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Fortismere disaster - North London

(28 Posts)
letsfaceit Sat 20-May-17 14:01:35

We never imagined it would be that bad, we had high expectations from Fortismere. When we considered schools in our area for DS around North London/Muswell Hill it stayed a strong favourite among the comprehensive choices we had. We also live close to the school so that was of course a consideration.

We were too late for the 11+ option for selectives at a the time we were Expats coming back on the year of the exams. Fortismere was not a compromise, we genuinely thought it would be great for DS. We liked the diversity of the school and the strong Music and Drama programme and a lot of friends with experience at the school recommended it. Academically it looked like it delivered the goods so no reason to discount it. We certainly noticed the huge size and number of kids but did not think it would be an issue to DS which is a very popular, super friendly child. Also no other comprehensives around here is significantly smaller anyway.

But since DS started year 7 in September, it was just one disaster after the next. We are so disappointed and very concerned for the future.
Mainly we feel that the huge environment and being presented with all this freedom is hard for him to manage in a positive way. No uniform is actually an issue, we never thought it would matter at all.

His behaviour deteriorated rapidly to a point we did not recognise anymore. DS just can't handle the huge complex system which is also very disorganized. We tried to work closely with the school throughout the year to arrive to some productive changes that may help him but they struggle to follow through their promises and mostly just can't act fast enough or care enough.

The headteacher is also changing next year which adds to our concerns. It can be good or bad but any change will take time to implement.

We are now seriously considering to move him out but to where????

Our options:
APS? - except the fact they have uniform it can't be that different to Fortismere..same kids, big comprehensive.. so too much of a gamble in terms of getting nowhere.

Private?? - We certainly have to explore this option, though expensive! I would appreciate any names of schools that you may know of that are small and caring. I think size is a consideration in this case however if the school is strong and stable, it might work. We know of the big ones like highgate, UCS, City boys... but it would be great if you know of any others. Also if you are aware of any that have options on fees, or am i too optimistic? I don't think we will qualify for a bursary. DS will also not get in on music.

And can you even get in yr 8.. ?

What else is there? JCoss? JFS (we can get in)

Any advise would be most welcome!
Thanks.

Mary21 Sat 20-May-17 15:14:38

What do you think he needs to thrive, smaller environment, structure, plenty of sport, being known to all staff, being on of the top academically, being academically stretched or prefers not to be stretched.
State I guess your options are APS and Highgate wood and the Jewish schools. It's worth visiting them all to get a feel. It will depend on space but London does have a fluid population. Wren academy may also be worth a look because although you are out of catchment you can sometimes get lucky with an in year transfer
If you want a smaller school and are open to private There is Thames Christian College in Clapham and St Columba ,s in St Albans. I don't know if that would sit badly with you.
If you think a more progressive environment would be better there is King Alfred's and St Chris in Letchworth (school bus to Highgate)
Mill Hill and Aldenham may be worth looking at because although not small schools they will be smaller, smaller class sizes, lots of sport more individual attention etc
Another option would be to go to an international environment if that's what he came from such as Dwight, Halcyon, Southbank International.
Back to indies, Northbridge House and Portland Place often seem to have space

StMmum Sat 20-May-17 15:14:59

Gosh - sorry to hear that Fortismere isn't working out. I know girl's secondaries more, but do have friends who have been very happy at Wren in Finchley - which is very strict- and also hear positive things about Highgate Woods and APS. All are a bit smaller and possibly stricter than Fortismere.

For private, look into Northbridge House in Hampstead. It's small and nurturing and more likely to have places than Highgate or UCS.

FanDabbyFloozy Sat 20-May-17 15:42:03

Some of the schools mentioned above are easier to get into than others: Aldenham, Northbridge , Mill Hill..

Some more academic ones have 13+ entrances too if you can wait a year.

It sounds stressful - good luck.

mellicauli Sat 20-May-17 17:55:57

You could put him down for QE boys in Barnet (state grammar). If anyone leaves they have an exam to fill the place. In the meantime maybe consider Keble prep in winchmore hill until 13+?

