Pros/ cons of 'all through' independent schools?(30 Posts)
I was wondering if anyone has recent/ current experience of 'all through' independent schooling with DC? We're considering three indies for DD at the mo and two of them cover 3-18/ 4-18 yrs. I just don't know how I feel about DD potentially being with the same kids for 14/ 15 years! Add to my confusion the fact that one of the two is all girls. We didn't expect to like it but we really do. Heck - no boys during whole school lifetime? Hmm. Not sure. DH went only to indies, I went only to state schools so we have a mixed bag of personal experience! Would appreciate your thoughts.
all of my dc's friends who've started out at 'all-through' schools have left at some point - some at 11+, one at 13+ and a couple for sixth form
I think they found being in the same environment for so many years a bit stultifying and I've seen from my own dc's experiences that the opportunity to 're-invent' themselves when they've changed schools is something they've relished
My all girls school (abroad) was "all through".
I joint at 12 but most girls had been there since reception. Some of my friends have known each other since they were 5 and we are now 40, long life friends.
I think that if you really like the school then don't discount it. You can always move to another school later.
Agree, go for the one you really like and change as and when. I was sent to an all-through and in the early years I adored the idea of my ultimate goal being the sixth form, like the big girls. By the time I was 16 I was bored and wanted a change (and boys), so moved to a mixed school. But many of my friends were reassured by the continuity and very proud of their long tenure, so it's a personal thing.
I work in a 2 to 16 independent school, some children leave at 11, some at 13 and equally some join at 11 and 13. We try hard to make the different stages different, e,g, different uniform, different privileges etc, yet the children don't experience any of the dip in achievement that often comes with changing schools, teachers already know about their strengths and weaknesses,so when they move say from yr 6 to yr 7 we already know them well, can hit the ground running with ks3 work, you build up a much better relationship with families when they have been with you a while! It also makes things like drop offs, sports day, speech day etc easier when you have one to go to, rather than lots of different ones if you have children at different schools.
I've know people do both ways and I think many feel that what suits their dc (and the parents to an extent) at 4 isn't always the same by 11. The main problem is that the lower/prep school usually only prepares them for its own senior entrance test not other schools'. As long as you are aware of the pitfalls go with what feels right now, keep an open mind and review
One advantage, I suppose, is that if you accept a place at 3 or 4, and are guaranteed a place till 18, you don't have to necessarily be worried about finding/obtaining a senior school place. That said, my friend's son goes to such a school and certain children are usually weeded out in about y4.
I remember a psychologist telling me that these aren't great in terms of creating happy, robust children. Firstly the get stuck with an 'image' at a young age - if they were shy aged 4, then they're always dubbed shy and so get a chance to reinvent themselves. Secondly, it's v goods for children to push themselves into new environments - to learn where the assembly hall is etc and all the new rules. It's pretty hard work but satisfying.
Only her opinion but it really resonated with me.
These schools didnt exist so much when I was young. Why their growth? Good business for privates? Parental demand? I can see the appeal for parents of avoiding 11+ or CE stress.
I did think about this type of school when we were looking. However my view is that the school is likely to be good at say junior and not so strong at senior. It wouldnt necessarily be strong all the way through.
For our two DS's both at private from the beginning we did:
DS1 Boys in Reception, Boys in Prep, Boys until 16 and then girls 16-18
DS2 Boys and girls in Reception, Boys in Prep, plan to do the same as DS1 in senior (although ideally co ed but we couldnt find one we liked as much)
What I am saying in a long winded way is that it will depend what your DC is like. If it doesnt suit at say 10 then you can move. You dont have to make firm decision now.....
All of the private schools on my city are 2/3 until 18 - so we had no choice, but I like the "option" of continuity...
We picked the one that we liked most and felt most suited DS at his toddler stage, but we will stay "open minded" and look for a change if it seems suitable later.
Thanks very much for all your thoughts, you've been really helpful. Thinking about everything that's been said, it seems like it's a case of 'make the best decision you can with the information you have at the time'. We can't know what DD will be like/ what she'll need at 7, 11 or 16 so all we can do is pick what seems right now. Oh, and I went to visit the other 'all through' we're considering this morning - another really, really lovely school. I guess I should be grateful we've found two we like :-) Cheers!
What sort of testing do they do? If they don't do independent tests, like SATs, then you have no idea how the children are really doing at school until you hit GCSE results. Until then you only have the schools word on how well the school is teaching them.
I teach at an all-through school and agree it is not for everyone, but frankly ours is so good my DDs are both keen to stay on at the moment! Our juniors don't have automatic entry to the senior school and not all pass the 11+ entrance exams, but most parents have been well prepared for this from about year 4/5 on the basis of their child's progress to date. Regular standardised assessments are taken throughout each year of schooling in the juniors, which give a far greater indication of progress and abilities than the SATS (which were discarded a long time ago much to everyone's relief) and the progression to senior school is eased by some familiarity with the senior school environment (and some shared facilities).
