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Dame Alice Owen's advice

(25 Posts)
Flappingmum Thu 30-May-19 17:55:43

Before I start this question I just want to say that I'm aware this is a very low-level/lucky problem to have but it has been weighing on my mind and I thought I'd turn to mumsnet for some advice/therapy.
Last year my DD1 sat the 11+ for top grammars in our area and rather wonderfully got a place at DAO and Henrietta Barnett to start this sept. My DH wanted to send her to HB (he'd seen the league tables and on grades alone it wins out) but I favoured DAO for one big reason: we have a DD2 who is very bright and capable in her own way but I wasn't sure would get a place herself (she doesn't love maths and writing as much as DD1). At the time I was very comfortable and happy with the decision not least of all because I found the whole period of secondary school applications pretty unpleasant and was delighted to not have to go through it again. But as time has gone on I've become more anxious that I made the wrong decision for DD1 for the sake of DD2. DD1 is quite geeky (not sporty) and thrives off competition and that has made me wonder whether she would have been more suited to HB (although at the time I worried about the added pressure of lots of high achievers competing against each other).
We didn't do private school because my husband is against them on principle and I'm not sure we could have afforded them anyway. But I'm surrounded by people who do send their kids privately and say things like "I'm not sure how hard they push them at DAO but at Highgate..." and say they chose private because "you don't compromise on your child's education". All of which has made me worry I made the wrong decision for DD1. There's obviously so much wonderful stuff said about DAO - which is why we went for it - but, as a feminist, I have had a few alarm bells about small things eg. cheerleading as a girls 'sport' and the fact I'm told almost no girls choose trousers as uniform. DD1 hasn't worn a skirt for years and I doubt will change now but again, it makes me feel she might've been more suited to the geeky hoodie-and-jeans girls at HB. (Also makes me have a quiet worry about unconscious bias/sexism and whether that seeps through into subject choices - ie. do fewer girls do science at A-level?) Would love to hear from other DAO parents about whether this is a giant flap about nothing. Again: I know we are v v lucky.

OP’s posts: |
FanDabbyFloozy Fri 31-May-19 06:51:38

I think you are very, very lucky! grin
I know several kids at Dame Alice Owens and it is a fantastic school. The kids work very hard but are typical teens with all that it entails. Because of the catchment arrangements, there are many from Herts and North London, so there are opportunities to meet each other outside school.

HBS is a school for more studious girls and there is more parental pressure/aspirations for them. The (no) catchment is huge and your child's best friend may live in Bucks - so less socialising outside school.

If I was facing this choice, I'd pick DAO even though HBS is clearly good too. Well done to your DD for having this choice.

Huffthemagicdragon Fri 31-May-19 12:15:02

I think you know you're worrying unnecessarily but it's part of the whole grim frenzy of secondary school admissions where the more choices you have, the more stressful we manage to make it.

I loved DAO when we visited and the fact that it's (slightly) more mixed ability is a good thing. My only concern was the commute, but depending where you live that's probably going to be as true of HBS. And, as FanDabby says, at least DAO has some catchment restrictions so the chances are your DD will have a few local friends. I know a lot of children who've gone through DAO and they've all enjoyed it, stayed on for sixth form (not true of those in HBS and QEB) and gone to the sort of universities you'd expect. Though now I think about it, the ones who've gone to local Islington/camden secondaries have had a much better Oxbridge hit rate if that's of interest.

Out of nosiness and off-topic, but why is your husband anti private but not anti DAO? It has a shockingly low 5% kids on FSM which means it's probably less economically mixed than any private school with a good bursary scheme. I don't know any kids who've gone there without tutoring (parental or professional). I don't know, I've always felt the only ethical high ground is going to local 'normal' school and into a dodgy bucket I'd put selective schools, renting next door to favoured school, an exclusive faith school or private. All of these options are iffy. Not criticising btw as we fall into one of these categories, but my kids' 70% + FSM primary school had little in common with our local v middle class faith school, which in turn had more in common with local private, so I don't think the divide is binary state v private.

Huffthemagicdragon Fri 31-May-19 12:15:56

PS your dd did really well and I'm sure will flourish wherever she goes. You'll be glad you picked DAO when you come to your second daughter's applications...

