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SW London Catholic - Secondary choices

(9 Posts)
retrorobot Mon 21-Jan-13 21:35:01

I am hoping for some input as to the above. We have DD in Y4 and DS in Y2, both in a Catholic state primary school. We're at the southern end of Wandsworth Borough.

The options for DD seem to be the Ursuline High in Wimbledon and St. Philomena's in Carshalton. The journey to each from us would take about the same length of time and involve much the same amount of hassle. The two schools seem fairly comparable. However, based on drilling down into the results and looking at the universities/degrees that leavers go on to do it seems to us that Ursuline High is marginally stronger (1 more GCSE per pupil, more disadvantaged intake). We also have much more certainty that our daughter will get in on distance. (We know that Sacred Heart and Coloma get significantly better results, but they are too far and admission too uncertain for us to rely on them.)

The options for DS are trickier. The default would be Wimbledon College but I am worried that it is too much of a sporty school for him and I have heard some stories about bullying. Ideally we would to have him go to London Oratory or Cardinal Vaughan and I think he has a good chance of getting into either, but nothing like a certainty. The journey time to each is about 45 minutes which is reasonable.

There are other nearer Catholic secondary schools - the new John Bosco school in Wandsworth itself and La Retraite over the border in Lambeth. However, the academic results at those schools seem to me to be such that our children would not be pushed sufficiently to perform academically. We are first language English speakers not from the U.K. but have an Oxbridge postgrad and a Russell group postgrad respectively which I guess makes us pretty aspirational for our children. They are not geniuses but are bright and hard-working/interested. They certainly don't need to be spoonfed - they're both quite independent, but need a bit of a challenge. Ideally, we would like them to go study something relatively serious at a Russell group university. Our philosophy with regard to sport, music and art is that they should do them to enjoy themselves in the knowledge that it's not going to be all enjoyment - doing well at something takes hard work. We've always said that they shouldn't have any thoughts of making a career at any of the three.

I now have other parents asking me when we are going to start having DD tutored for the Wandsworth test to get into Graveney or the 11+ for the Sutton grammars. Some also ask if we are going to go private and send our daughter to an independent school. We could afford to pay the fees but it would be £100,000 each for them for seven years which would affect how able we are to fund them for university, post-grads, etc. I completely understand spending the money if the only alternative is a poor or mediocre state school but if the alternative is a good or very good state school then I wonder whether it is worth it. We are also quite keen for them to go to Catholic schools because these days Catholic teachings are so far from the public mainstream and, although I probably naive about this, I think that teenagers at Catholic schools are less sexualised and maybe a bit more innocent. However, right now there aren't any Catholic independent secondary schools nearly (we know of the new Catholic boys secondary being opened near East Croydon). We have ruled out Graveney so

if you had the choice of schools that we have:

- would you take a place at a Sutton grammar over them (or any of them)?

- would you send your child to an independent school and, if so, which ones would be your preference?

Also, are there other considerations or state school choices that we should be thinking about?

PureQuintessence Mon 21-Jan-13 21:42:52

I have two sons at a Catholic Primary in Richmond, one in Y6 and one in Y3, though we live just across the border in Wandsworth. Same type of dilemma. We applied for CVMS, Gunnersbury (in Hounslow), St Richard Reynolds (New RC Secondary in Twickenham - boys and girls) and Christs C/E school in Richmond.

From the indies, we have favoured KCS, Emanuel and Ibstock due to distance of the latter and ethos of the two former indies.

We did not apply for Wimbledon College, and not John Bosco, and not Ashcroft. Too far for the Graveney.

retrorobot Mon 21-Jan-13 21:57:54

Thanks PureQuintessence

We are the other end of Wandsworth so Gunnersbury won't work and St Richard Reynolds would be a long trek and I guess is an unknown commodity.

Can I ask you why you ruled out Wimbledon College?

Also, you mentioned ethos at KCS and Emanuel. I think for DS KCS would be our preferred choice. might suit him well. One of my friends went there so I know a little of it - he entered at 11+ on assisted places scheme. How do the different ages of entry work? (Unfortunately, the website isn't that clear.)

Do you think you will end up going with an indie?

PureQuintessence Mon 21-Jan-13 22:08:23

I dont know what we will do to be honest. DS favours Gunnersbury and Christs. Mostly because he will have school friends there. He also liked Emanuel and KCS a lot. We are currently awaiting the decisions, will hear from the independents by 14th or 22nd February latest. But he has not yet sat the exam at Ibstock.

The main reason why we did not go for the Merton/Wandsworth Catholic Secondaries was the ofsted ratings, but we also know somebody with a son at WC who does not rate it as highly as we hoped for. We also did not manage to go to their open day, as it collided with Christs, but we could have worked around that because Christs had more than one open day. WC was very late displaying information about their open day, I kept checking a few timer per week, and then suddenly it had already been! Also John Bosco is moving closer to Battersea, so not that convenient in the new location.

