Good secondary schools

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Tuesday 6 September 2005 4.56pm
I need help - recommendations of good secondary schools for my daughter who is bright and well behaved but doesn't attend church regularly. I am fairly clued up on the whole process, but frightened by the amazing range of criteria these kids have to meet. I need some personal references from people who have experience of good secondary schools (not church). I am interested in ADT, Graycoats, Graveney, Burntwood (like another 1000 parents). Also if anybody could give me some some feedback on Pimlico. I am in the Kennington area. All feedback on other good schools gratefully accepted.
Tuesday 6 September 2005 9.38pm
Graveney is supose to be an excellent school. I have friends whos children have gone there all have gone onto or about to go to uni with great exam results. I do not know anything about the others
Tuesday 6 September 2005 10.26pm
You have effectively gone through a list of South London's preferred schools. Trouble is that you are a Lambeth resident and none of these are in your borough.

Preferred Lambeth Schools are Dunraven, and (probably) the new Clapham Academy. How the new selection process makes things very hard, as you need to to put as your first choice a school that you have a reasonable chance of getting into. Graveney, which is in Wandsworth, are only allowed to take 50 children through a selection process. To make things more difficult half of these are likely to be boys, though rumour has it that almost all the top achieving pupils are girls.

Jac will proably know more about Southward schools but there is a newish school in Dulwich which is liked by parents.

If your child is super-bright ,Tiffin Girls in Kingston (train from Vauxhall) is a grammer that does not need to consider catchment. There are also some in Bromley and elsewhere.

Other preferred Wandsworth schools are Elliot and the new CofE St Cecilia's. If you can suddenly discover religion Notre Dame close to the Elephant is good. And there is also a CofE school in Fulham, who bands which is also good, but I am forgetting the name. (Banding, which Graveney also does, means they take so many from the top 25% and then so many from the next. etc. I knew someone whose child came in on the 74th percentile so got a place.)

Cheaper private schools include Clapham and Streatham High, and Emmanuel. The former has a good reputation. The latter has some very impressive sixth-formers (in a previous life - like about three years ago - I came in contact with a lot of sixth-formers) and is not so hard to get into.

However my guess is that you have a problem. Go to see a lot of schools, and then engage in some careful thought about the balance between the really sought after school and your chances of getting a place. (EG forget Graveney unless your daughter is going to be one of the best 25, though you can always apply for sixth form.) Also do a charm offensive on Head Teachers. They need to get results, so will want committed parents, and bright kids, so they can leap up the league tables. Ironically things are better for boys in SE1as the London Nautical is improving fast. I think that about 300 Lambeth kids were left without a place last year and ended up pleading with schools that they would not otherwise have considered. A miserable experience for an 11 year old, who sees all his/her friends going off to the school they were rejected from.

Its that, or God, or paying. And curiously the competition for fee-paying schools is almost as ferocious, maybe even more so. (Alleyns, anecdote has it, is only taking one in thirty.)

One friend has been suggesting that we all ought to take a leap of faith with the new Lilian Baylis and support it together. Nice thought, because there is a real problem. But I am not sure how many of us are prepared to experiment wiht our children.

Good luck.
Thursday 8 September 2005 9.49am
Just looked Graveney up in the good schools guide. The most oversubscribed school in SW London, state or private. Tiffin apparently is able to select the top 3% academically.

Graycoats is apparently favoured by teaching professionals. Having language aptitude helps.

There is something very, very wrong. I know most of the postings are about bars, cafes and the like. But SE1 is not able to be a mixed and balanced community (a phrase that was in circulation when I temped for Hackney Council) without access to sound secondary schools.

Happy to lend Jane my copy of the guide. It is depressing reading. There are good schools, but geography, IQ, money or God has to be on your side. You do need to research and to be very strategic in your selection.
Thursday 8 September 2005 1.36pm
Is there scope for applying for bursaries at any local fee-paying schools?

[Ignore me. I've got no children. Just an idea]

...if you press it, they will come.
Thursday 8 September 2005 5.42pm
Getting a bursary from a fee paying school would seem even tougher than getting one of the few places in the good state schools by selection though?

But I have no children / clues about all this either. I was just gobsmacked to read Sarah's posts - it shouldn't be that complicated / difficult to educate your child should it?

I see that Southwark Council is going down the Academy route in a big way, that's not something I agree with but maybe parents might have a different idea seeing as it might be the only way some schools can get investment.
Friday 9 September 2005 12.06pm
Does anyone know exactly why the "old" (1960s) Lilian Baylis school was regarded as so unfit for purpose - I've never seen anything more specific from Lambeth than "the building does not meet modern educational requirements".

I had assumed that it was probably regarded as too big for good discipline (designed for 1500 pupils?) but someone else suggested the classrooms were too small.

My cynical suspicion is that demolishing the large school site would have made the "decanting" of tenants into new flats much easier under the previous proposals for a comprehensive redevelopment of the Ethelred estate, and that was why so few questions were asked about providing a replacement school with only 600 places crammed into the new site.

