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Choosing where to live outside of London for private education(20 Posts)
I've been doing some research for DS - I am completely new to the system so would really appreciate some advice - we are hoping to move into an area outside of London that's commutable for the City.
It looks like one of the most important decisions to make is which private independent secondary school we want our son to go for (we prefer non-boarding schools) - and then look at the "feeder" pre preps.
For example, for argument's sake, if we aim for Eton, whilst I understand it takes students from a wide variety of schools, the most logical decision would be to live somewhere near Eton (I know it's boarding but say we want to be close to our DS) and apply for pre prep such as Papplewick and Sunningdale in the area.
By that logic, would it be fair to assume if we want to move to Hertfordshire, our aim should be for St Albans school? We are fairly familiar with Kent/Sevenoaks by now, but what about Surrey - what's the equivalent of top schools there (I dont know much about this area but from some research it looks there are more girls schools than boys?).
I do find the school system very complex (as you can probably tell I am not from the UK!) and very sorry about how blunt this message is - I am just trying to figure out a system/strategy so we can narrow down a list of schools and make a decision in terms of where to move to! We ruled out Oxford since the commute seems pretty impossible to the City? It's so hard to do this especially as our DS is only little and I am so amazed by how other parents can just decide where to live/where their kids go to school even before they are married.
Please feel free to comment, agree/disagree!
You might consider Bancrofts in Woodford in Essex. Good commute into the city from that area. There is also Haileybury in Hertfordshire and Haberdashers Aske’s Boys at Boreham Wood.
I’ve done a lot of homework on Hertfordshire for schooling and st albans school does look the best. There’s also habs boys if you’re further south. There is a wide selection of preps too that look good. Also you could look at hitchin and consider the commute to Cambridge for schooling - perse school has some of the best results I’ve ever seen. It is a bit of a trek though.
If you want further afield then Bedford school is a good option and Bedford is in thameslink so goes straight to the city. Extremely cheap and an excellent school.
Unsure about surrey, sorry! Heard good things about caterham school and Reigate Grammar School (private) though haven’t looked into it myself
I know that Papplewick and Sunninghill schools have very good reputations, as they are local to me. I don't really know of any in Surrey though.
Bancrofts is great, I loved it there! Lots of city folk amongst the parents, it has a prep school and doesn’t have boarding so might be exactly what you are looking for. The entrance exam is supposed to very difficult but I sat it at 7 and barely remember it except that we got a cookie!
Might be a bit further out than you’re looking for but I know a few Surrey dwellers who went to Bradfield in Berkshire. Lord Wandsworth and Wellington are also North Hants/Berks borders; not a million miles from Surrey. Those are all boarding schools though. The Royal Grammar School in Guildford also has a good rep, boys only and it’s a day school (contary to its name it’s independent and not a grammar).
Bradfield is mostly boarding I think. It’s not so easy to get there from a Surrey commuter town. Bancrofts or St Albans or Guildford Royal Grammar certainly tick the boxes.
Winchester and Winchester college?
Ah no sorry hadn’t realised it was all boarding...
For boys in Surrey the top day school and regularly one of the top in the country is RGS guildford. Main feeder is lanesborough (4-11) in Guildford which has a strong academic reputation. There is also Aldro in a village nearby (7-13) which feeds RGS as well as the top boarding schools in the country and is more of a traditional prep.
The nice thing about looking in the Windsor/Ascot area is that you have really quite a few schools to choose from of various levels of academic pushiness and choices between Day and weekly boarding later on too. We had on our list Papplewick, caldecot, Lambrook, st pirans, St. John's Beaumont, St. George's, Sunningdale, summerfields and even the Dragon if we had been just a little further up that way. All different but we had a lot of choices which was helpful! Many of those schools have buses though, eg papplewick has a bus from Gloucester Road in London, Maidenhead and I think one other place.
If you don't want boarding then Sunningdale / Papplewick not for you. Firstly they're compulsory boarding at the top of the school (and I believe very few day at Sunningdale at all) and secondly, their raison d'etre is to get boys into public boarding schools at 13+
Problem is the right school depends on your DC’s character and talents. Sevenoaks for example has fantastic options if your child very bright, less so if not. And if your DS develops into a quirky personality then Winchester would be the best option. Whitgift or Wellington for a rugby nut. And so on. That’s before considering whether he will be better suited to boys only or co-Ed.
Far better to settle in an area near a great prep and be prepared to move (maybe to rent) when DS gets to 13.
The Perse in Cambridge? Only day pupils.
Trains into Kings Cross and Liverpool St. In under 45 minutes.
Many of these sound like top schools. You may have to consider boarding or a more ordinary day school if your child does not turn out to be bright . If you can afford to go private, I would have thought you can find a decent school anywhere within commutable distance of London. Plenty of horses for courses in the independent sector.
Your dc is a bit little for you to plan out their educational trajectory. Find somewhere to live that works for your family rather hitch your sights to living within the gravitational field of a Eton, Sevenoaks or a brand name school.
I am not from UK either. There is a lot of choice in the UK, very good schools you have not heard of but which could be utterly suitable for your dc within your radius.
Like Blueshoes I think you need to identify the area and commute that suits you and your family. Where ever you choose if it is commutable to the city you will find a range of schools and options including schools with bus routes etc. You will almost certainly find a schooling solution that suits your child.
We moved to an area with great preps in surrey. once oldest is at seconday school age, we will stay if there is something fitting reasonably close, otherwise we'll move. 7-8 years are quite a long time!
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You mentioned that you’d ruled out Oxford because of the commute. Have you considered the coach from Oxford? The Oxford Tube and the X90 are fully of commuters - there are various stops by underground stations so even if the final destination (generally Victoria) isn’t handy you can get into the City very easily by getting off at an earlier stop and getting the underground.
Similarly Clarke’s Coaches run commuter services from Kent right into the City.
So you don’t have to confine yourself to train lines!
I think that because your son is so little, your choice is too wide. There are a lot of excellent schools, and there is no single, best school for your son. You don’t know yet what he will need.
In your shoes I would look to move to an area which will allow you a good quality of FAMILY life. The time your son has with his parents is more important in the early years than this or that school. Parents whose commute is so long they only see their pre-prep, feeder school child half an hour per day would do better to reduce their commute and send him to a possibly “lesser” school. That’s my opinion.
I’d decide on an area with a good choice of schools within a short commute of work. And then gird yourself to join the house-buying + admissions process queues!