Secondary school in Harpenden/St Albans

(15 Posts)
Spiderlo Thu 27-Sep-12 15:46:28

Hi, i'm planning to move back to England with my little boy now 9yr old so likely to start secondary soon. I have been reading the threads and heard all the good things about harpenden and st albans.

Can anyone tell me if for Harpenden, all 3 secondary schools are good - does it mean if i move close enough and not in the skirt of Harpenden, my boy will definitely get a place in one of them. I just don't want to stress myself out juggling which to pick?

If move to St Albans, are there any state boys secondary school. I still perfer boys school but it seems all 3 in harpenden are mixed.

I will not be working when i move back so near the station or commuter route not a must but do like the chiswick feel of the town referred by someone. I used to live very near to chiswick in London so i really like the kind of town feel.

Appreicate those local mums here can give me some insight.

Thank you.

Snorbs Thu 27-Sep-12 16:15:26

I can't help you on the Harpenden front but there is a state boys secondary in St Albans - Verulam. My son is in Y9 there and on the whole I'm very pleased with how he's doing. It's not perfect (I've yet to find a school that is) but it is very good and they have excellent exam results.

edam Thu 27-Sep-12 16:32:06

All three secondaries in Harpenden are very good. St George's is a church school and you have to be regular worshippers to get in. AFAIK the only problem with admissions is for people on the extreme edge of Harpenden nearest to St Albans - think I recall stories in local paper about some getting the least popular St Albans school instead - but I think even children who don't have places in Harpenden initially do eventually get in.

Spiderlo Thu 27-Sep-12 16:54:13

Thank you edam. I have read a few threads in here and you seem to have lots of input about Harpenden so you must know the town very well. So It's right to assume one can always get into one of the 3 secondary schools in Harpenden as long as we don't live along the edge of Harpenden.

I prefer to be in an area with middle to mature family rather than young mums with toddlers as we are not young and prefer to be around family with children above 10 yrs old. And i won't be working so not really need to be near the station or commuter route.

Hope to hear more as i'm debating buckinghamshire or Hertfordshire, if herts, will be either Harpenden or St. Albans. Harpenden sounds very green and friendly town while St Albans is more lively and cosmopolitan.


Spiderlo Thu 27-Sep-12 17:22:17

Thank you Snorbs for sending me Verulam's link, it sounds very nice and discipline school. My boy is currently in a private catholic school though we are not catholic but i do want my boy to be in a more discipline school as he's turning teen soon and likely to be with his peers more than with me.

My DS is very sporty and plays rugby and prefers to play than study and not dream to be a grown up. I haven't googled St Albans yet but heard it's bigger and more cosmopolitan, having lived in London for many years, i don't really want to live in a hectic city anymore and when i move back, i won't be working so less stressful life will suit me more.

But i do like the verulam school - SA being a much bigger town means more competition to get a place in the school. Can you tell me roughly how much oversubscription is, do they interview the child or strictly by catchment only.

I have been looking at Bucks where there are more GS for boys but worried if my boy doesn't get into one, the other upper schools are not very appealling to parents.

Can you give me more info how to start? In fact my son will start in last term of Year 5 so we need to get into a primary first but ready for the 11+ selection.

love to hear more advice.

GreatGooglyMoogly Fri 28-Sep-12 22:42:57

St Albans is technically a city (due to having a Cathedral) but in reality is not very big! It is nothing like London and you definitely wouldn't find it too hectic or stressful smile.

Verulam school is a good one by reputation and currently not oversubscribed. Admission is by distance from the school (or special needs/ siblings at the school, if relevant). If you find a road/ house you like then you can check whether your son would be likely to get in using for a £10 charge for a 12 month subscription. As I say though, I think you can get in to Verulam from most parts of St Albans. School application info here:

edam Sat 29-Sep-12 00:06:11

Harpenden is indeed green and friendly - lots of commons and greens. It's obviously a lot smaller than St Albans (which itself is pretty titchy for a city) but there's plenty going on - good selection of cafes, pubs and restaurants, lots of groups and societies, a (small) theatre, regular stuff happening on the main common and the parks - Chinese State Circus, classic car rally, fairs, highland gathering, carnival... loads of clubs and societies including a film club that shows movies at the public halls (handy if you don't want to drive - St Albans doesn't have a cinema either but they do show films at the Arena arts centre). Loads of families at all stages of infancy, childhood and adolescence.

Property is cheaper if you don't need to be within walking distance of the station but do avoid the very far edges closest to St Albans if you are worried about getting into the Harpenden secondaries without the faff of waiting lists and appealing.

Spiderlo Sat 29-Sep-12 09:56:26

Thank you both. I do like Harpenden's green and friendly and less busy than a city. Just wonder if this would be too quiet for us specially not knowing anyone. Well i suppose everywhere is new to us apart from London.

