Which boarding school? Cothill, Windlesham, Ashdown House, Dragon, Woodcote House?

(47 Posts)
Mumindoha Fri 16-Nov-12 14:25:34

We are expats about to send DS (Year 5) back to UK for boarding and so we need a school that doesn't empty at weekends. As we are going to be so far away the priority is a home-from-home feel, and a school that will get him through CE and to Radley or Harrow, perhaps Eton. Advice or comments on these 5 schools?

grovel Fri 16-Nov-12 16:46:58

I mentioned Woodcote on the other thread.

I admit that I may be a bit out-of-date (5 years since my DS left Lambrook). I loved going there for sport. A really nice feel. Happy boys with good relationships with the staff.

Back then they had loads of full boarders - the school was once a favourite with army parents because of proximity to Heathrow, Sandhurst etc. The army are paying for less and less now. The extra sense of being a home-from-home was really important for army children and Woodcote excelled at it. I sensed that ethos was still there.

But things change.

happygardening Fri 16-Nov-12 17:02:05

According to the girl I work with whose DS goes to Dragon not many boarders now primarily day.
Lots of children from abroad at Windlesham with coaches etc to Gatwick and a super homely atmosphere.

goinggetstough Fri 16-Nov-12 17:18:34

Agree with HG about Windlesham. Worth googling mumsnet about Windlesham as there have been a number of threads about it. It does have a high number of full boarders and great pastoral care. It's scholarship record is impressive too. There have been 2 Kings scholars at Eton in the past few years. They seem to get a variety of scholarships which include drama, sport and music as well as academic. Music is very important and most DCs learn an instrument.
Woodcote too is very homely. It is much smaller than Windlesham and has a family atmosphere. The only criticism I have heard is that it is too homely and the shock of senior school makes the transition difficult for some.

dogsbreath Fri 16-Nov-12 17:28:30

DS at Summer Fields (Oxford) and really enjoying himself. Good pace, two-thirds boarding, teaching v good. All boys. Reasonable number getting into E, W and H (Radley too).

Copthallresident Fri 16-Nov-12 18:00:07


Having been an expat I am/have been UK Guardian to some expat DDs, most have now left or are in senior boarding schools. However Ashdown House seems to be a very popular choice for expats, along with Port Regis which you don't mention. It is I think an advantage if there are other expat children there if only for company on the Heathrow run, and at the hands of the witches "child loving" ground staff they put in charge of UMs.

I would worry about the term in France that would happen in Year 7 at Cothill for the reasons I posted in another thread. I have not quite realised the Chateau was owned and run by Cothill which complicates still further it's ability to respond if your child has problems with the DSs from another school, which is also it's customer. You would obviously not be in a position to drive through the night through France to rescue your DS from a very traumatic situation as a family I know had to do.

booface Fri 16-Nov-12 18:04:05

I have a friend who has children at Windlesham. From what I have heard their pastoral care is amazing. They have gone way above and beyond what you might expect in a particular need. Seem academically very strong. Sorry, I have no experience of the other ones.

Mumindoha Fri 16-Nov-12 18:31:47

Thanks everyone.

Copthall I believe that Ashdown House pupils also go to the chateau now as the school is part of the Cothill Trust. Are there problems that you know of at the chateau?

I keep on hearing fabulous things about Windlesham, not heard a negative comment yet.

Copthallresident Fri 16-Nov-12 18:52:53

Mumindoha I don't want to say too much since it wasn't my DS and I wouldn't want to risk it getting raked up for them.

However it was an incident of quite exceptionally unacceptable bullying by boys from another school and it was not spotted despite the deep psychological damage being done, nor in the end did Cothill respond in a way that made it possible to leave the DS there. The nature of the bullying makes it quite clear that the boys concerned were themselves deeply disturbed or at the very least were unacquainted with any sort of acceptable norms for behaviour towards others. One would hope that their Prep were already aware of that and would therefore have been in a position to manage the situation a lot better. I cannot say whether Cothill learned from the experience, stopped taking the other Prep there etc. but as a parent I would ask questions about the processes now in place, and which other schools will be at the chateau along with your own. As I said on the other thread as parents you spend a lot of time choosing a Prep based on whether the culture and type of DCs there will suit your child, and in this situation you have no power over the other pupils your DS may be sharing the Chateau with. Having said that these boys were about as far removed from the sort of DCs who I have know at Ashdown as would be possible!

RustyBear Fri 16-Nov-12 19:00:24

My BIL is a diplomat and my two nephews were at Windlesham (though a few years ago now) and both loved it. I visited a few times and was very impressed.

EBDTeacher Fri 16-Nov-12 19:10:01

grovel I think Lambrook has very few full borders now (sending DS there, glad to hear good things about it!). They had a very recent boarding inspection and I think the number of full boarders was listed as less than 10.

OP, what about the schools that are entirely boarding? Horris Hill or Sunningdale maybe?

