Abingdon v Radley

(57 Posts)
1805 Wed 27-Mar-13 16:00:44

can anyone give me reasons to favour one school over the other? The choice would be Ab day v Radley boarding (obviously). I'm going to look round them both shortly to try to get a general feeling.
Also if you can suggest any areas/issues I need to question at either school??

DS is sporty, musical, and academic. Happy to go to either school. Knows boys going to both schools.

Thank you.

Please don't turn this thread into a private/state slanging match. I just want peoples views on these two schools. We won't be considering any others. Thank you.

happygardening Wed 27-Mar-13 16:10:25

I take it you're already registered for Radley as registration is very early. Radley is notoriously boyish rugby is very very serious most of the parents are very traditional twin set and pearl county set, Abingdon is generally more "new money" professionals etc. Radley really is full boarding with all its implications; do you want that? Radley is tradition personified. I'm a total non conformist but if I had to choose between them it would be Radley all the way.

happygardening Wed 27-Mar-13 16:11:45

Also I believe Radeye does AS/A2 at the same time I personally think this is better.

1805 Wed 27-Mar-13 16:22:07

Happy - thanks. Yes we are sorted for entry to both. If you are non-conformist, can I quiz you further on why you would go for Radley?
Also, can you spell out to me the implications of full boarding, just to make sure I understand. SOrry to be so picky, but I'm sure you can understand why.
DS is currently at Ab prep.

grovel Wed 27-Mar-13 16:44:30

Radley is getting a new Warden in Sept 2014 (John Moule from Bedford School).

The advantage of full boarding is that a sporty, musical boy will have more time to take advantage of what Radley offers.

happygardening Wed 27-Mar-13 16:52:03

"Can i spell out the implications of full boarding"?
I've lots of experience of full boarding both professionally and my DS's have/are full boarding.
You need to look at yourself as a parent. Not all parents are slack parents like us but it is definitely not suitable for those who feel they have to be in control of their DC's very waking moment. If you feel this need rightly or wrongly then if you decided to full board your DS you will drive him yourself the school and the HM and matron up the wall!! At a recent mum's lunch I listened opened mouths to perfectly pleasant mums telling me how they ring their DC's at uni every night (I hadn't spoken to my DS aged 14 for over a fortnight at that point) they were fretting about their meals were they getting their five portions of fruit and veg, were they working hard enough, participating in uni activities changing their socks/underpants every day, taking their inhalers you name it. They were also deeply involved in their other DC's lives (those who'd not gone to uni yet) ferrying them around to God know what, they were on the committee of their DS's cricket club (wince), raising money for a orchestra trip abroad next year (no I didn't want to buy a raffle ticket) the PTA (over my dead body) and eye wateringly competitive. I'm not really criticising this its great if it makes you happy but don't consider full boarding. Full boarding is just not like this you hand over the education of your child to a significantly more competent person/teacher/matron who will be residential at Radley/chef/laundry person and let them worry about underpants extra curricular activities and inhalers. I step back and let them manage it better them certainly i ever can. Full boarding means' your DS can only come home on Sundays for the day and probably after chapel the rest of the time they are in school doing school things. I doubt Radley let them out on Saturdays even for a special occasion. Do check my DS's school doesn't.
Those who thrive on boarding are not over sensitive it is inevitable that teasing will take place, they mustn't be need or want lots of privacy, they don't at my DS's school have to be team players (I'm less sure about Radley) but they do have to be good mixers. I personally think you need to be quite organised and a self starter remember they will never have the same level of supervision as they would have at home, I don't think you can be a fussy eater, your DS needs to be quite mature for his age and take things in his stride. IMO for the right child full boarding is a positive life changing experience.
I would never choose Radley becasue as I said I'm a hopeless non conformist and cant bear meaningless ritual but it is without a doubt a fab school. Ita a proper traditional boarding school pastoral care may have been a bit dodgy at one time but its improving all the time. I know Abingdon the gossip on the block (its my part of the UK in a sort of global way) is that some are not happy (staff wise) and its becoming very much a pushy hothouse. I knew the old head charming but a complete stuffed shirt those in the know will tell you he turned Abingdon into a school that reflects this ethos. There's mixed views about the current head mistress then you probably know this as your at the prep.

1805 Wed 27-Mar-13 17:29:56

Oh happy thanks so much for all that info. flowers

Radley is DS number one choice at the moment. But full boarding is such a big leap into the unknown......

I actually think both ds and me would be fine with it. Dh favours Abingdon as it is the 'known' environment and worries that ds would be labeled posh for the rest of his life if he went to Radley.

