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School search brain freeze - School consultant/ advisor???

(14 Posts)
littlepip22 Wed 04-Nov-15 14:40:39

I'm in the throws of school visits and open days and feeling completely overwhelmed. Been to see Emanuel, St Pauls, Godolphin & Latymer, Putney High, Queensgate, ASL London and got more coming up through November and December.

They've all got their pros and cons and I'm feeling totally overwhelmed by all the information. All the visits we've had have been great but i can't help but think that it's all a bit of a show for us parents. i'm asking friends whose children go there etc. but all the school gate chat is just adding to my confusion.

Has anyone here used a school advisor or placement service? I figure if we're going to fork out for private education it might be a good idea to get some proper unbiased advice???

I'd love to hear from anyone who has heard of a good one. How much is it? do you think it is worth it?? should i just be trusting my gut???

New to all this - would so appreciate some help!!

Ladymuck Wed 04-Nov-15 15:03:33

That's a lot of schools to see in one go!

I think a school consultant may be useful if you can't get to visit the schools, or can only visit a few. They will help you narrow down a search, but they wouldn't come out with "this is the school for your dd", certainly not with the current degree of competition to get places at London day schools.

But I think you need to consider for yourself, whether your dd would suit single sex or co-ed. How academic is she? And how would she react being in a very academic school as opposed to one with a wider range? In other words will she do better being in the bottom half of a very academic school, or the top half of one with a broader range?

In W/SW London it seems increasingly common to sit for 4-8 schools and see what happens. Once you have an offer, then there is plenty of time to see a school operating on a normal day etc.

What year is your dd in?

Alwaysfrank Wed 04-Nov-15 23:16:51

That's quite a varied selection of schools there OP, over quite a big area.

I have been through this process several times. I'm not sure a paid consultant is really going to help because they won't know your child like you do. All the schools sound fantastic on paper, but when you look around you are bound to get a better feeling about some than others - like looking at a house. Then you need to think of a sensible spread of schools across the academic range - so from your list probably St Paul's at the top and then Queensgate/Emanuel at the lower end, with G&L and Putney in between. Not sure where ASL would fit in precisely. You also need to think about co-ed vs single sex. For our daughter we only looked at single sex as a way of narrowing things down. Geography is also important- how easy are the journeys?

Unless your child is really top of the tree academically you are unlikely to get offers everywhere and I think the school chooses you as much as anything so it is important to choose ones you would be happy to send her to. Please don't sit more than 5, if they are chosen sensibly it shouldn't be necessary.

If you are at a prep school now, they should be advising you. Good luck!

littlepip22 Thu 05-Nov-15 11:38:05

Thank you both so much AlwaysFrank and LadyMuck - really helpful. It is such a minefield all this and really helpful to get other views. She is pretty academic but i am mindful of not putting her into a school where she'll constantly be under pressure... DD is in year 5. We're central so geography wise we're being openminded. Interesting to hear Emanuel and Queensgate as less academic - i've got friends' kids at those schools who are really happy - to be honest this is what makes me so nervous as i hear so much about ability/ academic level of school when surely a child's experience there is going to be determined by so many different factors.... yikes. Agree about only doing max 5 tests - gets ridiculous otherwise.

What was it about the schools that you ended up selecting that was the decider?? Was there something that clinched it??

aliceinwonderland78 Thu 05-Nov-15 11:55:30

We used a consultant. Definitely a good investment for us and I would recommend if you want an unbiased/objective pov. The lady we used was an ex teacher, spent lots of time with dd doing assessment etc

littlepip22 Thu 05-Nov-15 12:04:00

hi alice - do you mind telling me who you used?? I've been googling and it seems as though Gabbitas is quite popular?? There are also quite a few of the tutoring agencies who offer this type of stuff but i don't know how good they are. Also, were you coming to London from abroad or were you here already? it seems as thought it is something that people relocating over here do. I don't know if i'm being crazy indulgent getting someone to help when we are already here!!! Was it very expensive? Sorry for so many questions. Also, had you already been to see schools or did they start with you right at the beginning - we've already seen quite a few so might be too late?

aliceinwonderland78 Mon 09-Nov-15 13:36:34

Isobel Walters. Her company is Isobel Walters Schooling Consultants. Very good and definitely worth a phone call.