Flappingmum Sat 01-Jun-19 20:49:26

Thanks for your kind and thoughtful replies. Realise it's all a big fuss about nothing and - as you say @huffthemagicdragon it's a result of having almost too much choice that you think another option might be something better. We are Iislington parents and it had also occurred to me that Henrietta Barnett was geographically closer but once you take into account bus times vs trains the actual time it takes to get to school is barely any difference. But in the end I realised I made the entire decision for DD2 when I probably should've thought about DD1 more.
To answer your question about privates: I'm not as firm on this as he is (not least of all because I went to a private school myself) but I'd say his objection lies in people being able to buy better schooling and, yes, opportunities (cf. Oxbridge figures) for their kids at the expense of less well-off but potentially more capable children. I do recognise the hypocrisy within his position but I think he believes very much in state education.
Re: tutoring, i do think it does give rich kids obvious advantages. Though I would also say my DD had much less than her peers so the 11+ now does sniff out overly tutored types. I would say her success is more down to the fact she has inhaled books/puzzles, etc. since she was young. DD2 hasn't had the same level of interest in those departments - so not sure tutoring would make a difference for those v competitive grammars with her... Anyway thanks again to all for taking time to reply

OP’s posts: |
AnotherNightWatering Sat 01-Jun-19 22:24:53

My DH wanted to send her to HB (he'd seen the league tables and on grades alone it wins out) Isn't that because HB doesn't take siblings, so that's a bit of a red herring?

My final child is about to leave DAO, and I didn't even know there's a cheerleading club there! smile There are plenty of other clubs, and I've been very impressed by the amount of time the teachers put in to support the children's varied interests. In my experience, plenty of DAO girls do science A-levels, including my own DD.

I'm sure your DD would have a great time at either school. For me, the benefit of a sibling place would swing it, unless I had a good backup plan for DD2.

Re your DH's views on schools - DAO and HBS are certainly not typical state schools. I'd have more respect for your DH's views if he was happy to send his children to our nearest comprehensive. grin Many DC at DAO come from quite wealthy backgrounds, and would have gone privately if they had not achieved a place. However, it enables right-on parents to say they have sent their children through the state education system. (One of my DC was in the same year as Emily Thornberry's, for example.)

Maths9 Sun 02-Jun-19 09:42:33

I do get where your DH is coming from though. I have DS1 at qe boys and when he passed his 11 plus exams I wanted him to go to DAO because Ds2 is less academic. However he refused and wanted to go to QE boys. He said that the decision shouldn’t be influenced by his brother at all because ultimately it is about what is best for him. Ultimately It was the best decision for DS1 and he’s thriving at QE. And as a side note, DS2 managed to get into DAO after months of hard work so children do change. So ultimately what I’m saying is that you should have asked your DD where she wanted to go and not have based it on her younger sibling.

AnotherNightWatering Sun 02-Jun-19 12:00:52

I think it's different if the first child really wants to go to a particular school. I think you were right in that case, Maths9 . You can't then ignore their wishes for the benefit of the second child, as that would be divisive. It's great that your DS2 was successful as well.

Mustbetimeforachange Mon 03-Jun-19 23:43:46

You can't have been offered places at both. If you have accepted the place at DAO, that is where she will get going unless she us at the top of the HBS waiting list.
PS it's a great school that people cheat & lie to get a place at!

Moominmammacat Tue 04-Jun-19 09:02:09

Other than dodgy dealing with catchment places how can one "cheat & lie to get a place at!" ... just wondering.

Mustbetimeforachange Tue 04-Jun-19 09:33:10

That's what I mean. Every year near DAO houses used to go up for rent. Eldest child gets in, parents move away, second sibling gets in. Rinse & repeat (I think they've tightened up now, but I'm willing to bet it still goes on).

Moominmammacat Tue 04-Jun-19 10:49:08

You still see a remarkable number of "to rent" signs. Fantastic school.

Flappingmum Tue 04-Jun-19 12:34:00

Hi @mustbetimeforachange. You're right we didn't get two offers, per se. DD1 was in top 20 for DAO and Band A for HB, so it we had to put one top and we put DAO top. I overruled DH and have worried I was wrong ever since but am sure it will all be fine/worrying about nothing. I did talk to DD1 at the time, and she really had no idea/wanted to know what her parents wanted and we disagreed! Also her reference points were so minor (she loved standing in a bubble at DAO open day and squirting liquids into a bunsen burner at HB ... not the sort of thing to choose a school place on) but thats the sort of thing she logged. Obv I just want her to be happy. But I think it's in my nature to worry I've chosen The Wrong Thing. (If I'd gone the other way I would be flapping about DD2 at this point...)

