Francis Holland Sloane Squre Vs Epsom College - advice needed please

10 posts
susies
Posts: 47
Joined: Apr 2013
Options:
Share this post on:

Francis Holland Sloane Squre Vs Epsom College - advice needed please

Postby susies » Thu Feb 29, 2024 11:52 am

Hello

Thank you in advance for any advice on this.
My DD is in the fortunate position of being offered a place at both, but unfortunately I do not know any parents at either school to help guide me on a decision. They are both very different propositions ( girls Vs co-ed, inner london ease of travel vs out of london, longer travel but more facilities) and I am leaning towards FHS, but am worried about potential cliquey- ness of the girls, friendship groups etc. I was really hoping that there are some parents out there with children at either school that can help give advice on their experiences at the school, and how they are finding it. Thank you so very much in advance for any help or advice you can give. Thanks  :D
Post Reply
Goldhawk
Posts: 1306
Joined: Jul 2010
Options:
Share this post on:

Re: Francis Holland Sloane Squre Vs Epsom College - advice needed please

Postby Goldhawk » Thu Feb 29, 2024 1:31 pm

How do you feel about Saturday school?  Also Epsom's fees increase from Y9
Post Reply
susies
Posts: 47
Joined: Apr 2013
Options:
Share this post on:

Re: Francis Holland Sloane Squre Vs Epsom College - advice needed please

Postby susies » Thu Feb 29, 2024 2:30 pm

Thanks for your message. To be honest the Saturday school is the biggest reason why I am not so keen on Epsom, but DD says she does not mind having to go to school on a Saturday, and she wants to get better at sport.

I personally would like her to go to FHS as its more local, but am worried about girls and teen friendship groups, and wondered whether being co-ed might be less of a problem. I just don't have experience of whether all girls is a problem? ( I have been told that from an education pov, girls tend to do better at all girls, but I am keen that she fit in and can foster great friendships)
Post Reply
SunnySW
Posts: 7
Joined: Sep 2023
Options:
Share this post on:

Re: Francis Holland Sloane Squre Vs Epsom College - advice needed please

Postby SunnySW » Fri Mar 01, 2024 7:57 am

Worth posting on Mumsnet for more responses - there’s a very active SW London 11+ thread.
I don’t know either school but they’re two different prospects on paper - urban girls vs countryside coed - so depends what your daughter might suit better.
Anecdotally FH has a lot of very affluent families with DD’s birthday parties held at places like Nobu etc.
Post Reply
FHP
Options:
Share this post on:

Re: Francis Holland Sloane Squre Vs Epsom College - advice needed please

Postby FHP » Fri Mar 01, 2024 10:49 am

From our perspective we're very happy overall.

It is a bit of a bubble, the previous posters comment about the parties is spot on. Lots of talk about "where did you summer?" and "our place in France" but it is a kind school and I don't think any of that is done from the perspective of trying to gain klout, it's just their world.

That is very different to Thomas's, which I know you're not looking at, but there the "Royal Crowd" are working themselves into a frenzy over Norfolk and stretching their vowels to extremes.

The new sixth form centre has meant that more students have stuck around who probably would have left before and that appears to have boosted results. I really like their attitude to GCSEs, I know that some schools like to load up on volume but we've had at least one family friend, and this was boys not girls, crash and burn badly when I'm pretty sure they'd have sailed through a smaller number.

I've been a bit cheeky and posted the rest of the details from the latest GSG below, I'm sure you've seen it but just in case you hadn't.

Good Schools Guide Review

Entrance
Results suggest ultra-selectivity. Not so, says the school, which prides itself on mixed intake, fab teaching and excellent value added. Now scaling up the facilities to accommodate extra numbers in style. At 11+ takes around a third from own prep school (unusually, given that prep is on the premises, remains a stepping off point for majority of 11-year-olds). The school is part of the London 11+ Consortium, whose new 11+ assessment includes online, adaptive cognitive test followed by tests focusing on problem solving and creative/critical thinking skills. Looking for child who is curious, not crammed, has love of learning and sense of fun, but shy and confident children will flourish. Shy child ‘will find love and be encouraged to be braver than they feel’.

