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Views on UCS in Hampstead and single sex in general

(24 Posts)
WanderingSwede Mon 08-Sep-14 10:24:05

We are thinking of returning to London from Sweden and are looking at private day schools in or around the Hampstead area. I am not worried (yet ;) ) about my dd as she will be little when we return and there seems to many nice day schools and secondary schools for girls. My ds will be starting at 11 (though there is a strong chance we move in the next couple of years). He is 6 now and goes to a sweet Montessori school. He is bright, sensitive and imaginative but I have no idea how academic he will be (Swedish schools are very soft for the first few years) I want a good school where he is stretched and there is discipline but my main desire is a school that is warm and nurturing. I went to co-ed schools but there seems to be mainly single sex schools in London. What are your views on single sex for boys, particularly one who has lots of good girl friends and is not your full on boy-boy, iyswim!

One school I'm looking at is UCS. When I mention the school to local people there's often a pause and then they say something positive but rather vague. People also talk about a particular 'type' of boy who goes there but no one says what that type is!

As I said I want a good education for my son but most of all I want him to feel happy and confident and to make lovely friends.

Sorry for the rambling post and thank you in advance.

Dad164 Mon 08-Sep-14 11:56:55

I have a couple of friends with boys at UCS and they're happy. If you want co-ed also look at Highgate. The other co-ed options are local comprehensives and further afield the grammar schools like Dame Alice Owens and Latymer. Single sex grammar schools include QE Boys and Henrietta Barnet Girls.

I am indifferent to single sex vs co-ed, but my wife feels strongly in favour of co-ed (for girls) but less so for boys. I don't think there is a right or wrong as it depends on what your child is used to and how they respond.

Gunznroses Mon 08-Sep-14 14:27:24

When I mention the school to local people there's often a pause and then they say something positive but rather vague.

Probably because its a private school, and most of the 'locals' you're speaking to might be sending their dc to the local state schools, hence the vague "only a particular type of boy goes there" comment.

Why not approach some of the parents at school closing time at UCS and ask them about the school.

bonzo77 Mon 08-Sep-14 14:39:48

Both my brothers went to UCS, one leaving only 4 years ago. They are both very different characters, and did well academically. The school mantra used to be "no god and no rod", i.e. it was secular and did not use corporal punishment. I think this is where the "soft" reputation came from.

Have you considered King Alfred School in hampstead (well, more like Golders Green)? its a co-ed school, and very progressive.

horsemadmom Mon 08-Sep-14 15:32:38

My son is almost done with UCS- having started at 7.
The locals (in Hampstead) are most definitely not sending their boys to the local comp. You are vague about when you are planning to move back. You are too late to prep for 7+ entry as the Swedish system will not be near enough preparation for the exam. My suggestion is that you look at local preps like Lyndhurst, North Bridge House (co-ed) and St Anthony's or a state primary and tutor from yr 4 to catch up before the 11+.
The boy UCS will suit is very self-motivated. It is a very creative and exciting school with a lot going on but your son will have to develop his own study habits and be responsible for himself.
I like single sex as it allows teaching to be tailored to each gender and there is no bias in subject choices later on. Girls at co-ed, statistically, don't flock to STEM subjects. Boys can be more expressive in the humanities without the embarrassment of girls in the classroom. Believe me, they spend PLENTY of time with the opposite sex after school.

Greenfizzywater Mon 08-Sep-14 19:35:08

Horsemadmom is right, a 6 year old in UK state school would have had a lot of tuition to pass the 7+ so your son would be very unlikely to get in at this point and you would be better aiming for the 11+.

Further afield but you could add to the list of preps Norfolk House in Muswell Hill if you don't get any joy with the ones she has mentioned.

HeartsTrumpDiamonds Mon 08-Sep-14 19:46:59

They have very smart blazers!

Lots of people in the independent sector will tell you single sex for girls, co-ed for boys. smile

UCS is a fine school. Big Jewish contingent. Nice and diverse, reflecting this part of London. It's not one of the big names or anything, and Highgate is probably better academically, but the boys I know at UCS seem happy (and in about 6 years will god forbid be dating my DDs). A lot of the boys come from the Junior branch.

HeartsTrumpDiamonds Mon 08-Sep-14 19:48:05

Horsemad, that's interesting because I wouldn't touch NBH with a barge pole grin

Sleepwhenidie Mon 08-Sep-14 19:52:31

Also consider The Academy School in Hampstead (not to be confused with a new 'academy'). Private prep, co-ed and not hot housey, a bit on the progressive King Alfred side - lovely atmosphere and they get great results.

horsemadmom Mon 08-Sep-14 21:04:31

HeartsTrumpsetc.- My DD2 went to NBH and really enjoyed it. The senior school wouldn't be my 1st choice but the prep does very well without too much pressure. Boys admissions are in turmoil across the board at the moment due to changes in some schools who are phasing out the CE and some schools who are raising their academic levels that were traditional fall back schools. I think it was a kind school and gave my DD her confidence back after a rough time.

