East Dulwich (Mobile) Forum

Parents with a daughter at Ducks and Herne Hill (and Rosemead)

I don't particularly want to go into detail here on a public forum so please forgive me for this short post.

I'm new to the area having moved over here not so long ago and I've spent quite a while looking into local schools for my young daughter. I have whittled it down to Ducks, Herne Hill and Rosemead pretty much in that order, with her name down for all three. We are looking at Sept 2016 entry, should we be at all successful. DD will be rising 3 that year.

I have, however, had a few Mums stop me and make a comment about Ducks - some say it's not the best start for the girls (better for the boys) and others have made various comments that have made me cautious. For me, I loved the huge grounds there and the music facilities seemed wonderful (this was important for me).

I really liked HH too but I sort of ruled it out because it seemed quite small (almost cramped) and I wasn't sure on whether there was enough outdoors space or outdoors stuff going on. However, it may have seemed cramped due to the huge amounts of people there that Open Day morning.

Knowing my daughter as I do now, I see someone very interested in music and books and she misses no opportunity to kick any ball around. She loves running around. She's less bothered by her dolls and soft toys and all the gadgets that flash and make noises. She just always has her head in a book or is tapping away at a various musical instrument / toy. She's very spirited too - doesn't like to sit down and cuddle in on one's lap...always wants to be mooching about doing something. That's the best I can say as a 1st time parent - I'm pretty sure I've just described a bog-standard toddler though!!

I have turned to this Forum to ask if there are any parents out there who can offer their opinions or tell me about their experiences.......

Thank you in advance.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit was 2015:03:03:11:39:05 by Amasco.


Interested in hearing the responses to this. We visited Herne Hill and loved it, and I've heard great things about it, so interested to hear comparisons.
I sent you a PM

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit was 2015:02:08:22:01:41 by Didine.

My daughter currently attends Herne Hill and is in one of the kindergarten classes having joined in the nursery. Moving her to Herne Hill (from the Villa) was one of the best decisions we made and she absolutely loves it. My husband's exact words when he picks up her up every day are, "She's giddy with excitement!".

Her class is a mixture of boisterous and spirited types along with shy and more reserved children but they all seem to get along. My child's class has one main teacher with three teaching assistants at any one time so all children get a lot of support and attention.

When we picked HH we were heavily influenced by the fact it is the main feeder of the Dulwich foundation school at 7+ and also its amazing ISI report. We accept that she will have to do 7+ exams in year 2 but we're so pleased with HH that we even avoided putting her through the 4+ as we want her to stay at HH.

I understand your worries about the school appearing cramped; it isn't a huge space. At the moment with the extension work taking place, it does appear particularly cramped but hopefully once the work has been completed it will open up again. Also, last year's reception intake was bigger than usual due to so many of the kindergarten kids staying on and not moving to the Dulwich foundation schools. The headmistress has assured parents that they will offer reception places sparingly to outside children until they get confirmation of how many kindergarten kids will definitely stay on.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit was 2015:02:09:11:18:28 by alaska721.

Love Herne Hill School. Currently have a son there in year 2 and daughter who left 2 years ago. I cannot fault the teaching staff and not once have they complained about going to school. They get so much out of them and really develop them into rounded individuals. As a small child I think they have enough space to run around. The new hall to the school will be amazing for the children coming into it from Sept 15.

