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Opinion of The Laurels School in Clapham please?

(70 Posts)
JanieSa Tue 16-Feb-16 20:42:15

Does anyone have daughter at The Laurels? If so do you think that the advantages of the character education and tutoring system outweigh the perceived disadvantages of lack of sports facilities and clubs and no academic record? Any opinion or experience please?

OP’s posts: |
Ladymuck Tue 16-Feb-16 21:51:56

Have you looked carefully at the ownership and governance of the school? Do you know what role the owner has in the school? Does she have girls at the school? I would also look at the PACT accounts - again there are parents who are also governors and seem to be donating a lot of money to the school. Is that the general expectation?

Other schools have tutor systems. In my local comp as well as the usual tutor, pupils have a staff mentor who motivates, phones home, keeps on top of whether the pupil turns in homework, joins in clubs etc.

I wonder why the school opts to describe its Ofsted as "Excellent" when it deems the school to be good, not outstanding?

DMama2 Thu 18-Feb-16 12:46:47

Posting my response to another thread here, as other participants may be interested:

I have a daughter at The Laurels, this is her second year and she is still loving it.

The school have a minibus that parents can opt to reserve a place for their daughter - it will collect girls from Clapham Junction and drop off after school/clubs. We have girls travelling from as far as Chessington to be educated at The Laurels and I think maybe even further now!

We are fortunate to have an excellent sports director to coach our girls, while continuously measuring and improving their fitness and technique.

Considering our small selection of girls (around 14-16), opposed to a large cohort of 100 girls to select from for a Team A, our girls have won South London Netball League and Lambeth girls' football championship!

I've been fortunate enough to witness our Sports Director coaching Year 9 in athletics last year and I was absolutely blown away at how she coached the girls in learning the technique for high jump. I'm not sure whether the girls were aware that they would be actually completing a high jump by the end of a single lesson, however, the way they were taught was exceptional. Always providing encouragement and critique.

Where we do not have enviable sports facilities within the school premises, our daughters have access to quality facilities that allow them to learn/participate in gymnastics, netball, athletics, hockey, basket ball, football, trampolining (I believe a club is being organised), swimming - evening learnt some synchronised swimming.

My daughter says that they play a lot of team sports, which has helped them in their clear communication and cooperation. An example she gave is that it has helped them to know each other better and can see if someone else needs help - it also helped them become better friends.

Quality of Teaching
Mrs Sanders, headmistress, has an excellent team of academic subject specialists. The quality of teaching is superb and is fed back to us through termly parent/teacher one to one tutorials, when we get to meet with our daughter's tutor in person. All the teachers provide feedback to our daughter's tutor, who in turn discusses the same with us as parents and is able identify any underlying issues. These tutorials put the wellbeing of our daughter (home and school) at the forefront, which has a natural effect on her learning.

My experience of The Laurels girls are that they are polite, generous and articulate, which is something that is at the heart of the school's ethos. I've found them to be mature in their thinking also.

We have had a Year 10 girl, whom I've met, take one of her iGCSEs last year in Year 9 and achieved an A* with a Uniform Mark Scale of 100%!

I believe girls are discussing their Options early in Year 9 and my daughter has completed GCSE work in science including experiments and tests.

Opus Dei
I think there are other parents who are better qualified to comment on Opus Dei, however, as a parent who is not a Catholic, I can say that my experience of religion at the school has been positive. We are a Catholic ethos school and the girls have Mass in the Oratory once per week with Fr Frank, whom I've spoken with about Catholicism before we joined the school. I found him to be easy to speak to without being pushy. In conclusion, the ethos of the school reflects our family virtues and provides a wonderful environment for our daughter.

The school very much fosters a family environment, where parents are included. The inclusion you may have experienced when your daughter was at primary school is not usually experienced at senior school, however, it is present at The Laurels and its brother school, The Cedars. We have a class couple who are generous with their time, even though they are working professionals. I think it would be fair to say that The Laurels parents contribute to the school in one way or another - I absolutely love the atmosphere of the school.

I do hope that I've been able to reassure you and look forward to meeting you at school!

DMama2 Thu 18-Feb-16 13:37:34

Hello Ladymuck

As a parent at both The Laurels and The Cedars, there has never been an expectation from the schools for me to donate 'a lot of money' to the school. We give our time freely and generously, as we do for anything we believe in. I cannot speculate on the reasons parents may be donating large sums of money, although PACT is a registered charity and I, as a parent at the schools, am grateful for any donations to PACT. The schools were founded by parents who had a vision for an education for their children, that maintains parents are the primary educators of our children. I have met some of these parents and they are truly passionate about the schools, family and our children.