I'm going to take ds for a look round both schools away from the open day and go from there I think.

Any more views gratefully received.....

1805 Wed 27-Mar-13 17:31:02

John Moule is younger than me!!!!!!!

happygardening Wed 27-Mar-13 18:11:22

Its a "posh" school. My DH went to one but frankly once you've been working for a few years most people don't ask or care where you've been to school.
I had a reputation for taking thick posh boys but they have now very much moved away from that.

mrsshackleton Thu 28-Mar-13 20:17:27

Radley is posh, Abingdon far less so. Your son will mix with a VERY narrow strata of society if he goes to Radley. If I had to choose between them it would be Abingdon all the way.

1805 Thu 28-Mar-13 20:33:07

can any bording parents enlighten me on the amount of spare time their dc get? The thing that is attracting ds to Radley is the idea of having more time to make use of clubs/facilities. I want ds to have a very clear picture of what life would be like to board there. I'm hoping I can find this out when I visit.

soda1234 Fri 29-Mar-13 00:21:19

My son is at Abingdon, his best friend from prep school went to Radley, they only see each other in the holidays now, and have drifted apart a bit.

I am a big Abingdon fan, my son has had every opportunity to persue his sporting interests, and has been encouraged and supported in drama and music.

His friends, the boys who come to our house, are just lovely, they are funny, polite, considerate and charming, and they come from a very wide background in terms of "money". They are not "posh" at all, just all round nice boys who are learning how to make their way in the world,and being taught how to do it,very well, which is exactly what I want for my son

Mutteroo Fri 29-Mar-13 01:50:44

DS went to a boarding school that had a very strong activity program. It was the big attraction for him & boarding meant he had extra use of the pool & leisure facilities. Mind you, there wasn't always much time after supper, prep & watching Top Gear on Dave! Boarding was better for DS because he didn't have the two hours plus travelling a day.

DD was a day girl at a predominately boarding school. She stayed on in the evenings to complete prep & to make use of the activities on offer. This was the best option for her & she didn't feel she missed out by being a day pupil.

I don't know Abingdon or Radley except for reputation so cannot soeak about them, but to be a boarding parent, you need to have a certain mentality. You'll need to embrace it or it'll feel alien & uncomfortable. I never embraced it & DS found the rigidity of boarding to much like a straight jacket & now attends Oir local outstanding sixth form college. DD went there also. I guess what I'm explaining is that each child is different & you need to do what is right for your child. What would Radley give that Abingdon doesn't? Reputations can be wrong & you'll know what your gut instincts are telling you. DS 2nd choice school was originally his 1st choice where we knew DS would get a brilliant education, but the school he eventually chose was absolutely the best fit for him & us. We paid deposits on both schools & so he had flexibility of choice up until shortly before CE.

Good luck with your decision OP.

happygardening Fri 29-Mar-13 09:59:18

"can any bording parents enlighten me on the amount of spare time their dc get?"
As a general principle most boarding schools with a high % of full boarders have a half day Tues Wed and Sat this is when games etc take place. At my DS's school they don't have to do games they can do cultural extra curricular activities instead this is very unusual if not unique. But at Radely it will be compulsory rugby sport. If you talk to any other schools in the area they will tell you rugby is big at Radley these are the one's to beat. They play hard, future matches are talked about well in advance with either relish or fear depending on your point of view and paramedics doctors etc are always on the side of the pitch! Friends who work at Radley tell me drama is big and music fairly strong. Most boarders also have time between the end of lessons and dinner to participate in more activities prep is usually at a designated time in the evening for younger children (in my DS's case 2 hours a night 6 nights a week this is pretty standard ) and extra curricular activities can take place again after prep. IMO boarders have lots of spare time everyday but are expected to fill it with school activities obviously some don't but this is their choice rather than lack of things to do. At my DS's school there are 60+ activities on offer both sporting and cultural, the art room, DT dept and gym are open most day including Sunday afternoon, on top of this there are at least weekly lectures usually by visiting university lectures/expert in their field etc, 30+ concerts a term and 5-6 plays again all are open to boarders either to be in or watch and finally most houses at boarding school are also involved in regular inter house competitions be it singing or art and there are often house plays etc.
Life for full boarders is pretty full on and without a doubt not for everyone.

