Advice urgently needed on St Michael's N6(22 Posts)
My 4 year old has unexpectedly been offered a reception place at St Michael's, and we need to make a decision quite quickly. I'd be grateful for help with three specific questions:
1) How does St Michael's cater to the needs of bright pupils?
2) To what extent are the results that St Michael's students get a reflection of the quality of the education they are getting at school rather than the private tuition that many of them are getting in the evenings?
3) What do parents think of the new head?
I do not have direct experience of St Michael's N6, so what I am about to write may be of limited help. (But at least I will have "bumped" this thread for you....)
I do have neighbours whose boys were at the school, and who were very satisfied, in fact they both went on to scholarships at City of London School, tho' whether tutored or not, I do not know.
To start with this is a sought after school, and well regarded.
And yes, it is true, as I understand it, that private tutoring is common at St Michael's. In particular this happens because a significant number of the pupils will, in due course be entered for competitive entrance examinations both for selective state schools, basically Henerietta Barnet for girls, Queen Elizabeth School for Boys and Latymer. Which are EXTREMELY competitive. and for selective independents, the two closest at hand, being of course, Channing and Highgate.
So, on the face of it you ask a reasonable question regarding the extent to which the outcomes of the school are the product of the school, or of the tutoring. And really that is not possible to answer, I am afraid (in my view)
I have no reason to believe that without tutoring the children would not do perfectly OK, the tutoring being needed really as specialist training. So for example if you were not proposing to go for a competitive exam then no need for you to get a tutor.
There is, and I assume this is what lies behind your question, the possibility that teachers may rely on tutoring to pick up issues, but only people with experience of the school could comment on that.
If you decide not to accept the place, I assure you that someone further down the waiting list will be delighted to have it instead!
P.S. I'd be grateful if anyone else has view.
You have been a bit unlucky in your posting - I am surprised at the lack of response, I suspect the usual suspects whom I would have expected to comment (bsides me!) are away on holiday, grapping a few days including a bank holiday before school starts.
Have you had to make your decision?
Hi, im interested in this thread too. It would be great to hear from other parents too. Thank you
In the end, we chose to send our son to Whitehall Park Scholl, the new free school on Hornsey Ln (we live in the southeast bit of Highgate), but our decision was mostly driven by the individual attention that we felt he'd get in a small, new school, rather than by St Michael's. Indeed, we really struggled to get a good sense of St Michael's, whcih I suppose contributed to the decision.
Hello highgatedad - do you mean you got a bad sense from st michaels - if so, please let me know how because im considering sending my bright son there or do you mean you didnt get enough information? Thank you
I didn't get a bad sense about St Michael's at all--it's a wonderful setting, and everyone I interacted with there was wonderful. It's just that it was the middle of summer, and it was very hard at that point to learn much about how St Michael's handles bright and gifted children.
Pleasure. If I were you, I'd try to get an opportunity to speak to the head at St Michael's about how they handled bright children. I wasn't able to do this, and I wish I had been able to. For what it's worth, my bright child is really thriving at Whitehall Park, where he's benefiting from a strong focus on academics and the individual attention of a small school.
I'm aware this is a zombie thread, but nonetheless am curious - does anybody know why the new-ish head doesn't allow parents to come and see the school?
I rang up to try and find out when we could pay an informal visit and was told categorically no - the head does not have a policy of offering open days or more informal visits.
How on earth does anyone put their child's name down for a school without having had any opportunity to visit it and get a feel for it???!!!
Highgatedad very interesting to hear about your experiences of Whitehall Park School - bet it's massively oversubscribed and you have live on the edge of the playground to get in though, right? I'm sure we'd be too far away, even for an in-year admission...sigh...
You don't have to live next door to Whitehall Park by any means. presumably this is because it is fairly new. Parents appear to be very happy with it.
St Michaels has an open morning in the Autumn term, ahead of application deadlines for nursery and reception. In terms of what it is like, big cohort of high achievers who move on to selective schools often with a couple of years of tutoring. Big emphasis on outdoor play and exercise. Lots of clubs - gym, fencing, footie, rugby, classics, French - these are on the website. Christian ethos so prayers/grace and assembly by the vicar once a week. More boys than girls in some classes. Strong community feel from families who know each other from church and the super-active PTA.
