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Whitstable (/Broadstairs?): Questions, so many questions....

(4 Posts)
missdaisy2013 Thu 23-Nov-17 06:11:59

Hi everyone,

I'm currently living abroad, but hoping to move back to the UK mid-next year with my DH and two DC (who will then be going on 5 and 2). If all goes to plan, the idea is that my husband would continue his current job remotely/online initially (but will eventually need to find UK-based employment), and I still need to make a plan, work-wise (current hope is that I can do a mixture of online work and possibly private teaching/tutoring). I have some family in rural Suffolk so had been considering that area, but I now suspect it might be too sleepy/isolated for me there.

So, after all my reading here, I am really, really being drawn towards Thanet/Kent coast... and in particular Whitstable. I've sifted through all the MN posts I can find on it, and despite the downsides discussed (which mainly seems to be the traffic, the 11+ system and of course the house prices....am I missing anything else?), it still seems to really appeal in lots of ways. However, lots of questions about it all, namely:

1. We'd really like a smallish but lively, vibrant town with lots going on for both the kids and us parents...Toddler groups, library rhyme time (you may laugh but that's not a thing here where I live!), arts & crafts classes, outdoor activities, etc... Am I right in thinking Whitstable is pretty happening on that front, more so than other areas in the region? The 'activities' list here on the MN's local Kent section seems to be brimming w/ stuff, and more so than anywhere else (including Broadstairs for example), but dunno....perhaps the other towns just aren't advertising all their classes etc here on MN or something?

2. I'm aware of the high prices in the town and that's definitely an issue. We'd be renting at first, and won't be in a position to buy for another year or two. Any tips for places that are within easy reach of Whitstable for schools on a daily basis + all the activities, but slightly cheaper? I think I read that Swalecliffe and Tankerton are a bit more accessible? Definitely want to be near the sea, and tbh think I like the sound of Whitstable + immediately surrounding areas over, for example, Herne Bay – but I will take a look at Herne Bay when there, as it certainly seems more affordable. I'd like to take the kids to the beach regularly after school and to be able to make friends with other young families (and older people too, of course!). Is there some hidden gem that's maybe on the outskirts of Whitstable but with lower house prices?! I've heard Faversham is lovely, but again, our first choice would be to live by the seasidesmile

3. I've read traffic is a nightmare, which tbh we're quite used to here in our current city. How bike-able is the area? Are there cycle lanes for example? Just wondering if living a bit further out but cycling to the centre/beach etc might be an option?

4. Is there quite a diverse crowd there, including international people from all over? Any Spanish-speaking groups that anyone knows of? We are a bicultural family and speak English and Spanish at home, but I'm worried the kids are going to lose their Spanish fast if they only ever have their Dad to speak with.

5. How brutal are the train fares to London – season ticket or otherwise? We don't anticipate having to commute regularly into London at this stage, but would be good to be prepared, should that crop up.

6. SCHOOLS: any recommendations for primary schools and pre-schools? My son will turn 5 next September so will be due to start Reception class then. This has been quite a major source of worry for me, but unfortunately at this rate we will miss the 15th Jan admissions deadline by a long way. I will actually be in the UK for a visit this Xmas, but we won't be settled as a family with a UK address before next Spring/summer. What might be the worst-case scenario implications of this? From a quick look online (RightMove's school checker; I still need to check the official Ofsted website), it seems ALL the primaries were given a minimum of 'good' ratings from Ofsted in the last report – or have I missed a trick? In other words, once we land in the UK next summer, and make the calls to the schools to be put on the waiting lists... They are legally obliged to put my son somewhere, aren't they? And if we get our absolute bottom choice, how bad could that be, given that they are all rated 'good'? Is there anything to know beyond the Ofsted reports, ie any schools that seem good on paper but are in fact really horrible and awful?! And, if we choose to take such an offer, what are the chances of being able to move to a better school later in the year, or in time for Year 1? Again, probably questions I need to run by the LEA/the schools directly, but just in case anyone has any insights....

7. If everything goes belly up on the school front, I imagine our absolute last resort would be to homeschool (don't get me wrong; I have some lovely homeschooling friends here where I live, and really admire what they do, but I'm just not sure if it's for me). Is there much of a homeschooling/worldschooling community in the area? Any forest schools around that are linked to this?

