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American Dad Moving His Family to London This Summer - Looking for Primary School Advice

(23 Posts)
americandad Tue 24-Jan-17 00:31:54

So, I'm not sure if I'm even allowed to post here because I'm a dad? blush I would really appreciate input from the community, though!

I will be moving my family to London this summer for just three years. My wife and I have three young daughters, who will be in grades ranging from Nursery - Year 3 during the entire time that we'll be living in London (for the Autumn 2017 term, I'm just looking at Pre-Reception and Year 1).

I visited the city recently and met with a mix of nine international and British-curriculum schools to try to figure out what we're doing about education for the girls. The schools I visited were:
* Abercorn (Intl)
* American School (Intl)
* Southbank (Intl)
* Falcons School for Girls
* Lion House
* Merlin
* Oliver House
* Prospect House
* Roche School

Schools that I would have liked to visit but did not have time or found out about them too late are:
* Hurlingham
* Broomwood Hall
* Eaton House (Girls')
* Eveline Day School
* Finton House
* Hornsby House

And, just for scope, the schools that we're not considering (because they're selective, or likely wouldn't have a place available, or their location, or a combination of factors) are:
* Putney High
* Thomas'
* Newton Prep
* Wandsworth Prep
* Harrodian
* Kensington Prep
* Fulham Prep
* Garden House
* Anything outside the greater Putney area or the area roughly between Wandsworth and Clapham Commons (these are the two locations I think we're most likely to end up)
* All state/public schools (not because I think they're bad - just as I understand, it's already too late to apply for a place for the Autumn 2017 term and we won't have a London postcode until later this summer, anyway)

I was honestly impressed with all of the schools that I visited! You Brits seem to do education so much better than we do in the States! smile As difficult as it's been, I think we've narrowed the choices (at least, of the schools visited) down to either:
* Falcons School
* Prospect House

These seem to fit my daughters and our family situation the best. However, I have several concerns/questions, and was hoping some of you maybe could help:

1) Location. Obviously, Falcons and Prospect House are both in the greater Putney area. Most of the schools that I would have liked to visit (Broomwood Hall, Eaton House, etc) are in that area between the two commons. Is one location distinctly better than the other for a family with young children?

2) For the schools I would have liked to visit, how much am I missing? Is there anything about Hurlingham, Broomwood Hall, Eaton House, Eveline, Finton House, or Hornsby House that really makes them stand apart from the two front-runners I am considering? Or, is there yet another independent school that I haven't even listed that outshines all of these?? I guess I'm afraid of not even knowing what I don't know! smile

3) Neither of our top choices are listed in the Good Schools Guide and both have older Ofsted/ISI reports, and in the case of Falcons, the report is based on their previous location and a prior headmistress. I've seen good things mentioned about Prospect House in some of the postings here, but there seems to be a lack of information/recent feedback on Falcons. Can anyone vouch for either of these schools, but in particular, Falcons?

4) Lastly, obviously one school is co-ed and the other is an all-girls school. My wife and I don't really have a preference on this issue, but should we? I'd be curious about people's opinions on the advantages/disadvantages for girls at this age (ie, ages 3-8).

I apologize for the long post... and for being a dad on mumsnet... and for not even being a local resident (yet!). But thank you in advance to anyone willing to offer up some opinions (or point me to other threads I may have missed that answer these questions). I feel an enormous burden of responsibility in choosing a school that is the best possible fit for my girls and sets them up to succeed/thrive, and fuel a passion for learning. Obviously, I also feel a bit vulnerable and at a disadvantaged position, having only spent a little bit of time learning about and looking at schools in London and trying to understand the British education system (and the nuisances, such as pre-prep vs prep, etc!). I can't wait for this stressful decision to be over and done with so my family can move on to tackle the next one! smile Thanks again for any insight that you can share!

chatnanny Tue 24-Jan-17 00:58:29

Don't worry, there are lots of Dads on MN. Your likely issue is that you posted after midnight UK time so there are not so many parents of youngsters up! I suggest you repost maybe before you go to sleep tonight so they see it in the morning.
I can't help you much though my friends' son was extremely happy at Hurlingham.
One more point, "primary school" is generally used to describe state schools. Independent schools are described variously as nursery, pre-prep and preparatory schools. Sorry. I know it's confusing!

