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independent primary schools SW London (esp Kings College, Wimbledon). Sorry, long post.

(19 Posts)
CanucksoontobeinLondon Thu 03-Oct-13 01:58:23

Just registered with the site, and looked at other threads, but the relevant ones were all zombie threads which I hesitated to re-animate, so I'm taking a chance and starting a new thread. We're moving to London from Canada next year, and thinking schools. I’m OK with public schools (what you call state schools), but DH and in-laws are pushing for private (sorry, independent. Got to get used to the new lingo) and in-laws have offered to help with fees. Yay! Feeling very lucky, but also unlucky because at least with a public school they have to take your kid. This is a permanent move, so we’re not looking at international schools. DH worried international school population is too transient, and anyway, DCs are young enough to make the transition to British curriculum. I'm more pro-international.

DS is 8 (would be 9 when we move) and is on the autism spectrum. It’s not a severe ASD (what used to be called Asperger's Syndrome), but it limits our options somewhat. He’s also extremely bright, well ahead of his age group in math and science. Definitely doesn’t get that from me! Also quite musical. He’s currently in a co-ed private school, but hangs out mostly with other boys, so could make the switch to single sex, I think. Needs to be academically challenged or he gets bored and unhappy.

DD is 4 (would be 5 when we move), and definitely not ASD. Impossible to say at this age how academic she is, but at this point I’d say she’s a decent all-rounder without being spectacularly wonderful at any one thing. You’d swear DS and DD weren’t related! She's an early reader, but I'm not sure if that's natural talent or all the work DH and I have put into teaching her. I’m not picky about single sex v. co-ed. DD is an easygoing kid, would probably settle down quite easily in any school, so I’m not so worried about her.

In-laws are in a place called Cobham, and DH and I are agreed we don’t want to be either too close or too far away. I’m leaning towards Wimbledon, simply because my only existing friend in England (as opposed to in-laws and DH’s friends) lives there. But she has no kids, so isn’t much help re schools. DH is OK with Wimbledon in theory, says it’s a good distance from his parents, but thinks we should decide on schools first, then work out a place to live. And there are so many different schools! Plus, it sounds like most of them expect you to put your DC's name down when they're still a fetus.

MIL found out we’re considering Wimbledon, and is now pushing Kings College School Junior School (for DS) and Wimbledon High School (for DD), but it looks like every other parent in London wants those schools as well. Not sure if we should aim for the stars or be more realistic. Also, MIL is a wonderful person, but in total denial re: DS having ASD, she's convinced he’ll grow out of it. Sigh. KCJS sounds very academic (which he would love) but he would need a fair bit of pastoral care as well. Anybody with experience of KCJS? Anybody got other suggestions? I’ve looked at school websites, but every website makes every school sound terrific. They can’t all be terrific. KCJS does make specific mention on their website of learning enrichment for dyslexic boys, but no mention of ASD.

I would be looking for work after I got DS and DD settled in, incidentally. Not sure if that makes a difference. I like the idea of after school activities and clubs on-site, which would make it easier for me as a working mom. Also, and I probably should’ve put this first, how ethnically and culturally diverse are the schools? DH is white, kids are mixed race, and I know from experience that it sucks to be the only black kid in the class, sometimes even the only non-white kid in the class. I know London is very diverse, but I’m not sure how that translates to independent schools. One reason I’m still keen on international schools is the ethnic and cultural mix.

It looks from my perusal of old threads and school websites like we're not moving at the right ages for our kids to slot into school places easily. Also, it sounds like kids DS's age or younger are getting tutoring to pass entrance exams. The Canadian system is more laid-back, so I'm feeling intimidated, even though I know I should be thankful to have these particular problems. Any guidance at all would be gratefully accepted. And thank you for reading through the whole post, which is very long.

Primafacie Thu 03-Oct-13 02:58:14

Hi Canuck

I can't advise on King's, but DD goes to Wimbledon High, is mixed race, we live in Wimbledon, and I'm Canadian grin.

I wouldn't worry too much about the ethnicity thing - I'd say roughly a third, possibly more, of girls in DD's class are not 'white English', so I doubt your kids will stand out.

However, you may find it difficult to get them into King's and WHS, both of which are selective, outside the normal points of entry (4/7/11 for WHS, and i think 7 and 13 for King's). I think you'd have to put them on the waiting list, which can move very slowly - I know of at least two girls in DD's class with sisters on the waiting list, and I think both have been on it for a while.

Alternatives for boys in Wimbledon would be Donhead and Willington; for girls, you could look at Ursuline prep and the Study. Donhead and Ursuline are a good combo as they are very close to each other; Willington is also very close to WHS so convenient for the school run. We have friends with kids at all four schools, and they all seem happy with their choices and speak highly of their respective schools.

