Advanced search

First private school in Islington

(41 Posts)
MuswellHillDad Mon 18-Nov-13 23:54:38

What do we think of this North Bridge House outpost in Canonbury, 13+ and only 300 students with no space for any serious facilities?

Isn't it just like having a dozen classrooms 2 miles away from the actual school?

Tuhlulah Tue 19-Nov-13 11:43:20

Is it not a whole new school from year 7 going through to GCSE?

MuswellHillDad Tue 19-Nov-13 13:06:41


We are pleased to announce that North Bridge House Senior School will be offering 6th Form provision from September 2014, as we open a new school for Year 9 to Year 13 pupils in Canonbury, Islington. The school, to be called North Bridge House Canonbury, will be the first independent senior school in Islington.

Farewelltoarms Tue 19-Nov-13 13:23:31

I think you can never underestimate the desire of some Islington parents to go private. There's almost an ethical objection to state schools in some quarters. There is one private primary near us that by most accounts is just pants and gets away with things that would never be allowed at state primaries, but the parents are desperate to go private but at the same time (understandably) don't want to trek to Hampstead.

I'm a bit sceptical about groups like Cognita so I don't think it would be my cup of tea. If I were to opt for private (which we might at secondary), I want to be assured that I was getting something really amazing for my money - facilities, track record etc.

What it might be useful for, in our case, is if we go to one of our local state secondaries and it doesn't work out then there's an option a bit like a crammer. I guess.

MuswellHillDad Tue 19-Nov-13 14:25:38

It would work better if they shared facilities with Highbury Grove (excellent science, music, drama, art, D&T, indoor sports, pool).

In fact, why isn't the council doing it and making it a means tested fee paying grammar school? Highbury Grove Canonbury Grammar.

Sorry, I drifted off into crazyland there ....

Farewelltoarms Tue 19-Nov-13 14:43:53

MuswellHillDad, by all accounts Highbury Grove has pretty firm setting to the extent that it almost has a discrete grammar school within it at the top sets (i.e. the kids don't mix much).

I'm not sure what advantage actually moving them out of the building would make…

Interestingly enough, I think what Northbridge House Canonbury might be is exactly the opposite - a fee-paying secondary modern...

MuswellHillDad Tue 19-Nov-13 16:14:48

You're right, but I was thinking that all those parents that live locally and are driving miles to a private school would stop, pay fees and that could help to cross-subsidise stuff at Highbury Grove. Those kids would never go to HG anyway.

Crazyland slightly less crazy but still irrelevant and it isn't going to happen my way.

Tuhlulah Wed 20-Nov-13 10:20:39

They start with Year 9 in school's first year, add Year 8 in second year and Year 7 in third year.

catastrophewaitress Wed 20-Nov-13 12:40:24

I may be wrong but I believe the lack of Sixth Form provision so far has been one of the main drawbacks of NBH Senior which otherwise seems to be addressing a gap in the market, in that there are not many other non-academically selective private senior schools in North London. Adding Sixth Form provision would presumably make it a more attractive proposition all round as it removes the need to look around for another school at 16. I suspect the first takers for the Sixth Form would come from their existing Senior School and they'd be hoping to build a reputation from there. Otherwise there's a fair bit of competition in the area with St Mary Magdalene offering IB and Islington Sixth Form Consortium doing well by all accounts. Not sure how much demand there will be for the younger years especially with many of Islington's state senior schools fast improving. But people may travel from other areas that are not as well served, or may see it as a fall back option vs more established/competitive private provision. Presumably they can use the sports grounds at top of Highbury Fields? Who knows, maybe Islington council can charge them good money for the use of facilities in the area which they can then plough back into improved facilities for everyone feeling optimistic today despite the crummy weather

MuswellHillDad Wed 20-Nov-13 13:22:30

It really does raise the question almost 'reductio ad absurdum' as to why pay for secondary education.

The site is tiny and the facilities can't stretch much beyond classrooms and dining for 300.

The socialisation is going to be weird, rather like a village school with only 1 class per year.

Whilst you might save on morning commuting, you'll pay it back in spades to do science, drama, music, sport etc.

There will be the big school a few miles away where all the good stuff happens and you won't be there.

Without entrance exams the peer group will be mixed, just like any other school. If that's what you want, why pay?

Having said all this, I have no doubt it will be rammed from day 1.

MuswellHillDad Wed 20-Nov-13 13:32:49

Lovely tweet from, I presume, an NBH student.

