Winchester College Open Day

(346 Posts)
bico Thu 30-May-13 09:47:56

Anyone going this Saturday? Ds is in year 4 and keen to have a look, I think mainly because they have an 18 hole golf course grin.

termsofuse Mon 03-Jun-13 18:47:24

Yes, I can back up HG's example. Super impressed by the school's willingness and readiness to do it and super impressed by how far he got. Doubt if any of the schools mentioned here would have the willingness and capability to do the same. HM did a wonderful job, not an easy one. A clear demonstration of the school's ethos, not just PR.

bico Mon 03-Jun-13 18:49:34

bullet same here which is why I'm going to look round. I doubt it is the right school for a bright child but it is local so worth a look at what they have to offer. My visit to Winchester left me feeling I need to do a number of visits to other schools to work out what it is I'm looking for. I realise there may not be a perfect school for ds but the more info I have the better informed my decision will be.

bulletpoint Mon 03-Jun-13 19:01:00

Bico - Well you've summed up where we are at exactly, the more info the better informed. I quite like the idea of a single sex school with good SEN support, I'm just not blown away by Shiplake's results, but wondering wether there might be more to it than the tables are showing. Obviously we can't visit every school, information from other parents is always useful in making a shortlist.

bico Mon 03-Jun-13 19:35:53

bullet what stage are you at and what schools are you considering other than Winchester.

bulletpoint Mon 03-Jun-13 20:33:08

Gathering as much information as possible about various schools inorder to draw up a shortlist to visit in yr 5, ds currently in yr 4. Its been rather difficult because of SEN, ds needs a good academic school and it doesn't have to be super selective but with strong pastoral care. Considering Eton, Merchant Taylors (might have to go for day), might 'nose' around Charterhouse, would have loved Kings Canterbury but its miles away from us. On paper Winchester seems to tick all boxes but chats with 2 current parents are making us reconsider, its also miles away.

Ladybird65 Mon 03-Jun-13 20:33:15

Not sure the brightest of bright children would flourish at shiplake unless there was a special reason for sending him there. A good proportion have special support. It seems to be an extremely caring and supportive environment. I spoke to head poss the deputy head at a symposium thing and found him to be utterly genuine completely caring and ready to design a personal education for your child. We are not seriously considering it but it clearly works for a lot of parents and I can see why. No reason not to see it even if WC is another choice if for no other reason than for reinforcing your opinion.

happygardening Mon 03-Jun-13 22:59:11

We looked at Shiplake for DS1 (not at WC) admittedly quite a few years ago. He has moderate "dyslexia" his reading and comprehension of written txt are excellent. The head of special needs was very pleasant and friendly but on being asked what help they would give give my DS he repeatedly talked about lessons to improve his reading and comprehension comprehension despite having the ed psych report and my DS's repeated assertions that reading and comprehension weren't really a problem for him. The teacher also talked about touch typing like it was something Shiplake had invented and only available there but when I mentioned the words Dragon Dictation Program I might as well have been talking in Swahili. Don't get my wrong this is pretty standard answers I've heard it all before but I have no intention of paying for something my DS doesn't need and also paying and not getting something he clearly needs.
We felt Shiplake was particularly suitable for first time boarders with high anxiety levels because problems were anticipated and expected and measures put into place to provide lots of support hence my comment earlier that we felt it was a bit wet.
I did like the 6 th form where the children were encouraged to think more for themselves and do their own washing etc.

bico Mon 03-Jun-13 23:17:46

I discovered today that I know someone who has a friend who teaches at Winchester. He's happy to arrange a meeting if I think Winchester is a serious option.

Shiplake is worth us looking at as a day option with boarding if needed but I doubt ds will change his mind from wanting full boarding.

