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Moving to Surrey - questions on schools and sports

(59 Posts)
Rsbl Sat 17-Oct-15 13:26:06


We are an American family of 4 living in Switzerland moving to the Surrey area. The kids (girl 13, boy 11) currently attend an IB school. Here are my somewhat numerous questions:

- While my husband thinks we should continue with an IB school I am interested in a state or independent school. I don't really understand the difference between the two. My children are fairly bright but I've heard the exams are very difficult and if the child hasn't been training for them it would be difficut to receive good marks. As such, are the non selective schools good? I've read many posts and it appears there is something called a cachment? What is that? Is it worthwhile to change from IB to the English system? They will probably go to the US for university.

- If we do continue with the IB we are looking at ISL Surrey and ACS Cobham. I would be very interested in comments on each. I've looked for prior posts and there are some, but they all seem to be a few years old, so looking for updated information. I'm interested in primarily their college acceptances in the US, thoughts on ISL and how they are handling their first soon to be graduating class, the strength of the foreign languages (both kids are fairly strong in French and don't want them to lose it), and traffic to get to and from the schools.

- Ice hockey - my son wants to continue playing. It seems there is a team in Guildford, but I'm not sure if that is easily drivable from Woking or Cobham? Are there other teams?

- Competitive swimming - my daughter swims competively and I see there is a team in Woking and one in Guildford. If we end up in Cobham would either of those teams be too far away for early morning practices? Are there other teams we should be considering? She is hoping for a swim scholarship in college so the swimming is pretty important.

- How is the commute to Waterloo from Guildford, Woking and Cobham? We haven't decided where to live yet and I'm interested in comments on each of those areas.

Thanks in advance for any feedback!

LIZS Sat 17-Oct-15 13:37:56

Independent schools are fee paying , state are free , but relatively few state schools do IB, and even fewer ,if any, below 16. Selective tests are most competitive at 11, or 13 for some independent schools, after that you are dependent on if there is a space in the right year group. Surrey doesn't have many academically selective state schools. Catchment means the area from which children are given priority for a place but again not often applicable in Surrey and only at the main entry point.

For sports like ice hockey the facilities won't be as frequently available so Guildford is probably nearest, likewise much of the competitive swimming is focussed on Spectrum , although there will be more local clubs and training facilities. Woking to Guildford isn't far but traffic could be heavy during commuting times.

The main issue with commuting to London is cost and overcrowded trains , Woking/Guildford would have a more frequent service.

Rsbl Sat 17-Oct-15 16:43:51

LIZS thank you for this information, it's extremely helpful. A couple follow up questions.

If Guildford doesn't have many "academically selective state schools" does that mean there are independent schools there or that the ones there aren't very good?

Also why is cachment not often applicable in Surrey? I'm hoping its because schools are easy to get into?

Thank you very much!

hooliodancer Sat 17-Oct-15 16:56:25

You will always get a seat into Waterloo from any of those stations.
If you are having to travel to Guildford a lot for sport, then Guildford would be a good choice to live, and there are lots of trains into London.

Guildford is an easy journey from Cobham- you can get straight on the A3 and the traffic is quite good even in rush hour. The leisure centre is very close to the A3 exit. However, if you live in Cobham, there are fewer trains to Waterloo. There is also a station at Oxshott though- you could be in Cobham and this could be the nearest station anyway.

titchy Sat 17-Oct-15 17:01:46

Selective state schools are fairly rare in the UK, apart from a few counties where they have the grammar system. There are one or two very selective state schools on the London / Surrey borders (Tiffin) but you'd have to have a super clever kid plus years of tutoring, so you absolutely cannot rely on such schools.

There are some excellent comprehensives in Surrey. George Abbott in Guildford, Howard of Effingham too. Virtually all state schools do GCSE and A levels though, not IB. Some have fixed catchments, most have distance as the tie breaker though so the distance admitted will change from year to year.

Most private (fee paying) schools are selective, though ACS isn't I don't think, but you're more likely to find private schools can offer IB at sixth form. Other than American schools you won't find middle years (ie up to age 16) IB even at private school though.

GinandJag Sat 17-Oct-15 17:02:29

That can enter US universities from the British, IB and American systems. American or International schools will specialise in US university entry, however.

Selective independent schools will have a US university tutor in the sixth form, and they will make sure students attend college fairs, prepare applications (incl scholarship), negotiate financial aid, and prepare for SATs and other entrance exams. If you go for a British school, make sure they offer this.

At 13 and 11, your DCs should be sufficiently flexible to go with either system.

You shouldn't have a problem in finding a school that is strong in French. It's still the main MFL.

