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Richmond state secondaries (Christ's, Richard Reynolds, RPA, Greycourt) vs west London independents...advice please!!

(72 Posts)
QBean Wed 22-Jan-14 09:44:28

DD due to start secondary in 2015. We are sitting on fence as to whether to sit exams for independents (possibly Godolphin, LEH, Putney, KGS, Surbiton) or stay in state sector, but currently tutoring for 11+ to keep options open. Among many other factors to consider, I am anxious about stories you hear about impact on mental health of independents' highly pressurised environment, equally anxious about stories of academic kids at local state schools not with motivated peers, but appreciate this is all gossip. Grateful to hear from parents with kids at above state or independent schools, are you pleased? For those who are/were in same quandry- which route did you go down, are you happy with your choice? Any advice hugely appreciated. Thanks all! (See also thread on local Richmond site, good feedback on RPA but tricky for us to get to, so hoping posting on main site will bring responses about other options too)

DalmationDots Wed 22-Jan-14 10:52:21

Not much specific advice on those schools- know of them as we are nearby but a different town and so around a different set of schools. All the independent schools you name have excellent reputations though, and I have heard good things about some of the state options.
I can only speak for private sector as DC both went that route. Both DC were at 'top' highly selective private schools with reputations of being 'pushy' and 'powerhouses'. I can honestly say the pressure was almost non-existent especially from the school's end. With any DCs under pressure, it was often the case that it came from parents.
Yes these schools have academic environments, there is a sense every child wants to do well and sees the value in aiming high and achieving. That isn't a spoken atmosphere, just how it is. My DD was just below middle of her year group (but still achieving all A* and As), she never felt a failure or stressed out by not being top. Detentions or re-tests were rarely given out at her school and the staff were all very approachable, down-to-earth and caring.
You can get other private schools where there is lots of apathy and that is when you can start to see more pressure, where schools are trying to motivate pupils to work (not so much with the ones you mention though).
You can often find state schools are more pressured in terms of the higher achieving students who can be made to do excessive numbers of GCSEs to boost results. Other schools you find they don't teach to A* grade as they are focused on getting all Cs. This isn't true of all though- there are lots of great state schools which are barely different from private options, especially in the area you are talking about.
Look around and see what you feel, you will probably be surprised at how much the stereotypes of private vs state are challenged.

Shootingatpigeons Wed 22-Jan-14 13:17:16

As far as the private schools are concerned, go and look, they have distinctive characters and you and your DD will know what feels right. Yes in the wrong school some pupils may feel pressured, may even burn out but the right sort may thrive. To be honest from the inside of a year with a lot of crises, eating disorders, drugs etc. it had a lot more to do with home environment. All the schools can do when these characters arrive, and they turn up at all the private schools, you can find yourself in a dysfunctional year anywhere and my DDs had entirely different experiences at the same school, is to set firm boundaries and provide pastoral support. They will all do that.

The state schools you mention can all facilitate your DD to achieve good grades, the issue is that in the independent sector there will be better facilities, more extra curricular. However you will obviously get a more representative social cross section. Some private school pupils (also partly depending on home environment) develop a very skewed perspective on the world.

Main thing with the state schools you mention is catchments. By 2015 the pupil bulge will really be coming through to the boroughs secondaries, catchments will be smaller and St RR may well be oversubscribed by Catholics. I would follow this admissions round when the increase starts to assess your chances at each school

Elibean Wed 22-Jan-14 13:25:53

Just a wave (in same boat, though nearer RPA than you by the sound of it and considering different private options to give dd some choice) and to say I second what Pigeon says - from a less experienced point of view.

I've done a lot of research, been to see schools, talked to parents with children in several of those secondary schools. It really does seem to be horses for courses, as I know happy and unhappy kids in pretty much all of them now.

My plan has been to go and look around schools dh and I would consider (state and private), then take dd to look around those we liked/would still consider. Take distance into account (feedback from experienced secondary parents says its important).

