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St Christophers Letchworth or Northbridge House Senior - ????

(33 Posts)
Helloall Sun 04-Mar-12 13:11:55

Looking for a secondary for my son, currently at state primary in year 4. I know its a long way off but am trying to work out the next step. He's probably top of the middle set for ability - doing well - lovely caring and arty nature. He's good fun but a good boy too.

I love the ethos of St Christophers and the grounds. I can't find anyone with anything bad to say about it - so would love to hear some negative comments! I do like how inclusive the school is - but do people consider it a 'specialist' school for dyslexia?

North bridge House is nearer to us in North London but not sure about the Cognita side of it all.

Any advice? No holds barred opinions greatly appreciated.

Helloall Sun 04-Mar-12 14:25:55


HeartsTrumpDiamonds Sun 04-Mar-12 14:31:52

I don't know anything about St C but I would be wary of Cognita and Northbridge as well. Northbridge is undergoing some major changes include moving the senior school to the old Royal School Hampstead site and who knows how smoothly that will go?

Personally I also have a huge problem with privately owned, for-profit independent schools. Hate the idea of people making money off of children's education. At least they could be charities.

Only an opinion but HTH!

Helloall Sun 04-Mar-12 14:36:37

Thanks for that Hearts. I do know about all the changes at Northbridge House. I'm really keen to hear from parents who have sent children to St Christophers in Letchworth. Surely, it can't be a lovely as it seems?

Moominmammacat Sun 04-Mar-12 15:10:08

Letchworth is a lovely area. We had the choice of London or Hertfordshire for secondaries and I am so glad we moved them out of London.

Helloall Sun 04-Mar-12 15:17:13

We are planning to stay in London and the commute to Letchworth is a big issue though lots of children do it locally.

HeartsTrumpDiamonds Sun 04-Mar-12 16:02:05

Just had a look at the St Chris website hello all - impressive! It does not seem overly academic but that is a very good fit for a lot of children.

Big decision, good luck and at least you are giving yourself lots of time to make it!

ratherbeinnorfolk Tue 06-Mar-12 14:04:34

My DD1 was at St Chris from Year 7 to 11, she left last summer. I would say the school is very good in parts. She got 3A*'s, 5A's and 1 B for GCSE and A*, A, B, B for A level. She got into her first choice of uni in the top 12 in the country.

St Chris is laid back, kids can get away with doing very little work. They are not pushed and there are no exams until the end of Year 10. This can mean it's very hard to tell how they're doing. Some subjects are definitely better taught than others, English, Maths, History, Art, Drama, CDT excellent, Science pretty good. Foreign languages and Geography not so good. Your child does need to be motivated (either by themselves or parents). A lot of my DD's year left after AS because they had done very badly and went to crammers to try and catch up. I don't think this was due to bad teaching, more the optimistic expectation by the teachers that they would work independently. But some got places at unis like Durham, Birmingham, York, Edinburgh, and Queen Mary's London. They don't spoon feed which is good preparation for uni. There are a lot of kids with dyslexia but there is setting in English from Year 9 which helps both them and the ones who don't need extra help. It doesn't feel like a specialist school for dyslexia.

DD was a boarder for 3 years and then commuted by train from Finsbury Park. Socially half her friends lived in Letchworth and half very local in London (Finsbury Park station is the key to an easy commute).

She is shy and quiet but definitely thrived there, particularly creatively. Northbridge House was our second choice, but we felt it was too small with too many boys at the time we looked. I understand it's merging with the Royal School so will probably change a lot.

lazymum99 Tue 06-Mar-12 18:34:27

My son attended St Chris from year 6-11 and left last summer. He commuted on the school bus for the first 2 years and then chose to board from yr 8-11. We were very pleased with it. Not as laid back as it used to be. He only left after gcses because he wanted to be at school in London. He still sees friends in Letchworth.
There were some very bright kids in his year who got all A*s at GCSE and they are starting oxbridge classes in the 6th form.
The sports facilities are obviously much better than in London and they have there own pool. Music, art and drama also very good.
In our case St Chris really did live up to its reputation of treating every child as an individual. The staff really knew our son and his capabilities and what was holdong him back. Definitely not a specialist dyslexia school, but help is there if needed. pastoral care very good.

The biggest problem with St Chris is that it is not in London!

Don't have much knowledge of NBH senior except that it is very small with no facilities and boy heavy. Also no 6th form.

doesnotlivelocally Tue 06-Mar-12 20:35:51

My DC attends North Bridge House Senior School and has been doing so for a few years. DC loves it there. It is small but that is to change. They do have facilities where they are in Gloucester Ave and these facilites will improve once they move to Hampstead. They also have a specialist SEN unit and provide good educational support.

The school currently has more boys than girls but as they are to join a girl's school in September, things should balance out.

Helloall Wed 07-Mar-12 19:43:22

Thank you all for your comments.

We are really torn about what to do. So far the only parents I have found to talk to sent their children to St Chris partly for other reasons (one for the brilliant dyslexia provision and another because their child was very upset at the local prep). We don't have those extra criteria so are finding the choice quite hard.

I do want somewhere that is both nurturing but will also give him a kick up the proverbial backside when appropriate.