MuswellHillDad Wed 20-Nov-13 14:27:41

They will have a science lab, but otherwise my points stand.

Tuhlulah Wed 20-Nov-13 22:08:15

For someone who's not interested in using it, you do seem very involved.

MuswellHillDad Thu 21-Nov-13 08:01:14

Too much time and Google as a friend

horsemadmom Thu 21-Nov-13 08:09:07

I actually think NBH is on to something here. As a former NBH prep parent, I have to say that they are very focused at exit (post 11+ and 13+) on the kids who aren't cut out for selective indies. That isn't to say that NBH senior is made up of only non-academic kids- it isn't. Many people move into London with secondary aged DCs and find that they don't have many school choices. Some parents also find that their state secondary isn't satisfactory and decide to move. NBH is filling a real gap. For a mixed ability co-hort, their GCSE results are very impressive and it's a bit sad that they haven't had the facilities to allow DCs to carry on. Also, many parents are flogging across from Islington (or using the school's bus). It is just entering the Woodhouse/Brampton market but with a bit of built-in continuity for DCs who, in the past, had to leave at 16. As to 'why pay if the peer group will be mixed?', they will be mixed academically but they will all have parents behind them who are motivated enough to pay ( many at great sacrifice) and some DCs need a small school where they are well known and cared for and private schools live and die by results so they have every motivation to ensure each child achieves the best results they can. Many of the schools that used to do this have upped the ante academically and no longer risk offering places to DCs with SpLDs or or the not-as-bright- there needs to be a place for them in every sector.

MuswellHillDad Thu 21-Nov-13 08:19:55


You have given NBH a good reference which, I for one, consider to be an important plus for the school. Too often people judge school based on rumours rather than real experiences.

I agree that parents who pay might be overall more motivated, but that also applies to church schools which are selective and also require motivated parents.

I was more thinking why one would pay for a school with such limited facilities compared to almost any other school. A site with 300 on it can only have a fraction of the facilities of one with 1000-1200.

I suppose people really pay for the teaching and the feel of the place rather than the bricks and mortar, but NBHC seemed to stretch the point.

horsemadmom Thu 21-Nov-13 08:56:55

Yes, people pay for the teaching and the feel. Also, small classes and anti-bullying policies with teeth. For a child who hasn't done well at CE, there are few options and the state sector isn't one of them (even poor schools are oversubscribed around here and yr 9 isn't a natural entry point). Do note that not everyone wants to or can go to a church school- NBH is ethnically representitive of it's area as well as having a big contingent who come from abroad. At 16, the state options are Camden, Fortismere or JFS. Ds has a friend with moderate dyslexia and severe dyspraxia who is a real oddball but ferociously funny and quick witted. He went to NBH on a partial scholarship (parents really had few options financially) up to GCSE and did very, very well because he was supported. This kid came out of his shell socially as well and had a great group of mates. He's now having a horrid time at state 6th form because of constant, low-level bullying. If he had had the option to stay....

GospelOak Mon 30-Dec-13 12:54:34

AS an alternative to the views of horsemadmum, I would avoid NBH at sixth form if their secondary is anything to go by. It is definitely a business, not a school, and their first concern is always for the bottom line, but it is really not good value for money. Leadership is uncertain, teaching is average (and poor in some core subject, like English), there is massive turnover, and there are very few extracurricular activities available. My son is not unhappy there, but finds the school boring and socialises mainly with his primary school friends. It has never been an academic school, and standards are even lower following the absorption of the Royal School last year. GCSE results have been falling for the past few years. They are also very restricted at GCSE, and cannot take the tests early or take additional subjects, as other schools will allow. My son's friends in the state system seem to be doing just as well, studying more varied subjects, and engaging in a far greater range of activities - both social and community based. Some are taking a number of GCSEs already, at year 10, and so will have time for a much more focused approach in year 11. I am seriously considering moving him for the final GCSE year, but it's massively complicated so might not manage. Will definitely not be considering it for sixth form!

horsemadmom Mon 30-Dec-13 14:57:38

Good schools rarely do GCSEs early- this is a state school thing which allows for retakes and packing in more exams to up their leaugue table positions. As for 'varied subjects', do you mean non-academic, mickey mouse subjects? All 3 of my DCs are at top indies and nobody does more than 10 GCSEs and all exams are/were in yr 11.
I actually think NBH acted honourably when they took in the Royal. They could easily have just got rid of most of the girls (they ran a parallel Royal class in DD2's yr as none of them were up to 11+ standard). I think it was a tough organisational ask to blend the schools and do the building works and share the Head across two sites all in one year but, it's all done now.
Our experience was that they were very caring and supportive of my DD who had a miserable time in her previous school and had very low self-esteem. Her teachers emailed me daily when she started to tell me how she was doing. They turned her around in under a term. Her extra-curricular schedule was packed at lunch time and after school.