What I can tell you why I offer my time and service to the schools: both schools have excellent heads who lead the schools differently, yet very effectively. I have seen my children develop since being at these schools. This development in their character, knowledge and personality would not have been the same in any other school and it is much to do with the consistent message the children receive from home and school - there is a full circle of communication available that I didn't experience at my son's previous senior school. My children have attended both state school and a large private school, neither of which are on the level of The Laurels and The Cedars in pastoral care, character development/formation and communication. As parents, we also have a voice that is heard by both heads, who are accessible.

The Ofsted report for The Laurels was an excellent one, with reference to outstanding behaviour and character development:

Ofsted Inspection 2014

The Laurels School received an excellent first Ofsted Inspection Report in November 2014. We are delighted with the recognition of the outstanding contribution made to the school's success by the character development programme.

"The behaviour of students is outstanding. In and out of classrooms, students take pride in behaving like mature young ladies. They display very high levels of self-discipline and good manners"

“Students’ outstanding spiritual, moral, social and cultural development is reflected in their depth of thinking"

“Teachers have very high expectations of students’ achievement, behaviour and presentation of work. They know their students well and how to meet their needs effectively"

"In lessons, they buzz with eagerness to learn and achieve highly, and they are consistently focused on their work"

"Students learn to develop moral virtues, such as fortitude and honesty. They fully understand that this helps to refine and strengthen their character, and to prepare them to become responsible citizens"

I believe it is not possible to attain an 'Outstanding' result overall for the first Ofsted inspection. We achieved the best result possible for our first inspection.

We are a work in progress and are continually striving to improve and learn from our experiences.

You would be most welcome to visit the school at our next open day to see the school for yourself and meet our head, teachers and many of the girls.

All the best

Chingalandia Thu 18-Feb-16 14:58:36

We have two daughters at the Laurels and our experience has been overwhelmingly positive. DMama2's post gives lots of details about the school. I'd just say that we spent the best part of two years scouring the country for a school which met our aspirations for our girls. When we did find it at the Laurels we moved area, house and jobs for the sake of our girls and their education. It wasn't a decision taken lightly.

Formation is so important for young people, especially girls, and the Laurels combines excellent and demanding academics with a highly personalised formation founded on Christian values. All credit to Mrs Sanders for finding and recruiting an excellent staff and for making the most of the opportunities offered in London, from local sports facilities to cultural events.

I went to last year's Sports Day at Tooting Bec. Other than being underused, the sports facilities are excellent. Music, sport, theatre, languages, academics - I have been impressed by them all.

If you're considering the Laurels for your daughter, just remember that PACT stands for Parents and Children Together and that philosophy is why parents are so involved in the school. If that sounds like you, go and take a look!

WillandGraceMama Thu 18-Feb-16 15:15:47

My daughter is at The Laurels and we couldn't be happier with the school. The combination of high academic expectations (whilst being fully supported by excellent teachers) and a strong focus on character and values mean that my daughter is flourishing academically and emotionally. We are Catholic but do not belong to Opus Dei. No one expects us to, although there is an expectation that parents and teachers work together with a shared understanding of how to support my daughter. I think you would find that all excellent schools would share this principle. The tutor system is excellent: as well as termly meetings, I can contact my daughter's tutor anytime by email and receive a constructive and thoughtful response within hours.

No one has ever asked us for additional money. We have all been warmly welcomed into the community. The Laurels finds inventive ways to compensate for a lack of on-site facilities. I have never found this to be a problem, and love how the girls can access London experiences due to the school's location. I also love the size of the school (located in a beautiful white house - the playground is the garden, which contains cherry trees) and the supportive atmosphere where the girls are kind to one another - not always the case with teenage girls! Most importantly, I genuinely don't think my daughter could be happier than she is at The Laurels.

JanieSa Thu 18-Feb-16 15:17:05

Thank you DMama2 and Chingalandia for your very helpful responses. In your experience so far do you believe your daughters will be adequately prepared for life after school? I'm concerned about the fact it is a very small school of girls taught by women only (is that right?). Also do your daughters feel that there are enough girls for them to find good friendship groups? Are the girls friends with girls in other year groups? Also one for you DMama2 as a non-Catholic - I am too - Are you happy with the fact that Catholicism is the only religion taught and that 2 lessons a week are devoted to it when they are doing their GCSE courses? I realise this is a very personal question so maybe inappropriate but it is something that I am trying to grapple with as I love so much about the school!

OP’s posts: |
CSLewis Thu 18-Feb-16 15:20:57

Hi JanieSa! I have two daughters at The Laurels, the eldest of whom has been there since the school opened.

In a word - YES! It has absolutely been our experience that the particular strengths of this school - you mentioned the personal tutor and character education, but there are many more - MORE than outweigh the perceived disadvantages associated with its being a new, small school.

