How to choose - Warwick Sch, Whitgift Sch, Lancing College and Bishop's Stortford College (all full boarding)?

(27 Posts)
matmat Mon 03-Dec-12 15:52:23

Warwick School, Whitgift School and Christ's Hospital have offered a Yr 9 place to my DS; whereas, Lancing College and Bishop's Stortford College will release result shortly. As we are living abroad, we have never visited these schools (except their websites). Grateful if anyone could tell me how the local people consider these schools. Thanks.

Lovelandhope Mon 17-Dec-12 15:43:30

Hi we are from overseas, and have received boarding offer from Whitgift.

We have accepted the offer after some researches, plus recommendation from London friends. We think it is a good school with strong academic results and at the same time able to offer excellent sports/music growth opportunities for boys. Hope this is a good choice.

Dustylaw Thu 06-Dec-12 01:33:34

You mentioned The Leys - I can certainly recommend that school - it is a wonderful location and it would be a much better choice in my view than Warwick or Bishops Stortford - a good full time boarding community plus being able to just walk into Cambridge. Don't be in too much hurry to part with a large deposit cheque until you are sure you are getting the school that is right. If convenience for Heathrow airport is a factor, perhaps you should also think about Bradfield? Good luck - it must be very difficult choosing a school from overseas.

UterusUterusGhaLaLaLaLaLi Wed 05-Dec-12 09:11:52

"Which ones are better in the eyes of British Parents?"

If this is your criteria for chosing a school for your son, you priorities are slightly skewed imo.

Good luck though. It must be very hard to choose from overseas.

derekthehamster Wed 05-Dec-12 09:01:27

My son is at CH. They do have an influx of students in yr 9, particularly international students, so he won't be on his own joining.

It's a full boarding school with only a small handful of day pupils, if he can't go home on the exeat weekends the school open 2 of the houses (1 girls, 1 boys) for those children not going home, so there will still be pupils and activities.

My son loves the school, and don't worry about being one of only a few full fee paying students, the kids don't have a clue about it, the housey is quite a leveler!

homebythesea Wed 05-Dec-12 08:39:07

Photos are no substitute for a visit though. You need to see the faves of the students- are they happy looking, scruffy, how do they interact with staff, do they move about the place purposefully or dragging their feet, are the classrooms vibrant places, are the bedrooms cosy, the bathrooms clean and tidy, are the students eating the food enthusiastically, what are they doing when not on class.... I could go on and on

Your DS surely should be able to see all these things first hand before he starts. He will spend more weeks a year there than at home for the next 5 years so should have a say. You haven't mentioned him at all in all this.

Will family members be his guardian while at school? They will not release him to travel on his own- he will need an escort to and from the airport (some schools may do this) and someone to go to if ill or he school closes eg for snow. Airlines will also not allow a 13 year old to just leave the airport alone after coming off the plane

matmat Wed 05-Dec-12 01:49:25

Thanks for all your feedback, very useful indeed.

In fact, before proceeding to take the entrance exams of all the schools, our whole family had a face-to-face talk with the principals/vice-principals/head of studies/head of admission/current students/parents of current students/old boys or girls, and was shown photos illustrating every aspect of the schools. Undeniably we could only get a rough picture of how the schools are. I couldn't agree more with goinggetstough "it is such a difficult task trying to find the best school for your child and of course it is much harder when you live abroad."

We have friends whose children are studying in various UK schools but not Whitgift, which accepts overseas boarders for the first time this year.

We are now seeking more information from the schools.

basildonbond Tue 04-Dec-12 17:22:16

Whitgift's boarding house is actually opening after Easter for current pupils to experience boarding with the first full 13+ boarders coming in in September. The offers to boarders are made at a different time to the day boys but as far as I recall they still have to take the 13+ exam in January.

The head of boarding has come from Harrow and seems to know his stuff. They've got a lot of plans to keep the boys busy, the school has fantastic facilities and it's only a short train ride from the centre of London.

Our experience of the pastoral care at Whitgift has been great so if we ever needed ds to board I would be very happy for him to stay on as a boarder. However I wouldn't make a decision like that without even seeing the school first ...

homebythesea Tue 04-Dec-12 13:03:31

And please don't base this amazingly important decision on the brief views of random people on the internet! I went to Boarding School (and loved it!) but you need to see touch feel and hear the place before you take up residence for 5 years

homebythesea Tue 04-Dec-12 13:01:17

Couldn't agree with LizS more - the staff will be your DS's "parent" and so your (and his) rapport with them is vital for this to be a success. I think you either need to plan a trip quickly and talk to the relevant schools and explain the situation to see if they would defer the date for acceptance until you and he can come and look (if he has done well in exams they may be more amenable to this). I too am surprised they let anyone do the exams who hasn't already visited!

