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Fortismere v Channing and Camden v Francis Holland

(19 Posts)
alejandro Sat 06-Feb-16 16:44:49

Best friend of DD lives in borderline catchment of Fortismere, which has been her parents' primary option since forever. She's done well in independent exams however, and was invited for interview at Channing, which, depending on offer outcome, might actually convince them to change their mind.

We are in a similar situation, with a borderline case for CSG (wouldn't have cut it in past years, but things apparently have gotten harder for domicile "tricks", so who knows) and eyes set on Francis Holland, if offered. Both DDs sat City and got interviews, but while they're bright, we both feel that's unlikely to happen.

Interestingly, talking to each other, both of us now sound much more likely to pick the private option even if offered the state place, compared to even six months ago when we would have considered it absolutely crazy to pay if handed a top state place. Independent sector has a way to rope you in, I suppose (plus, the weird and irrational feeling that a DD's efforts to pass the exams would go to waste if one didn't take the place)

Wondering if people on here have experienced similar choice, and if we are indeed crazy to even consider such a decision?

AgonyBeetle Sat 06-Feb-16 17:14:34

Well if it helps, we would have got Camden, but went for PHS instead because we thought it was calmer, saner and less competitive. For my oldest dc we turned down a scholarship at Channing (which we'd applied to as backup). Oldest dc currently at Cambridge, if that helps.

I cannot personally see what Channing or Francis Holland would offer over Fortismere or Camden, or for that matter over Parli or APS, unless you want the kudos of paying for private. I don't at all follow the logic of feeling that the exam efforts would be wasted if you didn't take the place - that's a classic sunk cost fallacy.

NWgirls Sat 06-Feb-16 19:18:57

OP: I know the state schools by reputation only (I have not even visited them), but understand it is a tough choice.

I know Francis Holland Regent's Park - is that the one you mean, or is it Sloane Square? Highly recommend FHS RP, my DD is in year 8 and really enjoying it whilst learning a lot alongside positive and friendly peers.

PP: Agree your "sunk cost" point (as did OP, calling it "irrational"). But what is the logic of you advising OP to pick state when you did the opposite and went for PHS yourself?

AgonyBeetle Sat 06-Feb-16 19:32:20

PHS = Parliament Hill School, girls' comp in Camden, on the edge of the Heath. smile

NWgirls Sat 06-Feb-16 20:14:24

Ahhh... Yes, I know a girl who is really happy there! (I thought it was Putney HS...). smilebrew

mickmills Sat 06-Feb-16 23:29:46

No work done or effort put in could be described as a waste. The girls will carry that through to the year 7 of whichever school you choose. It is interesting that you are asking this now - you (and friend) sat your daughters for the exam - if you are honest, what did you both hope for as you prepared her for it? I wonder if there is an undercurrent of competition between you and friend. That you might have both been comfortable with the state option but fear being left behind or looked down on if one chooses independent and the other doesn't.
There certainly is that feeling running deep in north London. Would it bother you to limit your daughter to mixing with a much narrower range of people? At the open days did you feel more or less comfortable and amongst "your own" at one school rather then the other? Does your daughter have a view?

horsemadmom Sat 06-Feb-16 23:56:19

Feel free to ignore posters who would like to make you feel guilty for making different choices to their own.

mickmills Sun 07-Feb-16 00:12:53

What a strange comment horse. Not trying to make op feel guilty. The best school for your child may be a private school, it may be a state school. The best school will be the one that fits best. You have to be honest with yourself about what factors are drawing you more to one or another. And if it's the kudos of private, that is ok, but always good to have that awareness and objectivity.

alejandro Sun 07-Feb-16 09:16:24

AgonyBeetle we are very aware of sunk cost fallacy, hence why the "irrational" in the initial question.

mickmills not sure about the unnecessary psychological characterisation in your response, but I'll try to answer anyway. Can't talk for our friends (although suspect the same applies), but we've applied to both grammar and indies as back-up for the very good state provision that we might not get as not a geographical slam dunk (and other likely options are either very far, not going to happen, or pretty dire).

