Infant / junior schools letchworth

(32 Posts)
olivemegmog Tue 15-Oct-13 07:02:29

Hi there, I asked about this a few days ago but haven't had any responses so far. Does anyone have any experience of infant and junior schools on the north side of letchworth town? I keep reading how the schools are better on the south side. Hillshot and lordship... Have read ofsted reports for icknield infants, wilbury, stonehill and northfields and also st nicholas in norton. Northfields and norton seem the best ofsted wise.however northfields feeds into the grange junior which does not seem as good..what I would really like is to hear from people who have actual experience of these schools so I'm not just looking at ofsted. I still need to look round and appreciate that this will also be a good guide...any help/ views greatly appreciated!

Cosmosis1 Mon 21-Oct-13 19:51:26

All the schools apart from Norton St Nicks and Lordship are in special measures or in need it improvement!

olivemegmog Tue 22-Oct-13 10:44:17

Hi, yes thanks I have read the ofsted reports. Northfields has actually been rated as good through ofsted fairly recently, as has hillshot school. I have read the ofsted reports of all these schools locally and whilst wilbury junior has been rated satisfactory, when you read the report they seem to be fairly positive and have quite a few good features. I just wondered if anyone has experience of sending their children to the schools on the north side of letchworth as I don't want to just rely solely on an ofsted report. Thanks

LetchworthHamster Sun 03-Nov-13 15:03:42

Hello, I have just started panicking about this. I always knew the schools weren't great but as we can't afford to move I sort of put my head in the sand for a few years. Now we are supposed to make a choice and I'm wondering what on earth I can do? I can put the better schools on my list, but we are closer to the not-so-good ones.

We are nearest to Icknield and Wilbury. Urk.

olivemegmog Sun 03-Nov-13 18:31:26

Hi there,

Yes these are our closest too..although historically children from our area have gone to the schools on the grange..I have never heard anything bad about Icknield or wilbury school. The ofsted report for Icknield is not marvellous but it doesn't fill me dread..We don't really want to move and I'm not sure it is neccessary...We could move and be near a really good school, it be oversubscribed and not get in..It is quite stressful though just thinking about it! To take a positive view Wilbury has had a lot of investment recently with new buildings and the last ofsted report seemed to report that the school is improving..I have spoken to one parent whose child goes to Stonehill school and she has told me that it is a 'lovely' school..

LetchworthHamster Sun 03-Nov-13 20:58:47

I'm calming down a bit. The thing to remember is the Ofsted reports are nearly always out of date anyway unless they've done one this year. Teachers can come and go or settle down.

I haven't heard of Stonehill much but it does look nice and as though they have an Ofsted report about to land.

Friends really like Northfields but it's that little bit further away for us.

St Thomas More looks good but we're not Catholic so suspect we wouldn't have a chance.

My DS's best nursery friends are going to Hillshott and Lordship (probably, but they live close). I like Hillshot but doubt we'd get in and also like Lordship but it's too far away.

It's not the ones close to us are SO bad, but it's frustrating that we almost certainly live out of range of the ones I'd really like. Still, I suppose you never know what admissions will bring, and I haven't actually been to see them yet...

olivemegmog Sun 03-Nov-13 22:15:17

I agree...It should not all come down to an ofsted report, although I guess it is a good guide. It is good to go and visit the school..Speak to teachers, children and parents. I have looked at Hillshott and it looks great but I'm not so sure about Pixmore which I think is the linked junior school? I'm sure Lordship school is lovely but we are no where near this school either. Its nice to hear Northfields is well liked as I hadn't heard anything about this school. It sounds like you are further on than us with regards to making a choice re: schools as our LO starts nursery next year. She is at pre school at the moment. Please do let me know if you look round these schools..It would be nice to hear your views. Thankyou

LetchworthHamster Mon 11-Nov-13 21:18:59

Had any more thoughts? I've spoken to more Icknield parents who all seem to like it and I think Wilbury did okay in the SATs last year so I feel more relaxed about it now.

I also used the School Guru website (cost £10 not sure if worth it tbh). to see where we would've got in in previous years. Looks like our only options as I thought are Icknield/Stonehill/Northfields.

I know Northfields is good but I think it's just too far to trek. Same with Stonehill really. I'll still visit them though just to be sure.