LIZS Tue 04-Dec-12 11:14:42

Do you have any family within UK or has your ds lived there? Will he need a local guardian for exeats and emergencies ? Sorry but I find it slightly odd to be contemplating committing a 13yr old to a school abroad without even having seen the place he would reside at or met the staff on whose support he would rely. Do you know families who have had good /bad experience of similar at these schools, or indeed others? I'd also be wary of any schools endorsing this, many offer a trial run at boarding overnight as part of the selection process before accepting a pupil of this age. Lancing used to be a full boarding school but they have a proportion of day pupils now , to compete with Brighton College et al, and a local prep school.

Heathrow to Croydon would be via central London(tube/bus) or Gatwick then train, Lancing likewise. Neither direct by bus. How confident is he using public transport alone?

bulletpoint Tue 04-Dec-12 11:13:44

Bishops Stortford have more flexi boarders than full boarders. However they have Saturday school comprising of lessons up till 12 or 12.30pm after this they have sports fixtures till 5pm. So the day ends for them at 5pm on Saturday whether you're a boarder or not. On Sundays they usually have planned outings but most of the children just like to use this time to relax.
I hope you find this useful.

camptownraces Tue 04-Dec-12 10:46:05

Whitgift's boarding house is due to open for the very first time in January 2013.
Be very cautious with this.

matmat Tue 04-Dec-12 10:19:52

Sorry, I mean 1-2 hr bus journey from the Heathrow Int'l Airport.

Nearly all good ranking schools have closed their application process for int'l students for the yr 2013. As a usual practice, schools announce results in early Dec and ask parents to submit confirmation with deposit before the term break.

Actually my DS has also registered with Dauntsey's and The Leys. But their exams are in Jan 2013, and by that time, we should have paid the deposit to one of the said schools.

Having read all the above advice, I think Lancing is the best choice. The second choice should be Bishop's Stortford as it has Saturday school though its boarding scale is small. The third choice is Warwick and Whitgift - they are very similar to each other in the sense that they have a small boarding population and no Saturday school. Having said that, all these schools are equally strong academically and provide a very good learning environment. Am I right?

Lfs2126 Tue 04-Dec-12 09:58:23

If you download the school term calendar you should get a feel of weekend activity. Whitgift vv sporty, loads of sat. Fixtures +rowing at Hampton court on Sunday. The boarding house is v close to sports centre.
Flexi boarding is starting in lent term so you may get some feedback then. I think boarding master is from Harrow or similar so bags of experience.

mummytime Belgium Tue 04-Dec-12 09:40:20

I would also check in case some other full boarding schools do have room. It is often easier to get a full boarding place than a day place, but you need to ensure the school is really set up for boarders.

Dustylaw Tue 04-Dec-12 09:20:48

Definitely wait for the Lancing result. Lancing is a proper boarding school with Saturday morning school plus afternoon sports and activities. Therefore, although you will get some locals who pop home for Saturday evening and Sunday you will get a lot staying and the school will feel open. Re Christs Hospital, that is rather a special case. It is a full boarding school which runs on a 3 weekly rotation ie no one goes home at weekends and then all out for the exeat weekend. You will also be unusual if you are a full fee payer at CH because most aren't - so in those circumstances I would have no hesitation in making them wait a bit for your answer!

Ladymuck Tue 04-Dec-12 09:19:15

The makeup of the boarding community will be key, especially if you are overseas. Do you have a guardian somewhere local to view the schools for you.

Certainly as LIZS has already pointed out, Whitgift and Warwick are both offering outside their usual process (the 13+ exams are in Janaury), possibly reflecting the fact that they need to fill their boarding spaces. You need not be too worried about availability at these schools - you have a strong negotiating position.

You also need to look at the exeat policies of these schools - will the boarders get turfed out for weekends during term and if so, how many and for how long?

I wouldn't panic, but instead I would start looking at other boarding schools, where boarders are in the majority rather than the minority. It may be worthwhile for you to find a school agent who will be familiar with the boarding options. If you son is bright enough to have offers already from Whitgift and Warwick I suspect that we should be able to get offers from a number of schools with larger boarding communities, especially if you're not tied to a particular region. You still have a month or so in which to do this, and to be honest I would get on the phone today.