Going through the process, taking the exams, going to open days, one starts having perhaps second thoughts and we thought asking here would be interesting since we probably aren't the first ones to go through this, so curious to hear how people have handled things in such situations

Nothing to do with "feeling more or less comfortable amongst our own" (well done for the oblique statement though), but for example, our DD in a good state primary was unfortunately often left to her own devices (as a good pupil not asking for further attention) and ended up drifting academically at time. Indies, whether that's right or not, make sure to sell you on the fact that all kids are catered for, and this is something that has us genuinely hesitant.

AgonyBeetle Sun 07-Feb-16 10:33:10

I don't read it as anyone being snippy or critical about your choices - you asked people who'd made similar choices for help on clarifying your thinking, which is what people are trying to do.

Obviously the private schools are trying to emphasise what they see as their selling points, given that they are asking you to pay large sums of money for something that is slightly different from, but not necessarily better than what you can get for free. Based on our own experience and that of friends and acquaintances, I would say that state schools absolutely can be on the case of dc who are bright but not engaged, or shy, or not pushing themselves quite hard enough, or whatever the case may be.

I think you need to decide what your personal comfort zone and an anxiety triggers are, and choose on that basis. At some stage in any child's education you will be unhappy with some aspect of their schooling - the question is whether at that point you will be reassured that you invested lots of money to get what you thought was the best, or whether you will be more annoyed at having spent those resources on something that isn't actually as perfect as you hoped. Conversely, there's no point choosing the state option if you will spend the next five years looking over your shoulder wondering how much better things could have been if you'd gone private.

There are no guarantees whatever you choose - children of all sorts of abilities and personalities do very well in all sorts of state schools, including ones that are less illustrious than CSG. It probably won't ultimately make a difference to the outcome for your particular child. My perception of your posts is that you actually want to choose the private option, adn want people to reassure you that you're making the right decision. In the end nobody can do that - it isn't the decision I'd make, so I can't reassure you on that front. And I don't think there's really an objective basis for thinkig it's likely to be a better choice, as such. But if it's the decision you want to make, and you're not stretching yourself to the max financially, then go for it.

alejandro Sun 07-Feb-16 14:01:38

Fair enough, Agony. And point well taken that it is easy to overthink all this when impact on actual outcomes is probably not that big. Fact that it is "not a decision you'd make" is actually exactly the type of feedback I was looking for, so thank you for that

mickmills Tue 09-Feb-16 09:32:47

I didn't mean to offend so sorry if I did. For what it's worth now, in my opinion there are outstanding state schools and outstanding private schools. There are private schools worth paying for, and state schools worth avoiding. I am not entirely sure the private schools in your query (except CLSG) are really outstanding, but the state schools certainly are. If you or your friend were to get offered a place at either of them and declined, without a doubt another family would be absolutely delighted to take it. Personally, the more liberal and co-ed environment of Fortismere would be my choice over Channing, but I know far less about CSG to comment. Good luck with the test results and your decision making.

NWgirls Tue 09-Feb-16 12:21:06

MickM: I agree with much of that, but not sure your logic / degree of certainty stacks up on which schools deserve to be called (obviously, in your eyes), outstanding, or worth paying for.

Are you simply referring to rankings i.e. academic performance?
(1) if so, why and how is City an obvious exception when Henrietta Barnett is free?
(2) if not, why/how can you be so certain given what the rankings are? Eg fresh Sunday Times London http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/multimedia/archive/00354/LONDON_354976a.pdf

Obviously degree of selectivity / ability-level of the intake is a factor which is different from the quality of education a DC will receive. Yes, the state schools (other than HBS) may be less selective (only partially / post code) than the independents, but how can you be certain?

For me, this is very difficult. Hoping to learn from you - or at least understand your thinking.

Your (culture/ethos?) point on Channing/Fortismere is understood, BTW.

(FYI, in our case state options were not as good as these, which made the choice much easier anyway.)

alejandro Tue 09-Feb-16 12:34:44

None taken mickmills. You are actually probably right that the 'indies are better' default mindset in certain bits of north London can make one lose track of how little variation in educational outcomes there might be vs good state options, and at what cost! That's where we are right now (nevermind that none of these offers are actually on the table yet grin) and as mentioned, we certainly appreciate the feedback in either direction, especially coming from people who have faced similar choices.

