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PostPosted: Tue Feb 13, 2018 11:49 am 
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Posts: 9
Hello everyone.

I have only just found this site and have been diligently reading through everything over the last week since we received offers. Out first two "kids" were educated in Singapore and are now at university in the US. We are Canadian but are now based in the UK and are currently renting in Bushey before we move once we have decided on our preferred school.

We are in the enviable position that we have a place at North London Collegiate, a minor scholarship at Habs Girls, a major scholarship at St Helens Girls and are in Band A for Henrietta Barnett.

Finance plays some part in our decision but I would get an understanding on the positives or negatives of Henrietta Barnett. We were quite surprised that our daughter got into the reckoning given how tough it is.

So, in anticipation of perhaps getting a place, I wanted to get an opinion from anyone who chose HB or didnt choose HB, why they did or they didnt.

I hear mixed things about the lack of extra curricular activities. We like the feel of the school and all the kids we met there and it had the feel of a school where our daughter would be happy for 7 years. I don't have many people I can ask about the school.

I'd also like to hear about St Helens. We liked the head a lot, but the grade and outcomes, while strong, are not as strong as the other schools, although it does feel like a friendly school, and there is a heavy discount for us with the scholarship.

If money was no object, I would choose Habs girls. But it would probably stretch us a little at this point in our lives. Obviously HB is free-ish.

My daughter likes HB followed by St Helens and Habs girls equally. She doesnt want to go to NLCS and we will respect that. She is quite academic and self motivated, and likes drama, science and netball.

Any opinions on our dilemma would be welcome from all the experts here! Many thanks.


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 13, 2018 5:12 pm 
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Joined: Wed Jun 22, 2011 8:54 am
Posts: 867
Hello canadad and welcome to the forum.

Firstly well done to your dd, what a lovely choice to have!

I have experience of 2 of the schools - HBS and St Helen's.

My oldest dd was at St Helen's from Year 7 to Year 11 and was very happy there. She (reluctantly) decided to leave for Sixth Form to pursue a possible dance career and has gone to a school where she can combine dance with A Levels. She is happy with her choice but still misses St Helen's very much and sees her friends from the school as much as she can.

I have nothing but praise for the school. From the very first phone call we made to enquire, the school was warm, friendly and helpful. I remember we missed the Open Day for some reason but they made an appointment for us to come and look round. They made so much time for us, nothing was too much trouble, we met the (then) Head to answer any questions we had.

We decided pretty early on that St Helen's was our first choice for dd and she was very happy to get an offer which we accepted straight away.

Both teaching and pastoral care have been excellent. A teacher from St Helen's came to visit dd at her primary school in the summer term, dd was VERY shy but they managed to draw her out. Class sizes are small (20) and they are set for Maths from Year 7. They choose 2 languages out of French, German, Spanish and Mandarin. They take the whole of Year 7 away for a PGL type weekend in September so they can get to know each other, this in included in the fees.

Extra curricular clubs and societies are wide-ranging and plentiful (but you should expect that in any school like this). They have many author visits - in Year 7, dd met Malorie Blackman and Sophie McKenzie - very impressive.

Very strong House system, many inter-house events during the year culminating in House Arts in June, where the girls devise a drama/musical theatre piece themselves.

From Year 10 they can join the CCF (Combined Cadet Force) jointly with Merchant Taylor's School. Dd was in the RAF which she really enjoyed.

Results-wise - I don't know why St Helen's is seen as the poor relation of Habs - if you compare results they are really very similar (and I think in dd's year the Science results were slightly better than Habs - more A*s).

The grounds are lovely and leafy, yet the school is on top of the tube station and shops/cafes of Northwood. Very handy for end of term fun!

I don't have any personal experience of Habs but the location is awkward. Personally I wouldn't send my child to a secondary school that they can't get to by public transport. You are dependent on taking them to and from school, or use an expensive coach service.

Now onto HBS - I currently have a dd in Year 10 there. She also had an offer at St Helen's but set her heart on HBS (which from a financial point of view we were delighted about!). Again, teaching has been generally excellent although I have been less than impressed with a few of the Maths teachers (but you will get a few poor teachers in ANY school). Dd generally does enjoy school but has felt under a lot of pressure at times. I'm not sure if that's a personality thing or function of the school. Dd has found there to be a LOT of testing and always worries if she's doing well enough but her reports and parents' evenings have always been positive.

There is a very nice cosy atmosphere at the school, there are a couple of members of staff who seem to know ALL the girls and are very motherly.

Extra curricular activities - again there is a lot going on. Dd isn't sporty but there seems to be a lot of sports clubs/competitions. They have a MUGA and also use Hampstead Heath for rounders etc. Lots and lots of music and ensembles of all sizes. Girls give lunchtime music concerts. One major school show each year which dd is always a part of and the standard is very high. Mock Trial competitions from Year 9 upwards. Model UN from Year 10 upwards.

But like any state school, HBS is desperately short of money and rely on monthly donations made by parents. I have really seen the difference financially between the 2 schools my dds attend. But having said that, lack of money at HBS has not affected dd's education and in spite of her niggles, she gets a lot out of school life. They have some pretty robust classroom discussions in every subject, the girls love to debate and argue. You can't really sit at the back and not contribute. Dd has become pretty political, she attended a rally in Westminster recently to end 'Period Poverty'. The campaign was started by a sixth form HBS girl and it grew rapidly. The girls talk for hours about transgenderism and Trump among all sort of other issues.

Anyway I hope that helps a bit. Please feel free to ask any further questions!


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 13, 2018 5:25 pm 
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Joined: Wed Mar 04, 2009 2:01 pm
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Location: Herts
Well done to your dd, I am sure she will do well at any of these schools.

