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Relocating to Guildford in April - sorry it is long

(74 Posts)
MoshiMoshi Tue 25-Feb-14 06:47:35

After spending nearly two and a half years in California, we will be relocating back to the UK and living in Guildford. We previously lived in west London but the schools the children attended do not have any vacancies for them so we decided to look elsewhere.

While Surrey seems to have plenty of great schools it is not straightforward as we have 4 DCs: DS (10 nearly 11), DD1 (8 nearly 9), DD2 (7) and DD3 (4 nearly 5). If you can bear with me, I would be very grateful for advice.

For DS the tricky bit is finding a place for the summer term of year 6 that will then prepare him for entry to a secondary school at 13. He previously attended Colet Court at 7 but having been away for 2 years attending school in California, failed to qualify for re-entry at 11. Children start school much later here and the pace of learning is much slower. We didn't tutor him as he is a straight A pupil here which is probably where we fell down in not understanding the differences in the syllabuses. We are fairly sure a prep school would suit him perfectly and have contacted Aldro, Lanesborough and Cranmore. We have been told that assessments have taken place and are waiting to hear whether there might be an opening at Aldro for year 7 due to places not being taken up. Lanesborough told us to get in touch in April. Cranmore potentially have a space for him in year 6 to start in the summer term. None of this presents anything concrete apart from Cranmore which DH does not want him to attend as it is an RC school (we are CofE) and he has heard bad press about it.

For the DDs the tricky bit is finding a school for all of them. We have been in touch with St Catherine's, Tormead and GHS. Only GHS has openings for all three subject to assessment. They have been v accommodating and have booked us in for this the day before term starts but of course a quick read on here and I am now wondering whether an assessment is fair to the girls given their pace of learning in the US. The girls have dropped back a year to be in the same grade as their peers of similar age meaning things have been repeated and slow. In the case of DD3, she hasn't even started school yet here.

We also have the option of joining the waiting list for Pewley Down and Holy Trinity. I'm not sure whether we would ever move off the list however given how popular it appears to be. Obviously the cost saving is hugely persuasive but I'm not familiar with the schools and whether they would ultimately enable the children to enter a school in the private sector where we would end up sending them with a fighting chance.

1. Can anyone advise on the prep schools for boys? Any thoughts on best approach for a bright sporty boy returning to the UK system?
2. Can anyone advise on the best course of action for the girls? All are bright although have not been taught as much living in California. DD3 hasn't attended school yet although is very capable and can identify numbers 1-10 and count upwards of 20 and read some words. DD2 is a prolific reader and very conscientious. DD3 is very creative and strong visually (er, read not great at maths) and all are emotionally mature having been to 3 different schools here in the US as we have moved around.
3. Would the state option present advantages (other then the obvious financial one)?
4. WTF should I do as there is nothing concrete to go on? confused

If you have got this far, I cannot thank you enough. And if you have any words of wisdom, I promise to take you for a coffee when I am back in the UK! grin

cakeisalwaystheanswer Tue 25-Feb-14 09:34:12

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

homebythesea Tue 25-Feb-14 10:22:48

You have highlighted all the most academic prep schools in the Guildford area. Aside from timing issues your kids will find it difficult to catch up - going into Y7 the children will already have covered some of the 13+ Common Entrance syllabus which in itself is at a higher level than equivalent aged state students. You may want therefore to consider going back a year to deal with the academic issues, but of course that brings with it social difficulties potentially.

You could also look at the less selective prep schools or less selective senior schools that start at 11 - off the top of my head I am thinking about Cranleigh, Reeds, Seaford College, The Royal School. For your younger kids preps like Longacre, Rydes Hill, and through schools like Manor House or St Teresas (girls) might be worth a look. There are very many schools around Guildford - hiring a consultant might be worth it to avoid brain frying!! Good Luck

Michaelahpurple Tue 25-Feb-14 10:23:09

Gosh how tricky, and such a shame about colet, especially after all the effort of getting in there originally. The timing is so tough for him as not only has he missed the 11+ entrance, he has also missed pre selection for some of the most academic 13+ schools. Frustratingly for you , you need to try to find time to think about his next schools as the same time, as year 6 and 7 is when this all happens. Unfortunately given the timing I can't see you having any luck talking your way into any of the 11+ schools, line RGS Guildford as they have presumably just finished their main process, but you could always try a shameless coming from abroad appeal.

