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West London secondaries - I really can't see any good options

(60 Posts)
ThreaderickDorrit Tue 07-Feb-12 13:27:28

We live Hammersmith and Fulham. We are not religious. We cannot afford private education. DD1 is reasonably academic but also loves art, drama etc. My heart is sinking when I consider our options. I read threads from South and North London mums and they just seem to have so much more choice.

Can anyone add anything to my summary of choices for children in our area?

Hammersmith Academy - totally untested. Only has year 7s at the moment. Might turn out to be great or terrible and therefore it is a total gamble. It is a technology specialist school and for me that is offputting. All I ever hear is that it has great indoor facilities but very limited outdoor space.

West London Free School - totally untested. Only has year 7s. Might turn out to be great or terrible: total gamble. We can't even assess the facilities as the building is temporary but my understanding is that there will be very little outdoor space. The political will behind this school must increase the chance that it will be successful, but probably only for a certain type of child. It is run by Toby Young who comes across as one of the least appealing characters I have ever read/heard etc. He seems to know nothing about education and I fear he is a risk to the success of the school. I take my hat off to him for establishing it but he really should have stepped back at that point. The Head was once Head of a (very average private) school in Devon where I know some teachers. They do not rave about his abilities. Even setting aside these worries we have to bare in mind that if we want this school we are unlikely to get it. It is hugely oversubscribed already.

Pheonix High School - I actually know little about this school. I dismissed it because of its historic repuation for having a problem with violence and not getting great results. I have assumed its not an option for us but would love to hear from anyone who knows more about it.

Chiswick Community SChool - Satisafactory Ofsted. Huge school. Another Tech specialism. Massive turnover of Heads. Just doesn't sound great.

Tiffin - I did not start coaching the DDs while they were still in utero so I am assuming we stand no chance. It is also miles away.

Burlington Danes - sounds like it is doing well. But if you are not religious and you do not live nearby then you have no chance.

sue52 Tue 07-Feb-12 15:02:05

What about Ealing? The secondaries there do very well.

kensingtonia Tue 07-Feb-12 15:29:03

A lot of people in my area (North Ken) would be grateful to have the chance of two new schools to choose from! The non religious here only have Holland Park and the catchment area for that shrunk to a few hundred yards for some of the bands last year. What about the Art Aptitude route at Holland Park - that doesn't depend on where you live. The Tiffin Girls' entrance exam is likely to change this year to include English and maths. What about Fulham Cross or Hurlingham and Chelsea? For what it is worth I know some people with kids at Chiswick Community and they have no problem with it. Depending on where you live, some of the church schools (Lady Margaret) take non religious as well. I think Chelsea Academy take some on musical aptitude as do St Marylebone. Greycoats take on language aptitude. There are other options to consider!

mimbleandlittlemy Tue 07-Feb-12 15:52:56

I feel your pain, threaderick but do go and look round Chiswick Community School (or Chiswick School as it will soon be) and don't rule it out totally. Becomes an academy on 1st March, new head is really impressive and says he's not going anywhere, he has huge drive and motivation and wants to make it an outstanding school and the results are improving all the time. Last Ofsted was some time ago too and it has changed since that, and for the better. I was quite surprised when I went round and it will definitely be our first choice cometh the day, cometh the hour - ds liked it too. Lots of friends with children there and they are mostly really pleased - of course there's some gripes but I listen to other friends on the subject of some of the local West London private schools and it's not always rosy on the Dark Side wink

Where we're going to put as 2nd - 5th choice is in the lap of the gods mind you. Would rather eat own foot than send ds to WLFS which seems to be just a self-pleasuring vehicle for Gove and Young. Deep sigh.

banditqueen Tue 07-Feb-12 18:16:31

I'm guessing your DC is year 5 ThreaderickDorrit? I've just been through all this as DS is year 6 and also in Hammersmith & Fulham area.

I agree with kensingtonia, art aptitude at Holland Park might be worth a shot for you, they have quite a few places.

The schools you mention are all the ones we applied to (they're the only options really!) except we also put down Holland Park and didn't select Phoenix.

If I could time travel back a year, I think I would move house and move DS' school to be in catchment for Holland Park. It would have been a massive upheaval, especially as you also need to be enrolled in a Kensington primary to fit the criteria, but it is the only one of the 6 preferences that I would actually be happy with. I am renting, so that was more of a possibility.