Good luck!

mary21 Wed 22-Jan-14 15:16:55

With state I would check how dependent they are on supply teachers/cover staff. Low level disruption and pushing the middle of the roaders to achieve the best they can. My son is at a different school lbrut and they seem to push set 1 hard as they will get A* and A , but lower down sets who will get c,s don't seem to be pushed for B's and A's.
How do they engage a love of learning in teenagers. How often do parents get feed back. Do they get a full report or just a sheet of current and target grades.
Is everyone encouraged to take part in extracurricular stuff or just team players ,good musicians etc.
Do things tail off in year 8. Often lots of input to impress in year 7. Everyone is happy then it all stops in year8

QBean Wed 22-Jan-14 22:48:43

All, I appreciate your feedback hugely. Mary21, I will certainly check those statistics, great tips! Yikes Pigeon, good to know about the bulge. Thanks for reassuring (and surprising) insight into top academic schools, Dalmation.

I went to many open days in autumn. I came away from process crossing a number off but finding no perfect fit. Hoping when I see them again with DD and DH I will have a eureka moment!

Richard Reynolds is so new I have suspended judgment until next Sept, equally RPA seems to be changing fast. Yet to see Greycourt (as probl'y too far). Grateful for any first hand knowledge of these or Christ's.

Very uncertain as to girls' independents -didn't seem all that different from one another, and friends have near identical short lists give or take a few depending on whether they live towards Wimbledon/Ealing. Would be interested to hear how they differ from one another if anyone has first hand it the same cohort who get places at them all and everyone else pushed to waiting list?!

I have two DDs a year apart, it would be lovely if they went to same school. Both academic but one loves maths and sport, the other literacy and drama. On first impressions most schools seem well rounded though and all promise your child will be welcome to participate. Is that really the case? Some more than others?

Shootingatpigeons Thu 23-Jan-14 00:22:07

Qbean There is a difference in selectivity amongst the private schools you list. If you were in a Prep School they would advise you to try for one aspirational, a couple that you should get into and a less selective one as insurance, just as insurance against bad days and to be sure of a choice, and often that choice gets firmed as a result of the experience of the entrance exams and interviews. They would advise you about the match between that and your DD's ability. I know that is hard when you are coming from a state school (been there, done that) but fair to say they would have to be superbright to get SPGS, lots of superbright supercharged trying for it, then LEH which gets the superbright from Surrey who wouldn't travel to SPGS, but also lots of down to earth local state school girls (and not all supertutored as the parental Chinese whispers might suggest, as a guide they say they usually find that their girls score in the top 5% in reasoning tests - that would be after a handful of practise papers not a year practising at some tutors coalface when it is no longer a reliable indicator of ability, they use untutorable tests), then Latymer Upper which is getting more selective all the time and G&L, which is apparently suffering the competition, then KGS (another getting more selective all the time) and the Highs with perhaps Surbiton being a bit less selective. Not sure where Radnor House is now but St Catherine's a fall back from them all.

However don't get selectivity mixed up with the best school for your DD. All these schools will enable bright girls to get good grades, in arts and sciences, and to the best universities, probably the same outcome for the individual, except that confidence is of course a factor and sometimes being bright in a less selective school will build that better than being surrounded by very bright girls, or sometimes it is built on being with the brightest, depends on personality.

So no there isn't a bunch of bright girls who get all the places, most girls get a range of places at the schools that are right for their level of ability. Then there is a big game of musical chairs when everyone makes their choices, not always choosing the most selective. Waiting lists move depending on which schools find themselves most and least popular in a particular year. You might find this interesting, three years offers and places taken for non selective Old Vic

The details of the pupil bulge are here, 200 more in 2015 than this year.

And you might find this interesting

Re getting a chance to join in, all the schools will say they try to be inclusive but bear in mind that some of these schools are winning national competitions in sport, music, whatever so if your child isn't very good or very confidant they may get discouraged. But there are always house competitions etc.

