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 talked to local estate agents to get the lowdown on where to move to...
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: Where are are the hot propety areas in St Albans?
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?
Prices are higher than the national average – but the standard of living here makes it all worthwhile.
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?)
7. The 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 cinema, The Odyssey, where you can watch films in style).
SchoolGuru: Are there any ‘up and coming’ areas of town that parents might consider?
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?
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: Which schools do parents usually mention when they're looking for schools?
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 want 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.
SchoolGuru: Do houses ever fall through because parents realise that they’re not likely to get a particular school?
That can happen, yes.
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...
So, I'm sold on St Albans: See the local schools here...