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Aldenham (Herts) 4+ reception place: urgent advice please

(9 Posts)
dctlondon Wed 27-Nov-13 17:01:31

I desperately need some advice as I am not familiar with the way English Independent Schools arrange their admissions and I must make a decision soon.
I moved with my twins (boy and girl) to London 1.5 years ago. I am seriously considering sending them to private schools. To increase the chances to get a place (as English is not their first language) I put forward applications to 5 pre-prep schools in North London 2 years ago. The kids are going though the selection process this year for reception in September 2014. Actually they had already their first assessment at Aldenham and they got offered a place, which I have to accept or turn down by the end of next week. If I accept it I must pay £1000/child deposit and in case I change my mind also a term’s fees, in other words £9000 !!! for the twins. I tried to negotiate the possibility to pay only the deposit and confirm it in February when we hear from the other schools, but they were amendant that if I don’t keep the place I will also have to pay the first term fees. I am a bit lost, and don’t know what to do. Aldenham has advantages, but it is not my first choice. Also the idea they ask so much money in advance makes me feel strange. However, I cannot predict how the assessment will go at Habs, Channing etc.
Does any of you know if the level/quality of assessment at Aldenham is comparable to that of other selective schools ? Any views on Aldenham pre-prep ? I love their grounds, but I find a bit cold the school itself (particularly the prep building).

I would appreciate all advice.
Many thanks

ThisOneAndThatOne Wed 27-Nov-13 20:09:54

Do you want to send both to the same school?
That will limit your choice as Habs and Channing are single sex

What other schools are on your radar ? Remember that Habs boys will only take your boy on year 1. So you would need somewhere else for reception.

Is one brighter than the other? What will you do if one gets into a more selective school and the other doesn't?

I know it's a stressful time. Especially when you need to get two places at the same time.

ThisOneAndThatOne Wed 27-Nov-13 20:12:07

I know nothing about aldenham. But my boys sat for a few of the North London preps and so may be able to give you a steer on the others.

wordfactory Wed 27-Nov-13 20:29:36

Aldenham is not a remotely selective school BTW.

EyeoftheStorm Wed 27-Nov-13 21:00:25

What do you want for your twins? Aldenham is warm, caring, small and friendly. Kids and parents seem happy.

Is it academically on a par with Habs. No, I don't think so. So it depends what you're looking for.

QueenOfToast Thu 28-Nov-13 15:00:34

Like others have said, it really depends on what you want for your twins.

My two children have both been at Aldenham prep school. The older one went all the way through to the end of Year 6; less confident and quieter - it was the perfect nurturing environment at the time.

I withdrew my younger child earlier this year for two reasons (1) a noticeable drop in academic standards under the new head (probably due to the exodus of experienced teachers) and (2) to move to a larger school which is more dynamic, has lots of sporting and musical stuff going on (not possible in a small school because there aren't enough children) and which is much more about fostering independence.

I would suggest you think about the following:-

Aldenham school is very small (just one class per year group) so your twins will be together all the time until the end of Year 6. On the plus side, the small size of the school means that it is warm, nurturing and friendly. However, it also means that it can feel claustrophobic and overprotective, especially as they get older.

It is not an academically selective school and it considers itself the Prep school for Aldenham senior school only. Therefore, those who are interested in moving their children to academically selective senior schools (e.g. the local grammars, Habs, MTs, NLCS etc) are paying for tutors to ensure their children reach the necessary standards.

If you have a decent state school option near you as a back-up, then I would suggest that you turn down Aldenham and save yourself all that cash.

Good luck with your choices.

Schoolinformation Thu 28-Nov-13 16:55:36

I am an Aldenham parent and am absolutely thrilled with the school. It's not selective but our experience of it academically has been very positive. Our child is one of the more able in the year and is being appropriately challenged, is working to the best of their abilities without being stressed and is doing very well. Feedback from the teachers is excellent and I believe that the head has taken on board feedback from parents and is making a concerted effort to ensure that children coming up the school are ready for more selective schools at 11. She has no choice to be honest, children aren't staying into year 7, it's a fortune in fees from year 9 and they are in serious competition with not only independent schools but also good state secondaries.

Having older children who have been through the state primary system the top groups at Aldenham are working streets ahead of the top groups in any of the state schools we have experience of and pastorally the school has even brilliant for us.They are not working at the level of Radlett prep or Manor Lodge or Habs but we specifically didn't want that kind of environment and I don't personally believe that it's necessary.

I like the fact that the school is small, the staff know all the children well and it's a very family like atmosphere. Having said that, I totally agree with Queen of Toast in that it can be claustrophobic and there is more micro management than many children need, especially in the older years. I don't think it's ideal for very confident outgoing children who need more independence when they get older but for my bright sensitive child who needs a nurturing environment it's ideal.

I would also say that parents are tutoring whatever private school their children are in, it's huge competitive nature of North London schooling so that wouldn't necessarily be the deciding factor.

LePetitPrince Thu 28-Nov-13 21:35:57

No offense to current parents but Aldenham tends to have places come up all the time, so I would turn it down and try for the schools you prefer. Even if you got no selective options, a year in a state school would be perfectly fine and you could reapply for other options at 5+. I daresay Aldenham would take them at a that stage too if you ate humble pie.

Schoolinformation Thu 28-Nov-13 23:51:50

To be fair it's actually pretty easy to get a place anywhere other than Habs or NLCS, places come up in pretty much all the local preps fairly regularly. When we were applying, which was post reception we had a choice of pretty much anywhere both mixed and single sex.

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