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messageDog Kennel Hill & Bessemer Grange
Posted by Giacomo 22 December, 2019 19:47


with the deadline for primary school admissions approaching, my partner and I are finalising the school's application list. First of all I want to say that I feel really grateful and blessed to have so many great primary schools in this area, I love East Dulwich!

Anyway, after visiting 8 (!!!) schools in the area, we have narrowed down the list to three finalists: Heber, Bessemer Grange and Dog Kennel. We are going to put Heber first in the list, but with few chances to get in, as we leave a bit too far.

Bessemer Grange and Dog Kennel also stood out after we visited them, but for very different reasons. I guess each school is different and it is not always possible to simply say which one is better.

As most head teacher said on the open days, a good indicator of which is the right school, is to feel the vibe and see which one resonates with you.

My partner and I had a different gut feeling about them, and we find ourselves very undecided about which of the two to put as a second choice, as we are very likely to get in being in both schools’ catchment area. I liked Bessemer Grange and my partner fell in love with Dog Kennel.

Below we have put our list of pros and cons for each of the schools combining our thoughts. I was wondering if anyone could give us some more insights into both, especially Dog Kennnel which I feel has way less articles in this forum respect to other schools.


Bessemer Grange PROS:
- Green all around the school and visible from class rooms
- Shared space with JAGS
- No high traffic roads and therefore good air quality
- Separate playgrounds for different age group and 5/6 year in separate building
- Very large rooms for nursery and reception
- Available space for after school club, which is run by same employee of the school and on same premises

Bessemer Grange CONS:
- Very big school, it feels a bit like a campus and not a lot like a familiar environment
- No particular focus on art and music (but I might be wrong)
- the pupils felt a bit constrained in their indoor activities due to the lack of space
- none of the teachers was mentioned to be a super star at what they doing and we were told that there is a high turnover (is this true?)


Dog kennel PROS:
- Great focus on Music and Art, they have a Music mark, and are in the process of obtaining Art mark too.
- Theatre and extra curricular activities seem amazing
- Very cozy/family feeling
- Separate building for nursery, reception and first year
- great approach to learning math
- school allotment
- second language (Spanish) taught from reception
- parents seemed to be very involved with the school activities/ found raising etc.
- Good space outside
- Impressive library and displays
- Students seemed really engaged and happy

Dog kennel CONS:
- Indoor space for reception looked a bit small respect to Bessemer Grange
- Location is not ideal as it is a bit far from ED shops and amenities
- Close to a main road
- No space in after school for 4 years old, they are trying to get an external provision to run it, but not sure yet

Thanks a lot!!!


messageRe: Dog Kennel Hill & Bessemer Grange
Posted by hammerman 22 December, 2019 23:33

I'm surprised that Bessemer Grange is classed as being in East Dulwich.

It has a SE5 postcode and has always covered the Denmark Hill Estate, Sunray Estate, Camberwell and Brixton areas but I guess things change as the school enlarged considerably a few years ago to cover wider areas for some reason.

Just wondering why you would put Dog Kennel Hill school in your cons section as not being near a shop or anywhere else?

messageRe: Dog Kennel Hill & Bessemer Grange
Posted by DuncanW 23 December, 2019 11:12

Hi there,

We have had two children at Bessemer, one still there. So can give you my feedback on that that school, but can’t really make any comparisons with the other two.

Firstly, I believe you are correct in saying all the schools round here are very good, also that if you live in catchment for BG and DKH, you are unlikely to get allocated Heber.

Bessemer is a fantastic school with impressive leadership, amazing staff and a great pupil, parent/carer community. It has generous inside space and as you note, separate playgrounds for different age groups as well as regular access to the JAGS’s playing fields. They also have a lovely nature garden with chickens, and a new 3G football pitch.

Regarding your list of pros and specifically cons:

It is a big school, but it really does not feel overwhelming at all and the split campus with yrs 5&6 in a different building over the road helps.
They do a reasonable amount of art and music. When our eldest was in year 4, the whole year learnt woodwind instruments and got to play in a concert at the Royal Festival Hall. I would imagine there are schools that do more in these areas.
There are some superstar teachers there, without a doubt.

It sounds like you have done a lot of research and have clear ideas as to what you are looking for, so I am sure you will make a good decision that is right for your family.

