That old chestnut - commuting to London and secondary schools - are there any home counties that are known to be better than others for state education?(41 Posts)
That is it really - we are needing to relocate and trying to narrow it down. Can you help with your combined wisdom?
Kent has grammar system. Other than that Surrey has some decent secondaries. Don't know about any other counties. Look at OFSTED and results tables I guess.
I'd avoid Bedfordshire, nice enough to live here but we have the three tier system (lower, middle upper). Bedford borough will be changing to two tier, Central Beds has talked about it (when we were South Beds) and rumours are we'll be looking at changing again. Lots of disruption and upset if / when schools change.
If I were moving in from outside, I'd not want to bring my kids into a system undergoing change like that.
I was brought up in Sutton and went though the grammar school system there, was OK for me (academic highflier) but a nightmare for my sister (undiagnosed dyslexic).
I have two friends who commute into London from Buckinghamshire (one has children who attend grammar schools, the other has a child who attends a comprehensive). Both are very happy with the education their children are receiving.
North West Essex - Saffron Walden County High and Newport Free Grammar (both comprehensives with impressive performance at GCSE and A Level)
South Cambridgeshire also - most secondaries (again all comprehensive). These are generally 11-16 only but some will soon be opening 6th Forms. Chance for the academic child to go to Hills Road Sixth Form College which is a highly ranked selective sixth form college.
I have just moved to Bucks and have children in primary school. Although we won't still be here when they start secondary school I have heard good things about the grammar and the comprehensive schools in the area.
We're in Bucks - fab grammars although the choice for those failing the 11+ is often pretty dire. Do your homework as the non-grammars close to the london boarder seem to be the worst.
Gosh thanks, this is all useful! Anyone else?
Bishop's Stortford in E. Herts has fantastic secondary schools and is only 45mins into Liverpool Street.
Kent has well regarded grammar schools but is very, very competitive to get a place - most of those in commuting distance which select purely on scores require around 95% pass rate, or you will need to live close to the school if they have a designated catchment area.
Sussex counties have some good state schools, but are non-selective, so it depends where you live as to whether or not you will get a place at one of the more highly regarded schools.
West Sussex also seem to be changing from a lower / middle / upper school system to a primary / secondary school one.
Kent has very good grammar schools but is very selective, which brings the risk that if your child fails the 11+ they can end up in very poor alternatives to the local grammar. I believe that around the Tunbridge Wells/Tonbridge area all the schools - grammer and non-selective - are very highly rated (as are the local private schools), but I don't actually live there so maybe someone else might be able to confirm?
Just to clarify the position in Kent (as far as I understand it!). Shellingpeas is right that competition for grammar school places is fierce in the Tonbridge/Tunbridge Wells area, and I think, round Bromley. However, Canterbury way, there are enough Grammar school places, usually in the grammar school of your choice, for everyone who passes the Kent Test.It has a 23% pass rate - so if your child is in that sort of area he or she should be OK. There are also some OK options for people who don't, although all the non-grammar schools are affected by the creaming off of the top 23% (don't get me started on my political rant!)
My dd is at a grammar school in Canterbury, and we are all (including her) very pleased with it. And canterbury/sittingbourne/faversham is an easy (if expensive) commute to London.
Happy to post more, or CAT if you'd rather.
If you look on the 11 Plus Forum you will see a list of all areas that have grammar/selective schools (I think there are 160 grammar schools left in England). Some are "super-selective", ie operate their own entrance exam and take the highest scorers. Others are just "selective" and the local authority administers the test and sets the pass mark. Children who then "pass" generally have to live within a certain distance of a grammar school to get in (local authorities should publish a list of distances in recent years).
BUT be warned, as other posters have said, grammar schools cream off the brightest kids in an area which can often have a negative impact on other non-selective schools. In my area for example, the grammar schools are brilliant and the non-selective schools are crap. Or as Ofsted puts it, "outstanding" grammar schools and "failing" non-selective schools.
I live in Berkshire and there are some really good schools dotted about. I particularly chose Ascot because there is an 'outstanding' ofsted rated secondary school which isn't entrance tested. I believe there are some top schools in WIndsor too, and the links for london commuting are very good, plus will get better in the future with crossrail being built.