AnotherNewt Mon 09-Nov-15 13:58:34

Gabbitas is the big, established name, and you won't go wrong with them.

But what exactly do you want them to do? If your DD is at a prep, then they really wouldn't add much, if anything. But as you talk about 'going to fork out' and you don't have support from your current school, I can see the attraction. Though it won't remove your angst (prep school parents get it too).

I suggest you start lurking on the London private schools admissions threads (if you're not already doing so). There's on for girls schools, and Alleyns/Emanuel are sometimes mentioned on the boys thread too.

The aim is to have one aspirational, some realistic, and one 'banker' (in inverted commas as it's become more competitive, I'm afraid in the last few years, as the number of children in London increases but school places don't keep up (also, some children who might have boarded in more buoyant times are heading for day schools).

You're doing the right thing on looking at schools now. Open days do all start to look the same if you do too many closely packed. You've got thinking time to decide which ones made a lasting good impression, and to go and see them again.

Think hard about the journey to the school for your DD, and what it's like during morning rush hour (especially if carrying lots of clobber). This doesn't necessarily mean closest, it might mean easier journey (getting on one of those weird bus routes that takes a while but takes you there might be easier than one where she has to change).

Look at schools in the same consortium too; one exam for more than one school has its attractions.

If Emanuel is likely to be on your list, chuck in a registration (you don't have to follow it up if you change your mind) because it guillotines its list when it reaches 600 and is doing so earlier each year (it was April 15 for Sept 16 11+ entry).

AnotherNewt Mon 09-Nov-15 14:02:24

neuroticnicky Fri 13-Nov-15 11:22:29

I certainly wouldn't waste your money on a consultant. At the end of the day the key factors are a) do you want co-ed or single sex b) the academic performance of the school (compare what percentage of A level grades are A*/A c) your DD's own academic ability (ie which schools is she genuinely likely to get into?) d) distance of the school from your home and e)the school facilities .I personally believe that distance is an important factor as not only is time spent travelling time wasted but your DD will find that most of her friends will live near the school and we have therefore ruled out schools over 2-3 miles away. My DD on the other hand is sporty and wasn't that keen on some of the smaller schools (Queensgate, Francis Holland etc) due to poor on site facilities. I would therefore start by considering your nearest schools ie those within say 3 miles and rating them in order of academic performance . For example in West London most people who want all girls schools would focus on SPGS and G&L (and LU if you want co-ed) and would exclude Putney High as too far away. Backups would therefore be St James, Queensgate etc. Make a list of your top 5 local schools in terms of A level results over the last 2-3 years and the choice may become clearer. There is a huge difference academically between say SPGS at the top of the schools you mentioned and say Emanuel.

neuroticnicky Fri 13-Nov-15 11:39:16

I should have added that it can also be useful to see where girls at the top local prep schools apply to and accept places so see eg:

desperate2 Fri 13-Nov-15 12:10:26

If you have the money, first get offers from the schools, once you have them go to the consultant. You do not want to decide in one school and then found out they don't have space.

littlepip22 Wed 06-Jan-16 15:15:47

Happy New Year to you all!! Thank you soooo much for your help desperate2, AnotherNewt and neuroticnicky - sorry for long silence - christmas bedlam took over. I am officially done on seeing schools - was exhausted by Christmas! Interested to find out how everyone is doing on their searches?? Exams looming now - eeeeek. Going to be decision time before too long!! I took the plunge and signed up with Isobel aliceinwonderland78. Sooooooo lovely so huge thank you for the tip. Now just gotta wait for exam results to come in!! Fingers crossed to everyone out there who's doing exams! smile

desperate2 Wed 06-Jan-16 15:54:09

Good luck sweetie smile

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