Davros Sat 20-May-17 20:46:44

I can recommend North Bridge House in Hampstead. It has its detractors, most of whom think it's not "high status" enough or that their little darlings aren't being pushed enough. It's a great location, good staff, good results, wide subject range, brilliant premises and lovely kids. The girls and boys get on so well, I'm impressed with them all.

letsfaceit Sun 21-May-17 08:45:29

thanks everyone, good suggestions, some we have considered in the past, some are new to us.

DS is more sporty than academic but has great ability if he only applied himself. His SATs results were very high and so his targets in Fortismere, according to his teachers, were set very high as well. He is good at and enjoys Math and writing, but generally is not interested at all in learning. If he finally has a bit of homework, he manage to get away with the minimal time investment (Fortismere has so little homework!)

I do wonder if the lack of interest is because of the school which does not have a good structure to enhance academic potential. I think it works for the motivated kids which don't need a lot of encouragement to do well.

North Bridge House is mentioned a few times. I have heard of it, and very intrigued by your feedback. Will go ahead and book a visit.

Mill Hill also sound like an option, lots of Sports is good!

We do worry about the financial side, had a quick look on fees and it seems like on average an added budget of £1500 to the monthly outgoing?? I have no experience with the independent system, are fees negotiable? Access to special loans?

SchnitzelVonKrumm Sun 21-May-17 08:48:23

My daughter is at Fortismere, she gets tons of homework!

FanDabbyFloozy Sun 21-May-17 22:40:14

Fees are rarely negotiable but there are bursaries if you can qualify. However do expect intrusive questions about your income and outgoings.

bojorojo Sun 21-May-17 22:49:06

Do schools have bursaries left begging at this stage? Often they are very over subscribed and tend to go to the brightest. I have friends who liked Aldenham.

letsfaceit Sun 21-May-17 23:43:51

for Aldenham..just checked on the map.. I don't think it's doable so will discount on distance I think

letsfaceit Sun 21-May-17 23:49:59

SchnitzelVonKrumm - is your daughter in year 7? How much time does she need to spend each week/day to complete homework? DS potentially can do a bit everyday, but because the lessons are on bi-weekly cycle, homework are not due till about a week or 10 days after the lessons which sometime leave long gaps without work. Am I missing something? (we make sure we check his homework online all the time) what in your mind considered tones of homework?

Davros Mon 22-May-17 09:42:54

Don't forget North Bridge has Hampstead and Canonbury sites. My DD is at Hampstead where there is no 6th form but they get priority to transfer to 6th form at Canonbury if desired. We pay fees on a monthly DDM

Mary21 Mon 22-May-17 12:10:30

Aldenham has a bus route that starts in Woodside Ave so not far from you? But the school is pricey

sysysysref Mon 22-May-17 17:28:17

100% go and look at JCOSS. I only hear positives, results are outstanding, pastoral care is second to none and sports are good. Head came from Habs girls and is very highly regarded.
JFS is going through a lot of change, some parents are happy with the changes, others not but again, academics continue to be seriously good. Think they average over 20 a year to Oxbridge and a shed load of others to law, medicine, dentistry etc so excellent for really bright kids. It's huge though and getting bigger so might not be ideal.

letsfaceit Wed 31-May-17 09:34:02

Thank you everyone! So the latest is that we are booked to see NBH and will arrange for Jcoss. Despite all the drama, DH is now not so keen on moving DS out so quickly. We are a little bit split here. In his opinion, yr7 may just be a difficult transition year and things may settle. He think that potentially there is more damage in making him start from scratch socially and otherwise and as he is not the most organised kid, making his life more complicated by adding to his travel time in the morning.
I think that he is lost in the big system and disinterested because of its lack of support which makes him lose interest in achieving and learning. He is bright but not uses his potential at all and the right environment may just do the trick.
So another option is to give it another year and see if things do get better?? I am worried it may be a waist of time.
And maybe once we saw couple of the alternatives we may have a better sense on next steps and what is the right thing to do.