It is not for everyone...there are only a handful of Y13 students who started in Reception. The natural moving points to other schools are used by a number of students. Great to have the option if you need/want it but agree you should judge the school as to whether it is the best fit for your child now, rather than what you think about their longterm education.
sensua, why the ? Independent schools don't do SATs (one of the key reasons I chose the independent route), but children are monitored by PIPS tests. I don't mind this as it is a test which no preparation is done for, and something surprised on the kids whose results are simply for internal purposes to monitor both the teaching and the child's progress.
Not all independents 'don't' do SATs...
Maybe things have changed but I had a friend who got really fed up with her school. Friends in state school got given Levels and SubLevels. All she ever got was "Cassandra is doing nicely". So she was paying money and getting less information.
Why would you need to know levels and sub levels? I certainly have no clue what levels or sub levels my DS is on but certainly am not short on information from his school regarding how he is doing. I don't think that I am being naive in placing my faith in the school as the baseline levels the boys are at must be high as the school gets 83% A*s at GCSE.
Friends had similar experience to senua, whereas our dc at a Prep were tested regularly (pips/cats alternate years). We had several conversations about appropriate secondaries base don the results , from Y4 onwards, were encouraged to go to open days, considered various options etc as it was inevitable they would move at either 11 or 13, but it was assumed their dc would progress to the attached upper schools so no such discussion took place (unless a child was being "managed out" before 11+!). As parents also I think you can outgrow a school ethos and parent cliques well before your child reaches 16 or 18.
This school, which only went to Y11, did very well at GCSE too ... but for some reason the girls only went on to do basket weaving; there were very few going on to do academic subjects at academic sixth forms. My friend jumped ship at Y6.
But, as we all know, you can't make generalisations from anecdotes.
I agree with you to some extent, and particularly in the case of a school like your ds's - you know full well that 'doing well' means that precisely.
If you've come from the state system to the independent for senior, as ds has done, it can take a while to get used to the lack of obsession over sublevels. Ds has some pieces of work with nc levels on but progress is mostly assessed using their own internal system.
His school is non-selective but has 51% of all GCSEs taken A* and A and so if ds is placed as 'top of top set' for one subject or 'middle of top set' for another, I, like you, am confident he's on track. I can see, though, that at schools with weaker overall results you would have less confidence in them using their own gradings and 'top of the class' or something has less (in relation to external exams) import.
In short, I guess I'm saying schools/experiences like senua's friend's do exist.
To be fair to my friend and the school, it did used to have a very good reputation but things can change over such a long time span (not least the Head, who left ... and the ethos went with her.)
Ds was in a through school from reception to year 3 and moved for the start of year 4. Half the boys in reception had been together in nursery but it didn't take long for ds and the other new boys to settle in. I thought it was a very caring a nuturing school in pre-prep. I saw a difference when ds moved into prep and then realised quite how long some of the teachers had been at the school (some excellent, some should have left the profession years ago). People with older dcs who had left the school said the lessons for their younger dcs were exactly the same as they remembered for their older dcs.
We were invited to a senior schools presentation in year 3. I thought it was a bit early but went along to see what I could learn about choices. It was a very hard sell from the school's owner and the head of the senior school. There was no mention of any other school choices and the questions some of us asked at the end of the presentation were completely dismissed. Not surprising as 80% of the prep go on to the senior school.
Ds got a scholarship for another prep and moved for year 4. I have been shocked at the difference. His new school is a feeder for a range of day schools and top public schools. There is an expectation that children at the school will achieve. I went to senior school presentation recently. It was excellent and gave lots of pointers on what to consider when visiting schools and how to choose the right school.
Ds has gone from expecting to go on to the non-selective senior school along with his friends from his old school to aiming for Winchester and Eton with a scholarship. As a result he is working harder in school and is keen to achieve.
DDs went/are at an all through girls independent from 4- 18. Youngest is coming up to 16 next year and thinking about leaving for sixth form but can't make her mind up!
DDs were fine with being in one school all that time. The biggest thing to remember is the difference between Junior and Seniors was huge - completely separate teachers/buildings and 50 new girls joined the year when they moved to secondary.
Out of my 3 DDs at senior school eldest remained friends with one junior girl, middle with 3 and youngest with 2. One school isn't going to mean your DD has never had to make new friends or experience change as the move to the secondary department is usually clear cut and a time when they are all mixed up and ready to make new friends. The senior provides a fresh start and change of environment and people with still an element of continuity. We had a very difficult life event around the time eldest was moving junior-senior and the same environment helped her a lot and reduced the pressure.
