Where are the best school catchment areas in Norfolk?
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As we near the end of term, it might seem an odd time to be thinking about the importance of school catchment areas in house buyers’ minds.
But when you take into account that the application deadline for secondary schools 2022 intake is October 31 2021, and for primary schools January 31 2022, it's easy to understand why the issue is so current.
“All estate agents will tell you that the quality of the local school is a critical factor in the desirability of an area, certainly in terms of buyers with young families,” says NDAEA chair Jan Hÿtch, who is also residential partner at Arnolds Keys.
“This is not just an issue at the start of the school year, but it’s a question we are asked throughout the year. Often Ofsted reports and reviews on education websites are taken every bit as seriously as the particulars for an individual property.”
Having asked NDAEA members some key questions about the importance of school catchment areas, and what advice they would give to sellers and buyers with families, Jan Hÿtch and Steve Pymm, director at Pymm & Co, provide some answers based on their responses.
How common is it for families to re-locate based on a school’s catchment area?
This is something which NDAEA members come across on a frequent basis.
“It’s quite common, especially with high schools, and where there are several siblings,” says Jan Hÿtch. “Parents often want to base themselves near their preferred school for convenience, and also to give the best chance of all children being awarded a place.”
Steve Pymm, director at Pymm & Co, agrees. “This is one of the most important factors when a family is considering moving,” he says.
Jan’s colleague, Katie Mountain, who is the residential branch manager at Arnolds Keys’ city office, adds: “We have had several families make the move to be closer to their preferred schools, and we have also had several teachers relocating for new jobs.”
Do good catchment areas drive up property prices?
They certainly seem to, whether it’s top private schools or state schools with flourishing reputations. “In north Norfolk we have Gresham’s School at Holt: prices are noticeably higher within walking distance of that school,” says Clive Hedges, residential branch manager at Arnolds Keys’ coastal office in Sheringham.
Jan Hÿtch cites three examples of high-performing state schools which have had the same effect on prices. “Wymondham College, and Hethersett and Ormiston Academies (each one is Ofsted rated ‘Outstanding’) are three examples where homes in catchment villages are notably higher than those slightly further away.”
Could moving to a ‘good’ catchment area futureproof your property?
“So long as the school retains its good reputation, family homes will be attractive to buy in all markets,” says Jan Hÿtch.
“However, you’d need to bear in mind that if the catchment area algorithm is changed, as it is from time to time, it could exclude an address and then the premium may be lost.”
Another point to bear in mind is that an Ofsted rating is simply a snapshot of a school at a given moment. “Schools can go down in an Ofsted report as well as up,” points out Steve Pymm.
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Where are some of the best school catchment areas in Norfolk?
Ofsted ratings are only part of the picture, with other factors such as school culture and the nature of its catchment area also playing a part in attracting parents to a particular institution.
“If you look at the website www.admissionsday.co.uk, Norfolk’s top ten include Wymondham College, Hethersett Academy, Ormiston Victory Academy, Springwood High and St Clements in the Kings Lynn area, Marshland in Wisbech, Dereham Neatherd, Hellesdon High and City of Norwich School,” says Jan Hÿtch.
“But there are others which exert a powerful pull to a particular area, from the top private schools such as Gresham’s, Norwich High and Norwich School, to outstanding primary schools in many areas.”
Steve Pymm emphasises the point by suggesting others in the Norwich area that would be on his hotspot list: “Framingham Earl/Poringland, Blofield and Avenue Road are just a few of the well-known ones in and around Norwich that have good school stats,” he says.
What is your advice to parents and families hoping to move to a new catchment area?
The two key things to bear in mind are timing and research, according to NDAEA members.
With admissions deadlines many months ahead of the start of the school year, parents can’t be certain of securing a place unless they are established in the catchment area well in advance. “If you want to move into a new school catchment area, do so at least a year prior to looking at changing schools,” advises Steve Pymm.
“The Good Schools Guide has come up with a Catchment Area Analysis System that generates a graphic snapshot of the geographical spread of addresses from which pupils have been admitted to a school,” says Jan Hÿtch.
“It is possible to see every state school’s real catchment area – the area within which pupils actually live.”
And any advice to sellers?
“The first and most obvious thing would be to make sure that the property description includes a mention of the catchment school,” says Jan Hÿtch
“But always make sure to double check that this has not changed, or you could be liable for misleading potential purchasers. Use phrases like ‘… is located within the current catchment for XXX School’, or allude to the proximity of a popular school (‘… around one kilometre or 12 minutes walk to XXX School’).
And make sure you pitch the actual property as family-friendly, advises Steve Pymm. “You have to ensure that you demonstrate that your home is usable and spacious for a family, so study and dining rooms could be used as bedrooms, for example,” Steve says.
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