Numbers joining the sixth form rising steadily – now up to 17. ‘We wanted to grow sixth form,’ says school. Applicants take entrance exams in their proposed A level subjects, plus interview with head and head of sixth form and reference from current school. To study art and design A level, applicants bring in their portfolio and are interviewed by head of art; to study drama and theatre, applicants are asked to prepare and perform a short monologue.

Exit
In past years, around half would leave post-16. Now down to just five per cent. If pupils ‘throw themselves into it’ school will tailor workload (might reduce GCSEs – currently need at least six GCSEs with top grades to make the sixth form). University destinations mostly Russell Group, with occasional Oxbridge. King’s College London, LSE, UCL, Bristol, Durham, Edinburgh, Manchester, Newcastle, Warwick, York, Queen Mary and SOAS recently popular. Usually a few medics and some overseas, eg Babson College Massachusetts, Georgetown University, McGill, NYU, Princeton, University of Southern California, University of Virginia, and Bocconi, Milan.

Latest results
In 2023, 89 per cent 9-7 at GCSE; 62 per cent A*/A at A level (89 per cent A*-B). In 2019 (the last pre-pandemic results), 89 per cent 9-7 at GCSE; 48 per cent A*/A at A level (75 per cent A*-B).

Teaching and learning
In the past, prep school pupils were guaranteed automatic entrance to seniors, something that, says school, did nothing to boost either standards or reputation. ‘Meant we were simply seen as the safe bet,’ says school. Now, just about everything in the garden is whizzy.

Value added is excellent – 1.5 GCSE grades, ‘far higher than you’d expect from a school like ours,’ though school stresses that ‘we don’t want academic sausages – should have love of learning and sense of fun.’ Have accordingly reduced GCSEs to nine (do fewer, better and have more time left over for everything else), bringing financial awareness, DIY, self-defence and first aid into years 10 and 11. Most girls – normal exceptions for medic hopefuls and further maths enthusiasts – take maximum of three A levels plus EPQ and enrichment programme. ‘One hundred per cent better,’ says sixth former. ‘New A levels are harder and stressful – course has just got bigger.’

From a year 10 geography lesson with girls memorably considering glacier action as akin to eyebrow shaping (‘scree… moving down the valley and plucking’) – to supportive drama lesson – year 8 pupils quick to praise effort as well as achievements of others (‘Really good, you created a really emotional atmosphere’) - engagement in learning is impressive.

Aided by tutor system (ratio one to 12 pupils in lower and upper schools, one to eight in sixth form) plus director of studies who is accessible and ‘makes a big effort’, said parent, as do mainly highly regarded teachers, supplemented by plenty of trips, German to Cologne, history of art to Venice.

STEM in particular is going great guns, with much to enhance the appeal, from own magazine to lively science notice boards. There’s Yogi Bear as you’ve never seen him before, digestive system bared to the world (but still smiling); gory-looking science safety instructions – girl clutching blood-bespattered bandaged eye‚ ‘always wear safety glasses’ (we probably will after this…). A stand-out subject, said parent. ‘Haven’t had a bad teacher.’ Highlight in one of older labs (most thoroughly modernised with sci-fi style high gloss units splashed with primary colours) is animal corner, featuring gerbils, Fluffy the chinchilla, Bobby the tortoise and a corn snake.

Parents generally delighted, only query relating to dips in maths staffing (school’s most popular subject) – down to promotions elsewhere (one headship, one deputy) and some staff illness, says school.

We flagged up parents’ feedback about widespread tutoring, something that – surely – must undo school’s positive messages about building confidence and learning independence. ‘I’d say we’re in the minority [in not having a tutor],’ said one mother who wondered how – if so widespread – it affected the school’s exam results. While head cites supports academic mentoring, which helps girls ‘to understand how brains work’ and can reinforce learning, sees long-term tutoring as ‘completely unnecessary and dispiriting – we talk about it constantly.’ School’s approach is to ‘develop strong children, so parents don’t feel they need tutors’.

Learning support and SEN
Reasonable number of pupils have SEN – around 90, with 52 receiving extra support. Needs include autism (one gifted pupil airlifted from state school and currently working two years ahead) and specific learning difficulties. Bottom line is that though have upped the support team (to approval of inspectors), have finite resources so ‘will take as many pupils as have staff for’.

