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Highgate Woods versus Fortismere
36

sdra · 18/03/2022 08:16

Want to buy in the area but unsure where to place ourselves. Prefer Crouch End/Highgate rather than Muswell Hill but would go further up if Fortismere really is better. Can anyone give an idea of each of the schools? Not just exam results, but feel, what pastoral care is like, facilities, teaching strengths? I know (from here) that Fortismere is more tutored kids/middle class feel but perhaps Highgate Woods is actually better in terns of pastoral care. Would this be correct? I do like the area around Woodland Gardens way. Would this give me a chance to get into both? Secondary is still quite a long way off but obviously don't want to have to move again. We do have the option of private too but Highgate seems so incredibly difficult to get into.

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workingtowards · 23/03/2022 14:16

Both my children went to Fortismere. I would say that, if your child is self-sufficient and academically high-flying, the actual teaching is good. However, if they have any extra needs, the pastoral care is beyond awful - just dire (I have both an academically confident child and one with extra needs).

Communication can be very poor too. There was a computer crash on A-level results day last year, for example, which meant that students weren't able to get their results. There was a good hour or so in which there was just silence from the school. Students were being told by UCAS that they hadn't got into the Uni of their choice, without the school telling them what their results were, so they couldn't go into clearing. The school was not responding to emails and there was no team of staff set up to support students. The school eventually resorted to writing the results down on scraps of paper or giving them by telephone, which resulted in some students being given the wrong results (A, B and E for example sounds just the same as A, B and D over the phone)

There is a serious drug problem too. I wouldn't recommend the school to anyone I care about. I don't know much about Highgate Woods.

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LoversLane · 24/03/2022 20:48

Very interested to hear more too. We are keen to stay in North London so planning to move to Crouch End/Muswell Hill as we need somewhere bigger. I've heard the same about pastoral care at Fortismere - it's dire. I've also heard that Highgate Wood is quite a rough school but it would be good to hear from parents with kids there. Are these schools just to be avoided?

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winterrabbit · 24/03/2022 21:53

I have a child at Highgate Wood. My other child is at a private school so I have nothing to compare HGW to in terms of other state secondaries. It's a large, mixed comprehensive school, as is Fortismere. The only discernible difference I can tell is that Fortismere has better results, although HGW's are on the up, and a lower percentage of disadvantaged and underperforming kids. I looked at the results a while back, however, and the top 1/3 at Highgate Wood seem to perform pretty well. I have been impressed by the teachers who seem to really know my child despite its size and serious issues with underfunding. Obviously there are things they could do better. The academic reports are very hard to understand and I find it really hard to tell how he is doing. That said, whenever I have tracked down his teachers they have always had a pretty good idea of where he is. My son is happy at this school and has lots of friends. We debating moving from Crouch End to Muswell Hill for many years just to get into APS/Fortmismere but never found a house we liked and didn't like the area. I don't think Fortismere or even APS are perfect and you will definitely pay a significant premium for buying a house in catchment (you'll need to be less than 0.4 for APS and probably 0.5 for Fortismere). For that amount you should probably consider private options as we did. Not sure this is of any help but good luck anyway!

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winterrabbit · 24/03/2022 21:56

Also to add, I have found the pastoral care at HGW very good. My son has had access to support and resources he didn't get in a private school. I do get the feeling they are really. motivated to help and get the best out of your child, wherever they are at. So massive thumbs up from that perspective.

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Crouchendmumoftwo · 24/03/2022 23:02

I second everything about HW. I have a child at HW and APS. Both very good. Pastoral at HW excellent. Mixed kids with children with rockstar, lawyer parents (look at the eye wateringly expensive houses nearby) to children not so lucky to have very wealthy parents. That’s a good thing - a mix like IRL where they will be living as an adult.

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Mediumred · 25/03/2022 00:51

I have one child at HWS and we’re reasonably happy but, probably like a lot of schools, it took them a long time to be really up and running during lockdown. There seems quite a bit of low-level disruption, prob to be expected in a London comp, there have been quite a few kids leave DD’s year, partly due to issues like bullying that parents feel could have been handled better. Having said that the school is really trying to get on top of this after the disruption of the pandemic and there are some great teachers.

