Choosing between NLCS vs CLSG at 7+

(56 Posts)
Tigermom79 Fri 31-Jan-20 23:38:53

DD1 is fortunate to have offers from NLCS, SHHS and CLSG for their 7+ intake. I would appreciate input from parents who are familiar with NLCS and CLSG, or those who have previously chosen between the 2, since it seems to be a difficult decision. She doesn't seem too keen on South Hampstead for some reason. We didn't think she had a chance at NLCS given the odds, so haven't put as much thought to this as we should have. The idea would be for her to continue to the upper school at either, and avoid 11+.

My questions:
1. How many girls does NLCS typically 'manage out' at or before 11+ per year? Does City do similar?

2. Are both secondary schools equally 'hothouse' and high pressure? How does pastoral care compare in general?

3. Which school has more focus on STEM subjects? DD is fond of, and quite ahead of her cohort in maths and it would be good to have an environment which helps her develop this interest further

4. Is there anything like a typical parent at either school? We are a 'middle class' family who grew up elsewhere and moved to the UK several years ago. Both parents work, and we operate on a budget to be able to afford to send our children to independent schools. We would prefer a more 'grounded' school and parent ethos. I'm not very familiar with either school, but from the open days attended, seemed to find more working mums among CLSG parents than at NLCS. Does this matter as much as I think it should?

5. We have a younger DD who is 2. Neither NLCS nor CLSG seem to have a stated sibling policy. But perhaps there is more to it than I know?

6. We will be moving to roughly midway between the 2 schools so the duration of the DD's commute would be similar. She would need to take the coach to NLCS, or travel with me by public transport to CLSG (I work very close to the school premises). I can't see either my husband or me commuting that often to NLCS given the distance and our jobs, and so would not be involved in the school community there, while it would be easier to get to CLSG. Does this matter?

7. How did the lack of open space, and quality of air shape the school decision for you (both concerns for CLSG)?

Quite a long list already, but what other criteria shaped your decision among these or similar schools?

Many thanks for your insights.

OP’s posts: |
VivianSmith Sat 01-Feb-20 12:59:50

NLCS clearly the premier academic girls school, so if you want that brand and all that it entails, including brilliant teaching, extraordinary facilities, creative extra-curricular, and brilliant peers; and if you and dd can cope with loads of pressure, super competitive parents etc., then you cannot beat it.

CLSG is also a great school but not quite at the same level as NLCS.

From experience, you do need to be at the school regularly to really make the most of it, particularly at 7+, so think for you CLSG would be the right choice - you won’t be constantly ‘that parent’ that is struggling to make the concert, play, parents evening etc. I can’t say re the working parents point but seems likely given location that CLSG is being selected by parents who work in town.

On 7., it was that extraordinary environment that swung it for me at 11, and the fact my best friend was also going to NLCS. I couldn’t believe i got to go somewhere so beautiful every day, and I loved my time there. I had a full scholarship to CLSG and have only recently appreciated what it must have meant to my parents that they let me choose and I chose NLCS. I’m glad I did, but I think the world has changed, the academic differential is less, and your dd will greatly appreciate you being more a part of the school community.

We chose to leave london so haven’t entered dd for either school at 11. Friends of ours have. I am not sure dd would get in to NLCS, but for a child like I was, I would chose it again. For anyone delicate or even slightly fragile, it’s definitely a no. Pastoral care is good, but some of the girls drive themselves crazy in those teen years. It’s not like that in the junior school largely, however.

Tigermom79 Sat 01-Feb-20 13:37:23

Many thanks, VivianSmith. It's such a tough choice. I was thrilled for DD to get an offer from City, and because that came in November, I have been veering towards City mentally all this time. NLCS was a surprise. I love their campus, although perhaps not the anecdotal pushiness of parents (although I am also probably more pushy than not).

We are going to visit NLCS again and talk to a few parents. If NLCS, I will definitely be 'that parent' who never attends stuff, nor volunteers for events :-( while I can actually see City's main door from my office window.

OP’s posts: |
efrieze78 Sat 01-Feb-20 15:35:08

I was in your position 7 years ago with DD1. I chose NLCS despite working near CLSG. The commute on tube to smoggy central London v coach to HA8 with lots of open space was def a factor. Whilst girls live quite spread around at NLCS I think they might be more spread out at CLSG. I felt NLCS was better academically but the difference is small. No sibling policy at either but my DD2 did also get in 3 years later at 7+ and being a sibling def helped her get in.

