“There’s no need to put your child’s name down at birth; you can make that decision later,” asserts Dan Cummings, head of The White House Preparatory School. However, there are also heads who believe that registering for a private school before parents reach the maternity ward is a sensible practice. “That’s the harsh reality,” says Edward Rees, head of Hornsby House.
Demand also exceeds supply in the state sector. By 2020, some 35,000 London children will not get a secondary school place. Long waiting lists for secondary schools places in Wandsworth are not uncommon today, eg there are 700 pupils waiting for one of 250 secondary places at Graveney School. Adam Wells, Head of Pupil Services at Wandsworth Council, paints a more positive picture, as 77.5% resident applicants get their first preference primary school, 91.5% one of their first three preferences and 95.2% one of their six preferred schools.
Secondary transfer statistics are less impressive though as only 57.8% of resident applicants were offered their first preference secondary school, 85.1% received one of their ꀀrst three preferences and 93.3% one of their six preferred schools.
Appeals are rarely successful at primary level but there are better chances at secondary level.Arguably, Wandsworth schools are plentiful – including three bi-lingual schools, 11 secondary schools – and have a high standard. Ofsted rates some 96% of Wandsworth primary schools outstanding or good. “We’ve got very strong schools, performing above the national average and we attract a lot of applicants from other boroughs, which speaks volumes,” says Wells.
State school admissions criteria varies according to the type of school. Community, foundation, voluntary aided and academies have different admissions policies, while supplementary information forms are needed for faith and bi-lingual state schools. Check each school’s admissions criteria carefully. Each borough produces guides for admissions to their primary and secondary schools. For the borough of Wandsworth, go to www.wandsworth.gov.uk/admissions.
Proximity to school is crucial, particularly for over-subscribed Wandsworth state primary schools such as Beatrix Potter, Belleville, EarlsField and Honeywell. These have the smallest borough catchment areas. Honeywell is under 200 metres. “Parents look at this distance in disbelief,” says Wells.
It hasn’t helped that Wandsworth has recently changed its sibling policy for its community primary schools (see panel), which could mean parents having to be at different school gates simultaneously.For secondary, admissions will also depend on the results of the Wandsworth Year 6 test, a general ability test taken by all children attending state primary schools. The results go to the secondary schools for which you have applied. Independent schools do not use results of the Wandsworth Year 6 test and your child will have to sit additional tests for entry.
The crucial dates to remember for state schools are:
You can apply for up to six schools, including out-of-borough schools. The norm is to list three in order of preference and to include at least one near where you live. If you live in another borough, you need to apply through your own council.
Being able to fund your child’s education is a less anxious journey. Priority for admission is given to siblings for reception, yet the “small, cosy” Broomwood Hall, for example, has to manage three applications for every place.
The private sector offers 30 prep/primary schools and a dozen secondary schools in the borough of Wandsworth. Private or state, the starting point is to collect recommendations, follow NappyValleyNet posts, read a school’s prospectus and attend Open Days. On page 25 we list all those arranged for the autumn term. They are your chance to see the school working, quiz teachers, hear the head talk, see the sort of children the school is developing and decide whether the school is right for your child.
“Don’t just trust a school’s reputation. Visit it, have a look around and get a feel for the school,” advises Wells.
Joan McGillewie, head of The Falcons School for Girls, says to “disregard those schools operating ‘stiff, starchy and well-rehearsed Open Days’. Parents can see through that, ” she says. Overlay what you’ve seen and heard by reading reports on each state school by Ofsted, available at www.reports.ofsted.gov.uk and checking school performance tables, at www.education.gov.uk. Check out private schools on www.isc.co.uk.
NB. Read our feature on how various heads deal with supply versus demand on page 30. Our listing of schools in Nappy Valley starts on page 34 and includes a sprinkling of popular schools outside this area.