We would be so grateful for any advice on St Clement Danes School - and Rickmansworth too, for that matter. Having seen these, our DS was quite enamoured and we wondered if there was anyone out there with children currently attending.
I am a bit concerned about him travelling independently but did think SCD, in particular, would provide the academic support we are looking for.
Hi. I thought I would provide some input from my personal experiences as a current Year 7 parent. My DC stated in Year 3 that he wanted to go to St Clement Danes (SCD), although I knew nothing about SCD at the time. He had heard a lot about it as one of his friend's siblings went there.
I didn't know anything about how the Hertfordshire chool system worked until the very end of Year 5, and was only then that I realised how hard it was just to get a school place.
Come September of Year 6, I did the "rounds" of all the schools with DC, and, for us, SCD just shone above the rest. I knew it was the ideal school for my DC for several reasons (social, academic and other reasons). Chances of my child getting in were very slim though - DC could only apply on academic or music, as we live so far away, and DC has no siblings. Despite that, we listed SCD as our number 1 choice, and thankfully, DC earned an Academic place there
(having done an hour a night on a few days out of only a 2-3 weeks of Verbal Reasoning practice at home with me (I couldn't afford a tutor)). Important - I would not recommend practising for such a short period to anyone! - It is more ideal for your child to practise as frequently as they can, over a long period
Also, there are only about 21 academic places available at SCD, so if you/your DC have your hearts set on it, then high VR & Maths results are essential in the Secondary School Entrance exams, as there is fierce competition!
(But, due to personal circumstances, my DC is very restricted on when he can do certain things, hence the short preparation time in VR (but that's another story)). I'm just lucky he seemed to pick it up so quickly! Needless to say, we were over the moon when he earned his academic place (especially as there is such fierce competition to get into SCD).
DC started in Year 7 at SCD in September 2010 and is incredibly happy there. He comes home happy every night, and feels "right at home" in SCD - a very important factor to me (especially as DC struggles socially and has identified difficulties with socialising). DC is incredibly proud
of his school and the fact that he goes to SCD. DC has met some lovely people and made lots of new friends - again, very important to me (and, of course, to him). In fact, within the first couple of days, he had made friends, and is still friends with them (and more people) now.
Academically, the school is very high achieving, and they do expect the very best from each and every pupil. One of their previous pupils returned for the recent speech day. He left SCD, went on to gain degrees and is now a Barrister in Lincoln's Inn Fields (if memory serves me right). This just goes to show how far the SCD children can go, if they put the effort in. SCD children are expected to work to the best of their ability and in fact each child has to sign a contract before they start at the school, to say that they will work to the best of their ability.
Students are given merit stickers as rewards for outstanding pieces of work. My DC earned his first one on his first day at school, so I was very proud!, and has earned 8 more since then. (Not meaning to boast, but just incredibly proud).
I believe that the children receive a Head Teacher's Commendation when they earn 5 merits.
There are also sanctions (punishments) for breaking rules - detentions and such like. I have heard of some of DC's friends getting detention for forgetting their PE kits.
Respect for each other and the environment, as well as manners, are expected throughout the school. Bullying is strictly not tolerated. The school supply an anti-bullying email address within the childrens' homework diaries, if anyone wants to report any bullying.
There is a lot of homework - about 2+ pieces per night (sometimes more), starting right at the beginning of the September school term. (This was a big jump for my DC, and having spoken to some other parents, it has been a big jump for their DC's too). Homework is set and strictly expected to be handed in on time, or there are sanctions. My DC has special needs, so DC takes a lot longer than average to do homework, so sometimes this means having to spend 3-4 hours per night doing homework, but that's something that we personally need to work on.
The Year 7 children have recently sat their CATs tests and have been banded. There are two bands for maths - the higher one and the lower one. Pleased to say my DC got into the higher one
The children also have frequent tests on what they have learnt so far in the respective subjects.
Each subject teacher provides each child with a printed version of targets and how they can achieve them, ie. what is expected to reach each level target. I think that this is extremely helpful. These pieces of paper are stuck or put into the back of the respective subject books, for the children to refer to.
On "school days off", the children are set work to do at home. If there is bad weather and the school is closed, children are also set work to do at home.
All children have a homework diary, which is also used as a communications diary. A parent has to sign it each week (on a Friday), and it is signed by the class tutor the following week. Any rewards, eg. merits, are noted in the homework diary either with a merit sticker or occasionally by the child writing it in, and then signed by the respective teacher in the homework diary. Also, there is a space for any sanctions, eg detentions. I believe that a parent has to sign to state that they know about any forthcoming detentions - I hope we never have to cross that bridge.
There are loads of lunchtime clubs and after-school clubs, covering a wide variety of subjects, activities and sports - really, there is something for everyone. I believe that some of them are free and some of them are fee-paying.
The school is clean and tidy, with excellent, outstanding facilities. It really does stand out. Parents are asked if they would give regularly to the school fund, but it is not compulsory to. Upon your child starting at the school, each parent is automatically part of the Parent Teachers Association (PTA), although there is no pressure to go to the meetings should one not wish to.
There are regular parent mails - sometimes a few a week, which update parents on things going on.
The children at SCD all seem to respect their teachers, and all of the staff. The Head Teacher seems to run "a tight ship" and is respected. From my personal experience from what I saw on the Open Evening and the morning tour that we went on, I would say that the children seem very happy, and really do seem as if they "want to be at school".
The Head of Year 7 seems to want to get to know each Year 7 child. Towards the end of Year 6, (June, if memory serves me right) the Year 7 Head from SCD goes to the respective primary schools and talks to the children and the teachers of the children who are due to go to SCD. The Year 7 Head finds out from the children who they would like to be with in their Year 7 SCD class. He then finds out more info from the Year 6 childrens' primary teachers. My DC landed up with 1 of the 2 children that he wanted to be with. We were sad he was not with his other friend, but at least he still sees him around the school. I have heard from one parent who has a few children of different ages in SCD (and therefore has more experience of the Year 7 Head at SCD than I do) that the Year 7 Head really does take the time to work out which children to put in which class, eg. he will try to put all the sporty types in one class, and all the academic types in another class. It seems to really work.
I've really seen a real change in my DC since he started at SCD, even though its only been a matter of a few weeks. He has matured, and has taken on more responsibility. Today, DC chose to enter the competition to be a school councillor - something he would not really have had the confidence to have done at his primary school - fingers crossed on that one! Also, DC put himself through 4 different elimination rounds, to try to get into the Elite Trampolining Club, and thankfully he got through, so he now trains with them. Again, something I don't feel he would have done in primary school, even if there had been the opportunity to.
I know that my DC and I made the right choice in SCD. It is perfect for him both socially, and academically. I feel that it will enforce all the values that I hold so highly - respect, courtesy, manners, etc, and also I feel that SCD will build on his intelligence and bring out the best in DC.
As a single mum and unable to work due to health reasons, money is extremely tight, so it has been a real struggle affording everything needed eg. uniform and text books set me back over £350+, before my DC even started the school, but the way I figured it, if I wanted the best for my DC and DC wanted it that bad, then I would have to budget somehow (cutting back on electricity by having the TV on sparingly, cutting back on shopping, eg. cutting out a packet of biscuits, etc) to make ends meet. There's also on-going costs to consider, eg. school trips and holidays. In fact within a couple of weeks or so of DC starting Year 7, the school sent out a letter regarding a forthcoming school trip, which required a £50 deposit (and more on-going payments). I basically live hand-to-mouth and have to watch every single penny, so unexpected costs like this are hard to deal with, but I want the best for DC, so I, like many other parents, will continue to do whatever I must so my DC can have the best.
I have no doubt that my DC will turn out to be a well-balanced, mature, responsible, adult at the end of his time at SCD. I also have no doubt that he will do incredibly well academically.
With regard to the travel aspect, my DC has special needs and is registered disabled. DC had NEVER even been out without me! before starting SCD, so I can definitely understand about the worry a parent has about their child travelling to school alone. Despite being entitled to free transport, on a low income basis, we live too far away to qualify, so I've had to pay for a school bus place, but its been a brilliant step for DC socially. I know that DC loves getting the school bus, and it gives the independence that DC didn't have before, whilst providing the benefit of DC being able to socialise with other SCD children. Getting the school bus was definitely a step in the right direction for my DC and it took away a lot of worries for me
Be warned though - places on the school bus are not
guaranteed and Herts are toughening up more and more as time goes on, so please don't think that you will definitely qualify for a place, as you may be disappointed.
On the personal down-side, travelling for my DC takes 1hour door-to-door, via the school bus and the walk from the bus stop to home, but that's only because we live so far away. This, of course, eats into the evening time, but that's the price to pay for my DC and I choosing SCD, and we would never change our minds. Just hope we can move nearer the school sometime soon (council lists depending!).
I hope that my personal recount helps somewhat.
Please remember that these are just my DC's and my experiences of SCD (I read it to DC and he fully agrees with everything that I have said). Please consider though, what may be good for my DC, may not be for your DC.
We did go and visit Rickmansworth School (Ricky) too, on two different occasions, but felt it wasn't the right school for my DC. We listed it as Number 3, although in reality we only wanted SCD, but had to use up the three choices on the form to be on the safe side. Ricky has good results, but to me, its not just about the results - there were other things I had to consider. Ricky felt more like an old-style comprehensive to us. A few of the "in-crowd" children from my DC's primary school have gone to Ricky, and I really think that they will be fine there. It may be right for other children, but it just wasn't for us - my DC is very sensitive. I don't want to put the school down or anything, please understand.
I understand from a Year 8 Ricky pupil that the Ricky kids go on a bonding holiday at the beginning of Year 7 - I have to say that I think that this is a brilliant idea, and I wish that all schools did that.
Perhaps someone else who has a child at Ricky maybe able to provide you with some more info about Ricky from their personal experiences that may be more constructive?
If you want to know anything more specific, please just ask.
Best wishes and good luck x
PS: I've edited this post a few times since initially posting it, as I keep thinking of other stuff to add