Another option would be Rokeby for your son and Holy Cross for your daughter, the two are next to each other in nearby Kingston.

Good luck with the move and feel free to ask any question!

CanucksoontobeinLondon Thu 03-Oct-13 05:26:59

Thanks so much for the speedy reply, Primafacie! And wow, Canadians coming out of the woodwork all over the place. You relieve my fears immensely, re: the ethnic make-up of their possible classes.

Donhead, Willington, Ursuline Prep, The Study, Rokeby, Holy Cross. That's six schools I didn't know about before you replied. I will fire off emails to all of them, as well as to WHS and KCS. I am also going to get a subscription to the Good Schools Guide.

Thank you also for best wishes for the move. I am filled with trepidation, especially since DH is moving in late spring, and we aren't following him until the summer (I didn't want to move mid-school year). Not looking forward to selling the house by myself. But I could also be a little shell shocked because DH only got the job offer last Friday, so the past few days have been frantic, on top of trying to get a bit of work done once in a while. Taking the cats to the vet this weekend for microchipping, which is required. DH says pet importation much much simpler than in the bad old days, so I guess I should be thankful.

So, your DD enjoys life at WHS, then? I think we'll probably put our DD's name down even if it means she'll be on a waiting list for a few years. And if she turns out later not to be academic enough to be suited to WHS, well, a waiting list spot isn't a contract signed in blood.

Thanks again.

Greengagesummer Fri 04-Oct-13 00:06:06

You could potentially consider Twickenham, close to both Cobham & Wimbledon. I'm thinking St Catherine's for your DD & Radnor House for your DS. They are opposite each other, ehnically mixed, both go through from 5 to 16/18 (Radnor House is only 2 years old but already ofsted -rated outstanding).

Also St Catherine's is known for not being fiercely academic but both good on pastoral and academic fronts,and gets very good results. Radnor House has ambitions to be very academic, to rival KCS etc, but puts great store on both pastoral care and doing well with children with SN. I know families at both who are very happy. (nb St C is catholic, but you don't have to be catholic to attend).

Both are independent schools by the river. There are plenty of threads comparing them with other local schools, so that you can get a better flavour of them.
Good luck!

AbiRoad Fri 04-Oct-13 00:23:00

I think the study would be a good place for your DD from your description. It is not selective entry, but the girls do very well and lots go to WHS, lady Eleanor hollis etc at 11. I think your son will struggle to get into kings outside the normal entry points. They do take some at 8 plus but sounds like you have missed that too. Don't know other boys schools n the area I'm afraid.

CanucksoontobeinLondon Fri 04-Oct-13 02:46:36

Hi GreengageSummer,

I asked DH and he said Twickenham is a nice area, as long as you don't buy too near to the frelling rugby stadium (DH was forced to play rugby at school. He's still bitter). St. Catherine's and Radnor House. Okay, they're both going on the list, and I'm also going to fire up the Mumsnet search engine and look for old threads about them. Thank you.

Hi AbiRoad,

I looked at the Study website, and it looks attractive for DD. It's going on the list! I'm not too fussed about selective entry at this age, when it's so hard to tell if they're even going to turn out academic. I suspect you're right re: DS and KCS. It sounds like they have a small intake at 11 and a big intake at 13, but otherwise hardly anything, so we may need to aim for 13. And make lots of backup plans, because so many other boys will be aiming for 13 as well.

I've also been looking at The Hall School Wimbledon, the website and also old threads on Mumsnet. It seems to get some mixed reviews, but the website suggests their learning support is strong.

Anyway, the list of possibilities is getting nice and long, which means lots of research, but is also making me hopeful. With all these schools, surely one or two of them will take my kids. THanks a lot, guys.

Mominatrix Fri 04-Oct-13 06:03:34

Kings does have a 9+ entry, as well as 10+. Both are small, but about the same as their 8+ intake.

Ladyleia Fri 04-Oct-13 13:02:05

Hi there, my DS goes to KCJS and is an Aspie. The learning support at KCJS is outstanding and your DS would find that there are A LOT of boys who are on the spectrum even if they haven't been formally diagnosed at the school. He would fit right in! I really can't recommend their support of my son enough.

Regarding admissions, KCJS take 10 boys at 8+, 9+ and 10+ and then about 20 boys at 11+. There is a formal assessment and exam process for these entrants that happens in December/ January of the year preceding the September that your son joins. You should definitely ring the school and speak to the admissions secretary as she will be able to fill you in on what you need to do.

