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Agony over N London/N10 secondary schools

(84 Posts)
boyngirl Sat 11-Jul-09 08:59:07

Hi all

I'm new here but been obsessively reading posts on choosing secondary schools.

I will try v hard not to be too boring about this as I know it's been asked/discussed 8 billion times. I would love some opinions on what type of schools to opt for, especially from Muswell Hillies.

My son (don't know all the abbrievs, sorry) is only 7 but we're having to think about secondary schools as we've got house on market (just want bigger property, that was motivation for moving).

I live in borough of Barnet at the mo where there are great schools, selective, private and state. BUT don't know if want son to go through all the hideous tutoring/exams business (he is v bright but who knows how bright compared to others and he might be a thicko by the time he's 10!!) - one school boasts 3000 kids going for 24 selective places. I mean, pressure or what? Plus don't want to live on doorstep of these schools as we don't really like the areas (not a snobby thing, honest, they are nice but just not us). Then there's private schools - fine but we'd be skint for next 8 years. And 'private' isn't necessarily a magic wand I guess.

ANYWAY (boring myself now)we really like the sound of Fortismere in N10. We've lots of mates in Muswell Hill and like the liberal sound of the school (we are the ghastly media types some of you speak of with a shudder - quite rightly) and it's got quite good results. But not as good as loads of schools in Barnet. I'm concerned I'll do my son a disservice by not sending him to the 'best of the best' if he is v clever.
He's a sensitive but fun-loving type of boy. His current primary school is fantastic, he's gained lots of confidence (he was really shy when he started) and lots of pals.

Do any of you have kids at Fortismere or know it really well and if we move to Mus and he doesn't get in or we decide against it what alternatives are there eg good other state school, grammar or even priavate?

Thanks for reading this!!


2009 Sat 11-Jul-09 17:53:50

I'm sure that there are many of us who could bore for england on the topic of secondary schools!!!.

If your son is academic, then he won't need years of tutoring for the grammar schools. Just start around Y5 which will give him a good chance, and as long as you don't make it into a big deal, then it'll be fine if he doesn't make it. If you have a backup like Fortismere then you're relatively sorted either way.

However, you would have to virtually live in the playground of Fortismere, as the catchment gets smaller and smaller each year...

Also, bear in mind that schools can change (for better or worse) very quickly, usually when a headteacher changes etc. At 7, your ds still has quite a few years to go and some of the other schools could come into play. So don't put all your hopes on one school.

My advice is to move somewhere where you'll all be happy and that has a reasonable local secondary for backup. Sounds like you have a plan already, so go for it!
Good luck!

squeaver Sat 11-Jul-09 17:58:00

I don't have children of secondary age but do live nearby although I can tell you this: Fortismere has a VERY small catchment area.

I think it's something like 0.5 miles. And this has a HUGE influence on house prices in Muswell Hill.

But it is a very good school from what I've heard - the best in the area by a long way.

squeaver Sat 11-Jul-09 17:59:49

I mean the best state school btw.

Private-wise, there's Highgate (co-ed) but pretty much all the other boys' schools are in Hampstead. Then there's Mill Hill and Habs.

And there ends my knowledge, I'm afraid.

boyngirl Sat 11-Jul-09 20:53:00

Thank you squeaver/2009. Yes I know schools/heads can change.It's a tricky one. I so didn't want to get bogged down in all this but maybe you can't avoid it! I think 'instinct' is the name of the game. Funnily enough my dad came over today and reminded me my 20 something cousins went to fortismere but neither did well academically. Cue more questions..they not academic or school not? But generally didn't put us off so there you go. For tonight it's have another glass of red and sod it!

frogs Sat 11-Jul-09 20:56:08

If you can get into Fortismere, and you're okay with the atmosphere (arty London lefty-liberal) there's no reason to look elsewhere, really. Having said that, you will be paying a premium for living in the Fortismere catchment, so you need to be convinced by it.

