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Dame Alice Owen - for Islington kids

(51 Posts)
CruCru Fri 21-Nov-14 11:00:59

Hi all

Do any of you know much about this school? I hadn't heard of it but apparently my MP's children go there and, although they are based in Hertfordshire, they reserve some 20 odd places for Islington children.


farewelltoarms Fri 21-Nov-14 11:46:37

They do reserve 20 places for Islington kids and these would be made up of
a) ones that do very well in the exam
b) siblings of children already in
c) LAC, statemented etc.

The exam is very competitive, especially because of the sibling policy (i.e. if you get your oldest in, the siblings will follow, which is unusual in a selective school). There were something like 1400 applicants for 65 academic places this year, many of them from private schools and extremely well prepared (see eleven plus forum to be scared witless). These are not 1400 average kids - the majority of them will be top table types. Oh and the exam is on the 1 september of y6 too.

It seems like a great school but I wouldn't count on it - none of the children I know who applied from Islington got in this year and I knew at least a dozen. Also it's a really, really long away. The walk from Potters Bar station to the school alone is as much as I'd want a child to do. I've been told by kids there that after-school activities are very difficult to do on top of the commute. Plus all their friends live in Hertfordshire etc.

CruCru Fri 21-Nov-14 11:54:31

Ah thanks, that is good to know.

catastrophewaitress Fri 21-Nov-14 12:47:50

Probably irrelevant snippet but the school was physically located in Islington (just south of the Angel) and relocated to Hertfordshire in the 1970s. Hence the ongoing link to admitting some children either living in or educated in Islington. Given the numbers applying (I think generally around 200 from Islington for the less-than-20 places available - by the time siblings and LAC have their places) it sounds like a bit of a lottery ticket. Tricky journey although possibly less so for those with easy access to Finsbury Park train station.

farewelltoarms Fri 21-Nov-14 14:05:05

It might be more than 20 children though - it's a minimum of 20. If the top 65 places in the exam were all Islington children then they'd all go. Unlikely though…

It is quite seductive as it has lots of space and a lake and all that, but it is the shadow of the South Mimms service station. Ultimately we didn't go for it because it seems a shame to live in centralish London and commute out to a place I personally wouldn't choose to live in. I think when Islington schools were terrible, it was a great option. But secondaries have improved so massively in the area that I'm not sure it would add sufficient value to compensate for the journey.

But lots of others disagree.

MN164 Fri 21-Nov-14 16:31:01

I know parents of kids there who are very happy indeed and feel the commute (along with over 100 other kids from Islington) is worth it compared to the limited choices in the borough.

I've been there on open days and like the feel of the place too.

It is highly competitive but you should ignore that and decide if you like the school first.

All the stats posted here square with what I've heard too.

MN164 Fri 21-Nov-14 16:31:23

PS - there is a sibling policy isn't there?

GregorSamsa Fri 21-Nov-14 18:08:43

At the risk of getting flamed, it's basically a free private school for the Islington middle classes.

If you like that idea, then you'll probably like the school, if that's not what you're after, then you probably won't.

Emily Thornberry's children went there, if that helps.

farewelltoarms Fri 21-Nov-14 18:40:59

Don't get me wrong - the main reason we didn't go for it was that I thought dc had little chance against those odds, or only had a chance without a lot of work on our part (the English paper involves tricky comprehension that I think you'd be unlikely to excel in without some sort of tutoring). I'm sure if the school had decided to ring us up and offer dc a place with no entrance exam, I'd have been delighted.

But I would take issue with the idea that choices are limited in the borough. We recently did the CAF and actually we struggled with deciding between three very good but different schools, all of which dc would be likely to be offered a place at.

The landscape has really changed over the last few years, fortunately. And there is (in my view) a strong argument that the schools within walking distance offer a good enough education to make any parent question the worth of a minimum two-hour daily commute to Dame Alice. Teenagers really need their sleep. All the parents I know with kids at the school are really happy with the quality of education, but they're all intending to move for sixth form.

CruCru Fri 21-Nov-14 19:50:32

Ah thanks all. We are super close to the Essex Road station but I do see your point about the journey.

GregorSamsa Fri 21-Nov-14 22:06:00

My other concern about it would be that the intake is strongly skewed to the higher end of the ability range. If you have a child at the top few percent if the range, then they will probably do well. If you have a child in the middle of the range who has got in on the sibling policy, then think very hard about whether it is the right environment for them.

MN164 Fri 21-Nov-14 23:38:57

Maybe Emily Thornberry could pop up there, take a photo of a house and post it on twitter for us.

farewelltoarms Sat 22-Nov-14 09:24:29

All this Thornberry stuff has thrown up some pertinent statistics about Islington schools though. In 2001 29% of Islington pupils got 5 good gsces. In 2005 it was 46%. The two schools we've put first and second for our eldest have a combined average in the late 70s.

I know it's a side issue to the OP but I do wish that the ideas around inner city schools would catch up with the reality.

mellicauli Sat 22-Nov-14 22:22:05

Everyone on 11 plus forum thinks it's amazing and those people have done their research. You'd need to be superbright or very well coached to stand a chance.

somebodythatiusedtoknow Sat 22-Nov-14 22:36:04

Super bright AND very well coached from what I hear!

mumoftwo100 Sun 23-Nov-14 12:38:30

farewelltoarms: Attainmentwise, Islington is still the worst borough in London for secondary provision. When you look at the excellent primary schools in the borough, and rows upon rows of middle class residences, you do have to ask yourself what is going wrong.

