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Changes to Birmingham Grammar Schools - School Options Now

(26 Posts)
Mustardlover Thu 09-May-19 12:38:53

Posting for some help please. I am a little ahead of myself as my DS is only in Junior School. My first choice was always one of the grammar schools in Birmingham for secondary. However, the schools seem to be bringing in catchment areas which we wouldn't fall into. We wouldn't want to move for a number of reasons (mainly proximity to GPs). Our local comprehensive is ok but wouldn't be my first choice. So our GPs have so generously offered to help pay for private school if we want and we think this may be a good option for DS. The choices are KES, Bromsgrove or Solihull. I am not sure about KES as the journey from where we live would be really long with traffic. Both Solihull and Bromsgrove have Junior Schools so if we chose one of those is it worth transferring my DS early ahead of senior? I know my DS may not get a place in any of these schools. I am just keen to know what people think of the schools, what sort of DC they suit and any general advice to help us weigh up options.

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Changemyname18 Thu 09-May-19 16:05:54

Confused why you are choosing between Bromsgrove and Solihull when you don't want to move,as these are hardly close to each other, and even mid distance would be a terrible commute having once known the traffic around the south of Bham and the M42

Mustardlover Fri 10-May-19 07:44:30

Where we live, it would be about half an hour to either school. Maybe a bit more in traffic.

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PettsWoodParadise Sat 11-May-19 08:58:47

Do not underestimate how much longer journeys take in school rush hour traffic.

Visit the schools and see what you think. We paid for private (not your area) - don’t fall for glossy buildings, ask about teaching expertise, size of classes further up the school, gcse options, things that matter to your DS like specific sports - what if he doesn’t make the A team, what if he doesn’t enjoy sport etc?

What if GPs need the money? Perhaps they’ll need to pay for care etc

Mustardlover Sun 12-May-19 16:35:06

Thanks PettsWoodParadise. We know of DC locally who go to both schools so the travel does seem feasible. Bromsgrove also have a bus service from out village. The GPS have a lot of money (we don’t!) and said they would prefer to pay for education now rather than see the money spent on inheritance tax! We haven’t been to any visits or open days yet but my concern with these is that the schools showcase themselves and you don’t get any real sense of the schools.

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TheRedBarrows Mon 13-May-19 07:44:31

Choose a school accessible by public transport for secondary.

Not good for parent, child or environment to be ferrying secondary age by car unless you live in a rural transport free zone or something.

crazycrofter Mon 13-May-19 09:31:05

I think Bromsgrove and Solihull are of a fairly similar level academically, in that they take a slightly broader range than KES. Bromsgrove is more expensive - but that's not your issue!

The main difference is that Bromsgrove is boarding - so there will be an overseas contingent (quite a few Chinese I think?). My cousins went to Bromsgrove in the 80s/90s as day pupils and they used to have long school days (and Sat school but I think that's gone?) which I guess is normal at boarding schools - they stay for prep and extra-curricular. They also had to go to chapel on Sundays quite regularly but I guess this might also have changed?

You will need to visit and consider whether these aspects are positive or negative for you - and whether they make much difference. Also think about travel - is there public transport or would you be reliant on schools buses? It's much better to have the flexibility of public transport after year 7.

I'm not sure you'd need to join at junior age. Certainly Bromsgrove doesn't seem hard to get into - not sure about Solihull. Why not just take all three exams, KES too?

crazycrofter Mon 13-May-19 09:50:43

Actually, another difference is that year 7 and 8 at Bromsgrove are in the prep school - this is likely to be a bit different to Solihull where the senior school starts at year 7. I'm not sure what impact this will have but worth thinking about?

Mustardlover Mon 13-May-19 15:29:40

Public transport isn’t great where we live so school buses are an advantage. I like the idea of the international element at Bromsgrove as it seems as It seems a bit less parochial. I have heard that Solihull is harder to get into than Bromsgrove but does anyone know why as their results seem pretty similar? My worry about waiting until 11+ is that if places like KES and Solihull are hard to get into already, when parents outside Birmingham can’t get their DC into the grammars any more, will these schools become oversubscribed? I wondered if there would be an advantage to getting in early now.

