Someone did actually criticise Dallington to me for being dreadful because it is like a fee paying state school - i.e. the worst of all worlds. I think they do not know what the state system is like, because with a ratio of 2:14 they would have a lot to learn at a state school! However, i do know what they meant. But should it having similarities to a state school necessarily be a negative? Life is messy, people are all different, a bit chaos teaches people, only you can make you work, so it's good to learn that young...

I could go on, as you know!

frogs Tue 09-May-06 21:34:55

rktb, shame we can't do coffee this week! But keep an eye out for our NE London meetups -- a group of us had dinner at the new Yumyums a few weeks back, and it was a good girls' evening out.

In the end, both Dallington and Cavendish are good schools, but perhaps suit some kinds of families more than others. I think you need to ask yourself what you want, as well as trying to second-guess your dd's development.

For example in making our decision, I know the thing that pisses me off in my children's state school is that fact that it's all a bit slack and half-cooked. They start up an after-school activity, but never really follow it through. The maths is okay, but the teacher needs me to point out that my ds's maths skills are significantly below his English levels. I point out that the reading books are demotivatingly easy and only changed every two weeks, and there's a half-hearted attempt at ramping it up a level, but after a few weeks it all fizzes out.

So if I'm paying a high four-figure sum for my dd2's education I want a school where I know that I don't have to expend significant quantities of brainspace making sure that my child is being appropriately taught and challenged. I'm not an insanely pushy mother, but both dh and I have trad academic backgrounds and it's important to me that my children are in a reasonably structured environment with competent experienced teachers who share my priorities, and who don't have their hands tied by the national curriculum.

So personally I'd choose Cavendish over Dallington because none of my children are (ahem) lacking in confidence, and I know the slightly more laid back ethos of Dallington would make me twitchy (which is my problem, clearly, but then I'm choosing a school that I have to live with as well).

But if your priority is making sure that your dd has warmth and one-to-one attention, if you can keep your inner pushy parent under control (which I would struggle with) and if you instinctively prefer Dallington's slightly urban, bohemian vibe over Cavendish's more trad private-prep schooly feel then that's a perfectly legitimate basis for a decision.

In the end your dd would probably thrive in either, so it's important to make sure that your heart is okay with any decision you make as well as your head.

Don't go away without letting us know your final decision, will you? When do you have to let the schools know?

NotQuiteCockney Tue 09-May-06 21:40:34

goldenoldie, when is the summer fair?

(Oh, god, is there booze at all school events? This is a minor thing at Gatehouse that drives me bonkers, frankly.)

rktb, did you tour Gatehouse recently? The head changed this year, so I'm hoping it will improve significantly now, as the previous head was 8000 years old, and that probably didn't help.

That being said, I really like what I've seen of St. Paul's, and am happy about the switch, except for the commute hassle of course.

NotQuiteCockney Tue 09-May-06 21:44:31

Oh, and frogs, interesting to read your thoughts on higher or lower supervision schools. I had a hard time at primary and secondary school (despite quite good teachers etc), and often wonder what would have worked better, to motivate me academically.

bingoberta Tue 09-May-06 22:34:39

Am a lurker with children at Dallington but have come out of hiding to say that I think Frogs' post is spot on - really excellent post Frogs. Dallington is lovely and if you send your children there they will be happy because the teachers are lovely and the ethos is very child (and parent for that matter) friendly. If you are concerned about them being ahead of the game in Maths and English, however, this isn't necessarily the place for you. Most kids by 11 are doing really well because the laissez-faire/ learning through discovery and play philosophy probably works in the long run (and the class sizes are v small) but along the way you'll be shocked by how little structured learning takes place compared to most other (including state) schools. Never met an unhappy child though, whatever their personality or ability.