Happy to talk further if you want to pm me
I have one in each. One finishing HH and the other in nursery in Ducks. Ducks: purpose built school with great facilities, great teachers although we have 3 in total and in HH we had 4 in each class so lots of attention.however there are things that HH does better. One thing that annoyed me at Ducks was the start of the year when kids start gradually on certain days and they tell you that in summer when you have already arranged your childcare so you have a few extra days of childcare to pay for on top of Ducks fees. also HH allows summer kids to do half days in autumn term, 3 days in spring and 4 in summer, so building up gradually when they are 3 and then even in reception they can go home on Friday afternoons as legally not mandatory until 5. I loved it and we had play dates on Fridays always, all parents who could took their kids out on Fridays. Ducks from this year requires all 3 year olds to go full time 5 days a week from spring term which I think for 3 year olds is too much and there is no flexibility if you want to do something else with kids in the afternoons. HH is very high pressure as they have kids only until 7 so loads of homework from year 1 when they get them ready for assessments. Teachers and headmistress are very accessible so we booked meetings early in the morning before work to discuss kid's progress. They do a few trips throughout the year but that is all included in fees. Can't say much about Ducks academicslly yet but they'll also be prepping them for 7 plus. Both love their schools and have made lots of friends. Ducks will have a new headmistress from sept (current deputy). It is a great school but maybe i just know HH better as was on maternity at the time and could get to know it better. Good luck.
I'd go with rosemead. I have children that have been through Herne Hill School and did not have great experience. Unless you are pushy parent and happy to put your daughter through 7+, which the kids definitely do find stressful and upsetting, then go with a school where they can go through to 11 like rosemead. All HHS care about are their stats on destination schools and actually most of the kids end up at Rosemead after 7+.

I have a daughter at Rosemead and son at a Foundation school but this had nothing to do with any help from HHS. HHS gave bad advice about where both kids should end up and missed strengths / weaknesses in both kids. Teachers were purely focused on pushing kids to academic limits and some kids get left behind. Limited learning support resource which comes from non qualified teachers, and headmistress is frankly unfriendly, unhelpful and doing a hard sell. My kids are happier with Rosemead and Foundation School, although that's my personal opinion. Friends have put kids through Ducks but had similar experiences, although kids are not pushed quite as hard as HHS. Good luck.
Well said, JxC.
Couldn't agree more.
Another second to what JxC said. My older son went to HH until I was luckily able to move him and his younger brother to Dulwich Prep before the 7+ hit. Like JxC says, HH might be lovely in the early years but they put the screws to the kids immediately in Y1. Despite the fact that his class was tiny (18 students at one point), it didn't seem that my son was getting much attention and his reports focused solely on the negatives and what he COULDN'T do (I can only assume they wanted to freak us out into putting more pressure on him at home). The only kids to go to the good schools were at the top of the class and I know for a fact many of them were tutored on top of schoolwork. My son is much happier at the Prep and he has really blossomed due to the positive atmosphere and, frankly, patient approach to the development of boys (whilst still keeping high academic standards). I also found the Head at HH not helpful or friendly, although mainly the teachers are very good and supportive of the kids.

I hope that helps - I just think there is a big difference between HH at the kindergarten stage and post Y1...

Good luck.
I agree with the positive comments about HHS above, and do not recognise what JxC and Jesska say. I don't have any experience of Rosemead. I looked round HHS and DUCKS when looking for my son and just thought HHS had a softer feel to it which has been completely the case in our experience.

My son is now in Yr 1 at HHS, having started in the Nursery, and my daughter is now in Kindergarten (having also started in the Nursery). The teachers are wonderful - they give so much love, care and attention (which now I write it I think is the motto for the school - but it's true!) to each child and completely go at the child's pace. Yes, the focus increases in Yr 1 but friends of mine with kids in state schools say the same thing. I disagree that the kids get loads of homework in Yr 1 - my son has a reading book every night (which he loves, and they only move on reading stages when ready), and spelling practice during the week for a test each Friday. That really doesn't seem too much to me, and my son loves it - he couldn't wait to get back to school after half term! At parents evening they made it very clear that they want each child to progress (what good school doesn't?) but only to their own ability. I have not once felt that the children were being judged against other children. We had parents eve last night and got a great sense that the teacher will only be pushing our son to the degree she thinks he is capable. We think it's a good thing for our kids to be challenged, even at this young age - it really isn't being done in a pushy way and I don't know of anyone having external tutoring! I don't yet have experience of Yr 2 but I have friends who do and have not heard any of the above negative comments from them.

