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When to visit London and tour schools?

(20 Posts)
Arty3542 Sat 04-Jun-16 21:55:05

Hi all,

We are American and will move to London in January 2017 or a little after. We have 3 kids(ages 6,4, and 2). Oldest will be in year 2(1st grade) and middle child will be in a 4's program(reception). My husband and I are figuring out when to visit London to tour schools and check-out neighborhoods. July and August are best for us but worried schools will be closed and neighborhoods will be different/empty because people(locals) will be on holiday. If we have to, we can try our best to visit in September.

And for independent schools, do our children have to interview and take a test? Guessing that would be difficult over the summer. Yikes.

Thanks so much in advance!

ComaToes Sat 04-Jun-16 22:00:08

State schools will be shut from mid July to the start of September. Private schools have longer holidays, but might be more open to giving you a tour during that time (though a tour with no kids might not be much use).

If you've got an idea of which schools you might be looking at, I'd suggest using Mumsnet Local and local Facebook pages for that area, and getting a sense from there, if you really can't visit any other time.

MMmomDD Sun 05-Jun-16 00:54:08

Private schools close down from about mid-July - ~first week of Sept. So there will not be anyone to give tours.

The other point, though, as you are moving in the middle of the year - there may not be many places to choose from. Or places at the same school for both kids.

So - if I were you, I'd first pick some areas of London you might want to live in and start calling up the schools there in Sept. Once you know where there are openings, you can come for a visit.

Try - can give you some ideas

helpbuyingahouse Sun 05-Jun-16 20:40:44

Definitely try to come in September. In August London is empty and you really get a skewed view.

As far as schools are concerned, it will be tough to find a good school.

Can I suggest something for the oldest? Many schools have 7+ exams which are held in January.

Get an English tutor that can prepare your oldest for this, home educate him if necessary but just focus on those exams.

Sign up for the exam, deadline is sometime in September.

But please decide on the area. Travelling to schools far away is really a massive pain. If you need central London or north London (and some part of South London too) pm me.

There are also educational consultants that might help you.

I hope this helps, is your oldest a boy or a girl? For the younger one, you need to find a non-academic school which might have places.

I hope this helps, all the above refers to independent (private) schools.

bluecarpet Sun 05-Jun-16 22:25:34

Yes, for private you need to research the 7+ for your oldest and you may have to come over a bit earlier - some exams are held in the October of year 2. Miss that and you will be relying on chance vacancies until s/he is old enough for the 11+ (assuming you are looking at private). Once your oldest is in somewhere you can make more rational choices for the younger two, aiming not to have three different school runs to do!

If you are thinking about NW London then places to phone and ask about the 7+ would include Highgate (coed), UCS (boys), Belmont (coed), Haberdashers' Aske's school (boys and girls school), SHHS (girls), NLCS (girls)

Another option would be to research prep schools which go to 11 or 13 as some will leave there at 7 to go to a school like the ones above which go through to 18. Again, in NW London you could try Devonshire House, Heathfield, the Village, Lyndhurst, the Hall and Arnold House. Dev House and the Village are co-ed, I think the others are boys only. St. Margaret's in Kidderpore Avenue is worth a try for a girl as they are often flexible on numbers in each year as long as their overall numbers are right.

No point trying to do any of this in July or August - for your oldest you need to be doing the research now and, as has been said, getting him tutored for the 7+.

Traalaa Mon 06-Jun-16 14:49:24

Does it have to be private? Loads of good state schools in London and if you do choose a state school you'll spare your oldest the stress of any need to take a test.

In case it's helpful, for State, you have to contact the local authority/ council where you are going to live. You won't be able to do much until you've actually moved there, but they'll be able to tell you what the chances are of getting into local schools. Schools are v.oversubscribed and most councils will tell you the schools are full (which they are!). It's worth remembering though that the council has a legal obligation to give a school age child a place once you're living there. So if you move to an area with good schools, chances are you'll get into one. Also worth remembering that most state schools operate sibling preference. So once you've got one child into the school that you want, the others should find it far easier to get in. Living close to a school you want quite often puts you at the top of the waiting list too. Good luck!

Arty3542 Mon 06-Jun-16 15:49:59

Wow, thank you all for this information! I guess we should visit in September. We plan to come without the children so we can really move around a lot and get as much done as possible.

