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secondary schools SW London - stress about Indie or state(16 Posts)
DD is in Y5 at a good state primary school and I am getting increasingly stressed and anxious about school applications for Y7.
DH and I have done pretty well for ourselves but are not from particularly affluent backgrounds. We were both fairly poor comp school educated and have no idea about the independent process. In honesty, I feel totally clueless and slightly wanky visiting all the independent schools. We should be able to afford the fees, but will mean both of us continue to work for the next 8 years.
I just feel like we stick out like a sore thumb and don't belong in that world but I also worry that DD wouldn't thrive in a state school as she's not particularly tough and won't push herself.
Also as it's our eldest, we also have no idea how bright you need to be to get in or how pushy to survive an indie girls school. It's all too daunting.
I've heard people say you need to choose the right school for your child. I'm not entirely sure how I'm supposed to know. I know that the things that give her most joy are reading and cuddles! She has tried a few sports enjoys playing netball but is not particularly sporty. Academically, her Y4 school report states she is working beyond the expected levels in all areas. I think she is pretty bright but tends to lack self-confidence and self-esteem (maybe she gets that from her mum).
Currently thinking about WHS, PHS SPGS, LMS, G&L, IPS, based on location and commute being practical and nothing else!
Does anyone have any reassuring words, wisdom or experience that they might impart. I already want to bury my head and hope it all just goes away!
I think you need to go and look round them at the next set of open days. Also the state schools you would prefer (or realistically expect to get). It'll help you get your eye in IYSWIM about secondary schools and what they offer. And perhaps help you sort out your thinking about what features you most want in a school
Depending on where you are in SW London have you considered the Sutton grammars and Tiffin as a possible alternative to independents? Either way I would invest in an experienced 11+ tutor if you think you will go down that route. They can assess your DD and also advise on schools if they are good tutors. I have one DD in a selective Indy in SW London from a state primary and just going through the process again with DD2. It is a bit of an arms race but don’t get hung up about not fitting in. Yes these schools have an element of the super rich but most people I have come across are just hard working professionals. There is much less interaction with parents anyway at secondary school level. Do PM me if you want any advice on how we have gone about preparing for the 11+.
Those schools you mentioned are really competitive, and a school report sometimes cannot reflect the real competition level when you apply those schools. It's more important to know the real position of your DD comparing to the children in other schools in other areas/councils.
Maybe take few mockup exams (I know Sutton & Wallington hosts the mockup exams in the summer term) and understand a little bit better.
Preparing 11+ does take abundant effort from parents, a good tutor is needed unless you are capable of teaching her.
I started a similar thread a couple of years ago, which you might find worth a read. Our dd is also at a state primary which has given us no advice (not even prepared to do a reference, which some state schools will do).
I researched possible schools in Y4, then worked out journey times and other practicalities to cut down from a very long list to a shorter list of possibles that we then visited in Y5. Once you’ve visited a couple, it starts to get easier to compare, and see what feels right. Your dd will no doubt have a view, too!
We were in your situation and eventually chose to go private to a top London day school. Our eldest is happy there but in all honesty I’m not convinced it was the right choice.
My first concern is that I can’t really see what we get for our £17k a year that justifies the cost. Nicer grounds and facilities yes but I’m not sure the teaching or engagement is any better than a good state school. Everyone says you are paying partly not to have disruptive kids in the class but despite the school being highly selective there are some very entitled kids who won’t listen to teachers and consider themselves golden children allowed to do what they please, including being rude and disruptive.
Second, our eldest is now exposed to a selection of super rich kids. Really very wealthy kids, not just professional middle class. All kids of bankers and international financiers and CEOs of huge businesses. The kids constantly want to socialise in restaurants and coffee shops and shopping, they rarely hang out in their own houses. It hugely expensive and requires about £100 a month just to keep up with their regular socialising without even joining in with the shopping and having the labels they all enjoy. Our eldest, who knew they were privileged at their state primary, now talks as if they are on the bread line. I feel they are losing touch with reality.