If you have changed your child school after a year or two, what was your experience?
Also, do I ask his opinion? What if DS DOES NOT want to move???? I know I am the Parent but in their age I think it's important to listen to them too..

wickerlampshade Wed 31-May-17 12:26:46

In terms of the fees - most boys schools run at £6k per term or so (some are more), so yes, about £1500 per month. But there is then expensive uniform, lunch, school bus and annual fee inflation of 5-10% to factor in.

Davros Wed 31-May-17 16:14:11

I think you should go and look as planned

Goodluckjonathan76 Mon 12-Jun-17 11:46:31

Gosh, this is very helpful. My son sounds very similar to yours (bright but not very motivated, very sporty) and I have exactly the same reservations re Fortismere. We were thinking go moving into the area so would have been a big gamble if the school wasn't the right fit. We had pretty much decided to stay put and look at certain of the schools listed above.

What is JCOSS?

crispinquent Mon 12-Jun-17 11:56:09

Have a friend who is starting her girl in Heartlands a new secondary starting up over by Alex Park- has high hopes as its a new secondary and parents will be ambitious for good results. Dont know about uniforms

sonsmum Mon 12-Jun-17 17:44:13

Heartlands just missed out on an outstanding rating at the last Ofsted. It doesn't get the attention it deserves due to it's location.

Davros Mon 12-Jun-17 18:11:51

JCOSS is a Jewish school, don't know what it stands for

DoppelMutter Fri 16-Jun-17 14:47:18

Consider Christ's College Finchley nearby in N2. Rated good in the recent Ofsted, it's on the way up with a very ambitious head who has made great improvements since he got there. Currently boys only, but likely to become coed going forward. Much smaller that Fortismere. Having visited several times, impression is that it is well organised and good pastorally. We have kids in Year 5 and it will be in our top two choices.

letsfaceit Tue 20-Jun-17 04:00:34

Goodluckjonathan76, I could not tell from your post if you are already in Fortismere or considering..

A little update - as we are working very hard to get to the bottom of this shocking downturn of our DS behaviour we are now discovering that this might be to do with bulling. A group of boys from yr 7and 8, poss 9 who their peer pressure is unbearable (for kids who are sensitive and straggling to find their place and new identity as secondary students) who are pushing other kids to behave bad at school. I know it sound strange but it is happening. We are just exposing some stories and gently getting our DS to talk as we feel he protects them and their names..

Little surprising is the fact that kids who are bullied can not focus on their school work, are very moody and upset and don't want to go to school. This is always a complicated issue that needs very skilled and robust systems to mitigate and work through. Unfortunately so far we do not have that from Fortismere.

I must say how disappointed we are with the attitude and lack of internal
communication and support at cases like this. They have been very unhelpful and shockingly slow and disorganised in their engagement and approach.

Their use of punishments is too causal and too simple for cases where clearly their are deeper issues that needs looking in to. This is very old school, almost Victorian. They are sadly failing these kids.

letsfaceit Tue 20-Jun-17 04:01:11

Goodluckjonathan76, I could not tell from your post if you are already in Fortismere or considering..

A little update - as we are working very hard to get to the bottom of this shocking downturn of our DS behaviour we are now discovering that this might be to do with bulling. A group of boys from yr 7and 8, poss 9 who their peer pressure is unbearable (for kids who are sensitive and straggling to find their place and new identity as secondary students) who are pushing other kids to behave bad at school. I know it sound strange but it is happening. We are just exposing some stories and gently getting our DS to talk as we feel he protects them and their names..

Little surprising is the fact that kids who are bullied can not focus on their school work, are very moody and upset and don't want to go to school. This is always a complicated issue that needs very skilled and robust systems to mitigate and work through. Unfortunately so far we do not have that from Fortismere.

I must say how disappointed we are with the attitude and lack of internal
communication and support at cases like this. They have been very unhelpful and shockingly slow and disorganised in their engagement and approach.

Their use of punishments is too causal and too simple for cases where clearly their are deeper issues that needs looking in to. This is very old school, almost Victorian. They are sadly failing these kids.

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