1805 Fri 29-Mar-13 11:03:41

Thanks for all this everyone. My mind is a bit spinning with all the info I need to find out at the moment. I feel it's a big decision we have to get right. Will speak to current HT too......

happygardening Fri 29-Mar-13 11:41:49

It's a big decision and expensive (to full board) try and visit Radley as many times as you can before you have to make it. Look at a couple of houses talk to HM's chat to the parents there Mutteroo is right "You'll need to embrace it or it'll feel alien & uncomfortable."
Its worth looking at other ful boarding schools not becasue you thinking of sending your DS there but to get a eel for how others are run to get some sort of comparison Radley is uber traditional look at St Edward's (liberal) Marlborough (not liberal but very "smart"parents rather than county tweed types) its the day to day nuts and bolts that make them all different and IME what makes it a success or failure for you and your DS.

Xenia Fri 29-Mar-13 11:53:42

Radley 14th
Abindon 64th

FT A level league tables.

Radley seems to win out and is more likely to have been heard of by people too.

grovel Fri 29-Mar-13 15:33:33

OP, just remember you are choosing between two very, very good schools. It's a nice problem to have.

happygardening Fri 29-Mar-13 16:06:07

Frankly unless your DS is a genius you know IQ 150+ I wouldn't worry about the difference in position of the two schools in the league tables if he is you should be looking at really super selectives other as well. They're different schools you and your DS just need to decide which one you feel more comfortable at and which one will suit you both and most importantly do you want proper full boarding?

happygardening Fri 29-Mar-13 16:07:06

Oh and lets not forget is he mad about rugby?

1805 Fri 29-Mar-13 16:32:39

Yes, I know it's a very nice decision to have to make. There are other factors involved regarding bursaries, but we've been in discussions with both schools and this is the choice we have. Unusually, Radley would work out with cheaper fee's, but he would need to win a scholarship for the bursary to kick in. Ab would offer a bursary without an award.
We have been advised that a scholarship is a perfectly reasonable expectation for ds at both schools (smug, proud, parent moment there!!!blush)

Rugby however is his least favourite major sport! Cricket is number one sport, so he could redeem himself in the summer!

I don't think I need to consider genius options!!! No idea what his IQ score is though, so maybe........hmm grin

Amber2 Fri 29-Mar-13 16:33:01

Aah those league tables:

Oxbridge entrance figures:

Radley 17%
Abingdon 20%

Source Tatler 2013 Schools Guide

Not sure R wins out after all when you compare this and great difference in fees...but not apples not apples, really ...A has weekly boarding but only minority board, as mostly a day school. Whereas R is full on boarding I imagine.

Amber2 Fri 29-Mar-13 16:33:24

not apples to apples ...sorry

grovel Fri 29-Mar-13 16:37:04

Andrew Strauss and Ted Dexter went to Radley. Sorted.

1805 Fri 29-Mar-13 16:42:19

The Andrew Strauss thing may be influencing ds slightly!!

Amber2 Fri 29-Mar-13 16:44:48

In my view, league tables skew so much..I look at somewhere like Hampton which got 32 into Oxbridge last year, which I think is a record for the school, and while selective is not on a scale of super-selective like Winchester ...but Hampton's brochure makes it clear they don't try to shift anyone out in 6th form whereas W make it very clear you need 6 As at GCSE to stay on to sixth form...when you analyse this, you see how league tables can be "managed",and it is so difficult to see where value has been added vs where a school has given generous bursaries to new sixth form entrants to boost Oxbridge/A level figures and managed out those who may bring those figures down. What I would like to know is how many percentage wise they get into Oxbridge from original set at 13+, who were also not superselected by Kings Scholarship or Election or as sixth form entrants- to me that would better indicate the add value. Wellington is also very selective, though not necessarily all on academics, but it has a (surprisingly) relatively low success of Oxbridge entrance.

Amber2 Fri 29-Mar-13 16:48:15


If you are looking at day schools around there, are you also looking at MCS? Very academic though.

1805 Fri 29-Mar-13 16:51:11

Amber - no, only considering Ab and Rad due to bursary limitations. Have friends with boys at MCS and they're not too happy. Imo Ab beats MCS for an all round experience. Also too late to apply for MCS now anyway. Thanks though.

Amber2 Fri 29-Mar-13 17:00:48

yes I heard of a parent moving from MCS to A because MCS was too much pressure, I guess it'a all subjective based on the child..A seems to achieve very good Oxbridge without being such a hot house and seems to be more all rounded

Amber2 Fri 29-Mar-13 17:03:04

Am curious about comments on MCS...did the parents of boys who are not too happy feel that because it's too much of a hot house? I have wondered that about MCS but really liked it on a visit

grovel Fri 29-Mar-13 17:17:31

Radley's wicket is famous for being a batsman's paradise. If your DS is a bowler he might prefer Abingdon? Not that I know anything about Abingdon cricket (but their rowing is very strong).

maisiejoe123 Fri 29-Mar-13 17:17:54

There is a great deal of difference between being a day boy and full boarding adn only you will know your son but I 100% agree with what Happy has said. You almost have to take a back seat if they are full boarding tbh and your DS will need to have a thick skin, there is lots of ribbing and teasing. If you have the sort of son (and it doesnt sound like you do!) who likes some peace and to read in his room he will last 5 mins at boarding school.

