Heath House, Blackheath, SE London(18 Posts)
Just wondered if anyone had any up-to-date experience of Heath House?
We live in Westcombe Park and have recently been around Heath House, Pointers and Blackheath Prep for our DS (who has just turned one - we were expecting intense London school competition so wanted to get in early :#/).
We weren't impressed by Blackheath Prep as it has an entrance exam at three (!) but the kids in reception didn't seem to have learned any more than I did at a rural state primary. The facilities were good, but it seemed huge, cold and impersonal.
We loved Pointers. It felt quirky, warm and friendly, and we liked the headmaster (who is apparently a marmite figure), but I know it's not especially good at getting kids into academically selective senior schools.
Heath House has near-zero outside space and was really overcrowded, but they had kids reading by age four - despite being academically non-selective. Nearly 50% of their kids get into academically selective senior schools.
Our temptation is to register our little one for Heath House, but we're not sure if he will be unhappy due to the cramped conditions and academic pressure at age three. There didn't seem to be many obvious opportunities for running about and letting off steam, but we went in the morning and I think they do freeform activities in the afternoon.
Wondered if anyone has been around any of these schools and can comment? DH and I are really academic, but seriously rubbish at sport, etc. We were bullied a lot at school. Our DS is too young to have much of a personality, but is very smiley, determined, energetic and noticeably more extrovert than us.
If you’re both academic the kid will do fine wherever - and learning to read at four makes no difference at all.
Pointers feels like the obvious choice - well, actually given that you’re in London with its great state primaries none of them do, but if you’ve nothing better to do with your money...
I had similar problems at my rural village school and don't think I'd have survived if the headteacher hadn't taught my friend and I separately. I was unbelievably disruptive.
So where DS goes to school is important...
If it wasn't for that, I'd agree with you...
Hence why I'm not sure I want to pay for Pointers unless they're actually going to teach DS to read.
My child went to Heath House and I know a number of families who have children there.
The kids are taken out onto the Heath for outdoor play, similar to the All Saints children. What I liked about HH is its pastoral care. The children are very well looked after emotionally and physically. I’m not sure my child could read at 3 (in the kindergarten year) because they didn’t really start formal learning until Reception, which I was Halls with. They’re not academically selective but they’re quite clever at picking out the families whose children will do well - that’s the whole point of the parent interview. Kids tend to do very well academically - ours certainly did so we felt the fees were worth it.
I liked it, it’s a nice school.
My DD goes to John Ball in the village. We chose John Ball after visiting Pointers, Blackheath Prep, Heath House, All Saints, Colfes and Blackheath Girls. However, she has done private tutoring at Heath House for 5 years and every one of her tutors (who are all current Heath House teachers) have been exceptionally, exceptionally capable, friendly and kind. And certainly their Year 6 leavers destinations and scholarships are excellent. Having said that, we were also a bit worried about the lack of outdoor play space. Also, check the admissions information on their website as the other thing that concerned us about Heath House was the strange warning that if your child wanted to leave/change schools before end of Year 6 (exception being if you moved abroad), they would not give a reference for your child to the new school. By the way we liked the Pointers headmaster too, and despite us stating openly at the interview that we were atheists, we we offered a place, just fyi.
Heath House is so so small though? Tiny buildings and v small classes. No outside space. No team sports.
It's also owned by its headteacher and has a v odd uniform.
All reasons why I would never choose it.
BP - agree selection at 3 is bonkers and frequently inaccurate anyway. It's a larger school with great facilities but does have its drawbacks. 11+ results vary year on year. But it's still v competitive to get in.
Pointers - the headmaster owns the school so there is no independent governance. Uniform is hilarious. but 11+ results seem to be on the up despite some bad years a while back. limited outdoor space - a worry given that there are more kids here than at BP?
What do you want for secondary? Might help focus what you want now?
I often see the HH kids on the Heath in their school groups. One thing that occurred to us was the small year group, what if your child doesn't find their friend 'fit'. Colfes is another option, it's got plenty of space with the senior school attached. There is an assessment for entry but I understand it's a lot less formal than the Blackheath Prep one.
John Ball is also excellent and there are other great state schools near you.
Agree that the Heath House uniform boys' knickerbockers and girls' culottes are v. questionable
But I love the Pointers uniform! In fact almost chose it because of the uniform!
Culottes actually v practical for active girls - although almost universally detested by the older ones. Knickerbockers/cravats are the oddities?
Agree with HH - the year groups are just too small. And even when they do venture onto the Heath for 'PE' most seem to not be in sportsgear and it seems more a bit of larking around rather than any team games?
I do know a couple of families who have loved it though - one did a lot of sport outside school. All the kids did very well at 11.
I wonder if the assessment at Blackheath Prep is more about:
1) Seeing if you child has any behavioural difficulties;
2)seeing whether the child will fit in (and maybe whether the parents will fit in);
3)helping create demand by having this process, making parents really think about going to the school and what it involves so then if their child gets in they feel more special.
4) seeing what the child do in terms of fine motor skills, can they count, recognise or write their name, can they sit still and listen and concentrate, can they recognise letters and numbers.
I understand that Blackheath prep does not have a sibling policy so that is something to think about.
Pointers seems an odd school in terms of layout and the Head. Many find the head off putting. As an example a friend and her husband went to meet him and he only addressed her husband and so they declined to go further as didn't think he would be a role model and they wondered if the head was sexist.
Heath House - why would pay for a school without any outdoor space, especially in Blackheath?
There are fantastic state schools but each to their own ( as long as you have lots and lots and lots of money to pay for fees).
HH is privately owned too so really you have no external governance. Also - ask for a current teachers list. The ht couldnt give us one and made an odd comment about how she likes kids to get used to new teachers. The teachers we saw were all young and attractive. I suspect that they leave after they get a couple years under their belt and go for better pay. The class sizes are too small. Pointers also has that reputation- cheaper teachers coming from Australia. BP is a normal school with clever kids attending. Yes they have grounds and facilities but wouldn’t say teaching is better than a normal state school.
The state schools are good in the area.
Also think long term as Blackheath not in catchment area for grammar schools so your child will have to get in the top 180 kids to be able to get a look in. So really you are looking at independent colfes, Blackheath high schools etc or the local state secondary.
I wouldn't worry too much at this stage about your DS having similar issues to those you and your DH experienced. He may be very different and thrive in any decent school. I appreciate you want to have plans in place in case that isn't how things turn out, but nevertheless they might not be necessary. In my experience of my family and friends, nearly all children were reading before starting school anyway.
Can you register him for HH? When we enquiried not long ago their waiting list was full.
At this age why not just put him down on all the lists then see what he seems like and what the schools are like nearer the time?
I myself went to Heath House when it was in its infancy! I loved my time there, but not sure leaving 15 years ago counts as ‘up-to-date knowledge’
Despite pretty highly academically achieving kids, it managed to create an atmosphere that was incredibly friendly and non-competitive. I have such fond memories of PE on the heath, long holidays and art in the afternoons.
My child goes to Pointers and it’s a lovely school. The teachers are warm and caring, and I do find my child is being pushed academically (more than I would expect at their age!). Outside space for the early years isn’t great though, but gets better when they move up to the main building.
We looked at BP, liked it and DS had a place. We then saw Invicta Primary and it’s a fabulous school, although not private... I wouldn’t dismiss the state schools in the area out of hand.
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