State schools as a bridge to a 13+ school may be tricky except for schools which allow state school children to avoid common entrance. I believe some do offer this, but am not sure as not my area. I believe there are some great girls state schools in the Guildford area, but getting sorted for the summer without an address could be tricky. You could use one as stepping stone to 11+ or occasional places, with tutoring if necessary but might face a complex path of multiple schools while executing it (although once one is in sibling policies may help)

The move from the USA to here can be tricky , especially in the primary years, until the effect of the delayed start has worn off. For the girls find out what they will be assessed in at GHS in detail eg essay writing ? Verbal reasoning? Which of them should know which timetables? (Eldest certainly should know all, and middle one most to all) and get going on giving them a bit of exposure to the required areas.

Remember though that the USA/Colet contrast is about at extreme as it gets and that the girls' schools you list are also v academic, so you may well have more options if you spread your net wider.

Sorry, perhaps not v helpful, but good luck

jonnyappleseed Tue 25-Feb-14 10:31:24

GHS is a fantastic school, but it is really on a par with Colet Court in terms of academic attainment - it's a girls school that is right up there. It's difficult to gain entry for girls who are at the feeder preps. I fear you have underestimated what is needed for your girls to be able to gain entry - especially if you are hoping all three girls will pass - there will be no sibling priority. Few parents actually succeed in getting 3 children into the same selective schools in sw London - it's a huge ask to expect all three to perform at such a high level at the same time.

Agree you should look at preparing your son for the 13+ and re-entering a school which is on a par with the other higher echelons of boys schools - of which there are many around sw London.

It sounds like all your children are reading well which is a huge bonus. If you need live/skype online familiarization and tuition of UK Maths syllabus, I can personally recommend to provide an assessment and then guide in areas needed.

Xpatmama88 Tue 25-Feb-14 16:32:21

We were expat in Far East and returned to Guildford area many years ago. My DD was 9 years old then, we did the same and applied to Tormead, St Catherine, and Guildford High, they all had place for her, but only GHS wanted an entry exam, she'd been to various int'l schools and always had excellent school reports. Anyway, we decided to let her took the exam from GHS as we'd been away too long and wanted to know if she was at par academically with other able girls. The exam was not that difficult, she did well and got in, actually I think the Headteacher did appreciate children with exposure abroad. In her year a few girls were also returned expat from overseas.
She started at Year 5, took her about a term to catch up, especially on French and German. (She learnt Chinese and Japanese in previous schools then) But maths was her strongest subject and helped her to gain confidence in a highly selectively school like GHS.
I think let your DDs take the exams in GHS, they are still young if they have the potential and are able, they can bridge the gap very quickly. I think GHS certainly very helpful, after only couple of years with the school, we had to pack up again for another overseas assignment. And her then Headteacher had advised us on boarding school choices.
As for your DS, contact Lanesborough in April, may be by then they will know if there is any place for him.
But if you want him to take 13+ common entrance, you should register with your choice of schools now as many will need to do pre-test at 11 (year 6) jan/February time.

inthename Tue 25-Feb-14 17:30:09

A lot of the schools for boys pre test in the January of year 6 for 13+ entry. Reeds tests later at the beginning of year 7. Lots of prep schools in the area which might give him a chance to catch up but you would need to contact RGS etc as they may allow a 12+ assessment due to your circumstances.

MoshiMoshi Tue 25-Feb-14 17:31:48

Thank you for all your very helpful replies. Plenty to mull over and I'll follow up. I'm loathe to tutor the DCs but obviously need to have them prepared for what they might be exposed to in any assessment. We didn't tutor DS for Colet but at age 6 there is arguably less to be assessed on (as we subsequently found out at age 10). I did thankfully have the foresight to register him for some boarding schools for 13 as I knew I didn't want a US education throughout their school life. So I'm not completely shafted there. Just a bit on the other fronts... wink

reddidi Tue 25-Feb-14 17:44:41

Try looking at co-ed preps - more vacancies in Y7 due to girls joining 11+ schools, and you will be looking at bigger schools so more chances of vacancies all through. You will probably have to go a bit further afield though and come down a popularity rung from the likes of Lanesborough and St Cats where parents have been waiting for years for a place so 6 months isn't going to get you very far.