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sdra · 25/03/2022 07:00

Thanks everyone. It's a hard call. I also prefer Crouch End to Muswell Hill but would move if Fortismere was amazing (not just in terms of results) but the lack of pastoral care is concerning.

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sdra · 25/03/2022 07:01

@winterrabbit could I ask which private schools you considered as I can't see any nearby other than Highgate (which looks incredible but v tough to get into!)

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LoversLane · 25/03/2022 07:12

Out of interest is Highgate Wood the natural destination for the CE primaries (Coleridge, Rokesley, Campsbourne)? Or do people move away from the area? We are in a primary further away and I cannot find any destination data primary to secondary in CE.

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winterrabbit · 25/03/2022 07:56

@LoversLane

Out of interest is Highgate Wood the natural destination for the CE primaries (Coleridge, Rokesley, Campsbourne)? Or do people move away from the area? We are in a primary further away and I cannot find any destination data primary to secondary in CE.

Yes, very much so, although a lot of kids seem to come from further away (Wood Green etc) which mystifies me slightly as the catchment is around 0.7 although does go out after offer day. Around half to 2/3 of the kids from Coleridge go, I would say, others either go private, to grammars or. few move either to Muswell Hill for Fortismere/APS or elsewhere.
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LoversLane · 25/03/2022 09:15

My guess is that, after the initial offer day allocations, as a larger secondary HWS gets asked to offer places to a wider range whilst the others fill up really quickly and are unable to do so.

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Mediumred · 25/03/2022 09:26

@LoversLane DD was at one of the schools your mentioned and HWS took the largest cohort of kids. Some girls went to Hornsey or Parliament Hill and a handful of kids to the city of London academy on Highgate Hill.

The kids that have left HWS, some have gone private to North Bridge House, Belmont or Mill Hill I believe.

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LoversLane · 11/05/2022 10:52

There is not much on the market that suits our family and we have lost out to a place in Alexandra Park and another in Crouch End. There are obviously many buyers like us looking for good primaries and secondaries. We are now seriously considering a house in MH which would mean the Fortismere catchment area. Does anyone have anything good to say about Fortismere? Everything I read in Mumsnet about it is so negative I don't know if to just hold out for a place near AP or HGW if Fortismere is that awful.

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Meadowbreeze · 11/05/2022 15:26

@LoversLane how old is your child?



APS is the smallest of the schools, very traditional in comparison to the other two. Good SEN provision so high number of EHCPs. They work closely with Heartlands. Snobby headteacher in my opinion. Insanely cringey prospectus and head teacher talk at open evening. Guy needs to get a grip, he's running a school not found the cure to cancer.



Fortismere is very large and can be cliquey. The rich kids stick together, music kids, sports kids etc. Same with HWS but less so.

Fortismere has long been riding out on its reputation and results. There was a big thing a couple of years ago with SEN which caused Ofsted to come and review that aspect of it incl safety. It's very rare they do that. Whether it's the severity of it or the catchment having parents who know how to shout loudly, is hard to tell. They are getting more and more kids with EHCPs now so it is probably improving. I firmly believe results are due to tutoring. They have lovely grounds but building aren't nice.



HWS has always waven it's ' we're a bog standard comp flag high and proud'. The headteacher is marmite. Die hard labour guy that left lots of pissed off parents during lockdown with his insane above the government guidance COVID rules, cancelling things like sports day and clubs restarting day before they were going to restart, leaving year 7s in tears as all their friends in other schools by then had a normal school experience. Like someone mentioned, kids do leave to local privates. There is a reason why Mill Hill/Belmont has a school coach stop on Park Road. The head decided to paint a horrible massive mural of a footballer with a cringey quote instead of fixing any one of the crumbling buildings and now has the cheek to appeal to his Twitter followers for money to fix the PE blocks. Because there is nothing inner city boys need more but a reminder that football is the only route out of poverty.



I could go on and on. We've got a kid in one of the schools mentioned and friends in the others, including Mill Hill. All have their pros and cons but I wouldn't be going out of my way to avoid one over the other.