Anyone else have any views?

olivemegmog Mon 11-Nov-13 23:01:10

Hello again,

Thanks for the info about icknield, I suspected that it was a generally well liked school but it's nice to hear that you have spoken to some parents whose children go there..

If you go on the hertfordshire county council website and click on school admissions, on the left hand side it gives you some options to look at statistics from previous years. You can check your distance to local schools and write this down...then click on the stats and it lists all schools in hertfordshire and what the distance was this year of the most distant child admitted to that's a bit long winded and I suspect it's the same as you have done on school guru. I just thought I would let you know as it's quite interesting.

Have also noticed you can go to ofsted and check out parent view of the school you want. There are a series of questions that parents are asked about their school and it gives parent's feedback.

Based on the stats this year we would have prob been allocated icknield, stonehill or northfields. As you said before you never know what admissions will bring..

I am also feeling better about it now. It's been nice to hear from someone in the same position, as everyone else I talk to are over a different side of town or not in letchworth,

I hope to look round the schools after christmas as our dd will be starting nursery next year. I know you aren't guaranteed a school place if you are in the nursery but I would still prefer she goes to nursery in the school we hope she will go to for continuity. Family / friends have suggested schools further away but I like the idea of her going to our local school.

NearAndFar Fri 15-Nov-13 13:09:13

Thanks for that tip about the stats, olivemegandmog, that's really helpful! Have just done it for our local school (Hillshott) and assuming there are no major changes over the next couple of years, we should be ok smile

olivemegmog Fri 15-Nov-13 23:39:21

That's ok..glad to be of help! I think generally if the school is your nearest, unless it is very oversubscribed or there are lots of siblings, you should be ok for a place.

olivemegmog Sat 07-Dec-13 14:53:59

Just wondered if you have looked round these schools yet letchworth hamster and if so, what your thoughts are, or any one else has any experience of them?

LetchworthHamster Tue 10-Dec-13 10:53:49

Hi Olive,

Yes I went to see a bunch of schools. Some thoughts, just based on personal opinion!:

St Thomas More: Lovely school, dynamic headteacher. Religion is 10% of curriculum. Students are polite in class, show us doing an animation in one class - brilliant! Grounds are fantastic, looking out into countryside. Generally it seems superb. For us problems are getting in, as we are not catholic - well husband is very lapsed, and last year the intake was completely filled by up to their rule 6 which I think is catholic/religious students. We would come under rule 11! Also most students there go onto a very good catholic school in Stevenage. We are not sure that at age 3 we want to decide our son's Secondary future and the religious aspect of it (he could go elsewhere of course but would lose his friends), so it is not a first choice for us. Worth attending church for if you like it!

Icknield: Was a shock after St Thomas More but in hindsight I think it's fine. The classrooms (especially reception) are more cramped, but that's because they have a 90-kid intake! This is our nearest school and at 400 metres away I think we are at least guaranteed a place here if we don't make it in elsewhere. The head is not as outwardly charismatic as St Thomas More's but it doesn't mean she's not effective. Classes were busy but the kids were doing what they were told or playing nicely (it was a Friday afternoon so they were having some earned 'fun' time). They were forced to take on more kids when Westbury closed. I think they would struggle to get a good Ofsted with so many kids until they have time/money to further expand.

Stonehill: The acting head was nice, but she warned us in advance about the early years unit, which was worrying. It's basically a big shed attached to the school and reception/nursery kids mix together. It was 60 children in chaos! Yes there were lots of adults there too, but I didn't see how they would quietly learn, to be honest. The rest of the school was okay - most kids were being tested while we were there. It's nice to go to a proper primary that sees kids to 11. My husband didn't like the fact that most classrooms were linked together - eg walking through Yr 5 to get to Yr 6 but it didn't bother me so much. Grounds were also nice and look onto countryside. Their main issue is the Early Years Unit. The head promised us this had to change and would change, but whether it could do for 2014, I don't think so. If that classroom changed I would consider it. She is only the acting head too and the proper head position has just been advertised, so there is no guarantee that she will stay in that role.

Northfields: Just very nice really. A lot of kids were out on a day trip but classrooms seemed spacious, children were polite, lots of activity in the hall. I don't have much to say as it was a quick visit. The school secretary showed us around - it was the only place where the head doesn't do the visits. I don't know if this is good or bad. I suppose they don't need to woo people, but does it show that the head doesn't talk to parents generally. I believe the downside to Northfields is The Grange Junior school, which does okay at Ofsted but I have heard slightly concerning things about. Anyway it was all nice, our main problem is that it's a long way from our house. In previous years their catchement has been large but they have done well in Ofsted so I could see them getting more interest.

