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PostPosted: Thu Feb 19, 2015 11:06 pm 
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Hi. I'm new to the forum, but would really appreciate any advice! DD has a place at DAO (in top 65 ranking) and also SAHS and we are trying to decide between the 2 taking into account the needs of both our children.

We have 2 girls. The eldest who has just done 11 plus is academic, but also interested in sport and music. She throws herself into everything and is reasonably confident and resilient. The younger, one year behind, is also academic, into music and some sports, but is young for the year and can be under confident and anxious. She has benefitted from being at the same school as her sister and we would like them to continue at the same secondary.

Distance is not a deciding factor as we are equidistant between the two schools and although we are by no means loaded we could scrape together the fees if necessary. DD1 likes both schools and would be happy to attend either.

I am wondering whether we should consider St albans over DAO on account of DD2. Would a less confident, young for the year girl be happier and do better at a smaller school like SAHS? The results for SAHS at GCSE seem better and I am wondering if this reflects better pastoral care for some children translating into better performance in exams? In no way am I knocking DAO, which I know is a fantastic school, just trying to work out the best environment for my girls.

Of course, I know DD2 would have to pass entrance exam at SAHS next year, which she could avoid if DD1 goes to DAO but paradoxically, having seen her sister prepare for exams, she is keen to prove herself and is insisting on doing her own 11+ preparation irrespective of school choice!

Thanks for any advice and good luck and best wishes to everyone trying to negotiate their way through secondary school transfer!


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 20, 2015 7:27 am 
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I don't know anything about SAHS but know DAO well with friends who work there and children who attend. It is semi selective which could be one reason why it's gcse scores are on average lower. We know siblings who are not as academically bright and who have thrived plus siblings who are socially very different but still love the school. A friend of my youngest ds attends who is very shy but academically brilliant. He has a sibling place but would have passed the entrance exam. He is very happy although not as socially confident as his elder sibling. I would have happily sent my Ds there. Our only query was it isn't as culturally mixed as other schools we looked at but that is a minor and personal opinion. All parents I know who send their dc's there are very happy. Good luck with your choice nice to have one.


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 20, 2015 8:14 am 
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Joined: Fri Nov 11, 2011 10:00 pm
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Location: RBK
Tough one, isn't it? If you take DAO, you are assured of place for younger one and save the fees for both. On the other hand, if SAHS is a better fit for the elder one, than it would be wrong to deprive her of the opportunity, since finance and distance are not the issue. Ask the DD1, what she thinks and you wouldn't be unhappy and look back.


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 20, 2015 8:27 am 
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Hi Pacman!

Firstly, congratulations to your elder daughter and to your family on her success!

It sounds as if you feel your two girls should be at the same school. I have worked in secondary schools and seen kids grow enormously in Year 7 alone. They really don't need elder siblings to hold their hand; if anything, this can sometimes hold them back. The fear is often in the parents' hearts and not a significant reality for the child.

We know many DAO families who chose it because there are no fees to pay and because of the sibling rule: they wanted the 'insurance policy' for the younger siblings and they felt that, overall, DAO would do. Those families are happy enough, even though they recognise that DAO is a partially selective school, as copella says.

The more academically minded or more ambitious families treated each sibling individually and very much on their own merits. We know some families where two or more siblings all got offers via the entrance exams and all were turned down. Those families, too, are happy with their choices, in some cases with three siblings now at three different fully selective schools.

We would also echo copella's point - very gently made - about the lack of ethnic and cultural mix, compared with every other school we visited. My partner was really struck by this and that was that for us.

Anyhow, well done again and good luck with your family's decision! I susupect your girls will be fine whereever they go.


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 20, 2015 8:30 am 
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From the outside this looks straightforward to me. You don't have to have a school which is perfect in every way, which is lucky because you won't find one. If the school which charges no fees will work for both your daughters, why look to spend a huge amount of money, largely for a marginal and unproven benefit for one of them? A child of high academic ability from a supportive home in a good local school will do well; it is unlikely to do any 'better' in a slightly different good local school. Frankly you might find your money is better spent on nice holidays and fun extras over the course of the next 8 years or so.

Good luck. Just my view :D .


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 20, 2015 8:31 am 
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Location: RBK
Is ethnic and cultural mix very different between the two schools?


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 20, 2015 8:52 am 
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Location: Herts
I know both of these schools very well, having two dds at DAO and a close family relative at SAHS and lots of other girls I know there. They are quite different and I am interested to hear how your dds feel. I would be surprised if they did not have a preference for one over the other.

