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Please help me navigate the private central London schooling system...

(14 Posts)
alwaystheunderdog Fri 13-Oct-17 14:53:13

We arrived in London from abroad last year. We have 2DC, 1yo and 3yo.

When we spoke to the expat community we are part of (French speaking) they told us we were "fucked" for getting the DC into good schools or nurseries, as they should have been down from birth.

We live in Marylebone but are not within the catchment of any of the good state primaries (I have already checked -) plus probably would be put on a waiting list anyway.

We are happy to educate privately, money is not a problem as DH company will pay. But I just want to make sure that we make the right decision, especially as it looks like we will be in London now for the next 15 years (i.e. most of DC's educational life.)

I am worried that the DCs not attending a good nursery, means not a good primary, means not a good secondary, means we have failed them in their education etc.

If you were me, what would you do?

I have no preferences re co-ed or single sex. I would like a nurturing environment, excellent pastoral care, somewhere close to home so we could preferably walk to school and back, but most importantly a place that brings out the best in pupils. I don't want an academic hot house, just somewhere which has the resources to expand their knowledge if they show a particular talent for a subject.

I have looked at the closest schools - Knightsbridge School, Hyde Park School, Eaton Square Upper School, St Marys in Marylebone. All seem lovely. How do I judge or compare them against each other? What am I looking for? If they are independent schools is there a league table or a report?

Michaelahpurple Fri 13-Oct-17 15:15:17

You are being advised by a rather hysterical crowd I think. Some primary/prep schools need names down at birth but very very few (I can only think of one). You do need to crack on getting your three year old registered as presumably s/he is in the first year of nursery school. If in the second or turning 4 before next sort you really need to get your skates on. If you happy to write a few registration cheques do so if deadlines are looming.

Nursery schools really aren't that crucial to next school access - focus on visiting local primaries/preps, eras the independent school inspectorate reports (which unless the school is failing are rarely madly illuminating, but it still should be done) and chat to other people in the area.

Being near home sounds a sensible strategy - local travels to school really aren't much fun for tinier

It sounds as though you don't want to pursue the french system and head to Lycee at South Kensington?

cheeriosatdawn Fri 13-Oct-17 15:49:37

Hello. I so feel your pain. Central London schools are not the easiest to navigate.

First things first: call nursery schools you're interested in asap.

There is sometimes a January intake and getting your eldest in would not only resolve that issue in and of itself, but, because most have sibling policies, square things away for your younger child as well.

Many will be full, most will say they're full, but some will have last minute spaces for children starting now (your 3 y.o.)--places they'll release to you if they sense that you're a good fit. That's true from The Acorn to Strawberry Fields to The Minors and on down the line.

Be polite but persistent. And if you know families at a nursery you really love but can't seem to get into, get them to write on your behalf.

Second: get your children on the wait list for primary schools. Not all schools will have wait lists, but many that you may want will. And there are cutoff dates, so move quickly.

Just go to the school website, print out the forms, then go in person to drop them with the registrar.

Some people will say you're screwed because your children haven't been down from birth. And let's be honest: for a good number of the hyper-selective central London schools people really do register their children as soon as they're born, so coming in this late to the game isn't ideal.

However: the fact is that the vast majority of children who are down from birth still don't get in--whilst others that are put down later do. So let's be clear: none of this is as cut and dried as it seems, and there is nothing one can do (short of having a child already enrolled in a school with a sibling policy) to guarantee a place.

That's good news for you. If you can get your children on the wait lists, you can work to get them in later.

Third: once you've gotten the above out of the way, start visiting the schools that will allow it (some of the most selective won't allow visits until after your child is in/after you're high enough on the wait list that you have a real shot)--both those you've put your children on the list for, and others that may not require anything so extreme.

That's how you'll get a feel for which schools you like, and in what order. You don't need to decide now. You do need to take the steps that will ensure you have an option to pursue your preference once you have one.

Make any sense?

Long post, and maybe too detailed.