I need somewhere that will inspire ds. Since he started school it has been apparent that he excels when he is inspired but will do only what is required when he isn't. Sometimes the gap between those two viewpoints is huge. I definitely don't want somewhere that teaches to test.

juststartingtothink Tue 04-Jun-13 07:57:14

Bico and HG -- I'd rather not say which house we visited -- might help identify us and I wouldn't want anyone at WC to know my negative thoughts!!
HG -- While we were having the tour, most students were in their Saturday classes. Then, while we were having 'lunch" on the lawn outside New Hall (I think), the students presumably were having their own lunch. By the time we visited the houses (around 1:30 or 2, I think) the boys had finished lunch -- hence, our surprise not to see many engaging in any sorts of recreation around campus (other than those who were playing in the cricket matches). Our guide told us he planned to play tennis in the afternoon and then "go to town". When I asked what the boys did in "town" he said "not much; just go around shops". (He was a lovely boy, by the way; just seemed a bit uninspired...). Where DO boys "play" -- kick a ball, throw frisbees, etc -- on weekends? Other than the cricket pitches and the garden around the house we visited, it wasn't obvious where boys might be allowed to have kcik-abouts.
Re my comment about the buildings: I wouldn't expect our student guide to tell us the age or history of buildings but I would expect him to at least say "that building is one of the oldest buildings" or "that's the only surviving of the original buildings", etc. Frankly, he didn't seem to know what to show us -- indicating either a lack of imagination on his part or poor instructions from the registrar. Had we not asked to go into the library, he would have just pointed to it. As we did ask, we went in but he didn't know which way to take us once inside the building, nor did he tell us anything such as "here are the fiction books", "here's where we do on-line research" or ANYTHING that indicated how he, as a student, uses the facility. It was just very odd. What we observed on the day -- other than the two teachers I mentioned above -- did not manifest what we had read and heard elsewhere.
I'll definitely give it another chance.... though my creeping positive view toward boarding has been challenged by this experience!!

One more comment: I was very surprised by the people at the Open Day. Seemed to be quite a few from Pilgrim's and Horace Hill (?) which are feeder schools (and, hence, I would have thought parents already knew the school. Very few (if any) boys from London schools (Sussex House, Wesminster Under, The Hall, Wetherby Prep, etc) -- schools which tend to send their boys to selective boarding schools such as Winchester.

juststartingtothink Tue 04-Jun-13 08:35:11

sorry .. didn't complete my thought regarding attendees: given I thought the |"selective" London prep schools tended to send boys to the "selective" boarding schools, I would have expected to see quite a lot of people from London on the Open Day. I wonder whether they just didn't know about it, or they did know about it and prefer to visit on days other than "open days" (for reasons noted by others above) or whether they're less interested in WC than in other schools.
I did think, by the way, it was a very nice group of parents and boys. I enjoyed my conversations with other parents and I enjoyed seeing the boys play with each other during and after lunch.

happygardening Tue 04-Jun-13 09:34:07

"I wonder whether they just didn't know about it,"
As WC only holds one open day a year and always on the same weekend most feeder preps would know exactly when it is.
"By the time we visited the houses (around 1:30 or 2, I think) the boys had finished lunch -- hence, our surprise not to see many engaging in any sorts of recreation around campus"
I know my DS was participating in his chosen sport becasue I asked him but no idea what time they start I think its after 2 lunch is a 13 10.
"I would expect him to at least say "that building is one of the oldest buildings" or "that's the only surviving of the original buildings"
I doubt my DS would have a clue I will ask him next time I speak to him and we're a family very interested in architecture!
"Where DO boys "play" -- kick a ball, throw frisbees, etc -- on weekends?"
In my DS's house there is a concreted over area called I think "yard" where a ball is kicked around but my DS is not a ball kicker as far as I can ascertain most of his spare time is currently spent revising/working!!
"Had we not asked to go into the library, he would have just pointed to it. As we did ask, we went in but he didn't know which way to take us once inside the building, nor did he tell us anything such as "here are the fiction books", "here's where we do on-line research" or ANYTHING that indicated how he, as a student, uses the facility."
I once read somewhere that the library is under used and there is more than one three I think and I know my DS goes into one as he meets friends from other houses there and also goes there between lessons. "On line research" is I would have thought more likely to be done in house. Winchester is very housecentric the boys go back there all the time my DS's house has its own library although not very comprehensive and I've seen school library books at home so he must use it.
"When I asked what the boys did in "town" he said "not much; just go around shops".
I'm not sure what else they would do in Winchester?
As I said at the beginning of the thread we were frankly underwhelmed by Winchester when we attended the open day like you we went with very high expectations and these were not met. We only persevered because we'd already arranged to meet three prospective HM"s and it seemed rude to cancel. It wasn't till we met our current HM a few times and a few other dons, had lunch in the house and most importantly met the boys who in a more informal way that are views changed and we could then see what makes it different and IMV unique.