I would be wary of the Hall School learning support as a friend's DS with dyspraxia was not supported much but this could just be one experience.

Hope that helps!

KitchenDiscoDancer Fri 04-Oct-13 14:17:31

My DD is at The Study and it is a fab school - really good atmosphere and ethos. They push your daughter as much as they need to be and have really good results at getting their girls into schools at 11. So WHS could be a possibility then. Good luck with it all!

Shootingatpigeons Fri 04-Oct-13 20:10:08

I second The Study. DD has good friends who went there and they are all lovely girls who have gone on to Wimbledon High, Lady Eleanor Holles etc.

If you are seriously considering Twickenham I wouldn't limit yourself to St Catherines. There is also Newlands house, a good co ed prep, I know lots of happy parents, and which gets DCs to good secondary schools, girls go to 11, boys to 11 or 13. It has been a good option for returning expats I know. Jack and Jill which goes to 7, there is a fairly well trodden path from there to Lady Eleanor Junior school if they are bright, followed by our Canadian tenants when we were elsewhere in the world, and other Preps (though some hints that it is a bit of a bootcamp in terms of preparing them for the selective schools at 7, contrast to St Cs which possibly has the opposite reputation). Also for boys there is the Mall, also very academic. All these schools have varying ethos / atmospheres so it is a matter of what works for you and your DCs and of course you have to add in where you can get places.

The good Independent Schools generally cater very well for bright children with Specific Learning Difficulties (catch all UK term for Dyslexia Dyspraxia etc and Autism). Except Ibstock Place, many grrr stories about how they cater for Sp LDs.

At secondary level from the Twickenham Preps (there is also a Twickenham Prep but that confusingly is in the next suburb Hampton) you would then have the options of Hampton, Lady Eleanor, KCS, Kingston Grammar, Radnor, St Catherines, St Georges Weybridge (another possible location near your in laws, they have a Junior School) Wimbledon High and Putney High (another girls' school that does 4 + entry) which gives you a wide choice.

nennypops Fri 04-Oct-13 22:12:53

To be honest, if you're considering the Twickenham/Richmond area, you really should look seriously at the state primary schools. They regularly come out at or near the top of the country's league tables, and feed into a lot of the independent secondary schools in the area. My son went to a Twickenham Primary School and got into King's College School.

CanucksoontobeinLondon Sat 05-Oct-13 01:12:17

Hi Mominatrix,

Good to know re: King's having a small entry at 9+. That's encouraging. We're not going to put all our eggs in one basket, but it's encouraging. Thank you.

Hi LadyLeia,

Good to know re: King's supporting your son's ASD (it sounds like a fabulous school. Quite apart from the exam results when they're older, no wonder everybody's desperate to get their boys in there). Also good to know re: having small intakes in each year. Gives me hope!

So you'd say phone the admissions secretary, then? I was planning to email all the schools on our short-list this weekend. But if you think it's better to phone them than email, I will drag myself out of bed at an ungodly hour on Monday morning and call. Or maybe I'll guilt-trip DH into getting up and calling, while I sleep. They're his kids too, after all! MIL has offered to call schools on our behalf, being in the same time zone, but like I said above, she's in denial about DS's ASD, and would probably sugarcoat things too much. Honesty is the best policy, I've found with schools.

Hi KitchenDiscoDancer,

Another data point in favour of The Study. Thank you very much.

CanucksoontobeinLondon Sat 05-Oct-13 02:02:02

Hi ShootingatPigeons,

I'm still not sure where we're going to live. Twickenham is one possibility. Wow, lots of names of schools. Thank you SO much, these are going on my short-list (which is turning into a long-list). So much great information, and none of it would be available on a school website or in a league table.

Hi Nenny,

Thanks, we will consider state schools in TWickenham. I've taken a look at some of the older threads about state schools there, and it looks quite competitive to get your child in as well. DH is not keen, but then DH is irrationally prejudiced against the entire state system. (he's also reading over my shoulder. Hi honey!) Do you know of any kids in your DS's state primary who were on the spectrum? If so, would you say they got a good level of support? Thank you. And congrats to your DS on getting into King's. That's great.