The arts and extracurricular
When the prevoius head first arrived, there were three clubs: pottery, chess and needlework; now 114. Only niggle here is occasional last-minute communications – parents can suddenly receive an email on Thursday or Friday announcing meeting on a Monday about new activity. ‘Have got better but still happens,’ said parent. ‘Not everybody is not at work.’

School’s commitment to entrepreneurship is impressive – and unmissable. It’s compulsory in the sixth form where ‘every single girl sets up a business and works on real life industry problems,’ says school, which recently appointed its own director of creative enterprise.

His palpable enthusiasm is infectious; pupils’ ideas for new businesses range from dog pods (safe haven/spa while owner goes shopping – ideal for SW1, possibly limited appeal elsewhere) to ethical, plastic-free makeup range – creator impressively committed to launch. Can also spark thinking that goes far, far, beyond Knightsbridge – girls recently won international competition to design lunar settlement.

Excellent opportunities to be involved in music and drama. Teachers are of the quirky enthusiast variety and hugely respected for devoting large chunk of their free time to making things happen. ‘Phenomenal’ music department ‘give up so much of their own time to do extra stuff with the pupils,’ said parent. Talented singers could end up performing at St Paul’s Cathedral, Windsor Castle or Oxbridge College with the choir. Single minded head of drama expects everyone to share commitment. ‘As far as he’s concerned, drama is what they’re there for and nothing else.’

Sport
Most sports played in Battersea Park and while it’s an important part of school life, ‘more of a have-a-go mindset,’ thought pupil, upside is that everyone gets a game - ‘We’re happy with getting the occasional win’ - while it can mean more, not fewer sporting opportunities as more girls are likely to be selected for teams. ‘Daughter is an avid netball player and I feel gets more play than perhaps she would in a bigger school,’ said parent. School describes sport as a huge strength. ‘We are highly competitive and have repeatedly been regional champions in netball, hockey and swimming,’ says school.

Numerous sports tours (netball to Barbados and South Africa). Most of top sports players notch up achievements out of school. Elite squad, with own noticeboard, includes swimming, fencing and ice skating stars – all well supported. ‘Allowed to miss school for events; can replace school sport for training,’ said sixth former.

Otherwise, sixth formers have one sports session a week, from team games (netball) to popular self-defence, pilates and fitness suite/gym. PE, unsurprisingly, a popular GCSE.

Ethos and heritage
Perhaps appropriately for a school that espouses resilience (has faced closure threats several times over its official history), it is called ‘The school that refused to die’.

Though it bears the name of Francis Holland, Canon of Canterbury Cathedral, school owes existence to his wife Sibylla. Opened 1881 in what became Eaton Terrace and moved to current site three years later, when added co-ed kindergarten (attended by both Laurence Olivier and Tony Benn). Progressive - started entering girls for public exams in 1882. After a couple of building moves, settled in current premises (and still has the original doorbell to prove it). Now a ‘bigger, grander school than it was when we started here,’ said parent - though retains Church of England values. Worries about size tend to disappear once daughters start here. ‘Small, intimate nature… suits her,’ said parent, who had thought that scale might be just too diminutive. School recently expanded, including new sixth form centre. Expansion has been achieved with commendably little effect on day-to-day life. ‘Managed very well… doesn’t seem to have impacted at all,’ said parent.

Not half as bijou as surroundings – pretty (and pricey) little houses just round the back of Sloane Square - might suggest. Most senior and junior school buildings, some double layered and cunningly extended (creates odd anomaly where you stay on same level but move to a different floor when you cross from junior to senior buildings), form rectangle round decent-sized playground, and every facility is full sized - nothing cut down and many generous as to space and number. Art particularly impressive - runs to four rooms, including one for photography, results uniformly impressive, from introspective self-portraits to textiles beautifully printed with tile-inspired patterns.

Site spick and span bar odd pre-lunch drop-and-run pile of school bags. Girls very smart in their blue uniform – delighted that request to wear trousers was heard. No dress code for sixth formers – assumed will make appropriate choices, and they do. Can also use main school entrance – ‘much quicker’ - and have lunch in common room, part of attractively refurbished building that includes a work room.