justsstartingtothink Tue 04-Jun-13 09:51:49

HG -- many thanks for your perspectives. It's very helpful to read insights from a parent who knows the school well.
Re "going to town" -- you're right to ask "what else would they do"! I didn't mean to suggest they'd do anything else. I just thought it seemed a bit of a dull way to spend an afternoon and it made me question the benefit of boarding school if boys can't think of anything more fun to do than go around shops...
I realise it's GSCE time so perhaps many boys were busy revising for exams -- which would explain why we didn't see them engaging in other activities.
Anyway.... we enjoyed the day in and around Winchester and it has certainly got us thinking about what sort of school we'd like for our son. Winchester continues to be -- on paper -- very attractive. I look foward to visiting again in the autumn.
Many thanks, again, for sharing your thoughts!

09870987 Tue 04-Jun-13 10:00:02

I think that the current economic environment is starting to put more pressure on selective London day school places. I know several families who have decided boarding is too expensive especially if you have several dc. My theory is that demand for boarding places will fall, even at a place like WC because there are comparable, academic schools like SPS, Westminster, Kings Wimbledon in London and you see this with the entry figures (2-3 for each place for WC, 9 for each place for kings pre test). The boarding schools will increasingly look abroad to take up the slack. This may be why you didn't see hoards of Londoners at the open day, or maybe they were being discreet that day?!

termsofuse Tue 04-Jun-13 10:26:07

Think back to the time when we were their age. Apart from the usual teenage thing, they all take the history and the surroundings for granted as they are immersed in it everyday. Few would see anything deserving more than indifference. Similarly, I wonder how many of the boys will make a point of visiting the Treasury (museum) in the school. Also, they are not told let alone trained about their surroundings. I honestly think what they know is limited to what they heard when they went on open days or private visits! Parents are likely to know more than their DSs.
They go to town to buy things, snacks or whatever. Some JP/MP boys go to get free wifi to download music or books at Starbucks or MacDonald's. Personal computers or tablets are not allowed at all until their third year, house dependent, some HM may allow them in the fifth term. Internet enabled smart phones are tolerated. Ereader are allowed. Many older boys with computers would let the younger ones play on them though which is nice.
Most houses would have their own computers for the JP/MP boys. Online work is done mostly in house as HG said.
Speculating here, would the middle of the exam calendar be the cause of fewer boys doing leisurely things outside (I kind of doubt it though)? The houses, art school, musical school, DT mill, sports fields and so on are fairly spread out. They could be walking around the streets surrounding the school to and from activities/societies too. Many boys are quite involved in extra-curricular projects at these facilities. I am sure there are boys working on things for Winchester Day right now.
Sundays can be a bit dull from what I heard and will take an effort to keep occupied, during second term is worse. Very little organised activities because quite a few boys would go home or be taken out by parents. Facilities have short opening hours on Sundays. Having an obsessive interest/hobby helps.
They will be ODed on visitors this month with New Men's Day this weekend and Winchester Day in a few weeks.

123flower Tue 04-Jun-13 10:26:56

At DS1 and DS2's London prep school, only the boys who weren't offered places at Westminster, St Paul's or Eton ended up going to Winchester - so it wasn't their first choice. I remember one London dad describing Winchester as too "tweedy" and stuck in the mid 20th century, so may it's less popular with metropolitan families...

termsofuse Tue 04-Jun-13 10:46:03

Hard to deduce from the geographic mix on open day alone. I think there is a fair population of London prep school boys but very hard to tell. The only thing released with that information is the Election Roll (scholar's list) which is for just one house. There have been London ones at least for College in the latest three years. Too academic, no compulsory sports, dated facilities, too hard, too nerdy are commonly heard.

