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N London (state) secondaries - again!

(31 Posts)
mrsmayitstimetogo Thu 21-Sep-17 12:55:09

Looking for advice from people with kids at these N London secondaries at the moment - things change so fast, and there's so much rumour/herding... We're going visiting, but it's hard to know what to ask/look for in a short time.

City of London Academy - Highgate Hill. Have all the Mount Carmel girls left, and it's just got a Yr 7 at the moment? Does anyone have a child there? What are COL Academies like?

Central Foundation (we're possibly too far, but it's expanding this year)

Marylebone Boys

Mary Magdalene Academy

Any views on these, or others in the general area (Camden/ Islington/ Westminster) that you think are really good, or should be avoided?

Lotsofsighing Fri 22-Sep-17 09:11:43

Hello, we're in Islington so I know a bit but much of it is hearsay, you know how it is, people can become very zealous in justifying their own choices.

Don't know anything about COLA HH. Generally people have been pleased with COLA I, but I think it's very much one of those correct-grey-socks kind of academies.

Central, I did like on looking at it as I think it's a very well run school with an impressive head. The space itself was an issue for me - it is dark and slightly airless with pretty shocking pollution. You kind of know that shirts would be blackened by midday. Friends seem very happy with it.

Mary Mags, again friends very happy with it and the children I know who've been through the whole system have done extremely well. Its catchment for non-religious types is teeny though - unless you're within 5 minutes walk, you'd have to try for one of the governors' places (11+ verbal reasoning disguised as fakey language aptitude test). Because they're getting in kids via the governors' places and their siblings, it definitely helps them with their intake.

I feel unfair to say this but the one school I probably would avoid is Holloway, esp for girls.

TobeLaRoan Fri 22-Sep-17 16:27:50

Remember that in that area you may well be in catchment for some of the Camden schools, e.g. Acland Burghley, and William Ellis/Parliament Hill (boys/girls respectively).

mrsmayitstimetogo Fri 22-Sep-17 22:06:28

The air pollution is definitely an issue for me w Central. St Marylebone Girls (not an option for us w a boy) has just the same problem.

We'll go and have a look at them all. I'm fairly anti-academy, on principle; but could swallow principles in the case of the CofE Academy. Not sure about COL. I don't like uniforms, personally!

Yes to Camden schools - they are def also on the list. Thank you!

Paperclipmover Fri 22-Sep-17 22:53:01

Are you looking for y7 starting this sept or next? Only asking as if you've got an extra year to wait you have more time to see how Acland Burghley goes. It's a bit more of a punt for this September. The parents that chose it that I know put it as a positive choice, in that they could have gone for CSG or PHS for the girls. Interestingly I don't know many people with boys there.

Pollution is a concern for us too, so that was Marylebone out-phew it was a relive when we decided not to even think about it. Not massively helpful if you've got boys.

Interesting to hear what the St Mary Mags governors language test is really about.

Would you prefer mixed or co-ed? Have you gone to any of the "meet the parents" events where you can quiz those that have done it?

TobeLaRoan Fri 22-Sep-17 23:00:15

If you don't like uniforms, then Burghley could be for you (I'm assuming you have a boy since you're looking at Central Foundation). But Ellis is also quite laid back, very much not a 'detention for breathing wrong' kind of school.

outputgap Fri 22-Sep-17 23:02:10

Mary Mags is also quite nuclear about uniform. I know a child with autism there who wasn't allowed to wear black tracksuit bottoms instead of trousers. This one anecdote has put me right off.

Acland Burghley seems so nice. I wish they had knocked down the building before it got listed though. It's awful.

Stickaforkinimdone Fri 22-Sep-17 23:06:38

I'd head a bit further north and try for Fortismere in Muswell Hill

Personally wouldn't touch any of the Islington secondaries with a barge pole

Inmyownlittlecorner Fri 22-Sep-17 23:18:01

I have a friend whose 15 year old is at Mary Mags. She's very high achieving & works hard. My friend wishes she had chosen a different school because the pressure is just too much.
We've got another 2 years before we need to think about secondary schools, but Mary Mags (despite being a 5 minute walk) is pretty lowdown on our list!