Yes, we're still narrowing down the neighborhoods. There are so many! We've been looking into Fulham/Parsons Green, Kensington, Notting-Hill, Maida Vale, Primrose Hill, and Hampstead. Would love Chiswick but it's too far. DH is considering Battersea/Clapham but he really wants to be in central London. And we wants to be a little west to be closer to the airport. He will be working in the city of London.

We have 3 girls. Oldest will turn 6 in a couple weeks. So when we move, she will still be 6 years old.

We are open to the state schools. I guess my only concern is if all 3 will be able to go to the same school. But Traalaa, if you say the schools have sibling preference, then that's great!

As I said in my other thread, we are a pretty laid-back family. Really want a great community, good academics, and to live within walking distance from the school, park, grocery store, etc.

Thank you again!!

minipie Mon 06-Jun-16 16:22:35

Finding mid year places in good London schools for 2 children (especially if one is reception age) will be a challenge. That applies to private and state schools.

I suspect your best bet is one of the smaller less "big name" private schools - for example in Battersea/Clapham I am thinking of the Roche School or Parkgate (rather than say Thomas's which will be full to bursting). Other areas will have similar examples I'm sure.

I would suggest making a lot of phone calls from the US before you visit to the various private schools in the various areas, and asking about how often mid year places come up. Some areas probably have higher "turnover" (eg due to more expats) than others and so may be a better bet for mid year places. Then you can visit those areas and tour schools.

For state schools, as suggested above, call the councils and ask the same question.

It's worth remembering though that the council has a legal obligation to give a school age child a place once you're living there. So if you move to an area with good schools, chances are you'll get into one. Yes, but even areas which have mostly good schools may have one or two which are not so good. And that's likely to be the one you are offered...

Madcats Mon 06-Jun-16 17:17:05

Not that we are London, but DD finishes Independent school on 5 July and goes back on 7 September (boarding school holidays are often a bit longer).
Its all about singing/acting/playing sport for the rest of this term as far as I can see.

I imagine it would be best to try to visit schools in LATE September when everybody is back into their routines. In the interim, you could subscribe to a website called The Good Schools Guide for Independent schools (I think you can just pay for as many months as you need). A couple of years ago another website called was launched covering all schools. It is a good starting point to narrow down where schools are.

If this is just a shortish secondment, would it be better to look at International schools?

ComaToes Tue 07-Jun-16 11:25:51

One more thought - we live in an area where lots of professional people come for three or four years, then move on / back. So the very popular school in Reception always has spaces come up in the following years, because children move countries. If you are thinking about state schools (and there are some excellent ones in London), I'd suggest focusing on getting your Reception aged child a place in a good school which is in this sort of area, that way when children move from other years, yours will have sibling priority. The closer you are to the school the better, in terms of getting a Reception place, and it will also help with a sibling place.

On places, I think that travelling times from Fulham / Parsons Green and Chiswick (Turnham Green tube) are similar, you might want to check. The District line can be quite slow, though it's one of the more pleasant ones to travel on as its not all underground. Those are definitely places where you will get a villagey feel, with tube, shops, park, school etc all within walking distance.

minipie Tue 07-Jun-16 12:23:41

Which bit of the City does your DH need to commute to? (ie which will be the nearest tube or train stations to his office) This makes quite a big difference commute wise.

Arty3542 Tue 07-Jun-16 14:31:38

Thank you, again! DH will be working in the City of London, near the Aldgate station. It's all up in the air as far as how long we'll be there. It could be 3 yrs, 5 yrs or 10 yrs+. Kind of crazy.

He does like west London because of proximity to the airport but he doesn't want to be too far west where his commute will be an hour.

How close do you have to live for an outstanding state school? I.e. fox primary?

Here in NYC, you have to live within the school zone, which is I think is much larger than London school zones. It could be a 5-10 block radius!

minipie Tue 07-Jun-16 15:03:36

Fox Primary admission rules are here: link

There is a priority zone as shown on the map. However note that the first children to get priority are 1) "looked after" children (ie those in care) 2) those who have exceptional medical need 3) those with siblings at the school and 4) staff children. There can be a LOT of siblings - and they get a place even if the family has moved out of the zone.

Only after that do places go to children within the zone. And note that those places are allocated randomly - so if there are more children in the zone than spare places, you may not get a place even if you're in the zone.

