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Schooling in London

(46 Posts)
moviebuff Wed 18-Jan-17 15:49:35

Hi all - My son is 18 months at the moment but me & DH have already started getting worried about how to go about deciding which school to try for and which ones to avoid. We would like our son to get through an excellent primary school but also keeping very few prep schools in mind as a back up.
What I am interested to know is how do you all go about starting to look for the right school? I live in East London but we are renting and work in the city so we are happy to move anywhere for our son's schooling as long as we can commute from there by public trasport.
Looking forward to some expert tips here - TIA x

SquirmOfEels Wed 18-Jan-17 15:56:13

Can you say roughly which stops you need to get to in the city? Also, how long are you prepared to spend travelling? Will you be able to pay a nanny, or have an au pair, or would you need a school with an after-school club?

moviebuff Wed 18-Jan-17 16:15:37

SquirmOfEels Thank you for getting in touch. I need to get to Bank station from anywhere and wouldn't mind travelling just over an hour if I have to. But I still would like to live in London not outside and thus looking at schooling within London for my DS. I can pay for my DS to get picked up after school but isint it better if he joins an afterschool club? (Is that more expensive than keeping a nanny?)

LillyLollyLandy Wed 18-Jan-17 16:19:52

Have a look at Hither Green - one stop on southeastern trains from the DLR at Lewisham which goes to Bank and lots of outstanding primary schools.

Traalaa Thu 19-Jan-17 08:07:40

So much depends on what sort of school you want. If you like where you live now, what are the schools like there? You might be pleasantly surprised. State schools in London tend to be really good.

moviebuff Thu 19-Jan-17 08:36:59

Ideally i would like to move within the catchment area of a state school like Highgate Primary (recommended by a friend) but because we are so flexible with where we can move, we are totally confused. Also how long before we apply to a state school do we have to move to the catchment area?

moviebuff Thu 19-Jan-17 08:37:46

LillyLollyLandy Thank you. Will definitely check out Hitler Green.

bleughhh Thu 19-Jan-17 09:03:55

I'm sure you know this, but there's not normally a fixed catchment area for state primaries - it's the first x number of children who live closest (after looked after children, siblings and any church places). So it can vary a lot - has done massively where we live in the last few years. You have to live pretty 'safely' within the last few years catchment areas if you want to bank on a particular school. We used to live in Islington and there are some outstanding schools there but with average key stage 2 results - so the children are leaving with average standards but maybe started off lower than that. You need to check both the 'rating' and the results (although last year was an odd one as the new curriculum came in and it has been inconsistently assessed). And the best way to find out is word of mouth and actually looking round schools. Some outstanding schools have not had an ofsted inspection for 8 years.

I second Hither Green - particularly if you want a lot of house for your money as it's a lot cheaper than Dulwich/Blackheath with great transport. Dulwich/East Dulwich is great for primary schools but the trains are Southern to London Bridge.... fast when they work (under 15 mins) and then walk or quick bus across London Bridge to bank. But they are dire at the moment, even on non-strike days.

I think Kew and round there have good primaries too if you like south west london? Not ideal for commuting to the city though but loads of people do.

I know it seems ages away but think about secondaries too. You might not want to move again, especially if you make good friends in the area.

CruCru Thu 19-Jan-17 09:31:14

Hi OP, you may be a bit late but St Paul's Cathedral School may be a good option. Quite a few kids come into Bank / St Paul's and get dropped by their parents before they go to work.

Traalaa Thu 19-Jan-17 10:31:26

You just have to be in the catchment for a school when you apply, so that's the autumn before they go, so roughly a year ahead. You have a while to decide yet.

Why don't you work out where you might want to live, then go to primary schools summer fairs, etc and have a look round it that way? You get a good idea of ethos/ atmosphere from events like that and most of them are open to the public. Then go on a few tours next Autumn. That's when schools show round potential new parents. Think of secondaries too, so where do the kids who go to that primary go on to? Be realistic about where you move to. So is the house/ flat reliably in the catchment for the school you want? Are you happy to live there long term / raise your kids there?

Don't panic though, schools are lovely and to be honest if you move to somewhere like Highgate I'm guessing pretty much all of the state primaries will be lovely!

moviebuff Thu 19-Jan-17 10:35:19

bleughhh - Thank you so much for letting me know about the catchment area. I did not know that I have to live there a few years - in that case have I lost the chance to move to places like Highgate/Islington for the state primaries?
At the moment we live in Canary Wharf but I havent found many outstanding state schools around here and neither many privates. So we cant continue to live here for schooling purposes in any case.
If you know of any outstanding state schools in North London please let me know. I have been told that schools that side are worth the move. Also i will definitely look into Hither Green - now that it has been recommended twice.

moviebuff Thu 19-Jan-17 10:38:18

CruCru Thank you for getting in touch. Thankfully for us we have registered to a few prep schools as a backup like St. Pauls, Blackheath Prep, Forest and Keeble. Out of these only Keeble i think is non selective so thats our last option.
However, how easy/difficult is it to get through these assesments? And how am I supposed to prepare a 3 year okd for this?