happygardening Tue 04-Jun-13 10:49:14

"Similarly, I wonder how many of the boys will make a point of visiting the Treasury (museum) in the school."
I think my Ds might have been into the treasury (museum) (?now called the Heads Stable or something similar) when he started he remembered a model ship but I can't imagine he's frequently trotting off there.
"I didn't mean to suggest they'd do anything else. I just thought it seemed a bit of a dull way to spend an afternoon and it made me question the benefit of boarding school if boys can't think of anything more fun to do than go around shops..."
I know my DS did his chosen sport which would have lasted about an hour and then went into Winchester on Saturday afternoon. I think you'll find that unless there is a long match like cricket (thankfully my DS has no interest in cricket) most sporting activities like karate fencing etc last for about 1 - 1 1/2 hours. You do have to remember the boys work very hard they have prep on Saturday evening and Saturday after activities is time to do nothing (how lovely maybe I should go to Win Coll). They are allowed bikes and I know some go cycling in their free time.
I agree 0987 boarding fees are astronomical Winchester next year will be just shy of £34 000 PA thats a hell of a lot of money.
"you see this with the entry figures 2-3 for each place for WC, 9 for each place for kings pre test"
Winchester do restrict the numbers to 2-3 because of the length of the pre test although I've no idea if more would like to pre tested.
"Sundays can be a bit dull from what I heard and will take an effort to keep occupied,"
This frankly our biggest disappointment no activities are organised outside of the art room DT dept and gym being open and many go home we unfortunately have no realistic public transport option and have to drive to pick him up so we don't go that often. But having said this given an opportunity to come home this Sunday my DS said he was revising for his exams and wanted to stay at school [smug smiley].

AnnaBBB Tue 04-Jun-13 11:00:08

I went on a Winchester visit also (not the open day) and met two dons. I was pre-disposed to really like it but came away with reservations. I didn't like the six to a room bedrooms for first years - they were cramped and looked like you had so little privacy. Similarly, I found it strange - if it is 21st century that the boys are not allowed computers for the first two years, especially as it is for self -motivated types. The same feeling from the place where they do their "toy time" or prep - with all the individual booths and curtains puled across. Walking around the place it just seemed too "scholarly" and cloistered for boys so young as 13 (and I have been to Oxford so I know cloistered but this seemed even more so) .....I must admit even though the Eton tour is more impersonal and I went with no pre-conceived notions ...I thought the facilities at Eton were far superior including the single study bedrooms and wi-fi (albeit filtered) for personal laptops from day 1. It's not all down to facilities I know, but the atmosphere at Eton just seemed somehow more "full on". Horses for courses.... ...I genuinely think Winchester may be best suited for certain more intellectual types, but I had to ask myself if I was a 13 year old boy like my DS would like to live here for 5 years especially if it is more full on boarding than most boarding schools? I know Winchester has a great reputation for being one of the most selective in its entrance procedures, but even with its more personal pre-selection and difficult pre -Us and culling at sixth form (if you don't get the requisite As at GCSE) it still gets the same percentage into Oxbridge as Eton does (and Eton seems somehow more rounded) and as do some of the leading day schools. Finally, I also did wonder if they are filling up more spaces these days with pupils from the Far East. I don't know if there is any limit of percentage of overseas at any boarding schools.. At the end of the day, I have hesitated to register DS at Winchester though still thinking on it because I am having difficulty visualising him there, whereas I have walked away from other school tours, wanting to fill in the forms as soon as I got home.

happygardening Tue 04-Jun-13 11:00:51

I dont think many came from London preps in my DS's year/house mainly home counties and those who lived in London were at country boarding preps. Winchester is proper full boarding (no coming out on Saturday afternoon even for a special family party) and keeps parents at arms length you've got to not only like the school but also really believe in boarding to go down this road.
I also agree the lack of compulsory sport might put many off many are shocked at this and also the nerdy image.
"too hard,"
I take it term you mean the ethos this is far removed from my experience all the staff I've met are exceedingly caring and dedicated although it is an all boys environment I don't think its a place for the super sensitive but then few full boarding schools are.

AnnaBBB Tue 04-Jun-13 11:10:29

HG - I don't understand the comment re: Winchester is restricting pre-testing to 2-3 per place? I thought anyone could register if the simply filled on the form and paid the fee in time and then pre-tested - Don't they allow all who register to pre-test?

