Finding a London neighborhood with good state schools(41 Posts)
My partner, our 7-year old daughter, and myself will soon be relocating from the US (early- to mid-June), and we have to find housing in a neighborhood where we can be confident about finding a good state school. The location must be within a reasonable commute of New Cross (SE14), i.e. not more than an hour, preferably less. Ideally, it would be an area with lively street life and accommodations within walking distance (including a park with a playground). We are modestly familiar with London's geography, but really have no idea at all about how things work when searching for a good school in the UK. Any advice about where to target our housing search?
Ring around a few of the area's LEA's you where interested and get a list of school's in those Area's.
I would then hunt out the ofsted reports for those school, it usually gives you a pretty good idea. all the ofsted reports are online. just google Ofsted.
Bare in mine where exactly you live will have a big impact on which schools you can get into good schools are often over subscribed with waiting lists so it's worth picking a house and moving as close to it as possible to it.
Any distance over about 5 miles away and you stand virtually no chance of getting into a good school. I've recently had to fight an appeal to get into my sons school and i only live 2.6miles away.
Oh and bare in mind, if you need a school for this september you have already missed the deadlines for applications so getting into a popular school might be very hard.
If you can be fairly flexible about the area, your best bet is to contact all the possible LEAs and ask them which schools have availability and/or short waiting lists. Then be strategic about where you actually live in terms of distance from preferred schools etc. Popular schools are often short of places, though they do come up.
we lived half the distance and still didn't get any schools. And they were schools with 4 classes for eacy year! Do you live in London? I am afraid I have seen many people saying they didn't get into their preferred school which was only a few hundred yards or even worse 150m away!!
Find out how many classes each school has for each year as it will make a big difference. Our LA says every year how far the last child who got a place lived from that school and how many siblings were accepted, how many were living in the "school neighbourhood* (catchment) etc.
It will also depend on your budget - how much you want to spend on housing.
I would start by looking at transport links to New Cross, then target the areas within short enough travelling times - its not only distance: I live in SW13 and used to work in the Oval, but it only took me half an hour to get to work. OTOH in rush hour it would take me much longer than that to get to Kensington, which is closer as the crow flies!
Also, I imagine your daughter will be going in to Y3 or Y4, where it is usually a lot easier to find a place than in Reception class - certainly would be at dd's school.
leiela - we didn't get into our nearest school, which is 0.396miles from us!!!
definitely look at previous catchment areas once you find a school, there are stacks of good schools in our borough but there are lots of areas which are outside any catchments as bar one all the schools have catchments of less than 0.5 miles.
SW14 has (aside from nice street life, restaurants and cafes, shops, parks and playgrounds) 3 good schools rated Ofsted Outstanding: East Sheen, Barnes and Sheen Mount. There are waiting lists, and the LEA says you have to live pretty much on the doorstep of the schools, unless you have siblings in the school, as this gives priority. It is easier to find a space for an older child, as people move. You need to call the Local Education Authority in the area you want to move to, and they will tell you how many spaces are available in your child's year, in the different schools in the borough. They cannot reserve a place for you. They can put you on the waiting list when you have a rental/purchase agreement, and an address to show.
You could look at Telegraph Hill (which is the conservation area in SE14) and Brockley (just down the road). If you live near enough to get a place at Haberdashers' Aske's Temple Grove (primary section of an all-ages academy) your daughter will be guaranteed a place at the senior school, which is one of the most oversubscribed comprehensive schools in Inner London. Telegraph Hill Park is lovely and has a playground.
Brockley has a very good girls' secondary school - Prendergast - and several good primary schools. You'd need to make sure you lived very near Prendergast to get in there - half a mile? The secondary schools in Lewisham are generally improving, I'd say, and some of them are very good indeed. Hilly Fields, Blythe Hill and Ladywell Fields are all lovely parks with very good playgrounds. A little further out but still very close to New Cross (direct train line and probably direct bus routes too) you have Forest Hill, which has both a good park and a free museum with lots of children's activities (Horniman Gardens and Museum).
In the Greenwich area, which of course has one of the best parks in the world, you might want to consider Thomas Tallis for secondary. I'm not so familiar with the other schools there. Bexley, next borough out, has the 11+. The grammar schools are supposed to be very good but I don't know what the other schools are like. Both these areas are on a direct train line, depending on where you end up, into London Bridge which usually means stopping at New Cross or New Cross Gate.
