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Can't see the wood for the trees anymore and need your help : (

(7 Posts)
surreyagain Sun 30-Sep-12 23:02:09

Hi there,

I am going around and around in circles and can't think straight anymore. And so here I am turning to strangers to help me try and work out which path to take (sad but very much needed : /)

We are returning to the UK in the next few weeks with our two children, 8 and 5. We have looked all over the UK trying to decide where to go. We have been to several places and homed in on two places - the New Forest area (for its beauty) and Farnham (for its school).

We love the New Forest but felt only one school was suitable - Milford. But the waiting list is a nightmare as expected and the village just felt a little too remote, rural and claustrophobic. This would obviously not be a great start as we would need to park up on the doorstep to get a chance of admission. We also wondered if the whole area of the New Forest would be slightly too aged for us at this point in time (used to living in very busy, younger places). Nethertheless, my children loved the school, loved the area and the ponies : ) and we would be willing to wait and home-educate.

However, the biggest problem for us is my son. He is extremely academic and was put in a year above him at the private school he has been attending abroad. He gets extremely frustrated when not pushed and although I know many primary schools would be able to accommodate this to some extent, I feel he would still not flourish and would not reach his potential.

So here we turn to South Farnham School - a very academic school with a very high academic reputation, followed by a very good senior school. The waiting list is acceptable but we would have to live very close by. We are not so sure about Farnham - mainly due to the traffic congestion we see every time we visit and having lived in another part of Surrey I am worried that people will be unfriendly. My son is also keen to go to a bright and happy school having hated a previous school - South Farnham is a very old building and very focused which lessens the warm feeling you might get from other schools. I did visit the school and worried a little that it might be a bit cold and too much focused on academic performance. But that was just a vibe a got and may not have been accurate. He would certainly not be bored and they would be able to cater for him individually. The facilities do not compare one bit to those in the New Forest - they are amazing! Farnham as an area to live also ticks the boxes for being a little more vibrant and younger. But then we lose the wonders of being near the sea/forest etc. etc.

So then my head starts turning to other areas in the country - can I find a really academic school in a fantastic area that is perfect - and then there I go again. I know it is time for us to make a decision and stick with one of these choices rather than keep seeking utopia which doesn't exist : ))

So, what do I do? Go for the nice area - coast and forest - which has the less academic school which I feel sure won't accommodate him as well, and which already worries us about the ageing population (but very very friendly, I might add).

Or do we go to a busy town that lacks the wonders of the New Forest but has a great school which will certainly push him. And then although he will do better academically, will he be as happy as if he went to a more relaxed average school.

I apologise for rambling. I just don't know now which path to take. We have four weeks until we move. If anyone has any words of advice, I would be extremely grateful. I have only mentioned the names of the schools incase anyone has any direct experience and consequently some knowledgeable input to provide. Thank you so much!

fatfloosie Mon 01-Oct-12 10:23:13

Hi surreyagain. Perhaps just chill out a bit in your search for perceived perfection and just try what life offers you?

I do think basing your whole move on your choice of school for your son is a mistake, particularly as he may not get a place there for ages (or even at all) and you have no guarantee that he will like it anyway.

Wherever you move to you will all need to make new friends and school is the easiest place to do this. Could you ring the LAs for the two areas and see what school places they do have available and see if you can find a path from there? It doesn't have to be forever, but it might just turn out fine and it won't be weighed down with all your expectations, which almost inevitably lead to disappointment.

Good luck! FWIW my DD is at an Ofsted Good/Satisfactory school with really bad SATs (including the CVA scores) which we would never have gone to by choice and we absolutely love it.

