Boarding for sixth form back in the UK?(12 Posts)
This is a duplicate post of one I put in secondary education...but I'd value ex-pats' opinions on this too..
We have lived abroad in a developing world country for 3-4 years, and my son will sit iGCSEs at an international day school here in 2017. He is keen to return to the UK and board for sixth form, but I have no experience of what to look for, or where to start!
Preferences (non-binding) are:
-Strong in performing arts, especially modern/rock/recording or music IT facilities rather than chorister tradition
-Wales/South West region
-Variety of outdoor activities, not just team ball sports
I'd really welcome your advice on where I should start looking, or any personal recommendations..thanks!
I chose Duke of York's in Dover because
1) it is only boarders so all the children are the same
2) it has a huge sports and arts and music programme
3) it has boarding houses which are as good as you'll get anywhere with en-suite for all year 12s and 13s boarding house built 2 years ago
4) the entire school has been rebuilt or refurbished 2 years ago
My son has been transformed.
I saw Sexeys, loved it too, but just too far for us from where we live, Sexeys was shortlisted for size of boarding facilities and school facilities and subjects offered.
You can find state boarding schools on this link. Costs are for boarding only not education so prices are massively different to private schools. 10-15k per year.
Oh and I forgot to mention that Duke of York's was until recently accessible only to children of officers in the UK armed forces. When it got the 25 million needed to rebuild and refurbish, it changed status to an academy and now 10-20% of children, including my son, are non military background. He had no intention of joining the military, but he has rather enjoyed this unique status. The students all join CCF and my son joined the Royal Navy. He gets to sail boats in the harbour in spare time, he spent a week at Dartmouth Royal Naval college last Summer qualifying as a lifeguard, all paid for by the MOD. He did adventure training. He has learned how to discipline himself and take pride in all things he does, due to this military aspect.
I doubt you'll find a school with so much extra-curriculars and in fact sport/drama/music is an integral part of the daily timetable, on top of the optional extra-curriculars. Whatever your child is interested in, chances are this school will offer it. You'd struggle to find facilities anywhere near Duke of York's in the private or public sector.
Because the school is full boarding, there is a significant proportion of students who live abroad. School on saturday and until 5pm means terms are more compact. The London airports are only 1-2 hours away, there is a group taxi service to them, but my son takes himself to Eurostar in Ashford to get home.
My son is predicted all As or all As with 1 B out of 5 A levels this Summer. I'm happy with the academics of Duke of York's.
I found Sexeys a close second. I went to see Roger Manwoods. Deplorable. 2 ethnic groups (Hong Kong and Nigeria) and anyone outside these 2 groups I'd imagine would struggle, in fact there weren't any when I visited, also only 50 out of 800 kids were boarders. Far more academic, but little for boarders to do. Facilities pretty crap.
If you want sixth form as opposed to school, then this is it www.psc.ac.uk. This is where we sent ds. It is a state sixth form with a small boarding facility, and is fab (biased, I went there 32 years ago, and would go back tomorrow). Ds met people from the whole social spectrum, got some street smarts and cut the apron strings. He also got into his university of choice, did DofE and had a social life.
Both he and I consider it a transformative place...well worth a look. Winchester is easy to get to, and I have done the pick ups and drop offs both from mainland Europe and Cornwall without too much angst!
I was going to suggest Sexeys School in Bruton (Somerset), which is wheee I went to 6th form (as a day pupil). It has great facilities and about 40% boarders in 6th form (boarding is compulsory for years 7-11). It's in the west country but fairly accessible from Castle Cary station (1.5 hours into London Waterloo).
Boarding is no longer compulsory at Sexeys for the lower years. Day pupils in all 7 years.
Interestingly when I visited 2 years ago, the head told me that because of the local economy, less locals could afford to pay for the boarding so the percentage of local boarders was decreasing (with many locals choosing nearer day schools) and the percentage of non local and overseas boarders was increasing and also he said that the spread of locals/non locals but UK/overseas was changing more in the 6th form than in other years, more from further away. The boarding houses have also been re-arranged I can see from my visit, now only 3 boarding houses which have increased in size. It's now 60% boarding. From what I remember, I think there are some compulsory exeats during the term time, not a problem for you with local relatives. Oh and same price for full boarding and weekly so most DON'T go home for weekends in the higher years.
I'd also have Peter Symonds on the list. I was also interested in Old Swinford Hospital and Adams' Grammar out of the state boarding, think they are both boys only for boarding. And also Welbeck if the curriculum suits, Welbeck and Duke of York's are the only state boarding schools which are full boarding AND also boarding only. Welbeck like Peter Symonds is 6th form only.
I have to say I found Duke of Yorks especially desirable due to the 6th form being housed separately to the rest of the school, with their own privileges and extra responsibilities and this only happened 2 years ago and the school had waited years to do this and it's all new, a deliberate choice to separate the 6th form so they could target care and concentrate and prepared better for university and life choices.
I have to say even if I were a millionaire, I'd choose state boarding over private boarding every time. Without meaning to offend. I would choose state because it lessens the likelihood of "entitlement" attitude amongst students and parents and the pressure that puts on teachers and the school to pander to that entitlement. It also means a greater likelihood that students are sent to board for positive reasons than because of family / class tradition and because parents are trying to abdicate themselves from the parenting responsibilities.
Sexeys only ever had 3 boarding houses. And hardly any locals went there and definitely not for boarding! Boarders were mostly forces kids from the various air and army bases in the near area.
At the time I visited Sexeys in 2013, there were 5 houses Lisbury, Coombe, Macmillan, Walwin and Cliff (check wikipedia) and Walwin was empty and being refurbished to something else. Macmillan had just been built when I visited. They have now reduced to 3 houses again, Cliff has gone. The other houses were undergoing refurbishment and the school was extending too. The 3 current houses must now have added extra beds as the boarding places are same numbers. My son would have been in the first year where all 7 years would be houses together, previously year 7s were in Walwin and most year 13s were in Lisbury, this indeed is what has happened according to the school website with an even spread in all 3 current houses housing around 100 each.
There are fewer forces families now, the children I was told come from over the whole of the UK, with some local rural students were fully funded as boarders, some locals in boarding but less than they had before because of the economy, day students from the near area who make up half of the student population, load of boarders from around the UK and UK students living overseas and recently EU students arriving to learn English. I had just visited Manwoods in Kent when I saw Sexeys and was dead against my son being the only other overseas student who was not a part of an ethnic group (Manwoods when I visited was 100% HKG and Nigeria on UK passports) and the head was a bit perplexed when I asked if the overseas students were just from one definable ethnic group and could not name any pattern at all. From what I could see, most students are white British, not overly representative of the UK or overseas! It seems same number of students now as there was when I visited, 550 with 300 in boarding, slightly more boarding 7-11 like 60% and 50% in years 12-13 and years 12-13 increase in numbers the head told me compared to other years. They were very picky about taking only high performers into year 12, but your son will be compulsory school age (change in law it's now 18 from September 2016) and who knows what will happen to schools being able to reject lower performers in year 12.
Correction, wiki now says 600 students. Oh the head told me the local 6th forms were rearranging themselves in 2013, might have had an impact on the school, maybe that is the reason for the increased numbers at year 12 and decrease in the proportion of boarders as most new arrivals in year 12 are locals?? Of course only the school can really confirm what the current situation is.
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