Applying to primary schools in north Islington

(29 Posts)
EchoBeached Sun 21-Nov-10 22:25:40

We are in the process of applying for a reception place for DS for September 2011.

We have visited and like Yerbury and Grafton but are probably just outside the catchment area for both. Other nearby options where he would be pretty likely to get a place are Duncombe, Montem and Pakeman. We are also close to St Marks and St John's Upper Holloway although we are not churchgoers.

I would be grateful to hear from anyone with children at any of those schools - which ones are good/bad/to be avoided at all costs?

I'd also like to know whether it is better to fill up all six places on your admission form, even if you don't specially like the ones you've put at the bottom, in order to avoid the risk of getting allocated a place at a school you really hate.

LarissaFeodorovna Mon 22-Nov-10 10:13:37

Yerbury is uber-desirable, but can be a bit precious and cliquey. I know lots of people with dc there, mostly happy enough, but some dissenters. Don't be overly impressed by the brilliant results, they have a catchment area of about 500yards, which mainly consists of £1m+ houses. Go figure.

Grafton also desirable, but a bit more mixed, I think (don't know anyone who goes there though). Duncombe also socially and ethnically mixed, know a few people there who are happy with it. The same kind of people who woul dhave sent a child to Ashmount a few years ago before it became trendy, iyswim.

St John's UH is a conundrum -- it's the polar opposite of the journo-cliche CoE school, inasmuch as Ofsted think it's great, but the Norf London middle classes don't seem to be fighting to get their kids in there. Not at all, as far as I can see. Maybe they're all wrong, who knows? You do see muslim families coming in and out, so don't think you have to be a church-goer.

Don't know the other schools, I'm afraid. Hargrave Park is nice though, might be slightly out of your target area if you're near Duncombe. There's no substitute for going to look and getting a feel for the vibe, really.

EchoBeached Mon 22-Nov-10 18:39:32

Thanks Larissa. I agree about St John's - it had a very nice feel to it.

Duncombe is weird - very good Ofsted report with a lot of outstanding features, but it seems to be widely shunned by the middle classes.

It would be great to hear from anyone else with first hand experience of Duncombe, Pakeman or Montem.

MamanPig Mon 22-Nov-10 19:12:10

We need to apply for DD for Sep 2011 too and I'd also like to know whether it;s better to fill out all 6 places on admissions form - it was only 3 last year!

Been to see all the schools you mentioned, OP. Bumped into a couple of Mums I knew at Pakeman who told me how much they loved the school, how they involved parents, etc. They tell me there's a real community spirit to the place.
However, we didn't feel it was quite for us, so will not be putting it on our list of 6 preferences.

LarissaFeodorovna Mon 22-Nov-10 21:44:13

I do know some m/c parents with dc at Duncombe. A few years ago Ashmount was shunned by the middle classes as well. You have to decide how precious you are likely to be about your child -- I'm not implying you are, just that you need to be honest about your tolerance levels.

A couple of months ago there was a thread by a dad whose child had just started at a N.Islington school (couldn't quite work out which one, but could well have been my dc's school, lol) talking about how horrified he was that despite the good reputation, outstanding ofsted and cute uniform, there were in fact no People Like Us in the playground and the teachers had (gasp) non-RP accents.

Read it, and take it to heart -- you will either feel his pain (in which case tbh none of the schools you list apart from Yerbury are really going to hit your spot) or you'll grow to enjoy the fact that everybody is more laid back, muddles along together, and be relieved that the other parents aren't all frantically comparing reading levels and arranging playdates with other socially-desirable families. You takes your choice.

Wrt filling all the slots on the form -- if you're putting a school that you'd definitely get into, then there's not much point listing others as a lower preference. Otoh, if there's any doubt at all about whether you'd get in, you might as well list others that you'd find acceptable, otherwise you might get landed with one that you don't find acceptable at all. And remember that even in the most desirable schools, places do come up after the start of Reception, so if you really aren't happy with your allocated school you can get onto lots of waiting lists and keep badgering until a place comes up.

