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Should we move house to be near the Royal Latin Grammar School?

(32 Posts)
freckleface75 Tue 22-Oct-13 13:03:36

Agonising over the difficult decision of whether to move house to be near the Royal Latin or stay put in central Northampton. My DD (yr 3) is bright, but no idea how she will compare with the other entrants. She is currently at a state primary. Alternatives are Northampton School for Girls and Malcom Arnold. But you only get 25% chance on your first choice in Northampton.

Pros: Academic focus, like-minded families? But is the teaching actually any better than a Northampton mixed ability academy? Thinking of starting early with 11+ tuturing so not a last minute stress.

Cons: You need to move before taking the test (in year 6) in order to be in catchmet for the allocations, but what if she doesn't get in?. I have three kids - what if the others don't get in? Are all the other kids coming from private prep schools so we will be unfairly disadvantaged? We would double our house price (but we could afford it, just). We would double our commutes to work. We would have to buy another car.

tiggytape Tue 22-Oct-13 13:22:17

On the face of it, it seems a huge risk and a big sacrifice to make for an uncertain outcome over many years (all 3 children needing to pass). Maybe however someone more local would advise you differently?

Even if DD gets a place (and that depends how many others she is competing against and how bright they are as much as how bright she is) your other DCs might not. Their year groups will all be bigger so the competition for places can only increase as the years go by. It is probably also too early to tell if they are on the right track to pass and if the school would suit them as much as it might suit DD.

Royal Latin is also in Bucks.
Bucks is one of the areas that has a lot of grammar schools so if a child doesn't get in, the school they will be sent to is not really a mixed ability comp. Most of the top group children are skimmed off in Bucks as opposed to London for example where the grammars only skim off 6-8%. In London the other schools therefore still have proper top groups, are genuine comps and aren't negatively affected by having some selective schools nearby. In Bucks however about 30% of children are skimmed off so the effect on the other schools is very different.

Overall, it depends on what the Plan B school is like assuming you did move. Is the school she will get allocated (assuming a near miss for the 11+) much better than the schools near your current house? If so the risk isn't so huge but if not then it would seem a huge gamble to take especially with 3 children to think of. The house price and commute would also be a big negative but maybe I'm especially risk adverse?

freckleface75 Tue 22-Oct-13 13:57:54

Thanks, some really helpful thoughts there. We might be able to stretch to private education for one or two of the others if necassary. And I am going to start with the tuturing in year 4, which should hopefully give us some idea of the likelyhood of passing. So some of the risks are mitigated that way.

Question is: will they be stretched to achieve, will they enjoy it and find it stimulating, and is all of that important? I have heard that bright kids in the comps in Northampton learn to "keep their heads down" - which seems a crying shame...

LittleSiouxieSue Tue 22-Oct-13 19:45:01

Hi ! I went to RLS! There are not that many prep schools in the area so plenty come from local schools. Your biggest problem is that if your children do not get the 11+ the other school in Buckingham is a secondary modern, not in any shape or form a comprehensive. It also has a chequered Ofsted history which would put me off. However, if you went to live at Waddesdon you would be in catchment for that C of E secondary which has a notoriously small catchment area but is better than many comprehensives. RLS is a great school with an amazing history and I really do understand why you would want your children to go there but you need to really look into what schools you will get into (Brackley?) if you do not get RLS. The teaching at RLS remains high quality and, although a few have traditionally joined Stowe's 6 th form, RLS has excellent results. The school takes from Bucks and outside Bucks if space permits. Parents really are a mix of local people with a variety of jobs. Bucks children take the 11+ early in year 6 so you need to be in Bucks in year 5 ideally. Also check what form the Bucks 11+ takes as I believe there are now 2 tests and not the average score of the best of 2 out of 3 as previously. All the tests were verbal reasoning but you will need to check with Bucks CC so see if changes have been made. The school is deservedly popular but is the only Grammar in north Bucks. If you are in catchment you will get school transport. Hope that helps.