Eastpoint Thu 23-Jan-14 07:00:01

The state schools in Richmond offer fantastic opportunities. My DNs & DNs are at one - yr 10 are off to China at Easter, there is a yr11 trip to New York if you're doing Art, they do ski trips every year. No money spent on fees so these trips are affordable to them (even the China trip is less than one term's fees). They are doing really well, good work experience offered etc.

Quite a few girls from Richmond to SPGS & G&L there's a coach for SPGS if you don't feel they are ready for the tube or live a long way from the station.

People tend to put down schools their children don't go to as a way of justifying their own choices. I hear all sorts of things about pupils at different schools depending on the speaker's agenda & experience. Most of the schools have 80-120 at least per year so there will be some ultra relaxed girls and others who are anxious about everything.

QBean Thu 23-Jan-14 18:06:29

Thanks both, really helpful feedback and links! Much appreciated

harrassedswlondonmum Fri 24-Jan-14 10:23:48

Here are my thoughts, for what they are worth!

I have one at LEH and one at Latymer Upper. Christ's is our nearest school. Experiences there have been mixed amongst the people I know - some are very happy, but 3 from my sons class at primary school left and went elsewhere in year 7 or 8 due to bullying. I know someone who works there and she tells me that discipline is still a big issue.

We have been very happy with our choices, even though fees are a serious consideration for us - it certainly wasn't a case of money being no object. For dd we were offered Waldegrave but when it came down to it, having gone though tutoring and exams, we found we did not want to turn down LEH. We thought we were sitting on the fence but in reality we weren't!

If you do go down the independent route, it is as much a case of the schools choosing you, as the other way round. We really wanted Hampton for ds but they didn't want him. Latymer did, and it has proved to be a great match. I think the schools are quite good at choosing the children who will thrive there.

If you do go down the indie route, the schools have quite different "catchments". My daughters LEH friends are mostly located close to here and outwards towards Kingston/Surbiton. If you go for Godolphin, friends will tend to be much more London centric.

QBean Fri 24-Jan-14 22:10:56

Thank you harassed, interesting about the "catchments".

In terms of fees how much do you think has been required to set aside for all the 'extras'? I appreciate you can say no to trips but on other hand will your child be odd one out if you do that?

Does the odd child ever join in yr 8 or 9? I wonder as one option is to stay in state sector and then if it went pear shaped (which I understand it might do in either sector!) then consider trying to move DD....

Eastpoint Sat 25-Jan-14 07:36:09

Children do join in later years, there are families who relocate or go to boarding schools. Music lessons at my dds school are about £225 a term. Trips to museums, theaters etc average one a term @ £25, some schools charge for text books. All the schools seem to have second hand uniform sales & there is no problem with buying second hand stuff. Trips - how long is a piece of string?! Lots of my dds friends are allowed to do one trip a year (battlefields tour, modern language exchange, optional geography field trip within the UK etc) and maybe one big trip during their school life eg Iceland, America. There will be girls who go on all the trips, sometimes if both parents have good jobs it's easier for a child to go on an extra ski trip than use up holiday. My son costs exactly what his fees are - no extras at all, went on one trip once & hated it, doesn't

Shootingatpigeons Sat 25-Jan-14 09:54:13

There are plenty of pupils who will choose not to go on trips, learn an instrument etc and incur the extras that can build up on top of fees. No one knows or cares about the basis of that decision. There are a few, like the battlefields trip that are genuinely educational. I would not have wanted my DDs to miss out on that but for eg skiing trips one went on all of them, one went on one and never again.

In my older DDs year not one pupil left right up until GCSE, in my younger DDs year 25% of the class had left by GCSE. Most were refugees from the "strong" characters and the way in which they manipulated the group norms but the pupils who joined seem to have been happy enough and stayed on. So it is a matter of luck and if there does seem to be a bit of an exodus / several vacancies it is worth investigating why.

harrassedswlondonmum Sat 25-Jan-14 10:01:56

I think you do need to budget for extras. Neither of mine do school music lessons but they have been on quite a few trips. Latymer has an activities week towards the end of the summer term where the whole school go on trips. They aren't all expensive but everyone goes on something.