PollyParanoia Tue 23-Nov-10 10:47:13

Larissa I quite agree with all you say. That old thread could have been about our school (tho ours not outstanding) and sometimes I do wonder what it would be like to have dcs at Yerbury which is so white mc that the whole class goes on a camping trip together. Camping - the most exclusively mc hobby ever. And then I feel relieved that there's no leaving to go to a prep in y3, no reading level nonsense, no endless playdates, no big parties, no tutors etc and I think we're v lucky to be where we are.
I would add for the op that lots of schools get openings (often right at the beginning of term) so you prob could go anywhere within reason if you're prepared to move.
About the schools you mention I only know kids at Yerbury which people love to the point of cultish worship or (a small minority) really dislike and move their kids from. I think most primaries are pretty good actually so I'm sure you'll be fine.

nlondondad Tue 23-Nov-10 10:51:18

Ah "shunning by the middle classes" a definite phenomenon; Its part of the reputation of schools having a lag, for good or ill.

I happen to know that a few years ago Ashmount school used to get a significant number of children from near Duncombe. Not on the whole middle class children as they are a minority in that area, tho' less so than they used to be (gentrification). In short they had a choice between Ashmount, then three form entry, and Duncombe. And chose Ashmount.

Now despite the fact that Ashmount has improved people living near Duncombe choosing Ashmount has become rare - they do not choose to make the longer journey to Ashmount. This is because Duncombe, under a rather dynamic head, Barrie O'Shea, has become a good school. So people living between Duncombe and Ashmount have a choice between two good schools, and if they live nearer Duncombe choose Duncombe.

The working classes around Duncombe have spotted the improvement in their local school and acted accordingly. Its taking a while for the middle classes to notice....

prh47bridge Tue 23-Nov-10 10:57:41

Whether or not you fill up all the slots on the form is up to you. However, if you don't get any of your choices you will be allocated a place at the nearest school with places available. That may be a school that you would find completely unacceptable. I would therefore always recommend that you make your last choice an unpopular school that you would find acceptable. That way there is a decent chance you will get that school if you don't get any of the ones you really want.

EchoBeached Tue 23-Nov-10 12:00:12

Thank you for all this wise advice. I came out of Duncombe thinking it was ok and will probably put it at the bottom of the list as we'd be sure to get in there if no other choices come off.

If I'm honest I'm looking for a school that has a good mix of social groups and ethnicities. In their very different ways neither Yerbury or Duncombe seems to. In those terms I like Ashmount and St Johns best of all those I've seen.

And I do worry about the competitive/pushy parent thing at Yerbury. I find the idea of playdates for a four-year-old quite terrifying and unnecessary, and I worry I'd be producing the crummiest Easter bonnet/birthday party/cake sale produce etc of all the mums (and that my house would be the scuzziest!).

Another question - does it make any difference to your child's chance of getting into a school where you put them on your form?

prh47bridge Tue 23-Nov-10 12:06:27

None whatsoever. Whether or not you get a place at a school is determined entirely by the admission criteria. Schools are not allowed to give priority to children for whom it is their first choice.

Your preferences only come into play if the initial allocation gives you places at more than one school. You will then be offered only the place at the highest preference. So if you get places at, say, your 2nd and 4th preferences you will be only be offered your 2nd preference.

There is no way to game the preferences. You simply put the schools in your order of preference.

MamanPig Tue 23-Nov-10 13:02:47

Can we please stop the Yerbury bashing.
It's a fantastic school, with very dedicated staff led by a brilliant Head. Yes, the school would benefit by being more mixed - both ethnically and socially. But the catchment is the catchment ... hopefully this year, it will broaden because of the new way of measuring distance by way of as the crow flies.
And yes, playdates for a 4 year old is terrifying ...but you don't need to say yes to them!