Paperclipmover Sat 23-Sep-17 09:43:12

outputgap you have just made enemies of a number of MN Brutalists ;) I drool over that building, but I love the Barbican and the Robin Hood Estate...

inmyownlitecorne thank you for that inside info into Mary Mags-that's what makes MN so useful. I will probably still look round but it don't be a front runner, and as we aren't in a linked school dd only way in would be the test.

I've heard that William Ellis looses boys to Acland Burghley but rarely the other way round. Friends say they find WE a bit minor public school, one mould of boy, no room for boys outside a norm, rugger, bullying . But I have no direct experience other than being on the bus with them!

outputgap Sun 24-Sep-17 00:18:58

I know! I actually want to love it but I can practically feel the asbestos settling in my hair, and it is a bit dark and depressing despite the original zinc tables and what not. Sorry.

Paperclipmover Sun 24-Sep-17 10:51:50

outgap ok, yes, I do take your points and you've got me concerned now. The school leaders must be aware of issues to do with maintenance and asbestos? Surely, maybe?

I've only been inside on sunny days. I'm going to an open morning soon but as it's September it will still be light.

TobeLaRoan Sun 24-Sep-17 14:23:41

I've heard that William Ellis looses boys to Acland Burghley but rarely the other way round. Friends say they find WE a bit minor public school, one mould of boy, no room for boys outside a norm, rugger, bullying . But I have no direct experience other than being on the bus with them!

Burghley has been under-subscribed for the past few years because of the hoo-ha over the poor ofsted report c. 2013/4 and the abrupt departure of the then headteacher. So there will be spaces in the other year groups which might not be the case in reverse, iyswim?

I know two people who have boys with Aspergers-type issues at Ellis, and they are happy with how the school is looking after their ds's. But WE and Burghley are very different schools, it comes down to personal preference really.

Paperclipmover Sun 24-Sep-17 20:26:05

It's good to know about your friends children's experience tobe. And yes I do see what you mean about the spaces being available at AB, which I think has a larger intake anyway.

TobeLaRoan Sun 24-Sep-17 23:49:01

I think overtly physical blokey behaviour tends to be a characteristic of all-boys' schools full stop, tbh. My ds went to a different all-boys school, and has since told similar stories wrt stuff that happened which would have made me wince a LOT if he'd told me at the time. That doesn't have to equate to Lord of the Flies style bullying, though - the kids involved in the roughhousing are generally enthusiastically consenting, and it doesn't mean they don't know how to behave when the situation calls for it. My youngest dd plays in various orchestras with several boys from Ellis, and she would definitely not be putting up with that kind of immature-boy carry-on. So clearly WE also produce at least some nice-natured, normal boys capable of playing musical instruments and having civilised conversations with girls!

I think all the schools are so different, that if you look round you will get a feel for what you think will suit you as a family. We looked at Burghley in the course of four sets of secondary transfer - none of my dc actually went there in the end, but I warmed to it much more than I thought I would, and would have been entirely happy for my dc to go there. Whereas when we looked round Ellis for my ds (years ago, he's now at university!) I just wasn't feeling the love at that time. I know other people have had exactly the opposite reaction, though.

I'd be a bit wary of the CoL academy until it has more of a track record. I know the Hackney one has become sought-after, but I"m not sure the same is true of the one that used to be Islington Green. I'm also not a big fan of the bootcamp vibe, but obv other people think it's great.

Lotsofsighing Mon 25-Sep-17 14:57:33

Cor slightly reeling from PP who 'wouldn't touch any of the Islington secondaries with a barge pole'. Really? Not a single one of them? Despite having massively improved and having well over average results for all pupils?

None of them are Fortismere, it's true, as the woman I know who was chuffed to get her kid into Fortismere from Islington would testify. She'd also testify that her kid is pretty miserable there now for myriad reasons and she wishes she'd just stuck to the local schools.

I suspect that PP would touch one of the Camden schools with her barge pole but none of the others...

Farfallina123 Mon 25-Sep-17 15:35:30

If you choose to live in Islington and your DC is academically very motivated then Dame Alice Owen's could be an option. The academic and music exams are a high bar, but there is a sibling policy, plus statutory entry opportunities for looked after children etc etc. 20 plus children from Islington go there each year.