Out2pasture Tue 24-Jan-17 01:27:23

American have you telephoned any of the schools? several are highly sought after and judging mainly from mn, I speculate that falcon, broomwood and eaton have already selected their fall 2017 students.

DanFmDorking Tue 24-Jan-17 02:34:20

... trying to understand the British education system (and the nuisances ...

Can't help with the schools you've mentioned but as for the education system here, it can be a mite confusing I'm afraid.

This table:- Schools and stages, might help (there again it might not).

This table:- Key stages might also be er ....

This table:- School years is about school years, I think.

I hope this helps a bit and if you ever manage to understand it, please explain it to me (if you don't mind me asking).

Out2pasture Tue 24-Jan-17 02:42:42

American I presume you know all the schools you mentioned are fee paying (independent) schools?

TheLongRains Tue 24-Jan-17 02:55:51

Hi, I've sent you a message if you check your inbox smile

lunchboxtroubles Tue 24-Jan-17 05:32:46

American have you telephoned any of the schools? several are highly sought after and judging mainly from mn, I speculate that falcon, broomwood and eaton have already selected their fall 2017 students.


you need to start from the point of view of who still has places. It won't be a long list I'm afraid. Then you can try and move your kids to your preferred school at the standard entry points.

doonaduvet Tue 24-Jan-17 06:18:37

An ex-ex-pat family here so I understand your difficulties. I agree, with requiring 3 places it probably is down to which school has places. Both Falcons and Prospect House have good reputations, as you noted Falcons is new to Putney but it is in a lovely area. My daughter went to Roche and really enjoyed it and they helped her settle in very well, she remembers it fondly 3 years later and is still in touch with friends from there. We chose it over the others as I was impressed by the lovely homely environment and excellent results but I understand it may seem small and chaotic. Best of luck, Putney, Wandsworth is a lovely place to live, we all miss it.

RoccoW14 Tue 24-Jan-17 11:55:49

I think you might struggle to find three places at an independent school, particularly if you're honest with them and tell them you'll only be in London for a few years.

Have you considered the American Schools in London? It's in north London, but I believe they offer a bus service and they seem to cater for families in your situation.

I can't see why a good independent school that has a strong demand for places would offer up three to a family that won't see out the duration.

RoccoW14 Tue 24-Jan-17 11:56:56

Apologies, should be American School (singular) in London!

notnjork Tue 24-Jan-17 13:26:14

Agree with Out2pasture that your choice is going to be determined by where has space. Although, as an ex-Broomwood parent and I'd say that, of the schools you've listed, it would be one of the most likely to have in-year vacancies as quite a few children move to other schools. Not necessarily a selling point though.... and not sure it would really work for you anyway as you say you need 'pre-reception' so I assume you need somewhere with a nursery class.

I think only Evelyn Day, and Eaton House from your 'maybe' list meet this criteria. There are a few other schools around the Wandsworth/Clapham Common area that also have a nursery class so would be worth you looking at:

Parkgate House - co-ed prep with nursery opposite Clapham Common just along the road from Eaton House.

The White House - small co-ed prep in Balham with kindergarten.

Streatham & Clapham Prep - girls school run by the GDST. Has a nursery class. Slightly beyond your preferred area but easy to reach from Clapham/Balham/Tooting.

Focus on the schools that cater for the ages you need, then call them all and ask what the likelihood of them having space are. It's probably going to be a short list I'm afraid.

americandad Wed 25-Jan-17 18:21:36

Thank you, everyone, for your responses! I really appreciate your time and insight!

TRL Wed 25-Jan-17 18:47:16

Falcons had plenty of spaces when we looked round last year - they're new to the area and it will take a while for local families to swing in there plus it's too far for many of their old families to travel every day. We really liked its feel and because of the smaller numbers, your daughters would get a good go at everything they offer! Nice play areas, felt gentle.

If Prospect House has space, they're well established in the area. Bigger, more bustling, and co-ed. Very popular locally.

The two schools have a different offering and I imagine, one would fit better with your family ethos.

We live equidistant between them, and I love living here - easy access into Central London but Putney has a life of its own: river walks, cinema, swimming pool, arts theatre, Common, Heath and Wimbledon Common for muddy bike rides etc, pubs, lots of families so tennis, karate, ballet lessons plus loads more - whatever your daughters like, and an easy whizz in for all that London offers.