EvilTwins Mon 30-Dec-13 19:25:37

I used to teach at Highbury Grove... At that point its only fame was that a deputy head had been attacked with a knife. We looked it up in the London Schools Guide - it was something like 19th from bottom (out of over 500)

How times change.


Ainsley Tue 31-Dec-13 11:07:07

Horsemadmom, was your dd at NBH prep or the senior school? Looking at the school website since its revamp last year, if I were a prospective parent looking at the whole school I'd notice straight away the weight of material slanted to the senior school(s) above that slanted to the prep. I wonder if this reflects the commercial reality that it's probably easier for NBH to enrol kids across the ability range, from the prep and from outside, and park them in one of the senior schools, than to recruit and retain staff experienced at getting kids through 11+ and 13+ into academically selective senior schools. I have a y5 dc at the prep and this worries me. There is a huge range of ability across the classes and I see a conflict of interest between Cognita's quite (commercially) rightly wanting bums on seats to please its investors, and the aspirations of parents who signed up for a PREP school. If your dd was at the prep recently, which I assume given you mention 11+ standards- do you really feel the transfer process was well managed?

catastrophewaitress Tue 31-Dec-13 12:02:14

((highjack, sorry)) EvilTwins, how far do you think Highbury Grove has actually changed? Slightly curious as to whether the rapid improvement in GCSE results may start to peter out soon (low hanging fruit has been picked etc). And about lack of stability at the top they will be on their 3rd HT in 3 years as of next Sept. ((sorry for highjack))

horsemadmom Tue 31-Dec-13 13:00:11

Hi Ainsley,
My DD was at the prep. I thought the transfer process at 11+ worked like a well oiled machine. Girls were kept calm throughout and all talk of who was sitting where was banned. Trial runs on Tuesdays with a focus on individual improvement, and lots of variation in format. DD didn't see anything on the exams that they hadn't covered in the practices.I felt we were mostly well advised although they clearly have some schools they like better than others. That having been said, my DD was in the last group of McGrath girls and I understand that they aren't setting so rigidly anymore. The girls in my DD's year did really well (destinations on website) and everyone stayed sane. I understand that there were some issues with the 13+ boys because the Head was busy running both sites (that was what the parents of the boys felt). It was also part of a recession-related trend IMO. DSs who would have gone to boarding schools were in competition for day school places due to costs- My DS's school had a massive surge in applications at all stages when the recession bit. Some of the less academic boys who would have naturally progressed to Mill Hill or Aldenham did not get places after the pre-test (Elimination of Saturday school at Mill Hill made it much more atractive than it had been as well.).
As for the mixed ability aspect, I actually think it was fine. Everyone got a place somewhere they were happy with and most got their first choice. The teaching was actually of a much higher caliber than my DD's previous school which was extremely selective. The music and art was much more creative and of a massively higher standard and DD did an after school club every day. She also made wonderful friends and so did I.
I think that the current year 6 have had more upheaval due to 2 teachers leaving (1 on maternity and 1 for a Headship elsewhere) but your DC will be fine.

Ainsley Tue 31-Dec-13 15:00:39

Thank you Horsemadmom. I might as well say that my dc=ds. I have previous experience of NBH prep. All went well then, but there was old fashioned streaming and dcs were well prepared. I've heard murmurs too recently about prep for 13+. I don't know where we'll aim for ds, but I certainly hope next year's pretests run smoothly.

EvilTwins Tue 31-Dec-13 16:15:23

catastrophe - honestly, I have no idea. I left in 2004, and the place is quite literally unrecognisable now- I was there under Truda White (who was amazing) and in the old buildings. It changed massively during the 4 years I taught there - obviously due to Truda. I suspect it's had it's rapid uphill period and may well plateau now. There are still teachers there who were there when I was. I teach drama, so regularly kick myself for leaving just before Andrew Lloyd-Webber got involved..

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, watch threads, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now »

Already registered? Log in with: