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PostPosted: Fri Sep 15, 2017 5:35 pm 
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My son is currently in Year 4 at our local state primary, it is a small single form entry school, and he is very happy there. We are looking at sending him to an independent secondary school, with entry in Year 7.

I live in south west Herts and I have a shortlist of three potential schools for my son - in order of my preference, Aldenham School, St Columba's and Sherrardswood school (Welwyn)

Aldenham is co-ed with more boys than girls, Sherrardswood is co-ed, St Columba's is a boys school. My husband favours St C's because he is a catholic (I'm not), I prefer Aldenham school and I may need to persuade him!

We have just started private 1:1 tuition to help prepare for the entrance exams.

My son has a formal diagnosis of mild dyslexia, and dysgraphia, he is allowed to use a laptop for some of his work at school. He is good at maths and likes science and history. He is extremely good at sport, particularly football and also running - both sprint and cross country. He also enjoys and is good at cricket. He is a bright child, but not outstanding, and the dyslexia and dysgraphia do hold him back and mean that he has to work hard at school, so I'm not looking for an academically high pressure school, but a school where he can develop as a well rounded, confident individual and reach his full potential.

Good sports facilities are important, as is good pastoral care.

I read that the day at Aldenham is long, not finishing until 5:30pm, but can't find any details of the daily timetable on the website.

I would love to hear your views and how you choose your school - does it just come down to going with your gut feeling?


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 15, 2017 9:09 pm 
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Joined: Mon Mar 03, 2014 10:24 pm
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Location: Petts Wood, Bromley, Kent
Are you set on a private school and if so why? We kept all sorts of doors open until 1st March. DD was in a selective junior school and it was highly oversubscribed but she didn't want to stay for a whole combination of reasons. She is far happier now in her state school (albeit also a selective one).

For us the choice was a combination of
- fit, did DD identify with the girls showing her around?
- co-ed vs single sex - DD had a bad experience pre Y3 in co-Ed and whilst all wasn't perfect from Y3 onwards she was clear that being in a school with no boys was ideal for her - so for her (appreciate some may be different) single sex was a preference
- options upto 16, what were the GCSE options? For DD for example she loved the fact the school she preferred did Engineering and Mandarin, the independent did one of these and the other grammar of choice did neither.
- we ignored A level to a degree as although the teachers may be the same, many students move school and so choosing a school on sixth form choices or results seemed too far ahead for us
- knowledge from other parents - we knew others who had gone through the school, a caring environment was a regular query of ours
- vote: I had a preference, DH had one but we had shortlisted 6 grammer schools and one independent- we agreed we were happy with any and DD could order them in her preference

We did home familiarisation for DD, we were aiming at a highly selective Independent, a superselective grammar and two other grammar regions. DD loved her trial day at the Indie but it was £20k a year and an hour door to door v state superselective half an hour walking distance. DD chose the closer option and it has been the right one as she doesn't have the stamina for the 7am coach starts that some of her classmates have to deal with.

You know your son best, the distances can be key. then if still undecided the visits are a good indicator. If they are doing a test then part of the test may be spending time in a regular class and that can be just as indicative as the test result.


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 15, 2017 9:35 pm 
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Joined: Fri Sep 15, 2017 2:34 pm
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Thank you, lots of ideas to think about. I agree about avoiding a long distance commute to school.

I have read that boys do better in single sex schools.

The reason for choosing an independent school is because unfortunately we are not in the catchment area for a place in any good state schools and with both of us working, we can manage to afford to pay school fees and give our son a good education, including smaller class sizes and support for his dyslexia.


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 15, 2017 10:03 pm 
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Joined: Wed Mar 04, 2009 2:01 pm
Posts: 10279
Location: Herts
What is it that is attracting you to Sherrardswood?

If your ds is very happy at his primary would you not consider the secondary school that his classmates will be going to?

I know you say you are less concerned about academic results but the local state schools to Sherrardswood and St Columbas have a lot better results than they do so perhaps you should rethink that paying must make it better.

I would take a good look at your local state schools and make a list of things that in your opinion are worth paying for.

DG


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PostPosted: Mon Sep 18, 2017 12:29 pm 
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Joined: Fri Feb 20, 2015 10:14 pm
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Location: London
I think the thing to do is to apply to all of them (3 is by no mean ridiculous, 5-6 is more the norm) and see which one gives you an offer, then go and visit them again with your offer in hand and take a decision then. Also apply for state schools, you never know. I do not know the schools you mention so I don't know how fierce the selection process is. Starting tuition in Y4 is a bit young IMO, but sadly more and more common.


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 19, 2017 10:14 pm 
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Joined: Fri Sep 15, 2017 2:34 pm
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Although St Albans has a reputation for having good state secondary schools, unfortunately, I live in the south of the district, out of the catchment area of Beaumont, Sandringham, Verulam schools, and 90% of children in this area are allocated to a large comprehensive which does not have a good reputation locally. The very bright children pass the entrance exam for Parmiter's, which is highly academic and has a reputation as a "hot house". I know two children who have gone to Oxbridge from Parmiter's.

I'm attracted to Sherrardswood as I have read that it has a good reputation for pupils with dyslexia and it is a small school, which I like. Their facilities don't seem as good as the other two schools, and they don't seem to be very sporty, but it has nice, friendly feel about it.

