Moving from Spain to Bristol, Catholic schools!

(14 Posts)
spanishinbristol Mon 10-Oct-11 16:35:47

Hi, we are moving to Bristol from Spain and tomorrow we'll be visiting the UK to have a look at some schools in Bristol. My middle son will start reception in September 2012 and my eldest will start Year 2.

Browsing the web I've realised how difficult it is to get place of your choice in a primary school in Bristol, let alone trying to have both my sons attending the same school. I'm already stressed and I haven't even started the process!

As both me and my husband are Catholic, our 3 children are baptised and we won't have a Bristol address until the new year, we have decided our best bet is to try the Catholic school route as we don't know exactly where we'll be living and therefore can't rely on catchment areas.

We'll be visiting this week Our Lady of the Rosary, St Peter and St Paul and St Bonaventures based on the Ofsted report I have ready online.

Any of you have children in any of these schools or do you know anyone that has children in any of them? Are they good schools? We are also visiting St Ursula's, as we've been told they may have places for both our boys. I understand this is a new school and read somewhere some negative comments about it...

I would be very grateful for any advice or comments, thanks!

exexpat Mon 10-Oct-11 17:49:58

St Ursula's no longer exists as a Catholic school. It is now a 'free school' (primary on the old St Ursula's site, secondary on another site) with no religious affiliation.

I know people who have had children at St Bon's who were very happy with it (they weren't Catholic, though), and also people who are happy with St Peter and St Paul.

Our Lady of the Rosary gets very good official reports, but the one person I know with children there is not very impressed - from her reports, they get outstanding test results partly by encouraging/pressurising any children who are struggling to leave.

As far as I know, the Catholic schools are just as oversubscribed as the other primaries in Bristol. The application deadline for September 2012 is January 15th (council website here) - will you be in Bristol with an address by then? If there is any way you can be, it would make life much, much easier for you because you can apply on time, with every one else. Otherwise you will be treated as a late applicant and will be low down the waiting list.

Even better would be if you could find a school you with a place ready for your older child to start in January 2012, because then your second child would have sibling priority for a reception place.

spanishinbristol Mon 10-Oct-11 22:14:02

Thanks exexpat, very useful info, and interesting your comment about Our Lady of the Rosary.

The school doesn't have to be Catholic, but I thought that it will put less pressure on us finding the right home, since usually their admission criteria is not solely based on where you live.

The plan is to move the whole family in the summer, allowing my eldest son to finish his current academic year in Spain. However, my husband will start working for his Bristol company in January and we will have a temporary address as of 1st Jan. I assumed I could use that address for the application process although we won't be full time residents until the summer. Do you know if this is a problem? I rang the Bristol LA but they weren't very helpful to be honest.

The other option is exactly what you say, finding a place for my eldest son to start in January and bringing forward the move, but it is looking unlikely right now (there are no places at the moment in any of the schools), although it is a possibility.

I thought moving abroad was a stressful event (we moved from the UK to Spain 4 years ago) but I've realised that finding a school place in Bristol is much more stressful!! :-)

lifeistooshort Mon 10-Oct-11 22:18:56

My children go to St Bons and it is a fantastic school. Very good academically but also supportive and nurturing. I would highly recommend it.

Don't know about our lady but St Peter St Paul I hear is good too (that was our second choice when we applied for dd). I am not sure whether it helped or not, but when we applied for DD, we only applied for catholic schools. If you look at the priority list, there is a category for catholic children which didn't get a place in the catchment of their parish. Maybe that would help?

spanishinbristol Mon 10-Oct-11 22:34:41

Thanks lifeistooshort, St Bons will be the first school we visit on Wednesday, I like your comment about being good not just academically but also in other ways.

We'll most probably apply only to Catholic schools for that reason. The place we'll be renting from 1st January falls under the catchment of St Peter and St Paul, so if we failed to get a place there, we may get a place in any of the other two... this is for my middle son starting reception, finding a place for my eldest looks even more difficult and totally unpredictable.

From your own experience in St Bons, do you know if pupils have left after Year 1? or is it difficult for places to become available in popular schools? I guess I need some hope...

exexpat Mon 10-Oct-11 22:40:24

I know how stressful it is - I moved back to the UK mid-year when DS was in yr4, and had to juggle finding a place to rent and a school place for him in the same area, the week before applications closed for DD's place in reception for the following year. I managed it, but it was a very close thing.

