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St Albans Girls (STAGS) v Sandringham v Loreto

(28 Posts)
nononsencemum Thu 14-Apr-16 23:25:56

What is realistically the furthest you can live to get into St Albans Girls School? We will be moving house soon and hoping for a place at the above school for my daughter next year. We are looking into AL1 postcodes (near St Alban & St Stephen Catholic for my sons) however not sure if AL1 postcode is not too far from AL3 postcode (St Albans Girls). Is there anywhere I could check what the catchment area was like last year namely how many places were offered to AL1 postcodes? Also on a different note a question to those whose DD attend STAGs - how do you rate the school and does your DD like it?

I should also add - we are also looking at Sandringham School as well as Loreto Catholic College. What the catchment area is like for these two namely are they 'less oversubscribed' than STAGS and as such higher chances to get in if living a bit further afield? Also any info as to how your DD is geting on at the above schools would be really appreciated. Thanks

angelcake20 Fri 15-Apr-16 00:59:23

STAGS, like the other Herts single sex comps, has a "priority area", within which (after LAC, siblings, staff etc) places are allocated first to those nearest to the school and then on a random basis, although maintaining the proportions of those applying from each section of the priority area. Effectively you are certain to get a place if it is your nearest school and have an equal chance as everybody else in a lottery if you are within the priority area but it is not your nearest school. As 266 people put it top this year and the PAN is 210, quite a few people will have been disappointed. The priority area is quite large and detailed on the following link.

Loreto is more complicated as places are initially allocated to feeder catholic primary schools but in the last 2 years, girls who are practising Catholics have been admitted from schools which are not feeder schools. I assume that places are unlikely to be allocated to those who are non-practising Catholics but am not certain.

Sandringham's admission criteria are standard. On allocation day this year, the furthest distance admitted was 1266m, though this will have increased in subsequent continuing interest rounds.

We are year 6 so I know girls going to all 3 next year but have no current experience!

nononsencemum Fri 15-Apr-16 14:32:34

Thank you angelcake20 for a very insightful info.

Re STAGS, in order to be on a safe side I would much rather aim for the 'nearest school' other than 'priority area' criteria. However the problem is that living in AL1 postcode (near St Alban & St Stephen PS) it would not be our closest school - Loreto College and Samuel Ryder Academy would be closer to us. Does it mean that we would stand no chance of getting into STAGS as we would be allocated one of the two I have just mentioned (and yes we are Catholics so Loreto would apply).

What about if we will not put Loreto nor Samuel Ryder on the Council sec school application form and put STAGS and perhaps Sandringham (which is further from AL1 than STAGS) instead? Would we still get Loreto or Samuel Ryder allocated regardless?

I feel a little confused by the 'closest school' principle as surely it is so fluid and must depend on so many factors we may have no influence over.

I would be really interested to hear from the mums of DDs who got a place at STAGS via 'closest school' criteria. How close do you actually have to live to the school in order to qualify? A list with the street names or some kind of area would be extremely useful... Does the school provide one from this year intake?

I am just starting to think that we may need to re-think our house options namely its locality and perhaps buy one which is closer to our DD secondary other than one which is close to DSs primary (we really have our hearts set on St Alban & St Stephen but then there are so many lovely primaries at St A).

If so what primaries around STAGS would you recommend to look at?

Sorry for all these questions - the whole 'secondary school process' is proving slightly more challenging than we anticipated...

Decorhate Fri 15-Apr-16 16:51:52

If you live near St Albans & St Stephens you are almost guaranteed a place at Loreto but unless things change drastically, don't have a hope of getting Sandringham. You might have a chance at Beaumont though.

Don't know much about STAGs. We would get in from where we live & those going into the lottery always seem to have a good chance especially if you are prepared to go on the continuing interest list. There are always some people applying for the single sex state schools who just do it as back up in case private school application doesn't work out

Decorhate Fri 15-Apr-16 16:53:59

Should have said - if you do want Sandringham & opt for the Marshalswick/Jersey Farm area, there is a lovely Catholic primary in that area

Pippidoeswhatshewants Fri 15-Apr-16 17:07:45

I can't help you with those exact schools, but when we moved we checked every single house here , £20 well spent. You need to be careful and make a new calculation for every house.

No personal experience, but from the gossip I have heard STAGS seems to be pretty traditional (and boring). I know nothing about Loreto and a lot of families would do anything to get into Sandringham. Again only hearsay, but it doesn't seem to be as fabulous as it is made out to be and on par with Beaumont.

nononsencemum Fri 15-Apr-16 21:41:17

Thank you - lots of extremely useful advice in here. And a brilliant site Pippidoeswhatshewants - thanks a lot!