What sort of sport and music are your dds interested in? SAHS is strong in Netball, Lacrosse and Athletics. They are always at the County Athletics final and are one of the strongest teams in the summer league. At DAO the major sports are Netball and Hockey in the Winter and Rounders and Athletics in the Summer. Students need to compete to get into the teams and stay in the teams. The Netball and Hockey teams travel to find teams to play on a Saturday as no other state school plays. They also play after school mid week.

At DAO there are students from over 100 different primary schools in Hertfordshire, Barnet, Enfield and Islington in each year and most students arrive not knowing anyone.

I hold a picnic in June of each year for new Y7s and their families who come from four different boroughs. At SAHS almost half of the girls come from the prep so each class has a big group of girls and parents who have known each other for seven years.

DAO is a big bustling challenging environment and the students who thrive are those with a strong work ethic who are prepared to audition for everything. How important is the music? The DAO music is in another league. There are 80 plus players in the top Symphony Orchestra and another 80 plus in the top Concert Band, many are the same students , some playing a different instrument. There are Concerts every term and 90 minutes rehearsals on Mondays and Fridays after school for Senior Groups. At SAHS you have to choose, Band or Orchestra, you can't be in both as they rehearse at the same time and Concerts finish at Easter with no rehearsals or performances in the Summer term. So it does not really seem possible to play more than one orchestral instrument at concert level, at DAO I know students who play three.

Oxbridge figures are quite different. DAO had 27 last year and SAHS had 3. There are a group of very academic students at DAO who really push the discussions in the top sets. When revising for her GCSE mocks my dd complained that she didn't know how much was actually part of the GCSE and not just lots of interesting off topic stuff! The exams to get in are quite different. I expect your dd found the SAHS exam quite easy and was in the scholarship interviews. I know of girls who got the scholarship offers but did not make the top hundred at DAO.

On the ethnic and cultural mix DAO is lot more diverse with students from all over North London. There is a common myth often repeated on here by posters who do not know the school that parents only choose DAO for the sibling policy. This is far from the case, in fact both of my dds have quite a startling number of only children in their year but the sibling policy does make for a very strong family environment. We also know of some families who choose to put their dds in HBS or Habs but the ds in DAO. This is not an academic choice but rather feeling their dds benefit from a smaller environment.

If you do turn down the DAO slot it will go to a very good home! I have very dear friends in the top 140 waiting for spaces who will free up spaces in Habs, NLCS, St Albans, MT etc There is much much more I could say but it would be better if you said more about your dds. Do they know anyone at either school? DG


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 20, 2015 8:57 am 
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I'm with Amber. I can't imagine spending £30000 each year (and rising by ?5% each year) for 7 years when there is a perfectly good school which people would give their eye teeth to attend. Of course everyone is different, and maybe £30K x 7 is easy for the OP, but think of the holidays and enriching extras that would pay for (even a large amount of tuition if you really felt that was necessary). For me it would be a very easy choice (especially as there is no guarantee DD2 would get into SAHS anyway), but only the OP can decide.


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 20, 2015 9:47 am 
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I would choose DAO without a doubt. I just don't really see the significant advantage of SAHS over DAO?

The buildings are a bit fancier, but that is very unimportant in the scheme of things. Academically I think DAO is better in the sense that your peer group is a better mix and also that there are a very high number of very bright students to spark off.

The only advantage to my mind is if you are in favour of a single sex environment. I am currently choosing between two private schools- my DD did not get high enough in the DAO entrance exam to win a place, had she managed it I would have chosen DAO and given up both private offers.


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 20, 2015 10:44 am 
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Many thanks for all these valuable replies. I am well aware that we are lucky to have such a good choice and apologies as I know I seem precious in agonising about the decision.

It may be that we send the girls to different schools eventually, but I would prefer to have them together if possible. My judgement may be a little impaired at present due to DD2 having been through an anxious time in the past few months. Perhaps dealing with this has made me over analyse. She is usually happy but under confident and I suppose I am thinking that whereas DD1 will be fine wherever, DD2, equally bright, but less sure of herself, might be better in a smaller, nurturing school.

DAO groupie - thanks very much for your info, very helpful. Both DD like netball, DD2 like cross country. Neither has tried lacrosse or hockey at primary. One plays the violin the other the flute and DD2 is good at singing. The opportunities for sport and music at DAO seem phenomenal. Re your comment about work ethic, both girls work hard, but I worry that whereas DD1 would thrive with the bustle of a large school, DD2 might be intimidated by it at the moment.

Many thanks again to all. Wish I had found this site sooner!


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