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crazycrofter Tue 14-May-19 10:04:59

I see what you mean about the impact of the new catchments - I guess we won't know what that will be until next year. The biggest impact seems to be on Solihull parents who used the Camp Hill grammars quite extensively. I'm guessing that Solihull School may become more competitive - but how many of those Solihull grammar parents could actually afford fees? They may just default to the comprehensives, which are very good in Solihull.

I can't see it will hugely impact Bromsgrove, although I know some Worcestershire parents do use the grammars. Those I know of could definitely not afford Bromsgrove's fees; for them it was a choice of continuing with the comprehensive system or try for grammar. For Worcestershire parents, they do also have the option of King's and RGS, which I think are probably cheaper than Bromsgrove? I honestly don't think Bromsgrove will become much more competitive.

Dancingdreamer Tue 14-May-19 17:20:42

Hello Mustardlover. I agree with crazycrofter that the changes to the grammars will have less effect in Bromsgrove. I think KES will get vastly oversubscribed with Solihull parents hoping to get one its very generous bursaries (I think you can still get discounts on their fees with income up to £70k but don’t quote me on that). Solihull is a wealthy area and Solihull School will be a back up plan for a number of the DC living in the area who now can’t access the grammars. However I suspect many will divert to the Stratford grammars instead. Whereas Bromsgrove is a school that’s less reliant on day pupils and also seems to have a more relaxed approach to academics so never really attracts the parents who want a hothouse academic grammar environment. They are all good schools but with a very different ethos so you need to choose what will suit your DC best. These are my thoughts for these schools but others may have different views.

KES is an academic powerhouse but still produces well rounded DC. A lot don’t like the IB at 6th form. The jury seems to be out about whether it really prepares top students for academically demanding courses like maths at Cambridge. I believe Kings in London dropped IB as they felt it was hindering their students’ chances of gaining places at these top institutions. So if you want A levels you would need to move after GCSE.

Solihull does what a day independent says it will do. Its academics and sport are solid and they are always oversubscribed so can pick the best students that apply. Bromsgrove has a mixed intake of day and international students. It runs more like a boarding school with compulsory after school activities and most DC involved in Saturday sports. It gets good academic results, not as strong as KES but on a par with Solihull, which is surprising given that they aren’t as academically selective and half of the school are taking UK exams in their non-native language. I think you have to go and see which school suits your son. HTH.

BelindasGleeTeam Tue 14-May-19 17:33:19

The Warwickshire grammars you have to live in Warwickshire unless your kid is a superstar.

So KES Stratford, Alcester etc.

The grammars are very selective and there's a lot of competition from within the priority catchment areas so from Solihull you're unlikely to get a place unless you're borderline geographically (eg Knowle/Dorridge)

BelindasGleeTeam Tue 14-May-19 17:35:21

It would help to know where you are tbh.

There are lots of other options eg Bishop Vesey boys grammar in Sutton Coldfield.

Dancingdreamer Wed 15-May-19 14:27:27

The Stratford grammars actually cover quite a lot of Solihull. The KES admissions says "The priority circle for King Edward VI School and Stratford Girls’ Grammar School is based on a circle with a radius of 16.885 miles drawn from the Fountain in Rother Street, Stratford-upon-Avon". I admit the distances are longer by road but not in a straight line.

BelindasGleeTeam Wed 15-May-19 14:46:08

It might, but they operate a tie score system, so if you have three kids on the same scores, they will allocate closest first. Where there's only 87 places in terms of KES Stratford, lots of boys have matching scores, and those furthest away can therefore not qualify.

And for anyone in Solihull it's not an easy journey. Trains aren't direct, and the school buses only go as far as Wroxall/Baddesley to that direction.

Many parents from that area also use Warwick Boys or Kings High for girls, Princethorpe, or less academically focused Kingsley School or Arnold Lodge in Leamington.

