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where best to live for boys secondary grammar schools around London

(21 Posts)
begumbeg Mon 10-Oct-11 03:10:00

This is my first query as I am desperate to get advice for two boys aged 13 and 14. I am living abroad and move to Uk in the next six months. We are not sure where and can settle either in London or close to it. My first priority is the children's education and would definitely prefer top state schools or grammar schools like everyone else. How do I find out where they would stand the best chance admissions so we can move to that area?
I have been considering Bexley, Sutton, Kent, Watford and Buckinghamshire. I understand that they will have major challenges regarding in year vacancies and getting through tests styles that they never have seen not to mention the need for sibling link. How do I start as i am not physically here and will not be considered before we have a home in the area. How do I recce and how do I find potential vacancies so that at least we choose an area where there is some hope? I am so confused! all your help will be so appreciated.

Ladymuck Mon 10-Oct-11 10:51:23

Sorry but you have next to no chance of getting into the Sutton grammars. Spaces come up very very rarely if at all. Sibling link wouldn't be an issue as that isn't part of the selection process, but these are schools which fill at 11, or have additional spaces at 13. I guess if your 13 year old is currently in Year 8 he might have a chance at 13+, but I suspect that you will miss it by not being here now.

You might have better luck in Kent provided you avoid the super-selectives near Tonbridge/Tunbridge Wells. Try elevenplusexams for their forum. Good luck!

If private isn't an option, then is religion?

weblette Mon 10-Oct-11 10:57:57

Bucks does have an in-year transfer procedure to its grammars but it's emphasised everywhere on the form that there is no guarantee of a place even if your child passes the relevant tests.

IloveJudgeJudy Mon 10-Oct-11 12:26:49

There are boys' grammar schools in Maidstone in Kent, too. It's possible to get in at 13 if there is a space (it happened to my friend's son) but your boys will have to do about a day of tests and go in front of a "board" and the headmaster.

TRL Mon 10-Oct-11 13:25:54

Certainly in Sutton there are 3 highly regarded boy's grammars - Sutton, Wallington and Wilson's. I would start by ringing them and finding out if there are any spaces in your sons' year groups and how you would set about sitting them for the exams to get in if any spaces became available. The Sutton grammar schools don't tend to have catchment area in the way that the local comprehensives do but rather admit most or all of their pupils by exam scores, so you could probably sit your boys before you have a UK address so that they can get onto the waiting lists. Ring the registrars (websites have numbers) as they will know what you should do to give your boys a chance.

I think that some of the Kent grammars admit by a combination of exam mark and locality but it should say on their websites. Again their registrars will be really helpful re: waiting lists etc.

troisgarcons Mon 10-Oct-11 13:44:59

Beths in Bexley is the outstanding boys Grammar in the country. However you won't get in after Y7. After the 12+ (for late bloomers), well only 2 or 3 ever manage to get a space.

Wilmington Grammar (Dartford LA, but not to be confused with Dartford Grammar) may have spaces.

I'm afraid you should just find an area you like and then sort out the better schools in that area.

MangoMonster Mon 10-Oct-11 13:54:03

Chelmsford and colchester

Needmoresleep Mon 10-Oct-11 14:45:59

Perhaps safer to aim for a good Comprehensive with an established top set. Maybe one like Graveney in Tooting who take roughly 50 children via the Wandsworth test.

Graveney has a pretty small catchment if you are seeking a place through distance, but if your children are then good enough to get into one of the more academic sets, they will get as good an education as at a Grammar school. There is quite a lot of movement in London schools, so if you live next door you should be able to get places eventually.

begumbeg Mon 10-Oct-11 14:47:49

Thanks so much. Private is not an option and if religion is no problem for the school we are ok. I was looking at Tonbridge and if we do avoid selectives how do you rate the non selectives. It is so difficult to get good information on them. The eldest son will be in A levels in 2012 any advice on colleges?
Same for Sutton if Grammars are out then is it worth living in Sutton and trying for the system to find a place for them?

troisgarcons Mon 10-Oct-11 15:03:42

If you live in a grammar area the top 25% are already syphoned off, the remaunder of the school then become 'secondary moders' - you you need to be in a truely comprehensive area. However, unless you are joining in Y7, you won't get into top schools; the waiting lists are phenomenal.