rktb Tue 09-May-06 22:44:34

Frogs your words are very sane and i shall go to bed now contemplating it all (for the billionth night!!)... I have just been chatting to a friend who is a (state) teacher and she very much stressed the same thing - i have to go with my heart and not my head, because i have to live with this decision and when doubts arise, which they inevitably will, i need to be able to blame only myself (that i was deciding as best i could) not have some some external 'i told you that....' factor. But she also confused me in confirming that she knew that dd1 was intrinsically very bright indeed (which is of course my gut too, but i thought that that was perhaps just because she was mine!) which is what lots of others tell me - she always has been - so she is shocked by how she is doing so mediocre-ly at school. So that makes me want Cavendish to bring it out of her. But at the moment she is such a stroppy teenager about work in general I wonder if Cavendish might not just rub her up the wrong way (she is not quiet inconfident... quite opinionated in fact). But the good girl in her (which she is essentially, good as gold) loves the idea of uniform etc. and i know she thrives on routine/knowing what is coming next etc. ARggggggggggggggggggggggggg Hell!

My heart finds Cavendish awkward because of the trad and religious elements (I went to good London state schools - with a short blip at private, so i am an urban girl too) but of course it loves the facilities, my head says Dallington is potentially a bit of a waste of four figures too but my heart FEELS very comfortable instinctively there... it's like a big messy comfy familiar sitting room, possibly a bit crap (dirty/flaky or something) around the edges but essentially warm and welcoming and stimulating.

There is the small issue of the the fact that we have formally turned DOWN the place at Dallington (so it may be gone) because we had to decide re: starting after Easter and we were in no way ready. Cavendish want to know before half term. So Dallington I would have to grovel to (although i left it on good, open terms) and hope there is a place still if i want to go for it. I somehow suspect there would be, they liked dd1 as the class was heavy on boys (11 to 4 girls) and liked her love of art (too much construction going on for their liking!).

But as you say, value for money is not necessarily what you are getting - no instrumental lessons, no after-school anything, no school dinners etc. etc. Oh it's so hard. I am tempted to toss a frigging coin and be done with it! Or eeny meeny miny mo...

Thanks again frogs for your time and input, it is genuinely helpful, whoever you are (!!), really. I really appreciate your time.

rktb Tue 09-May-06 23:08:04

Bingoberta, very excited to have the input and very honest answer from someone with children at Dallington, thanks for coming out of the shadows... Do you genuinely feel the children come out ok academically there, in the end (do all the parents do tutoring in a panic last minute?)? Do you think that the lack of structure can have a negative impact on confidence (i.e. they don't know where they stand, feel at a bit of a loss/too much choice/not simple enough life)? Would be really interested to hear more from you if you can bear to indulge me in my moment of deep indecision... happy children, friendly parents all very good. Dodgy English and Maths obviously not great, but part of me thinks that if dd1 already rebelling from being 'told' what to do all the time (I just hate learning mummy, I like choosing time) yet is very bright, perhaps a 'different' approach to learning is exactly what she needs.

Alternative scenario would be that she went to Dallington, wasn't made to do any work, didn't do any work, and never found out what a clever little girl she was. Version 3 would be she's a bright button but they don't give her enough to satisfy that curious/bright streak so she just gets disruptive and bolshy (which she has enough of already - she is no shrinking violet, at home) in her 'no boundaries' world...

She would either ADORE the straight-laced-ness of Cavendish and it would be the making of her, really, or it would heighten her stroppy teenage streak. I would hope the teachers there would be experienced/skilled enough to motivate her beyond her immediate environment of 'learning', but the more conventional style could just jar with her. I personally think it is mostly about individual attention though. So she would be alright in either. What i liked about Dallington was that i felt everybody knew WHO each child was - their quirkiness, their style... maybe i'm wrong?

Any thoughts? What age are your children there, if you don't mind me asking (new to this mumsnet thing so not entirely sure what's ok to ask or not)? And finally, any ideas if head set to stay?

I am sure you wished you never wrote now. If it is possible to accost on a chat thing, then you have been well and truly accosted! Sorry for all the questions and thanks for your time.

goldenoldie Wed 10-May-06 10:04:09

RKTB - it is so hard - hope you make a decision and get a place at the school of your choice.