I would suggest going with your gut instinct - they are all brilliant schools and you will always get differing opinions based on people's individual experience.

Good luck!
Must say that we found Herne a Hill to be a fantastic school and don't recognise some of those earlier comments. Teaching is excellent and we found it be a very kind, supportive and stimulating place. There is a broad mix of kids and they all end up going to good schools. We didn't have a huge amount of homework, for what it's worth. Of course they have to prepare them for 7+ but genuinely think the teachers just try to get the best out of each child. We were very happy.
Regarding the comments about the head of HHS. I have to say I have found her to be very approachable and friendly. She is proud of her teachers and the children.
The HHS school website (Parent Zone) provides a comprehensive list of teachers' qualifications and the leavers' destination section shows where most kids move on to (stats show Rosemead is not the main destination).

Personally I would be disappointed if HHS didn't push and challenge my child. Most parents at this school want their kids to go on to one of the foundation schools. If they weren't challenged they would be woefully underprepared for the likes of Alleyn's, JAGS etc.

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit was 2015:02:26:07:53:23 by alaska721.

Thank you for the responses to this thread and thank you to the many, many parents who in-boxed us with your opinions.
We are very grateful to have had such a great response.
Hi i am new in the area and a new mum too. i am interested to hear further in these schools. i would also like to know if its worth starting asap in there... unfortunately we are late on putting our son's in DUCKS nursery, he is on the waiting list for sept 2018 start (nothing available earlier date).
Hello. Realise this is an old thread, but a post may be of use to others researching the schools. We moved our son out of Herne Hill School as the pressure was too much. The pre-prep was outstanding, but in Year 1 the atmosphere changed. Within a month he was utterly miserable. We found out (afterwards) that for a whole term he was not given any play time - if a child does not write enough they stay in over break. He came home with wet trousers because he was too scared to ask to go to the loo. He was put in the bottom set for maths even though we were told - by his teacher - he should have advanced work. But for HHS this means written papers, and he couldn't do the writing even when he could do the maths.

At the parents evening his teacher simply told us 'some children are not academic' while the head said if he 'isn't capable of engaging with our curriculum there's nothing we can do' and that if he was miserable he should leave. I should stress that my son is a perfectly normal little boy who reads about two years ahead for his age and is not disruptive, fidgety or lacking in attention. But he did write at an average speed for a 6 year old and HH move much faster - no exceptions. The lack of opportunities to participate in class that didn't involve writing (or possibly musical performances to concert hall standard) left him feeling stupid and stressed.

I know I sound like I'm just having a rant because the school didn't recognise what a *genius* my darling child is, but that honestly wasn't what frustrated us. We repeatedly told them we didn't care about getting into Dulwich College, we didn't expect him to excel, we just wanted him to enjoy school. I really did not want them to tell me he was brilliant, just stop making him cry.

We asked them to do simple things like not setting him targets around writing faster, which just demoralised him, or to congratulate him when he improved, rather than telling him off because it still wasn't as good as the girl next to him. But they didn't do it. I got the impression the teacher didn't really understand there could be alternatives.

It wasn't just his form teacher - the SEN support is dire.

At least four other children in his year left early for the same reasons.

Having said all this, I have plenty of really good friends whose children are doing wonderfully there and have gone on to great schools. But they are children suited to that environment. My little boy just wasn't cut out for the kind of early pressure necessary to get into the top schools at 7+. That's not Herne Hill's fault, but what is down to them is the lack of an alternative approach for those kids who don't best express themselves through pages of neat handwriting age 6. That's why if you speak to parents you will find 50% say it's great, 30% say it's fine but more pushy than they hoped, and 20% say it made their child utterly miserable. Parents of children who are doing well often can't understand the criticism, because for their child it really is a great option.

