Worried mother looking for a suitable school for daughter- please help!

(78 Posts)
manicmother80 Thu 14-Feb-13 03:05:47

I live in India, and my 14 year old daughter is having a hard time in the schooling system here. She is a bright and talented girl but the schools here are very rigid and hierarchial whereas she is creative and independant-minded. She is determined to come to a boarding school in the UK, but I'm worried that she has been far too protected at home and will not enjoy the experience unless we find her a school that is a 'perfect fit' for her.

To give you an idea of what my daughter is like: her grades are consistently at the top of her class for the subjects she likes (English, Maths, Economics) and below average for those that she doesn't enjoy (Science, History). She's an enthusiastic debator, she writes and directs drama and she has created her own online comic strip that is very popular with her school students. She attends after-school classes in graphic design, photography and animation.

She is very extroverted and a little rebellious and contrarian. She is not at all the 'posh' type and is happiest in a friendly and casual atmosphere. She enjoys a bit of recreational rowing, riding and trekking but is not at all interested in competitive sport.

I've been considering Bradsfield College, St. Edwards School Oxford, Moreton Hall and Westonbirt School. Do these sound like a good fit for her? Which would you say is the best of the lot?

I'm looking for boarding schools (either co-ed or all-girls) in Southern or Middle England for entry in Sixth Form in September 2014. I would very much appreciate reccomendations of boarding schools with cosy, close-knit community atmosphere and top-notch art and drama opportunites. Ideally, a school that is not too pressurizing academically, but that is still intellectually challenging enough for a smart teenager.

And I should add that my daught

manicmother80 Thu 14-Feb-13 16:16:18

Thank you lostonthemoors. I should mention that India is very, very conservative. My daughter studies at a relatively liberal and elite school in one of the bigIndian cities, but the rules are still extremely rigid:punishments include sending children out of the classroom and shutting the door on them for the most minor infractions and girls are routinely chastised for holding hands with or hugging boys, for instance. And the focus is completely on science and maths subjects for the most part.

My husband and I are involved in creative professions, and have lived abroad for many years before moving back home a decade ago, and we've given our daughter a very different upbringing from that of a typical Indian girl, which is why she so often runs afoul of the system here.

I should have expressed myself better in my original post: I'm not necessarily looking for a liberal school in the UK, I just want my daughter to be part of a liberal Western education system. I'm sure that even a relatively traditional British school would still feel very liberal to her. I'm more interested in a school with an artistic and nurturing reputation plus good academics and not too 'posh', than one that is necessarily very liberal.

happygardening Thu 14-Feb-13 16:22:47

"Not too posh" Im not really sure what you mean by this TBH. People who can cheerfully stump up £34 000+ PA in school fees are by their nature not be on the bottom of society's pile. I think most in the UK would assume your pretty posh if your paying that kind of money for education.

milkshake3 Thu 14-Feb-13 16:29:50

What about Marlborough? Lovely town, liberal school ( but Headmaster cracking down on flagrant rule breaking), seems to have loads going on and something for everyone. Full boarding do dies not empty at weekends and London contingent so Cosby in tge train to London for exeats. Does IB and A levels.

Copthallresident Thu 14-Feb-13 16:29:54

manic two exeats per term, some house mistresses tougher than others about allowing pupils out on other weekends, some forbid it all together.

My comment on self motivation was specific as well as general, in relation to preparation for recent public exams the staff were relaxed and encouraging. Something that with a DD being pressured to the point of panic at very academic day school I was quite jealous of. However I did overhear a session in a parent organised holiday boot camp, and I have to say that in Maths there were significant gaps in understanding compared to DD. Undoubtedly this was due to an unhealthy focus on Facebook etc. instead of Maths prep, and you can lead a horse to water etc. but nevertheless I had always assumed that Boarding would mean the horse might as well drink ISWIM grin.

However the pupils I know there have an immensely rich extra curricular life, none of the descriptions of music, drama and art are exaggerated, amazing facilities and a significant number of former pupils have gone on to successful careers in the arts.