My DS does weekly boarding but tbh - there are a number of closed weekends and also picking up after a match at 1800 on a Sat and dropping back at 1800 on Sun is barely 24 hours.

Could I ask - Radley requires registration from almost birth. How did you know to register if you are going to be reliant on a busary. Its excellent planning but most registrations to Radley are done by people who already have the fees sorted and know exactly where they want their DS to go....

grovel Fri 29-Mar-13 17:19:20

I'd bet the DS is on the Warden's List.

1805 Fri 29-Mar-13 17:27:19

Yes - the Wardens List it is! Well, will be shortly. If you'd told me when ds was 1yr old we'd be considering Radley, frankly I would have died laughing, but things work out in funny ways........

1805 Fri 29-Mar-13 17:43:04

If he's accepted onto the Wardens list.......It might actually all come to nothing still yet.

grovel Fri 29-Mar-13 18:11:26

I think the Warden's List is safe:

From the Radley website:

A small number of places (around 25) will be reserved for the Warden’s List. This is a method of entry for boys who are not offered a place from our waiting lists or who are too late to register at all.

Boys need to be nominated by their headmaster or headmistress two years prior to entry to Radley.

Places are allocated by the Warden after the formal interview and consideration of the Head’s report. Further details are available from the Registrar.

happygardening Fri 29-Mar-13 18:52:40

If rugby is his least favourite sport don't touch Radley with a barge pole. Rugby haters get really miserable being made to stand on the rugby pitch 4-5 days a week come hell or high water/snow/wind/rain/frost. They've got 7 teams for each year and even their 7ths are scary.

1805 Fri 29-Mar-13 19:53:50

Happy - rugby will be ok - he likes rugby, just not as much as football/hockey or cricket. At prep they throw them out in all weather too, so I'm not too concerned with the rugby ethos. I'm worrying about the Wardens List now. I'd forgotten about that. It opens for nominations in June, so plenty of time to discuss with HT. I would like to be certain that boarding is the right option for ds before we make the final plunge into applications though. DS still very much up for Radley.

difficultpickle Fri 29-Mar-13 22:41:26

If your prep offers boarding I would get your ds to try a night or too.

Committing to full boarding is a huge commitment for you and your ds. I would have hated to board. Ds does flexi boarding at his prep and will do weekly boarding (5 nights) from later this year. He loves it and has settled very well indeed. He has started talking about senior schools and has an expectation that he will do full boarding. We're registered for Radley but I'm not sure he will go there.

happygardening Sat 30-Mar-13 10:16:43

Amber I suspect all the super selectives are managing out those who are not going to perform. Dont be under sny illusions the significantly less selective are doing the same thing. I know of one London day school importing Chinese children and putting them into the homes of other pupils to boost results and another pretty unselective boarding school importing very Russian children into their 6th form to boost results. While parents like Xenia continue to make a schools position in the league table a major influencing factor when choosing a school schools will do everything they can to boost their position.
OP what are you concerns about full boarding?

1805 Sat 30-Mar-13 11:32:14

Happy - well, it's mainly that it's an unknown lifestyle.
I want ds to understand what full boarding will be like with regard to personal space, free time, computer games, work load, etc.
I think he'll love it tbh. He likes structure and boundaries. He loves all sport, music, art, and likes to achieve good results in his work. From my point of view, he will only be a 20min drive away, so it won't feel like I've sent him to Scotland. I think I am enough of a 'slummy mummy' to be able to let go and let him get on with it! Less washing to do after all!!!

Really, this offer from Radley has just landed on the doormat, and now I have to consider it as a viable option. Radley did tell us verbally he did not have to apply to the wardens list, even though he's not registered, but I'm not sure about this. All this can be cleared up after Easter I know, but at the moment it appears he has a place as long as he wins a scholarship.

happygardening Sat 30-Mar-13 13:03:52

Am I correct on thinking your offer and bursary are dependent on a scholarship?

1805 Sat 30-Mar-13 13:41:55

yep. No pressure then. As I said, we have been advised he is on course for 3 possible scholarship options.

happygardening Sat 30-Mar-13 15:05:29

Will you have had to have turned down a place at Abbingdon before your DS sits the Radley scholarship?
How old is your DS?