I am now weighing up going for 'fine' at Icknield, round the corner, 'nice' at Northfields which would be a 40 minute walk away, or 'religious' at St Thomas More which we won't get into anyway. I would like to avoid Stonehill.

I haven't seen Hillshott or Lordship as I understand we wouldn't get in but that both are great. I love the sound of Lordship! But it's too far away. St Nicholas is supposed to be great too but distance+religious=not for us.

Hope that helps a bit smile

olivemegmog Tue 10-Dec-13 13:04:59

Hi...thank you so much. So much useful information! We will be looking around nurseries and schools after christmas. My lo goes to pre school at stonehill. The preschool is lovely and people say lovely things about the school but I'm not sure i like where it is geographically..bit snobby I know but I'm just being honest. I have actually looked round st nicholas in norton and it seems really lovely. Very well behaved kids. We don't really stand a chance for norton but having said that, the nursery teacher told me they have taken kids further afield than us into just depends on applications.

I'm really glad you quite liked icknield as it is our closest too and it would be so handy to just walk there. Another benefit of icknield is the linked junior wilbury..which has recently had a new head teacher.

Thanks so much again for info..all really helpful...good luck

olivemegmog Tue 10-Dec-13 14:02:46

Just to add...we wouldn't consider st thomas more, as we aren't catholic! But it sounds great. I guess it also depends on what your priorities are. Is it important to you that you can easily walk to school. Or do other variables come in. I think I would really like that...the thought of driving and parking on a school run is a bit of a nightmare in my mind. Plus going to your nearest school means friends are usually close by. I have heard lordship is lovely but it does feel a waste of a choice...hillshot is great I think but pixmore isn't as good..I don't understand why the juniors are not as good ofsted wise as the infant schools. Any ideas? Is it something to do with final tests before moving on to secondary? It would be good to look around both infant and the linked junior if you are considering that school.

LetchworthHamster Tue 10-Dec-13 15:12:36

Hello again,

I didn't mean to be so mean to Stonehill if you have a lo there! I actually think if you had a kid at the preschool, reception would be an easy transition for them as they stay in the same room (and the rest of the school did look nice). But as my DS would be new to it I think it would be overwhelming for him. If they could fix it so they have an extra classroom that would be a great step in the right direction.

St Nicholas is supposed to be v.nice - I know a little girl at preschool there who loves it, it's just on the far side for us.

I suspect Wilbury can only improve as it has just had new buildings and a new head. Its SATs aren't that far off the other juniors. It's funny as you say that a few of the infant schools are good but the juniors generally aren't. We worry and worry but they will spend more time in juniors! People battle to get into Hillshott but I don't think Pixmore is supposed to be any better than the Grange or Wilbury.

I agree with the point that walking to school is nice plus friends tend ot be near - it's why I'm so indecisive! My son knows at least one little boy going to Northfields, which would be nice for them. None of my friends/his close nursery friends are going to Icknield, but I'm guessing someone from his nursery would be there. I am still torn. But I have until early Jan to make a final decision.

If someone could look into the future for me and say which one would work out best, that would be awesome.

LetchworthHamster Tue 10-Dec-13 15:16:00

*my friends' kids - my friends are too old to go to school.

olivemegmog Tue 10-Dec-13 16:36:53

Don't worry re: weren't mean! She is at bedford road preschool which is based at stonehill school...not the nursery there.( it's a preschool not nursery so it's nothing to do with the school, it's just based there ). She moves to nursery when she is 3 next year. We have to make a decision re nursery in February. I would like her to ideally go to the nursery where she will go to infant school for continuity. That's why it's lovely to hear some views on the local schools.

Yes re juniors you are right...they do spend more time there! That is just my point, pixmore is linked with hillshot, and I think it is no better than wilbury or grange.

My friends lo goes to school in Dunstable..they actually get to pick a friend they can be admitted to school with. Wouldn't it be nice to have that luxury! I was astonished when she told me!

Good luck. I hope you find something to suit your lo. I'm sure he will make nice new friends and I'm sure when it comes down to the decision, you will know what is right. X

LetchworthHamster Tue 10-Dec-13 16:47:05

re. friends actually nearly all teachers told us the same thing - they take friendship groups into accounts. When children come from a private nursery they go to that nursery to find out about the children coming up and which of them are friends.

