If you were choosing between Rugby and Oundle for 2016 entry, which would you choose and why?

(55 Posts)

Just that really - deliberately not being too specific about our own criteria, but wanted as much of a cross section of opinion as possible. Having crossed Winchester off the list after visiting (great for some, I am sure - but not for us and just could not imagine DC1 being happy there), it now looks likely to come down to one of these two...


(possibly worth adding that DC1 would be going for a scholarship and according to current head would stand a very good chance of success at either)

grovel Wed 23-Jan-13 13:23:38

Oundle (based on a tiny sample of Rugby parents who are not happy).

thekingfisher Wed 23-Jan-13 13:26:24

Lots of my friends kids are at Oundle ( well may be a couple...) anyway consensus is very positive, good pastoral care, nice rounded young people coming out as far as I can see.
Unf no exp of Rugby...

BadgerB Wed 23-Jan-13 13:35:29

Have a look at Oakham

happygardening Wed 23-Jan-13 13:43:42

We've have friends who have/had children at both all seem happy I think Oundle has more day children and is bigger.

Thanks, all. Oakham is not one that had come up in any conversations - I shall have a look.

DC would be boarding at either.

happygardening Wed 23-Jan-13 13:52:29

Meant to say someone we know had boys at Rugby and Winchester you'll be relieved to know that they are completely different!

propatria Wed 23-Jan-13 14:52:37

Oakham has until very recently been seen very much as the poor relation in comparison to Uppingham and Oundle, its bumbled along in total obscurity for a fair old time but now it seems to have a lot of advocates ,like say Brighton College its very much flavour of the month,will it be in five,ten years time..personally I doubt it,Oundle and Rugby have proved themselves over the years and Im sure will continue to do so.
The Rugby/Oundle question is interesting,we know someone with a dd who had to make exactly the same choice,in the end it came down to what they thought was better pastoral care at Oundle, a feeling girls more integrated and the fact that Rugby as a town is....well....not as pleasant as Oundle(polite version)

kerrygrey Wed 23-Jan-13 15:32:39

We have personal experience of Oakham fairly recently - DD currently at Uni. We couldn't recommend it more highly, did wonders for our bright-but-lazy DD.
They have an open morning on 2nd Feb. Go along and see.
Disclaimer: I don't work for Oakham - just happen to know a family who are going then

kerrygrey Wed 23-Jan-13 15:35:54

Oh, and Oakham has a railway station, very useful for exeat weekends. Probably Rugby has too, but not Oundle

Rosevase Wed 23-Jan-13 19:10:17

Girl or boy?

And without your individual criteria, it's very hard to say as the school ought to suit your child, no? Music/sport/art/academic? What's important to you/your child?

Fwiw, I'd send a boy to rugby but not a girl. .

happygardening Wed 23-Jan-13 20:04:11

Its the nuts and bolts you need to find out about. Look at sports offered does your DC have a niche sport is it available at both schools how often can your DC actually do it and too what level or for example is rugby compulsory five days a week come hell or high water great for rugby nuts but not rugby haters. What about house matrons are they resident and available 24 hours a day 7 days a week or non resident Mon - Frid 9-5 I personally think the former is the only way it should be. What about options at Winchester you chose a third language before starting and without knowing which one you like or have any aptitude for. Is there drama in the curriculum at both or is it an extra curricular activity if it matters ask same with music. What about house masters is there one you like? Another thing at Winchester no going home early at the end of term etc not all schools are this rigid if this matters to you ask. Also look up number of exeats. Other things to consider if your DS is unwell are you expected to take him home for a few days you might find this tedious or are you allowed to decide to bring your DS home if unwell or does the school decide if he can go home or do they take him to hospital eg A and E or xrays etc or you are if near enough are you likely to be asked do you mind? IME it's these little things that can make or break how happy you and your DC are with a school. We're non hovering slack and suprisingly compliant ( out of character) parents so if for example the school says our DS cant come home at the end of term a day early or go the their great grandmothers 110 th birthday on a Saturday evening not that we've ever needed to ask we just go along with it some may find it annoying.
Also look at what the pupils can do in their time can they go into town, do they have to wear uniform are they restricted where they go? Some schools breathalyse older children when they go out to pubs etc and do random drug tests do you mind about this and in fact think its a good idea or over kill. Are you liberal if yes and one is more liberal than the other choose that one.