OP’s posts: |
Moominmammacat Tue 04-Jun-19 17:36:10

I don't think you've made the wrong choice. We chose DAO over scholarships to Habs and the like and we have never regretted it.

anydream Tue 06-Aug-19 20:46:58

A bit late to this but I hope you still see it OP. I have 3 children currently at DAO. My eldest also was successful at HBS and Latymer. She has never once regretted the decision - she's extremely happy at the school. She has a good friend at HBS and every time she comes home from seeing her she says how glad she is that's she's at DAO.
She's not particularly geeky but is very much jeans and hoodies (she's just left year 11). Of my others, one is sporty, the other more like the first. They have all found their niche. We have a family of teachers and they all comment that our children seem to have felt very little pressure to conform or "fit into" any particular group, compared to the children at their schools.
You're right that few girls wear trousers. Mine don't and I'm very glad because I bought two skirts in year 7 that were still going strong in year 11 whereas my son needs new trousers every few months because he grows so much! But I did notice at the recent sports' award ceremony that there were more girls in the current year 7 and 8 in trousers and blazers than I'd noticed before.
I hope you and your daughters are very happy at DAO. My eldest is already feeling sad that she only has another couple of years to go...

anydream Tue 06-Aug-19 23:40:26

I also just saw your other questions about science and unconscious sexism. I don't know the statistics but maths and sciences are the most popular A levels (with history) at the school. My daughter is the only one of her (female) friends not to be doing maths/physics/chemistry. A significant majority of prizewinners throughout so the year groups are girls. It doesn't feel to me - or to my daughter - that there is any sexism.
If anything I think my son feels that there is a bias towards girls at the school. I don't think he is correct but there is a very definite assumption among all my children and their friends that, on the whole, girls are cleverer and achieve better than boys.

peteneras Wed 07-Aug-19 00:32:52

Yes, just saw this post and adding my two cents worth. First, HBS wins hands down for me and your DD1 deserves the place she won for herself. DD2 has to learn to fight her own battle - she may still win.

Second, your husband is a classic hypocrite!

CruCru Thu 08-Aug-19 09:44:11

I know this is a couple of months old but the friends who are going to send their children to private school sound quite rude. Most people who choose independent schools are almost painfully careful not to make comparisons when talking to people who’ve chosen state - it just puts people’s backs up.

CruCru Thu 08-Aug-19 10:13:02

In any case, if I’ve read this right, the OP’s daughter is going to start this September so it’s too late to choose something different. From what I’ve heard, DAO is a great school (my MP’s children went there) and a good choice.

Herts19 Fri 27-Sep-19 21:38:35

Hi, I’m very late to this thread but just wanted to ask how your daughter was getting on at DAO?
My DD1 is just about to sit 2nd round exams for DAO and HBS and I feel I may be in the same predicament if we’re fortunate enough to have both options. I have two younger boys to consider.
I love the fact that HBS is much smaller and fantastic academically but feel that DAO may offer more opportunities and much more local to us so would be better for her socially and easier to get to.

Moominmammacat Sat 28-Sep-19 09:28:20

Oh take the sibling place at Owen's. Cuts out immense stress lower down the line. Children in different schools, far too complicated.

Flappingmum Sat 28-Sep-19 09:41:10

Hi @Herts19 I'm so glad you asked this, because I've been meaning to come back to this thread and update. My daughter has now been at DAO for 3 or so weeks and she absolutely loves it. After that flap over the summer, I cannot praise it highly enough. The sheer amount of extra-curricular stuff has bowled me over. She is in a choir, two orchestras, an engineering club, a robotics club, the netball squad a book group which authors visit and others. There are so many great things going on she is spoilt for choice. The teaching seems outstanding. She has become hugely engaged in subjects that she has never shown any interest in before - languages in particular. After 3 weeks she had a postcard home - sent in the mail, not home in her bag! - from the head of languages saying he'd heard from her teacher how well she was doing. Little touches like that, which go above and beyond, speak to highly of the school. The only downside - if i was grasping for one - would be the journey because we're in Islington. But even then she has formed a tight knit group with her train friends. I can't speak for HBS but if you are in Herts and it's closer or have a sibling it would be an absolute no brainer. I'm hugely impressed so far and any doubts I ever had have gone out of the window. If you'd like to contact me directly to ask more please do (and if you do decide on DAO, my other daughter will be going this year too - maybe they would meet!)

OP’s posts: |
Herts19 Sat 28-Sep-19 10:02:04

Ah thank you so much! That is so wonderful to hear. We live much closer to DAO (15 mins on a bus) so it would make a lot more sense for her to go there.
I’ll PM you as yes it would be lovely for our daughters to meet.

Vinorosso74 Sat 28-Sep-19 10:53:05

I was just talking to the mum of a boy from Islington yesterday who is in Y7. He is also loving it and enjoys his journey there and back with his Islington buddies!

Moominmammacat Sun 29-Sep-19 10:05:47

The Islington train is a big part of the social life!

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