We have also gone for bursary places at various independents.

Mominatrix Wed 08-Feb-12 06:43:48

I'd give another look at Hammersmith Academy . It is being co-sponsored by Mercers who are entrusted with the financing and involved in the running of St. Paul's boys and girls and have experience with other academies - so a proven track record.

Here is a blurb about Hammersmith Academy from the Mercer Report:

"The new school boasts a large Theatre with
Drama and Dance studios, digital editing and IT suites,
four-bay sports hall and fitness suite, modern practical
science, technology and art and design spaces, outdoor
astroturf area, restaurant, library, and bright, modern
classrooms. The Thomas Telford team has been involved
in the IT design and fitting-out programme, with specialist
input from the BRIT School on Digital and Creative
Media. The nearby St. Paul’s Schools also gave valuable
help during the construction phase, providing office space
and administrative support.

The academy will gradually fill up to its capacity
of 780 students by 2015, and, supported by its Mercer
and IT Company governors, is seeking to establish a
strong record of academic excellence and progression
for its students.'

Sounds promising.

majurormi Wed 08-Feb-12 09:19:52

Nix Hurlingham and Chelsea off your list, I live across from it and the children who go there are feral. It recently got an outstanding OFSTED rating but I would not send my children there based on the student body. The children from Chelsea ACademy seem lovely and the facilities are beautiful, although no outside space. Not sure about academics. We are faced with the same problem but have a Catholic God on our side. While not religious I am becoming one with our priest to increase the chances of an Oratory or Cardinal Vaughn entrance. So hypocritical but necessary

BarryShitpeas Wed 08-Feb-12 09:27:25

I am confused as to why you are considering CCS if you live in H & F?

Is it likely that you would get in from another borough?

Phoenix seems much more stable, less stabby, and getting better results than it used to, fwiw.

ThreaderickDorrit Wed 08-Feb-12 10:25:00

Lol at Pheonix being "less stabby" than it used to be Barry! What an advert for the school. The reason I listed CCS is that it's distance criteria is not Borough based and there are parts of H&F that are closer to CCS than parts of Hounslow are. I am not sure whether we would get a place but I have been lead to believe that it is not impossible.

Mominatrix - thanks for the info on Hammersmith Academy. It is promising that the Mercers are involved. I do worry that competition from the West London Free School will not benefit Hammersmith Academy which maybe had a better shot at success before it seemed likely that the WLFS would cream-ff some of the more academically inclined children in the area. I really hope I am wrong as the ethos of Hammersmith Academy is more attractive than the ethos of the Free School. How brilliant if they could both be successful.

Kensingtonia and Bandit - I had never heard of the arts aptitude test at Holland Park so thank you for alerting me to that. We may well give it a go. Our of interest Bandit, where are you most hoping to get a place? What is your first preference?

Mimble - I agree that it is a real shame that Gove and Young have mixed politics and education in the creation of WLFS. Such a shame and I think such a risk for the future of the school.

Sue - I think there are some great religious secondaries in Ealing but I am not sure what is on offer for the agnostics among us.

Majurormi - sadly I do not think Chelsea Academy is really an option for those of us to the west of the Borough. Good luck with finding God!

BarryShitpeas Wed 08-Feb-12 10:38:25

Oh that's interesting- I didn't know that CCS criteria wasn't borough based.

I went to an open day there last October and was quite impressed BUT if they are in the process of converting to academy status, I can't think it will be good for teacher morale, and maybe they will lose some of the friendly community school ethos? And maybe lose some good teachers, who don't want to work for an academy? I spoke to the head and he said that politically he didn't want to become an academy, but financially he had no choice.

Holland Park or Phoenix would be my choice, but then I am a die hard "Just go to your local school!" bore.

