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Anyone with DDs who go to Chelmsford or Westcliff grammar schools?

(35 Posts)
ILikeToClean Tue 22-Oct-13 17:12:52

DD has just passed the 11+ and also the separate Chelmsford exam for Chelmsford High school for girls. We are in catchment for Chelmsford, out of catchment for Westcliff but I think with her scores, whichever school we put first on the CAF she has a pretty good chance of getting in.

We have visited both schools and just cannot decide which one would suit DD better. Chelmsford is in catchment so a bit closer, but I have heard good and bad things about it, namely that it is very pressurised, you are a failure if you get a B, a lot of the girls have "issues" and eating disorders, but also heard a lot of opinions that refute all this and parents saying the girls have lots of fun there.

Haven't heard anything bad about Westcliff, but the impression I get is it is just a bit more relaxed and the pastoral care is much better. It's further away and triple the cost of getting there every year though!

DD is very bright, but not a geek and we still want her to be a normal girl who has a fab education but not at the cost of feeling constantly pressured, although perhaps I am not giving her enough credit by thinking she won't cope or is not good enough, iyswim.

Does anyone have any knowledge, good or bad, of either school? The decision needs to be made soon!


MrsBartlet Tue 22-Oct-13 19:10:21

Firstly, well done to your DD!

My dd is at CCHS and she absolutely loves it. They do work hard but most of them want to and the pressure comes from themselves rather than the school. As you said, they do have tremendous amounts of fun. I have found it to be a very relaxed atmosphere (ie laid back relationships between the staff and students).

Dd is also not a geek (and nor are her friends) they are indeed normal girls getting a great education. I don't know of anyone who has had an eating disorder (not saying there aren't any with eating disorders but sadly there are probably students with eating disorders in most secondary schools). Last year we had cause to test out the pastoral care for the first time in five years and I was very impressed (as well as very grateful!)

Happy to answer any questions you may have.

MrsBartlet Tue 22-Oct-13 19:12:06

Just to add - I have very rarely heard anyone who actually has a daughter at CCHS say bad things about it. Most of the bad things seem to come from people with no firsthand experience of the school.

ILikeToClean Tue 22-Oct-13 19:43:02

Thank you so much for replying, I've read time and time again that most of the "myths" about CCHS come from people who do not have girls there! I think I'm just worried that all the girls will be scarily intelligent and my DD won't be able to keep up, although I'm sure in reality they'll all be the same - she passed both exams really well with just a bit of DIY tutoring, so the fact is it's her innate intelligence that has got her to this point, so I guess I should give her more credit! How do you find the headmistress? She seemed quite intimidating!

MrsBartlet Tue 22-Oct-13 19:54:53

Please don't think that all the girls are scarily intelligent - they are bright but so is your daughter! I was worried about exactly the same thing before dd started and she has been fine and has more than held her own. Not only that but she has been stimulated by being surrounded by other bright girls.

Dd is in Y12 and I don't think I have ever had a conversation with the head in the whole time dd has been at the school! However, she comes across as very caring towards the girls and she is very proud of them. Dd has a good relationship with her and has to have occasional meetings with her regarding extra-curricular things she is involved with in school.

ILikeToClean Tue 22-Oct-13 20:01:50

That really helps, thank you! DH and I are going for a visit tomorrow afternoon (without DD) and Westcliff on Thursday so will have more idea then, but you've eased my mind so thank you! grin

MrsBartlet Tue 22-Oct-13 20:05:40

Enjoy! Dd loves it there so much and we love being part of the school community as well. We are starting to think about universities and dd can't bear the thought of leaving the school!

BrigitBigKnickers Tue 22-Oct-13 21:35:39

My DD is at WHSG in year ten- I really can't praise it more highly!

Sports are good but they also have a very very good music and drama department. (Their school productions are amazing and loads of choirs and music groups to choose from.)

They really seem to appreciate all the arts subjects too- not all academics academics.

Great curriculum too. They start their GCSE courses in year 9 but don't really take many early (they do English lang in year ten and English lit in year 11.)

In year 9 all the girls so the Duke of Edinburgh as part of their PE curriculum and other small qualifications like prep for working like and functional skills ICT.

My concern was that DD would have to give up her many extra curricula interests when she joined because of home work but I have to say that she seems to get less than many of her peers in local high schools. Even in year ten she is coping with GCSE courses and currently does a staggering 15 hours of performing arts classes!

Pastoral care is very good and there is all sorts of support in place for girls who are struggling. It is quite relaxed which suits DD. I don't think she would have coped with CCHSG

Not sure where you live but we are in Billericay and it takes around 40 mins by a very efficient coach service- it was my biggest concern when she started there but she got used to it. DD also has friends who live in Chelmsford and there commute is similar.


BrigitBigKnickers Tue 22-Oct-13 21:37:26

their commute! blush

ILikeToClean Tue 22-Oct-13 21:48:06

Thank you Brigit I really have heard such good things about Westcliff this confirms it all, I do know a girl who is in year 8 there and she loves it! We're in Wickford, think the leaving and home times are the same for both schools, but it would cost £900 a year for her to go to Westcliff, which is a big jump from the £300 to Chelmsford (have to factor in that DD2 might go too!).

Interested to know why you thought your DD would not have coped at Chelmsford? Think this is my concern!

MrsCakesPremonition Tue 22-Oct-13 22:03:52

Lurking on this thread but I'd love to pick your brains about transport between the various grammars and Wickford. I don't seem to be able to get my head round the available services despite having looked at the CSSE website. At first glance none of the school buses seem to go through Wickford - but I'm not sure I've got it right.