Re filter at 11, they don’t seem to push people out who are coping ok. In DD1’s time there, a few did choose to leave through the junior school because it wasn’t working for them. For DD2, those that leave at 11 (this year) will probably move out of choice rather than being pushed but I don’t know yet!

Good luck with your decision - it’s a great position to be in!

Rockylady Sat 01-Feb-20 20:45:40

"Re filter at 11, they don’t seem to push people out who are coping ok. "

@edrieze78, what do you mean by that? Does not sound very insightful for a start, and by the time girls get to 11+ the filtering has already happened. I know for a fact NLCS put a lot of pressure on underperforming girls with the obvious consequences if the issues do not get solved. Part of achieving those results is the continuous selection going on. And this is not only NLCS but other schools too, to my knowledge, I know from friends SPGS and Westminster are relentless on this too. So it is all gray or your child can cope but if you think won't cope, beware of accepting a place.

efrieze78 Sat 01-Feb-20 21:46:47

Sorry I am not ‘insightful’ enough for you. I have 2 Daughters in the school and I don’t know of people who were exactly pushed out but 2 or 3 chose to leave. My younger daughter is strong and maths and weak at English and they haven’t pushed her out! Sorry I can’t tell you more!

Rockylady Sat 01-Feb-20 22:31:22

Thank you that is a bit more insightful than saying that those who cope don't seem to be pushed out?
In any case it's a fine line between that and 'choosing to leave'. I know of a case that 'chose to leave' NLCS because they were not feeling the school made any effort to help when the girl was behind on reading. It's all on the parents, and if you are not SAHM or hire a tutor every day, you would get in trouble if you fall behind. By the time they left at end of term, the girl was (naturally) exceeding (as can happen at that age with girls developing at different stage and pace), and they were asking her to please stay. They switched to South Hampstead at 7+ and happy there.


efrieze78 Sat 01-Feb-20 23:35:40

Rockylady do you have a DD at NLCS?

I work full time.

XelaM Sat 01-Feb-20 23:50:07

I would trust the parent with actual kids at the school...

NLCS is a super school and insanely hard to get into so well done to your daughter!

City is also right by my office and it's a gorgeous school. I think your daughter will do great at either school.

efrieze78 Sun 02-Feb-20 08:12:05

Oh I wanted to add, the ones who leave at 11 in my DD2’s class would be because they have offers of scholarship or a place at SPSG. Not at the other end of the spectrum. I should have made that clear.

I believe that if your DD got an offer at 7+ at any of these schools, she will prosper in whichever one you choose. Just don’t select against NLCS because of the perception. It’s a very happy school.

You should Read the recent review in the good schools guide of NLCS of both junior and senior schools (published this month) They are very well written and a really accurate reflection of my girls’ experience there. Good luck!

Rockylady Sun 02-Feb-20 08:59:57

I agree @efrieze78 that the ones that leave at 11+ are less relevant. As a parent you should be interested to understand how they develop each child during the previous years. What ever needs to happen by 11+ already happened. My advice, based on direct observations, would be to ask to each of these schools how many leave after 1/2 years and why.

Rockylady Sun 02-Feb-20 09:10:30

@xelam of course current parents opinion is extremely interesting. That is why I chipped in when I read

"Re filter at 11, they don’t seem to push people out who are coping ok. "

written by a current parent, as I am sure there is more to it than that sentence!

efrieze78 Sun 02-Feb-20 11:17:19

@rockylady - there really isn’t!

Tigermom79 Sun 02-Feb-20 11:42:02

May I ask if tutoring is rife at NLCS in the Senior School? And is it at City as well?

OP’s posts: |
happynlcsmum Sun 02-Feb-20 12:00:08

Don't know CLSG. My dd is at NLCS year 5/6.

I am very happy with the school. The academics speak for themselves, but what is harder to see from the outside is the lovely dynamic between teachers and pupils, and the positive ethos (lots of concentration on effort, kindness, self-improvement, self reflection etc... I like how they deal with things and contribute to shaping my daughter as a whole person.