My (many) in-laws, who live in K & C all send their kids to Church schools, and never have a problem getting in, despite being muslim. I think the number of places for children from other faiths is quite high, if this were a route you wanted to go down.

banditqueen Wed 08-Feb-12 16:26:21

Hi ThreaderickDorrit, Tiffin is first preference but no chance as DS thinks he didn't do well in the tests, Holland Park next via art route but again art isn't actually DS' thing so very unlikely... So we are prepared to be disappointed... Hammersmith Academy is very close and WLFS not so far, so I'm sure we'll get one of those two options. Pinning my hopes on independent school bursary places.

kensingtonia Wed 08-Feb-12 18:54:52

Just wanted to say that as a current user of Holland Park - in some ways it is very good but there are downsides too, you need to look behind the spin. Burlington Danes (my old school) is on the up apparently. Hurlingham and Sion Manning seem to the schools that the kids around here who don't get into Holland Park go to as they both have poor reputations, I see kids from both on a daily basis and they seem ok. On the other hand I also see some kids (not all) from Chelsea Academy and Holland Park who are monsters. I have been inside the Chelsea building and it is bigger than it looks from going past. Phoenix used to be awful but it is in a really deprived area - I knew someone who worked there a few years ago and she thought the kids were really nice.

banditqueen Wed 08-Feb-12 20:14:46

My old school too kensingtonia! Having looked around recently at the open day, I think DS would be more miserable there now than even I was many years ago (quite hard to beat) even if their results are probably better.

kensingtonia Wed 08-Feb-12 23:02:24

I concur! I spent the most miserable days of my life at that place. I go past it about once a week and I still feel sick I couldn't even bear to go and see it when we were looking at schools.

serendipity16 Thu 09-Feb-12 17:59:01

We're in h&f & my DS is currently in yr6.
I felt like that when we were looking round the schools.
I'm nervous about what school my DS is going to get, he really wants to
go to the West London Free School.

TobyYoung Thu 09-Feb-12 18:05:59

Not much enthusiasm for the WLFS here – which is fine, not chippy, honest. For those that are interested in applying for a place in 2013 and beyond, you should bear in mind that we only admit 45% of our pupils according to straight line distance. 10% are admitted on musical aptitude, 30% via a lottery within a three-mile radius and 15% via a lottery within a three-to-five-mile radius. So even if you don't live close to the school, it's still worth applying for a lottery place.

I notice the posters here almost all assume that taxpayer-funded secondary schools give preference to in-borough residents and express surprise when it's pointed out that some school or other doesn't. In fact, no taxpayer-funded secondary school in England is allowed to give preference to in-borough residents. (Attending in-borough primaries is a separate issue.) That's been true since a landmark legal case in Greenwich. (Google "The Greenwich Agreement".) So don't assume that because a school is in a different borough to the one you live in that you won't get in. If you don't get in and subsequently discover that the school has discriminated against you because you're not resident in the same borough, you will have grounds for a successful appeal.

In addition, anyone with a child at a fee-paying school who's thinking about applying for a place in Year 7 at a taxpayer-funded school in 2013 should know that the deadline for doing so is October 31st, 2012. I've come across quite a few parents who don't know this and by the time they start thinking about taxpayer-funded schools for their DD or DS they've missed the deadline.

Another thing they're often not aware of: If your DD or DS is "out of year", i.e., either younger or older than is normal for a child in their year group, they shouldn't expect to remain either a year ahead or a year behind when transferring to a taxpayer-funded secondary. Most secondaries – particularly the oversubscribed ones – won't accept applications from out-of-year children. So if your DD or DS is a year behind, for instance, he/she will be rejected by most taxpayer-funded secondary schools if you apply at the beginning of Year 6 as too old for a place in Year 7 the following year. You'll need to apply when your DD or DS is beginning Year 5 at the fee-paying school. I'm always amazed that 99% of heads of fee-paying schools don't inform parents of this when they suggest moving their child up a year or keeping them back a year. The end result, whether intended by the head in question or not, is that you're then locked into the private sector through to 18.

This applies to some children at Jacques Prevert, too, who are sometimes out-of-year even though they're in the correct year from the French point of view. We've had to turn down applications from children at Jacques Prevert who, though they're at the beginning of the French equivalent of Year 6, are too young to apply for places at our school.

