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Where to live with good primary schools in central London

(45 Posts)
orderlyhall Tue 09-Oct-12 17:27:55

I have a 2 and a bit year old boy and am expecting 2 more in 6 months which means we need to move into a bigger flat. Since my son soon be of primary school age, we're also having to take into account schools as we think about where to move. Husband and I earn good salaries but have concluded that we likely won't be able to afford private school for 3 so are having to choose a neighborhood with good primary school options.

We are American and European (not British) so (a) it is important for us to be quite central and close to our friends (who all live central as well, generally west London) and not too far from work (W1 and SE1) (b) we're not really thinking about secondary school at this stage because we may not be in London at that point (we may be, too soon to tell) so we're not factoring that in.

Having done some research about state primary schools, our approach is to target neighborhoods that aren't crazy expensive with 2 good/outstanding primary schools in close proximity to each other and either buy/rent in the middle to increase our chances of admission. So far the two neighborhoods we've found that meet our criteria are Clapham Commons (Honeywell, Belleville) and Brackenbury Village (John Betts, Brackenbury). (I'm aware these are v pricey neighborhoods but not as expensive as, say, Hamstead, which may have 2 good primary schools too but we haven't even looked because the prices are even higher.)

So my question is: given our criteria, is this a good approach? Are there any neighborhoods/schools we may have overlooked? Grateful for any thoughts. Thanks

Sleepwhenidie Tue 09-Oct-12 17:32:17

Have you considered Richmond? Not quite as central but lovely houses and town and park, close to the river, easy if friends are in West London and fast links into zone 1. Supposed to have the best state primaries in the country (although I think that changes at secondary level...not sure if that is a concern). It is pricey but probably comparable to Clapham.

orderlyhall Tue 09-Oct-12 17:38:46

Richmond has definitely come up in my schools research and it is certainly lovely. But it feels far - it's probably more psychological than actual, but we drive, scoot and cycle almost exclusively so having to train it in for work puts it in another league.... Thank you for the suggestion though!

Rollergirl1 Tue 09-Oct-12 22:22:05

I think the catchment area for both Honeywell and Belleville is something ridiculous like under 500 metres. So you will need to buy a property exceptionally close to ensure that your child gets in. Also you should bear in mind that the majority of other good schools in close proximity are either private or faith schools. I have had a number of friends that have moved what they thought would be close enough to both schools and still haven't got it. They actually were not offered a school place anywhere. So I advise you to do a hell of a lot of research when looking "Betwixt the Comons".

majurormi Tue 09-Oct-12 22:39:37

What about Fulham and move within the catchment for the Bilingual programme at Marie d'Orliac. In its early stages but a great programme and the children learn another language. You could do Chelsea and move close to Bousfield Primary. Are you religious, there are many really good schools if this is a possiblity

alejandro Wed 10-Oct-12 00:07:17

Kentish Town is quite a bit cheaper than the rest of North London, has decent transport links (thameslink + northern line), and both Eleanor Palmer and Torriano are considered good schools. The former a bit of a dog fight to get in though.

And there is the french school close by, too. So yeah, maybe not cheap for much longer.

orderlyhall Wed 10-Oct-12 09:31:38

Thanks all for your thoughts.

Rollergirl1 - we know we have to be extremely close to those schools to have a decent chance of getting in; we're looking at places 0.2 miles from the schools and are aware that there is still a chance we won't get in if it's a year with a lot of siblings, etc.

Majourmi - forgot to mention the important factor in my original post that we are excluding religious schools. We're not religious and would have no chance of admissions on that basis, though I did just hear that some religious schools have more open admissions than others, so I should look into that. (Not opposed to the idea of a religious school.) Anyone have any information/advice about whether there are religious schools where church/mass attendance isn't as high a priority for admissions?