I have taught in ACS Egham and I thought it was a good school - perfect for mobile families. Personally, however, I would put them in a British school if they are here for the long run. An international school is a very artificial environment. You will find that there is a lot of diversity in Surrey, with plenty of overseas students in most schools, especially independent ones.

There are ice hockey teams in Guildford, Bracknell and Aldershot, and most towns with pools will have a competitive swim club.

You have lots of options - where to live, state vs UK independent vs international, co-ed vs single sex, selective vs comprehensive....

You need to pick one and go from there.

titchy Sat 17-Oct-15 17:04:48

Sorry catchment and admission criteria only apply if you're applying for a place at the main entry point (age 4/5 for primary or 11/12 for secondary). For other years you're reliant on there being a vacancy, in the correct year, this can be a big issue....

RandomMess Sat 17-Oct-15 17:07:21

I would look at living in Guildford and the Independent schools in Guildford provided you can afford them.

Shortage of places at all state schools in Surrey so I just wouldn't bother adding to your stress levels. I agree the drive between Cobham and Guildford Sports Complex is quick and easy along A3.

Caprinihahahaha Sat 17-Oct-15 17:10:32

Guildford swimming club are not based at the spectrum leisure centre.

Their high performance squads train at Surrey sports park. The competitive squads train at a combination of SSP, the spectrum and aldershot garrison.

Caprinihahahaha Sat 17-Oct-15 17:12:02

Surrey Sports Park is part of Surrey university and has a fab 50 meter pool.

GinandJag Sat 17-Oct-15 17:13:07

There aren't officially catchment areas in Surrey as it's very densely populated. You can apply to any school, but if it is full and there is a tie, the closer student will get the place. Surrey CC publishes information each year telling you the furthest distance a pupil got in for each school.

One problem you might come up against is the your 11 year old is at a key entry point with application cut offs round about now. This will make it very difficult for you to get him into a good state school, as they need a fixed address to pursue your application.

If you get your act together now, you may be able to get him through the selection system for independent schools. For 11+ entry, independent schools have their exams in January 2016, and require you to register by about now (they should be lenient though for overseas applicants). They don't require you to have a UK address.

homebythesea Sat 17-Oct-15 17:13:34

for swimming Leatherhead is closer to Cobham and has a very well regarded swim team

No state school is allowed to be academically selective (in Surrey anyway - very few Counties have Grammar schools but best not confuse you further with that one!). I'm afraid I would have to differ with LIZS on the catchment issue - George Abbot and Howard of Effingham which are two of the best performing state senior schools in your proposed area definitely have very tight catchments which has a knock on effect on property prices!

At the ages your children are it will be fine because none of their cohorts will have chosen their GCSE subjects yet. However because you are applying outside the usual timescale for senior schools you will not necessarily have much of a choice for state schools. The obligation is for the Council to offer you a place at ANY school that has the space, not necessarily the one you want. If you are Catholic then this may help as there are some well regarded Catholic schools in Guildford and Leatherhead.

There are a lot of Private schools in easy reach of Guildford, Cobham, Woking etc - have you got the Good Schools Guide? That's a good place to start for independent schools. Some offer IB alongside A levels.

ACS is actually closer to Esher than Cobham, it is very "American" and on a very busy road at school times. The school holidays also do not chime with UK schools which may have an effect on extra curricular activities if you plan to travel - this affects some girls my DD dances with for example.

I have a friend whose son plays ice hockey at Guildford - beware as it does involve a lot of travelling all round the country most weekends as Ice Hockey is very much a minority sport and so there are few teams to play against!

Many more kids these days go to the US for Uni after doing GCSE's and A levels - they are well regarded qualifications and sometimes earn the students credits before they even start as they are above the High School levels in some subjects. It will obviously cost squillions though unless you qualify as a home student but you will know this already.....

Commuting as others have said is very straightforward by train but expensive - several thousands of pounds a year and frankly soul destroying. Woking is quickest of the places you have mentioned (and most frequent trains late at night coming home) but the least aesthetically pleasing in my opinion!

Hope that all helps!

cece Sat 17-Oct-15 17:15:22

Woking to Waterloo is 28 mins. Woking and Guildford both have good swimming clubs. The drive from Woking to Guildford is not far (about 8 miles) but can take anything from 15 mins to over an hour depending on traffic conditions. (I do the journey for work). Guildford also have an ice hockey team. The main sports facilities for this and swimming are at the Spectrum leisure centre. Cobham to Guildford is just down the A3 and is an OK drive - the traffic in the morning will mostly be going in the opposite direction into London.