Prettybaffled Wed 25-Jan-17 19:40:32

Did you know that the education consultancy Gabbitas can help you with queries like this for a price? I hear they are very expensive and have never used them myself but may be jut worth considering when you are trying to chose from so far away.

Prettybaffled Wed 25-Jan-17 19:44:36

One final point is to ask what kind of school your kids are used to - relaxed/strict/uniform?

Are they the kind of kids who could manage anywhere or so you see a certain style of education suiting them - strict/academic/all round/sporty?

Wigeon Wed 25-Jan-17 20:07:05

If you have ruled out state schools on the basis you've missed the applications deadline, that's not quite right. You will have definitely missed the main applications round, but all local authorities consider what's called "in year" applications. Given that private schools may well not have places, I wouldn't rule out state schools. It isn't necessarily more likely that you will get a place at a private school and you won't at a state school, applying at this point in the year.

Also, very confusingly, "public schools" here generally means the big famous fee-paying independent schools - Eton, Winchester, Harrow. So "public school" is a sub-set of"private schools". The opposite of both is "state school". It's because generally when these schools were founded, they were philanthropic institutions for poor boys, hence "public" schools. But now of course they are not open to any member of the public!

gabster33 Wed 25-Jan-17 20:08:48

A lot of these schools are very different. I think in most cases you will be looking at a year 1 place and then a separate nursery / pre school place elsewhere. You need to consider whether you can get on the list for reception 2018 place or not. Both Putney and between the commons are great for kids, not too dissimilar. For both in fact you could look at some of the schools just across the river as well at some in Chelsea and Fulham- but don't want to confuse you more.

I can talk better about between the commons - I have many friends with kids at many of the schools you talk about. You may also find a state school with a place in year 1 - they tend to come up more often at that point. Somewhere like honeywell which has a no uniform policy will make your girls more comfortable- they also have a pre school attached that you may get a place if you are close enough. If not there is Nightengales or any of the Marmalade pre schools around. There is also a new intergenerational pre school opening on Nightingale Lane in September. It is a pre school on the site of a nursing home. It will be a community pre school with wrap around care if required - based on a Jewish ethos. It's called apples and honey at Nightingale and is a sister pre school to apples and honey in Wimbledon.

It's all a bit chicken and egg about where you live that will help decide which school. I presume your company is paying for your school fees. Regardless all of the schools will set up your children well academically for your return to the US and I think it should be more about the fit with your girls and the school. Roche is very nurturing and copes well with children that have different issues where as Broomwood - has quite a focus on the church and Christianity and if you don't want that then it will be the wrong place. If you can narrow it down a bit more we can give you more specifics.

gabster33 Wed 25-Jan-17 20:10:02

Oh and there's an American mums between the commons facebook group as well which may be worth asking. Might be in battersea - rather than between the commons.

Wigeon Wed 25-Jan-17 20:11:45

Btw, you are welcome to post on Mumsnet whether or not you are a mum and whether or not you live in the U.K.!

paxillin Wed 25-Jan-17 20:14:49

Oh. I thought this American Dad is coming.

As you were.

sashh Wed 25-Jan-17 20:28:35

You might get a state school, but not before you move which might be a concern.

I'd try to think ahead a few years, I would assume that attending the American school would allow them to 'slot back' into the US system assuming that you are returning not going somewhere else in three years.

shouldwestayorshouldwego Wed 25-Jan-17 20:35:20

Bear in mind too that in yr 1 many children will be reading, doing simple number bonds too. The Americans we know have found their dc to be slightly behind their British peers because we start so young. I personally am not sure it is always helpful, but do expect to have to support your yr1 child unless they are substantially ahead at the moment. Many other children will also be struggling but it is doubly hard if they are missing home too.

AnotherNewt Thu 26-Jan-17 08:15:42

The one I would add to your list is Parkgate House (already mentioned) and the one I would cross off is Eaton House Girls (they have overdeveloped the site, and I really wouldn't like to be so cramped).

Private schools are making their offers about now, and in that part of London are likely to be full for nursery (2-4) and reception (4/5 yos) though they may well have ad hoc places as people are always moving in and out of London.

Both Putney and the area near the Commons are fine for families, so it probably won't make that much difference which one you end up in.

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