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LoversLane · 11/05/2022 15:49

Thank you, our eldest is just turning 9 (very sporty). Very closely followed by his sister aged 8. They are diligent and keen at school but neither are hugely academic and we don't feel that they would do well in a selective state school with entrance exams. They wouldn't take kindly to the pressure and extra school work to prepare for them. I also want to avoid children in different schools!

Is the teaching at these schools good and the tutoring is because of parents with high expectations and are able to afford tutoring? Or is the tutoring to fill a gap due to bad teaching? how does the co-head thing work at Fortismere? It looks odd.

Secondary schooling and house moves are so stressful!

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LoversLane · 11/05/2022 15:52

There is also a younger sibling but I am just concentrating on the eldest for now given that we have to move to get extra space!

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Meadowbreeze · 11/05/2022 16:01

@LoversLane What school would you get if you stayed where you are now?
None of these schools are super sporty per se. The sporty kids go to local clubs. Haringey aquatics, Alexandra football, Highgate tennis etc.
Fortismere has a good girls football team but 2 of the girls are arsenal girls players. The sporting success is rarely due to school if you see what I mean.
The problem with crap SEN support is that it effects all kids. Fortismere gets an unfair slating for this, HWS is just as bad. I don't know if the teaching is bad or if there is so much low level disruption that it's hard to concentrate because of all the unmet needs. HWS love to blame funding but lots of other schools around manage to deal much better with non existent PTAs. HWS does have a tougher intake. A lot from the estate near ashmount go there as well as the one near campsbourne. Their pastoral care is much better than fortismere though.
Honestly, I think the tutoring is the intake and the teaching. I don't know how the heads are co working but without a good head it's hard to get a good school. The parents send their kids there because it's a state school. There's been so many awful conversations I've overheard sitting in places like NLPAC where parents are slating the teaching before ending the conversation with ' oh we'll just get a tutor'. It's nice for them but it's not something everyone can do.
Fortismete had a kick up its arse in the last couple of years when APS has been taking all its glory so hopefully it'll improve.

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LoversLane · 11/05/2022 16:16

Islington Arts & Media school

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Meadowbreeze · 11/05/2022 16:33

@LoversLane I certainly wouldn't be moving to avoid that. It's the best comparison I can give you to HWS except it's much smaller. Could they sit the test for Mary Magdalene?

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Meadowbreeze · 11/05/2022 16:34

And by avoid that I mean to avoid it in place of HWS or Fortismere. If you're used to Finsbury park station near you, that W7 morning commute takes some getting used to. Always packed.

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LoversLane · 11/05/2022 18:02

Thanks but we are keen to move and we are happy with the commute. Local reports are very mixed about that secondary school and it wouldn't be my first choice. DH is very against it. We don't want to leave North London but it's so hard to find a good school and area that we really like.

I don't think my kids would get along with all the extra work to get into a selective state secondary

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Meadowbreeze · 11/05/2022 18:22

@LoversLane Mary Magdalene isn't selective but it does issue some spaces on exam merit. I think it's called the governor's exam or something. There's very few spaces though.

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jimboandthejetset · 11/05/2022 21:37

Just out of curiosity, what is Greig City Academy like?

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Meadowbreeze · 11/05/2022 22:50

@jimboandthejetset Just about the worst school in Haringey. Very few local kids go there. Its a school you get allocated really, less than 20% of kids pass, normally. You're better off at Park View.

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winterrabbit · 18/05/2022 21:33

LoversLane, I totally understand your dilemma as we live in the same area although are just in the catchment of HGW. I debated for years about moving to MH to APS or Fortismere but never did as just never found a house I liked. So I have one kid in private and one at HGW. HGW is ok. Not amazing but ok. I am not sure if I would have found the other schools amazing either. For what it's worth, DS is happy at HGW and the teaching seems ok in most cases. It could be a LOT better though given its intake. Not sure why it hasn't managed to reach the academic standards of APS or Fortismere although it is improving year on year. I have friends with kids at Fortismere and APS and I'm not sure it sounds any better. I actually think he will achieve the same or similar grades at HGW that he would at Fortismere. It could be a lot lot better and it makes me sad and cross when I read about other state secondaries with clubs, trips, extra curricular stuff etc, as there seems to be very little of that at HGW so you don't get the whole school experience that you get at other schools.

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