It's a warm, positive ethos, not so strict, music, sport and drama are excellent and it has an outstanding academic record (though not surprising given its overwhelmingly academic cohort). Some kids travel up on the northern line from tufnell park and the bus it to the school. It's got a beautiful setting of 20 acres, wood and lake, but it is a bit of a schlep and is certainly not a local school.

It's pretty multi-cultural, though afro-caribbean communities are not so represented. It's catchment includes swathes of Hertfordshire as well as barnet and Enfield, so friends can be spread out. In all honesty, it has pretty low percentages of disadvantaged children/low attaining children: something the school should ideally start to address with the new headteacher.

An option if you felt that this type of school matched your DC.

Moominmammacat Mon 25-Sep-17 16:08:41

I second DAOS ... why do I think the academic bar is lower for Islington children? Sure someone who has children at the school will explain. They go down a list taking the top scorers but they have to take 20 Islington children, wherever they come on the list ... I wouldn't imagine it would want to change it's number of disadvantaged children/low attaining children ... it's an uber-academic school.

Lotsofsighing Mon 25-Sep-17 17:25:00

Theoretically the DAO bar could be for Islington children but in practice it isn't, as far as I know. They have to take 20 Islington children, but throw in some siblings, maybe one statement child and there's probably fewer than 10 spaces left. And given how many children from Islington do the test and how pushy many of these families are and I daresay there are at least 10 of them in the top 65 (or realistically top 130 for a place).

Lotsofsighing Mon 25-Sep-17 17:25:37

Having said that, it's flipping difficult to get into DAO and I do wonder whether it's worth the schlep. It's 10 miles away...

TobeLaRoan Mon 25-Sep-17 22:25:43

I've never warmed to DAO, it feels like it's a free private school for the Islington middle classes. Obviously if that sounds like a good thing to you it might be just the ticket. But you have to have a seriously bright and well-tutored oldest child in order to climb aboard that bus.

FWIW all the dc I've known through my own offspring, over about the past 12 years or so, have gone on to get GCSE results that were precisely in line wiht what you'd have predicted for them off the top of your head at the age of 9, based on academic ability, personality and attitude. And that was completely regardless of which school they attended - I know kids who went to tough comps who did the straight A* and Oxbridge hattrick, and kids from Owens and Latymer who got deeply average results, despite the years of tutoring and highly-selective education. The ones who ended up at Oxbridge were the ones who you could have picked out at age 8, and all the rest went on to very respectable universities with broadly similar grades.

IME the correlation between parental stress/angst/pushiness and the child's ultimate level of achievement is low to non-existent, and for some kids even negative.

Moominmammacat Tue 26-Sep-17 09:36:46

Islington children are a small, if lively and vociferous, group at DAOS. Agree that bright ones will rise anywhere but seriously bright and well-tutored is not true ... mine wasn't tutored at all but just got very fast and accurate at VR and happened to be competent at maths and English via a mediocre primary. And went on to get the sort of average GCSE and A level results he could have got anywhere.

Moominmammacat Tue 26-Sep-17 09:39:15

I should add I wasn't that bothered about the academics at DAOS (which in any case were just fine) but the extra-curricula is second to none in most areas and I loved the way the staff treated children. Given my time again, yes I would say it's worth the schlep and the Islingtons I knew treated the journey like an outing.

mrsmayitstimetogo Tue 26-Sep-17 12:23:08

Fascinating! Thank you v much for all the perspectives. AB is top of our list, but it's good to get actual experience of others. There's so much fluff, chatter, rumour - hard to know what things are like on the inside. My cousins' children were at/are at Fortismere - a mixed experience. I'm SO not up for an antsy-uniform place. Just represents all that I think is rubbish about UK education! So that probably wipes several off my list!

Paperclipmover Tue 26-Sep-17 16:50:00

Have you been to look around AB mrsmay ? I went last year and was impressed, went again this week and was even more so. The head seems really tuned in to what local parents want and need AB to be. The academic headlines are very good and I'm waiting impatiently to see their progress 8 scores.

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