In terms of pressure, I can't speak for the senior school, but I really think the pressure comes from parents' attitude , not the school. I can't count the number of times the school has told parents not to hire tutors for their children, and stressed the benefits of rich experience (go out into a field and have a good close look at a horse) versus 'study'..... never the less, there is the odd parent sending their kid to 'excel' summer camp etc! Most kids go to multiple clubs/activities and some parents are pretty helicopter.

I think this is a symptom of two things - 1. There is a fairly high proportion of SAHM's, who are highly attentive to how their child is doing and arranging whatever they can to help them achieve. 2. I imagine if a dd is struggling a bit, it becomes stressful because the overall standard is very high.

For me, my dd for now is pretty bright and bumps along in the top half of the class. If I poured in lots of tutoring and helicoptering, she would probably be in the top handful, but dont need her to be and she certainly is very happy how she is. (I can only guess where she is, by the way, because no positions/ rankings/ absolute marks are given at their stage, which I think is good)....and I am full time working mum, so am very hands off. I do my very best to get to key events, but I am not a volunteerer. There is probably an intensely involved community of parents who are not so keen on this, but I don't know and everybody has always been very pleasant to me at the school gate.

My dd feels no pressure whatsoever, because none comes from me. She loves going to school, loves the teachers, has plenty of friends (with the normal dramas), and adores the beautiful lawns/ lake etc.... she spends hours playing in this wonderful environment, and that for me, is a huge additional gift of the place.

But have no grounds on which to compare to other places.... just my experience

Rockylady Sun 02-Feb-20 12:01:14

@efrieze78 enough said, thank you

horsemadmom Mon 03-Feb-20 09:49:07

I have experience of both schools. DD1 went all the way through NLCS and DD2 went to CLSG at 7+.DD2 now at NLCS and totally transformed. I hope you haven't made your decision yet @Tigermom79 . The biggest difference between the schools is that NLCS has strong pastoral care and CLSG is like a factory. There has been a change in Head at the Preps since our time there but, friends with girls still there feel the culture hasn't changed. If your DD has problems along the way, CLSG will just get rid of her. PM for more specifics.

Tigermom79 Mon 03-Feb-20 10:00:22

With due respect, @horsemadmom, I have read previous posts by you and they feel quite biased, or perhaps reflect the past. Over the weekend, I have spoken to several parents with daughters at City, who are very pleased with the school without exception and your point on 'City getting rid of girls' has not come across once. Thank you for your input.

OP’s posts: |
efrieze78 Mon 03-Feb-20 10:18:56

I don't understand. People ask for advice from parents who have actual experiences of either or both schools and then others come along and tell you your experiences are not correct. Whatever!

horsemadmom Mon 03-Feb-20 10:30:26

I think she's made up her mind.

Tigermom79 Mon 03-Feb-20 11:44:27

Grateful for advice but given the extreme positioning also helpful to calibrate Vs other and more recent feedback on and off this forum.

OP’s posts: |
Farewelltoarms Mon 03-Feb-20 11:54:09

I am always slightly quizzical about people who love their children's schools with a fierce passion. Whenever anyone asks me about my kids' schools, I just say the things that have worked for us but am careful to add that it's only our experience and this can vary for the same family or even the same child.

There are various posters on MN who'll leap in with such fervour that it would really put me off the school in question. For starters the comment on here that NLC is the 'premier academic girls school' when CLSG is at least as good (if league tables are anything to go by) if not better.

And a lot of education enthusiasts who seem to disregard practicalities as if to even consider them is shortchanging your child.

OP, it seems as though City is way more convenient for you so go for that. Disclaimer: I don't have children at either school.

Tigermom79 Tue 04-Feb-20 21:35:09

Thank you for your responses. Would a current parent at either NLCS or CLSG senior school know how prevalent tutoring is? I'm hoping it isn't, at either school, but who knows.

OP’s posts: |
efrieze78 Wed 05-Feb-20 09:19:44

My elder daughter is in Year 9 at NLCS. To be honest, we have no idea who is or is not tutored as it is not discussed by the girls or the parents. I can tell you that of the girls my daughter hangs out with, none of them have tutors (unless they are particularly struggling at say Maths). This might be more relevant at they get closer to GCSEs. Also, my daughter was struggling at French last year and the school has a programme whereby a girl in year 12 gave her a weekly support session to help her - organised by the school. Casual but effective.

Tigermom79 Wed 05-Feb-20 11:36:38

Thank you, efrieze.

OP’s posts: |

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