goinggetstough Wed 23-Jan-13 20:21:49

We have friends at both schools. I believe that Oundle may have a higher CE pass mark. Once in it is a very competitive school in every sense eg academic, arts, music sport. This is not necessarily a negative. My DD would thrive here. They get a large number to Oxford and Cambridge each year. They list the Colleges and subjects on their website - this may or may not be important to you.

Our other friends had two DS at Rugby and they have both left now. They are charming, polite boys who both reached their academic potential eg one was a straight A student and the other obtained a more average score. Possibly Rugby has a wider ability range but this may have changed in the last few years. This family were very impressed with the pastoral care here. The matrons were very caring.

Thanks all for the really useful input. Definite food for thought.

OK, so having got some unfiltered opinions, some more specifics:

Very academic. Maths and sciences especially so, but was top in 10/12 subjects last year.
Not lazy - but too far the other way (perfectionist with high expectations who stresses himself out)
Rugby nut - but a forward, so big and strong but not fast, and hates 'speed' sports like football - I suspect he will suit rowing but he has never tried it.
Needs strong pastoral care. He gets desperately homesick (but is choosing boarding with eyes reasonably open - most of his friends board at current school) and he panics easily - so points well made about resident matrons.

That's about it, really - clearly, given that we are talking about 2016 entry, he may be a very different person by then but we need to make decisions now, albeit not completely binding ones confused

Oh yes - music too. Piano and choir ATM - not child prodigy by any stretch of the imagination, but he likes it and has near perfect pitch (but is an alto, so not classic choirboy material).

happygardening Wed 23-Jan-13 22:19:23

Curious to know you rejected Winchester?

was there a 'why' in there happygardening grin?

Winchester - just didn't feel right, from the moment we arrived. On paper, it should have been a good fit (apart from the rugby thing) but somehow every single thing we saw and heard rubbed DH and I up the wrong way. As I said, I am sure it is great for a lot of people, and I do get that it should be a good fit for DS, but I could not even begin to imagine him there in the same way I could at Oundle.

PowerPants Wed 23-Jan-13 23:08:13

Have you looked at Canford? Or is that too far for you?

Canford and Oakham - hey, you're supposed to be narrowing down my choices, not expanding them wink

PowerPants Wed 23-Jan-13 23:43:40

You're right! I got carried away...

Only thing I know about Oakham was they had an excellent chess facility years back. Which doesn't really help you grin

Your ds sounds lovely, stealth, am sure he will do brilliantly at either Oundle or Rugby.

happygardening Thu 24-Jan-13 07:23:35

Stealth no why just curious. I take it you went and looked at it on the open day. We first looked at Winchester on the open day we went with very high expectations having been told by those in the know what a perfect fit it was going to be for my DS. Frankly we came away very under whelmed. But
we had already long standing appointments to meet three HM's and it just seemed rude to cancel as they'd gone out of their way to accomadate as on the same day because at the time we lived much further away. If we hadn't had these appointments I doubt we would have taken it any further. In fact we carried on dithering about it right up until the September of the year before he was due to start. Unlike Eton which IMO rams its qualities/strengths down you throat or St Paul's which although not exactly ramming them down your throat you'd have to be pretty stupid not to see what it's all about Winchester is again only IMO harder to see what makes it tick/what makes it different and therefore what would make it a "good fit" for our DS's.