LIZS Tue 04-Dec-12 09:02:29

sorry wasn't clear. Whitgift is strong on team sport - rugby, cricket et al - also has compulsory CCF apparently.

LIZS Tue 04-Dec-12 08:56:49

1-2 hours of where though ? tbh you trying to compare apples with pears. They are all decent schools in their own right but with different strengths and profiles. If your ds is not used to living in a city and fairly sporty Whitgift for example may not be the place for him. Few people would select schools so randomly as to have experience directly relevant to you. Look at the [[http://www.isi.net/home/ ISI) website for recent reports as that should identify the breakdown of boarding to day, no. overseas to UK resident pupils, extracurricular offer etc.

andiu Tue 04-Dec-12 07:50:36

Hi,
Warwick doesn't have Saturday school and most of the children are day pupils. The weekends may be a little long and boring if no school or sports? Good luck.

goinggetstough Tue 04-Dec-12 07:40:16

Matmat do check the actual number of full boarders at Bishop Stortford as the 59 boys are spread across 5 years which is 12 a year. That total looks fine initially but maybe (and I don't know the answer) but as the number includes weekly and flexi boarders, it could be very low or it could be very high. More might board in the sixth form in preparation for university so the boarders in the lower years are less. It might be useful to ask the school directly about these numbers.
People comment very positively on both Whitgift on Mumsnet and Warwick school so possibly it comes down to the boarding community again. It might be difficult to join Whitgift at year 9 as part of a very small boarding community when all of the day pupils have been there since age 10/11. However they might be pushing the year 9 boarding numbers when the open the new boarding house so it wouldn't be a problem.
Good luck it is such a difficult task trying to find the best school for your child and of course it is much harder when you live abroad.

matmat Tue 04-Dec-12 01:42:06

Thanks for the valuable information from all of you.

When we chose schools to apply, we just checked the league tables without considering how their boarding houses are run. It's too late to arrange visits to the schools now as all of them announced/will release results in late Nov / early Dec and required us to give a reply (with deposit) within two or three weeks.

My son is an international student, so any place in the UK means no difference to him. I checked the google map and found that all these schools are within one to two hours' bus journey.

All of you are right. We should pick a school that has a large full boarding population or at least a Saturday school. In that case, we should wait for the result of Lancing College and Bishop's Stortford College. But if he is only placed on the waitlist, I must pay a deposit to either Warwick School or Whitgift School (we have decided not to go for CH) in order to secure a place first. Which one is better in the eyes of British parents? My son is sporty. He likes playing basketball, badminton and table tennis. He is studying in a good grammar school for boys in our homeplace.

goinggetstough Mon 03-Dec-12 17:54:21

Hi,

IMO your list doesn't really include full boarding schools with the exception of Christ's Hospital and maybe Lancing. I have just looked up the figures on the ISC website for boarders:

Warwick - 49 boarders age 11 - 18 (mixture of full and weekly boarders)

Lancing - 219 boys boarding age 13 - 18 + 129 girls. All allowed to go out on most Saturdays at 12.30 for the week end. So possibly lots of weekly boarders or full boarders that go home every weekend.

Bishop Stortford - 59 boys, 45 girls `(full, weekly and flexi boarders) 13 -18yrs

I agree with Lizcat definitely come and visit the schools as statistics can easily hide exact numbers. A good question to ask is how many boarders in year 9 were in for the last 2 weekends. All schools have a different definition of what weekly boarding means. So you have to ask specific questions.

As an overseas boarding parent myself IME it is vitally important that there is Saturday school and a real core of boarders in at the weekend, so that your DS doesn't have to rely on friends inviting him out for the weekend.
Good luck.

bulletpoint Mon 03-Dec-12 17:41:22

Bishops Stortford College, is a fantastic indy. high standards and good pastoral care. Lots of children board, but i dont know the proportion of flexi boarders to full boarders, but they have a thriving boarding community. The town of Bishops Stortford is also very nice, near rural villages, but with lots eateries and quaint shops etc. Good links into London, 40 min by train to Kings cross i think not 100% sure of the station, but a major link anyway.

I dont know anything about the others.

LIZS Mon 03-Dec-12 17:30:08

Whereabouts are you now ? You've picked a wide range of urban/rural environments, which are you really looking for ? Whitgift wouldn't normally be offering places for next September until February, 13+ is sat in January hmm Arrange to come and view before making your choice or you could make a costly mistake.

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