Daneshill? Frensham? Downsend? Do a search on Good Schools Guide? Use their consultants or Gabbitas?

reddidi Tue 25-Feb-14 17:47:25

"I did thankfully have the foresight to register him for some boarding schools for 13"

Talk to admissions/the head(s) there and explain the situation, they may be able to find space at a suitable feeder.

SoldeInvierno Tue 25-Feb-14 18:24:32

Or you could try going a bit further afield and get all of them into a school like Holme Grange in Wokingham. It is co-ed and goes up to Year 9

sixlive Tue 25-Feb-14 20:12:16

Give GHS a go. Hoe Bridge in Woking coed worth considering. St Hilary's for the girls in godalming goes to 11 and most girls get into the academic selective schools. Aldro will have lots of places boys are leaving there are concerns about the academic standards. Cranmore depends on the personality of the boy, hardy sporty boys do best but it is academic. Lanesborough is a fantastic school similar to colet court. Good luck.

grovel Tue 25-Feb-14 20:57:07

Take a look at Lambrook for all 4. Particularly if you are North of Guildford.

BlueStringPudding Tue 25-Feb-14 20:57:45

The Royal Junior School at Hindhead would be worth looking at for your DDs. It's a bit further out, but this may help you with getting places. Whilst it's not selective, it does get good results. They've recently opened a boys' senior school, no yr 6 currently, but they will have years 7-9 from September 2014 and will have plenty of places as the school is just starting up.

They do a shuttle bus from Haslemere train station, and the school is off the A3 just south of the tunnel so very accessible.

springrain Tue 25-Feb-14 21:33:55

Agree with sixlive re trying GHS and Lanesborough. However, I would also do late state applications for DS who in state system would be due to enter secondary. He is probably going to be a little tricky to find an independent place for as there are fewer options for boys in the area and it will not do you any harm to have a reserve state option. Plus George Abbot for example is very good. If DD2 is current Y2 you should also be able to do the same for her for a junior place as this is another entry point into the system.

SCC allow you to apply from overseas assuming you meet the criteria given that you are applying for a Y7 place. Their relevant policy is here

You application would be late and place you at the back of the list, however, once you arrive in Guildford, you will then move up the list based on your new address. Places are declined by parents holding both state and private offers from mid March onwards for secondarys (April for primary), in dribs and drabs as they get comfortable with the commitment that private fees brings. So if you are arriving here for summer term your application should coincide with when places are being given up and reallocated. A school like GA will have something like 15 to 20 places declined in this way, plus they do not normally over offer, so these places are filled straight from the wait list.

Also speak to the primary schools re places, again as a back up. Your priority should be a school with a current reception place for DD3, as this is covered by infant class sizes so no flexibility.

I am guessing you will be living near PD & HT school from your post, which I only know by reputation (which is v good) but if you can give a little more info then we can help you a little more re other back up options.

springrain Tue 25-Feb-14 21:59:30

will also pm you

Tanith Tue 25-Feb-14 22:57:02

If you're thinking of going onto boarding for secondary then I would think Aldro or Cranleigh would be the best option for you: they offer flexible as well as full time boarding and it's a good opportunity to get your son used to boarding school life.
I can't think why there would be concerns about Aldro's academic standards. Their boys are awarded scholarships every year to all the top public schools: their results speak for themselves. Certainly none of the parents I know are withdrawing their boys: quite the contrary!
Some will leave after Y6 to go on to Royal Grammar School and that will release a few places.