Shootingatpigeons Sat 05-Oct-13 11:50:14

There is this website

Re state schools, it is your address that gets you a place. Selection is on distance from the school. You cannot apply until you are resident at the address. Yes all the popular state schools are oversubscribed but rent or buy close enough and you will get a place at 4 and 11, if you apply the year before entry. Inbetween times you go on a waiting list and when/if a place comes up it is offered to the closest to the school from the waiting list. It is a very uncertain process for someone coming from overseas and most end up going independent unless they can get the timings exactly right or are lucky.

showmethemoney1 Sat 05-Oct-13 15:06:25

I wouldn't go any 11+ route if you are looking for KCS. They are only taking 12 boys in at that age now. Its nice to hear that someone got in from a state school in Twickenham, but it is unusual. There are still a few 11+ prep schools about, Surbiton, Denmead, Broomfield etc just locally, and these boys attend schools dedicated to getting boys into Indy senior schools. Kings pupils come from a very wide area and it is very competitive.

To put it into context, The Mall in Twickenham probably averages more than 12 Kings offers a year, with Newland House and Twickenham Prep probably taking a similar number between them. Kings House in Richmond is a very big Kings feeder, and probably get 15-20 offers. A total of 12 places on offer at 11+ overall looks very bad odds by comparison. I am not saying its impossible, its just hard, KCJS will be a much easier option.

CanucksoontobeinLondon Sat 05-Oct-13 17:13:52

Hi Shooting,

Thanks for the website address and the background info. Very helpful, though intimidating. I think in some ways even more intimidating than the independent system. God, I wonder what happens to the parents who come from overseas and don't have the option of going private. Yikes!

DH is actually starting his new role beginning of April next year. I'm following with the kids end of June, because we didn't want to disrupt their lives more than we had to with a mid year move (it will also be disruptive to the DCs for me to be on single parent duty for 3 months, but I suspect less so than moving mid-year, at least for DS). The initial plan was for DH to stay in a short term rental in central London while he was alone, but there's no reason, technically, why that short term rental has to be in central London. It could be in the area where we want to move permanently. I foresee emails to school districts, sorry, local education authorities, establishing whether DH's residence as of April would be enough for them to consider the DCs resident as well.

Hi ShowMe,

Thank you for the info. Much appreciated. DH is now less thrilled with Twickenham than he was, says his commute would be harder from there. Possibly we should've established the commute issue before we started looking at schools there.

Shootingatpigeons Sat 05-Oct-13 18:30:42

Twickenham isn't on the tube, that starts one stop up the line at Richmond, but it does have fast trains to Waterloo, the commute to most parts of central London is no worse than Wimbledon. Plus of course you could live in Richmond itself, as expensive as Wimbledon (another advantage of Twickers is that it is more affordable, you'll get more house for your bucks)

There are very stringent rules on what address they will take for state school admissions, there have been problems with people renting temporarily an address that gets them a school place and then moving back, so you have to have all sorts of proof that it is a permanent address, Council tax bills, tenancy agreements that show you are there long term etc.

Yes the system is awful if you are coming here from overseas. We returned from overseas to the house we had owned for years and had proof of the end of the tenancy agreement etc but until we were actually living in the house they would not accept our application, and we are in the middle of three school catchments, all less than a mile away, but no chance of waiting list places. It basically meant we were excluded from the state system, no sympathy or flexibility from the Schools admissions people who offered us only schools that were miles away.

CanucksoontobeinLondon Sun 06-Oct-13 19:07:48

Thank you, Shooting! I've looked at and you're right, it seems like you do get more house for your money in Twickenham. I asked DH, and he just had a feeling Twickenham would be a longer commute, he hadn't actually done the research yet. DH really needs to sit down with this Journey Planner I've been hearing so much about on other threads and work out exactly how long his commute will be from different Tube/train stations in SW London. It's just a question of finding the time! DS had a major meltdown when we told him about the move, so we're pretty occupied on that front. I think on Monday I'll need a weekend to recover from this weekend.

Sorry, I'm rambling. Good to know re: the general difficulties of finding decent state schools at short notice, and the unlikeliness of DH's short term tenancy being enough. Well, actually it's bad to know, but it's good to be realistic. We're lucky enough to have options, so I think we'll probably just bypass the state system entirely, at least for the 2014-2015 school year. We kind of have to, with no permanent address until end of July at the very earliest. I like the idea of DCs being in public schools, but it actually sounds even more stressful than going private. Plus, DS's meltdown just solidified my existing feeling that it's not fair on him to just stick him in whichever public school will take him at short notice, not when we have other options. And while DD would probably cope in this scenario, she might not thrive.

I've emailed half of the schools on my short-list already, and hope to get the rest of them done before the end of the weekend (DS allowing). Thank you again for the tips and advice, Shooting. I am bowled over by how helpful the posters on this site have been.

CanucksoontobeinLondon Sun 06-Oct-13 19:24:02

Just re-read my own reply above, and wherever I put "public" please read "state". I forgot the different lingo. Darn, no edit function. And I haven't even had wine as an excuse.

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