1805 Sat 30-Mar-13 15:20:55

he's currently y6. I'm thinking we register for both this summer, and go from there. At some point we will have to nominate a first choice school, and I'm presuming the second choice may well retract/not offer a bursary. If we go down the Warden's list route, then they state that they expect all Wardens List pupils to put radley as choice number one. So we may have to make a decision by the end of 2013.

happygardening Sun 31-Mar-13 13:16:11

So am I correct in thinking you would have to turn down a place at Abbingdon with a bursary unrelated to a scholarship and hope that your DS will get a scholarship and then a bursary at Radley in Feb (or around about there) 2014?

1805 Sun 31-Mar-13 13:27:26

It sounds ludicrous when it's put like that. Scouring through the Radley info we have, I've come to the conclusion ds does not need to be on the Wardens List, but apply for a scholarship in feb (ish) 2015. I'm hoping we can keep the two schools running side by side until 2015. The Radley offer is A LOT more affordable than Abingdon at the moment.

What I am trying to get my head around is whether we pursue the Radley thing in light of the boarding issue. I think we can. I need to talk to current HT and scholarship co-ordinator after Easter.

I know a scholarship is no easy deal, (11 1/2 hrs exams for Radley academic) but everyone keeps telling us he should be able to get at least one.

happygardening Sun 31-Mar-13 13:37:17

There is not a prep school out there even Summefield which has an extraordinary success with scholarships who will guarantee your DS or anyones DS for that matter will get a scholarship into an selective school like Radley. Many who are bright enough for the normal entrance into Win Coll St Pauls etc will look at scholarships into places like Radely often becasue there hoping for financial support. As bursaries become harder to get more will go down this road. Competition is fierce and you cannot guarantee the calibre of the applicants on the day. Also more and more able children are coming from abroad looking for scholarships/burarsies. I quickly looked at the Abbingdon prep website when did they last get a scholarship into Radley (lots too Abbingdon).

1805 Sun 31-Mar-13 14:12:44

2 scholarships definitely, maybe 3 this year to Radley. I can't remember.
I would imagine Abingdon would want to see a scholarship from him too for a bursary?

happygardening Sun 31-Mar-13 15:39:13

You need to find this out because otherwise you're taking IMO to much of a risk. Some schools do offer bursaries to non scholars. Scholarships are not just about how clever you are its about how hard your DS is prepared to work. When my DS was a prep there were always surprises mainly those who failed to get one who were extraordinarily talented.

Coconutty Sun 31-Mar-13 15:54:04

I would agree with Happ, competition for scholarships to Radley are fierce.

1805 Sun 31-Mar-13 16:00:41

Ok I'm scared now. We are in constant touch with Radley, as is ds, so I think we just need to keep tabs on where he is.
Ds still really wants to go there.

My DH and BIL both went to Radley. One is is a elitist, patronising twunt who speaks with 17 plums in his mouth and one is totally normal <guess which one I am with>

I have meet a 50/50 split from Radley, some are such unbelievable caricatures and some you would never know that they even went to public school.

My (normal) DH refuses to let any of the DC board at any school though.

Where you went to school only matters if you tell people, my DH never does.

Kind of depends if you want your DS to tell people I suppose.

1805 Sun 31-Mar-13 16:31:32

What did dh dislike about boarding?

grovel Sun 31-Mar-13 23:15:20

I think it's a bit daft to compare boarding (30+?) years ago with boarding today. My DH was at Radley in the 70's and was "only quite happy" (he can't honestly separate teenage angst from the boarding etc). Our DS was at Eton until recently. He would tell you he was really happy. DH and DS are very similar personalities. Boarding schools now are much nicer places.

grovel Sun 31-Mar-13 23:19:58

Having said that, I would add that Radley is still sporty in an old-fashioned way. Most boys would be able to tell you the names of the First XI, First XV etc. At Eton the boys don't care unless they are trying for a team. You do what you do and care about your activity.

happygardening Mon 01-Apr-13 09:20:08

OP when ever the subject of full boarding is bought up on MN there will always be those who will cheerfully tell you with tales of their dysfunctional sociopath husbands, brother in laws, bosses etc. i have worked with seriously dysfunctional children not a boarder amongst them there are plenty of things which cause children to be dysfunctional and indeed some may have been or in fact attend boarding schools but this is only part of the picture. It is generally home life drugs alcohol sexual emotional physical abuse neglect death of a parents chronic ill health in a family and most sadly exceedingly messy divorces that causes children to be dysfunctional.
Boarding has also changed although Radley have been slower to change than many.

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