HG - no, we didn't see it on an open day at all (we couldn't make it) - we met 2 house masters (one is a governor at DS's current school) and were given a tour. It wasn't facilities or curriculum or anything you could put a finger on which was "wrong" - just pure gut feeling, but a very strong one.

mimmymouse Thu 24-Jan-13 07:35:20

We have numerous family members who have been to (and one still at) Rugby. They have all done very well - all academic, all to Cambridge or medical school and, this might be crucial for your DS, all extremely musical. Rugby have a great music programme. The choir are very, very good. Hope this helps.

happygardening Thu 24-Jan-13 07:54:00

Stealth I can understand where your coming from and I certainly don't believe Winchester is right for all very bright boys.
Another practicality to think about sorry to be boring but IME experience these are important are travelling look into public transport links to where you live, does either school provide it's own transport to London (very useful if you live there) or even the nearest main line station, where do most of pare hildre. come from useful for lift shares metting up in the hoidays etc. I have it in my head maybe incorrectly that lots of Oundle children come from London less so Rugby.

happygardening Thu 24-Jan-13 08:22:53

More practicalities! Oundle is a small town (just looked it up) about the same size as mine, Rugby is very much bigger. My DS likes being at school in Winchester becasue its a contrast to where we live more to do at weekend, more for you to do if you go there (very useful) and more anonymity for your DC's could be good depending on your point of view. Also if you and you DS really like these two schools and you feel that both would also be right for any other DC's I wouldn't look at others otherwise your both just going to find it even harder to decide remember choice is not necessarily freedom!

Interestingly, I was coming at that same issue from a different angle. Even Oundle is a positive metropolis compared to where we live, so I was actually thinking that a small town would be a more gentle step into the big wide world than a large one. Of course, by the time he is 15, DS might well loathe me for thinking that and be longing for the big smoke.

Another good point about other parents for shared logistics. I do know of one other fairly local family considering one of the two.

propatria Thu 24-Jan-13 09:30:13

Oundle has always been very strong in sciences, both good Rugby schools-Oundle over the years prob has edge,both are candidates for top coed school in uk.
Canford isnt in the same class,be that academic, sporting or anything else,add in the fact that its not really a true boarding school and you can save yourself a trip to Dorset,if you want to stay in Midlands then have a look at Repton and Uppingham.

happygardening Thu 24-Jan-13 09:47:24

Most of Winchester parents live in London/home counties, we don't. If my DS wishes to meet up with a friend I have to either drive 25 miles to the nearest station and then he'd have to take at least two trains or drive him I suspect as he gets older this is going to become increasingly dull. We live just under1 1/2 hours away no public transport or at last none of any use this means he rarely comes home on Sunday because who wants to spend 6 hours driving "shared logistics" might make a difference to us and him. Not the end of the world and the positive things far out weigh this negatives but if in your case so many other things are equal definitely something to think about.
Is Rugby all full boarding? Is this what you want? Its better if you live too far away to take him home at weekends but more restrictive. Does Oundle offer weekly boarding if your DS has not boarded before and you live close enough would he and you be more comfortable with this?
Lets face it theres probably little difference between the two of them both are equally good hence your struggling to decide which one to choose its these things little that IMO make all the difference.

Thanks again, all. The net result of all your great advice and all my research and pondering is...

...we have decided not to choose yet hmm

We will pay the registration fee for Oundle (Rugby don't want/need one yet) and take DS to look at both again nearer the time. A lot can and will change between now and 2016, and there is not enough to call between the two to decide now.

PowerPants Thu 24-Jan-13 22:34:13

propatria - why is Canford not a true boarding school? Not having a go, as I have no idea, just intrigued.

stealth - inspired by this thread am now looking at Rugby and Oundle, had not considered them before. Good luck.

happygardening Thu 24-Jan-13 22:53:40

Canford is a weekly boarding that's what propatria means.

PowerPants Thu 24-Jan-13 23:55:17

Ah, OK, I get it. Thanks Happy.