BelindasGleeTeam Wed 15-May-19 15:03:52

Basically, you have to be an academic superstar and get a top score (probably 235+) in the 11+ to get automatic place and it absolutely happens, but it's not necessarily the easy "oh, we can just to to the Warwickshire ones" people think.

I also suspect that the Warwickshire schools may prioritise distance like the Birmingham ones too soon.

crazycrofter Wed 15-May-19 15:04:23

The OP lives halfway between Bromsgrove and Solihull so maybe somewhere like Wythall? I imagine this falls within the Alcester Grammar priority circle and the entry scores for Alcester are relatively low.

However if the grandparents have offered to pay fees, maybe they'd rather go that route anyway? It might be worth taking the Warwicks grammar test though OP just to give yourself another option?

BelindasGleeTeam Wed 15-May-19 15:32:48

Yes, that's definitely Alcester inner priority.

Stratford would be a logistical problem though.

Isn't Wythall and Alvechurch and round there included in the grammar catchments for Birmingham any more? I know Solihull is excluded as it's not close enough but it seems crackers to have kids less then 5 miles from a Birmingham grammar then try for schools further away elsewhere!

Interesting that the AQS for Birmingham schools was lower than Warwickshire.

KES Stratford 230
SGGS 222
Alcester 215
LSS Rugby 210

Bishop Vesey 205
Camp Hill boys was 215
FiveWays 200
Aston 205
Sutton Coldfield girls 205

So Warwickshire ones are more competitive.

crazycrofter Fri 17-May-19 11:33:55

BelindasGleeTeam, those figures aren't right. Birmingham doesn't really operate an AQA system - those are just the theoretical lowest scores for pupil premium candidates, but actual cut offs are much higher.

This March they ranged from 250 for Camp Hill down to 218 for Handsworth Boys. Camp Hill girls and Five Ways were well over 230 so most of the schools are more competitive to get into than the Warwickshire grammars.

Anyway, it's not relevant to the OP if they're outside the Birmingham boundary! But Alcester is a possibility.

Mustardlover Sat 18-May-19 08:42:48

We are actually in Dickens Heath so Solihull and I don’t think we would be in the Warwickshire grammar school catchment unfortunately.

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BelindasGleeTeam Sat 18-May-19 09:16:21

Oh you would, I know kids in Shirley at Alcester.

You would have to have a child who is very much top of the tree to avoid the distance tie issue but if they are it's definitely worth it.

Is your catchment school light hall or alderbrook?

If it's Alderbrook that's a decent school. The Solihull state schools are pretty good, generally. I know light has struggled recently but the Alderbrook/Tudor Grange/Arden/Langley schools are all very good indeed. Is it worth a move that way?

Mustardlover Mon 20-May-19 21:42:07

We really don't want to move - firstly because of cost and secondly as we have elderly GPs nearby. We are in a joint catchment for Light Hall and Alderbrook but not quite sure how the allocations would work. As I said before the schools are ok but wouldn't be our first choice. I hadn't thought about Alcester Grammar as I am not sure how my DC would get there. Is there a school bus?

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BelindasGleeTeam Tue 21-May-19 08:06:42

There are school buses but I don't think they go from near you or maybe there's a taxi collective nearby.

Buses are definitely all south Warwickshire based or I think Henley would be closest bus.

MargotsFlounceyBlouse Tue 21-May-19 08:14:13

Don't necessarily rule out the comprehensives and academies. I had it in my head that those in my proximity were awful, and pushed ds to do the 11+ (much harder than we anticipated and he wasn't successful despite high expectations) but it turned out there was an outstanding academy less than a mile away and he's thriving there, and able to walk to school which is great. Keep tabs on all the options.

crazycrofter Tue 21-May-19 13:19:33

It doesn't look as if there are any obvious ways to get from Dickens Heath to Alcester.

I agree with Margots that it's important not to rule out options, but having said that, if the OP originally wanted a grammar school and has now got the option of paying, it's unlikely she's going to go for a comprehensive.

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