Local Talk

Is this possible? Move to Oxford in summer & enroll in ANY primary?

(12 Posts)
CatChick Tue 30-Apr-13 05:20:39

We're moving to Oxford from the U.S. this summer for an academic sabbatical for most of the school year. Here's my big question: is it even possible to get our kids into any state primary schools at all, if we arrive July 1 or August 1? We have a 4 and 7 year old.

We're not sure we can afford private school for both, and will consider home-schooling them if state school is not an option. But as we consider where to rent, and whether to scramble to try to arrive earlier, it would be SO helpful to know if anything would make any difference in actually getting them in somewhere?

vessoxford Tue 30-Apr-13 10:23:33

You can phone the Local Education Authority and ask which schools have places. You'd need an address to apply, unfortunately, so you'll have to choose where to live first. The less popular schools are more likely to have places, but you never know as lots of people come and go and there can be a lot of movement over the summer.
The school year ends around July 20th, so if you arrive on the 1st of July, you'd be able to have a look around the schools and see which ones you like.

CatChick Tue 30-Apr-13 18:40:54

I will definitely call and see. It makes sense the least desirable schools are the most likely to have openings. But how bad are the least desirable schools in Oxford? Any one have any details? Are we talking, say, like too-large class sizes, or are we talking about getting beat up your lunch money?
(As an American, I have this rosy view of Oxford that all education there must be at least okay.)

maryoz Wed 01-May-13 19:02:16

the so called bad ones at primary are largely ones that don't perform well academically in the 'SATS' standardised testing. so they tend to pull in from poorer neighbourhoods etc. they are, in my limited experience, fine really and certainly for a sabbatical. I had a colleage from Japan who came for a year and managed to find a place in the summer. the pain for her was that the school was not near where she lived.. and I know another (american) family where they didn't get their (high school) kids into the same school. One got into the prized high school and the other went to one of the poorly regarded ones. both were fine and happy. i don't think you need to worry about violence or things like that. certainly not at their age. In my experience the schools more likely to have space are Cutteslowe primary in North oxford and New hinskey primary in South oxford and then possibly ones in Marston/headington... [that's where my japanese friend's son went]. I think they have to offer you kids places even if you are non-EU etc.. can the univ. help at all?

maryoz Wed 01-May-13 19:03:45

oh and paradoxically some of the less well regarded schools here in primary have smaller classes than the popular ones. Phil & Jims, Barnabas, St Ebbes etc are all maxed out.. [though even they sometimes host sabbatical kids]

CatChick Thu 02-May-13 04:50:38

Thank you so much, maryoz and vessoxford! I did call the Education Authority and the man who answered was helpful about deadlines and everything.

Maryoz, you mentioned Cuttleslowe--that got an Ofsted of "unsatisfactory"! and is one of the two schools near the place we're thinking of renting. (And confusingly, it's listed as "closed" on the site, though it doesn't seem to be closed?) The other is Wolvercote, which seems just fine. Does this mesh with what the "word on the street" is? (Or is that a question for another thread?) Sorry, I'm new and so full of questions.

vessoxford Thu 02-May-13 15:10:42

I don't think it's closed, it's just been turned into an academy - different administration and funding sources, etc, but still the same school. Haven't heard great things about it, hopefully it will start to change but not sure how soon.
Wolvercote is nice as far as I know, but it's small and not that likely to have places.

Any of the schools will be fine for a year, though, the kids are not going to get beaten up or anything like that!
Big generalisation here, but people from the 'poorer' areas tend to be a bit unfriendly to newcomers, which can affect school-related social life and friendships, but it's probably no big deal.

I'd probably start with schools like Phil & Jim, St Barnabas and St Ebbes. They are very popular, but also have a high turnover. Make sure you are aware of catchment areas. Good luck!

Zimbolino Thu 02-May-13 21:29:17

You may have a better chance of finding your 7 year old a place than your 4 year old, because the laws regarding class size (no bigger than 30 children) only cover reception, year 1, and year 2. Perhaps you could home educate your 4 year old if you can't find them a suitable place? Also, finding a place for the 7 year old first will greatly enhance your 4 year old's chances at getting a place at the same school, due to allocation rules.

Good luck!

Chances are your children will be fine at any school, but the traditionally "rough" areas are Barton and Blackbird Leys. I have a friend who used to teach at Cuttleslowe (several years back, mind) and it sounded fine.

LeapingLizard Fri 03-May-13 20:58:17

Hi CatChick,

If you do end up home educating one or both of your children, you may like to join in with the busy local home ed community. There are all sorts of families from different backgrounds doing it for various reasons.

From this website http://www.ohed.org.uk/ you can join the email list to see what's on and chat with other parents about what it is like.

England has a long tradition of home education. The law gives parents the freedom to go about it in whatever way suits their children, so there aren't really any hoops to jump through.

CatChick Sun 05-May-13 06:01:12

Thanks much for the info. We're currently debating whether to "link" the school applications of the almost-7 and the 4 year old, to have them sent to the same schools? Is this a bad idea?

We would definitely consider home schooling. (Leaping Lizard, I did sign up for the Home Education group--sounds like you have fabulous activities!) Both kids are currently well ahead academically. But we're both professors, in Oxford on sabbatical, and could really use at least a three-hour block in the mornings to finish books we're working on, so it would be hard to home school well after having them with a sitter/nanny all morning.

Is it as hard to get into private schools? And are they as expensive as we'd fear?

You all have been so incredibly generous with your help and advice!

maryoz Sun 05-May-13 18:48:26

Cat chick I really think your kids will be fine and will get a place in a state school. From what I've heard quite a few sabbatical kids go to cutteslowe and also the marsden ones (eg st Nicholas?). If you're catholic you could also try st alyosius.. For convenience if it was me I'd link their applications, just so you're not running arouNd. Ten again, Oxford is pretty small. If either of you are associated with a college they might be able to help in terms of giving you and address now to arrange all of this. Private schools range upwards from about £8500 per annum (Oxford girls high, which is elementary school as well.). There is also a Montessori school, but that's just outside the town so you'd either need a car or to put them on a school bus. But really, Oxford is full of people visiting with kids and they get into schools. No need to home school if you've got books to finish!

LeapingLizard Sun 05-May-13 20:35:30

I agree with maryoz that you'll probably be able to get a reasonably near school if you aren't too exacting about where you live and which school you get. The slightly tricky bit is that you're only eligible to apply and secure the school places after you've signed a tenancy agreement. So I guess the plan is to check there are school vacancies, finalise the tenancy and then apply for the school places in quick succession.

The academic side of home ed is also easier than you think. Learning with one-to-one attention and a flexible approach is so efficient that few of the families I know do more than a few brief sessions a week with young children. (The people who do much more than that tend to have very high ambitions for their children's academic careers!) The radicals like me do no formal academic work at all with our kids, instead letting them learn through following their interests, and our children do OK too. For example, my older daughter went to school for the first time at nine, having done almost no formal work before that. She fit in fine and had no trouble academically.

So for working parents who home educate, I think that childcare is the only significant challenge. Besides the nanny/childminder option, here's another idea: after-school clubs. This is a slightly odd term for group childcare based usually in schools. They run from, say, 3-5:30pm and the kids do craft, games, sports etc. Most are run by external providers and so they will accept any child, not just those attending the school. It could be a handy way for your kids to make friends and do some group activities if they like that sort of thing.

Anyway, I'm sure you'll sort something out. Good luck with it all!

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