Amber2 Fri 25-Jan-13 10:18:47


Glad you asked the qeustions of Stealth re Winchester ...I was wondering the same...I will be doing a tour of both W and Eton but keeping an open mind - don't know if it will suit DS or not, whether they will consider him a good fit or not , and whether he will go for day or boarding ...but I had the same feeling as Stealth th on another senior school, but just couldn't put my finger on it ...I guess it's all subjective. Unfortunately, I don't think we will make up our minds on teh day vs boarding for another couple of years which means quite a few tours and possibly registrations.

Amber2 Fri 25-Jan-13 10:26:37

So far I have three day schools and three boarding on my radar to look at ...but registering for all of them seems excessive ...and all of them are super selective so perhaps I need an insurance one. I am just wondering on timing ...and how feasible it woudl be to actually hold. What I am finding is, getting under the PR facade or mystique is difficult ... I am not sure you really know teh ethos until you join.

I also wondered how feasible it is to hold an offer from more than one or two senior schools after 11+ pretest.

Happy - ...and when you first met the housemasters was it like a two way interview?

I am not planning on holding both indefinitely,FWIW, just for a year. We may also end up with a day option but there are only 2 practical options there, and I am told that I could leave it until the week before scholarship exams to "register" with either, so that's not on my "urgent" list for quite some time.

yotty Fri 25-Jan-13 11:07:47

Canford is not a weekly boarding school. It has full boarders and day pupils, with the majority being boarders. It has Saturday morning school and matches on Saturday afternoon, except for about 5 weekends a year when there is an exeat. They have about 5 weekends a year which are closed weekends where no boarders are allowed home. It says on their website that pupils are expected to be at school more weekends than not. However, from anecdotal evidence the school does empty out from Saturday after matches if it is not a closed weekend. Weekly boarding to me means leaving school on Friday and not returning until Sunday evening or Monday morning, which is what I did for a few years and loved it. However, I always felt sorry for the full boarders because the weekend was pretty boring.

happygardening Fri 25-Jan-13 11:23:43

Amber not sure what you mean by a two way interview? The first time we went without DS (who was 9 at the time) as we lived quite a way a way and if we didn't like any of them it seemed easier for us to eliminate them. One was definitely not for us so then we took DS back to meet the other two. Both were very good and it was an impossible decision. The first time we met them we talked to them, listened the most important thing to their approach to the boys, their interests, general ethos we didn't go with a list of questions just let them talk about how their house works. It was the little things/comments that eventually swayed our decision. You and your DS have got to like your HM at Winchester he is a very important person in your DS's life. We are no nonsense non pretentious say it as it is people and our HM is the same. I feel that I can talk to him if there was a problem and he would do everything to sort it out. A couple of minor things have cropped up in our family; sick elderly relatives etc and he has been excellent and reacted in the same way I would have done. From his comments on my DS's report he seems to know and understand him well. So for us its a perfect fit. My DS also has a tutor who he meets with once a week I've never met her or felt any need to contact her in the event of a problem the HM would always be my first port of call.
We only registered my DS for two super selective and we were advised by our prep school head that as both interviewed in yr 6 if we didn't get a place we would have plenty of time to find a fall back although admittedly it would have been a scholarship into somewhere. We were lucky at got both with 3 days of each other.
You are right its not until your actually at the school do you really know what the ethos is and whether it will suit you and your DS. This is why I write about my experiences because these are the things that you don't know till your in the door. I don't care that they cant come home a few days early at half term etc but a friend at another well known school said she wouldn't want to be so tied. I don't want to be overly involved (maybe Im a crap parent) I doubt I've sent more than 4 emails in 18 months and only that number because of the elderly sick family member. My DS needs to sort things out for himself or with help from the school but again friends with children boarding said they would hate this. I feel Winchester is actually very liberal and not petty when it comes to the individual boys, we're very liberals (perhaps liberal is another word for slack) so it suit us. I know of another very well known school that is very restrictive and petty frankly it would drive me round the bend. Winchester in a lot of ways is old fashioned unlike St Paul's are other option but now I've surprised myself and rather like it. But its not for everyone or every bright boy I really believe as parents if we're happy then our children are likely to be happy. When I fell out of love with my DS's prep school partly becasue he was unhappy its a chicken and egg situation he then knowing how I felt became really really unhappy, you start working against the school and it all goes very pear shaped.
My DS is being allowed to be himself unable and unwilling to conform to the norm no one minds I watched him at a match the other day with his team mates and he looked so happy; he's finally found his ..... Im struggling to find the right word but niche is the best one that springs to mind..
Do PM me if you want to know any more about Winchester.

