Expat family moving to London - Schools and areas help!(11 Posts)
After 12 years in the US, we are moving to London with our 3 children - they'll be year 5 and twins in year 2 in September. We are looking at a house in Pimlico, near to two academies (I'm hoping to find state school places)... but I've been away from the UK for years and never lived in London. I'm not sure if I should be terrified by schools rated "Good" by Ofsted... are they really OK? Will we even be able to get places?? Is Pimlico safe? Is LONDON safe?? :-) (I'm freaking out a bit). This move has come suddenly, so I've only had a 2 day flying trip over to London. DH will be there for work every few weeks, but I don't know if I'll make it over before we move. I'd welcome all advice - we are looking for a central location... we decided to be IN London if we are going to be there, rather than looking at the leafy 'burbs nearby. We were living in Cambridge before we moved to the US and we'd just move back there if we wanted proximity to London. I'd love to hear from people living in London with children - am I mad for wanting to give my children access to the city?
"good" schools are fine
pimlico is fine
great shopping and places to eat on victoria street now
tate britain can be your weekend garden /also runs indoor activities
easy bus rides to battersea park /hyde park and other places.
you could email or call the LEA to ask about school places being available since these will be for year 2 and 5 so outside the usual application schedules.
Good schools are fine, and in some cases preferable to outstanding. Sometimes outstanding schools - just pile on the pressure to get good exam results with little to no extra curricular. I think Pimlico is fine, You could also consider areas like Dulwich which are still pretty central but with loads of parks etc. I do think getting a school place might be a challenge so you should move to an area with a few schools you like the look of - definitely don't assume your first choice will work out.
If you want a state school then I'd look further out. I've taught in a few inner city schools, including Pimlico and they can be truly awful, especially at secondary level. The way Ofsted works, it is possible to have very low attainment and a high proportion challenging children and be outstanding. Schools are judged on how well they do for the kids they have which does not equate to being a great school in absolute terms. Outer London schools are just much nicer generally speaking. I now work for an outer London borough and the 'roughest' school in the entire borough is still 20 times better than any of the inner city ones that I had experience of (10+ different ones).
In your position I'd look for a lovely area further out (say zone 4 with good commute) or go private if you want to stay central, especially for secondary. For primary, I think you should be able to find a lovely central school although it might be difficult to find a nice one with 3 spaces in the year groups you need.
PS on the safety front - crime rates are highest in the central boroughs. The safest boroughs are Richmond, Sutton, Bexley and Kingston. They also have the highest attainment in schools. I think the borough of Richmond could suit you as Richmond itself is on the tube and there are quick trains into central London too. The only possible consideration would be what you want to do for your oldest for secondary as Richmond will offer a choice of comprehensive and independent schools. If you are after grammars then the latter three boroughs have a good selection although they are further away from central London.
Ex colleague who was American chose to live in central London with her family as they were only going to be in UK for two years They had a fantastic experience. Could walk everywhere. She was really pleased with the primary school. Especially maths teaching. As the school was near one of the big music colleges they had lots of visiting musicians.
One thing to be aware of is although your local education authority has to find you school places it doesn't have to be your closest school and they don't all have to be at the same school.some areas have twin policies but you would need to check. If your older child is a girl Greycoat Hospital school is a very good school. Class sizes are limited to 30 for year R,1 and2 which can put a lot of pressure on places but London does have a fluid population.
PS on the safety front - crime rates are highest in the central boroughs.
You need to look at a breakdown of the type of crime, though. Round Oxford Street there's likely to be a lot of pickpocketing and shoplifting, which would bump up the statistics but not necessarily make the area unsafe.
Wouldn't recommend Bexley. Has grammar schools and is in easy reach of London, but otherwise boring suburbia. I'd go further in or further out.
Harriet, you'd hope it's pickpocketing but sadly when you look at the statistics for the borough of Westminster then just the number of 'violence against the person' and 'anti-social behaviour' account for almost 50% of crimes reported and the overall crime rate is 4 times higher there than the safest boroughs.
Friends live central pimilico 3 dc they love it. No crime experienced by them
I have a DD in Y3 in central London (Southwark) and we love the school so much that we kept her there when we moved out and she commutes to London on the train every day (over an hour each way). There are lots of fantastic inner London primaries, secondary is a bit more hit and miss.
I also work in Westminster and feel completely safe in that area - loads of my friends and colleagues live and work in the Pimlico area and the only really complaint is how expensive it is... but then everywhere in London is.
If you want your budget to stretch and some really good schools, have a look at Rotherhithe - the Jubilee line at Canada Water goes straight into Westminster, and there are lots of outstanding primaries, plus it has the river, a watersports centre and lots of parks. Loads of expats as well.
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