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Townley (Bexley) v Dartford Grammar for Girls (Kent) v St Michael's Catholic Grammar (Barnet)(107 Posts)
My daughter has recently passed her 11+ for Bexley, Kent and St Michael's in Barnet and we are now in the enviable position of having to rank them for our CAF .
We visited all 3 schools, my daughter liked them all very much and they are all roughly at the same distance (1 hr) from where we live,.
I was hoping for some help to try and understand their main strenghts and (if any) weaknesses, and more broadly their key differences (i.e. clearly size is one of them...).
Looking at recent years GCSE results, the top performing school would be (I believe) St Michael's, followed by Dartford and finally Townley, but obviously there is so much more than exam results to consider.
Thank you in advance for your help.
I’d really consider how easy the journey to each school really is and what time start of day is for each. What time will she need to leave home each morning? For the Bexley school is she in the top 180 and so guaranteed a place? Good luck with your decision.
Thanks scrunchSE18. I am really just enquiring about the schools (strenghts / weaknesses) - journey time is pretty much equivalent and regardless of the probabilities to get offered a place, one needs to rank the schools in order of preference...
I have experience of Townley but am surprised that you are looking at schools such far distances away from each other. I mean Barnet, as far north of London as you can go and Townley and Dartford, as far south as you can go! Those distances will make a difference to what she gets offered, unless she is a 180, as you can’t live close to all of them (unless you are mis-using addresses).
However, in answer to your question, your daughter would be fine at either Townley or Dartford Girls. Go to their Open Evenings (which are soon) and see how she feels about them.
Just to clarify as I keep getting comments on distance, etc.
We don't live close to any of these schools, pretty much in the middle of them all (isle of dogs). Distance is only relevant for Townley, as the other 2 schools rank students by score and we are confident to be offered a place based on my daughter's scores. For Townley, there is of course a chance to get in based on distance anyway, as you never know how waiting lists move after national offer day.
So, going back to my original question, I would like to hear if anyone has direct experiences of Townley v Dartford for example, as they are not too far from each other. Also, if you happen to know St Michael's Catholic Grammar even better.
I must admit I got a mild shock when I saw these three schools mentioned in the same basket. I don't know the Kent schools at all but I'm very familiar with St. Michael's - my DD went there many moons ago and that was the one and only school that I was aiming for her since she was born. A friend's DD just started there last month too. The distances between these three schools are poles apart thus my "mild shock" - no disrespect to the Kent schools as I said I don't know anything about them. I note you said for you the travelling time is roughly the same. . .
But St. Michael's wouldn't be a "mistake" should you opt for it. This is reputed to be the country's best Catholic school academically speaking. It's a small school - used to admit only 96 girls annually for ages but beginning this academic year a further 20(?) is accommodated. Good luck in your choices!
Thanks Peteneras, this is useful. We loved St Michael's when we visited, and you are right, smaller size and great academically. I am just a little concerned that because of size, facilities may not be as good (i.e. sports / music / drama / etc.).
I don’t know St Michael’s. However the reason people are asking the distance is that both Dartford and Townley are both great schools and therefore if there was much of a difference in journey time or ease of journey then it would make sense to go for the easiest and quickest journey and also to make it easy for her to get to see her friends socially. (She’ll get an amazing education and experience at all three by the sounds of it.) I’m ex-DGGS and we had quite the social life outside school mainly centred on Dartford.
St Michael’s is tiny. They can’t even hold their sport day at school. Many weird traditions, very strict. However, I would send DD without a second thought. After that, it is a toss up between the other two. I don’t like Townley because it is the middle of Bexleyheath town centre. At the end of the school day, there are hundreds of kids from different schools around the area all go to town and to take the bus from there. It can be really rowdy and chaotic.
As you are looking at Bexley, I'd have thought you would give Chis & Sid a go. It's well regarded and I've known some successful youngsters who were there.
Townley and Sid and Chis are great
Sid and Chis is mixed , whilst Townley is all girls.
If your dd is sporty Sid and Chis is great. However, for academic excellence I would go for a Townley ( Bexley) or Dartford Grammar School For Girls( Kent)
Townley Grammar generally gets the best exam results in Bexley.