LittleSiouxieSue Tue 22-Oct-13 19:55:37

Oh by the way... Be careful with tutoring. In my experience tutors will take your money and NOT be honest with parents about likelihood of better a pass mark. I know of a parent who scrimped and saved for 2 years for tutors and DD got 103. You needed 121 out of 141 maximum. Tutor must have known! Also you get a "feel" in Bucks primary schools about who is likely to pass and how your DC compare. If they are level 5 they may not be grammar school material because of the mental agility and speed needed for the test. Children who read widely, have general knowledge and who like mathematical puzzles do well. Tutoring may get a few extra marks but you will never get from 103 to 121! Exam technique is all and you can always work through the Susan Doughtrey books.

hottiebottie Wed 23-Oct-13 10:35:53

@freckleface - all of my DCs have either been to, are currently at or have an application pending for that school! I can't recommend it strongly enough. It has very high expectations and supports students in achieving their full potential. And we are out of catchment, in your county, in fact. Historically, the number of children qualifying in the catchment has not been enough to fill the Y7 cohort so between 1/4 and 1/3 of places are allocated outside the county each year. We have benefited from the sibling link, but after that, allocations are done on distance so it is really only out-of-county applicants living very close to the county boundary that have a realistic chance.

However, if your DD is currently in Y3 I would strongly advise you to move within the catchment as the population of Buckingham is increasing and is set to do so even more over the next few years, so that by about 2016 there's a chance that the school might only be able to cater for its own catchment area and there will no longer be any places available for outsiders. Having said that, the other posters make a good point regarding alternatives. Buckingham School has improved quite a bit over the last few years, and there are plans to share a 6th form with RLS in due course. If you choose to live close to the county boundary on the Bucks side you also have the option of some good comps in South Northants and Oxfordshire (Magdalen in Brackley with "Good" Ofsted rating, Sponne in Towcester with "Outstanding") and many students transfer from these schools to RLS for A-levels, subject to strong GCSE performance. There is also a brand new free school (all-ability) in Winslow, which is in RLS catchment.

As regards tutoring, I wouldn't advise starting formal tutoring before the beginning of Y5. Or at least not specifically exam-focused tutoring - though anything that helps your DD stay ahead in Maths and English is a good idea. I found Carol Vorderman's TheMathsFactor very useful in leading up to the test, and I know that this covers most of the primary curriculum so perhaps that might be a good start. Otherwise, particularly as the verbal element is strongly weighted, encourage your daughter to read, read, read - and learn new vocabulary as she goes along, as the new test contains what I would consider very difficult words for a 10-year-old. Candidates have to pick out antonyms or synonyms for words such as "belligerent", "coy" and "frivolous", to give just a few examples of words used in CEM tests for other areas. Fortunately this accounts for just a small part of the marks! The process has indeed changed in the last year and my DD was one of the "guinea pigs" for the new tests, run by CEM Durham. They are very intensive and time-pressured, consisting of two 45-minute tests on the same day with a short break in between, with approximately 100 questions in total on each paper. I recommend you take a look at www.elevenplusexams.co.uk, especially the pages on Buckinghamshire and the Forum sections on Buckinghamshire and 11+ Exams.

Best of luck!

freckleface75 Tue 29-Oct-13 18:39:01

Thank all - great advice.

freckleface75 Mon 06-Jan-14 16:19:59

Hi folks, Just returning to this thread after a period of reflection. Of course I would need to get my younger two into a primary school in or near to Buckingham. What is the scoop on which primary school is best? Looking at past admissions it seems as though the village schools are not over-subscribed but the ones in town are? That is going to be important if we are moving kids in year 1 and year 3....

adoptmama Mon 06-Jan-14 20:28:29

I'm just going to say - no. Don't move your whole family on the hope/off chance you'd get your DD into this one school. There are lots of good schools. Schools that give community involement, clubs, societies, trips and visits, great teachers, friendship and support. A school doesn't have to be 'excellent' in Ofsted or high in the exam rankings to offer your child a terrific education and a good 'all round' experience.

Think too how much more after school fun you'll all have doing stuff together as a family when you haven't given yourself the financial burden of extra cars and mortgage payments and a longer work commute. And think how much happier your kids will be without the subconscious pressure of feeling they need to excel in their education because you and your DH made the financial sacrifice to get into a particular catchment area.

But then, I am becoming increasingly sad for a generation of children who are seeing their childhood freedom and fun being eroded by 11+ etc. tutoring beginning at 8, 9 and 10 years of age. It's too much, too young.

freckleface75 Tue 07-Jan-14 14:23:53

Very true, but on the flip side...