The biggest problem we have at the moment is that we need to decide as to the exact location of our move (didn't realise the catchment areas for some of the secondaries are so tight) without even touring/ getting a feel for the school.

I find it really hard as apart from the academic/ website info I rely on my gut feeling/ instinct to a large extend while choosing the school for my children.

So I may need your help yet again please i.e. what are these schools really like. It looks like I may need to rely on 'mumsnet word of mouth' while choosing the secondary school for my DD.

Just to give you some background - DD is very bright, fairly academic (but not absolute top of the class), loves art, drama and choir. Has a slight problem with spelling (not dyslexic though). Middle DS is extremely academic (loves Maths) and generally good at all other subjects as well. The youngest DS loves music and singing. All three more on a sensitive side, more gentle than robust, would benefit from more caring environment but academically stimulating at the same time.

Which school would be best fit in your opinion? I am planning to ring them all on Monday to check whether I could arrange a visit but as these are state schools I fear they may ask me to wait till September open day which is too late for us. So I really need your advice please.

BennyTheBall Fri 15-Apr-16 21:49:35

School Guru was brilliant for me. Really recommend.

They are all great schools.

I would choose Loreto for a girl over the other 2.

Sandringham is perceived as the better of Beaumont and Sandringham.

I would expect if you're near SS Alban & Stephen, you'd be very likely to get Samuel Ryder (which I would not want) or Nicholas Breakspear (ditto). So for a girl, I'd go for Loreto as first choice as if it came to it, you could have a strong case for appeal.

nononsencemum Fri 15-Apr-16 21:49:40

And to complicate the matters even further - we have also been looking at Harpenden (yes we have realised you can get much less for your money propertywise) but is the price tag really worth paying for these three all outstanding secondaries?

And I probably won't be the first one to say that St George's is looking rather grand but at the same token I wonder what the school is really like? And how easy (or rather difficult) is to get in via the catchment area criteria?

The other two St Jawes Laws and Roundwood Park are also looking great. How do these compare to St Albans outstanding secondaries?

Sorry for all these questions but I feel I have extracted all the info I possibly could from the internet and without us living in the area it is really difficult to make an informed decision. Thank you!

BennyTheBall Fri 15-Apr-16 21:51:40

I think only St George's is comparable.

And lol at St Jawes Laws (sorry grin)

nononsencemum Fri 15-Apr-16 21:53:48

Thanks BennyTheBall. And I thought the opposite namely STAGS is rated higher than Loreto (?).

I went to the Good School Guide and out of all three (STAGS, Loreto and Sandringham) only STAGS is there. Also there is absolutely no Ofted report or whatsoever (other than coversion to an Academy letter) on Sandringham which is very puzzling...

BennyTheBall Fri 15-Apr-16 22:01:28

STAGs is rated really high. Both Loreto and STAGs are outstanding according to Ofsted.

I would go for Loreto as we are Catholic and would have a better chance of getting it even if slightly further away than trying for STAGs.

Have you contacted HCC for the audit reports? You can get all the details about the distances for the mixed schools etc.

Pippidoeswhatshewants Fri 15-Apr-16 22:55:27

The last full Ofsted of Sandringham was in 2008, and the link is on their Website.

St George's in Harpenden is amazing, SJL and RPS are good schools, comparable to Sandringham and Beaumont.

To be honest, as long as you can find a nice house in any of these catchment areas you'll be fine. They are all very good schools and you can drive yourself mad weighing up all the possibilities!

Don't send you DSs to Verulam, though, it's horrible.

nononsencemum Fri 15-Apr-16 22:56:55

Only just read your comment - St Jawes Laws LOL grin how did this one happen?! hmm smile

I think we are back to St Albans schools now - somehow feels right for us. I am not too keen on the other two and St George's seems a little bit stuffy if I may say...

My gut/ website feeling is girls only for my DD but then I really like Arts and Science specialism at Sandringham (and she loves performing arts and art) so somehow it may be a toss between these two I feel.

Which one of the two is more academic?

nononsencemum Fri 15-Apr-16 22:59:51

Pippidoeswhatshewants you are so right!!! I am turning insane trying to weight all the pros and cons, looking at the data and reading all the info.....

Will get back to you re Verulam at some point (DS in Y3 so one thing at the time ;-)).

angelcake20 Sat 16-Apr-16 00:37:58

Just realised I wasn't clear in my post, although you have understood. Places at STAGS are allocated first to those for whom it is the nearest school, not those nearest the school. Where we are, those from a village 4 miles out have priority over much of the town for the preferred school because it is their nearest school. As a faith school, Loreto does not count in calculating "nearest school".