Thank you greatgooglymoogly. I did look up through google in fact St Albans has much higher population than Harpenden which means high competition for a place in state secondary school. I would very much like my son to be at the Verulam school so we probably need to live very close to school.
I do need to put my son in the primary first for a yr before moving to secondary. Do you know their feeder schools. Also i believe Verulam is an academy so the school is in control of allocation of places. How do they select the boys, only by distance from school? do they interview the boy or any ability test.

I was planning to go to Buckinghamshame for their GS but worried if my son can't get into a GS, other state schools are not very appealing to most parents.

Would love to hear more from the locals as google not giving you the pros and cons.

Thank you all.

edam Sat 29-Sep-12 13:23:41

Spider, I don't know St Albans schools that well, but it's still Herts CC, so I doubt there's a feeder school system for Verulam - it just goes on distance.

Making friends: with other parents it's via school but not sure that's the case in Year 6 as many children start walking on their own. Through after-school activities as well, I guess. And any clubs or societies you join yourself. Dh made a load of new friends when he joined the gym (when he was commuting a long way so not making local friends bar the husbands of the Mums I knew from school). Some streets are quite friendly - mine has a Residents' Association, we hold an annual barbecue and I gather some others are equally a community, but some aren't (especially the ones with big posh houses with very long drives where you just don't bump into your neighbours).

Bucks - you could be right about non-grammar schools but Beaconsfield, for instance, has a very good reputation. Dh's niece passed the Bucks 11+, as well as Berks (lives on the border) and didn't have any private tuition or anything. Her parents didn't go to university (or grammar schools) so she didn't come from the sort of household where you are coached to within an inch of your life. So I assume based on one anecdote that bright children can get through without all that fuss that some parents make.

Spiderlo Sat 29-Sep-12 16:09:02

Thank you Edam. You are right, kids start wallking to school without parents at Y6 so not much socializing with other parents. I'm not that worried about myself, i'm quite comfortable in making new friends and so is my little boy. I'm just worried by Y6 most have been friends for 5 years and may have their little circle of friends and hard for my boy to break in. As St. Albans is a much bigger city, we may not feel that out of place.

I just looked at rightmove and there aren't many rental places in either H or SA than the towns i like in Bucks. I'm getting very stressed on the whole catchment thing, I need to go rental first until i know which Secondary school he got accepted then we aim for a permanent home. Yes everyone has been recommending Beaconsfiend, i believe it's a lovely town, just it seems to have girls state schools but not boys.

Feeling like a lost head chicken. (:

edam Sat 29-Sep-12 17:55:23

Ah, yes, my SIL went to Beaconsfield, it could well be single-sex, hadn't thought about that.

Dunno about Year 6 but ds is in Year 5 and his teacher has given him and two of his friends the task of befriending a new boy - not used that word but got them to look after him and create a British/American dictionary. smile ds has already been to play at this boy's house and the boy has come over to ours. Maybe whichever school your son joins would do something similar.

Spiderlo Sun 30-Sep-12 10:49:43

Thank you edam, good to hear they are friendly schools. Which primary your son is attending and do you have any preference on his secondary school. I read in the threads and seems more parents prefer St. George, i like it too but we are not Christian or Catholic so not likely would get in unless it's undersubscribed.

Nice to know the kids are friendly to new joiners. I'm happy to hear that and Harpenden seems less stressful for me if only by catchment and not required to sit for any tests.

I'll need to narrow down my seach, it seems everyone is telling me how lovely their town is. My friend lives in Cambridge and keeps telling me to move there, somehow i found it too touristic. I like normal daily family life so my boy will grow up as any local neighbour kids.

Thank you all, please keep me posted on any other factors i should consider other than address and school location/performance.


edam Sun 30-Sep-12 11:01:21

I'd rather not say which school my ds is at in public, tbh. PM me if you are really keen to know.

As for secondaries, St George's is a church school, you have to have a letter from your vicar confirming attendance to get in. But that's no problem, because the other two secondaries are just as good, if not better. One year one of them will get more points at GCSE and a different one at A-level, the next year it shuffles round.

Personally I wouldn't want Georges anyway as it's not very diverse (the CofE thing screens out most ethnic minorities) and quite pretentious, although let's see what the new head is like. The old one was a media tart who seemed to want to pretend St G was a minor public school. A girl I know who has just gone into year 7 is already getting two hours of homework a night, which I think is too much. They need time to relax, and to have fun, and to do any clubs or activities they are interested in IMO.

stgofficial Mon 26-May-14 11:09:42

While edam is correct to say that Harpenden is blessed with three excellent secondary schools, it would not be fair to describe St. George's as "not very diverse". In fact, and in part because 120 of the students are boarders, it is about the most ethnically diverse school in the area: 37 languages other than English at last count. The school has no admission test, so is genuinely comprehensive on ability too.

Noappointmentnecessary Thu 29-May-14 11:50:13

These are also within your reach

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