One last point: The West London Free School Academy Trust is applying to open a primary in Hammersmith in 2013. If you're going to be applying for a place in reception for your DD or DS in either 2013 or 2014 and think you might be interested in our primary, you can register your interest here:

If you fill in this form, we'll get back to you when the time comes to apply. Similar sort of ethos to the secondary: Core of traditional, academic subjects complemented by music, art, drama and sport. Most distinctive characteristic will be lots of specialised subject teachers so an above-average number of lessons will be delivered by subject specialists rather than class teachers, with the percentage increasing as your child moves up the school. All children at the primary will automatically qualify for places at the secondary and the sibling policy applies in both directions, i.e. we'll give priority to sibs whether they're applying for the primary or the secondary.

serendipity16 Thu 09-Feb-12 18:59:05

Thanks Toby for the information.
I've heard about the primary school & it's something we will be thinking about when its time for our youngest to go to school.
Only a few weeks to wait to see if we've got a place at the WLFS, fingers crossed.

Bethnella Thu 09-Feb-12 19:39:56

I just wanted to say that as a teacher who works at a primary school very close to Hurlingham and Chelsea school and who also has a daughter currently in Y6, I have never seen feral children coming or going from it. I was really impressed with the head and his vision for the schools future and of the teachers I spoke to on the parents night, some of whom had worked there back when it was in special measures, had nothing but genuine praise for the school. I know that mud sticks when it comes to school reputations but there are many more schools out there that I would be less happy about my daughter attending. Saying that, it is not my first choice, WLFS is, but as I am out of the borough I have fingers and toes crossed!!!!! I just wish more people would put their faith in local comp schools and send their children to them to drive up standards.

kensingtonia Thu 09-Feb-12 20:00:38

I used to think Holland Park was awful because of the behaviour of the kids on the bus and in Notting Hill Gate; now my child is there it seems "normal". I agree that you cannot necessarily judge by a few impressions. I was once told by an educational psychologist that there are three things to look at as far as schools are concerned; "the headteacher, the headteacher & the headteacher" and the current head at Holland Park has certainly turned it around.

Just a comment re borough boundaries -schools are allowed to prioritise kids from borough primary schools which is perfectly legal.

As a school appeal panel member, I have seen some desperately unhappy parents and kids and would urge you to have a plan A, B, C, D, E & F. Think realistically and always allow for catchment areas suddenly shrinking. Use all your choices wisely, so even if the school you are allocated is literally your last choice, it may be better than a school you never heard of in another borough.

Bethnella Thu 09-Feb-12 20:31:03

I think that was my reasoning behind having Hurlingham and Chelsea on my list. I am in the Wandsworth borough, the Putney end, and my choices are very limited. H&C is actually my closest school on straight line distance, but in my borough Elliott school is, and that is definitely a no-no for me. I am a firm believer that if your child is focused and have a loving, supporting family, they have the potential to succeed wherever they go....hopefully I won't be seeing you at an appeal!!!

ThreaderickDorrit Fri 10-Feb-12 09:37:07

WLFS primary is an interesting development as we live in a Borough primary blackspot, last year nobody on our street got allocated a Hammersmith primary, they were sent to Fulham which is many traffic clogged miles away.

Toby, I'm rather aware I was quite rude about you above so you may not feel disposed to answer my questions, and may chuckle that I'd even consider your primary after my comments on your secondary, but needs must as we have a 2013 Reception starter who may get no primary offer... What will be the entrance criteria for the primary & how many classes will it have?

areyoutheregoditsmemargaret Fri 10-Feb-12 10:44:02

kensingtonia, what are the downsides to H Park then? You say much improved but to look behind the spin. I have been v impressed by behaviour of kids on buses etc, don't know what it was like longer ago.

sue52 Fri 10-Feb-12 11:09:48

I was thinking of Drayton Manor and Ellen Wilkinson school, both of which get around 75% A-C at GCSE. There is also Twyford Cof E which seems to have a relaxed attitude to the religious bit (from what friends tell me).

Azure Fri 10-Feb-12 17:10:01

My DS is in year 6 and we're also really hoping to get a place at WLFS. I was disappointed that the admissions rules this year measures distance from the Town Hall rather than the proposed site - unfortunately for us that's 1/2 mile in the wrong direction. I have also heard of two families just from one small independent school three miles away who have rented properties near the school (and moved in temporarily) to maximise their chances of admission. Who knows how many others with the money to do so have done the same? Very depressing for those of us who genuinely live within walking distance.

justonemorethread Fri 10-Feb-12 17:22:52

Cardinal Vaughan is where I went and not all pupils were catholic, so not sure how that works... Try to speak to someone and see if you can get an interview?

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