I just find it so boring when people tell newcomers horror stories but aren't proactive about helping them get a foot in the door. None of this is rocket science. And though it is stressful, it can be managed if you can keep your cool and stay organised.

cheeriosatdawn Fri 13-Oct-17 15:50:46

Ignore the strikeouts. Writing quickly and clearly did something appalling without realising it

ChocolateWombat Sat 14-Oct-17 12:12:40

Good advice from Cheerio.

Write expressing interest and emphasising positives about your child. Most of these schools whilst having cut offs, assessments etc find that the numbers who accept places fluctuate a little and are the. Willing and flexible about who they use to add to lists or offer places to. Persistence and politeness and showing a genuine interest often counts for a lot.

So when a school finds that not everyone on their list now wants to come to assessment or to accept an offer, they need to find extras to add to the list or to make offers to. Rather than simply looking down the list which may have been created years ago, and which may by now be full of people who are looking elsewhere, schools may instead turn to those they have heard from recently and who are interested NOW - you show that by being clear that you are interested and maintaining frequent (but not annoying) contact with the school so they dont forget you and by being clear the school is your top choice and you are willing and able to come for assessment whenever they choose or to immediately accept a place and stump up the cash. At the point where the school need to boost numbers being assessed or who they are making offers to, these kind of parents who have been in recent contact are a surer bet than those who added their name to the list at birth which was 3 or 4 years ago and have in all liklihood made I their provision.

I know of schools which don't use waiting lists at all. They make offers and if they then find they are short of acceptances, see more, new people because they expect to be able to find more of higher ability rather than having to take lower ranking children - this is secondary, by the way, but also applies to younger groups.

It's not as clear cut as you may think and persistence often pays off.

Mary21 Sat 14-Oct-17 12:29:46

For state primaries you haven’t even got to the application date for your 3 year old . This will in January for September entry. Do go and look at your nearest school to see what you think. London has a fluid population.
As for picking an independent school. Gut instinct is important. How long are you staying in the uk. If only for a few years it’s less important to look at where a school feeds onto.
Being able to walk to school is nice as is local friends

Growingboys Sat 14-Oct-17 14:34:16

When my babies were young I bought into the panic, registering my first for every private school I could find, and paying for the privilege.

Then when he got to four, I found many of them were desperate to fill their places - one kept ringing me up to say please come and have a look, we think you'll love it.

By then we'd got a place at an outstanding state primary near us, so had no intention of going private, but it made me laugh when friends boasted how their child had 'got into' XXX prep school and I'd just had the registrar on the phone saying was I sure I didn't want to send DS there...

peekaboo1 Mon 30-Oct-17 22:34:56

Hi - have you looked at the local mums website that a local mum set up? Also the mums on the Marylebone mums Facebook group can help.

The hysterical advice you were given in your original post is not reality!

annandale Mon 30-Oct-17 22:42:33

You could work backwards from secondary education? What do you want your children to end up with?

Have you looked at Ecole Jeannine Manuel?

Needmoresleep Wed 01-Nov-17 08:56:56

Honestly don't worry.

Unless your children are very robust and obviously very bright, I would swerve the very pushy preps. There is a certain sausage factory of Eaton House/Wetherby etc then Westminster Under/St Pauls Prep, but it only suits a minority and other small children can feel crushed.

Find a pre-prep you like. Happy children learn! If you feel they are not being stretched at 7, you can move them to Bute, Latymer Prep, WU and SPP etc, or to a more pushy 13+ prep.

There are smaller preps like St Nicholas, which used to appeal to the French but does not get talked about much. Or busy ones like Hill House which have a fair amount of movement.

What you want at this stage is for your children to learn enjoy education.

CruCru Mon 06-Nov-17 16:45:13


Do you have boys or girls? Do you have a strong preference for single sex or co ed schools?

You may find this website helpful - it also has some information about nurseries and international schools.

CruCru Mon 06-Nov-17 16:45:55

Sorry, I've just spotted that you don't mind re single sex / co ed.

CruCru Mon 06-Nov-17 16:50:05

This website is for parents living in St John's Wood (so really close to you).

SteelMagnolia19 Mon 26-Feb-18 11:08:14

Try Hill House, Thomas's Battersea or Newton Prep for Prep school (worth the journey over the bridge). You wont regret it. Amazing teachers and a track record of getting their pupils into top tier secondary schools.

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