WanderingSwede Mon 08-Sep-14 22:53:22

Sorry have been out all day. Thank you all so much for your time and helpful comments. I was hoping to get him into a school before 11plus so he could continue without that entrance exam (assumed that before that age entry is based on previous school report and interview as much as/more than the exams) and that he could be on a waiting list as I am guessing that in London places do come up. Perhaps I am being very naive. I also thought if he had to join between the entrance points then it would be nice to be at the prep part of a school where he would continue to cut down on the upheaval. So many lovely prep schools and state primary (though my brother tried without success to get into a couple, despite going to church every Sunday like all the other parents!).

It is tricky coming from the Swedish school system as though they end up well educated it takes a while... We would have to tutor him in Sweden either way I'd imagine.

Gunznroses, the people I spoke to did have children at local private schools but the boys were all younger and at prep schools. Otherwise I agree that could have been what they meant!

Lol HeartsTrumpDiamonds, one of my (secret) reasons I want to move back is so they can be in smart uniforms. (At least for one photo smile.) Find no uniform an absolute pain and can imagine it will only get worse as they grow and get fashion/trend aware. Right now ds puts on what I give him while 3yo dd howls that what I choose her isn't pretty...

Dad164, was thinking of Highgate too but was worried it would be extra hard to get into as seems very academic. Thank you for the other names which I will check out though if possible I would like things to be walking distance/easy bus ride. Son is used to mixed sex and as HTD said I've heard single great for girls but less so for boys.

Horsemadmom, I have to say walking around the streets of Hampstead from 4pm onwards I do see that the sexes manage to get a teensy bit of mingling time so I suppose that shouldn't be a concern. And I was thinking that just boys might mean as you say a greater freedom to be interested in the more 'feminine' subjects. It was what I was hoping at least, that more boys means more 'sorts' and therefore freedom but other part of me worried meant whole vibe would be too male. Really good to know your son is enjoying UCS so much. It sounds absolutely lovely from what you say.

Bonzo77, I was actually thinking about posting about King Alfred's too as someone mentioned it to me. I will definitely go and have a look around as it sounds very similar but with better facilities etc as the school he is now (no uniforms, calling teachers by first name, student freedom etc). My worry would be that the pupils could be a bit too cool, too much drugs etc but then I think I sound like an old fuddy duddy smile.

Sleepwhenidie, will definitely check out The Academy thank you. And Greenfizzywater thank you for your tip too. Will now stay up late and google!

Goodnight all!

MrsSquirrel Tue 09-Sep-14 11:35:18

I hate to burst your bubble Swede but there will be drugs at all of those schools, even the 'very academic' Highgate.

OK King Alfred has a particular ethos and may not be right for your ds, but don't discount it because of the drugs thing.

WanderingSwede Tue 09-Sep-14 11:52:54

Hi MrsSquirrel thanks for your message, of course there will be drugs at all the schools and being an academic school or not has nothing to do with it, when I mentioned Highgate being academic it was about difficulty in getting in not the drugs aspect. Most of the people I went to school with took drugs so no bubble burst! I went to a progressive liberal boarding school and my son is now at a progressive school (Montessori) so it's absolutely the sort of school I'm looking for but some private schools can have more of a drugs culture than others and at least when I went to school that was sometimes linked to how progressive it was and whether attracted children of liberal, media parents (huge generalisation but my school which was pretty druggy was very arty and my step brother left Bedales, as similar type of school, a few years ago and said drugs was a big issue) but as you say probably at all the schools whether particularly liberal or not.

Do you know of anything otherwise about King Alfred's? On the website it looks really lovely.

HeartsTrumpDiamonds Tue 09-Sep-14 12:00:44

For more googling...

The Hall School and Arnold House are the "best" boys' prep schools around here. Hereward House is lovely. All three go up to 13+ (as do most boys' prep schools around here)

WanderingSwede Tue 09-Sep-14 12:17:43

Oh good HeartsTrumps, thank you! 13plus will probably be the best bet for us (though that means not co-ed) as if he joins at 9 or so then he will have a good amount of time there before uprooted again.

MrsSquirrel Tue 09-Sep-14 13:21:12

No personal experience, but my friend's son goes to King Alfred's and she is very happy with his schooling there. She is a bit 'liberal' herself wink and her ds went to a Montessori nursery as well. IIWY I would certainly consider it.

QuintessentiallyQS Tue 09-Sep-14 13:30:20

Note that for 11+ you will have just maths and English, and possibly some verbal and non-verbal reasoning, but for 13+ you will have more of the curriculum so will also have French, History, Science, Geography, for example....

