How early should we register DD with independent school? - Oakham / Leys

(22 Posts)
Sharpkat Mon 10-Dec-12 16:35:02

Oh yes the holidays at Oakham are awesome. We had six weeks for Christmas one year. Term is draining as they are long days but the holidays make up for that grin

nickymanchester Sun 09-Dec-12 11:26:32

Dustylaw and LucyLight Thanks for your comments. It's these sort of personal experiences that you never get to hear about unless you actually know people with DCs in these schools.

As I mentioned above, we're thinking about weekly boarding - more for my sake rather than DD's.

However, having read a few of the pro v anti threads on here about boarding, especially full time boarding, I thought that I would have a look at how long they are actually away for.

Boy, did I get a shock shock

I can only compare it to the local secondary state schools here but I'm guessing term dates are more or less similar throughout the country.

At Oakham, the school year is 7 weeks shorter than for state schools and, if your DC is full boarding then the longest they are away for is generally three weeks at a time.

Ok, so they have school on Saturday mornings, but I don't think I'd object to having to work on Saturday mornings if I got an extra 7 weeks holiday a year smile.

So, Autumn term, they start the week following state schools

They then have 3 weeks until they get a ''leave-out'' weekend.

Then it's another 3 weeks and then they get a two week half term.

Another 3 weeks until they get a ''leave-out'' weekend.

Then, finally, 3 1/2 weeks until term ends on 12th Dec - and that's not a typo, it really does end on the 12th. State schools here don't end until the 21st.

They then have almost a month off over Christmas and go back on 7th Jan

The other terms are similar although half-terms are only a week and some of the periods they are away for are only two weeks rather than three.

Then the school year finishes on 28th June, practically a month earlier than schools here which finish on 23rd July.

So, although I still don't want DD to go full boarding, it doesn't actually sound as bad as I thought it was. I imagined her being away for months on end.

LucyLight Thu 06-Dec-12 23:35:57

Just to say - I wouldn't rule out Kings. We are not avid church goers and my dd will be going there next year having passed the exam. I was really impressed when I went to visit the school and know several families whose children go there and all speak very highly of it.
Also, I would also say that Oakham is very good and the families I know whose children attended were very happy with it. Both Kings and Oakham seem to turn out very well rounded individuals.

Dustylaw Tue 04-Dec-12 22:55:57

I can recommend The Leys - great facilities and a friendly school. You don't have to put your children's names down years in advance. Entrance at 11 and bigger cohort join at 13. Day and boarding at 11 - for those who board there's a nice, friendly junior house and at that age quite a few go home after Saturday school. Also, many of those joining at 11 come from primary schools so you don't have to go down the prep school route if you'd rather not.

nickymanchester Tue 04-Dec-12 21:36:31

Sharpkat Hi, my DH is a bit like your Dad I think. He does a similar sort of thing when we go places.

I'm quite new to MN so I haven't really sussed out how to use PM etc yet.

You've given me yet more to think about. Seriously, why isn't this sort of stuff written down somewhere?

<Hmmm, has idea for e-book by plagiarising mumsnet>

As with everyone else who's be so kind to contribute, it's your personal details about the school that have really helped me - so thanks very much for that.

By the way, how did you get on learning Russian?

We returned to the UK four years ago after we had spent three years in Moscow with DH's work.

I found learning all the different cases and when to use them so difficult. It also made me realise how little we get taught about grammar in this country - at least at comprehensive schools.

I always thought a gerund was a small furry creature smile before I started learning Russian.

And I never could pronounce the letter &#1099; properly.

Oops, that didn't come out. Looks like you can't write in cyrillic on mumsnet.

The letter I was trying to write was the one that looks like ''bi'' if you can only use English letters

nickymanchester Tue 04-Dec-12 21:20:43

kerrygrey Thanks for that. I've finally got round to giving both Oakham and The Leys a call and I'm going down to see them in a couple of weeks time.

As everybody said that they would be, the schools seemed to be quite happy with me asking really ditzy questions about everything when I spoke to them.