Third, and it’s a small point, London day schools draw from a wider geographical area than their local state counterparts. Our eldest has friends that live the other side of town and this makes socialising hard as they can’t just pop around to see each other. They quickly had to learn to change tubes etc alone and in winter when it’s dark and I don’t like them walking between tube stations and houses alone it’s really difficult. I end up driving for hours to collect and drop in different far flung neighbourhoods after dark.
My DC2 is now in Y5 and we are considering not even preparing them to sit for the 11+. I feel a decent state secondary would give them the same type of teaching without warping their view of the world and their privilege and without breaking our bank.
Just go to the open days.
Do go to the state school open days too, and try and chat to parents at your current primary who have older kids about local schools.
Many comprehensives are very different to how they were a generation ago and you don’t have to be tough to survive them! Not more tough than a competitive all girls private school, anyway!
(I am a middle class parent of a non-sporty, musical, academic boy at a S London comp)
Thanks everyone. I went to quite a few open days at the end of last year and I was expecting to be able to know from those which might be suitable but actually all I felt was overwhelmed with all the information and then mildly terrified at the chances of a place when you do the maths.
We are in Putney hence the list of schools is the ones that I think are the most convenient and therefore I think that Sutton would be too far Jimjam. I do think I would really benefit from talking to someone who has been through this before so may PM you - the mums at the school are very cagey about sharing any details of their preparations or preferences for their children or any tutor details.
Also means that from what you are saying JCDaddy that all the closest schools to us are super competitive?? . When you say "It's more important to know the real position of your DD comparing to the children in other schools in other areas/councils" - what would be the best way to know where she benchmarks against the wider area cohort - I assume the only way would be to get her assessed by an 11+ tutor?
What is strange is that a lot of the schools (LEH, WHS, PHS,) were pushing the message that you didn't need tutoring and LEH Head said all you needed to know was the KS2 syllabus and emphasised they weren't an educational hothouse. I liked the girl that showed us around there but it's just too much of a commute I think. WHS did advise just a couple of times practicing NVR exam.
I am hoping to have LMS as our non-indy option. It's a 15 minute journey on the bus but of course, hugely oversubscribed and no guarantees.
Thanks everyone, trying to navigate this all, without any clue or guidance is a minefield!
Hi OP- we are also in Putney and DD has just started at one of the schools in your list. I visited a lot of schools in Y4 and felt the same as you but went round some of them again and it does become clearer. DD had firm views as well.
LMS was also a possibility for us but you will need a church tick if you set in Putney.
Don't think about ratio of offers to places etc- all works out in the end. Everybody in DDs class got multiple offers and have all ended up in schools they wanted. It is def easier second time around. I went through it a few years ago with an older DC so was more relaxed this time. Feel free to PM me- I have details of several tutors etc!
Pay no attention to advice not to tutor. You are up against kids from prep school who are sitting practice papers every week and highly tutored kids. It’s good advice to sit the Sutton grammar mocks, as practice and to see where your child sits against a large population. Having said that DD1 bombed in the mocks and didn’t pass the actual grammar school exams but was offered places at all 4 selective independents she sat for. A really good tutor will be able to assess your DD and advise on schools. Apply for a range of schools, from one she should get into easily to one which is a stretch. I also found it hard to know what I was looking for from a school. DD wasn’t sporty or musical and in any case they all have great offerings on the extra curricular front. In the end we chose the school which was closest and that we felt she would be happy at (whilst crossing our fingers). So far it’s worked out ok, but one potential negative of ending up at a highly selective school and sitting somewhere in the middle academically (or especially in the lower half) is that it can knock self confidence.
I agree to ignore suggestions you don’t need a tutor. Every state school child I know who got a place at a selective London secondary had a tutor to get there.