In all seriousness, if your child wants to do well he or she will.

ShellingPeas Mon 10-Oct-11 19:04:06

I'm assuming you mean GCSEs for your 14 yr old rather than A levels. If it were A level you would get a lot more choice as most of the schools will take on extra pupils (based on their GCSE or equivalent score) at sixth form.

Tonbridge would not be a great choice for late entry - the boys' grammar options are Judd (Tonbridge, super-selective), Skinners' (Tunbridge Wells, super-selective) and Tunbridge Wells Grammar School for Boys (takes on distance). All are oversubscribed and rarely take entry into higher forms, although you might be lucky. I would check directly with the schools. Certainly I know for Skinners' where my DS is (12 and in year 8), they are over numbers due to appeals and won't take any more children until they drop back under their 'official' number (PAN - or published admissions number) except on appeal.

If you were to look into East Sussex some of the comprehensives are very good, especially at sixth form - look at Uplands, Beacon and Uckfield Community Colleges.

begumbeg Mon 10-Oct-11 23:37:25

Ok Shelling Peas my eldest who is 14 will be 15 this November and by the time he arrives here he would have finished his GCSEs. He is a year ahead. So I will be looking at Sixth form(1st year A levels I believe) for him and year 9th for #2. Looks to me like the boys will split. Would that present more options in Tonbridge if its sixth form we are considering? i will check out the sussex options also.

ShellingPeas Tue 11-Oct-11 11:29:35

Yes you would get more options at sixth form as most of the schools will take additional pupils provided they meet the requirements - this would open up Judd, Skinners' and Boys' Grammar and I think the girls' grammar schools in the area also take some boys at sixth form. In addition there is West Kent College in Tonbridge although this is more vocational than academic.

If you have one going into the sixth form then it might not be necessary to live in Tonbridge itself and perhaps looking at a comprehensive school in Sussex for your younger one might be an option, with your older one commuting - it would be doable from places like Crowborough or Wadhurst.

mummytime Tue 11-Oct-11 16:00:25

I would also talk to the schools, as although your son may take his GCSEs a year early, they may still not be willing to have him in Sixth form until he is 16. Is he also going to get straight A/A*'s?

begumbeg Wed 12-Oct-11 00:31:39

Well that is good news. Would you suggest that Sussex comprehensives are better than Tonbridge? Also any suggestion for names?
How do you compare Tonbridge Trio with Bexley trio of St Olaves, B Grammar and Chiselhurst and Siddcup?
So I guess I need to talk to the schools regarding my eldest age. Even though I would have assumed that if he does turn 16 during school year in November 2012 it should not be that bad? As for A's we surely will have to work hard to get that outcome as there is no other way.

ShellingPeas Wed 12-Oct-11 08:57:27

The issue with Kent 'comprehensives' is that they're not true comprehensives. The top 25% has been skimmed off into the grammar schools. Tonbridge has Haysbrook School and Hugh Christie Technical College - their websites give their GCSE/A level results. TBH these aren't bad for a comp in a grammar area.

Sussex is a comprehensive area so the schools don't have the top 25% taken awaya so perfom a little better. The pick in and around Tunbridge Wells would probably be Uplands Community College, but Beacon Community College is rapidly improving - A*-C of over 80% for GCSE and at sixth form pupils do go on to Oxbridge.

Judd is the top performing boys' grammar in the area, then Skinners', followed by TW grammar school for boys. I don't know much about the Bexley schools.

troisgarcons Wed 12-Oct-11 09:17:22

St Olaves is Bromley, not Bexley. Their admissions criteria is very stiff. My friends daughter transfered to their 6th form from Townley (12 A*s, 1A) and the interview was gruelling.

Beths will only take 'outsiders' in 6th form on the sibling rule and/or straight A's. Chis&Sid is notoriously difficult to get into. BGS is a little easier at 6th Form, but Beths is the one everyone hankers after. It is the top performing boys school in the country over and above private and independents.

Christ The King, Sidcup is a 6th form college with a variety of courses - it has a Catholic bias but it's not compulsory. It's traditional A levels have excellent results. It is mixed ability, as in it also runs vocational courses and BTECs for lesser able pupils.

Where I work has some of the best results in Bexley LA, but Im not going to 'out' where I work.