I've been scouring t'interweb recently and, actually, I haven't been able to find a single negative comment about Oakham. It really does seem to be one of the nicer schools out there.

kerrygrey Tue 04-Dec-12 05:22:30

I've had a DD at Oakham more recently - she's in her final year at University now. She went for 6th form as a boarder after being a day girl at an all girls school, and absolutely loved Oakham, got involved in all sorts of new things and found it far 'nicer' than the girls' school, tho' she still has friends from both. I couldn't recommend it more highly, we both wish she'd gone there earlier in her school carrerr.

Sharpkat Mon 03-Dec-12 23:25:16

Definitely agree with the point around individual guides tours. I did this with my parents at Oakham, Loughborough Girls, Nottingham Girls and Ratcliffe. My father decided straight off that co-ed was the way we were going to go as he had a rather unique approach! He sought out the cleaners and asked them what they thought of the schools and at both of the girls only he received the same answer - lots of bullying and really competitive and lots of anorexia. Not sure if it was true but the bitchiness really came over in their responses.

I did not board at Oakham but know they do everything possible to ensure pupils are not homesick and are fully involved in school life and not at all upset.

Good point made before about Saturday school - it is totally exhausting doing 8-6 most days and 8-1 on a Saturday. Does keep you occupied though. Never a dull moment and lots of fun stuff on top of lessons. The world is your oyster at Oakham. You can do so many things - I did typing, shooting, Duke of Edinburgh up to Gold (they are in Guinness Book of Records for number of gold awards) Lino printing, drama, music. You name it they offer it.

If you want to PM me am more than happy to chat or call or email.

If I had kids without a doubt they would go to Oakham. I went to a very small state school, got a scholarship to Oakham and went onto Oxford and Russian, Czech and Slovak with AAABa at A level (pre A* and outing myself here). First person in my family ever to go to Uni so they must have done something right. And my brother who was not as academic for ABB at A Level and went onto Manchester to read Finance.

Not trying to sway you but it was an awesome school and something I will treasure forever.

nickymanchester Mon 03-Dec-12 20:31:32

yotty That's a very good point - thank you

Mutteroo Thank you, yes it was very helpful. It's this sort of detail that you gave - it definitely wasn't too much - that really helps me to understand some of the issues. Why isn't there some big ''How To'' guide somewhere about how to apply to independent school to tell you all this sort of stuff?

nickymanchester Mon 03-Dec-12 20:24:21

sharpkat Thanks for that. I guess the main thing is that this is all totally new to me, so I'm being really wimpy - I'm not usually like this, honest blush.

If I did ask anything, it would be. What's it REALLY like to board when you first start?

DD1 currently wants to do it more than anything but, apart from staying with the grandparents, she's never been away from us so I do worry.

housesalehelp Mon 03-Dec-12 12:28:34

I don't have personal experience of Peterbourough schools -- further south - although someone mentioned Jack Hunt as a school they thought was doing good things in terms of teaching - I am not sure its quite what you are looking for though
There is a Mumsnet local for Peterborough and they mentioned Sawtry as having good schools -and there is a rather old thread about the Kings School

Mutteroo Mon 03-Dec-12 08:24:26

Order some prospectuses for schools you like the look of and then visit those that your git instinct says is right. I've always trusted my instincts and yes they've not always been right but as a rule its a good way to go.

Open days are good, however we've always arranged private tours so we could see the schools in action. We also had questions noted down to ask during our visits but funnily enough the questions were always answered before we even asked them! Schools are used to us first timers asking the oddest things so don't worry about that. You'll need to find out if the schools you like have pre-testing or if you need to pit your child's name down. Not all schools do this, but a fair few boys selective schools follow this rule. As for boarding, look at the boarding houses, took to the house staff. Matrons are the hub of the place (Housemasters/mistresses will argue they are), but I'd say the matrons are more aware of what goes on than any other member of staff. As for taking your DD with you? Depends on them and how old they are. You could do an initial look around various schools and then take your girls to the short listed schools?