Alejandro - we looked at Kentish Town and liked the area. Eleanor Palmer seems great but Torriano has a high % of pupils eligible for free school meals and with English as a second language which my husband is not comfortable with. (I'm a bit more relaxed about it.) I looked at the French school and it requires that students be bilingual for admission? Our son actually speaks Spanish and some Greek; we like the idea of a language school and looked at the Spanish school but it runs on the Spanish curriculum, by the Spanish government, which, again, we're not entirely comfortable with.

(I know we're probably being too picky/anal about all this....)

alejandro Wed 10-Oct-12 09:48:07

I think you'll find that due to city density, if you want state and cannot get into faith schools, FSM and ESL are almost a given. I wouldn't let that scare you off, I have only heard good things about Torriano (not direct experience though). If anything, I'd say the good reviews and high relative attainments achieved by schools with intakes like this is a positive, all things being considered.

We have friends with DCs in Yerbury in Islington who rave about it.

orderlyhall Wed 10-Oct-12 10:01:18

I'd tend to agree with you, Alejandro. My argument to my husband is that as long as the achievement record is good, demographics shouldn't really matter.

Yerbury also came up when we were looking at Kentish Town - not very very close to Eleanor Palmer and Torriano so it didn't seem like we could locate ourselves to be close enough to 2 or all 3. But I'll have a look at the cutoff distance for Yerbury, maybe it's not as close as short as for Eleanor Palmer (which we understand is miniscule).

orderlyhall Wed 10-Oct-12 10:05:18

Ok just checked on Yerbury cutoff distance and that would be a no, very tight!

Firawla Wed 10-Oct-12 10:06:09

the cut off distance for yerbury is pretty small i think.. but there are other outstanding schools near yerbury too, however if you dont want fsm and esl as mentioned then it will be a bit of a problem in that area

alejandro Wed 10-Oct-12 10:15:53

Yes, I thought Yerbury was not going to work if you value transport links.

As always with Central London, you have to give in a little if you want cheap / practical / "attractive" demo (for lack of a better word) all at the same time.

wandymum Wed 10-Oct-12 10:26:13

As someone else had said I'd be very careful when buying if you are aiming for Belleville or Honeywell. 400m catchment areas and shrinking annually. 3/4 bed houses within their catchment areas now going for over £1m as they are so popular so it is definitely not a cheap option.

Over the other side of Clapham Common, Wix is good and has a bilingual stream which might suit you if you are European. Again very popular so tough to get into.

Balham has some good schools - Ravenstone is particularly well thought of and they are about to open a new Free primary there next year too + it is quite a bit cheaper than the Northcote Road area.

Happy hunting.

Farewelltoarms Wed 10-Oct-12 10:36:05

Something to bear in mind with John Betts in W12 is that it has a bulge year this reception year and I'm guessing this means that it will be very tricky to get into as a non-sibling in two or three or four years time. (I think they might have slightly different rules for bulge siblings but you'd need to check that as I don't see how it would work?)
We live in central London and I thought I was an idiot when we moved here and I looked at the sats/ofsted for our local school as they were dire. However I looked round the school and liked it and it's been brilliant (plus sats now in 90s and ofsted good/outstanding but that's not why I like it). What I'm saying is that it's possible to overthink it as things in schools change, but you and your commitment to your children doesn't. You are going to have a lot of ESL and FSM (ours is near 50%) in central London but if I think that if we're happy to live in an area with this demographic then I should be happy for that to be reflected in my children's classroom. Apart from anything else, the kids who are really pushing my children academically all fall into that demographic, while the really naughty kids are all posh boys...

alejandro Wed 10-Oct-12 10:48:32

Agreed wholeheartedly with Farewelltoarms. My own DCs are in state primary with a very mixed intake, and I have found very little correlation between their friends' social status and how well behaved they are and how fast their progress is.

This might matter later on in secondary (I'll think about that for myself and DCs when we get there), but I don't see much point in fretting about stuff like this at age 6-10.

Visit some of these primary schools and see them with your own eyes, I am pretty sure you'll be reassured by the vibe of most of the recommendations in this thread.

orderlyhall Wed 10-Oct-12 11:01:39

Many thanks again all for your feedback.