@Hammerhead – Bessemer Grange is located in SE5 but the ‘catchment’ covers parts of East Dulwich.


messageRe: Dog Kennel Hill & Bessemer Grange
Posted by Soylent Green 24 December, 2019 18:35

One thing you have not mentioned is where you live in relation to these schools, which is key to getting a place, but also you need to think about your walk to school in the morning. When we were looking many years ago, we were between Heber and DKH and were told we would be lucky to get a place at either. You have space for 5 schools in your form, so put these down as 1, 2, and 3, and then add your closest schools as 4 and 5.

messageRe: Dog Kennel Hill & Bessemer Grange
Posted by edanna January 02, 05:03PM

I can give you feedback on Bessemer but not DKH like DuncanW. In total I have 7 years’ experience of the school - my son left year 6 last summer and my daughter is currently in year 5. It’s a great school for all the reasons you and others have said.

It is quite a big school but many local schools are 3-form entry and it’s never felt over-big to me or to my kids who have never known anything else. Because of the different playgrounds, children are only outside with their year and one other year (either above or below). There are also advantages to a bigger school - eg having 3 or(in years 5 and 6) 4 different groups for maths based on ability. More kids also mean a greater chance of your child hitting it off with others.

Re art and music, they do some wonderful artwork, plus fantastic costumes and papier-mâché objects for the summer carnival (before the whole school including teachers perform a dance). One of the assistant heads is very talented artistically and has a lot of theatre contacts - trips to the Unicorn theatre are a fairly regular occurrence and they do some other great trips too. Re music, my daughter was taught clarinet with her class last year (free of charge) by visiting teachers from Southwark Music Service. There is also a fantastic new teacher who leads the choir. It may not be the most musical school but my kids have learnt songs and different instruments throughout their time there.

I’m not sure what you mean about being constrained in internal activities - the classrooms are all a great size and for ‘golden time’ they go into other classrooms for their chosen activity. There are also two good-sized halls.

There are many amazing teachers and teaching assistants and other staff. I don’t think there is a high turnover at all. The leadership team have mainly been there for several years if not longer. And in my children’s time there have been some brilliant class teachers that have been promoted to phase leaders. The school seems to be good at retaining staff after they have babies - their children can go to the on-site nursery, which does full working hours. I really admire this policy. My kids have also been going to breakfast and after school club since reception and I can’t tell you how helpful that has been for us as working parents.

So clearly I’m biased. I really agree with the gut feeling - can you visit both Bessemer and DKH again before the deadline? Good luck with your decision.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit was january 02, 05:23pm by edanna.

messageRe: Dog Kennel Hill & Bessemer Grange
Posted by tiddles January 02, 07:50PM

Use all the choices on your form. If there are no places at your preferred school you will be allocated whatever has a
Place. Remember you are expressing a preference - you are not being given a choice.

Very best of luck - we are very lucky to so many lovely schools here.

messageRe: Dog Kennel Hill & Bessemer Grange
Posted by gebbjane January 02, 10:51PM

I’ll sing the praises of DKH I have two kids there and for us we have found it a lovely welcoming diverse school community and our children are very happy there. As you mention the music and arts provision are fantastic. Margaret who runs the music department is a superstar and the range and different types of music taught in both lessons and through extra curricular activities is fantastic. My daughter is currently in the brass band and learning steel pans (both of which are free making it a very inclusive school with opportunities for all), whilst my son dreams about being a rock star and is having drumming lessons and rock guitar through school. They have plenty of opportunities of playing at various venues and with orchestras across London as well. And I am always so amazed at the standard of the artwork around the school and we now have an annual arts week.

We have the fortunate position of being located opposite Letsom gardens and the new head is keen on putting a bigger focus on outside learning, she has brought back forest school which was previously scrapped due to lack of funds.

It did go through a difficult few years with changes of head and then deciding on joining a federation with Rotherhithe primary. But the head of school is now in her 2nd year and has now found her way. I like that the SMT are very visible and approachable every morning when dropping off the kids.

In terms of location I think it is in a great location with just a 5 minute walk to either East Dulwich or Denmark Hill stations to get into work and across the road from the wonderful DKH adventure playground or letsom again for afterschool playtimes with friends.

I don’t use the wrap around care provision but do know this is currently being changed so maybe will have provision for reception children.

Any other questions please pm me.

messageRe: Dog Kennel Hill & Bessemer Grange
Posted by Giacomo January 05, 04:30PM


thanks a lot for your replies and feedbacks. They have been very useful. We decided to put DKH before BG in our list, hopefully for the best. I'm sure we would be happy in both.

Thanks again and Happy new year!


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