Newly completed wavy and wonderful building (tipped to win design awards) is not a library with extras but a centre of creative learning, though full of books and places to perch and read. Librarian, who appears to be a centre of creativity all on her own and has fund of fabulous anecdotes (ask about the owl that made 2am bid for freedom on Harry Potter sleepover night), stresses that it will remain a library in her eyes.

Location, though wonderful in many respects, can be a disadvantage when it comes to links with other schools. ‘Girls are a little isolated socially,’ said mother. ‘It’s normal and healthy at this stage and wish my daughter had a bit more of it.’ Work in progress, says school. Recently had two boys who auditioned for school play but pulled out. ‘Think we may frighten them,’ says head.

Only other slight difference of opinion was over the school lunches. Website stresses that all food prepared on site and highlights ‘legendary’ cookies, though not all parents are currently feeling the love. ‘Daughter hates it,’ said one. Girls we spoke to were polite without gushing. School’s view is that all delicious but a tad on the sophisticated side (salmon, quinoa and giant couscous feature) for palates in training.

Pastoral care, inclusivity and discipline
Care for older girls (school felt to be slightly over-preoccupied with makeup and skirt length in younger years - ‘don’t feel they have emphasis in the right place,’ thought parent) is excellent. Led by a two-strong team who are ‘both wonderful,’ said parent. Deputy head comes in for biggest plaudits. ‘Can’t praise him enough.’

School emphasises ‘growth mindset – trying to see that getting things wrong is a way of learning,’ said pupil, with Mrs Elphinstone setting a cracking example by regularly discussing her own failures. ‘I’m a perfectionist,’ said senior pupil. ‘In year 7, would stress if I got something wrong. Now if I do badly in a chemistry test, I’ll know it’s because I didn’t do enough work.'

Bullying does happen – inevitable, reckon parents – though there is a counsellor, and attitude of the girls goes a long way towards helping to sort things out. ‘Girls are not angels but the vast majority are very nice and supportive of each other,’ said parent. ‘Tend to self-police in my daughter’s year.’

Counselling via Place2Be (one of very few senior independents to use it) focuses on early identification and early intervention to stop girls reaching ‘terribly dark place,’ says head. Have had experience of eating disorders, some pupils hospitalised, ‘now thriving’. Sympathetic to transgender pupils – though ‘not greatly affected so far,’ says the head. Size of school means ‘no one goes under the radar,’ she says. There’s ‘a culture of support, care and love – pupils do look out for one another and come and tell us.’

Support includes just-added therapy dog (allergy friendly) and training for teachers so they can support parents, who can be in denial. ‘Still a stigma about mental illness,’ says head. Girls trained as mentors but – most importantly - encouraged to look out for each other, and do, say parents. ‘Teachers really know you – much closer community,’ said pupil previously at highly selective school who felt far more at home here.

Head so far has suspended one girl but not asked anyone to leave and no-one would get the heave-ho for poor academic performance as long as effort, punctuality and attendance all line up.

Pupils and parents
Mistake to assume that this is entitlement central. Location inevitably attracts strong cohort of Belgravians but parents stress that other areas are represented and postcode doesn’t equate to overweening sense of privilege. Some parents are involved with the church, there’s a thriving bursary programme, support for charities for needy locals in Westminster and Lambeth (we’re steering well clear of any jokes involving politicians or senior religious figures) and a big enough percentage of pupils come in from surrounding areas including Wimbledon and Twickenham.

Admittedly, we’re not talking substantial social deprivation – ‘Even the cost of the uniform is fairly significant, so the chances are that they will come from a relatively affluent background,’ said parent - but it’s ‘not as Belgravia as you might think’ and it’s a friendly place to be, not just for pupils but for parents, too. Tradition tends to dominate – dads go off to work, mums lead the socialising.

Pupils ‘make lovely friends. There are some slightly spoiled girls around as there are in all central London private schools in my opinion but it has never been an issue for us.’ One mother felt school was far more convivial than daughter’s prep school had ever been. ‘Have made some very good friends that will stay in touch with when she leaves.’

Sense of community summed up during our visit by team of gardening enthustiasts (one the mother of a teacher) planting out first of many trenches at the playground at lunchtime. Hours later, they’d were still going strong. ‘We’re the eco-warriors,’ said one.