I can also recommend both St. Catherine's and The Royal School. I know girls from both schools and they've been very happy and achieved impressive results. Although St. Catherine's has the more academic reputation, The Royal prides itself on its ability to get the best out of all their girls: considering they do not have selective entry, their results are excellent.

mummytime Wed 26-Feb-14 07:06:01

First, Holy Trinity Pewley Down will try to find you a place if possible. It also has an extra class added for year 3, and once your girls are in year 3 it will go over 30 in a class (but still has amazing teacher student ratios when you look carefully). Children do go on to a wide range of private schools (although often with a bit of extra tutoring). So you shouldn't panic too much about not getting in, but they can't offer you a place until you are in the UK. It is also very used to expat and other overseas educated children (several staff have also worked in other countries).

For your girls have you considered Rydes Hill? This is another good option.

For your son, there are other Prep schools. You could also consider State secondaries (George Abbot has 13 Oxbridge offers this year for example). I have known students move into the area in the summer term and still get places at the local schools, and this year is "supposed" to be a low birth rate year. There is a lot of movement on waiting lists in this area, and once you have moved into the area you are likely to jump to the top (near the top) of them as you will probably live closer than most others on the list.

For private schools for your son, as well as Hoe Bridge, I would look at the Haslemere Preps. Or maybe alternatives such as Frensham Heights, The Royal School, Salesian in Farnborough (maybe?), King Edward's Witley or Box Hill. What senior school were you thinking of sending him to?

AliceInSandwichLand Wed 26-Feb-14 09:24:11

Just another school name to throw at you - Halstead is a non selective girls' prep in Woking with a very good track record of getting girls into the right secondary schools for them. Usually full in some but not all years, but worth a google at least.

homebythesea Wed 26-Feb-14 12:49:03

Moshi you mention having put your son's name down for 13+ boarding schools. These will presumably require Common Entrance Exams (and maybe even a pre test?). How do the entrance requirements for the senior schools you have an eye on fit in to these plans, timing wise and also academically (sorry I'm not trying to be the harbinger of doom)

trinity0097 Wed 26-Feb-14 19:02:59

The Royal cancelled starting year 9 boys this September, presumably due to lack of demand. Very few boys in the current year 7.

MoshiMoshi Wed 26-Feb-14 21:48:10

Thank you all. So much useful information for which I am very grateful. Thanks also to those of you who sent me messages which I shall follow up on soon. While I'm still slightly panicking about what needs organising, I feel better knowing whatever happens there are plenty of options to pursue with really good schools. It seems a great location for schools generally which was our primary objective so I am thankful for having made the choice to move back to Guildford rather than London.

MoshiMoshi Wed 26-Feb-14 21:57:08

I've registered DS for various secondary schools including Winchester, Dulwich, Harrow, Eton and Radley. All excruciatingly expensive and I wince just typing the list. We were also contemplating Marlborough which is near family. They seem to have a variety of assessments all with an interview so I am pulling together the 11+ papers to get his brain working again. The synapses seem to have gone to sleep of late. The reality is now that we are returning to the UK, I'd like nothing better than to have him attend a day school, perhaps with an option to weekly board, as I would miss him terribly <pathetic mummy>. So I'm hoping he can get into Lanesborough or Aldro or somewhereorother and then move onto RGS. I think he is the right sort of candidate from descriptions given.

We shall see what happens with the DDs. I'll go ahead with the GHS assessments as advised and work out contingencies in the meantime. Thank you for your views.

Nothing is a disaster really. It's all just different ways of moving them through school with the best available to them and their capabilities at any given time and I have to be realistic given they've been schooled in California.

mummytime Wed 26-Feb-14 22:34:06

If he isn't the RGS type, then you might be able to get him into a Day school at 13 (especially if you play the "we were in California" card). They tend to be a bit of a commute but lots of boys do it.

(He may though want to transfer to George Abbot or Godalming College for sixth form, a lot do.)

jonnyappleseed Thu 27-Feb-14 11:37:18

I know I'm rattling on but I do want to stress that the academic bar for GHS is VERY HIGH. Search for threads on parents trying to get in on MN. It really is, so please don't put all your eggs in one basket for it coming through. Hope that's realistic and constructive; not meant to be a damper.

Got everything crossed for you, moving four kids across the world and getting them all settled is a mammoth task.

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