We came from Norway when our eldest started UK y5 (from a Y3 in Norway). The independent schools I spoke to prior to coming said it would be pointless even sitting exams for a Y5 entry because starting Y5 he would be too far behind in the private sector. He got into to an ofsted outstanding school ranked highest in the borough, and sent him to a tutor from after Christmas Y5 to catch up with the rest of his class. He sat the 11+ for a few local selectives and got in. He is in y8 now. Good Luck.

I am not sure why you are so worried about state primaries? They are not all bad.

QuintessentiallyQS Tue 09-Sep-14 13:32:55

And then you have the Swedish school in Barnes, which is an option. Then you could immerse your children in all the tutors and music lessons, rugby, etc you want to prepare them for 11+ etc/

HeartsTrumpDiamonds Tue 09-Sep-14 13:45:13

The state primaries around Hampstead are pretty good actually. You practically have to live on their doorstep to be in catchment though:

New End
Hampstead Parochial (this one is C of E, affiliated with Hampstead Parish Church)
Christchurch (same; Christ Church)
St Paul's C of E (same; St Mary the Virgin Primrose Hill)

Not so much:
Holy Trinity
Primrose Hill
Gospel Oak

Greenfizzywater Tue 09-Sep-14 13:59:09

^ Perhaps I am being very naive^

probably, but you're not the first and you won't be the last. FWIW I've never heard of anyone doing common entrance (aka 13+) from anything other than a prep school that prepares them heavily for it, but someone may come along and tell me that I'm wrong. It is a much bigger deal than the 11+.

yesbutnobut Tue 09-Sep-14 15:13:57

You need to be very careful about timing; the number of places at day schools for boys at 13+ is very limited. Highgate is now taking most at 11+ and very few at 13+. Mill Hill is picking up the slack but even they are turning boys away at 13+. I would be looking to move him sooner rather than later to be honest.

WanderingSwede Tue 09-Sep-14 15:39:31

Hi Quintessentially, thank you for your message. I don't think the state primaries are bad at all in fact heard that some very good ones I had just heard that they were very hard to get into (my brother and his wife gave up, though they did only try a couple). Not a bad idea about preparing him at the Swedish school but quite a trek from Hampstead and I do want him to go to an English school. Re the entrance exam you are quite right, we are thinking of moving in the next few years so not entering at 13, that I think would be impossible from our system. Glad everything went well for your son!

Mrs Squirrel, great to know your liberal smile friend is happy with KA's. I think my son would get a huge shock calling someone Mrs Something, wearing a tie and not being allowed an opinion on everything about his education wink.

Hearts, very helpful with the good/not so good list, thank you! We would be very close to a few of them which is good.

Thank you for you messages Yesbutnobut and Greenfizzywater, I was not thinking of entering him at 13 (we are thinking of moving at the very latest when he's 11) but it could still be very stressful for him to join a school where he'd have to jump straight into the stressful preparations to move on at 13. Where it's difficult is that if we move before he's 11 which we might do then he'd only be at the school for a very short time before leaving again (not to mention getting a waiting list place...) which would be unsettling.

WorkingItOutAsIGo Tue 09-Sep-14 21:36:27

Sorry to bear bad news but very few of these schools will have the ad hoc place you are hoping for. Most will have an entry point at 3/5/7/11 and will be selective at those points - just the reality of the competition and mismatch between supply and demand - and other places which arise in between may not even be filled. You should perhaps start by speaking to schools to see which would potentially offer an ad hoc place and then focus your researches on those. I don't know UCS very well but I know enough to know the 7+ exam is a major thing people spend a year preparing for. Same with 11+. Realistically you may need to do some work to fill the gaps between the two educational systems just caused by the different timings. On the upside there is more of a shift to 11+ entry and once in at 11 your DS shouldn't need to move again if he has got into a school which goes to 18.

laidbacklondon Fri 14-Nov-14 22:59:37

Check out The Academy. Both my children are there, and I think it will be a natural follow on from your current school setup unlike many others in N London. It is totally child focused, has a relaxed ethos, brilliant teaching and allows your child to be who they are not fit into narrow expectations. It gives your child the confidence to be happy and the best that they can be.

I am confident that the teaching is the best you will find - there is not one bad teacher and they are all very passionate about what they do and really engage with the children. They soon get the measure of each child and in many cases will devise personalised lessons and lesson plans to help each child catch up/improve confidence/be more stretched etc depending on what is needed which will be good for your son who is coming from a different school system.

The exam results far exceed many of the more hothouse/academic schools, which is down to the relaxed environment and great teaching, and it gives you the option to sit your son for a school at 11+ and 13+ which may work for you. Really worth a look... we and our children are very happy with the school. And unlike many of the other schools we have heard about/experienced they take bad behaviour very seriously. They are very good at dealing with bad behaviour/bullying etc. It is dealt with very quickly and very firmly so if your child is unhappy he/she will not have to suffer in silence or for long.

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