She is really bright and very academic. She just turned 8, and read 10 paper back books over the Xmas holidays. She has read her encyclopaedia from front to back and is able to apply / use the facts she has learnt. I think the street-wise kids in the comprehensives will make mincemeat out of her.

Also, I am thinking of the interesting people we will meet along the way. I went to a grammer school and my best friend's parents were an immunologist and a geneticist. My husband and I both went to Cambridge. So far we have found very few "like minded" families to hang out with. The school the kids go to is a good school, but the other families are not well educated and we have nothing in common....

I would appreciate any comments - it is a great debate!

Also, any thoughts on primary schools in and around Buckingham?

MillyMollyMama Tue 07-Jan-14 15:11:39

Hello Freckleface. Bourton Meadow Academy is the best school in Buckingham and has been for a while. It is a large school and you would have to look at their admission arrangements to judge where to live. Also a number of village schools around Buckingham are Infant schools so you would need to see where their transfer to at age 7. Gawcott (Roundwood School) is worth a look and Winslow Primary is popular but is also quite large.

Be very aware that at the moment Bucks CC has refused to pay transport costs to any school in Buckingham, including RLS, from Winslow because it says the new Freemantle Free School is the catchment school. RLS is objecting to this and, of course, you would have to be somewhat mad to choose an unproven free school of about 120 pupils (at the moment) over one of the oldest Grammar Schools in the Country! It was set up by the family of Betsy Duncan Smith (Lord Cottesloe (Freemantle) because a few parents did not like Buckingham Secondary school. RLS is definitely worth moving for and Buckingham is a university town so you will meet like minded people! I would definitely look at Bourton Meadow first.

Spursjinny Sun 02-Feb-14 21:14:17

I love The Royal Latin School, DD1 attends there and hopefully DD2 will join her in September. However, moving your entire family to Buckingham just for a chance of getting in is in my opinion extremely risky. The new 11+ exam is brutal and I was shocked at the amount of very bright, academic children who didn't pass.

MillyMollyMama Sun 02-Feb-14 23:24:55

Spursjinny. RLS will not be empty though, will it? It is not in the interests of the school to have places going begging as they will lose money. I bet the appeals will sort this out if the test result has been set too high. They can also lower the pass mark. Is there any evidence that RLS will have lots of spare places or is it anecdotal at the moment?

lainiekazan Mon 03-Feb-14 09:31:49

I agree that undertaking a move for a grammar school is risky, especially when you have several dcs not all of whom might make the cut.

I know a family who moved opposite a very high-ranking grammar school, in the certain belief their dd would pass the 11+. She didn't. The parents were incredibly bitter. They had taken on a huge mortgage to have their noses rubbed in it every single day. They swiftly moved again and from then on became staunch anti-grammar school campaigners (the dh even joining the LibDems...) which I thought was a bit rich.

tiggytape Mon 03-Feb-14 10:14:43

You do have to consider that with the 11+
Even if your child is incredibly bright - years ahead of their peers and definitely the type of child whose personality is suited to grammar school - they still might not pass.
The new Bucks test is highly time pressured for example and therefore a conscientious, bright child can by blown away by having to do questions too quickly to be as careful and accurate as they'd like. Other children suffer nerves very badly in the real thing even if they are fine in mocks (and why shouldn't they - they are only 10?). Others just have a bad day and make a few silly errors over a few questions or miss out a section by accident.

You won't find many parents with a child who passed the 11+ who is surprised they passed but you will find lots of teachers and parents who know children who were absolute dead certs to get into grammar school who - on the day - didn't.

OneMoreMum Mon 03-Feb-14 12:58:54

Have you considered Milton Keynes? There are a number of very good schools (obvious from the league tables) all of which if you live in the right location (or attend the right primary school) you can be pretty certain of a place at. More importantly you can be sure that all your children will get a place and can relax an enjoy your life instead of spending it fretting over 11+ cramming. You could always take at a crack at the 11+ when the time comes, only siblings and appeals from MK ever get spaces at the Latin these days but whole bus loads make it into the Aylesbury grammars still.
Also don't assume that a bright kid will be 'eaten alive' at a comprehensive, there are tons of bright kids at good comprehensive schools.