CaptainFlack Mon 01-Oct-12 13:49:34

hi, just wanted offer my tuppenyworth. We moved back to the UK in June after a 13 yr absence. We didn't have fixed location to return to so we spent hours on Google earth and rightmove, we had a 25 mile radius round the high wycombe area to look in due to DH's work commitments. Once we worked out what we could afford for houses (not that much!) we looked away from Bucks! We wanted somewhere with good access to London and the South for family etc. I would recommend looking in the Wokingham, Finchampstead areas, and areas around Ascot, windsor. Also West Berkshire like Pangbourne. All have excellent prep schools if that is what you are after for your DS and all have a range of great state primaries. my kids have ended up in 2 schools though due to reception being full by the time we exchanged contracts!! DD on waiting list for DS school.
FWIW, one of our reasons for coming back was so that our kids could go to a British primary as we like the cross curricular approach, chance to go in forests, wear wellies, do gardening clubs etc etc, DS went to very academic school in the USA and was bogged down by homework from day 1 of kindergarten. He can't believe his luck here, just reading for h/w so far in yr 2! He is very bright and his school has placed him in a phonics group with older kids and regularly rewards his work wHich makes him glow. We are thrilled that he is having other experiences rather than tests and what We called 'bum based learning' ie. sitting at a desk all day doing worksheets.

Anyway, not sure if this is a help, but wish you all the best, maybe research some schools in Berks and see if you like the areas around them, plenty of forest around Wokingham, and only 30 mins to new forest anyway.

surreyagain Mon 01-Oct-12 22:43:52

Thanks everyone for taking the time to post. Some very valid comments which have been taken on board!

WhoAteTheLastBrownie Tue 02-Oct-12 09:47:49

Hi there!

I think that if your son was put up a year because he's academically very able, then chances are he will be bored at school because a state school will place him in the year he's meant to be according to his age.

Anyway. I thought I'd share our story. A year ago we moved from busy urban SE London to Tunbridge Wells. The reason? We were looking for a more suitable academic environment for our DS, independent not being an option.

The result? We are in a stunning busy friendly town with masses of stuff to do, fantastic primary schools and excellent grammar schools which we believe will suit our very academic DS. We are only 55 minutes away from London so commuting to work is not a problem, and we are literally 5 minutes away from the country side.

People are very friendly here. You won't avoid traffic congestion here though, quite the opposite. You still need to live fairly close to a primary school to get a place and there are a couple of schools to avoid.

Having lived in Surrey and London in the past, I would not change TW for anything. HTH

bucksfizzed Tue 02-Oct-12 11:31:48

Hi - can see that you've posted elsewhere as well, so feel for you as you are obviously in a bit of a quandary !!

I live in Surrey, near good primary/secondary schools, BUT if we did not have to commute to London, or have family ties here, I would choose a cheaper area to live in and that would enable more choice of state and independent schools. And just wasn't so.. well.. Surrey !!

Do you have family/friends ties in Surrey or New Forest?

I'm guessing you've homed in on South Farnham as it consistently tops the league tables. That does not mean everything - I don't know the school personally, so I can't comment on how far they would stretch your ds, you need someone with experience of the school to answer your other thread !! Also am not sure if you've already pinpointed the senior school that you would follow on to and whether you mean state or independent. There are no grammars withing distance of Farnham as well which you could have the option of if you went elsewhere.

Personally I would have my eye on the secondary options as you can always boost the last few primary years at home unless you are aiming for RGS Guildford or the like but even then plenty of boys in local state primaries are successful as imo they do really stretch top sets - particularly in maths.

Good luck with your decision !

surreyagain Tue 02-Oct-12 22:48:27

CaptainFlack - interesting reply. You seem to have been where we are! We have also spent hours and hours sat over google maps : )) We also looked at Buckinghamshire and realised it was a bit pricey. Glad you are all settled and it has worked out for you.

WhoAteTheLastBrownie (probably me) - we really seriously considered Tunbridge Wells. We actually spent a day there but found it just very very busy. Loved the Pantiles though : )) And also, I have a few reservations about the Grammar school system as I have a few children and would hate one/some of them to fail with other siblings passing.

Bucksfizzed - I found your message quite sweet - thank you for your post. Yes, I am quite stressed out at the moment - have a few children all at home overseas with no school anymore until we leave and no idea where we are going. We are leaving in four weeks time : (( All my children are worried about is whether we are going to have a new house in time for Father Christmas to come down our chimney :>

No, no ties at all anywhere really. I felt your Surrey comment. We were in Guildford for a short while and I found it very unwelcoming (hope I don't offend anyone). Is all Surrey quite hard to settle in/not so welcoming? Do you know if Farnham is a little easier? My son was in a very elite private school and I kind of wondered if that was the problem rather than it being a Surrey problem???

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