I'm hoping it means that if DS gets into Northfields (if that's what we go for and it's still an if) that there's a chance he gets placed with my friend's son, even though he is at nursery there so will already have nursery friends.

Thanks for the luck smile

olivemegmog Tue 10-Dec-13 17:31:45

Wow re: friends..I had no idea they did that. I just thought herts council decided and that was that. That is a good idea..and encouraging. It's nice to know they consider friends.

activecreative Tue 17-Dec-13 16:22:25

Both my girls went through Icknield and Wilbury and are currently at Fearnhill School. Both are very bright, happy girls who succeeded and are still succeeding very well at the top of their years. It was more important for me to send them to local schools so that we could walk together and be among our local community rather than just looking at the Ofsted reports.

Home life, social skills, individual abilities/needs, good diet and exercise are all contributing factors to a child's success. I really loved Icknield and Wilbury schools and miss those days now they're gone!

olivemegmog Wed 18-Dec-13 05:24:11

Thanks so much for that insight. I think it's so helpful to hear from parents who have experience of sending their children to these schools.

megamega Fri 10-Jan-14 12:19:53

Hi Olivemegmog

I have one child @ Northfields & one @ the Grange. Please do not go on the ofsted reports alone. Both my children are happy and reaching if not exceeding their targets at both schools.
The Grange has had a new head in the past 2 years and the ofsted report was based on the previous 3 years worth of results, I have met her and spoken with her about the direction of the school and the school's commitments to improvement, and she is very enthusiastic and determined to make this happen.
Northfields is a lovely school, very caring and nurturing which is great considering the age of children (4-7) that it caters for. The head is very approachable as are all the staff.

Just go with your gut feeling, if you feel that a school will be "right" for your child - go for it!

Good luck xx

Katie0102 Fri 10-Jan-14 13:13:05


Both my daughters attend Stonehill, my youngest is currently a 'shed' inhabiter! I also attended Stonehill myself in the 80s, so old lol. I have only good things to say about the school. Yes the Early Years unit is a mobile building but the children do learn and are well cared for. The head of Early Years, Mrs Julie Whittemore, is an outstanding teacher, is very involved and is definitely a big reason why the Early Years is so good. They use the RWI approach to teaching literacy, (Read Write Inc for those who haven't encountered this yet, you will hear a lot about it!) and DD2 is coming on leaps and bounds with her reading and writing. She's 4.
DD1 is in Yr 6. She absolutely loves the school. Her work is at a higher than national average standard. The pupils work in different groups depending on their targets, which they are given individually at the start of each term. It's not a one size fits all school, as in if pupils are working at different levels, the same work isn't given to everyone. They challenge the children that can be challenged, and support the children that need the extra support.
I know, and was surprised at, the latest Ofsted report wasn't as good as it should be, but the report doesn't give you the real feel for the school. Stonehill has a new head, she's already implemented several changes and we know there are more to come. The website being one thing. The children have the chance to blog on the site, and there's a lot more information on this new one.
There's pastoral support and the teacher's are willing to talk to parents every day after school. There are some good extra curricular clubs, DD1 attended science club, ICT club and netball last term.
I hope that helps a bit smile

olivemegmog Fri 10-Jan-14 22:02:43

Hi mega mega...thankyou for all the info. I have spoken to another mum recently who has told me lots of great things about northfields. It sounds like a lovely school...the latest ofsted report is good too. Haven't heard much about the grange junior so that's really helpful..thankyou.

Hi katie0102 thanks for all the info re stonehill..It sounds like your children love it there and are doing really well. You have given me a really good insight into the school. It is a shame that the recent ofsted report wasn't better but you are right ofsted reports are not the whole picture.

When we moved here I didn't have a child and tbh I didn't even consider the school situation. I just loved the area we moved too..I still love it here. A friend of ours put her house on the market recently and she lives in our road...the main reason she gave for moving was because she felt the local schools weren't good enough. Obviously she needs to do whatever makes her happy but it rattled me a bit...I want to do the best for our lo too, and it got me wondering. Since then I have read ofsted reports for these schools and have heard mostly positive comments from parents who send their children to these schools, which I think is very important.

You are both right in that not all schools suit every child and I think an outstanding school doesn't necessarily mean your child will excel.

Thanks again

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