All this with pupils that in the main are fairly local with a contingent of exiles from the London day school rat race and a few from overseas.

I have no idea about entry at sixth form, at 13 their lists fill up very early but it does seem that there are places that come up in subsequent years.

Copthallresident Thu 14-Feb-13 16:32:29

milkshake3 Are your comments taking into account the "Middleton" effect. Around here it used to be seen as a place to send your jolly sporty but dim, when putting the name down in time was all that was required. Hearing of some able pupils not getting in now.

happygardening Thu 14-Feb-13 16:38:58

The OP said she didn't want "posh" Marlborough has a reputation for having smart families friends of our well known hereditary peers but the gum boot wearing clapped out farm land rover driving types didn't feel smart enough for it. Im also not aware of it being liberal for many years. But you're right about the boarding lots of full boarders and lots of activities at the weekend.

manicmother80 Thu 14-Feb-13 17:01:03

Happygardening What I mean is this: I have two very good friends whose children study at 'posh' schools in the UK, and while they are very impressively articulate, confident and well-informed, their lifestyles do worry me a little.

One girl insists on only staying at the Aman resorts when they go on family holiday and makes her parents take her to the most expensive restaurants in London whenever they go to visit her. She says that going to the best resorts, restaurants etc is a part of the 'exposure' that she has gained since coming to the UK. Apparently, the last time my friend went to London, her daughter was absolutely mortified that her mother asked for tap water at a trendy restaurant. She's now badgering her mother to get her some very expensive designer dresses for her upcoming leaver's ball and her 18th birthday.

My friend says that she gives into these demands because she doesn't want her daughter to feel deprived compared to her classmates, and that its worth it because she is getting such an excellent education and good social exposure, but I'm afraid that I will not be able to do the same.

We have money to pay for justifiable expenses like an excellent education abroad, but we would not like to have our daughter feeling entitled to a very lavish lifestyle because everybody around her lives like that, and frankly, she isn't the sort who wouldn't fit into a school that was exclusively for the very sophisticated and the glamorous.

I read that something like 20% of UK students do their A-Levels at independent schools, which sounds like quite a bit of diversity to me. I'm not expecting these schools to be completely unpretentious, but I would prefer to avoid the more rarefied and socially exclusive amongst these schools.

manicmother80 Thu 14-Feb-13 17:02:21

copthallresident thank you again for the very detailed post, it is very helpful.

Copthallresident Thu 14-Feb-13 17:37:25

happygardening "gum boot wearing clapped out farm land rover driving types" Plenty of those at Bryanston grin

happygardening Thu 14-Feb-13 17:39:51

OP I know now exactly what you mean by posh Id avoid Marlborough then! But your point "I read that something like 20% of UK students do their A-Levels at independent schools, which sounds like quite a bit of diversity to me." how many are at day schools? Boarding schools by heir sheer cost are likely to be primarily full of very wealthy parents it goes with the territory. IME the very academic one have less materialistic/status obsessed children but others might disagree. Snobbery arises around intellectual ability instead.

happygardening Thu 14-Feb-13 17:41:34

Copthall not Marlborough though! Actually all we know at Bryanston are bankers and city lawyers clean Hunters and range Rovers!!!

Copthallresident Thu 14-Feb-13 18:29:54

I find the leavening of masters of the universe with the country living brigade and gum boot wearing clapped out farm land rover driving types quite amusing when I have attended the concerts etc. The children all seem to have melded into one not too cool, happy and confident type though.

Certainly makes a change from the clash of Masters of the Universe and earnestly self sacrificing Volvo drivers at DD's school........... and the similar clash between over confident competitive alpha girls and those with more inclusive values.

outtolunchagain Thu 14-Feb-13 20:07:57

What about Greshams for a less competitive option ( although I still think Oakham sounds a good choice)

manicmother80 Thu 14-Feb-13 20:57:13

Thank you outtolunchagain - I will look into both schools.

manicmother80 Thu 14-Feb-13 20:57:51

happygardening - that is a fair point, can't really disagree.