Helloall Wed 07-Mar-12 19:48:54

For those who sent their kids to St Chris, was there low level disruption in the class rooms? One of its old reports suggest this was a problem.

ratherbeinnorfolk Thu 08-Mar-12 09:17:02

Yes, I think there was a level of disruption in classes taught by some teachers. No worse than at my kids excellent London state primary, but much more than at my DD2's academic all girls secondary school (which is why she didn't go to St Chris, she disliked the disruption at primary).

We sent our DD1 to St Chris because although good academically she had a problem with maths. We knew that if even if she could get into a mainstream north London academic school she would be pushed and hassled about this. At St Chris it was absolutely accepted that you could be good at some things and struggle at others, she ended up with a B in GCSE maths which was fine. If you think your son is able to keep his head whilst all around are losing theirs he could do very well at St Chris, if he tends to go with the crowd there will be temptations.

Your son is only in Year 4, so although it's great to start thinking about this now, you don't have to make this decision for 2 years, and by then you may have a much better idea about what would suit him.

Helloall Thu 08-Mar-12 14:29:41


My DS is very creative and all though he just gravitate towards the arts his maths is fine. He's not a top flying grammar school type but he is very capable of doing well with GSCE's.

Did you ever worry that your DD wasn't learning enough?

Education for us is two tier, the pastoral side and the personal development for which St Chris seem unbelievable amazing at, and then the academic side. I'm wondering just how academically ambitious they are for the children and whether they do 'push' them?

ratherbeinnorfolk Thu 08-Mar-12 15:20:28

She could have been better taught and learned more in foreign languages, and geography was just very dull and uninspiring (she got an A at GCSE). In other subjects I think she did as well as she could have done anywhere but without undue stress. She ended up with 3A*, 5A and 1B for GCSE which was good enough for what she wanted to do later. I think you do have to have faith in the school and belief in your child, you are not going to be guaranteed good results.

My DD reacts badly to pressure and tends to give up through fear of failure. The atmosphere at St Chris was definitely encouraging, and allowed her creativity to develop (she got 100% in Photography A level). There is a wide range of ability and commitment amongst the kids, I think of it like a very expensive comprehensive.

Have you looked at Highgate School? My DN was there, he is creative (wants to be a film director) and not sporty but loved it.

Helloall Thu 08-Mar-12 16:10:43

I'm under the impression Highgate is very very competitive to get into to? It certainly seems that way. I doubt my DS would pass the entrance exam, even with tuition.

My DS flourishes when he likes the teacher and when he feels the teacher likes him. He has a really good moral compass.

I'm interested to know more about NBH - the whole Cognita / company side of it is a little off putting but it does seem very popular with parents of children there.

Helloall Thu 08-Mar-12 16:11:46

Oh, meant to say I'd be thrilled if my DS got your daughters results - well done to her!

Helloall Thu 08-Mar-12 19:55:18

So what about North Bridge House Senior?

The Good, bad and ugly?

Like St Chris - parents who have sent children there seem very happy. Is the school good at pushing your children a teeny bit? We don't want too much preassure but a little firm direction appreciated.

scurryfunge Thu 08-Mar-12 19:59:24

I used to kick around with some staff from St Christopher's in the 80s - is it still a vegetarian school? We used to feed the staff up on sausages at the weekend.

Can't add anything useful though!

lazymum99 Thu 08-Mar-12 20:41:41

It is still vegetarian. But it has changed since the 80s. Its not as laid back. exam results have become more important.

GospelOak Tue 03-Jul-12 08:32:09

I don't know if this is still open, but our experience of the SEN at North Bridge House was underwhelming. In the first place, you have to pay extra for any kind of support, so if your child is dyslexic and might need a couple of sessions a week, the cost would be astronomical. They have no concept of producing an IEP for a child who is having difficulties in a particular course. On two occasions my child has had problems keeping up with maths. NBH did nothing about it because he was still within the "normal" range. He was given a card that each teacher was meant to sign each day, confirming that he had written down and turned in his assignments -- this was never filled in and never followed up, and notes to the teacher asking what had become of it went unanswered. When I asked for some support, they offered to give him a workbook to do at home. The teachers there are not at all fond of any extra work and are not especially supportive, they also seem to be in and out and absent quite a lot (rumoured to be looking for other jobs). An English class this term has been taught more often by the PE and maths teachers than by the English teacher herself. If your child needs support, I don't think NBH is going to offer him much.

Sarcalogos Tue 03-Jul-12 09:02:23

If its a straight choice for a not particularly academic, dc, and you value individuality and a relaxed but purposeful atmosphere. St. Chris is the obvious choice.

Mutteroo Tue 03-Jul-12 11:42:30

I don't have any experience with either school but DS went to a school which was known as a non academic, V sporty, Excellent SEN provision school. Until you visit the school, you don't realise what a great school it is for academic &/or arty pupils as well!

Visit all the schools you like the sound of & let but instincts kick in. Also do a pros & cons list, check the charities commission &/or companies house website for the financial side of things & you'll come up with the right school for your child.

Magdalena45 Fri 04-Jan-13 00:05:24

Does anyone have any feed back on how st christopher's might suit a highly academic child who is being bullied elsewhere? Would a child like that be challenged there (would work well independently)?
Any views gratefully received!

NoThankYouToSideSalad Sun 06-Jan-13 16:31:51

Have you looked at Aldenham? It has a holistic approach to education with fantastic grounds. We chose it for DS because, whilst he is bright, we didn't think he would be happy in an academically pressured environment. Aldenham is in Elstree, but there is a school bus which picks up and drops off from various locations throughout North London.

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