Moving to Oxford - school catchment advice please(13 Posts)
We're moving to Oxford this year, my husband will be working in the city centre or commuting to London by train.
I'm looking for advice on a nice family friendly area to move to in the catchment area of a very good secondary school. All I know about schools is what I've read in the Times Good School Guide which lists Cheney, Cherwell and Matthew Arnold in the top 500. I don't know about schools in the areas outside of Oxford either. Our children are young at the moment so primary school is also a consideration as well as parks etc. But being in the catchment of a very good secondary school is the main consideration, private school is out of the question given house prices and 3 children. However we do have a good budget for a 3/4 bed house - £800k. We don't mind being in the city, suburbs or a countryside village as long as there are some facilities e.g. Cafes, playgroups etc. And that we can get into Oxford by public transport or bike.
Please be honest and frank as you would be to a friend, I don't know anyone in Oxford to ask in real life. Anyone who gets insulted about comments made about rough areas/sweeping generalisations will be ignored.
Hi! I don't know an awful lot about the secondaries but I do know that the catchment area for Cherwell is ludicrously small. But you have a big budget even for Oxford so you may well find it doable. Summertown is lovely.
Matthew Arnold also has a V good reputation though it's definitely more out in the sticks. Right side of Oxford for the trains though.
Cheney has a mixed-ish reputation but everyone I know is happy with it. It's our catchment secondary as we live in Headington and I adore the area. There's absolutely loads going on for young families and honestly I wouldn't want to love anywhere else. My husband works in London too but gets the X90 coach service.
I hear great things about Cherwell from all from all friends who already have kids there. Cherwell catchment is really squeezed the last couple of years; kids from the Marston side, and I think down in Grandpont too, are not getting places despite being in catchment. Wolvercote send to have been fine.
The plan is for a new free school run by the MAT that runs Cherwell (Swan School), but that will be at least 2018, and it's still not been determined where that will be sited.
So: def look at Cherwell, but ask the questions about which bits of catchment aren't getting the places.
In fact, if you want guaranteed Cherwell entry, Wolvercote is the place to live, the primary school gets preferential places. On the other hand, Wolvercote primary is probably full to bursting, with the next closest option being Cuttleslowe which has a more mixed intake.
Yes, rare to get places further up the school at Wolvercote. Politely put re Cutteslowe, Zimbolino; but despite the mixed intake, it's seen as a really good school now.
To be fair, the only things I know about Cuttleslowe come from a friend who worked there 6 years ago, and I know schools can change a lot in that time.
Are your children still below school age? I ask as it is important for the Q of whether you would be likely to get primary places and also how long it will be until you get to secondary school. The difficulty with planning like this is, of course, that schools can change dramatically over the time it takes for your child to get to them. We researched schools very carefully buying our last house when DD was a baby. We bought in a catchment of a (primary) school that had always been OFSTED good or above, had a good local reputation and had SATS stats etc that all looked good. Four years later when DD was in reception it went into special measures and she had an utterly miserable time. Of course, hopefully that won't happen to you but I would be careful about making the secondary school the major factor if that's going to be something that is mainly relevant 10 years into the future.
Oh dear sorry to hear you had that experience with schools. I guess you can only do what looks best at the time. Where we live in Yorkshire at the moment has a lovely village primary school but the only secondary school we can use is not good at all so we've been constantly looking for other villages to move to with better secondary school options.
My eldest is starting receotion this year so we would be moving after the applications process and maybe after September. But my next two children would be eligible through the applications process. It is a really important question though. My thoughts at the moment are to identify a catchment area of a good high school as they aren't as easy to find, then try and find a fairly good primary school within it which we stand a chance of getting into.
We're also interested in Oxfordshire villages which are in the catchment of good secondaries? Any suggestions? Thanks so much for your help so far
For villages. Probably too far out (but maybe not if your DH is commuting) and only works for girls but Didcot Girls has a great reputation. Also St Bartholomews' in Eynsham is 'outstanding' and supposed to be very caring. St Alfred's in Wantage. Oxford traffic can be awful so living out and commuting can be an issue.
Eynsham is lovely. My boss lives there and has children at Eynsham Primary and Bartholomew and is very happy with them both. However A40 traffic in the morning is hellish; my Eynsham-dwelling colleagues commute into Oxford by bike.
What about Thame? Lord Willliams' secondary is rated Outstanding (usual caveats re Ofsted apply) and Haddenham & Thame Parkway goes to London Marylebone (and Oxford the other way, including the new Oxford Parkway station). Just looked up the catchment area for Lord Williams' and it's huge and includes Tetsworth which is a glorious part of the world; I've been to forest school there a lot.
They sound like fantastic tips so we'll definitely look at those areas. I think my DH would commute by bike or scooter if it's not too far. Or train if that's possible so hopefully we could work round traffic issues.
Of the three schools that you name in your OP I have to say that I would have put Cheney as a cut below the others BUT I should say that's just based on results (GCSE consistently quite a bit below the others), reputation and the experience of friends who taught there a while ago. Not that that is to say it is a bad school at all (and I am quite prepared for others to say how fab it is). Just that if you have a very open choice of where to go then I wouldn't have said that being in Cheney catchment was a major draw.
On the other two. Cherwell probably has a better rep but the results are fairly comparable. If you are trying to buy a house that you are fairly certain will be in catchment in 7 years time then you are going to want to be quite close to those schools esp as there is a lot of building planned. I think you will get much more garden and space for your money near Matthew Arnold than Cherwell. E.g. Arnold or Cherwell. And this for Cheney for comparison.
Someone up thread said that Matthew Arnold was more in the sticks but they are all 2 or 3 miles from the centre, depending on exactly where you are going. There is more going on in Summertown and nicer shops etc than Botley, though there is a nice community there.
Having said all of that, as I said before I would be careful about making decisions based on what might be in 7 years.
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