Dulwich: expensive area but has very good state schools for all ages now. I think you'd probably be able to get a bus to New Cross - even if you have to take two buses it would be a fairly short journey - or else you could get the train to London Bridge and then it's one stop back out again (an expensive way to do it compared with the bus, cycling or walking). Another excellent park and there are the old woods to walk through.
Bromley: generally good schools across the borough, including one very high-powered girls' grammar school. You would be on a direct train line from Bromley South to Catford, where it is an easy switch to Catford Bridge station next door and three stops from there to New Cross.
Sutton: direct train line to New Cross Gate. Has several hugely oversubscribed grammar schools.
I would buy a house less than 500m from the front gate of Haberdasher Askes Hatcham. You will pay a premium for this, but your dh will be able to walk to work and you will have a good secondary place.
Most primary schools are Ok. It is too late to get into the primary phase of Askes, but the LEA will allocate a school when you arrive. You cannot second guess school places when you are entering at non standard times. There is no point in moving next to an outstanding primary. If it is full, it is full. If it is outstanding, it will be full. You can go on a waiting list and you may be at the top, but will have to wait for a family to move house. Do not worry about being allocated a primary that is not sought after. It does not matter too much when they are little, you may also be pleasantly surprised.
You can have more control over secondary catchment. However, catchment in London is fluid, it varies every year depending on demand. In case the catchment area shrinks dramatically, I would start your child on music lessons too. 10% of places are given on musical ability.
The plot thickens! Thanks so much to all of you for your input. Please allow me to add a bit of detail. My 7-year old daughter has been home-schooled until now (so I'm not even sure in the UK system what year she would be entering!). She has been bilingual inEnglish and Spanish from birth, and has also been learning Italian with private tutors as well as small classes for about 4 years. She has taken various classes (once or twice weekly) with other children for Italian and Spanish, ballet, and gymnastics, and has also had some individual instruction for piano, but has never been in nursery or school as such. Does this added information help to clarify at all what advice you'd offer? Are there schools that specialize in foreign/dual language learning?
In addition, I must emphasize again that we have not yet landed on UK soil, so not only will we be applying for a place late, we don't even know where to aim and will choose a neighborhood to a large extent based on the highest probability of getting our daughter into a very good state primary school. this, of course, coupled with a good commute time to New Cross -- but that could also mean moving to somewhere further north along the Overground lines. Any further suggestions of particular neighborhoods or specific schools?
New Cross is very well served for transport - as well as New Cross station, there's New Cross Gate and Deptford stations within easy walking distance and Deptford Bridge for the DLR. There are also plenty of buses. There can't be many parts of London that are over an hour away, so I'd choose the area with the schools you like. South London is generally better for green spaces.
I think you need to be clear as to what you mean by 'very good'. For lots of people that would mean excellent exam results at the end of primary school (SATS), but that is usually only acheived by wither having a high socio-economic intake, or by obsessively preparing for the tests to the exclusion of all other things. You've already said you want somewhere that has good foreign language teaching but what else (e.g. sport, arts, traditional or progressive teaching methods, pastoral care, special needs provision etc. etc.)? As you home educate I imagine you have very strong ideas about the type of education you want for your daughter, so knowing this will help people advise better.
I would second the advice to find a good state primary in an area where there are also excellent state secondaries - if you plan to stay in London. In SW13 we have several excellent primaries (no bad ones, imo) but the secondaries - although hopefully on the up - are not great.
I'd second Forest Hill, Crofton Park, Honor Oak, Brockley. Many excellent primaries - sydenham girls a good secondary comp
Very good point, Hockey. It may be helpful for me to also clarify that at present we don't have reason to believe that we'll be in the UK more than 3-4 years, at most, so the long-term questions about UK secondary school placements and so forth are not really a practical concern at all. Of course, having home-schooled until now, it probably goes without saying that our sense of a good school is not at all attached to good test results. But in large cities where some schools are inevitably under-served, there might tend to be rough correlations between the schools that produce conventionally understood "good results" (i.e. test scores and secondary school placements) and those that do other things well. It's the other things that are also important for us. Apart from the second/foreign language concerns, which we may well have to pursue outside of school, we'd place a strong premium on art, music, writing and creative expression, etc. in addition to also wanting a school where the math and science regimen would be rigorous. And of course, the latter would ideally be about learning to think analytically and ask questions about/through science, not merely learning how to perform for standardized tests. In short, we're hoping to find a school that would resemble as much as possible the spirit of our home-schooling. (Sadly, we simply can't sustain the home-schooling project anymore -- otherwise, that would still be the preference).