You could say all this is our own fault and that we had him in the wrong school, and that's probably fair. But the school could have told us and made helpful suggestions about where and how to move him. Instead they told us we wouldn't find a better school (we did), the problem was that he was lazy (he's not) and that no one else has ever complained (lots have). I would recommend considering HHS - I still feel it can be great for the right child - but I would urge you to be really honest with yourself about what type of child you have. Admitting they aren't in the 50% it really suits is in no way writing them off academically - at age 6 the ability to write lots has far more to do with emotional maturity and gross motor skills than intellect. The school we moved him to has an outstanding academic record, and is more selective than HH, but they simply don't focus on writing as the primary form of expression until children are a little older.
Well said frankiecat!
Blimey - and you paid £4,000 a term for the privilege of being told your six-year-old is not academic... I'm glad you found a better school.
Frankie, that made a very sorry read. I am so pleased that your son is thriving in his new environment. We have also had experience of a setting completely ruin the confidence and happiness of my son and I would not wish that experience on anyone, it was a heart breaking and very distressing time. Like your son, mine is now thriving in a different setting.

Sending a well done for acting on your instinct and best wishes for the future!
Thanks Midivydale, and glad to hear your son is now doing well. I think the main thing I learnt is that there aren't so much good or bad schools, as schools that are right or wrong for the particular child. Unfortunately, as Monkey pointed out, I wasn't really paying 4k a term for me to learn things!
My husband went to a shitty prep school and was written off as not academic. The rest of his school and university career proved them wrong. I sometimes wonder how skilled teachers really are in private schools. They get privileged kids through the door, select them based on tests and still can't/won't cope with anyone that doesn't fit the mould.
Frankie, I agree. The nursery that my son went to is very highly regarded and many children and parents are very happy there. It was just a bad fit for my son and us as a family. This parenting business is not straightforward is it? But we learn as we go along, make decision and unmake them if needed.
Wishing you guys all the best
We were at HHS for Kindergarten and we loved it.. For other reasons went to JAPS at Reception.

We are now in year 3 JAPS and the girls who joined us from HHS were heads and shoulders above the JAPS girls .. which leads me to believe that the pressure on HHS in year 1 and 2 must be immense to get them ready for the move into the limited spaces at other schools at 7 - like JAPS and Alleyns..

its a shame as the school at Kindergarten was great..
Agree with Montassa. We joined HH in nursery, and from then through to Reception it was outstanding. The teachers were incredible, the environment warm and friendly, the approach tailored to the child. My son's kindergarten teacher was probably the smartest, most insightful, empathetic woman I have ever met. It was genuinely strange how different things became in Year 1. Most of the Year 1&2 teachers have been there much longer and just aren't such high quality. Although to be fair, I also get the impression Year1&2 teachers are under huge pressure themselves, and their anxiety is half the problem. His Year 1 teacher used to look as if she was on the verge of tears every time we met. Even before there was a problem.
Our child went right through from nursery to end of Year 2 and loved it. We found the staff incredibly caring and the teaching first class. For what it's worth, he never felt any pressure.
Hello I know this post is a little old but thought I would post to see if any of you could provide any further information. I am interested in sending my daughter to herne hill for kindergarten. I have been told that she will have an assessment. Does anyone know what that may entitled? Also what is the new head at herne hill like?
Hi there,

My daughter is in pre rep and had a term in kindergarten. She loves it and the kg teachers are very special and lovely.

The new head, Mrs Telford, is vibrant and a great energy around the place. She's been in the school forever so knows the school really well but has brought a new feel to school which is brighter.

The kg assessment involved a play date for my daughter in the kg room. She loved it.

All the best.
My daughter is currently in year 1 at Herne Hill School.

The new head is absolutely fantastic. She has a lot of energy and gets really involved. She's not really new to the school. She was previously the head of Early Years as well as the deputy head.

I remember my daughter's first sports day at the school when she was in the nursery. She was a bit overwhelmed and started crying and refused to participate. Mrs Telford picked her up and comforted her until she stopped crying.

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