People do join occasionally but you can't rely on there being spaces. I can't remember if you have a boy or girl but some of the boys schools and Latymer have an intake at year 9, but that's very competitive and aimed at prep school children.

nennypops Sat 25-Jan-14 10:20:34

Best bet for state schools round Richmond is Waldegrave, but you need to live very close. If you're looking at independents and worried about pressure, think about St Catherine's - friend's extremely shy daughter went there, blossomed, and did very well academically.

Shootingatpigeons Sat 25-Jan-14 10:37:14

nenny To be more exact for Waldegrave you have to live close to two admissions points, one at the school and a smaller b catchment that has a centre point somewhere in Richmond. There are current maps on the LA site. However there will be 147 more pupils in the next cohort and 200 more by 2015 so catchments for the state schools will be smaller. This year there was a lot of space at RPA but surely with all the good vibes coming out of it, and solidly improving results, and the pupil bulge it may start to be oversubscribed too. Certainly I would not assume it won't have a catchment.

straggle Sat 25-Jan-14 11:15:46

QBean of the schools you mentioned (RPA, Christ's and Grey Court) I have had fantastic reports from parents of Grey Court. They are getting excellent all round results, and will also get a swimming pool along with their sports fields and jointly won the borough sports competition last year. Great drama facilities and teaching too. I'm also also really impressed with Christ's Ebacc results and grades this year - really worth visiting those two.

In 2015 the new North Kingston school opens. It should take more of the Kingston pupils who would otherwise be closest to Grey Court, so there will be more places for Richmond pupils (though there's also increasing demand). So probably Christ's catchment will increase too. For churchgoers their catchment is about 5 miles, otherwise it serves mainly North and East Sheen.

Shootingatpigeons Sat 25-Jan-14 11:29:18

straggle the Kingston School will serve a corresponding increase in pupil numbers in Kingston which is also equivalent to more than one new school. In it's first year it will also struggle to attract applicants away from an outstanding Greycourt. In Richmond remember although the 150 place Turing will have come on stream it will still also have to establish a reputation and there will be 200 additional applicants in the cohort. You also have to factor in that a Greycourt now on a par with the Waldegraves and Teddingtons is like them going to mean more parents not being deterred to move or go private, a very significant factor in school demand in this borough.

I therefore think that parents looking at the state schools for 2015 entry have to assume that the most likely risk is that all catchments will shrink. I think it highly unlikely the Christs catchment will increase again. It did this year because of the smaller cohort but in orevious years the trend had been for it to shrink, and for increasing take up of the places selected via the faith criteria.

straggle Sat 25-Jan-14 13:56:57

Look at the map - the North Kingston school is closer to Barnes than to parts of Kingston borough like Chessington or New Malden. So it can't serve the whole borough with a distance-based admissions policy without some pupils doing a lot of travelling. North Kingston has quite a densely population but there still aren't enough local primary kids to fill two schools just yet - not in one year! So it's logical that some (a third? a half?) in North Kingston or Ham will try out the new school and a proportion will travel there from further away, but Richmond pupils would be just as eligible on distance.

And Christ's is less popular among Richmond families who have a chance of Orleans Park now. So patterns are changing a bit.

Those nice council catchment maps with coloured dots aren't the final picture anyway. There was an unusual number of places re-offered from waiting lists after initial allocations last year, something like 50 at Orleans Park and quite a few at Waldegrave on the Richmond side. It may be because prep school pupils are putting in an application and getting a good state choice but sticking to private in the end.

Shootingatpigeons Sat 25-Jan-14 14:54:56

straggle Kingston Council have been saying that the school was needed ASAP for some time in response to a shortage in the north of the borough which is just going to get worse as the pupil bulge hits. The Council claimed they had been wrong footed by the government in that they assumed they could bring it on stream this year with funding from the government's school building funds, without having to resort to a Free School bid but in the end that fund was only given to existing schools, hence the delay. In 2015 it remains that it will be an untried school compared to an outstanding one half a mile or so and an easy bus ride away. Why would those Kingston residents who have a chance of Greycourt on distance not include it above in their preferences? Remember in previous years Greycourt did not have the advantage of an outstanding OFSTED, I am quite sure it is going to have increased demand not less.