Honestly, there's no point over-thinking this. Being in catchment for a reasonable comprehensive is a Good Thing (there are quite a few of these around) and quells the panic of secondary transfer. For the selective options you can decide nearer the time once you have a clearer idea of his ability and the kind of school you're after (some people HATE QE boys, for example, others think it's the holy grail). Horses for courses.

MrsMattie Sat 11-Jul-09 20:59:02

Fortsimere is a good school, but if you don't get in, your options are limited.

I'd go for living in Barnet, to be honest. Very fortunate if you can live in a borough with such fantastic schools.

VanessaMuchLessa Sat 11-Jul-09 21:02:02

Judging by your name there's a second DC to consider too? I take it Fortismere is co-ed?

boyngirl Sun 12-Jul-09 06:45:09

Yes MrsMattie, that's my worry - options limited. But re Barnet even though there are lots of excellent schools, where we currently live we are not in catchment for any. Well one, but we're not sure about it even though it's said to be good (Compton in N12/N11 - anyone know it?)So it would still very probably be the selective route. And therefore no guarantee of getting in.

QEBoys has outstanding results but it's so madly academic plus I've got this thing about wanting the kids to live right by the school so they have a community of friends. My bro went to Hab's and found it a very lonely difficult time as he had no social life as a teen because his friends lived 10-20 miles away. And they were all loaded when we weren't but that's another story.

VanessaML - yep got little girl too in reception. Fortismere is co-ed and so is (super expensive) Highgate.

Anyone any experience of Dame Alice Owen?
I think I might start another thread asking about the Barnet school options inluding Alice,QE, Compton etc. Although I am deffo over thinking this, it's a big decision as we are moving house and about to splash all our cash...

TDiddy Sun 12-Jul-09 07:26:37

I would stay put in Barnet and move closer to secondary time once ou have made your mind up. You have great options there and you would risk feeling like you have compromised son's education.

When you move you could chose to move closer to the target school once that is settled. Moving closer to MT's, Habs and Watford Grammar is an option but takes you further away from friends. Watford Grammar is more relaxed and less selective than QE but has quite good results (esp considering only 20pc selective) and children have fun. MT's seems more relaxed than Habs but recent results are similar.

Considering all of the mentioned schools myself for academic son who also likes to have FUN. Teachers want him to go to St Pauls and he liked what he saw which is great but can't face moving as we did so 2 yrs ago and have 2 other DC to consider. So I empathise!

Part of me think that if the child is clever then the school just has to be good enough.

boyngirl Sun 12-Jul-09 09:21:24

What is MT's sorry TDiddy? Yes moving that way is an option. But isn't really where we want to live. Again, not because there aren't lots of lovely areas but because a) My job is central London and I don't want to have longer journey and therefore see less of dc and b) we really like N10/N12.

I realise I want to have it all - ideal area, great state school to rival all private/selective options etc etc and am being a bit whiney!!

'Luckily' the housing market is still extremely slow moving so we have time to think. My dh is sold on Mus but I am determined to keep open mind.

Thandeka Sun 12-Jul-09 09:26:17

What about Enfield- there are some great secondaries there including ones that get much better results than Fortismere.

TDiddy Sun 12-Jul-09 10:33:45

MT is Merchant Taylor school Great facilities and superb recent Ofsted report.

If you lived in Northwood or somewhere like that on the Met line then the commute is only 40mins and you probably get far more for your money and nice leafy areas. Not nearly as eclectic though. But you can create some of that by having the right friendships.

We moved 2 years ago - I think that it would have been more logical for us to move once we had settled on school for DS so that is a mistake from my point of view as I can make friends and put together a fun life wherever and prefer to optimise for DS.

I think that you are right to keep commute short for DS as that would make a big diff to his quality of life.

TDiddy Sun 12-Jul-09 12:54:22

boyngirl- i hope that my advice doesn't rad too harsh/frank.

best wishes

boyngirl Sun 12-Jul-09 21:19:07

god no TDiddy, didn't think u were harsh at all. appreciate your thoughts and advice.

