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High school choices involving travel - anyone with experience?

(7 Posts)
wassername Tue 04-Oct-11 11:40:43

I am about to apply for high school for DS1 this month. We live in Harrow and the nearest state high school is very good,for which I am grateful. However, I am considering applying to a partially selective school (Parmiters) which involves a 1 hour journey by school bus or to the London Oratory (myself and the children are practicing Catholics) which is a 25 minute journey on Southern trains (preceded by a 25 minute walk to the station) or about an hour on the tube.

I am having a heated internal debate about the benefits of the schools versus the disadvantages of adding two hours travel time to my son's day, and I am beginning to lose all perspective...! Does anyone have children currently spending a significant time travelling to and from school? If so, can you tell me how they find it (fitting in after school activities and homework etc)?

CustardCake Tue 04-Oct-11 12:12:19

Having been in that situation, I would say that having a dire local school makes a long journey worthwhile but, if your local option is good then I don’t think it is worth travelling 2 hours per day for a slightly better option elsewhere.
The thing about school journeys is that it is twice a day for 5 days a week and therefore affects every aspect of a child’s week (their free time, their homework schedule, their ability to join after school clubs either at school or near to home, time to see friends, even bedtimes and getting enough sleep if they have to be up mega early).
And in addition, school journeys are subject to one-off pressures. Last year with snow on the ground for 2 weeks or more, many train services were delayed or cancelled. On the days schools remain open, this presents huge problems and stress in terms of getting into school vaguely on time (or at all). Ditto rail strikes, leaves on the line, cancelled connections and all the other joys British Rail subject us to. At exam time, children from far away have to travel into school hours earlier than needed just to be sure they don’t get caught out by the trains.
Then there is things like parent’s evenings and concerts and prize giving which are harder to manage if you all have to be over the other side of London for 6pm.

The plus side though is that if you work, your child isn’t home alone for hours in the evenings. That was about the only plus side we came up with though (and the advantage of avoiding the local failing school).

wassername Tue 04-Oct-11 12:43:49

Yes - all very good points. I had been thinking about the journeys for DS which seemed bad enough, but hadn't factored in parents evenings etc. It's kind of a no-brainer isn't it?

CustardCake Tue 04-Oct-11 12:56:45

wassername - For me it would be a no brainer too especially as you have a good local school. Any "do-able" journey becomes a whole lot less desirable as soon as you factor in things like prize giving and parents evenings and freak weather events. On a day-to-day basis kids do get used to travelling an hour each way (although the disadvantages regarding clubs and local friends and early mornings remain) but the extra stresses can be less obvious when you first sit down to decide how feasible it all is.

We are in the London area and for us an additional (and unforeseen) stress was Christmas shopping. The extra volume of traffic generated in some areas during December added 45 minutes or more to the journey time for the whole of that month (which also coincided with it getting dark by 4pm making for a pretty dismall trek home). And exam time was very stressful with the fear that a cancelled train or a late bus would mean arriving too late to sit the test. Exam timetables aren't something most people think about in Year 6 when choosing schools either.

I do think there is a case for choosing a school an hour away if the local options are poor but I don't think there are any advantages to doing it otherwise.

jicky Tue 04-Oct-11 13:35:29

Well my ds has just started doing that sort of journey, for what we feel is a very good independent.

He could have gone to a highly regarded state secondary nearer home, or other independents that were closer, but we all felt that this school was the right one for him. It is worth it, but it's not without difficulties - mainly by the time he gets home, it's dinner, music practise, homework, shower and then bed - no fun time at home.

He does do excellent after school activites a couple of nights a week and reads on the train.

Long term I think we would hope to move nearer the school as younger siblings follow him as then they would all be doing lots of travel time.

cat64 Tue 04-Oct-11 13:48:54

Message withdrawn

PattySimcox Tue 04-Oct-11 14:12:10

I come at it from the opposite perspective.

Having (for long complicated reasons not of our making) had the DCs at much further away schools, we have finally moved home and schools so that they are both in the local average-ish school.

The benefits of having local friends, being able to attend after school activities etc swung it massively for us - the DCs have thrived as a result, rather than having to miss out on so much and have much more energy for not having such a long school day.

As your local school is not dire then that would be my choice IIWY

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