Amber - I think I may know what you mean, and, TBH, that was what really got us off on the wrong foot at Winchester. Given that we would be paying a very large amount of money to the school, we expected the school to sell itself to us (as others have) - and it felt very much indeed as though the first Winchester house master we met expected us to 'sell' DS to him, and persuade him to do us the favour of accepting DS, IYSWIM. It put DH's back up, big time.

Amber2 Fri 25-Jan-13 12:39:47

thanks for the detailed response, that's a good insight, yes I might PM you once I have had the tour - I feel I should visit if anything because if its excelent academics but not sure it will be for DS...who is bright and very good at exams but somewhat disorganized ...and so perhaps, unless he changes over the next 2-3 years, he may not be not independent enough for full boarding. and yes, I would need to wean myself off the helicoptering!

Amber2 Fri 25-Jan-13 12:44:07


yes agree - for 30k plus a year I would want to be sold to ...even if it is subtle selling ...no point going anywhere and lumping out all that cash ...if DS is going to sink rather than swim there or be miserable. It's that part that I am most interested in...I would want him to fit in naturally as much as they would. And no point me trying to make him something he is not by sending him there if it won't work out.

happygardening Fri 25-Jan-13 16:35:16

In retrospect I wonder if the non selling approach or in my case initially feeling under whelmed is because Winchester take the view; this is how we are take it or leave it. Perhaps many do leave it and it becomes self selecting.
I personally loathe the hard soft sell we experienced at some other schools I can't bear smarmy people it makes me want to run for the hills.
I have to say we never felt we had to "sell" our DS or "persuade him to do us the favour of accepting our DS" but then being slack parents we just pitch up at these sort of things and just go with it and then see what happens.

"this is how we are take it or leave it" pretty much sums it up, I think - and I agree with the self-selecting thing.

Don't get me wrong - I hate smarmy too, but I would like a school to explain what they think they could give my child and why they want him. We have had some very succinct descriptions elsewhere of the sort of child they are looking for and why. DH very directly said that he was there to find out why he should/would send DS to Winchester rather than anywhere else, and the HM's face was a picture - it didn't seem to be a question he had ever been asked before confused.

happygardening Sat 26-Jan-13 10:06:28

"I would like a school to explain what they think they could give my child"
Is this where we as parents go wrong, Im only thinking out loud not criticising anyone. When we go round these schools would we not be better off if the schools said this is what the school does like it or lump it and then ask ourselves will it fit my DC and as importantly us as parents? Or perhaps parents should be given an opportunity to meet current parents who can give an unbiased view of how they find the school the nuts and bolts of it. Part of the problem is that a small minority aside most are desperate to fill their vacancies I get the impression they'll say anything to get your money. Im sure Oundle and Rugby for example know that they competing with each other for the same future pupils and although it is a free market the fees are virtually identical so they cant say send Orlando here we do what St X does but we're £10 000 PA cheaper, so they have to give you the soft sell instead. So many independent schools are so samish same wording on their website, the video on their websites are the same, same bloody music on the video (someone really ought to tell them about that), same earnest teachers saying how wonderful the school is, when you visit you meet bright eyed bushy tailed students telling you how wonderful the school is showing you around virtually identical facilities, the schools proudly they display their results (although don't tell you how they've achieved them). No wonder you cant choose between them stealth.