The fact that it is a new, small school also brings with it many advantages, which in my opinion and experience are far more important: not least of which is the genuine sense of family, in which everyone's voice - parents, pupils, staff) is heard and valued, and the way in which the whole school community can be involved in developing the vision and achievements of The Laurels in the years to come.

Please feel free to ask more, JanieSa: Laurels' parents are always happy to share their experiences of this school :-)

JanieSa Thu 18-Feb-16 15:25:50

Thank you WillandGraceMama for your response also. Your daughter sounds very happy so you've answered one of my questions about friendships within a small cohort. I am keen for my daughter to gain confidence during her secondary school experience but am not sure how The Laurels will prepare her for the big wide world after? Also it sounds like everyone who has posted on here is happy with the academic side of things - this is difficult to assess in a new school. Thank you for your help.

OP’s posts: |
CSLewis Thu 18-Feb-16 15:36:33

Cross-post! I hadn't seen your follow-up, Janie.

In my daughters' experience, the smaller class sizes actually encourage greater social cohesion as a year-group, rather than splitting off into cliques. This doesn't prevent closer friendships from developing though, and yes, there is lots of scope for interaction across all the year groups, as they eat together and play together daily.

The Laurels explicitly encourages its pupils to encounter different facets of 'the outside world'; my eldest daughter has already done volunteer work at a local outreach centre which supports a deprived community, and the school works closely with the charities it supports, one of which works with the homeless locally.

The girls themselves also come from a wide range of backgrounds and nationalities, which enriches their collective experience, and are given the opportunity to travel abroad and further broaden their horizons.

WillandGraceMama Thu 18-Feb-16 15:37:19

Just to go back to your first question, my daughter was in a bigger school before The Laurels and to a certain extent she fell through the cracks. Because at The Laurels the school and classes are small, the girls look out for each other and it's a very inclusive atmosphere.

Other parents may have different opinions about how The Laurels prepares their daughters for adulthood, but for me I'd say: the purpose of the character and values programme is to help the girls develop into responsible, moral adults who have the ability to assess the world in which they live without necessarily getting sucked into it; the Duke of Edinburgh Award programme, which as you may know includes volunteering, learning skills and an overnight expedition; and for my daughter, travelling to school on public transport has given her a huge sense of empowerment and independence. I think the older girls also have a sense of responsibility towards the younger ones. Nearly two years into my daughter's time at The Laurels, I am humbled (and to be honest, relieved) at how much she has grown and developed into a thoughtful and independent young woman.

Abracadabra10 Thu 18-Feb-16 15:50:48

If you don't mind me asking - is it the case that the girls are only taught by female teachers and if so why?

Chingalandia Thu 18-Feb-16 15:56:22

JanieSa, in answer to your question about life 'after the Laurels' I'd say that the best preparation for the challenges which life throws at us is to have a firm foundation in the virtues (fortitude, temperance, self-control, etc. etc., which allow us to assess each situation with a solid foundation. That 'built on rock' approach allows our girls to explore some of life's more challenging questions in a supportive environment, with their respective tutors as their guides. Combine that with an emphasis on excellence ('be the best that you can be') and you see why the Laurels girls are happy and confident.

WillandGraceMama Thu 18-Feb-16 16:32:39

Hi Abracadabra10. You're correct that the teaching staff (although not support staff) is made up of women. I don't know why. I've certainly never heard that it's a school policy. It may be because as a small and young school, in the early years some of the posts have been part-time and as we know, the cost of living in London is steep. Much more important than the gender of the staff is the fact that the girls are encouraged to be strong and educated women. I would say that the majority of the teachers are inspring role models for the girls who embody the vales they promote. The girls are pushed hard in science and maths as well as the more creative subjects. Personally, I think there are advantages and disadvantages to single sex education and every parent makes a choice according to their circumstances and children's characters.

My daughter has a brother, father, uncles and cousins as well as contact with plenty of male family friends. For her, The Laurels is the right environment and I've never felt the lack of male teachers (or students) to be holding her back in any way. During the teenage years, I'd say the opposite was more likely to be true.

Abracadabra10 Thu 18-Feb-16 16:44:08

Thanks Willandgrace. I read on a previous thread that about half the families involved with the school are OpusDei. Would you say this is still the case and do all teachers also have to be members in order to work at the school?

DMama2 Thu 18-Feb-16 16:44:11

In answer to your question JanieSa, absolutely. Both my husband and I are very happy with the way religion is taught at The Laurels and The Cedars. My son is studying for his GCSEs and has two RE lessons per week that he enjoys! Hope this helps smile

DMama2 Thu 18-Feb-16 16:52:10

I don't believe teachers have to be members of Opus Dei to work at the school.