You have 4 choices on your form so, if you are confident of getting into Loreto (which has no distance criteria), you can take a chance on being offered STAGS in the lottery without worrying about being offered somewhere you don't want, particularly if you are near enough for Beaumont. I assume you are currently year 5 so your dd will be attending a local primary first, possibly one of the catholic feeder schools for Loreto? The better St Albans primaries will be full so getting in-year places may be a matter of luck. Finding a house that suits in a small area may also be tricky.

We are not in St Albans and many people here would give a lot to be able to choose from any of STAGS, Sandringham, Beaumont, Loreto or Verulam, to the extent that several people have moved from here to St Albans in the last year just for the schools.

Decorhate Sat 16-Apr-16 08:12:01

Agree that if you prefer STAGs to Loreto you should put that first & it won't jepordise your chances of getting Loreto.

Tbh all the secondary schools in the area are good (even the ones some people disregard just based on local hearsay).

I would disagree with pippi re Verulam but everyone's personal experience will be different.

nononsencemum Sat 16-Apr-16 10:45:35

Thank you you have been truly amazing with your helpful comments (and angelcake20 in your last post you may have accidentally decided for me the order of preference on the sec application form - thank you!! ;-)).

One more question if I may - how does these good St Albans secondaries compare with St George's? It is a different league (academically-wise) all together or simply a matter of better looking buildings, facilities, grounds and that 'private school feel'.

I think I am leaning towards St Albans secondaries but it will be good to check all the options available out there. Thank you so much for your help.

nononsencemum Wed 20-Apr-16 13:13:14

So Harpenden is now off the table mainly due to the property prices (gosh...).

I would loved to hear from mums of the girls currently in either STAGS or Loreto please. These are the two choices we have came down to (I somehow feel a girls only school would be best for my DD).

The move have came a bit unexpectedly and so I didn't get enough time to research the secondaries (have been researching secondaries in our area for the last three years ughh). I am feeling very uncomfortable to be making decision about her secondary school based on the school website only (don't know anyone in the area). Any info on the above would be really appreciated, thank you.

Rafaella Fri 22-Apr-16 15:32:37

I can't advise on admissions but have had 2DD at STAGS and 2 DS at Verulam. In my experience STAGS was amazing academically and I can't fault it (although others had different experiences), the DDs found it unexciting but they recognised the need to work hard for good results and were well supported and rewarded for their efforts. Verulam was going through a bad patch when my oldest DS was there but has turned it around. Again all children have different experiences but I wouldn't call it horrible - my DSs have been very happy there and made lifelong friends and good memories. Bright hard working self-motivated children will do very well at any of the St Albans schools.

nononsencemum Fri 22-Apr-16 16:31:56

Thanks Rafaella for a very helpful insight. Good news in relation to the academic side of STAGS as it is our No 1 criteria. I wonder what specifically do you mean by 'unexciting' if you don't mind expanding a bit on this? Is it in relation to the academic side ie too much study/ hard work or more in relation to the extracurricular activities/ outside the classroom activities? It would really help me in choosing between STAGS and Loreto.

Re Verulam, it looks like it has been on the up in the last couple of years and still going strong so as my DS is in Y3 now it will be a very different schools in a few years to come.

Decorhate Fri 22-Apr-16 17:56:49

It may have changed but the extra-curriculums at Loreto used to be quite limited due to so many pupils having a long commute at the end of the day

nononsencemum Fri 22-Apr-16 21:35:10

Decorhate you are absolutely right - how could I have missed that point! All the extra curriculum clubs are during the lunch time and only sport fixtures (my DD is not very sporty I am afraid). At the moment my DD does many out of school extra curricular activities (ballet, drama, swimming, chess, tennis, art, music) and I was REALLY hoping that at secondary school she could do it all as part of after school clubs but it looks like it may not be possible if we choose Loreto:

Do the girls really travel there from so far field? Is so perhaps that is yet another argument against choosing it as our favourite secondary as I quite like for my DD to go to a more local schools, have friends living locally other than far afield (easier for play dates/ socialising).

It looks like we are back to square one (and I was so pleased with myself for making the decision already) namely perhaps we should look at STAGS or Sandringham instead..... oh dear.....

Expatmomma Fri 22-Apr-16 21:46:32

I spent very happy years at Loreto.
It had a family feel and the pastoral care was outstanding.

We experienced a family tragedy when I was there and the kindness and support they showed still means a lot to me.

I think knowing a school will be incredibly caring and supportive if something happens is no bad thing.

I had lots of local friends send enjoyed as a teenage jumping on the train and meeting friends from Radlett or St Albans (we lived in Harpenden).

Twinkie84 Fri 22-Apr-16 22:39:28

I went to Loreto and spent 7 many happy years there. The education that you receive is really good and if I had girls; this would be the school that I would send my children to.

I travelled from Hemel Hmepstead every day and there was a fair few girls that came from a far but many of my friends came from St. Albans and harpenden; they were the majority!

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