Thank you for your great and helpful comments.
Chis & Sid did not leave a great impression from when we visited, and their academic track record is not as strong as the other (all girls) schools I mentioned above.
My daughter loves swimming (very good at it!) and rugby, but I wouldn't say she is very sporty, or very artistic...
She is a smart, inquisitive little girl, very resilient and disciplined, but needs to be guided. I believe she would do well in an environment where she is pushed / dragged by her peers, but would not necessarily take the lead. She also has a strong passion for reading, which is why the 1 hr commute each way does not seem to bother her too much.
DGSG is probably top of the list at the moment, due to their science focus / academic track record / slighly easier travel than St Michael's / facilities (incl. a swimming pool).
But there is still 12 days to go...
Hi GHGN, do you know if there is any major difference in curriculum between St Michael's (being Catholic and small) v Townley and DGSG?
Do you have no good schools nearby? How will she socialise with her friends?
I assume social life will take care of itself, as they get older / more mobile - plus I assume a lot of other kids will be in a similar situation and commuting from some distance (check out the trains in the morning from Lewisham and Greenwich heading towards Bexley and Dartford!).
Kids travel 1 to 1.5 hours to St Michael’s due to its reputation. Some people move home from hundreds miles away. A few extra minutes is neither here or there. However, if your DD is sporty then Dartford Girls might be best actually.
Lewisham and Greenwich have at least direct routes straight to Bexleyheath though and takes about 30 minutes. Isle of Dogs would be many train and bus changes for her poor thing-at least an hours worth. Dartford would be more multiple changes and Barnet would be about an hour and a half travel. All not so bad going home from school but the early starts to secondary means she will be getting up very very early.
I know one or two children do it at Townley from your distance, out of about 1500 girls but they do struggle with punctuality and homework. Do consider the distances a little more.
St Michael's is a great school but is a long way from the Isle of Dogs!! Most kids live within 5 miles of the school, though there are mini buses to Harrow and some kids travel by tube to Islington and Hackney.
Curriculum wise, St Michael's appeals to the academically minded: Latin, languages, sciences and maths prevail. It is only streamed for maths (y9 onwards) AFAIK. It isn't anywhere near as pushy these days: there is a lot of focus on pastoral care these days.
@GHGN St Michael's is 128 intake now so not so tiny!
Wow, there seems to be very different views on the travel time and whether it's worth it or not. Ultimately this is down to us and my daughter, but so that everyone is on the same page...
1) DGSG: about 1hr
DLR to Greenwich (2 stops, 4mins) + train to Dartford (8 stops, 30mins) + 20mins walk
2) Townley: about 1hr
DLR to Lewisham (6 stops, 9mins) + train to Bexleyheath (5 stops, 18mins) + 20mins walk
3) St Michael's - about 1:15 hour
DLR to Bank (9 stops, 17mins), Northern Line to West Finchley (13 stops, 31mins) + 10min walk
St Michael's is longer, busier, less pleasant and probably more prone to issues (signalling problems, strikes, etc.), but there is train every 3 mins...
I think the trek to St Michael's is too much. If she's lucky, she may have company until Angel but that's still only half the story.
Don't forget you'll be doing it too for parent evenings, various meetings especially in year 7, family events.. Unlike (say) Henrietta Barnett it's not a school that expects children or parents to travel far, so isn't set up for it. HBS has its clubs at lunch mostly and finishes a bit early to allow longer traveling while still daylight.
One plus for the trip to Finchley - it's against the rush hour so she will get a seat most of the way.
You haven’t factored in delays and cancellations mcinesi, which are common on those routes. They can be daily or every other day. Late detentions will be therefore be regularly given in DGSG and TSG (I don’t have experience of St Michaels.) Also, after school booster sessions when she is older may also be out of the question. Yes, it is you and your DD’s decision but doesn’t mean advice is not helpful or well intentioned.
Oh and it is not a 20 minute walk from Bexleyheath station to Townley Road. I’ve walked it. More like 30 to 40 minutes walking fast as an adult and Upton Rd (if you go that route to avoid the town centre) is not a nice hill.
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