As with anything, there is bound to be misleading information on the net, therefore, it may be worth speaking directly with an Opus Dei member, who will honestly answer your concerns. I can only give you my personal experience, which is nothing negative relating to Opus Dei.


wannabestressfree Thu 18-Feb-16 17:02:14

Gosh I am jealous and want to teach there now....

DMama2 Thu 18-Feb-16 19:49:41

To clarify, my post above was in answer to the question asked directly to me by JanieSa at 15:17:

In answer to your question JanieSa, absolutely. Both my husband and I are very happy with the way religion is taught at The Laurels and The Cedars. My son is studying for his GCSEs and has two RE lessons per week that he enjoys! Hope this helps

blaze2blossom Thu 18-Feb-16 22:01:13

I am a happy parent of both the laurels and the cedars, my children are very happy in their schools and I think as a parent having that peace of mind that your children look forward to going to school everyday is the most wonderful relaxed feeling ever, the teaching is outstanding in all areas,

ines123321 Thu 18-Feb-16 22:27:33

My daughter is at the Laurels school. I believe that it is this united approach based on cooperation and trust between the school and family that forms such a solid foundation for the girls' development. Our daughter flourishes reaching her maximum potentials academically , receiving the best possible support in her social, moral, spiritual and emotional development. And she loves the school!!! I know that when the alarm clock rings in her bedroom in the morning and a moment later she is ready and happy to go despite the darkness, coldness and long journey ahead.
My advice is to come to one of the frequently run Open Days at the Laurels. You will be warmly welcomed by the staff, the pupils and parents representative, all happy to show you around and answer any questions. The next Open day is scheduled for the 27 of April.

Ado123 Thu 18-Feb-16 22:35:10

Hi all, we have read all of the above and if this can be of reassurance to the doubtful, we can summarise The Laurels teaching style as being all rounded. In other words, the focus is not just on academics, but also on personality development, on teaching our children the family values in the traditional sense (which for many of us comes naturally), and many other virtues that are needed in the nurturing of our daughters spiritually, physically and academically. The end goal is (in addition to having successful future) for our daughters to become responsible adults, not following fads, and not giving in blindly to external wrong influences. In today's world, it is very easy to follow the crowd, the wrong crowd. With the strong foundation that the Laurels is building the children on, our girls would be well founded academically, spiritually, physically and at personality level to withstand any strong undesired wind. Our daughter is in year 8 and quite frankly, we have started to see the benefits exponentially. We all know what goes on in mainstream and / or other private schools in terms of peer pressure to do the wrong things under the slogan of 'being cool'. The Laurels stands on the other side of continuum, for sure. We would definitely recommend the school to others without a shred of a doubt.

London2016 Thu 18-Feb-16 22:42:27

Am I the only one who thinks some of the posts above have probably been written by the same person under different pseudo names, perhaps working for or closely linked with the school?

DMama2 Thu 18-Feb-16 23:12:07

Lol, I can probably recognise some of the people who have posted, have met and spoken to them in person and they are very much real individuals. I love that the school is not cliquey - amongst the girls, parents and teachers.

I guess you could say that we are closely linked to the school, in that we send our daughters to a school we love. I've had my children at schools I've not been happy with and believe me, it is not a pleasant feeling. The relief of knowing both my children are happy and are benefiting from a superb education, while developing into honourable adults, in my book is something to celebrate.

I guess until you experience life at The Laurels, all that has been said may be hard to believe, so I can't make you wrong for that. Please do visit the school on one of the open days.

Have a lovely evening smile

WillandGraceMama Fri 19-Feb-16 08:06:56

London2016's post made me laugh. I've been enjoying guessing who's been posting from the small clues in the answers. The Laurels isn't perfect. I don't think anyone would claim that it is. My daughter, for example, is dyspraxic and there are times when she struggles with aspects of her life. Where I think The Laurels stands apart (I cannot speak for The Cedars) is their philosophy. The school works closely with the parents to resolve problems. In my experience, they have always been willing to look at themselves to question whether they can improve, try a different approach, etc., and they are always a phone call or email away as we have worked through something.

My previous experience of schools is that they tend to close ranks when you approach them - 'the problem isn't with us, it must be with your daughter', so I've spent more time trying to convince previous schools that there's an issue than trying to develop a constructive solution for my child. The headmistress, Linda Sanders, is one of the warmest, most loving and inspiring people I've ever had the privilege to meet. Her leadership of the school sets the tone. Amazingly, she is incredibly humble too.

As other posters have suggested, visiting the school will give you a much better idea than we can online.

My last thought is this: I do not think my children are perfect, but it doesn't stop me loving them and enjoying my relationship with them, watching them grow and working with them through problems. When other parents speak warmly about the school, I imagine it's in this spirit that they speak. I think that we're all conscious of being part of something special at The Laurels - it does set us apart, and I am deeply grateful for it.

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