8. Jobs w/languages: I know the job market is not exactly booming in that area, but just wondering whether there might be much call for private tutoring (for children or adults) for foreign languages (French & Spanish) or English as a foreign language? I know none of those will be big money spinners and I will obviously do my own research, but again, any insights welcome

9. Finally, I've done lots of reading on the whole area, and whilst I'm yet to visit, I think Whitstable sounds like my dream place, with Broadstairs coming a v. close second. Just wondering what locals consider to be the key differences between the two places? It seems Broadstairs is marginally cheaper, and may be a bit more down-to-earth/less hipsterville (but still v. fun & lively)? Any other major advantages of one over the other?

Oh dear, I do apologise for the horrifically long post! If anyone's made it this far, thank you very much for reading/bearing with me.. And huge TIA for any suggestions!

Secretservice Thu 23-Nov-17 14:01:24

Hi miss daisy - felt obliged to post as you’ve put so much effort into your OP!
I don’t know Whitstable that well, but having faced your choice 10 years ago, Broadstairs was right for us.
Traffic is hell in W and I find the town centre quite claustrophobic - the high street is definitely not wide enough for cycle lanes, but there are probably the routes to the beach I don’t know about
B’s sandy beaches are much nicer than W’s pebbles!

My kids are older so I can’t vouch for primary schools any more but those in B were fine when we were looking. Grammars are a big issue here as you said. We were lucky but it was the final sticking point for us

Again, not sure about W but B and the rest of Thanet seems to be an international hub for English language schools! Most everyone I know has hosted Spanish or Italian students at some point. I doubt you’d have much problem finding a tutoring job if you have any sort of teaching qualification

Hope that helps. Good luck with the move

missdaisy2013 Thu 23-Nov-17 19:48:14

Hi SecretService,

Thanks so much for your feedback - I really appreciate that! And yes, I know it was a long one - that was me spilling all my messy & garbled thoughts onto the keyboard and trying to make some sense of it all!

Thanks too for the reality check re. the traffic... I guess I've been downplaying that in my head (in my somewhat desperate bid to find the 'right place', or at least a place, for us to set our sights on), but I can certainly see how having to deal with that on a daily basis would fast become a pain.

And great to hear another vote for Broadstairs... Have to say that also looks great (and slightly cheaper on the housing front?)

Yep, the grammar schools issue sounded wonderful at first, but since reading about the 11+ thing, I'm not sure whether I'd like to put my kids through that, so we'd have to see. But at this stage, unfortunately with so much in the air about the mid-/long-term future (my husband will be on a non-EU spouse visa, so not eligible to apply for work until visa is granted and he's actually in the country), I think we just need to pick a landing base for now for the first year, and possibly be prepared to up sticks later on, depending on what happens for both of us job-wise.

That's a really interesting point about the foreign exchange students though! I grew up in Portsmouth and had one friend whose family used to welcome exchange students in their home over the summer, which as far as I could tell at that young age, seemed to make for a quite a fun household, though I guess it really depends on the student you getsmile Also probably a better thing to do once the kids are older I suppose? Hmm, might have to read up on that too...

Thanks so much again for your help!

DownstairsMixUp Fri 08-Dec-17 21:18:06

Hiya, I live in Herne Bay, it is definitely a ton cheaper than whitstable and it's only down the road, I am in the Hampton end so literally a couple of miles, 10 min drive and the jump in houses prices is madness (considering catchment areas for the secondary grammars are similar etc) I think Herne bay is maybe not as "pretty" as whitstable, we have more charity shops/takeaways and cafes whereas Whitstable is full of quirkly shops and expensive boutiques..

I moved from London so tbh, the traffic is never going to seem bad to me. Canterbury is awful in the mornings, I commute there and it's a nightmare but I can't complain about the bay. It really is no where near as bad as most places. Lots of people bike round here, I'm forever getting stuck behind bikes cycling to Canterbury and there's plenty of lovely routes in the woods in Blean and along the sea front is nice to ride along. I often take the kids for bike rides in the summer.

Hampton school in Herne Bay is brilliant. It has a real community feel, a fantastic PTA and the headteacher is very dedicated to the school.My son has had some ongoing issues (looking to be ADHD) and the school have been brilliant with the support. I can't fault them. Herne infants and herne juniors are meant to be good to. I've not heard so much about Briary or Herne Bay Infant and Juniors being good.

Jobs round here... there is a lot of care work and it is very "white" as i said, I moved from London which is really diverse so it was a shock coming here to this and I have to say, some people are ignorant and rude I've found and outspoken about it to... otherwise, its a lovely place to live!

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