<<sits on fence >>

Personally, I think I can see past the sales pitch, but in the process of hearing it, and then looking round a school (preferably not on an open day) you do get a reasonable feel for the atmosphere and character of the place. Thinking back to my first impression of DC's current school, I think it was pretty accurate.

I do agree about the websites, though - someone is making a fortune producing the same website, video and prospectus for dozens of schools.

SusieInOundle Sat 02-Feb-13 18:46:33

Hi, I've just been reading through and as a Mum with a 14 year old boy at Oundle I can thoroughly recommend the school. It has a strong academic focus but this is not at the expense of sport or the arts. The schools facilities are excellent including a recently built science department, and various buildings which are intertwined in the town. We decided to move to Oundle (a beautiful market town) so that our son could be a day pupil. Although he has many friends who drop in for tea who are boarders, they similarly love the school and enjoy boarding. The school provides a bus for the boarders to go to Peterborough (15 mins away) and catch the train which has an excellent and regular service to London. My son has been at the school for three years now and he is being stretched whilst also receiving excellent care and support from all of his teachers. He loves playing Rugby as well as the academic studies and has recently started to explore new languages such as Chinese. He's not a musical child but informs me that the music dept is in his words is "very very good" . The school believes in children being independent, well rounded individuals and has recently won Tatler's independent school of the year. The schools academic results are consistently high and testament to the high calibre teachers.

Thanks, Susie.

Mutteroo Sat 02-Feb-13 23:36:51

DS's friend has been at Rugby since September. She's a boarder in the sixth form and apparently enjoying it so far. My SIL's children attended Uppingham but knew of friends who had children at Oundle & Oakham.

On paper all are excellent schools and if we lived nearer I think Oundle or Oakham would have suited our family more so I guess it's a case of you and your child getting that gut feeling too.

Fianccetto Sun 03-Feb-13 00:15:29

You have a great choice to make between Oundle and Rugby. You are wise to put off the decision until your son has had a another chance to have a look around. Ideally, if he were to meet some of the boarders there and have a chance to ask questions, that would be great.

I'd recommend you book tickets for the Stahl theatre in Oundle one weekend, have a look around the art gallery, shops and just get a feel for the place. See if you can arrange to see a rugby match, and visit the sailing and music facilities to get a feel for the place. There is an international music festival at Oundle and the music tuition there has always been terrific (though I was sad to see the music shop in the town go.) The science facilities and tuition would be what would swing me towards Oundle, but I do think the pastoral care must vary house to house. Do you apply to a house, or does the school choose which house each child goes to?

Gunznroses Sun 03-Feb-13 08:48:36

What's the CE passmark for Oundle?

happygardening Sun 03-Feb-13 09:03:14

A friends DS who is at Oundle was told when he sat CE a couple of years ago that it was 60% cant remember if that was on all papers or maybe just the core subjects. Interestingly he was well off that mark in one of the core subjects but still got in.

Fianccetto - oh yes, the Oundle science block is amazing - but then Rugby has great (albeit not so visually stunning) facilities too, and a very large proportion doing sciences at A level. confused

Gunz - I think both schools have a nominal CE pass rate, but only to filter out those who really couldn't cope - they both put more emphasis on reference from current head and interview. DS would be going through scholarship exam route for either, so I didn't pay too much attention to what those nominal levels were - sorry.

Sharpkat Sun 03-Feb-13 10:26:07

Oakham is a fantastic school. I am an OO. PM me if you want more details but I would send my kids there without hesitation. The Good Schools Report sums it up perfectly. If you want a well-rounded, well educated, polite and erudite child Oakham is for you.

Gunznroses Sun 03-Feb-13 17:39:40

Thanks Stealth! i had thought Oundle's was around the 70% mark.

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