Tigerstripes Thu 14-Feb-13 20:58:58

My sister went to pipers corner in buckinghamshire and my parents chose it on the basis of her not being overly academic but being very good at art. It's not full of the pretentious types and she enjoyed it there. It is mixed day/boarding though so I'm not sure if that would suit.

manicmother80 Thu 14-Feb-13 21:13:31

Thank you very much for the suggestion Tigerstripes. My daughter is academic- she's at a fairly good school at the moment, and is top of the class in the subjects she enjoys (including Maths) and she reads voraciously- her problem is that she doesn't have an excellent work ethic and would much rather be doing something creative than studying the subjects/ topics that she doesn't enjoy. So I do want a school that is academically challenging and will motivate her to work harder, just not a school that is full of highly motivated geniuses, because she would be unhappy in such a pressure-cooker environment.

Copthallresident Thu 14-Feb-13 21:24:44

manic I think it may be worth being a bit pushy parent with CLC, it sounds a perfect fit, and nothing ventured, nothing gained, do a selling job, sounds like they should jump at the chance.

manicmother80 Thu 14-Feb-13 21:51:34

Copthallresident Do you think that is probable that CLC would be willing to accept such a late entry? I'm not very good at being assertive, but if you think that we do stand a chance, then I will get my husband to ring them. Or do you think we'll stand a better chance if we just go visit the admissions office (with our daughter) when we come to England next month?

manicmother80 Thu 14-Feb-13 21:55:56

Oh dear, I feel VERY foolish. I just looked at the page again, and it's actually entry for sixth form in 2013 that is closed, I don't think that registration for 2014 has even started yet. blush Can't believe I was so silly, I will ring them first thing tomorrow and find out what the procedure is. It's just that I have a friend whose both daughters study there and she told me that is was necessary to register them years in advance, but that doesn't look to be the case. Does anybody know about Cheltenham Ladies' College entrance procedures ?

YippeeTeenager Thu 14-Feb-13 22:00:03

St Teresas in Effingham is very friendly, less academic (but getting increasingly good results) and much less competitive. Maybe a bit quiet for your girl though.

Hawise Fri 15-Feb-13 09:44:00

I have heard good things about Royal Masonic in Herts, would be happy to send my dd there. It's a good all round school and not too posh!
Same with St Margarets in Bushey. Don't know if anyone has mentioned Haileybury, supposed to be very good, but is Co-ed.

mrsshackleton Fri 15-Feb-13 11:45:40

manic, most boarding schools are posh, only the elite can afford them. Don't pay any attention to the Tatler guide, as you say it's gossipy and only there to bring in advertising from the schools. Look at the GSG and the word "unpretentious" should be the one that rings bells for you.

Dustylaw Fri 15-Feb-13 11:52:35

Manicmother, you are asking interesting questions about what makes a school a good fit. We wanted schools which could clearly stretch and get the best for a range of pupils from bright-ish to very bright. We didn't want a school where getting anything other than an A* was regarded as a blot on the school's record but we did want a school where they would pay attention to the children getting the results they should. One school we looked at proudly declared that they expected the girls to excel in everything they did, whether academic or extracurricular - definitely not what we were looking for! And we certainly didn't want a school where a designer lifestyle was necessary to fit in or be part of the cool gang. We also wanted a school with good train links to London. As we looked around schools I also thought that easy access to an interesting town was important because sometimes children just need a break from being in the school - The Leys wins hands down for that being a safe 5 minute walk from Cambridge town centre. (That matters less if there is a weekly exodus to London but lack of an interesting town is also one reason why children might not want to stay at school at the weekend.) It sounds like both Roedean and The Leys could be potential good fits for your daughter.

sugarfoot Mon 18-Feb-13 17:12:26

Have a look at Canford. GSG says 'Unpretentious and sensitive, at ease with itself but without a trace of smugness. A school which can hold its own with the most popular in the country but one which has, perhaps, benefited from not being fashionable'.

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