We had DS school all sorted out until he decided at the end of year 7, (he moved year 9), that he preferred another school. This school was always oversubscribed and we were lucky that the previous HT was expanding the school and allowing extra numbers. Would not be as easy no though! DS weekly boarded and loved the first two terms then detested the rules and lack of privacy thereafter. He's now at a day pupil at a local sixth form college. An important aspect is also how the day and boarders mix. sometimes it can be hard for a days pupil for instance if they're at a school where the majority board. DD was a day girl where 75% boarded. She didn't have any issues though and enjoyed staying on after lessons to hang out with her boarding buddies. Due to DS issues, I'd suggest selecting a school with a reasonable travel time just in case your DD hates boarding and wants to be a day pupil. DS had the option of a place at his original schools or year 10 but loved everything except boarding at his chosen school so he stuck it out.

As for Oakham, its a good school by all accounts. SIL had children at Uppingham while their neighbours children went to Oakham. I believe they started in year 6 as day pupils but opted for boarding due to the amount of time traveling. Not sure if they still have Saturday school there? Consider if your 14 year old will want to be at school on Saturday? Now aged 8/9 it'll seem exciting, it won't when those hormones hit!

Above all, enjoy the process and don't stress about it too much. consider schools that are less selective as if you've a bright child they'll do we'll anywhere. There many be other things the school could offer that you feel is more important. Never feel overwhelmed by it either. There will be plenty of other first time buyers of independent education, families with heavy duty bursaries and many who scrape the money together to send their darlings to these schools. Of course you'll meet some parents and their offspring who are super rich and/or who feel anyone and everyone is beneath them.

I've gone on a bit (sorry). I hope some of what I said is helpful?

yotty Sun 02-Dec-12 16:23:32

I would advise going to visit schools without children first. Go and see a few, then pick 2 or 3 you would be happy to send your DC to, then take them to look round. Our DCs head said children will see something they like eg. chips on the lunch menu at one school but not at another and then tell you they want to go to the one with the chips. If you think the school is the right match for the child already then everyone is happy and the child will feel they have had some input into to decision making process.

Sharpkat Sun 02-Dec-12 15:35:17

I am an old Oakhamian. Might have missed Jo as I left in 1988. It is an excellent school. They did not have transitional boarding when I was there but I would have done it as we lived 45 minutes away and the long days made it tiring.

It really is an all round school and if you read the Good Schools Guide I would totally agree with their description. Although I left a long time ago and it has changed (for the better) i still go back regularly for events etc.

Really inspiring headmaster - was impressed when I met him.

Let me know if I can tell you anything else.


nickymanchester Sun 02-Dec-12 12:42:16


We've been looking at state schools as well. One that looked particularly good was Kings, Peterborough which seems to get really really good results even though it's overwhelmingly non-selective.

But then I looked at the admission criteria - written evidence of 5+ years regular church attendance shock. That's us out then.

But, seriously, if you've got any suggestions for other state schools like Kings, Peterborough - without the church requirement - then I'd definitely be interested

nickymanchester Sun 02-Dec-12 12:37:21


Thank you very much indeed for giving an insider's view. I really can't believe how helpful and giving of their time/knowledge people are on here.

If you've got the time I would seriously appreciate it if you wouldn't mind sharing how things like homesickness were dealt with for Year 7s when they first started?

This is more for my benefit really, as DD1 is so keen on the idea of boarding but I'm being a bit of a scaredy cat mum not wanting to have her disappear.

One thing that did particularly appeal to me is the ''transitional boarding'' concept they have in the Lower school to build up the number of nights boarding if they don't want to go as full boarders straight away.

nickymanchester Sun 02-Dec-12 12:27:45

Thank you so much for all your help and advice everyone. thanks

bisjo It's really nice to know that I'm not the only person going through this for the first time.