Btw - Despite sticking up for the school, I'm not a cultish worshipper of the Yerbury. Our first choice school would be Grafton as we think the mix is perfect there smile

EchoBeached Tue 23-Nov-10 13:27:46

MamanPig - I'm not bashing Yerbury. Partly I think I'm annoyed my son probably won't get in (and that he would probably love being there) and the reason he probably won't get in is because of the fact they have changed the way they measure this year. And partly I do feel a bit intimidated by some of the parents I see in the playground there smile

EchoBeached Tue 23-Nov-10 13:32:44

prh47 - thanks for that. That is what I thought, but one or two schools have hinted they have some say in the admissions ('do let us know if you decide to apply etc...')

Am still in a quandary as Duncombe and Pakeman seem to be the only places that he'll get in and they aren't our top choices by any means. On the other hand, perhaps I should stop worrying. By and large all the schools we've seen are fine.

RockinSockBunnies Tue 23-Nov-10 13:38:19

Have you considered any schools, just over the boundary, in Camden? My DD was at Brookfield until we moved house this summer. It's a lovely school - amazing ethos, very inclusive, very caring, very happy. Also quite trendy (no uniform, call teachers by their first names).

There's a real mix of children there from a variety of backgrounds.

Might be worth a thought.

EchoBeached Tue 23-Nov-10 13:45:33

Would love to - I know several DCs of friends are very happy at Brookfield - but we are the other side of Islington and think Brookfield quite oversubscribed with children who live closer?

MamanPig Tue 23-Nov-10 14:07:27

EchoBeached - Sorry, didn;t mean to sound so accusatory. Just felt I needed to stick up for the Yerbury a bit ... there's more to the school than the parents.

Not sure exactly where you are, so maybe too far for you, but Tufnell Park Primary is a nice smallish school with a fairly mixed intake.

prh47bridge Tue 23-Nov-10 14:23:09

EchoBeached - LA schools have no say in admissions. Faith schools, foundation schools, academies and the like do have some involvement - they are sent a list of children who have applied and have to put them into order according to their admission criteria. However, they are not told whether they are the first choice or the last choice for each child and if it became apparent that they were using factors not in their admission criteria to rank children they would be in big trouble.

I'm afraid many schools don't understand the admissions process and end up giving parents poor advice.

EchoBeached Tue 23-Nov-10 15:55:49

MamanPig - thanks, I will have a look. Haven't heard anything much about Tufnell Park.

Certainly everyone at Yerbury looked really happy when we went round it - but I have now seen so many schools that I have forgotten what I think really. The whole process (coupled with letting your DC loose into the big bad world) is quite bruising, I'm finding.

PollyParanoia Tue 23-Nov-10 17:55:34

Yes sorry Maman if I sounded rude about Yerbury. Wasn't meaning to, just I think when you have v sought after schools like that (and there's one in every area isn't there) it can be destabilising for the other often just as good but not lauded schools. I remember meeting one friend in floods about not getting her ds in when he'd been offered a really good school. And when I was talking about play dates and competitive parties I was thinking about posher parents generally not specifically any school.
It is really bruising Echo, and I got in a real state about it because I threw some privates into the mix on top of everything else. All I can say is that the chances are your dc will be absolutely fine and will make lots of friends. And if they're not, then it's v easy to move them esp in London where there's loads of movement.
When it comes to your second you recognise how much more resiliant they are than their mothers...

alittleteapot Wed 24-Nov-10 21:20:56

Hello, I'm in the same position and have looked round most of the schools you mention. For me Grafton would be first choice for community-reflective mix and generally lovely, happy vibe. But I don't think we'll make the catchment.

Interesting to know the order of preference doesn't affect result, though I thought I recalled being told differently by the admissions office, so might be worth a double check.

LarissaFeodorovna Wed 24-Nov-10 22:25:22

Order definitely doesn't affect likelihood of getting a place. Imagine you were offered places in all the schools -- what order would you put them? That is the order you should put on the form.