Just been at school all pm at talent show. Such good fun, love their primary school. Diverse, warm, community feeling. made me veer towards fortismere again. but i've a feeling there will be much internal lurching for me for the next few months.

speak soon

TDiddy Sun 12-Jul-09 21:26:13

Just looked at the website of fortismere and it looks very good. Have you been to open days at the alternatives? You could also call in for a visit even if it isn't an open day.

MrsMattie Sun 12-Jul-09 21:27:40

Compton is a good school, but it's not in the same league as QE Boys, as you probably know. What's your boy like? Is he super academic? Is he musical (QE boys is big on music scholarships) Are you willing to go down the whole tutoring route? Can you afford private?

Fortsimere isn't a better school academically than Compton, I don't think - but it has that real lefty liberal Muswell-Hill 'we could have afforded private school but it goes against our principles' type cohort grin, which some parents prefer.

Not sure about Dame Alice Owen...

I feel your pain, btw!

TDiddy Sun 12-Jul-09 21:34:10

MrsMattie- QE looked very good. Only crticisism is the extent to which (i think) they "mine" the stats. Someone said that only those with A* in GCSE Maths are allowed to do A'Level Maths. SO I am wondering if the teaching (and add-value) is any better than say Watford Grammar that only selects 20pc of it's intake? I am NOT saying that QE isn't excellent as I am considering it but I am wondering if WG isn't as good?

TDiddy Sun 12-Jul-09 21:35:53

And DC said WG looked like fun. They are also great at music.

PS: QE has a wonderful Olympic swimming pool

TDiddy Sun 12-Jul-09 21:44:45

BoynGirl- I am with you on all of your principles: coed, diverse school, live near school, eclectic backdrop, state funded school,liberal, fun school with chance to do well. I am just finding it more difficult to walk the walk! So well done.

DC's teacher has me second guessing by saying that academic school would suit best.

macrobiotic Mon 13-Jul-09 01:09:36

Hi, boyngirl, what about the Wren Academy just down the road from The Compton. The Head and Leadership team are extremely comitted and there are lots of very bright children attending. I would say it is going to be a much better school than The Compton and it is just down the road from you. If he is in year 2 now you will be able to see the first set of Wren's results (by the time you have to apply) as this is a brand new school starting with just a year 7 this year and growing each year. Watch this space.

TDiddy Mon 13-Jul-09 09:48:49

Macro- I will find out about this one myself but I might be out of zone. Thanks.

Boyngirl- The housing market is not likely to run away from you I think you have a bit more time to sort out what you options are. The decision we made 2 years ago might have been diff if we made it today: DS is at the end of yr 5 and we now have more track record/teacher feedback etc. to consider for DS.

boyngirl Mon 13-Jul-09 13:49:23

Mrs Mattie - He is academic and so far very bright. He's quite sensitive and not sure how well he'd thrive under pressure. Maybe fine, maybe not.

We can just about afford private but if we move to Mus Hill it will be worse of all financial worlds. Much more expensive move, then fees on top.

TDiddy - so where did you move to 2 yrs ago (or don't you want to say - if so no prob) and what are your specific reservations with hindsight?

You v kindly commend me for my principles or values but on the other hand I'd be doing the worst thing poss with Fortismere ie moving near good state school and pushing out less advantaged locals..!

Re Wren. Yep this could be an option but if we DO move soon it's a difficult one to call.

Everything points towards waiting to move, put it back a year or two. But we're itching to go and also house prices will shoot up again.

TDiddy Mon 13-Jul-09 15:26:39

BoynGirl- I am on the Met line (40mins into the city) and 25mins to west end. I am in catchment area for WG and can commuite to QE. MTs is 10mins drive and Habs is 15 to 20mins drive. But it is suburbia and not as eclectic as might suit you.

we moved locally but could have kept our options open before trading up.

TDiddy Mon 13-Jul-09 15:34:25

Should add that I like it here and feel as though we can choose whether or not we want london

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