I think you can also go to KCS from 7+. Emanuel has a 10+ intake, but must register a few years in advance I think. So this is worth checking.

OhDearConfused Tue 22-Jan-13 09:35:22

There is an attempt at opening a new "catholic ethos" secondary in Clapham: Not sure whether it will get off the ground - a new school there seems totally unnecessary, but hey ho that's Gove for you.

Also, Emanuel doesn't need a long registration. We went to the open day and the head said they closed applications at 500, so hurry on up if you wanted to apply. The inference of course being that you could register the next day and still sit the test.

Copthallresident Tue 22-Jan-13 10:12:54

retrobot I have two DDs through or almost through school and I would not make the decision based on believing the DCs will be any less sexualised, likely to experiment with drugs etc. in Catholic Schools. That is simply not the case. It goes on in every school, if anything more at Oratory, but then that probably reflects it's location. One of DDs peers had to leave Oratory after drugs were found at school but then was taken in to Wimbledon College (he was a boy who did a stupid thing rather than actually having a drugs issue). The "cool" kids from every school meet up outside of school anyway, and schools have very little power over what happens there and the influences they encounter, but you will also find that in every school there will be friendship groups who have entirely different values, and aren't interested in wild parties.

stclemens Tue 22-Jan-13 14:58:31

Would you not consider aiming for the grammars regardless of what else you do - if you pass the exam you have a choice. That probably does mean tutoring and/or doing practice papers etc. It strikes me that this would fulfill your aspirational aims, if they got through. those who are anti-grammars tend to be because either they are very pro-comps or because they are anti-tutoring - you don't sound like you fall in either camp.

Then I think whether you want them to go to the nearest Catholic school or the independent is a matter of trading off money vs the things independent schools offer - wider choice of subjects, smaller classes, more sport, different peer group, different parents(!) - which is a very personal thing.

retrorobot Tue 22-Jan-13 18:23:52

Thanks everyone for the replies. It is much appreciated. We'd like to hear more about what people in our position have done or are planning to do.


I completely agree with what you say. However, I do think that single sex at secondary keeps teenagers less sexualised and that Catholic teaching on sexuality is a much better foundation for teenagers than is acknowledged. We both went to mixed secondary schools but it was the late 80s so a more innocent time and also in more conservative societies than the U.K. today.


Re the Sutton grammars, I would be all for gearing DC up to do the test and have them sit it, even just to give them something to work for, especially with the English and maths tests, but if admission is what we are aiming for then I think weekly paid-for tutoring as well is a must, at least based on what other people we know are doing. The negatives for me of the grammar schools are:
- travel time (extra hour a day at least, although at least it would be on a mainline train)
- not living any way local to the school or feeling rooted in the local community (although, from what I hear, at least half the pupils will be in the same category)
- not getting a Catholic education and having a link with their religious community
- more limited mix of peers - my preference would be for comprehensive only schools with rigorous (but flexible) streaming

Although not so relevant to the decision whether to aim for them, the likelihood of DD getting admitted to either of the Sutton girls' schools is low - we are outside the catchment areas so she would have to be top 80 for Nonsuch or top 100 for Wallington. There will be a lot of people competing for those 180 places.

Looking at the 2011 results for Nonsuch and Wallington and comparing them with Ursuline High, and comparing only the high attainers (Nonsuch and Wallington are 95%+ high attainers, Ursuline High 40%), the number of proper GCSEs taken at each school is the same and the ave point score over best 8 GCSEs at Nonsuch and Wallington is half a grade higher than at Ursuline High. The ave high attainer at Ursuline High will get 8 As while the ave high attainer at Nonsuch or Wallington will get 4 A* and 4 A. Obviously that's a difference in academic outcome, but to me it's not overwhelming or necessarily solely attributable to the quality of the school. Is my view on this crazy? (We'll be looking at the 2012 results when they are released later this month.)

Re independent schools, I think you are completely right - it is a question of whether it is value for money for us and DC and I am not convinced that it is, assuming we could get Ursuline High for DD and the Oratory or the Vaughan for DS. We know that the physical facilities and sporting facilities are much better in independent schools but that isn't important to us. The peer group issue is pushing us against independent schools. Again, our concern is academic outcome which, sadly, amounts to (1) whether they will get in to study a good degree at a good university AND (2) do well when they are there.

Copthallresident Tue 22-Jan-13 19:27:23

retrobot I have a DD who just moved from single sex to coed, and a condition of my DDs having Facebook is that I am their "friend". I think that single sex education has many benefits in terms of being tailored to the needs of girls but actually the presence of boys stifles some of the more extreme and overt predatory sexuality. I can assure you the pictures that shock tend to be from Girls' schools, including Sacred Heart and Ursuline. Boys are not quite so tempting if you know their socks smell, nor are boys that you are at school alongside going to tolerate bitchy and exclusive behaviour or becoming "scalps". In fact DD, although she doesn't miss the bitchiness, and certainly was never tempted to join in with all the attention seeking behaviou, rather miss the gossip and scandal.

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