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Foreign family moving to Bristol in August - applying to primary school

(7 Posts)
Caezar Sun 14-Apr-13 15:08:29

Hello,

We are a family of four (two children aged 5.5 and 1.5), relocating from Hong Kong to Bristol in August. I will pursue graduate studies at the University of Bristol and my spouse will take care of our younger daughter. We are not British and we will not have an address prior to arriving in Bristol in August.

We now need to apply to primary school for our elder daughter (born in August 2007).

I called the Bristol government offices who explained that we have to wait until late June to apply, as the registration period ended in mid January. If we do not get one of our top three choices, which I assume if the most likely scenario, our daughter will be assigned a school with available space.

I am a bit worried about not being able to choose the area where my daughter will go to school, as it seems some neighbourhoods of Bristol are a bit rough.

I also checked independent schools, such as Gracefield, but the fees are expensive.

What strategy would you advise me to be able to find a decent school for my daughter?
Which areas of Bristol to target, with a network of schools that are less likely to be oversubscribed?
Should we also apply for schools in Bath, which apparently has very good state schools (I would in this case commute to the university by bike or train)?

I thank you in advance for your advice.

Caezar

givemeaclue Sun 14-Apr-13 17:40:25

Yes schools in bristol very over subscribed, you will get nearest one with space available but you can go on wait lists at other schools or go independent in which case should apply now. I wouldn't wait till June I would apply now as a late application, after allocations are made this meek space may become available at schools which you would miss out on if leave it till June. Call bristol city council education department and ask how to apply from Hong Kong.goodI luck

lovinglapland Sun 14-Apr-13 19:53:12

Good schools in Bristol are notoriously oversubscribed - this would definitely be the case for Westbury on Trym area as it is very popular, with both good primaries and a good secondary (Redland Green).
Hopefully someone can give you the relevant information on how to apply from overseas - usually in this country you need an address first and then they can offer you school places based on what is available - at this late stage it is however unlikely to be a school of your choosing, unless it happens to be undersubscribed.
It is worth mentioning that a lot of the areas around Bristol fall into different Local Education Authorities. South Gloucestershire is to the north of the city and includes areas such as Downend, Stoke Gifford, Bradley Stoke, Winterbourne, Frampton Cotterell. North Somerset encompasses areas to the south of Bristol such as Nailsea, Clevedon, Backwell, and to the East, is Bath and North East Somerset which includes the small town of Keynsham. So depending on where you would like to live will denote which LEA you would need to contact with regards to schools.
All of the areas that I have mentioned above are nice neighbourhoods and have a family feel to them with decent local facilities as well as good access to the city centre, so would be worth a look. I would recommend South Gloucestershire as an area worth looking at for young families - somewhere like Stoke Gifford/Winterbourne/Bradley Stoke as they have both good state primary and secondary schools (non fee paying). They are however 6/7 miles out of the city centre.
If you are after more of a city feel though, you would be better closer in - so Westbury on Trym is a lovely part of Bristol as are Clifton, Redland and Cotham, although all are expensive and schools will be oversubscribed. Bishopston, St Andrews and Horfield are all popular family areas in North Bristol and to the South, Southville always gets high praise from those who live there. All of those are a walk/short drive from the city centre.
Private schools in Bristol are very good, although as you say, on the expensive side. Maybe you could use one in the short term whilst waiting for a suitable place at a state primary? Torwood House, Silverhill School, Gracefield, Cleve House are primary only private schools at various locations around the city and are probably the least expensive of the private school options.
Primary school places around here are offered to parents on April 19th, so you may find that in a couple of weeks time the LEA's will be better placed to say where they may have spaces, once everyone has accepted/rejected the offers.

lovinglapland Sun 14-Apr-13 20:05:49

Sorry I have just realised that your daughter is not entering Reception but will be entering Year 1 at school. This should make it easier for you to find a place as the LEA's should hold that information now. You will need to call all the relevant LEA'S mentioned above and find out which schools have available places in the current Year Reception as this is the year group your daughter will join. I am not sure whether they can hold a place open for you - probably not - but there may be some dispensation for families moving from overseas? You can look at OFSTED reports of any schools they offer, and that can help to give you an idea of what the schools strengths/weaknesses may be. Obviously families often move on at the end of an academic year and so even if you have to wait until you are here you may find spaces at reasonable schools. You can be put on the waiting list of any school you choose - what position on the list you hold will usually depend on how close you live to the school (once you have an address!)

notfarmingatthemo Mon 15-Apr-13 05:34:38

If you look at staple Hill, which is just to the east of the city it has good schools, Christchurch, Staple Hill, Tynings and St Stevens. It is a nice area with local shops, swimming pool but is also very easy to get in to the city either on the bus or on the cycle path.

Runoutofideas Tue 16-Apr-13 14:30:52

I have posted already on your message in Primary Education, but I just wanted to say that you need to be looking for a current year 1 place, year 2 in September, not reception then year 1 as stated above. (My dd2 was also born Aug 2007 and as such is currently one of the youngest year 1s.) Good luck!

makama Wed 17-Apr-13 20:52:24

We were in a similar situation last year. Our story is that we moved to Bristol from California last October with our dd who was 4.5 at the time. We arranged for her to go to an independent school at first, which we thought she could go to for the first year then we would transfer her at year 1. We didn't realize that after the initial entry to reception year, one just has to move into the state schools when a spot becomes available, not necessarily when the school year begins. So we then got on the waiting list for the three schools closest to our house, which are all good schools. We happen to be right next to St. Michael's on the Mount, so we were put right to the top of the waiting list (the closer you live, the higher you go on the waiting list). We were offered a spot at a not-so-desirable school farther away as part of the bureaucratic process but we turned it down and stayed on the waiting list for the three schools. But then we were told that there was a spot at St. John's VC/CE Primary School and it looked great so we took it and are very happy there. We were then notified pretty soon after that a spot at St. Michael's was available, but we chose to stay with St. John's.
So, to answer your question on strategies
- You could move right next to a good school and be high/first on the waiting list.
- As lovelapland mentioned you can find out which schools will have openings for year 1 (or whichever year you need) and move to the catchment area of one that you like. I'm not sure if you can secure a place ahead of time without an address, we couldn't.
- Some good schools have higher turnover than others. Ones near the university get a lot more temporary families who also want good schools.
- Schools that have recently expanded the number of students they can take per grade. This was the case with St. Johns.
- I have no experience with the Bath/further away schools, though we did consider that too. Commuting around here is a real pain it seems.
Good luck! And if you are only here a few years for grad school you won't have to worry about secondary schools!

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