My collegues 3 boys all declined places at Judd in favour of Skinners. They were highly sought after pupils who scored 100% in their 11+

I'll say it until I'm blue in that face - if your child wants to succeed he or she will do it where ever. At this level grammars have very little to choose between them.

I think you should be looking at schools that practice 'vertical learning' which means they are placed regardless of age, according to ability. I believe some of the Maidstone schools have this system.

TootAndCommon Wed 12-Oct-11 16:03:10

I agree with NeedMoreSleep.
You could move very close to a good streamed comprehensive in an area without grammars - Graveney is a good suggestion, Dunraven would be another, possibly Haberdasher Askes?

Are you confident that your boys will pass a grammar exam at a very high level?

begumbeg Thu 13-Oct-11 01:43:48

Thanks ladies.
Troisgarcon your new advice sounds good. I want to understand that better. Which system uses this 'vertical learning' which means they are placed regardless of age, according to ability?
Needmoresleep and Toot I called Graveny and they were talking about the oversubscription issue and the fact that my elder son will be 16 in November and not the required September mark. i will write to them though and pursue. How is Wandsworth to live in? Another comprehensive I went to see today was Maiden Erlegh in Wokingham. Has anyone heard about that? I shall follow up on other suggestions on comprehensives as well and see where luck takes me. because if there is no vacancy then I hardly have any choice. Its just that my mind is still not clear about the area I would bet on as such I have no major preferences. Just want chances of the boys to be improved....Ahhh I need more sleep too!

troisgarcons Thu 13-Oct-11 06:23:25

Thing is, without coming across as 'harsh', unless you are deemed selective and go to grammar in Y7 or transfer across in Y12, they are virtually impossible to get into. The waiting lists are long.

Y8 is a possible move on the 12+ but in reality if a child has been in thenon-selective system, even after a year, they are that far behind their grammar counterparts it is very difficult to catch up. Even in Y12, non-selective kids that have done amazingly well at GCSE find it incrediblly difficult to transfer into grammar 6th forms -they are 2 years behind, the ethos and work ethic is so different.Most of the grammar kids have started at least one A level in Y10, and have 2 or 3 AS's under their belt upon entering Y12.

I have children in both system, and I cannot labour the point enough about the volume of work and self discipline needed.

Vertical learning is (as I understand it) an American system that a few schools are trying. Basically you move up (or down) according to ability, not age. I doubt many schools would ever go that route in this country because of timetabling issues, isolation from year group, emotional immaturity, bullying. There are a couple of schools in Kent that have piloted it, whether it's successful and they have retained it, I don't know.

In all honesty, there are other issues I would address first. Area where you want to live would be the main one, and look at schools locally. Ofcourse schools are 'better' in affluent areas, simply because the parents tend to keep their children on task. If you are that sort of parent, your child will succeed.

Your Elder son is 16 in November. Schools tend to let their pupils go in May for "study leave" - I would suggest you start looking at 6th forms for him ready for next September. I know Beths take an extra 40-50 in y12 - but competition is hot for those places. They base theirs on the sibling rule, first.

I've been looking at schools for my Y6 - and Bexleyheath Academy is ticking all the boxes. It has just converted to Academy, has a massive injection of funding, and a very straight talking pushy Head. It's a massive school, 300 in each year group so the setting is very good - at the top end these children will have only missed their 11+ by a few marks. It is undersubscribed as you go up the year groups as it had a pretty bad reputation a few years ago. All schools go in cycle and my guess Bexleyheath is on the up. It will be the nonselective school of choice for the foreseeable future. They also practice the 'condensed KS3', meaning GCSEs start in earnest in Y9 and are spread over 3 years rather than 2.

mummytime Thu 13-Oct-11 08:02:34

If you are looking at Reading have you phoned the Grammar school there?

There are a lot of outstnading Comprehensives around London: Charters (Ascot), George Abbot (Guildford), Howard of Effingham (Effingham) etc. There are also a lot of very good comprehensives, which might well suit your sons if they are highly motivated.
You need to decide where you want to live, and then investigate the local schools, it seems as if your older son is oin to have the most difficulties. Another alternative is that some schools (Weydon in Farnham I think is one) lets some pupils do GCSE early and start AS in year 11 before moving on to sixth form.

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