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Which London borough has the best schools?

Primary and secondary schools, in terms of achievements and also low bullying etc... Considering a move back to the city but don't want to risk kids ending up in rough schools.

Seeking Experience Education 3 years ago

2 parents have answered

Simon Munk writer
Simon Munk Consumer tech journalist, mountain biker, dad of two. Walthamstow

Sorry, but this question stinks. And here's why:

  1. The price differential for even rented accommodation in London is huge between boroughs. Most normal Londoners simply can't afford to rent even a shoebox in Kensington & Chelsea or Westminster, let alone Lambeth, Camden etc. So first off, what's your housing budget and how much space do you need? Unless you're a millionaire, that will be the strongest determinant of what schools you can get.

  2. Every borough, I suspect, has its rough and nice schools. Again, the nice Outstanding Ofsted schools will have smaller catchment areas, traditionally surrounded by pricier housing. So asking on a borough-wide basis is just wrong-headed - most boroughs in London have patches you may deem acceptable for your child, and others you may not. But the ones you deem acceptable may suffer house price rises in the catchment area that you may or may not be able to afford. There are websites that specialise in crunching this kind of data.

  3. Many of the implied attitudes in this question simply stink:

i) If you want your kids to achieve well, you can probably put them in almost any environment and they'll do OK. The parent panic to avoid bad schools, to privately tutor is just a panic. I went to a very rough, low achieving secondary school - one of my friends there went on to become a maths professor. His parents just helped him achieve. Yes, perhaps he could have gone a bit further if he'd been sent to Eton or wherever. But he's done just fine. As have I. As have most of the smart kids in the school. The difference between a high-achieving and a low-achieving school in London, certainly, is as simple as whether the school draws its intake from a rough estate where there are families with low academic aims or from a bunch of leafy semi-detached houses. The primary that my two children go to is halfway between a very poor area and a middle class area and happily draws kids from both. It's never going to, I suspect, bust records for overall academic achievement. But the smart kids do just fine there.

ii) No school is rough just based on location. It's based on how well the head and management team deal with the kids and their issues. Again, my kids' school has a very mixed and diverse intake, including kids from families in chaos. But the school is brilliant at sorting out these kids and turning them round - making them happy, productive members of society. And I think that has a massive benefit to my children - from an early age they're exposed to a hugely diverse range of people, with massively different life experiences and attitudes to theirs. They learn to negotiate and thrive in that environment. You simply don't get that in an Outstanding Ofsted school in a leafy suburb with a tiny catchment area of upper middle class parents.

iii) Everything you do with your children constitutes a "risk". Your job as a parent is not to remove all risk, but balance it. Want your kids to live in the country? They may experience less inner city slang, fewer differently coloured faces and see fewer homeless people, but they may also experience less culture, multicultural diversity and experience more bored, drunk teenage incidents. Every approach has pros, cons and risks. It's what you do to help steer your kids through those choices that counts. Either way, please don't come live in London and be another one of those home counties-yearning morons that wants to huddle in some faux-village miles from a tube station, driving their kids halfway across London to get to a decent private school, and sealed off from the communities around them. We've got more than enough of them as it is! If you want to live in London, embrace what it is.

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Opinion 3 years ago
Frankie Columbu
Frankie Columbu fitness fan and mother of two London, GB

Like Simon says, London boroughs are huge and are a mixed bag within them. A seemingly poor-performing school in terms of league tables, can have a fantastic arts and sport record, or be getting the absolute best out of their pupils, even if that 'best' isn't what some people would see as a priority.

Let's be realistic though, I'm sure there are schools in every borough that are poorly performing AND have an overstretched, demoralised staff AND have bullying incidents that are higher than anyone would like. And I don't think it's wrong to want to shield your children from those poor experiences, though I would love to think everyone could see the big picture and try to help those schools... But hand on heart, there are certain schools I would not want my children to attend.

If you want absolute control and guarantees of attainment and high chances of getting into the chosen university etc, than really it sounds like private fee-paying schools might be your best bet. If not, then it's a case of looking beyond the numbers and visiting schools, meeting the head, speaking to other parents and, if there are elements that you're not happy with, perhaps seeing if you can help by volunteering time or joining the PTA or Governors?

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Opinion 3 years ago

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