NWGirls I think mickmills just singled out City because I mentioned it in the opening post. Nothing to do with overlooking HBS, which is not an option for us anyway.

Coffeeismycupoftea Tue 09-Feb-16 13:46:22

If we had had a certain option as good as Fortismere/CSG (or Parliament Hill and various others, I'm just citing the ones of the OP), we'd have never done the private exams (apart from anything else, it's a heinous process).

However our three possible state options, while not bad, all had their negative points. They were all fine, but not quite tempting enough. Plus, like the OP, we weren't dead certs for any of them so there was huge uncertainty and an inability to commit wholeheartedly (which we could for our primary, which was not only near but undersubscribed). So very last minute we did three private schools (central/north London). Only to give ourselves options, we told ourselves. The trouble is that the process is so horrible and doing comprehensions over the Christmas holidays is so vile that when our dc did very well for these really vg schools, it was so hard to turn round to him and say, right well it was just options you're not going there. Plus (superficial), the private schools are so nice to you once you've proved how clever and easily teachable your child is.

In the end we were only offered our third choice state, but anyway I think by this time it was too late as we'd been sold on one of the privates. I still don't know if we've been conned. I feel a pang when I walk past our nearest state school and see all the children walking to school.

AgonyBeetle Tue 09-Feb-16 14:03:18

The trouble is, it's hard or probably impossible to extrapolate from others' experiences, and to factor out the added spin and flattery that surrounds sought-after schools (both state and private, tho obv private have more resources to throw at making parents feel good about themselves).

The confirmation bias factor is more powerful with private schools I think, as no-one wants to believe that they've committed to paying a five-figure sum every year for something that they could have got for free. People whose dc have come out the other end of the process are a bit more forthcoming - I know a few people who admit that, with hindsight, they got swept up in the feeling that private must be better because they were paying for it, and that their dc probably would have got the same outcome if they'd gone for the state option.

My observation now that my oldest three are all post-GCSE has been that all the dc I know and know of have got the GCSE grades that you would have predicted for them at age 9, based on their ability and personality, regardless of what school type they attended. And that covers schools ranging from the north London holy grail schools to roughish comps with an Ofsted RI rating. I know kids who aced the entrance exams for super-selective or whose parents were busting a gut to send them private only for them to come out with extremely mediocre grades, and kids in tough comps in not-very-nice areas who came out with 11A*.

You pays your money (or not) and takes your choice, I think. Choose the school where you think your child will be happiest and you won't go far wrong.

NWgirls Tue 09-Feb-16 14:14:43

Correction, the link in my previous post should not be described as "fresh" when the list appears to date from 2012... (Still a convenient overview in that it is London only and includes both state and independents)

The fresh Sunday Times list is behind a paywall - or hardcopy, I guess. Of the 2000 or so state and independent secondary schools in all of the UK, it ranks CLSG number 7, HBS 17, Francis Holland Regents Park 77, Channing 78. (I can only see the top 100, so not Fortismere and CSG).

OP: yes, the mention of HBS was to provide a (extremely high-performing and selective) state alternative to City simply for the sake of the discussion with MickM about how to judge schools, given their varying selectivity/results. (And you also mentioned grammar in your second post, so I guessed, wrongly, that it was HBS that was relevant/familiar)

MN164 Tue 09-Feb-16 14:20:56

AgonyBeetle star

Confirmation bias is spot on, but it's true for any school. Few parents will confess to an error of judgement on school choices (fee paying or not).

"Choose the school where you think your child will be happiest and you won't go far wrong."

That nails it. Ignore all the other noise around the choice and focus on that alone.

LukesDiner Tue 28-Feb-17 16:09:05

FWIW, if you are going to use league tables as a measure, you need to look at the criteria- some tables use A*-A as their measure, some A*-B. With many schools now only advising on three A levels, you need to make sure that your bright kid will be more likely to get an A - that's what they'll need to get into the top unis, if that's what they want. Some schools on some league tables were higher than others as they got majority B grades at A level. Many schools don't submit their results to the ISC, Telegraph or Times so the league tables are all a bit irrelevant anyway!

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