Moominmammacat Sun 23-Nov-14 13:50:26

My DSs had lots of Islington chums at Owens and seemed to rather enjoy the camaraderie of the journey. Stats may look bad but a lot of those won't keep Owens as their first choice so it's not as bad as it looks. My DS1 got in without formal tutoring, albeit a lot of past papers with me.. It's a pretty marvellous place although my middle of the road three (AAA to ABB at a level) considered themselves fairly dim there ...

farewelltoarms Sun 23-Nov-14 14:51:04

Is that true mumoftwo? I'm not doubting you, but I can't find any evidence that London is the worst borough for secondary provision.

The only thing I could find was this:

Which suggests that there are at least three boroughs with poorer GSCE results and that Islington's results are above the national average.

I do agree that Islington primaries have much better results, but is this because there's a time lag to the improvements filtering up to secondaries. It is also because generally there's much more buy-in for the primaries, with many middle class parents jumping ship to privates and out-of-borough schools for secondaries?

farewelltoarms Sun 23-Nov-14 14:53:24

In fact, even just hovering over the map of London boroughs on the link shows that as well as the three obviously worse boroughs (the ones in grey), Camden, Brent, Ealing, Hillingdon, Hackney etc etc have lower results too.

So where are you getting your idea that it's worst for attainment?

mumoftwo100 Sun 23-Nov-14 21:39:11

Farewelltoarms: I can't find the Guardian article now, but I do remember reading this. Nethertheless, I went to a Islington comp myself, and have seen the improvements that have been made, although there is still work to be done.

farewelltoarms Mon 24-Nov-14 12:37:44

Sorry mumoftwo - re-reading my posts, they sounded really interrogatory! I was asking, not to disprove what you said, but because I really want to know since I'm in the process of deciding what to do with regard to secondaries in the borough.

I think it's telling that you (and I to a certain extent) have the sense that Islington secondaries are something to be avoided. When you look at the facts they don't seem to back our mistrust. When we were filling out the CAF, we realised that we were in fact in a privileged position to be dithering between three schools, all of which we would fit the criteria for, all of which have a good/outstanding rating and two of which have well above average rates.

A friend was telling me that her neighbours in Camden are all trying to get into one of the above schools via the language aptitude test. It's a weird reversal of fortunes when middle-class Camden parents are trying to get their children into Islington schools.

And yet... and yet... still can't quite commit to the idea and have done private applications too. I wonder whether I'm allowing ancient prejudices to override the hard facts of the huge improvement.

MN164 Mon 24-Nov-14 16:42:36

Went through the same debate just recently. I saw our fast improving local comp 4 times over 2 years (meeting the head, open days etc).

The catchment area is shrinking as it improves its results and parents compete to get in. The demographic going in will be defined by a radius under 1km.

The question is not what is the school like now (or the results over the last 5 years), but what will it be like over the next 7 years when a lot can change, especially if the catchment is so narrow (increased volatility).

Whilst lots of "middle class" parents have decided to stay in the state system (perhaps recession hit, perhaps political motivation) the fact remains that it is not anything like DAO - not by a long way. DAO has very low FSM, ESL and low attainer intake. DAO is actually worse with value add on low attainers than almost any Islington comp.

Ultimately you can't decide on stats or school gate gossip. Even parents with kids there aren't that helpful as that about their kids, not yours - and we all have different kids.

Gut feeling usually right, but try to back it up with evidence and reasoning.

Umbrelladilemma Tue 25-Nov-14 00:14:47

Have been lurking with interest here. We are in Islington and our DC (girl and boy) are only in KS1 but we are of course having the age-old debate about whether to stay in London. DH is convinced that school options are better in the Home Counties but I'm not convinced. And I am worried about putting DC through tough entrance exams/11 plus - I went to a grammar and tbh I struggled and I think would have been happier in a less strongly selective school.

So I'm very interested to hear about the local options... is anyone prepared to name specific schools?

GregorSamsa Tue 25-Nov-14 07:34:25

Name specific schools - whyever not?

I know dc who are doing/have done well (very well in some cases, ie Oxbridge or medical school) at Highbury Grove, Highbury Fields, St Aloysius, Mount Carmel, St Mary Mags and Central Foundation. I would not have reservations about sending my dc to any of those schools. And the ones I haven't named are just because I don't have any knowledge of them, not because they're bad schools.

And there are good schools just outside Islington for people who live on the border with other boroughs - Highgate Wood, Acland Burghley, Skinners Academy, Stoke Newington.

There really is no need for dc to be commuting 15 miles out of town to selective schools in order to get a decent education. Obviously if people choose that, then that's their right. But it's not because there are no other options.

farewelltoarms Tue 25-Nov-14 11:36:12

I'm very reassured that all three of our CAF choices are on your list Gregor. It's very odd how conflicted I feel about secondary and how I have a complete absence of gut feeling.

There is some sort of cognitive dissonance with London secondaries I think, particularly in Islington. We know that they outperform the rest of the country and that their results are truly outstanding in some areas and yet many of us feel that somehow we'd feel more comfortable if we were in one of these leafy areas I'm always reading about on MN. It's snobbery on my part I think, a shameful fear of otherness. I'm really wrestling with it. It doesn't help that nobody on our street even sends their kids to the state primary so we already feel like we're being made to feel as though we're doing something 'braver' than our neighbours.

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