At 11, on average, about 4 left and at 16, about 7 of the 'all through'-ers left. Some giving the reason that they needed a change of environment.
Generally though I think it is something you shouldn't worry about- there is always the option to move, especially at 11 and 16 if the school is no longer right or your DD needs a change. You can be a bit 'sucked in' that all you DDs friends are doing the same route and it is the obvious choice, but it is important to think of your DD and what is best.
My DDs all fell in love with their school and are very proud of it. I think girls who joined at 11 felt similarly though. We chose it because IMO it was the best school in our area which suited our girls. Now youngest is thinking of moving while I am conscious she is leaving what is 'safe' to us, I am excited that she might get a different experience for sixth form and it will be interesting (and I think good for her) to breath a bit of new air and have a bit of change. If she stays, I know she will have a brilliant time, still have new experiences, finish her education with the girls she has grown so close to and the school she loves.
Farewelltoarms- good point about how a child does get labelled. For some the same environment means the familiarity gives them more and more confidence, for others it holds them back.
Both the all throughs we're considering have completely separate sites for senior and one does for prep too (from nursery/ pre-prep). I imagine this might stop it feeling too 'samey'? Both seniors seem to get a fair number of new kids joining at 11, and as several folk have pointed out, plenty will leave at various points too. I'm feeling increasingly ok about it all, esp since I remember how different my sixth form years felt thanks to a uniform change and a big shake up of the cohort! And that was on the same site,same teachers etc.
Yep, ds's school has three sites for pre-prep, prep and senior and separate Heads and slight changes in uniform. He's only been there since senior but I understand there is a lot of movement of pupils at all the natural stages and, of course, the staff and rules are also all different - but with a continuation of ethos and shared 'big' events - cathedral services etc.
I'm sure I wouldn't let it put me off if I liked the school a lot!
My DS and DD both went to the same school from 5 through to 18. It never entered my head to change them. As someone above said they still have some of the same friends they had when they were 5. My DS is now 35 and my DD 26.
one of mine went all the way through and I couldn't have wished for a happier child or a more successful outcome - nothing to fault, no issues at all. The other chose to move away being a 'grass is greener' type, but though she's done very well, in some ways I suspect she would have done better had she stayed put - she wouldn't have been as happy though as she had itchy feet (but no concrete issues with the school other than having been there too long), so maybe not.
I don't see a problem with this type of school at all, if it isn't working out for your child they can move, if it is they can stay.
When my children were little the concept of an "all through school" looked very attractive. You chose the school you like when their 3 yrs old and that the end of it.
We moved and didn't have that option and I think its for the best. You just don't know at three what your children will want or need from education when they're 11/13 and changing to a senior school. All through schools obviously want you to stay and are also less likely to know about other schools so therefore no one is going to give you independent advise about what senior schools are going to be most suitable for your child and they are also less likely to prepare you DC's for CE and scholarships into other schools. The other thing you have to watch if the senior schools is very selective then entrance into it senior school is obviously not guaranteed if your DC joins at three and as a couple of friends discovered they were then advised to look for somewhere else for their DC's. This can be rather unsettling when a child's friends are moving on to the senior school but they're not.
Thought I had posted on this thread, apparently not.
I have very recent experience of an all through school with my family and I enjoyed my time at one as well. Attended from the age of 3.
It is good the schools you are considering have a change at senior. This is important, in my opinion.
Basically, progressing the school will be not very different than if you attended, say, the local schools in a small town. That is to say, some children will leave, some children will arrive, and several kids will be familiar "life-timers" who stick through the whole way.
I do think its important to, even if you become very attached to your child's school, be ready to move them on if the environment is not longer suitable.
In my school, a lot of girls left to go boarding between 11-15, and we had big influxes at 8, 11, 13, 15 and 16. There are always new faces.
Interesting point by Farewelltoarms, not something I really considered. It wasn't a big deal at my school, children had plenty of opportunity to change and grow, especially as children progressed through the school and discovered new passions. Having said that children were branded "smart" even if they lost that edge (
when their tutors retired ) so that was one way girls could have been branded. On the other hand, no one was really branded as "stupid" mainly because there was always something they could beat you at.
The school I attended was small, Christian, all girls, 3-18 and I loved it. However, you do have to be wary of how insular that environment is and also how soul shredding bullying could be in that situation (not something I encountered but just imagine being with a bully for 15 years).
Also, make sure the school matches with your family ethos. 7 or more hours a day at that place for 13-15 years and you better believe you kids will come out with the school motto stuck in their head and the values ground into them, so if they don't match with your values, it is cause for concern!
Anyway, good luck with the school hunt.
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