MillyMollyMama Tue 04-Feb-14 00:07:06

Looking at the GCSE results, the MK comprehensives are not comparable with RLS but Denbigh, Ousedale and Shenley are better than the vast majority of the Bucks Secondary Moderns. They should be but Bucks Grammars are still creaming off a lot of talent, particularly at SHF in Aylesbury. Obviously some children are getting the 11+ here or the grammar schools will have a massive drop in pupil numbers. They will not allow this to happen. They cannot afford for this to happen. The tests may be different but the grammar schools will want to be full. Although they will not want standards much below the norm or their results could slip. Interesting to see what happens.

Generally speaking, if your child is on the top table in a well respected, high achieving primary school, the child should get a place at a grammar school. Top table at some primary schools where few ever get to a grammar school, may not mean very much. Over tutoring is not necessary but familiarisation and speed of answering are crucial. Slower, methodical children are the usual casualties in this process (and always have been) as they are not suited by the tests but Bucks would argue they would not be suited by the pace and amount of homework at a grammar school either. This is because they need more time. The quick ones are conscientious too! They just work things out in the time allocated.

OneMoreMum Tue 04-Feb-14 12:48:03

Of course the MK comprehensives are not comparable with the Latin in terms of overall results as they are selective!

If you delve a bit deeper into the results and look at high achievers only (of which the Latin will mostly take students towards the top end of that band), both Ousedale in MK and Sponne beat the Latin at 99% A-C inc Maths & English versus the 98% that the Lain achieve. Even Buckingham school gets 96%.

If you look further at individual grades, the average grade for a high achiever at the Latin it's an A, for most of the others it's an A- or a B+, again once you take into account the fact that a grammar is more selective than just picking the high achievers (level 5's I believe?) they are easily comparable results.

Absolutely nothing against the Latin as I'm sure it's a good school, but don't be fooled into thinking that your children won't do equally well at a good comprehensive, without the stress of 11+ and whether or not siblings will also get in.

OneMoreMum Tue 04-Feb-14 12:50:10

Sorry for the typos
B- for me!

hottiebottie Tue 04-Feb-14 15:06:22

OneMoreMum - do you have a link for that GCSE figure for Sponne?

OneMoreMum Tue 04-Feb-14 15:26:29

Hottie here you go:
www.education.gov.uk/cgi-bin/schools/performance/school.pl?urn=136488
Under KS4 exam results

hottiebottie Tue 04-Feb-14 18:00:35

Thanks OMM - I see now that's the figure for "high attainers". The overall figure of 80% is still pretty impressive, though, for an all-ability school. I think it still has some ground to make up at A-level, though - surprising that with such high attainers at GCSE and a very large sixth form, the number of pupils progressing to highly competitive university courses (Oxbridge, medicine etc.) is still virtually zero. Improving this would really enable them to compare even more favourably with the grammar, which is only about 20 minutes away.

notquiteruralbliss Sat 08-Feb-14 08:19:15

We're already in Buckinghamshire and underwhelmed by our local grammar. It is academically strong but seems pretty rigid in its approach. My youngest, in particular, is feeling very squashed. How is Royal Latin with the super bright but somewhat disorganised?

MillyMollyMama Sat 08-Feb-14 15:22:56

I have many friends with children at a number of grammar schools around Bucks. They expect self reliance and organised pupils. I think organisation comes with maturity and friends of mine tell me the children have to shape up pretty quickly. However they think that is a good thing. So do I. I expected that of my own children as being disorganised just annoys the teachers.

MillyMollyMama Sat 08-Feb-14 17:08:25

Hottiebottie. The high attainers at Sponne do not achieve as highly as the high achievers at RLS. Their average GCSE grade is B+ whereas at RLS it is A. Their points score per pupil is also lower. This would suggest more pupils stay on into the 6th form at Sponne who are unlikely to get the top grades at A level.

The destinations of pupils could mean that they are poorly advised on which universities are best and it may mean few pupils achieve AAA at A level in order to access the best universities. I don't have precise details as I am not familiar with the school, but you cannot compare A*-C statistics without drilling deeper. It is conceivable a school can get 100% A*-C with pupils getting mostly C grades which could never compare with a grammar school but on bare statistics it would.

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