New2London based purely on my experience of being a London teacher for a while now (including stints of supply) I don't necessarily think there is a correlation between results and a balanced curriuculm, infact to get the results a lot of schools have to have very unbalanced curriculums. All the schools I have worked at have had average test results (mainly due to the make up of the intake), but do all the things you see as important because they don't believe that results are everything. Based on your description there is one of my previous schools I could recommend, however you would have very little chance of getting in as it is always full (i.e. one child leaves and there is a new one the next week to take their place). Unfortunately at the moment London has a major shortage of primary places in many areas so getting a place in a school like you describe may be challenging.
Well, here we come back to the other dilemma -- namely, identifying neighborhoods where there might be the greatest chance of a fair match between this sort of good primary school with a reasonable commute to New Cross. There have already been a variety of very helpful suggestions of particular neighborhoods (mainly SE and SW); are there others, including north of the river, along the Overground lines?
I know the neighbourhoods a bit along the northern section of the overground. Basically from New Cross to Dalston (and east through to Hackney) you are looking at neighbourhoods that are a mixture of young and trendy (some more expensive than others) rubbing up alongside large areas of extreme deprivation and urban grit. Canonbury to West Hampstead are more pleasant and sedate but very expensive (Camden Road to Gospel Oak are much more mixed, and having worked in this area I feel most schools are pretty good but the area is very urban so might not quite be your thing).
Around Columbia Road and London Fields might also suit you (nearish Hoxton station), but again I don't know how 'lively' you like your street life!
The other problem is a good neighbour hood dose not mean great schools always my Sil lives in wimbledon which is very posh and well to do, the schools on the other hand are really poor so much so they have to bus students in from other parts of Merton to go to their schools
Were I live in the poorest part of my council I live near one of the best schools in the area go figure the primay is in the top 10% of the country and the secondary is in the top 20%
London will through up little things like this also some areas now allocate on a lotto basis so moving close to the school won't help
In some areas unless you live next door to the school you won't get a look in even if you live in the next road
Other schools give priority to children who have been to the feeder primary school and some times the feed school is shit and the primary grate or the other way around
To be honest most primary schools are ok BUT its the secondary schools you have to watch out for want my advice move near a church school and as long as you go to church you should be ok.
You want to live in Hilly Fields, with your dd going to Prenderghasts (for secondary). Job done.
I have to say, maypole1, that the primary schools in Wimbledon are not 'really poor'. The schools are good, very oversubscribed and have tiny catchment areas. Children are certainly not bussed in from other parts of Merton. I don't know what your SIL is talking about.
Secondary schools are more of an issue, but they have been improving and local children are using them much more than they did even a few years ago.
Even if you don't get a place on first application, you can appeal. Infant class size rules won't apply, so you would be arguing on the basis of prejudice (ie disadvantage) to your child in not attending the school v prejudice to the school in admitting another pupil. In your favour will be that your daughter is new to the UK and new to going to school and (or so you can argue) needs a place quickly to enable her to settle into life here.
I empathize with you OP - We're an American family moving to London this summer with a 7 year old girl as well. We've been living in France for the past 4 years, so daughter speaks French. I think we're on the waiting list for 3 French-language schools and the one new French-English bilingual school. We've come to the conclusion that we will need to get her into a state primary school and keep-up with her French outside of school. I'm at wits end to find a school ... So, may send hubby there to live in temp housing until September, then call around to the schools, see who has an opening, and find a flat near the school's doorstep! During the interim, DD will re-enroll at our neighborhood French school.
I rang the placement offices ("LEA"?) for Christopher Hatton and was told that if we moved in the catchment right now, DD would be 3 on the waiting list. Seemed like a nice school. Oh well. Back to the drawing board. I'm really wanting to stay on the west side, so hubby can commute occasionally to Bracknell and Reading for work-meetings.
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