NQC - Summer fair in July.

Good to go to see the entire mix of families at St. Pauls - from the very posh (sending their boys onto Eton when they finish at St. Pauls - eek!), to those who live in rather grubby parts of London and dress in Primark to send their kids there (OK that is me!). A few minor celebs too - no one very interesting or seen in Hello/Heat magazine sadly.

BTW - I like booze at school events - saves me having to make inane small talk. I just spend my time focused on the bottom of my glass.

frogs Wed 10-May-06 10:29:06

rktb, it's been an interesting discussion for me too, as it v. much mirrors my own though processes, except that I'm clearer about preferring a structured to a laid-back setup.

What does your dd think? Presume she's in Y2, so too young to actually make a decision for herself, but it's always interesting to hear what they think. Would the school let her go and spend a day there with her prospective year group? Dd1 did that at StC when we were looking at moving her at the same age, and it might give her and you a sense of how likely she is to fit into the system there.

The other thing that jumps out at me is that there are only 4 girls in her potential class at Dallington. That's a v. small pool of potential friends, particularly if they're all paired off in a best friend scenario. Even if your dd is happy to play with boys now, it may change as they go up the school. A close friend has a dd in the same lovely but v. boy-heavy Y2 class as my ds, and I know the lack of other girls to be friends with has been an issue for them.

bingoberta Wed 10-May-06 11:01:29

Hi rktb,
Won't say too much about my kids as would prefer to remain incognito but will tell you my thoughts about the school.
Year 3 teacher is lovely - really inspiring, engaged and nice. They do cover the syllabus but they aren't, like other private schools aiming for the kids to be 18 months ahead of average. The philosophy is that the children benefit from a less crammed approach and learn how to work things out for themselves. Most kids seem to have tutoring in Maths at 10 because they need this to get into the academic private schools at 11.

Dallington kids tend to be confident and do well at interview, so most do seem to get into good schools at 11 with that little bit of coaching help. (City of London etc)
Dallington is very focused on the arts, so your daughter should thrive on that. The head teacher is a bit of a law unto herself but by all accounts an inspiring teacher of years 5 & 6 -the kids love her.
Competitive sports are not really on the agenda - you'll have to do that outside hours really. They don't even have a sports day. You won't find any class rankings either - I don't really have any idea how mine are doing relative to other children.

I wouldn't say there is a lack of discipline though - the kids seem to be pretty well behaved - again down to the teachers who really do reward positive behaviour.

Overall I think it's a lovely school but if you are pushy at all for your children it will test your resolve. Oh and the parents are lovely too on the whole - mainly because the pushy types go elsewhere.

rktb Wed 10-May-06 11:39:05

Bingoberta, thank you. I really appreciate that summary of the school. I feel I have a good understanding of the place now, so it has been very helpful - it all makes sense. Doesn't make my decision much easier though! Sounds like a lovley place. As you say I think I have to decide how strong the pushy parent in me is... the truth is I am a confused mix of both styles (worst of all worlds).

Whichever I decide, I have to bite the bullet and go with it whole-heartedly once the decision is made. I might take Frogs' suggestion and get dd1 a bit more involved. She liked Dallington. Maybe I should send her for the trial day at Cavendish and see the feedback she gives there before deciding.

Thanks again for your really helpful comments, I feel equipped with the information I was lacking now.

All the best

rktb Thu 11-May-06 07:34:14

Frogs, you are right about the small pool of friends - put as directly as that i can see it could become a real problem... thanks again for your wisdom...

DeBeauvoir Wed 25-Jun-08 13:24:56

Am caught between St Andrew's Montessori in Thornhill Square and Dallington. Any views?

DeBeauvoir Wed 25-Jun-08 22:40:15

Is there a typical Dallington parent?
Am keen to get an idea of the social mix. Any insider knowledge gratefully received.

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