So you’re thinking of moving to St Albans? We don’t blame you, it’s a lovely place and the schools are fantastic – but good grief, they’re hard to get into. We’ve teamed up with Steven Walker, Managing Director and Owner of Collinson Hall estate agents in St Albans to answer your questions on tracking down the right properties – in the right areas – in this popular Cathedral city...
The 10 second sell:
20 mins to St Pancras. Big cathedral. Amazing Roman ruins. Beautiful park. Chic shopping. Fine dining. Real ale pubs. Fabulous schools!
SchoolGuru: People usually go to an estate agent with a wish list - are schools high on the list?
Collinson Hall: Yes, if they’re parents, it’s top of the list. We also help lots of couples who don't have children yet, but are planning ahead and want to be located near a good school.
SchoolGuru: Which schools do parents usually mention?
Collinson Hall: Parents are often flexible about which particular primary school, so long as they’re near a good one. There are so many that are rated good or outstanding in St Albans, including Bernards Heath, Fleetville, St Peter’s, the Abbey C of E and Aboyne Lodge. Many parents ask for Maple – which is the most popular primary school in the county, and it’s very close to the centre of town and handy for the transport links. For secondary schools, parents generally come to us wanting one particular school, like Beaumont or Sandringham. Beaumont is always very sought after. It’s in a smart part of town with easy access to the station, shops and parks. Sandringham is very desirable too (and it’s a bit further out so you get more for your money). The single sex secondaries, like Verulam and STAGS are often mentioned too. If you tell us which schools you’re interested in, and your budget, then we can show you suitable properties to buy or rent.
‘Hello Fleetville and Beaumont!’
Woodstock Road South, St Albans. Guide price: £650,000
What you get: Space! This is a fab four bed period house with a lovely garden and summerhouse. Plus off-road parking - a real bonus.
Agent says: This beautifully presented property has been skilfully extended, spread over three levels to provide accommodation of considerable merit.
SchoolGuru says: The best of both worlds – great primary and secondary schools. Nearby Fleetville Infant & Nursery School is excellent. Plus you're well located for Verulam boys' school, which is very popular with parents, and Beaumont, which is also highly sought after. Your chances of getting places at all these schools are very good.
Read further details...
Marketed by: Collinson Hall
SchoolGuru: Where are are the hot propety areas in St Albans?
Collinson Hall: Anywhere close to a good school with easy access to the station! There are some beautiful leafy streets such as Marshals Drive and Homewood Road. Buyers also like the ‘Cathedral Quarter’ and the character of the old conservation area. The streets around Maple are always popular too.
SchoolGuru: I’d like a two bed house near the good schools. How much money will I need, so that the estate agents won’t laugh at me?
Collinson Hall: Prices are higher than the national average – but the standard of living here makes it all worthwhile. At the beginning of 2015, you could get a two bed house for £450,000, a three bed house for £550,000 and a four bed house for £700,000. One bed flats start from £180-300,000 plus. Whatever your budget, come in and see us for a chat...
11 things we ♥ about St Albans
1. Verulamium park – lovely throughout the year. We love sledging in the winter, blossom in the spring, summers at the water park, and glorious autumn leaves...
2. The mums (interesting and smart). Lots are from London.
3. Eating out – nights out at Jamie's Italian or Lussmanns... and the Bakehouse (for fab coffee and cakes)
4. Mr Simms Olde Sweet Shoppe (for space dust and cola cubes)
5. Buongiorno Italia, the Italian deli on Lattimore Road (say ciao to Tony)
6. The charity shops (Stella McCartney jeans for a fiver – hello?)
7. The spectacular firework display on bonfire night
8. The herons in Verulamium park (and then a cappuccino at Inn on the Park)
9. The revamped Westminster Lodge Leisure Centre (all new and improved, with a great pool, climbing wall and spa)
10. The Cathedral – iconic and visible for miles.
11. The wonderful new cinema, The Odyssey, where you can watch films in style (and with a drinkie!).
SchoolGuru: Are there any ‘up and coming’ areas of town that parents might consider?
Collinson Hall: There are some areas that used to be industrial and the prices were suppressed, but now there’s no industry and the prices are going up above the normal increases that you’d expect. This has happened around Camp and Fleetville, where there used to be an old Marconi site and rubber factory. The schools are very popular there too. There are also some developments on the outskirts that are starting to mature.
SchoolGuru: How much extra would you expect to pay to be near a good school?
Collinson Hall: House prices are driven by supply and demand. It’s impossible to say precisely how much extra you’d need to pay, but if there’s the demand, then the price will be higher. Also, if you’ve found a house near a good school, you'll need to move quickly. Often the ability to proceed is as important to the seller as the price. If you’re not ready, then you won’t get to the starting line.
SchoolGuru: Do houses ever fall through because parents realise that they’re not likely to get a particular school?
Collinson Hall: That can happen, yes. But not with us, as we’d never mislead people about getting into a particular school. We understand how important schools are for parents.
The lowdown on the top state schools in St Albans...
St Albans is all about the fabulous schools. The state schools are among the best in the country – with a staggering number rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted. There are great primary schools in the centre of town and nicely spread around the vicinity. The best secondary schools are located centrally and towards the north. There are very good mixed-sex and single-sex schools.
The population of the town is about 140,000. Currently just over 1,300 children apply for reception places and Year 7 (secondary school) places each year.
There has been an increased demand for primary school places in recent years but this is now steadying. Over the past five years some primaries have upped their reception intake by a class, as a one-off, to help reduce the pressure on places. This has made it harder to get into some of these schools because of the knock on effect of more siblings qualifying for places.
Demand for secondary school places is predicted to rise over the next five years. This is partly due to the recent boom in primary school children who are now growing up and reaching secondary school age.
There are too many parents chasing the very best schools, while other schools are undersubscribed. You’ll need to get your elbows out.
Want to see how hot the St Albans’ schools are? Check out the Herts Hot Lists...
1. Maple Primary School
2. Aboyne Lodge Primary School
3. St Peter’s School
4. Camp Primary and Nursery School
5. Skyswood Primary School
6. Alban City School
7. Cunningham Hill Infant School
8. Oakwood Primary School
9. Windermere JMI School
10. Bernards Heath Infant School
11. Samuel Ryder Academy
12. Fleetville Infant School
13. Abbey C of E VA Primary
14. St Michael's C of E VA Primary
15. Prae Wood Primary
This is based on the number of on time applicants per Reception place on allocation day in 2016 – data from Hertfordshire County Council
1. Beaumont School
2. Sandringham School
3. St Albans’ Girls School
4. Verulam School (boys)
5. Samuel Ryder Academy
6. Loreto College (girls, Catholic)
This is based on the number of on time applicants per Year 7 place on allocation day in 2017 – data from Hertfordshire County Council
So, I'm sold on St Albans: See the local schools here...