Its not unusual for the headteacher of a heavily in demand school like St Michael's to set up formal "open days" for prospective parents, as otherwise they would be dealing with a stream of possible parents over several months of the year. I know of a number of schools in the area that do this. Of course this could be a bit of a problem if you have missed the last relevant Open Day date.
The current Whitehall Park thread is here:
(I mention this partly cos its not obvious that that is really what the thread is about from the titles, and also a pity if this clearly titled thread got highjacked by discussions about another school. Especially as WP appears to be a controversial issue, and the discussion on the thread does have a tendency to get acrimonious...)
St Michael's has various arrangements with Highgate where the more academic children at both schools get together for extension classes- works v well.
Is this St. Michael's Primary in Highgate?
If so, they don't offer any sort of open day, formal or otherwise. I rang to ask when we could have a look around and the response was "Sorry, the head does encourage any visits or open days".
What is the general consensus on Whitehall Park School, now that it isn't quite so new and people have had a bit longer to get to know it?
OP, you asked about bright pupils and how they are catered for at St M's. I can't comment on that. I know a couple of families with DC there but too young to really be relevant to your question. An important impression I get of st M's is of a very strong religious ethos. You didn't mention that so I thought worth saying if you hadn't had a chance to form your own impression of the school.
Eg The children write prayers for their class very regularly and the families with DC attending the school (not just the ones trying to get in) are expected to regularly attend the St M's churches on Sundays. So I would factor in whether that's a pro or a con for your family.
I don't know if this is still true but you can check on the website, the school has Ofsted 'good' but they had a (diocesan I think) alternative and more religiously based inspection that rated them much more highly than 'good'. The families I know are really happy with St M's because they sought out its religious ethos specifically.
I'd be interested to hear parents' views of Whitehall Park too because there is no Ofsted etc yet to take into account to form a view. the
bunfight thread linked to above is an interesting read I think.
Having had children at St Michael's CofE school for more than ten years, I thought it might be helpful to comment on this thread.
We attended an open day before joining the nursery years ago, and I see that the school website is currently inviting nursery and reception parents to sign up for regular open days until January. So visiting the school isn't an issue as far as I can tell.
The school is a CofE school, and there is some religious instruction and the occasional church service. We've found it to be inclusive of all faiths, including non-religious people. It's not a faith school for the faithful, but a church school for the community (in common with other CofE schools).
This is reflected in the admissions policy, which gives applicants points for living locally, and also for attending services at a number of local churches, or being a regular worshipper in other faiths.
There does seem to be a lot of tutoring in the upper years. But our eldest daughter got into a highly selective local state school without any private tutoring, which speaks well of the education she received at St Michaels.
For anyone who stumbles on this thread with similar questions, we have two at St Michael's. To address the original questions: (1) I've never heard mutterings of, "my child is bright and not catered for". (Had to laugh when I read that!); (2) at least in earlier years there is little time for after-school tuition. Assuming you're already doing one or two extra-curricular activities - swimming, football, music, language, etc. - you're child is constantly knackered; and (3) the head runs a tight ship, and is very committed and very effective in what is no doubt a very challenging job.
Given that the curriculum has essentially moved forward a year in recent years, if you have a so-called "summer born child" and get the choice to hold them back, unless they're really precocious and you want them heading into weekly (challenging!) spelling tests and maths homework at 5 and a bit, hold them back.
Whitehall Park has seemed to take the pressure off admissions, so you can probably get in now without serving time at Church (St Michael's or All Saints being the two associated with the school (although attendance elsewhere counts - check the school admission policy)).
That said, both Churches have lovely welcoming communities (!!!), and even the most heathen 'school Christians' serving the minimum time for school admission points gain from a stint at St Michael's or All Saints, which have a range of services from 'bells and smells' to 'electric guitar and powerpoints'. If you're just there for the school admission points, at very least you'll meet a lot of other lovely heathen, agnostic, Catholic, Russian Orthodox et al Anglicans in the same boat, and some lovely Anglican Anglicans too. And to one of the comments above about Church attendance, rightly or wrongly once you're into Reception you're in.