EBDTeacher Fri 16-Nov-12 19:14:30

I also loved Caldicott when I looked round and it's compulsory boarding in 7 & 8, although I suspect it does thin out at the weekends. The weekend programme of activities sounded great though and the have a pretty awesome reputation for entry into top senior schools.

PeriPathetic Sat 17-Nov-12 10:45:33

I'm also in a similar position & have been recommended Windlesham. I'm actually going on a visit in a couple of weeks to check it out <nervous>.

I know a couple of other expat families who currently have their children there and neither have a bad word to say about it.

happygardening Sat 17-Nov-12 11:12:24

I think HH is weekly and full boarding could be wrong.

EBDTeacher Sat 17-Nov-12 11:32:02

Actually I just looked at the website and HH takes day boys. Swear they didn't used to!

Mumindoha Sat 17-Nov-12 16:27:43

Thank you everyone for advice. The fact that there are expat families at Windlesham is interesting, as well as other positive comments on the site

Mutteroo Sun 18-Nov-12 00:50:59

DS had friends at his senior school who went to Windlesham. Great school with an impressive local reputation. Used to be a full boarding school but now takes day pupils. Still largely boarding.

BCBG Sun 18-Nov-12 00:56:31

Wellesley House in Broadstairs. fabulous small prep punching far above its weight (see Tatler Guide) and pastoral support is second to none. Expat and services children there too. Strong feeder to Eton, Harrow etc plus all the usual senior schools

TinTin1234 Sun 18-Nov-12 07:58:42

Hi there,

First post, but hopefully something that may help. We are also in your situation We attended the Independent Schools show in London last weekend. A friend of mine told me to go, and all the schools you mentioned were there.

From the outset I had a clear criteria in mind. 1. Must have lots of boarders at the weekends- none of this everyone goes home on Saturday! 2. Good scholarship results and varied selection of feeder schools. 3. Caring staff and strong pastoral care.

What was really interesting was some school stands were extremely 'quiet', but the one which had the most interest was Windlesham House. By chance, my hb met some of his work colleagues at the stand and they were raving about the school in particular the friendly atmosphere.

We narrowed down our choice to 4 schools and visited them this week. Ludgrove was not for us..just not the right feel.
Dragon..lovely school..but stuck in the middle of the city.
Port Regis...amazing facilities, but few weekend boarders.
Windlesham House...loved it! All the reviews on here were very accurate. Lovely feel, lots of boarders at weekends, friendly staff and only 20 minutes from Gatwick Airport!

Booked both my sons in for two nights of trial boarding and they loved it and wanted to stay and not go back to their school in HK!

So there you have it, Windlesham House it is for us!

Thewomanwithnoname Sun 18-Nov-12 11:20:13

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Mumindoha Sun 18-Nov-12 18:03:56

TinTin you are confirming all I have heard about Windlesham it sounds ideal for us. We will definitely be contacting them and visiting.
Thanks everyone

TinTin1234 Sun 18-Nov-12 20:19:10

Enjoy your tour of Windlesham House. The Headmaster started the tour and then just walked into a classroom and asked two children to continue it. He then encouraged us to ask them any questions we wanted on the tour. The children were delightful and told us everything we wanted to know. It was so funny!

We were going to look at Ashdown House, but we found out that the Head is leaving at Christmas. his deputy is taking over and then leaving in the summer. Not a happy ship!

BCBG Mon 19-Nov-12 17:29:39

Well each to his own, but four of ours have gone through Wellesley (one still there, full boarding very happily) and one with excellent Academic Scholarship to senior school.

goinggetstough Mon 19-Nov-12 17:52:00

BCBG congratulations on your DC's academic scholarship. As you have DC at Wellesley can I ask about the full boarders. In the inspection report 2011 it says there are 38 full boarders. Do you know if they are evenly spread across the years from 7 - 13 years or do they tend to be concentrated in the last 2 years? Thank you.

Thewomanwithnoname Mon 19-Nov-12 18:08:37

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blameitonthecaffeine Mon 19-Nov-12 19:40:19

Have also heard great things about Windlesham.

In the home counties area you might also want to look at
Winchester House,
Swanbourne House
Eagle House.
I have friends with children who board at all three of these schools and love them.

BCBG Mon 19-Nov-12 19:56:50

goinggetstough full boarders are spread from years 5-8 but with greater concentration in the last two (CE) years as some children prefer the flexible approach and are allowed to build up at their own pace, For example one of mine wanted to fb from the beginning and did, another took a couple of terms to build up the confidence. We loved the fact that the school supported her to go at her own pace. It was a great build up to full boarding at her senior school and she has never looked back. She wrote to the school after she left (unknown to us) to say that they had been the best days of her life! no comment on me as a parent grin .