Also don’t get too caught in the hype of how hard it all is. My DD was doing well at her primary but she wasn’t exceptional. She was just a bright, sensible, inquisitive child. We tutored her for one hour a week for a year and I got caught up in believing she had little chance as it was all so competitive. In the event she got into Putney High, Godolphin and Latymer, Latymer Upper and Emmanuel. The only place she tried for and didn’t get into was SPGS. It made me realise that a lot of the talk around how hard these schools are is down to hysteria.
my daughter is in year 7 at Surbiton High School. She was at a state primary. we went through the whole process last year.Its a definite yes to tutoring from me. I am sure there are a few girls who dont need it but I think every single one who went from our outstanding primary was tutored. The ones who were tutored the longest ( two years ) got the most and the best places. Get a good tutor, one that knows the schools and does practice exams. The states do no exam prep and have no interest in the private testing system. They also wont tell you what school your child should be aiming at. A good tutor will know. My daughter was near the top of the class - for context her sat results were 119 / 116 and 115. She didnt get into WHS or KGS. I would strongly recommend spread betting ! There is always somebody who found it easier than they thought, and someone who found it harder - you have no idea which way its going to go for your child until you are in the midst of it. Putting in a banker, a realistic one and a reach. Do as many of the free state tests as you can Sutton Grammars/ Tiffin - anything that gets her into a practice of sitting exams, timings and pressure - its a brutal experience, and results time can be tough, but a year later and my daughter is very happy where she is. we got the right school and we ( and she !) totally love it. she learnt alot through the process, but luckily seems unscathed by it all. good luck !
OP, we looked at quite a few of those schools (WHS, PHS, IPS and SPGS) and applied for some - feel free to pm me as well, if you want.
For us, some of it was feel and some was logistics. IPS (from us) was two buses with a change at Tibbets Corner (not nice on a dark winter’s evening) or being reliant on the school minibus to Roehampton then the half hourly train to Clapham Junction and change. So we didn’t apply.
PHS we liked, but not as much as WHS and Sutton High, and we wanted to minimise the number of exams for dd, so we didn’t apply there. Dd knows girls at some of these schools through various activities, so she did her own research (mostly on the quality of the food, as far as I can tell!).
We also got dd to do a Sutton mock, which was good for the experience of the logistics though it didn’t tell us anything that wasn’t obvious about what she needed to work on. It was helpful in terms of seeing where she was in the cohort, which is otherwise tricky when your school doesn’t do CAT scores or anything other than ‘exceeding age related expectations’.
There were some very pushy (literally, in some cases!) parents at some of the open days and exams, but I tried to focus on the current students and the staff at the schools. At secondary, I’ve heard you have very little contact with other parents, so hopefully it really shouldn’t matter that much.
Really agree with FlumePlume's advice. I did so much research before I brought my eldest into the process. I visited schools, both state and private and figured out journey times. I also figured out realistically what schools she would have a chance at state wise and what the application process was for those schools as well as the privates so I could narrow down how many tests and evaluations she would have to go through. Many state schools have various requirements depending on what they focus on and they have supplementary applications. You want to narrow that down in year 5 because some school require the paper work the summer before year 6. Then the borough application of 6 choices, then the private sector if you are going for those as well. It was easier with my other 2 because I understood how it worked. My youngest child is off to Secondary next year and he by far has been the easiest in terms of navigating the whole thing. The lucky part is there are a lot of really great schools in SW London, both state and private. I've visited most of them at some point on this journey and no school is perfect and even the coveted places at some schools aren't perfect in every way. But, over all, with love and support and paying attention to what's going on with your kid as an individual, you will get them through most bumps.
Sorry everyone for the late reply - I’ve been struck down with a nasty kidney infection. I’m sure all this stress didn’t help 😩
Thanks for all the advice. I really do appreciate it. I think we need to find a tutor then. Any ideas where to start? Do I need one to cover everything or one for each subject? How do I find a good one? If anyone feels generous enough to help, please feel free to PM me with tips or anyone you might recommend.
Thanks to you all for “talking me down” from my abject panic
Former Putney family who have experience of two of the secondaries on your list. Do pm - not putting it all on here.
Something I don't recognise having had two dc pass through SW London independents is what ObamaLama says. We did a year at the that has been mentioned and it was far more brand/materialist orientated than the pastorally fabulous independent we moved dd to. Again on your list.
I found the independent parents far more down to earth than the state parents. Posh perhaps, but completely no nonsense apart from the odd outlier but they are everywhere.
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