I've now visited all three schools, Aldenham is my favourite so far, but does get expensive Year 9 onwards, I also like St Columba's, but not sure about a boys school - conflicting advice on whether boys do better in single sex or co-ed. Also son is a keen footballer, doesn't like Rugby, which seems to feature heavily at St Columba's, at least in the winter.


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 20, 2017 5:55 am 
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Boys do better in single sex, generally but need access to girls in order to know how to cope with them beyond Primary!

Has your son actually played rugby? Many boys "love" football but have never experienced rugby so it holds a fear for them as they move to secondary (very few state primaries play rugby). He may find, if he hasnt that he really enjoys it - and if he doesn't, he can still play football league outside of school. Ask yourself why Aldenham was the favourite - speak to the Bursar about possible bursaries and see if there are any scholarships etc you could apply to beyond Y9 if you are worried about the cost. You say you like Sherrardswoods before you visited all 3 schools - did something put you off? The way you spoke about it was so warmly - never underestimate teh power of good pastoral care. Some very "good" schools are diabolical at it in practise - the excellent pastoral care the school my son's go to has beend shown several times over the last few years and I can honestly say, we would have sunk without trace without it.


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 20, 2017 5:50 pm 
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I do still like Sherrardswood, a lot, but compared to the other two schools it seems to be less well equipped in terms of its facilities, it has a beautiful setting and lovely old buildings and I did get a good "vibe" from my visit there. I agree about not underestimating the importance of pastoral care; the teenage years can be so difficult.

One of the reasons I like Aldenham was that whilst it is co-ed, it has more boys than girls, so still has a bit of a boys school feel, in terms of emphasis on subjects that boys tend to do well in, sciences it is also brands itself as a "football school" - whereas St Columba's seem to be more of a traditional Rugby playing school.

I think my son has picked up on my concerns about Rugby - it seems such a hard, rough game and my son takes no prisoners when he plays football, in terms of tackling, so basically I'm concerned that he would get hurt! Maybe I'll try him with Tag Rugby and see how he gets on.

Good idea about approaching Aldenham and looking into the availability of a bursary or scholarship post Year 9, when the fees go up to £7,338 :cry: per term and I'm sure that there will undoubtedly by extras which would bump the cost up further. We are not particularly well off, but want to give our child the best possible chance to get on in life, which is why we are prepared to stretch to afford to send him to an independent school. I'm particularly keen on the smaller class sizes, which would benefit my son, as he has mild dyslexia.

We will never "keep up with the Jones" or ever want to do so, so I also want him to be able to fit in with a peer group of children of who come from varying financial backgrounds, including ordinary ones like us, with two working parents who can afford an independent school by being careful financially.

I want to choose the right school for him, where he will be supported to fulfil his own potential and where he has a peer group where he can make good friends (he is very popular at his current school with a wide circle of friends) and most importantly, be happy at school.


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 20, 2017 10:15 pm 
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Joined: Thu Nov 27, 2014 4:04 pm
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I can't answer your questions about Indies but just on the rugby question. I was on here when DS was in year 6 saying that he would never like rugby and that he hated the idea of it... Fast forward a year and he absolutely loves it, is on the school team and prefers it to football (his previous passion). Not only that but I have discovered a school sport that I go and watch with genuine enthusiasm rather than out of a feeling of parental duty! So maybe don't write that off totally :D


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 21, 2017 10:59 am 
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Joined: Sat Jul 01, 2017 10:17 pm
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Hi SoupDragon,

My son is also mildy dyslexic and attends a single-sex independent school.

His dyslexia has been formally tested and it's bad enough for him to qualify for extra time during internal and external exams and he is on the SEN (special needs) register.

I thought I'd tell you about our experience so you can compare what is available at your independent/state schools.

My son gets half an hour of 1:1 learning support with the same teacher every week (whom he really likes). More time is available if he needs it. He is in year 10 now, so quite a bit older than your child but I think it's really important going forward that you understand what exactly support will be available. This is also conducted outside of normal class time, otherwise it would make things even more difficult for him if he were missing lessons and would have to catch up. Like a lot of dyslexics my son is disorganised and chaotic. He has trouble getting the information in his head out onto paper. The support teacher, who is also an English teacher, helps him to plan essays and understand what is required of him for the wordier subjects.

My son also hates writing but the school is a "Bring Your Own Device" school where all the kids have laptops and the majority of work is done on them. Last year when the wordier subjects were mandatory such as History, R.E. etc he was given special dispensation to type his homework, print it out and stick it in an exercise book if the subject teacher chose not to use laptops.

He went from co-ed to single-sex in Year 7. I asked him which he preferred. He said he preferred the single-sex because he didn't feel so shy or embarrassed in class if he made a mistake! He's really quite sensitive and shy though so that's just his feelings. Don't let that sway you if your son isn't scared of girls!

For me, having a dyslexic son, the most important single thing that has helped him progress has been the Learning Support department. I don't necessarily think the independent Learning Support departments are better than the state ones.

Our son was lucky to get into his school as his dyslexia hadn't been diagnosed when he sat the entrance exam and lucky that the LS department is as good as it is. You're in a better position than we were.

Sorry for the long post and good luck with your selection!


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