Traalaa Thu 19-Jan-17 10:57:52

As far as I know you don't have to be in the catchment for state primaries for years, just living there when you apply. There's been a lot of scandal about people renting near a school just to get in then moving back out, so local authorities do look for that. If you move into a house/ buy, are looking to stay there's no problem. Honestly you have a while yet to work it all out. I have no idea on private schools though!

moviebuff Thu 19-Jan-17 10:59:37

Traalaa Thanks a lot! You give me some hope! So if we have to move in a year before my DS starts school, we still have some time to decide where to move. So how do I go about starting to look for schools? Good School guide? Please suggest where I can get a list of all the primary schools in London so I can start my research.
Yes i should take secondary school into account as well - im also looking into private schooling so maybe if he goes to a state for primary, he can move to a private school for his secondary?

Traalaa Thu 19-Jan-17 11:47:32

Personally I wouldn't bother with review type sites. People either go on them because they want to brag or to moan, so either can sway how good a school seems.

Go to council websites in the areas you're thinking of. Ours has a downloadable booklet, or they'll post one to you. That tells you all the primaries, catchment areas, etc and a little bit about each school. The individual schools will have websites of their own too. I'd start with trying to find out where you'd like to live though. You all have to be happy don't you?!

moviebuff Thu 19-Jan-17 13:06:12

Thanks Traalaa - I will be looking at the school listings for each borough. I must mention that I did not grow up in the UK which is why the cluelessness - but I am talking to a lot of people and all the advice from everyone here on mumsnet like you is helping me a lot. So thanks smile

I think we will be happy living in North London coz thats where most of our friends moved to for the same purpose of schooling for their lil ones. So I am looking at areas like Musewell Hill, Mill Hill, East Finchley etc. So any advice on these areas would be very helpful as well.

bleughhh Thu 19-Jan-17 13:38:14

No! Sorry, you don't have to live in the area for a few years!! I just meant the 'catchment' changes every year (because of the number of children applying and where they live) and has changed massively in the few years we have been living in our area. From about 300m to about 650m for 'first round offers'.

mouldycheesefan Thu 19-Jan-17 13:41:38

Ofsted website has every school in the country that they inspect on it.

CruCru Thu 19-Jan-17 16:00:01

I think the assessments for 4+ are stressful for the parents but not for the children (or they shouldn't be). I don't know about all those schools but SPCS said they look for the group of children who work well together.

I definitely didn't prepare my son for the assessments but did make a point of getting him to greet people, order things in cafes. They will want a child who can have a civil conversation with an unfamiliar adult without their parents being there.

moviebuff Thu 19-Jan-17 16:20:14

CruCru - Thanks for the insight. And congratulations on ur son getting thru St Pauls. My son's assessment at St Pauls will be in Feb 2019 i think. But we are going for the Open Day this year in Feb.

newmummycwharf1 Sat 21-Jan-17 21:14:20

We moved from canary wharf to Mill Hill for the same reason. There are quite a few state schools open to us and we have Highgate, Haberdershers and even the hampstead independents as fee-paying options. More than that - loads of greenery, a large garden and more toddler classes available to us. Best move we ever made. But if we had stayed in canary wharf- we would have aimed for SPCS.

hmmmum Sat 21-Jan-17 21:17:18

Coleridge in crouch end (north London) is outstanding and it's a fairly big school so more places

Blu Mon 23-Jan-17 14:38:16

The closing date for all primary schools is mid January of the year when your child will start school. So this year, for children starting in September 2017, the closing day was Jan 15th.

So, you need to have moved in by that date - different LAs ask for proof of address, and may use council tax records, or ask to see your rental agreement, or the address from which your Child Benefit (If claimed) is claimed from as proof of address.

As other posters have said, London is stuffed with excellent primary schools, and most London primaries do a good job. Schools can go up and down the league tables and Ofsted ratings, you don't need an 'Outstanding' school, a Good school (in Ofsted terms) will be good, and there is often very little discernible difference between them. Much depends on the style of school you prefer, anyway. Small and friendly, teachers called by first names? Smart and strict? Big school with lots of extra facilities?

I would choose some areas that you would like to live in, and where the houses are within your price range, and then check out the closest schools. Look them up in the Primary Admissions section of the LA website, where there should be a 'starting primary schools' booklet to download, or a section listing all the schools, and a table telling you 'last distance admitted', which tells you the catchment.

Catchments can be very tight, and often shrink, year on year as new housing gets built. And you need to check how they measure distance - by straight line ('as the crow flies' ) or by safe walking route, for example. So you do need to be well within the catchment.

dinkystinky Tue 24-Jan-17 13:26:05

Moviebuff - if you're in Docklands, check out the Faraday school. Its a fee paying (but cheap - same price as a private nursery) new model school - my children go to its sister school Maple Walk in NW London and we're very happy with it.

Devina Fri 03-Mar-17 19:13:33

moviebuff, we went through the same thing, having bought our place in Canary Wharf in pre-child days.. We looked at schools all over London, Wimbledon and Richmond to Hampstead to Enfield to Dulwich. Finally picked Blackheath to live in when DS was 2y as we had a few good options of outstanding state schools as well as independent's. Above all, the commutes to the City and CW are a breeze! But having hit DS' 7+ stage, looking out for other options now - SPCS, Forest, Dulwich Prep, Sevenoaks Prep etc.

If you do decide to stay on in Canary Wharf, there are buses there from some schools in SE London and there used to be a bus from LCS (Borough).

Happy to give feedback on all the schools we looked at in the area if you DM me.

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