Richmond Councils current pupil forecasts were also based on it coming on stream this year. They are saying there is no need for a new school, to be met by Egerton, until 2016/17 but the late arrival of the Kingston school is one of the factors (along with the removal of links not resulting in the expected decrease in out of borough applications, a decrease in the number opting for private etc. ) that suggest that assumption is at risk . In view of that risk I think parents have to assume catchments will shrink. The LA are telling parents in primary school that they fully expect OP's catchment to shrink back to the railway bridge by the Green in Twickenham, not sure what that means in the Richmond direction.

There was unusual movement in waiting lists last year but it was a small cohort and parents may well have found it easier to get into out of borough and selective schools as well, plus I think the whole Catholic School debate together with removal of links focused people on schools and that probably changed people's behaviour in terms of both applying and accepting offers. It certainly took the LA Officers by surprise but I don't know if you could assume that will be the same in future years with bigger cohorts and a clearer pattern emerging in terms of catchments post link removal. I also know from personal experience that few parents with no acceptable school place for their child are willing to sit back and wait to see what materialises from waiting lists. So they can move quickly simply because people have found other options, and that was easier last year.

With the preference system obviously no parent will suffer from putting a desirable school they have an outside chance of getting in on distance above one that they have the best chance of getting into (providing they put one they have the best chance of getting into down (which is where most of the people who don't get allocated a place, most of them in Hampton last year, come unstuck) but if I were a parents applying in 2015 I would be particularly careful to ensure I had the school I had the best chance of getting into down on the list. And if I did not have a good chance of getting into any of my preferred schools then seriously considering moving or going private (and I speak as someone who has done both)

straggle Sat 25-Jan-14 15:46:16

Whatever suits your narrative.

Shootingatpigeons Sun 26-Jan-14 12:07:49

It isn't a narrative though is it, like all planning decisions about the future it is about assessing the risks and opportunities with as much information as possible and arriving at a strategy. The good thing is that the preference scheme gives you 5 opportunities to gain places on distance at preferred schools that you have a chance but not certainty of but it is important to include at least one school that is a certainty as far as possible. Not as several parents who were very unhappy to find themselves allocated to St RR last year, to make 6 aspirational preferences and just assume if they do not offer places there will be places at the most local school. There were not because they had been allocated to parents who made it a preference, and had they bothered to research in advance they would have known the school was becoming oversubscribed on preference as a result of improvements. At primary level, and almost certainly at senior level, in the future, there is a risk you find yourself with no place allocated (sometimes with a child having to wait until the Christmas after they should have started for a class to be created with a place for them) or a place at a distant school it is logistically impossible to access. So the risks can be considerable. And if the only certainty is a school that is unacceptable to you then like many many parents in the borough you have to plan other options too.

straggle Sun 26-Jan-14 12:39:10

QBean's nearest schools are Christ's and Grey Court so I told her what I know about them. I'm not sure what where this thread is going, but good luck in your research, QBean.

ikkenu Sun 26-Jan-14 12:59:30

Allocation maps are here. You can get into Christ's from Kew and East Sheen - not sure about Grey Court, but they are offering extra places this year.

Shootingatpigeons Sun 26-Jan-14 13:08:12

ikkenu the point I was making to OP was that the 2015 cohort will have 200 more pupils than 2013, which was actually a smaller cohort than previous years. So eg the Waldegrave catchments which weren't ever affected by links stretched quite a bit further in 2013 than in previous years. Those maps show catchments that are likely to be smaller by 2015 for a number of reasons. The LA will advise further at the time either in the meetings at primaries or if you ring them but in the meantime the 2014 round of admissions which will have a cohort of 150 more pupils will be a better indicator of 2015 catchments.

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