When people say that preference matters, what they mean is that you mustn't put a school that you'd definitely get into (on distance or sibling, etc) above a school that you'd really like but think you haven't a chance of. Because if you get into the 'safety net' school, and you've put it highest on your list, then that is the school you will be offered, and you'll never find out if you would have got a place at the 'desirable' one that you would have secretly preferred but didn't put highest on your form. Every year some people do get lucky and are offered places at schools they'd put down just as an outside chance, so if you really like a school and might possibly just about be on the fringes of the catchment area, then you should go for it. But it's a good idea to include more realistic options as well, otherwise you'll be offered the schools that no one else wanted.

But list them on the form in your true order of preference, whatever playground gossip may say to the contrary. This is true at secondary as well.

nlondondad Thu 25-Nov-10 01:51:07

Because admissions are centralised in the hands of the local authority -and there are good reasons for this - schools actually dont get, at least in Islington, information about how many applications they have, and what preference etc. in a way and at a time they would like. So they frequently ask parents to say what they are going to do, so that the school can keep its own record and have some idea how recruitment is going for the next year.

So when a school asks you are you going to apply etc it is not that they have any control -it is BECAUSE they have no control they ask!

alittleteapot Thu 25-Nov-10 12:32:05

Does it really not make a difference what order you put them in - because catchment is defined by how many people apply and from where - so if two families equidistant from a schol appy but one puts it second and one third, won't the one who put it second get it?

prh47bridge Thu 25-Nov-10 12:57:35

Absolutely not. LAs are not allowed to use the preference as a tiebreaker under any circumstances.

It would be very rare for a situation to arise where the final place is between two children who live the same distance from the school. Of course, it could happen if they are twins or live in the same block of flats (although some LAs have a policy to sort out the latter case, e.g. by counting the lower numbered flats as closer to the school). If the situation does arise the only legally acceptable way to resolve it is to use a random draw to determine which child got the place.

LarissaFeodorovna Thu 25-Nov-10 13:11:03


No, it works like this: the council (for non-church schools) or the admissions authority (= governors) for church schools rank all applicants to every school in order of priority (for non-church schools, generally how far you live from the school, for church schools on various faith-based criteria, you'd have to read up to see what they are).


the LEA go through their lists and for each school remove all the applicants who've been offered a place at a school they've ranked higher. They carry on doing this until they have a list in which each child is offered a place at the highest-ranked school they could get. This all happens before any allocations are sent out, so applicants and schools are not aware of it - it's basically some big number-crunchy 'puter program.


You live near Duncombe, which you're fairly happy with, but you much prefer Grafton, and in an ideal world fancy a punt at Yerbury. You'd accept Montem, which is virtually next door to your house, but are really not htat keen. So on your form you'd put...

1. Yerbury
2. Grafton
3. Duncombe
4. Montem

In the first round the LEA list all the applicants for each school in order, and the top 60, or 30 or whatever would notionally 'get in'. So at this stage your child is in the top 60 for, let's say, Duncombe and Montem. But you're taken off the list for Montem, cos you're already a shoo-in for Duncombe, which you placed higher on the list, which frees up a place for someone else at Montem.

But the same thing is happening higher up the list, as someone who put Grafton second and would have got in, has also moved up into the top 60 at Yerbury, which was their first choice. So the LEA do a second round or number-crunching, in which extra places at Grafton are freed up. Because of this you just squeak into the top 60 (or whatever) at Grafton.

Then the LEA crunch the nubmers again, and some other lucky person moves up the list for Duncombe because you've been taken off the list because you've become eligible for Grafton. You don't at any stage qualify for Yerbury, cos eleventy-squillion people who all live on the doorstep have put it as their first choice, and you're 198th on the list.

And so on, and so forth, until allocation day, at which point each person will be offered one place at the highest-ranked school that they are eligible for. And then after allocation day it all moves on again as some people will move out of the area, or go private, or whatever.


<<wraps wet towel round head>>

<<goes for lie-down>>

You think that's bad? Just wait till secondary transfer, mwahahaha.

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