Just a word of warning. Not everyone in Band A HBS got an offer of a place on March 1st last year and by September there were still dds on Band A waiting for a place.

If you do a search on my posts you can find out more details on this.

I know lots of dds at all these schools and they are all really happy so you really can't go wrong. DG


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 13, 2018 8:42 pm 
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Joined: Tue Feb 13, 2018 11:24 am
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That's really useful. Thanks both.

@middlesexmum - when you say "I have really seen the difference financially between the 2 schools my dds attend." - what do you mean? Are there not enough resources in the school? Also, are we especting to donate a few hundred pounds a month?

I agree with you re habs girls. The grounds are amazing but but not near public transport. Both myself and my wife work so I think we would have to pay for the private bus.

I think it's between St Helens and HB. Point taken Daogroupie, it's not a given, but I just want to be clear on what we want, if the option does present itself.

What are we forsaking in an academy system versus a private like St Helens? I think that my daughter will be happy at both - and will do well at both, but am trying to still figure what we want from a school now that we are down to two options (potentially)?

Thank you both and middlesexmum - you must be in a unique position in having seen both sides. Much appreciated.


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 14, 2018 11:09 am 
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Joined: Wed Jun 22, 2011 8:54 am
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canadad wrote:

@middlesexmum - when you say "I have really seen the difference financially between the 2 schools my dds attend." - what do you mean? Are there not enough resources in the school? Also, are we especting to donate a few hundred pounds a month?



There are enough resources but some things we pay for, eg some text books and a fee to take part in the school show. We also contribute £50/month to the school; I don't mind doing this at all, in fact I think parents should if finances allow. ALL state schools are really struggling these days. Whereas St Helen's (and other indie schools I imagine) have the finances to do what they choose to improve the school. They have just built a brand new junior school and the old junior school buildings have been given over to senior school for a new music centre and sixth form block. They are constantly planning and updating the school because they have the money to do it.

But that said, it really doesn't have a huge impact on your daughter's education. HBS is a great school and my dd is receiving a fantastic education for free (or nearly free). It really comes down the the quality of teaching, don't be swayed too much by facilities that your daughter may not even use.


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 14, 2018 12:27 pm 
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Why not divide the annual fees for St. Helen's per month and then compare that with the £50 a month Middlesexmum says she contributes to HBS (plus the cost of the bus).....? What is the difference in price and ask yourself are you actually getting that much extra value for money? I suspect the answer will be no....! Remember trip costs will be equitable across both schools - the private may offer more trips/wider variety but they are all optional, so you can to a certain extent control that. Uniforms will have a cost etc etc - some of these things are applicable in all schools, whether private or state - the point is yes a private has the funds to develop buildings etc - because the parents are paying vast fees! This is great but if your dd isn't ever going to use for eg a rock climbing wall (no idea if St Helens has one!) then it is irrelevant if the school has one!


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 14, 2018 1:14 pm 
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kenyancowgirl wrote:
This is great but if your dd isn't ever going to use for eg a rock climbing wall (no idea if St Helens has one!) then it is irrelevant if the school has one!


That made me laugh KCG. Funnily enough, St Helen's put in a climbing wall a few years ago. My (usually PE-hating) dd loved it, she found her sport. They described her as a ninja the way she scaled the wall :lol: :lol:


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 14, 2018 1:44 pm 
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:lol:


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 14, 2018 2:00 pm 
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Joined: Sat Apr 29, 2017 7:49 am
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I would say that you can see the difference that a school being funded by dwindling state budgets compared to hefty fees makes, but if you are pushed for cash, HB would be a great option, if you get an offer, and not worth paying the fees for the extras.

In an independent school you will see more flashy resources but also more resources of the more basic kind, such as textbooks, photocopying, teachers per head. State schools are struggling for money and having to cut to the bone so funded luxuries are out and necessities are often at a minimum - hence ref to kids havingnto buy own text books for GCSE+. These aren't absolutely necessary to do the courses and of course resources (often online) are provided but most parents and students of exam students will tell you, that the text books make everything much easier, and in the end its a real shame that kids who can't afford them, probably have to manage without a pretty essential resource.

That said, for OP, I think HB would be great. I only ever say its worth paying for indepenendet, if you have a fantastic state option, if the fees won't really affect your family negatively. HB clearly offers a fantastic academic education and unless you are seriously loaded, the extras and slightly different experience gained somewhere like St Helens or Habs become extremely expensive if they impact your family life.

Op could afford to buy the textbooks and other stuff the school simply can't manage anymore. She could afford to contribute to the monthly fund if she chose to do so. The teaching will be great and there will be a cohort of clever girls to learn with. Sounds great.

There's another thread running about a top state grammar (Tiffin) v St Paul's. St Paul's is a different s book in my mind. In would say there are perhaps less than 8 independent schools which really do offer something quite different to the state grammars - I'm thinking Winchester, Westminster, St Paul's - not just the great academics you expect from any great independent and great state grammar, but something more too in terms of a very different experience. For a family who can afford the huge fees (and only for them ifhryvare loaded and the fees won't Ffe tvtheir lifestyle) I would say it is worth paying for that difference, because of the specific school and the specific family situation. For the vast majority though, who will be affected by the fees, faced with a great Grammar like HB and a decent independent like St Helens or a really good one like Habs, I'd say its not worth paying.


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 14, 2018 2:09 pm 
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Joined: Mon Feb 12, 2007 1:21 pm
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Choco wrote:
I would say that you can see the difference that a school being funded by dwindling state budgets compared to hefty fees makes, but if you are pushed for cash, HB would be a great option, if you get an offer, and not worth paying the fees for the extras.

Choco - that's VERY biased sentence. Most state schools are short of money but doing fine thank you very much. I see no dip in results or anything else around here - your post is scaremongering, nothing more, nothing less.


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