The last word
Increasingly a first-choice school for parents in search of approach that’s caring but not cushioned, arts and creativity focused but also academically rigorous. Girls can even put your flat-pack furniture together. Who could possibly want more?
Post Reply
https://www.mathnasium.co.uk/clapham
https://www.dulwich.org.uk/admissions/bursaries-free-and-subsidised-places
https://www.dulwich.org.uk/ducks
https://www.astertuition.com
https://www.nightingalemontessori.co.uk/
https://tabbieats.com
https://schs.gdst.net/early-years-landing-page-nv
https://nightingaletutors.co.uk/
https://www.cameronvaleschool.com/thechelseanursery
https://www.dulwich.org.uk/admissions/
https://www.jesseshouse.co.uk/
https://www.lyceefrancais.org.uk/sinformer/portes-ouvertes-2021/
https://theluxurytravelboutique.com/offers/
shings
Options:
Share this post on:

Re: Francis Holland Sloane Squre Vs Epsom College - advice needed please

Postby shings » Fri Mar 01, 2024 1:38 pm

Thank you so much for your advice on this, it has really put my mind at rest. I really do love the feel of FHS, but was worried that I would not be 'able to keep up with the Jones' so to speak' - However, it is a fact of life that a central London school will attract affluent pupils, and even though that will not be my DD, hopefully she will find her 'tribe' so to speak. It seems like a really caring school.
Post Reply
ceecee
Posts: 50
Joined: Apr 2012
Options:
Share this post on:

Re: Francis Holland Sloane Squre Vs Epsom College - advice needed please

Postby ceecee » Fri Mar 01, 2024 9:34 pm

Having some experience of both schools, I certainly wouldn’t be choosing Epsom over FHS as the down to earth choice! Think wealth levels pretty high there too so don’t think that is a deciding factor! Saturday school a long journey away doesn’t sound fun!
Post Reply
Popcorncandy
Posts: 10
Joined: Nov 2015
Options:
Share this post on:

Re: Francis Holland Sloane Squre Vs Epsom College - advice needed please

Postby Popcorncandy » Fri Mar 01, 2024 11:01 pm

Hi - we are also considering Francis Holland for our daughter and had similar concerns regarding the ‘wealth’ she will be exposed to, but been reassured by feedback from others. My other concern was the lack of outdoor space; not for sport (as know they go to Battersea Park) but more for break times. Where do the girls go to unwind or relax? Is it an issue?
Post Reply
Sandwiched
Options:
Share this post on:

Re: Francis Holland Sloane Squre Vs Epsom College - advice needed please

Postby Sandwiched » Sat Mar 02, 2024 12:00 am

I had similar concerns when my daughter first started at FHS but as she is coming to the end of her time there, I can honestly say it was the best school for her and she has had a wonderful time there. Yes, there is a lot of privilege but there are a lot of‘normal’ families and any private school in central London and the wealthy parts of the Home Counties is going to be like this. I think we were very lucky with our year group - I’m not sure every year group is the same though. Teachers are amazing and very supportive, music and drama are of a very high standard. My daughter isn’t very sporty and outside space is fine - should be a bit more with prep school moving out. We were a big fan of old head but new one seems to be settling in well. I would also say, you don’t want to have to travel too far to get to a school - both pupil and parents. Good luck with your choice!
Post Reply
https://theluxurytravelboutique.com/offers/
https://www.mathnasium.co.uk/clapham
https://www.dulwich.org.uk/ducks
https://schs.gdst.net/early-years-landing-page-nv
Spring2024
Options:
Share this post on:

Re: Francis Holland Sloane Squre Vs Epsom College - advice needed please

Postby Spring2024 » Mon Mar 04, 2024 6:12 am

We have a daughter currently at FHSS in year 8.

We could not be happier with the school. They offer a lot, especially considering the footprint of their site. We are very happy with the quality of teaching and the overall atmosphere in the school. Yes there are some ultra wealthy families, but our daughters experience of building friendships has been very positive no matter what the background of her group, wealth has not equalled a privileged attitude in her experience nor in our experience of meeting her friends and their parents.

The school seems well set up regarding pastoral care.

I wouldn’t think the “teenage issues” around friendships differ much between most schools.
Post Reply

Start a conversation
To create a new post and start a new conversation, please click on the button.