Expat mum & the hen-and-egg-problem of finding a school(11 Posts)
I am planning to move to London for my PhD, together with my 6-year old. As far as I know, I cannot apply for a primary school place before having a UK address (private schools are not an option financially). It looks like I am now facing a hen-and-egg-problem, because I do not want to sign a lease on any flat without having a school place for my son in the vicinity and on the other hand, I'll need to have some proof of residence before applying.
What makes it even a little bit more difficult is that my son is not yet fluent in basic English (we're learning, though), so his future primary school should be able to respond to this "special need" in some way.
I now figured the best strategy would be two adopt a two-pronged approach and look for affordable flats (1 bedroom in my case) in an acceptable & affordable range for commuting (my uni is LSE near Holborn and I am looking for something with 30 or less up to 60 minutes of commute) and a decent school at the same time.
[tl;dr] So here's the question:
Can any of you recommend a primary school
- can be considered as "good" (by Ofsted rating, personal experience or else)
- which is not super oversubscribed and might still have a place for entry in september (birthday 2nd Nov 2010, so I guess that's Year 2)
- is located in an affordable, but still fairly family-friendly (that is, parks, playgrounds etc. fairly nearby)
- not in the middle of nowhere regarding the time and costs of commute to the city centre
- is prepared to integrate EAL pupils,
and/or can any of you recommend a nice borough to live in with a high density of "good" primary schools, where it might be worth looking around for both school places and flats?
The combination of all of the abovementioned criteria would be ideal, although I know this might be too much to ask on such short notice.
In any way, I'd be grateful for any tips and guidance, so I get an idea of where to look.
I cannot be precise about location, but I would narrow my search down to areas on the Central Line to get to Holborn. This takes you West or East. Unless people know of exact schools, it could be really difficult to recommend one in particular. You could look at Acton, Ealing, Shepherds Bush in the West. Ealing has Ealing Common and Shepherds Bush has Ravenscourt Park. Shepherds Bush is becomming popular with families due to good commuting and not too expensive living! (For London). In the East you could look at Mile End and Stratford (where the Olympics were held) which has been regenerated and is vibrant now.
London has children from all over the world. The vast majority of schools would be used to having children with EAL and it really will not be a big deal to them and they will be in a position to integrate your DS. I would think that Church schools would be unlikely to have spaces as many are very popular, but if you narrow yourself down to East or West, you could start to pinpoint areas of interest and take it from there.
My DD was searching for a flat last Autumn and the market was manic! That was for a 2 bed flat, so I hope you get what you want.
Richmond borough has mostly good or outstanding schools. Beautiful parks and very safe for kids. You can take the fast overland train from Richmond train station to Waterloo in 12 minutes then walk over the bridge to LSE or 2 min bus ride.
Forget central London. There are very very few good schools and if they are good they are impossible to get into.
We were in your position.
We wrote to 4 schools we liked, 2 outstanding oversubscribed ones and two Ofsted good ones a bit further away, not oversubscribed.
Both not-oversubscribed ones offered us a place, after DH traveled all the way to visit them and spoke the HTs
We then looked for a house in the catchment area! Our oldest was 6 and went straight into y1
This was 5 years ago, and in Hampshire so it may be different for you. But there are many people in this situation.
You sort of just need a "just do it" approach and go for it!
Also, we had no proof of residence.
And our DC had to change language too, again, schools are used to this and accommodating.
I travelled to LSE for a while, having arrived from abroad for the same reason as you, but before having kids. From three different locations.
1) from elsewhere quite central London (student housing -> might be worth looking into, I do believe they have some things suitable for 'families'). Ended up walking most days, about 40 minutes fast walk, because the buses (though frequent) took just as long due to traffic. Tube (central line) was often stuffed, very unpleasant, and took only minimally shorter (what with having to walk to tube station, miles and miles through tunnels to get to actual platform, and get out of tube station at Holborn and walk to LSE from there)
I didn't much appreciate living in central London, but that may be because I'm a countryside person. It was too noisy and busy for me. I did like showing guests around for sightseeing but didn't enjoy everyday life so much.
2) from South-East London
Away from the tube, you get more for your money. Would have been very suitable for a child, nice family friendly area, good schools. Commute by bus was very annoying (buses unreliable, irregular, often delayed, often took much longer than timetabled (as in 90 minutes rather than 35 minutes). As soon as I had my bike though it became quite straightforward. Cycling in London is not for everyone but you can plan routes that avoid the dangerous spots.
I hated it when I was not very well and still had to go in, as I then ended up sitting on crawling buses for long hours.
3) From outside London, on a South-West Trains line going into London Waterloo
For me that was the most comfy. My door-to-door journey was 1h05min. (It would be shorter if you went less far out than I did, also I had 10-15 minutes to reach the station at the other end.) For the most part I sat on a train and could catch up on reading or preparing or just chilling. London Waterloo to LSE is a short hop across Waterloo bridge on any one of numerous bus lines (so no waiting for the right one to arrive), or it can be walked in ca 10-15 minutes. I had a folding bike for a while which made it very quick. The downside is that trains run every half hour only, and depending what you are used to, may appear quite unreliable. My main issue with this set-up was that the latest trains were quite 'early' - that issue disappeared completely as soon as I had kids and wanted/needed to be home at a decent hour anyway.
However, you need to be aware of the costs of commuting too - the further out you go, the cheaper the houses are, but the more you pay for the commute. Having a school aged child you will probably need to travel at 'peak' hours so not be able to benefit from 'off-peak' and 'super off peak' price reductions much.
I would suggest the south east, exactly because you get more for your money, and it is more family friendly. You might want to look at Bromley. Depending on where you are, your journey may be a little over an hour (look for Southeastern rather than Southern train routes).
When are you moving over here? When would you have an address to be able to apply for a school place? You can talk to the councils about which schools have places, but if you phone too early before you move those places might have gone before you arrive. Or other schools may find the have children leaving over the summer. If possible, I would suggest you try and be here for July, because that means you can still apply for any place that might be spare before the schools break up, and you can visit the schools while they are actually open.
Will you be able to get student accommodation. If so St Clement Danes in Covent Garden is a good school.
Most schools in London will be used to children arriving with limited English. As he is little it should be easier because young children just play with each other.
Do you want to be Central and walk to uni or live further out and commute?
Waterloo to LSE Holborn is not 2 minutes! It is a good 10 mins on a bus! Yes, the Central Line is crowded hot and sticky but if you don't want a massive commute and want time with your child, then don't go too far out with a long commute. From areas like Shepherds Bush (less than 15 mins to Holborn) there are buses too and transport links to other areas of London with the overground and the Hammersmith and City Line. LSE Holborn rents out vacation rooms if you come early and have a look. Cheaper than any hotel!
Wow, thank you all so much for answering! I'm glad I started this thread, this is very helpful!
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