A lot of London schools don't even have a set "zone". They are simply distance based, so whoever lives closest gets priority (again, after children in care, medical need and siblings). So it's hard to be sure how close you need to live as it can vary from year to year depending on how many siblings and how many first time families and where they live. It's often pretty tight though. For example, in the latest round of admissions for Honeywell Primary in Battersea, the furthest child (non sibling) who got a place lived 242 metres away.

Then there are faith schools. They don't go by distance but more by how dedicated your attendance to the local church has been. The longer you've been going/more you've got involved the better your chances. Sometimes if you've recently moved, attendance at your old church may be accepted instead, if you can get a glowing letter of recommendation from your old priest.

TBH spaces in good London state primaries are as hotly fought over as winning lottery tickets and there will be people who are calling up 10 times a day to check for any in year spaces, have rented next door to the school, etc... I strongly suspect you are more likely to find private places.

oompaloompaland Tue 07-Jun-16 15:04:14

Just a thought (if nobody else has mentioned it). If you are looking at private schools which have entrance exams, some of them will let you do these exams at your DCs current school in New York, under the same conditions as they would do if they were actually physically here. Friends of mine came over from Oz a couple of years ago and sat the entrance exams back home in Oz for girls older than yours - 12, 9 and 6. It might be worth investigating, but needs your current school to "play ball". Good luck!

(And if you want an outstanding state school, living on the doorstep might be the best way forward ....).

Arty3542 Tue 07-Jun-16 15:13:41

Ok, I'm beginning to understand a bit more. I appreciate your help! This will for sure be quite the process.

We can get a letter from our pastor! We are Protestant.

I will see if we can move into the actual building of the state school that we would like, haha. wink

minipie Tue 07-Jun-16 15:27:52

Oh Aldgate

Right well in that case Fulham/Parsons Green (if you can be near district line tube) would actually be an ok commute - especially if he can walk to the office from Tower Hill or Aldgate East. It will be long and slow but not too busy/hot and no changes. Also the above ground bit is useful for checking emails. Although the District does seem to be down more than other lines.

Kensington likewise, as long as you're near a District line tube station.

Battersea/Clapham to Aldgate would be fairly hideous.

Maida Vale would be long, one change (Bakerloo to Circle/Metropolitan) but not too bad I think as those lines are not too crowded.

Notting Hill and Holland Park would be ok. Crowded but fast Central line, then a long walk from Balham or an annoyingly long change at Bank to do one stop to Aldgate.

Hampstead would be similar to Notting Hill/Holland Park though I think a bit worse as further out and even more crowded.

Do consider Hammersmith/Turnham Green/Ravenscourt Park - same commute as Fulham and not really any further out from the centre, and very good for Heathrow if that is important.

mary21 Tue 07-Jun-16 15:39:12

Unless you are applying at the standard times being close to your prefered state school may be no help. If it is full it is full. Best it does is puts you at the top of the/waiting list.
What you need to do is find an area where all the/state schools are good. The education authority has to find you school places. This way where ever you are allocated the school will be good. They don't have to/allocate your children to the same school. However once one child is in the others will usually be at the top of the/waiting list.
Moving a bit further out will often have less pressure on private places especially if you avoid big name schools. Richmond may be worth a look. Under 30 mins on the train to Waterloo the either walk bus or tube to aldwich. Virtually all state schools are good. Darrell often has space. Quite a lot of Expats in the area so lots of mobility which frees up places + lots of private schools. Kew green might be worth a look and Jack an Jill in Twickenham if girls.; Lovely area and not too bad for Heathrow. Ibstock place also worth checking out.

mary21 Tue 07-Jun-16 15:45:34

Just realised you said aldgate not Aldwich! Still not to bad a journey. When will your 4 year old be 5? If before 31/8/17 . They will be an in year admission for reception. If after 1/9/17 you will apply in the normal fashion in January 2017 so being close to your preferred school on the application date with your pastors reference would be helpful

ComaToes Tue 07-Jun-16 16:30:19

Minipie is right about spaces in good state schools for Reception. But in areas with lots of international professionals there is a lot of movement after that - my kids are at a very over-subscribed school (furthest offer for Reception was about 120m) but by Y1 there were three new children in the class (ie three had left) and its continued like that every year. That's why finding a very international area with lots of people moving regularly is important, if you go the state route.

minipie Tue 07-Jun-16 16:33:57

ComaToes gosh people move out even in Reception! That doesn't really happen round us IME - people tend to move before Reception or a year or two later. As you say, important to find an area with lots of movement!

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