BrigitBigKnickers Tue 22-Oct-13 22:23:21

Find out about the scholar season ticketsl offered by Greater anglia- train tickets can be bought at a 55% discount. Phone the school and ask about it. It's fairly quick from Wickford to Southend Voctoria and a few mins on a bus the other end (think there are discounts for the bus too) much cheaper! (My other DD travels to her school via train and it makes a huge saving.)

ILikeToClean Tue 22-Oct-13 22:24:15

MrsCakes - my friend's DD goes to Westcliff on the CSSE official bus which I think goes from the Downham Arms at around 7.30. It's around £300 per term! My other friend's DS goes to Kegs on the public bus which goes from Wickford station around 7.20 and is £300 per year. If you are looking at Southend I think the train is your best bet, from Wickford to Prittlewell and then a 20 min walk which a lot of them do apparently. Which school are you looking at?

BrigitBigKnickers Tue 22-Oct-13 22:29:01

As to why I don't think DD would have coped- she is a bit ditsy- rather disorganised and I think it is less pressurised at WHSG (I know girls who are Chelmsford and really don't think it would have suited her there.)

She is also passionate about performing arts and I feel that WHSG, whilst academic, encourages her to continue with it.

MrsCakesPremonition Tue 22-Oct-13 22:29:55

We looked at CCHS, SHSG and WHSG this summer - trying to see if they might suit DD and if it was worth helping her prepare for 11+. She liked them all - so we'll just see things go when she takes the 11+ next September. I have a secret leaning towards WHSG - but that might be because I know children who go there and love it but don't know anyone at CCHS.

Thanks for the info on transport - I'll get digging.

ILikeToClean - your DD has done so very well, you must be very proud - and of course, it must be nice to have options. I hope your visits go well and you get a good feel for where would suit your DD.

ILikeToClean Tue 22-Oct-13 22:40:57

MrsCakes - yes we looked at all 3 too with the opinion that wherever she ended up DD would be lucky. As I home tutored I wasn't sure how she would fare, she certainly has done better than I thought grin! I have a mini break from tuition then have to crack on with DD2 who will take it next September too!

Brigit - my Dd sounds similar to yours, v clever but ditzy and not much common sense, hence my concerns about CCHS, although PP kind of alleviated my concerns.

You know what will happen,we'll put CCHS and WHSG 1st and 2nd, Southend 3rd and that's the one we'll get! Not that I would mind, quite liked Southend!

Aargh, still not sure! hmm

MrsBartlet Wed 23-Oct-13 06:37:15

Have a look round the schools then trust your gut feeling. It is all about finding the school which fits best with your dd. When we looked at CCHS when dd was in Y5 it just felt right for her and when we went back again in Y6 she said it felt like home! You will know what feels right for your dd and for your family.

I feel for you having to go through the process again next year with your younger dd. I found the whole process more stressful the second time round. After having got one through it seemed to put more pressure on the younger one. I spent a year telling my ds that it didn't matter how he did in the 11+ he would still be as bright as his sister and the exam is just a snapshot of how they perform on one day! Fortunately, he had a positive outcome and I don't ever have to go through that again grin

ILikeToClean Wed 23-Oct-13 08:52:50

Well done MrsB with both at grammar! DD2 is a different child - v competitive so her aim is to beat DD1's scores so she has an incentive!

I think I know what my gut instinct is but do you think location can play a great part - i.e. thinking about extra curricular activities, going to the school for parents eve, maybe having to take or pick up in rush hour, Chelmsford is much handier for that. I know a lot of parents say go for the easiest geographically as they're there for years!

MrsBartlet Wed 23-Oct-13 16:15:07

Yes, I would say go for the easiest to get to as you will have 8 years of travelling back and forth to pick up and attend events (presuming dd2 goes as well). However, that is easy for me to say as our favourite happened to be the nearest as well!

Also, as you mentioned, you need to bear in mind the financial implications of paying 2 sets of bus fares and that sounds like it will be costly if they both go to WHSG. It gets so expensive once they are at secondary with trips etc. Ds is currently in Germany on a school trip and Dd had a trip to Berlin earlier in the year. At £500 a trip you could pay for those out of the extra you are going to have to pay for buses to WHSG!

You need to play on dd2's competitive streak so that she follows her sister!

ILikeToClean Wed 23-Oct-13 18:01:27

MrsB we went to the info meeting this afternoon. First visit for DH - didn't see much of the school beyond the hall but he liked it and was very impressed by the head's manner. She came across as being extremely warm and funny, but took no prisoners when it came to answering some rather inane questions! It took us 20 mins. After chatting again to DD we have decided to put it as our first choice on the basis that if she gets an offer then it was meant to be, if not then she should get an offer from Westcliff and that will mean she was meant to be that school! So the CAF is done!! Thanks so much for your help - fingers crossed she gets in (somewhere!) I'm a great believer in fate...grin

Thanks too Brigit and I'll still be chuffed if she gets Westcliff - it's just geography I think!

MrsBartlet Wed 23-Oct-13 18:16:39

That's great. They are both good schools so she should be happy whichever one she goes to. Fingers-crossed for you. Do let us know how she gets on.

ILikeToClean Mon 03-Mar-14 00:25:54

Bumping to say DD got an offer from Chelmsford! Feel v proud and that she's obviously meant to go there grin

MrsBartlet Tue 04-Mar-14 21:25:23

Yay! Congratulations to your DD, ILikeToClean. Your dd will be starting her first year just as my dd starts her last. I hope she will be as happy there as my dd has been!

ILikeToClean Tue 04-Mar-14 22:22:02

Thank you! Will your DD be going to sixth form? Just spent about 2 hours filling out all the forms and putting all the dates in my diary! Now got to get DD2 through too!

MrsBartlet Wed 05-Mar-14 06:25:38

Dd is already in sixth form so she will be starting her final year in September. Is your dd looking forward to it and does she have any friends going with her?

When do you have to go through it again with DD2?

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