North Herts - state primary schools mostly very good, secondary schools fine but nothing more (except Knights Templar - near Royston, I think). No really good public schools either (lots with good facilities, but not top-ranking academically).
Beds - avoid. Complicated middle school system and lots of upheaval at the moment. My nieces are caught up in this at the moment and are going to have to choose between 2 awful schools. But there are some very good public schools in Beds.
South Cambs schools supposed to be excellent, on the whole. But be careful about boundaries. My nieces live in South Cambs but still come under Beds for schooling.
If your kids are academic, Kent and Bucks have grammar school. If they are not (and indeed even if they are), Hampshire has very good comprehensives.
Suffolk is also going through the 3-tier to 2-tier change in most areas - decent public schools though.
Essex also has the grammar school system, and I believe that it is cheaper to live in than Kent.
We used to live in Southend, which has excellent rail connections to London, and which has grammar schools for both boys and girls - Westcliff High School for Boys and WHS for Girls, Southend High School for Boys and SHS for Girls. Ds1 went to WHSB and Ds2 to SHSB before we moved, and two of my closest friends have girls at SHSB and WHSB, and all did/are doing really well. The schools have good standards of behaviour and very high expectations of academic standards from the children. They also have great sporting and arts sides too - orchestras, choirs, sports teams etc etc.
I also found Southend a really friendly place to live, and there are some really lovely areas within easy walking distance of the stations - I'd particularly recommend Chalkwell and Leigh on Sea, and Westcliff on Sea also has some lovely areas.
Chalkwell Hall Schools, Leigh North Street and West Leigh Schools are all very good primary schools in the Leigh/Chalkwell areas.
We're in Beds. DS is in reception and I am a little concerned about what will happen with three/two tier (we're not in a part that is imminently changing) but am hoping it will get sorted out.
Essex has very selective grammar schools, though, doesn't it (in comparison with Kent). I thought that while the Kent pass rate was around 23% the Essex pass rate was much lower, in single figures. But I may be hopelessly out of date.
As far as I remember, you have to pass the 11+ in the top 25% of candidates in order to have a good chance of being offered a selective place in Essex, PortAndLemon. I have to say that I don't know what the pass rate is (assuming you mean the percentage of candidates taking the test who get offered a selective place).
From ds2's year of 120 children, 5 boys got into SHSB (I know that as ds2 was one of them). I think that approximately 12 other children got selective places, which means a pass rate of about 12.5% - though I could be wrong about this.
It could just be that more children take the 11+ in Essex than in Kent. I should also say that children from out of catchment for the selective schools have to pass much higher up the rank for each school to get a place, but there is still a significant number of children who travel a long way to go to the Essex schools - sometimes even from out of county.
Just to further explain/complicate matters - Essex has grammar schools in some areas, but not in other areas - e.g there are none accessible from NW Essex. Agree about the Bishops Stortford schools - there are several excellent state comprehensives in the town.
Hertfordshire generally has very good schools depending on your price range - Watford, St Albans (avoid Hatfield) Hitchin Bishops Stortford and Hertford all good and easy commute. Bucks also good, Beaconsfield and Wycombe. I would avoid Beds - all best school are private (I hear). Lot depends on catchment though. Afraid you will need to do more research and a lot depends on your price range and what your DC are like.
To confirm what Seeker has said, Kent grammars and the marks required to get places vary depending on where you are. Tonbridge/Tunbridge Wells are very very competitive, but towards the Medway Towns less so - the further you move away from the fashionable commuter belt into London, the less competitive it becomes (or so it seems - I really only know about TWells/Tonbridge as it's the closest to me).
Other options in my area are the church schools which are well rated but your family does have to be regular church goers and also contribute in other ways to church life e.g. sing the choir. The comprehensive state secondary school in TWells has abyssmal GCSE and A level results and seems to be a bit of a sink school for children who have no where else to go.
In East Sussex, Uckfield Community and Technology College has just received a third outstanding OFSTED and is highly regarded by parents I know who send their children there. Uplands Community College in Wadhurst is also good.
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