BCBG Wed 21-Nov-12 18:31:51

Sorry, should also have said that there are many more full boarders than the 38 official tally, as most of us like to register our DC as weekly boarders so that we have the option if we want to, but in practice, most of them stay in on the weekends! grin.

difficultpickle Wed 21-Nov-12 21:12:48

Eagle House is a feeder for Wellington (it is in their grounds) and attracts those who are keen for their dcs to go on to Wellington.

aroomofonesown Fri 23-Nov-12 20:13:12

Hello Mumindoha. I am also Middle East expat mother with DS who started at Windlesham House in Year 7. Here is link to an earlier trail from when I was looking for a suitable boarding prep which you may find of interest: www.mumsnet.com/Talk/education/1224493-Port-Regis-Windlesham-House/AllOnOnePage I cannot rate Windlesham and its employees highly enough; academic and support staff are fantastic across the board. This is an extremely professional outfit with a lovely atmosphere, lovely pupils and parents, and a really kind and friendly feel. A big appeal for us was having decent numbers of pupils in school at the weekend. My DS, who had not previously full-boarded, has been very happy there. Do PM me if you would like any other details.

Mumindoha Wed 28-Nov-12 17:19:41

Thank you so much to everyone who has posted really useful advice. It's so hard to get objective opinions on the net - this is the place though!

Bunnyhop2013 Thu 10-Jan-13 08:45:11

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SuiGeneris Fri 11-Jan-13 21:31:42

What happened, Bunnyhop?

Bunnyhop2013 Mon 14-Jan-13 00:46:56

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anabellee Wed 27-Feb-13 14:17:48

Please does anyone have thoughts on Wellesley house school and on Sandroyd school. Trying to find a very good co-ed prep for my DS and DD. Must have is fantastic pastoral care, good CE and schilarship record. Sports and Music must be big. Wellesley is logistically better but I wonder wehre children go on to after.

grovel Wed 27-Feb-13 14:23:11

anabellee, can I suggest you start a new thread with both schools in the title thread? You'll get more traction.

DumSpiroSpero Thu 28-Feb-13 14:18:45

Lovely to see lots of positive comments about Windlesham House.

My DH used to work there - it was a lovely place. smile

4happyhours Tue 12-Mar-13 22:20:37

I can heartily recommend The Elms near Malvern as excellent prep for co-ed, strong pastorally, excellent preparation for CE in the big schools.

Buttercup38 Wed 03-Apr-13 18:53:07

I toured Windlesham and was very impressed - with staff and students. It's a serious contender in our search for a Prep School

TinTin1234 Fri 05-Apr-13 18:40:23

Hi Buttercup38,

My two DS joined Windlesham in September( After a lot of research). I also spent time looking through Mumsnet. The advice was good and honest!

My DS never boarded before but they just love it. You are right...Windlesham has really lovely staff. Even though they have over 200 full boarders, they still seem to have time for everyone and really know your child.

We are very happy there. Please feel free to message me.

withep Wed 10-Apr-13 15:32:12

Please be careful if you are deciding on any of the schools under the Cothill Trust umbrella.
We are a small independent school in Brighton that was aquired by the Cothill Trust, which took over the running of the school in Sept 2012.

They have now decided to close the school and sell off the assets, leaving 150 children to find alternative arrangements and they are not helping in the search for new schools. The reason for this is that the cothill trust is not viable anymore and the schools under the Cothill Trust banner are hanging on by a thread - it looks as though other schools within the trust could be up for closure in the not to distant future.

Hanjam Sat 04-May-13 17:59:48

Hi mumindoha - we too are living in Doha and are considering Windlesham for our child. It would be interesting to know whether you have decided to send your son there....many thanks

lovelazysundays Sat 25-May-13 22:02:40

hanjam.... have you considered ashdown? lovely school popular with expats from dubai.

TinTin1234 Wed 29-May-13 19:44:09

We also looked at Ashdown..but it is part of the Cothill Trust. I understand the Trust are under a lot of pressure as numbers in their schools are not what they could be. They are shutting St.Aubyns near Brighton.

We are also from Dubai..chose Windlesham House. Lots of information about this school on the site. Our DS are very happy there. lots of Expats!

Mum0579 Sat 15-Jun-13 20:55:01

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Tatie23 Wed 26-Jun-13 13:56:27

I was an overseas boarder myself and although mine are not was aware of those requirements when looking for schools. I cannot speak too highly of Ashdown House there is a really good mix of overseas, London based and country based children. To me and I've had one child through and another still there it has been a magical and extremely happy experience for both parents and children. Children do flourish there and there is an dedicated team of staff who get them into their first choice schools whilst amazingly letting them have a really fun time too. An incredible contrast to the children I see of the same age in London where it seems school life is solely driven by academic achievement. My advise would be to go and see the schools, my list was the same as yours and it came down to gut reaction and it was definitely definitely the right choice. Haydon Moore having previously been deputy head is the now headmaster with his wife Annie and as a parent I would not hesitate in sending my child there to be under their care.

lovebeanie Fri 02-Aug-13 12:08:41

I have just found this conversation, and would love to hear some further thoughts on Ashdown House. We are trying to make the difficult decision of which school to send our son to, and we have Ashdown House as a possibility. However what are the latest thoughts on the Cothill Trust, I would be most grateful for anyone's input.

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