Hi there twice_as_nice,
I have one child who has just finished, and one about to start.
Teachers are teachers, GCSEs are GCSEs, but at Thames, due to the ethos and ratios, the teachers know the children very well and always go the extra mile for every child, from very high achievers to those who need a little extra support. Communication with parents is excellent. Study skills are taught superbly, so there is an air of calm during exam season.
My older one moved for yr 8 from a school with beautiful facilities, pool etc, in a wealthy residential area. There was a distinct lack of love and inconsistent and ineffective management strategies.
My younger child’s prep school suggested notably selective schools for secondary. Although our hearts were already at Thames we kept an open mind and child sat for a couple of these places. However we rejected the offers as we were not convinced the quality of teaching (due to ethos and ratios), attention and care could match Thames, and facilities did not convince us over the care of the staff at Thames, as well as the personal opportunities.
Dr Holsgrove is insightful and resourceful. Children access a fantastic range of local facilities. There will be a new building soon but that will just be a bonus, not a decision maker. Being a small school, children are part of the bigger community of the school and can access many opportunities. Individuality is celebrated and developed. Teachers go the extra mile to ensure each child has the right experiences, including entry to high level sporting events, art competitions and drama roles.
There is no evidence to suggest children make more progress when studying key stages 3 and 4 in a selective environment. The curriculum is fundamentally the same wherever you go. As a parent and someone who works in education, I would say on the contrary, children thrive in a mixed environment where they can each compare themselves in a more realistic sample of the population in terms of ability and benefit from learning amongst different learning styles (albeit with staff who passionately manage that). The children do have a range of learning abilities, but the school does have a rigorous selection process and the children generally have very supportive and interested parents.
All in all I have every confidence my children will continue to fly, both academically and personally, and understand who they are in a world of beautiful differences. My older one has never been held back at Thames, only challenged and nurtured. My child has been happy to go to school and was sorry to see the experience come to an end.
We are not a religious family, but we are very respectful of different cultural and religious choices. Both children have been educated in christian schools, and have never had any opinions forced upon them. They both have their own well developed views and can articulately but sensitively express themselves. They are part of a multi cultural and multi religious society in London and they love it.
The uniform is not over fancy, in fact very similar to many of the local state schools. Thames has a good relationship with its local community and links to the state primary school over the road. The kids are comfortable and streetwise, although statistically more likely to get mugged in the Northcote Road area.
It’s a personal choice, but for us our priority is that our children are known, cared about as individuals, challenged and recognised for their strengths. Thames isn’t perfect of course, no school is perfect, but it’s minor imperfections are not things that bother our children.
One key thing to consider is value added as opposed to actual exam results. It’s easy to teach in a school where the top 2% of the population have been creamed, and it would be worrying in that case if results weren’t exceptionally high overall. Thames does have good overall results, but it has a mixed intake which means the range is bigger than a highly selective school. Results suggest a combined formula of hard working kids and superb teaching. Maths classes are arranged in sets, but otherwise classes are mixed, although crucially children are not held back.