That was five years ago, and I'm afraid it has got even tougher since because of the baby boom and shortage of reception places.

exexpat Mon 10-Oct-11 22:44:28

There is always some movement in schools, particularly I think in central areas like the catchments for St Bons/St Peter & St Pauls because they have a lot of parents working for the big hospitals, the university etc who move around a lot. But you can only keep your fingers crossed and hope that a place in the right year group comes up at the right time. Would home-schooling or private school be an option for you for a while if a place in an acceptable school doesn't come up for a while? Good luck.

Runoutofideas Tue 11-Oct-11 07:24:42

Spanishinbristol - just wondered if you've seen this article. If you don't go down the catholic route, it may be worth trying to keep tabs on which schools are going to asked to expand. May give you other options?

spanishinbristol Tue 11-Oct-11 09:15:37

Thanks exexpat, I see you've been through the same experience and it worked out well for you. I am hoping there is some movement, it's annoying that it will be a matter of luck, I feel useless that there isn't much I can do...

Yes, we have considered private schooling for my eldest while a place becomes available, but it will put quite a strain in our finances and it would be our very last option as private schools in the UK are so expensive!

spanishinbristol Tue 11-Oct-11 09:26:33

Thanks Runoutofideas, I hadn't come across that article. I'll get in touch with Bristol LA again and see what schools are planning to expand, this will definitely give us more options.

I have worked and lived in Bristol in the past before having my sons and I never would have thought that the school situation could be that bad. Bristol gives the impression of a prosperous city with lots of potential, but it seems that not enough resources have been put towards education. Either that or very bad planning and forecasting. Sorry about the moan, at least they are trying to do something about it...

lifeistooshort Wed 12-Oct-11 10:54:48

spanishinBristol yes some people do move. Last year two children in DD's class moved and one this year. This was because parents moved out of Bristol for professional reasons. A girl I knew in year 4 went private. We ourself are probably moving soon as I have been offered a job which is too far from Bristol to commute (breaks my heart to remove DD from St Bons and I will probably face a nightmare similar to your!!!).

I hope it all goes well for you! Bristol is a wonderful city, I really wish I could stay....andI will have to sell my lovely house that I have just only finished refurbishing! booooooo but such is life

crazymum53 Fri 14-Oct-11 16:15:20

Hello there you quote that "Bristol gives the impression of a prosperous city with lots of potential, but it seems that not enough resources have been put towards education. Either that or very bad planning and forecasting."
There are 2 problems with this Statement 1) Although Bristol is on the whole a prosperous city there are some areas with high levels of social deprivation. There are often "surplus" school places in these areas, as most parents would not choose schools with this type of social mix of pupils.
2) Rules for school funding (introduced by the previous government) meant that LEAs could only apply for extra government funding if there were shortages of school places in all areas of the city. This meant that the LEA had to fill any empty places in undersubscribed schools before they could apply for extra funding.
You may be better off applying for a Catholic school if you are practising Catholics as they rely less on catchment area.

spanishinbristol Sat 15-Oct-11 15:48:24

Hi liveistooshort, we just came back from our school visiting trip to Bristol and we liked all four schools we visited. St Bons had a lovely feel to it, the lady showing us around was very helpful and we would be very happy for my sons to attend school there, but there are currently no places in Year 1 for my eldest, so we have filled in the form and are currently in the waiting list. It's the same story in Our Lady of the Rosary and St. Peter's and St. Paul. We'll see!

We are also relocating due to professional reasons and it is a bit of a headache isn't it? Although I am very excited at the prospect of living in Bristol again... Good luck to you too, hopefully your move plans run smoothly!!!

spanishinbristol Sat 15-Oct-11 16:45:25

Hi crazymum53, like I said, it's my impression of Bristol, I may be wrong and I certainly didn't know about the rules for school funding, thanks for pointing that out.

Another lady sent me this article which says that 3000 extra places are needed by 2015. Now, even if there are still undersuscribed schools in less desirable areas of the city, this is a massive increase in numbers. I'm just surprised that the situation is so critical, that's all!

In regards to applying to Catholic schools, yes, that's the plan, although after our visit it sounds like it will be more a matter of luck than anything else, oh well...

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