I'd very much concur with the comment above that, "It's not a faith school for the faithful, but a Church school for the community", and all faiths and no faith are warmly welcomed.
St Michael's Pros
- It is a most lovely, caring environment. We couldn't be more happy and comfortable with our children attending this school.
- It is a very well run, functional institution.
- The needs of each child are actively identified and catered for.
- The parent group is highly committed; both through the SMSA, one of the most active PTAs in the land, and generally you'll find the other parents are committed to supporting education and the school.
- It has some of the nicest grounds of any London primary school outside of the most expensive public schools. There's quite a bit behind the classrooms which you can't see from the roadway.
- The school panto and the fireworks are north London's finest, and together with the range of other events throughout the year are really enjoyable for parents and children.
St Michael's cons
- It is a sugar-happy environment. I'm not from around here, so maybe this is an English thing? What sort of masochists feed hundreds of ankle-biters "pudding" every day at lunch? And if you try to limit your own child's demon-dust intake, try getting them past the weekly school gate [bake]/[bought] sale. Generally the after school gate is firmly Jammie Dodger territory, so if you want an organic celery and hummus peer group move to Hampstead.
- School-parent communication is a bit chaotic - a mix of ankle-biter shoe leather express, emails from the "class mummies", emails from the school, emails from the SMSA. At least one child invariably misses picking up the homework on a Friday afternoon, so there is an inevitable weekly email to the class email list requesting it, so could it not just be uploaded to dropbox or similar?
- Some parents find the school calendar a bit over-stuffed, with a little too much soft-obligation to be [baking]/[buying] cake (chocolate with icing sells) for the bake sales or being on this or that rota, but I am very happy that if anything St Michael's over-shoots on parental involvement in the school than the opposite!
That is about it.
I couldn't recommend St Michael's more highly.
My children are coming towards the end of their time at St M and I couldn't recommend the school more highly. They have both had an excellent education from young enthusiastic teachers, but more importantly have really enjoyed every minute and made some great friends. The school had an unsettled period a few years ago due to a change of head, but Mrs Gallagher is now well-embedded and has really transformed the school, recruiting great teachers whilst keeping the caring atmosphere.
Although not visible from the road, the school has about 4 acres of grounds - unheard of for a London state school. The children make full use of them at lunchtime and have space to run, so can run off the calories from the weekly cake sale! the range of clubs on offer is also great - from gymnastics, fencing, chess, football etc, with very much an inclusive ethos.
Parents are a mix but overwhelmingly down-to-earth and friendly. Yes, there are many who could afford private (at a stretch) but with none of the snobbishness and attitude that can be found in some prep schools. Equally, there are many (probably more) for whom that isn't an option but all mix well.
Results are very strong but without much pressure. Year 6 leavers this year are off to Latymer, QE Boys, Westminster, City, Highgate, Channing etc, but also Highgate Woods, Fortismere etc. For those who want private for secondary, I can't imagine that the leaver destinations would have been any different (Personally, there's no way I would pay for something like Northbridge House over StM, unless there were particular special needs that needed more individual attention).
The school is CofE (though we aren't), so there are termly church services, but we find it fine - it helps contribute to have an inclusive, caring atmosphere - and to understand English heritage - but equally, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, atheist kids are all included.
The parents' association is incredibly active - giving a real buzz to school events.
Honestly, I could not have been happier with the school.
Give a thought to St Joseph's in Highgate. It is the Catholic school in the area and has an outstanding ofsted. My three go there and have had a fantastic time - all are bright and performing to a high standard. They also absolutely love school, which is perhaps the best test. What attracted us in particular was the free full time nursery. There is a huge nursery and reception learning area that is brand new and pretty impressive. Destinations include the usual private schools as well as Oratory, Finchley Catholic, St Michael's Grammar. It is very over subscribed now so you are likely not to get in unless you are a Catholic.
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