I know it's silly of me but I just imagined that everyone had either been themselves or knows somebody that did and so has at least some basic knowledge of what to do.

lonecat thanks, that's very interesting and helpful to know

housesalehelp Sat 01-Dec-12 22:34:04

just a thought - depending where you are in Cambridgeshire there some very good state schools -not grammers but much much more than bog standard - so I wouldn't rule those options out either

jo164 Sat 01-Dec-12 21:56:22

I used to teach at Oakham - approx 12 yrs ago though! I was also a resident tutor in the junior girls boarding house whilst I worked there. At that time there were 2 year 6 classes, that ran in more of a 'primary' way - in that the children had a classroom base and a main class teacher. They then had specialists for subjects such as French, PE, art, music etc. There were some yr 6 boarders in the school, but on the whole they tended to be day children. Weekly boarding was never very big when I was there - most children were either a full boarder or a day pupil. The yr 7 pupils upwards have Saturday school until midday and children can often be involved with sports matches all afternoon which for many made going home for 1 day rather pointless, unless they happened to live very close by. They did have an exeat weekend once every half term when I worked there, which is when all boarders are encouraged to go home or to a guardians/friends home. Parents/grandparents would also often come and take children out for lunch on Sundays or after sports matches, so visiting was not discouraged at all.
It is a lovely school with great facilities in a nice location, and I would recommend it to anyone. There was always lots going on for the pupils, including plenty of things at weekends for boarders.
With regards to registering - I would phone the school and speak to the Registrar - they will be able to give you some guidance, but I would be suprised if you had to do it before year 4.

Lonecatwithkitten Sat 01-Dec-12 17:16:45

Definately visit first. Friend got two DD's into The Leys years 5 and 2 with only one terms notice this September (returning from overseas). So I wouldn't stress to much.

difficultpickle Sat 01-Dec-12 15:14:34

I would give them a call and arrange a visit first before parting with any money. They will be able to give you guidance on when you need to register and what the process is. Ds is in year 4 and I've been surprised to discover that people seem to start looking at senior schools in year 4 even though he wouldn't be starting until year 9. One school even does a special open day for dcs in yrs 3 and 4.

I plan to take ds wiht me when I visit as he has very firm ideas of what he wants from his senior school. Some of the schools we will look at do pre-testing in year 6.

The only experience I have of independent schooling is the one I'm having with ds now. I've only spoken to one senior school so far and found the registrar very approachable and helpful particularly in giving guidance of what we need to do when.

nickymanchester Sat 01-Dec-12 14:46:58

I know that this question is probably like asking how long is a piece of string but no one in our family has ever been to an independent school and we don't exactly mix in the circles of those who do.

So, if you'll bear with me then I'll try and give all the details about us - at least, that I'm happy sharing anyway - that I think could be relevant and help people to give me a good answer.

Sorry if this turns into a very long post.

We're currently in Altrincham and DDs are in a very good local state school and, if we were staying here, they would hopefully make it to the local grammar.

But, we'll have to move next year with DH's job and we'll probably end up living in north Cambs somewhere. Well, along with this, his parents are now in a position to help pay for fees for our DDs education if we wanted. So, all of a sudden, a private school is now a realistic option for us.

As soon as DD1 got wind of this she suddenly decided that boarding sounded a great idea - having read far too much Hogwarts.

So, I've been looking at some schools local to where we'll be moving to and, so far, Oakham and the Leys look to be the sort of places we would be interested in.

Given that DD1 has expressed strong preference for boarding that is what we are looking for. However, interested in weekly boarding at first - more for my sake than DD's as I don't want her to just disappear. I rather like the concept at Oakham that they refer to as ''transitional boarding''.

Looking for somewhere that educationally is on a par with the local grammars where we live now but also offer lots of extra curricular stuff as well. Not looking for a ''super selective'' academic hothouse.

This isn't because I don't think that DDs are up to it, just that I feel there can be a lot more to education than just grades. I certainly survived a bog standard comprehensive and went on to a very good university. But, if I can give my DDs a much better school experience than I had then I'm certainly going to do that.

Ok, sorry for giving you my life history here. Back to the question.

DD1 is currently in Year 4 and DD2 is in year 2.

How soon do we have to register with these schools and put down deposits?

Do we register with all the schools that we are interested in or just one?

How soon should wse visit the schools and should we take DDs with us at this age?

Any other advice for somebody who has never been involved with this sort of thing before?

I will, obviously, be speaking a lot to these schools but I was really hoping that somebody could help with a sort of Dummies Guide so that I don't make a fool of myself asking them silly questions.

If you've got this far and are still reading - thanks.

ps Just noticed that Oakham also do Year 6 entry as well as Year 7 - anyone got any experience of this?

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