George Abbot and County are both good secondary schools in Guildford. They are both state schools with no entry exams. However, entry is based on their admission criteria - this will be on their individual websites. Usually distance plays a large role in whether you get offered a place or not. The nearer you live to the school the better. Their websites will have their catchment area map - this means that you get priority when applying but if you live on the outskirts of the catchment and it is a large year group then you are not guaranteed a place. Howard of Effingham also has a very good reputation.

LIZS Sat 17-Oct-15 17:20:50

Assuming your 11 yo turned 11 before Sept 1st you are looking at making what is called an In Year application for a state school place. Catchments are sometimes used, where applicable, when the initial applications are submitted for a place at 11 to identify those living in that area and giving them priority for a place. Some areas use catchment , others don't. Surrey generally doesn't nor a selective test with a few exceptions such as Nonsuch girls. As your dc would be beyond this point already it won't be relevant. You need to identify state schools with places in the appropriate year group, ask Surrey LA, but be prepared for these probably not being considered the "best" schools in the area as those will be popular so already be full with waiting lists, especially in your younger dc year as they will only just have started there. You can check the In Year procedure on the Surrey CC website and you can join any waiting lists once you arrive.

For independent schools there is likely to be more flexibility about where you live and getting a place lined up before you move but again the cohort for your younger dc will be new with little movement yet. Schools like ACS are used to a mobile population so turnover may be higher and places come up more frequently. Many independent schools will assess academic and perhaps sporting ability and want reports from current school. Even if there are places they may not offer it if your dc don't match the criteria although some will take sport/music/arts potential into account for weaker academic candidates.

LIZS Sat 17-Oct-15 17:24:03

Interestingly you may be able to apply up to 4 weeks ahead, if you meet the criteria.

RandomMess Sat 17-Oct-15 17:25:02

Living on the doorstep of ISL Surrey could work too - back road to Woking Leisure Centre for Swimming and the back road onto the A3 to get to the spectrum for Ice Hockey.

West Byfleet station has fast trains into Waterloo.

Have friends at the school and they love it, quite a small community feel and more international than ACS with quite a few local native English families.

cece Sat 17-Oct-15 17:31:04

Good idea Random! OP not sure of your budget but you could walk to ISL from here

cece Sat 17-Oct-15 17:33:08

This one is handier for the station.

Needmoresleep Sat 17-Oct-15 17:56:03

If you are aiming for a swim scholarship, Guildford is the Club. She will need to be good to get into one of the senior squads, but they are one of the best clubs in Britain.

Given how intensive training is I would work back from there. So look when they finish in the morning and use Google maps to suggest a journey time to your preferred school.

To be honest many better swimmers end up boarding in place like Plymouth or Millfield. The latter achieves lots of sports scholarships for its students.

Ice hockey is a minority sport. Lots of fun but not of the same level as North America or Switzerland.

CatMilkMan Sat 17-Oct-15 18:13:06

Cobham to Guildford can be 20 minutes or it can be 40, it's a simple route on an A road.
What does your son think of rugby? We had an American boy that played ice hockey join my school team and he took to it amazingly.

Rsbl Sat 17-Oct-15 19:48:15

I am so glad I found this group. You have all been so helpful. I'm hoping the good schools guide is really clear which schools are independent and which are state.

My son did try rugby when we moved to Switzerland but gave it up for basketball this year. He's been playing hockey for 6 years and just loves it. My husband also plays hockey so its a bit of a father son bonding experience.

I really appreciate the information about the driving. That is something that is very difficult to research.

By the way what does DS, DD etc mean?

LIZS Sat 17-Oct-15 19:55:04

Ds is dear son, dd dear daughter, dh dear husband. If you look on the website I linked to earlier, there should be a guide to secondary admissions somewhere which will list state secondaries in Surrey with some info on September 2015 admissions such as size of intake and furthest distance away that a child was offered a place. Not strictly relevant as your DC would be In Year admissions but it would give you an idea of scale and area. The ISC website lists most independent schools.

LIZS Sat 17-Oct-15 19:59:03

Try . Independent schools normally play rugby, hockey and/or soccer for boys. Girls netball , hockey and/or lacrosse. Rugby in CH won't have been typical of UK schools rugby.

LIZS Sat 17-Oct-15 20:01:51

State schools can be found

Rsbl Sat 17-Oct-15 20:14:59

Thank you! Yet another question. Do you contact schools yourself or hire a firm to do it? The advice I was given is to contact the international schools directly but hire a firm to contact the indpendent schools. Although that advice might just apply for central London.

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