The stakes were high for thousands of parents this week, as the anxious wait to find out where their child would be attending primary school was finally over. Sadly, thousands of children missed out on their first choice. For many, this means long journeys to and from school, overcrowded classrooms and poor results.
While Britain is in the midst of a baby boom, securing places at desirable schools will continue to be a hard-won victory. The quality of local schools often dominates the search for a new area to call home. There is also more to consider than a school’s reputation; parents have to think about whether the environment will suit their child, and what other schools are on offer should their child fail to secure a place at their first choice.
“Don’t assume that the most popular school will be the best one for your child,” Beth Noakes, editor of The Good Schools Guide, tells WhatHouse?. “If you don’t get on with the head and don’t like the atmosphere, it doesn’t matter if it is rated outstanding by Ofsted – it probably won’t suit you. Many people move to areas with grammar schools assuming their child will get a place, but for those who don’t pass the 11+ the schooling tends to be less good than in all-comprehensive areas.”
Distance is an obvious consideration, however a well-connected area can open up more options. “Parents want to live near, or have good transport links to, the kinds of schools they would like their children to attend,” says Noakes. “Transport links are particularly important with secondary schools where older children will be taking themselves to and from school.”
A community feel is equally important to most parents. When Rafael Dozo, 38, and his wife Mirjana, 45, recently made the decision to move from their rented property in Woodside Park in Barnet, it was the combination of a strong community feel and highly rated local schools that drew them to a three-bedroom home at Brook Valley Gardens.
A senior programme manager at Google, Rafael said, “We had been renting our previous property for two years as we had just moved from Montreal, Canada, and with two young boys we were seeking a home that we could settle into long-term. Max and Alex were very enthusiastic about the move and particularly liked the look of their future secondary school.”
Currently offering a range of three- and four-bedroom properties, Brook Valley Gardens is a modern interpretation of a traditional garden suburb; the development is bordered by leafy residential areas, playing fields, open space and is set amongst a vibrant community atmosphere. The development includes new community facilities, such as a community centre and pre-school nursery. Prices start from £599,950 for a three-bedroom house with Help to Buy available.
The pick of developments close to good schools…
The Mount, Mill Hill (Countryside) – The Mount is a collection of apartments and luxury townhouses, set around beautiful courtyards and surrounded by leafy parks. At the Mount, residents are close to some of the finest schools in London, from superb state nurseries to distinguished independent schools including Mill Hill School and The Mount School, with Millbrook Park’s own primary school which opened in September 2014. The development is just 1.3 miles from St Michael’s Catholic Grammar School, which was featured in the 2015 A Level and GCSE results tables in The Daily Telegraph and The Times. Currently available are two bedroom apartments from £495,000.
Highgate Court, Highgate (Bellway Homes) – The penthouses and apartments of Highgate Court are contemporary and come with high-end sophisticated specifications, private gated parking, on-site concierge and are situated only a short walk from Highgate Woods. The development of 85 one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments and penthouse apartments will have panoramic views. There are also a good number of state schools nearby including Saint Aloysius College for boys and Mount Carmel Catholic College for girls.
St Clement’s Lake, Grenhithe, Kent (Bellway Homes) – This development will benefit from play areas, lush lakeside lawns and a central square. Grass, shrubs and mature trees surround the site, with pathways and cycleways running through the development. Families at St Clements Lakes are well served with a vast array of schooling options close at hand, comprising several nurseries, primary and secondary schools, including the Haberdashers Askes’ Crayford Academy, while high-performing grammar schools can be found in nearby Dartford and Gravesend. Prices from £369,995 for a three-bedroom home.
Harvard Gardens, Elephant and Castle (L&Q) –Launching this month, these are perfect family homes, with a range of three- and four-bedroom apartments and maisonettes available. The development is very close to Surrey Square Primary School and Walworth Academy, both rated by Ofsted as ‘Good’ schools. Prices start from £950,000 for a four-bedroom duplex.
Lime Tree Court, Ampthill, Bedfordshire (Storey Homes) – The development is perfectly positioned near a great selection of Ofsted rated Good schools, such as The Firs and Russell Lower Schools, while adjacent to the development is Alameda Middle School. Redbourne College, an ‘Outstanding’ higher education facility, is a short walk away. Nearby Bedford boasts even more schooling options including a range of independent schools. Five-bedroom homes are priced from £599,950.
Andrew Carrington, managing director of strategic land at Countryside, says “It is essential to create the appropriate infrastructure for major new residential projects, including schools, community facilities and green open spaces, to ensure the existing and new community is supported and ensure a cohesive community develops. Our approach starts from day one, considering the impact of the streetscape and landscape, and that planning obligations are delivered to maximise value for all the stakeholders. We include schools into our master planning as it is important to have the right educational facilities in place to build communities in the long term.”