Wandymum - we know, we know that the distance is very short! And that it's not a cheap area! We are looking at being very very close the schools we're interested for that reason, but aware that it's no guarantee.

Farewelltoarms - wasn't aware of the bulge factor so thanks for flagging that. Thank you also for a very sensible, eloquent expression of my own gut feeling - I will get my husband to read this! Out of curiosity what area are you in if you don't mind sharing?

Alejandro - thanks for your experience and for another sensible view. Very helpful to hear from others who are like-minded and have been through the same thought process.

Melmagpie Wed 10-Oct-12 11:04:30

I echo others in saying be very careful about rejecting schools with high ESL/free school dinners! Torriano for example is a wonderful school - a great mix of all social and cultural backgrounds where children harmoniously and happily thrive and academically do very well - I've heard stories from some of the posh ghetto schools that at aged 5 some children are worrying that they are not clever enough, and where mums are worrying about what to wear for the school run! You should really go and see schools to get your own feel.

BikeRunSki Wed 10-Oct-12 11:13:36

I grew up "between the commons". The catchments for Honeywell and Belleville must have been bigger then, as we were more than 400m away. Anyway, and I am sure you must be aware of this, they are in Wandsworth, but close to Lambeth. Don't end up in the wrong local authority. Sounds like tiny catchments make this a non-issue bow though.

Farewelltoarms Wed 10-Oct-12 12:02:27

We're in islington. What I don't like about my area is that almost all my neighbours go private which means, although we have great community from the school, I'm constantly having to explain my choice to people who think we're borderline neglectful to go state. It's a bit of islington that's v expensive private housing plus quite a lot of housing association etc so it's quite polarised. Unfortunately that's true of lots of great areas of London (Belsize park, bayswater, hampstead etc). Schooling wise I'd rather be in a less ultra affluent, more middley area like crouch end. (But for non school purposes love being so near centre)

orderlyhall Wed 10-Oct-12 12:46:44

Thanks Farewelltoarms - we looked at Islington/Barnsbury too, we're not too far from there now and like our, and that, area a lot. I did see 2 good-rated schools in close proximity - Thornhill and William Tyndale - but hadn't heard much about them so didn't look into them more closely.

Pyrrah Wed 10-Oct-12 13:06:06

Have you looked at areas around Canada Water? In Rotherhithe there is Alfred Salter and Redriffe both of which have good results and great Ofsteds. There are also zero private schools in the area which means a big mix of social groups in the schools.

CW is on the Jubilee Line and so very handy for SE1 and Westminster etc.

Otherwise, in the London Bridge area, Charles Dickens is very good and Riverside has had amazing Ofsteds.

House prices are much lower than most other areas - mainly because people just don't think about looking, but lots of green space, on the river, water-sports centre lots of things to do with all age groups, and lots of expats as well.

wandymum Wed 10-Oct-12 13:16:05

Didn't intend to repeat the obvious OP - more to make the point that if you look carefully at neighbouring areas you can find other good schools and better houses.

SW London state school discussions always focus on Honeywell & Belleville but there are other options.

GateGipsy Wed 10-Oct-12 13:43:44

BikeRunSki why would the borough you live in make a difference? Does Wandsworth operate its own rules? I live in one borough but son goes to school in another. As far as I am aware the admissions process doesn't take which borough you live in into account.

alejandro Wed 10-Oct-12 13:59:24

Farewelltoarms - primary conversations are painful but OK, as in the end people accept that kids symply aren't being eaten alive at the local state ... but wait till you have to explain to the north london upper middle classes masses that yes, perhaps, state secondary is not totally off the table

Farewelltoarms Wed 10-Oct-12 15:08:40

Oh god I'm dreading the whole transfer thing Alejandro. My wish re schooling to live in a more homogenous area is even truer re secondary as, if 90% of our neighbours go private at primary, then 90% of the remaining 10% go grammar/private/musical aptitude at secondary.
I just want my children to go to a comprehensive that reflects the area I live in. Unfortunately that's not the situation.

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