Given the pressing shortage of school places, especially in Lambeth, I remain unconvinced that the site couldn't be reused as a pair of secondary schools with shared campus facilities.
Friday 9 September 2005 4.23pm
Lilian Baylis has mostly been given abuse because it is old and shabby and has a very high population of immigrants etc. It also had a pass rate of just 6% in 2003, mostly coz a lot of the pupils didn't have English as their mother tongue. What you don't hear so much is that its pass rate has rocketed up to somewhear round 50% this year and the head, who I spoke to yesterday, is such an inspirational person having to fight against all sorts of stereotypes and stigmas.

I don't have kids but I write about secondary education for a living and visit a lot of schools. My advice would be, don't believe the league tables - they simply tell you how selective the so-called comprehensive schools are and they don't take into account value-added. So many parents are sheep and just want their kids to go to the most popular school, even when that school has stopped performing well.

I'd say: Go into the schools, talk to the head, the teachers and the pupils and follow your instincts. I know it sounds risky but these so called 'unpopular' schools are often so good and are striving to do better whereas the popular ones are just coasting on their reputation.
Good luck!
Sunday 11 September 2005 6.48pm
Scholarships aren't easy. Girls schools tend to have fewer endowments. There is a trend to means test to spread any available money further. Most independent schools are charities so need to be seen to be doing good, and perhaps genuinely want to be seen to be seeking diversity. So not much for middle income families, even though school fees have risen dramatically over the last few years and can only be easily afforded by the very rich.

Other posts allude to what is a genuine problem. There are not enough school places in Lambeth. Populations are growing, and I suspect that demographics are causing increased demand for secondary school places. Boroughs who have traditionally exported their school children are hit twice, as recipient boroughs are likely to give priority to their own residents thus squeezing out those from outside the borough who might have expected ADT or Graveney places.

I don't think there is any argument with HF. I mentored a student at Lilian Baylis about eight years ago. She was lovely and so were all her friends. But I was shocked at how few subjects were available to her at GCSE. And how little provision there is in Lambeth for academic sixth formers, especially those in need of extra pastoral care. (Eg like the girl I mentored whose parents did not speak much English, and whose family had no tradition of higher education.)

The problem is not only results, and I share concerns that supposedly 'good' schools may add less value to pupils than schools which take in kids at 11 with poor literacy, numeracy and home support. But parents will be concerned about schools that cut off opportunity, though limited sylabuses. Or which cannot offer much attention to straight-forward kids because they are swamped with the needy.

In response to Rabbie's question, the sale of the Lilian Baylis site has been on the cards for ages. It was around alongside the parallel idea of selling the Vauxhall Primary school site. I assumed it was all about needing receipts into Lambeth coffers. Both got caught up in the general opposition to the proposed sales of the Ethelreds and China Walk estates (Project Vauxhall), proposed library closures and sales of all sorts of bits of green space. Thinking about it, Lilian Baylis seems to be the only proposal that went ahead. There was opposition, including having the 70s building listed, but by and large I suspect that residents around the former site were happy to get shot of the gangs of truanting teenages who used to hang out in Lambeth Walk. Though it has resulted in fewer places, thereby adding to the overall problem.

So where to send your daughter.......

I don't think there is an answer.

Tuesday 13 September 2005 3.12pm
I agree with much of what Sarah has had to say, and think she has summed up the problems faced in education.

However since my daughter got into a school I would have preffered her not to go to based on research at the time. I see a couple of problems with the type of information available.

My daughter was constantly bullied throughout primary education and we believed this would continue through secondary education based on what we 'knew' of the school and the way some students behaved outside of the school.

On the contrary the school has bent over backwards in supporting my daughter, whome we hope will get her formal diagnosis for Aspergers this week. The school has worked hard to meet her needs in coping with a large socially dynamic environment. And while there has been problems these have all been met head on and dealt with. The results of all this was seen by us this summer in a young lady whose confidence and self image has never been so possitive.

I should mention much of the support she has received this year has come as much from her peers as it has the staff :)

But as Sarah said, such attention is often at the neglect of other students. However as well as being on the autism spectrum with detrimental social skills she is also on the gifted and tallented program and so I know they work just as hard for all their students.

What didn't come out in the research was the pastoral care which comes from the top down. Or the commitment not only of the teaching staff, but the support staff as well.

Don't dismiss the 'poorer' schools completely, other factors play a much larger role in the success of our children's education. Parental support and the student's own commitment can make a huge difference in either a 'good' school or a 'poor' one.

Like you I want the best for my daughter, we refused to even apply to one of the local best schools after listening to the way one of the teachers spoke to parents, let alone the children. I do wish you good luck though in finding the right school for your daughter.

And for anyone interested in which wonderful my school my daughter found herself in... Geoffrey Chaucer.
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