AnnaBBB Tue 04-Jun-13 11:14:15

One nice thing about having a laptop and a private bedroom from day 1 at a full boarding school is that you can always arrange Skype video call with home once in a while if you are homesick or parents/grandparents just misses you and wants to say hello!

happygardening Tue 04-Jun-13 11:19:11

"Winchester may be best suited for certain more intellectual types,"
When we first started looking at senior schools we were primarily interested in SPS but my DS's form teacher recommended Win Coll to us for exactly that reason. Her DS had looked at both Eton and Winchester she said he was very clever but not intellectual where as she felt my DS was not only very clever but also very intellectual.
it just seemed too "scholarly" and cloistered for boys so young as 13
I'm curious to know what you mean by this.
"it still gets the same percentage into Oxbridge as Eton"
I dont know what the figures are I thought Win Coll sent a fraction more (not that it really matters) but they do achieve more A*'s or equivalent at the much harder Pre U 0ver 50% more again not that matters either and more are going abroad (mainly to the Ivy League) I wonder if this reflects the increasing number of pupils from the Far East.

I agree Eton has better facilities and as you said is definitely more 21st century I personally don't like single rooms I think it can be very lonely I've recenly heard of quite a few struggling to settle Eton. I recntly asked my DS about dorms and he will tell you its in the dorms that friendships are made and often with boys who they may not have not been naturally drawn too although I do agree they are small and privacy is at a premium.
'whereas I have walked away from other school tours, wanting to fill in the forms as soon as I got home."
We all want different things and no one school/person is right I walked away from Eton thinking I wouldn't put the dog into it let alone my DS but I am perfectly aware that its a very good school and many many love it. In fact SPS and Win Coll aside (God knows why becasue they are like chalk and cheese) having trotted round quite a few in my time there were no others I would even consider I'd rather have turned to the state and used the spare cash to to enrich his education.
"I don't know if there is any limit of percentage of overseas at any boarding schools"
I doubt it.

happygardening Tue 04-Jun-13 11:24:35

AnnaB HM's close their lists when they have about 30 on them all on the list get pre tested.
"you can always arrange Skype video call with home once in a while if you are homesick or parents/grandparents just misses you and wants to say hello!"
My DS who does have a lap top but doesn't Skype me he txts or calls (usually once a week if he's not too busy) but then he's been full boarding since he was 7 and I think we've jut got a different mindset to those who aren't used to full boarding and these are teenage boys many of whom are pretty monosyllabic when talking to their parents and who hopefully have many more interesting things to do than Skype their parents all the time.

termsofuse Tue 04-Jun-13 11:28:06

Sorry HG, bad choice of word, "too difficult" meaning that many are put off by the myth that the entrance exams are just too challenging. No, totally with you about the caring and nurturing environment, especially for an all boys environment.
AnnaBBB, I think it goes a bit beyond the Oxbridge count and exam results though. There is often a discernible difference between the attitude and perspective of Etonians and Wykehamists generally speaking. Horses for courses as you said. Some may do well in either, but they will be molded differently and their values are quite different. For other school, that may not be so obvious, but it is for these two.
As for Far East, it is fair to say that regardless of nationality or race, quite a few boys had "far east" education before. Probably fair to say that those which that exposure tend to value the academic side far more than anything else. Perhaps that explains the attraction to families who are either currently there or had spent time there. Pure speculation of course. Unsure if there is a quota, but just noticed that there are different procedures for admissions for those applying from Asia, again just based on where they live rather than nationalities.
HG, I doubt if WC or its houses would do anything about Sundays. The short version is that they all defend the concept of free time being free. Not a bad thing, just could be better every now and then.

AnnaBBB Tue 04-Jun-13 11:34:01

HG - My DS is clever (at a few subjects but not all) but not intellectual - perhaps that is it then and why you preferred Winchester ...he came away from Eton tour wanting to go there ....but at Winchester - despite meeting dons and having a more personal tour, he seemed to have no particular opinion on the place! By scholarly, I mean rightly or wrongly, it seemed to be much more orientated on the cerebral and quirky and dare i say it, a bit more introverted in the boys it attracts than the all roundedness that some other boarding schools promote. Given my DS likes to run around a lot at whatever sport (albeit he is not top sporty type) and socialise (though I do worry that is just to many 13 year olds in a single small dorm, especially of one or tow dominate, I would prefer two to a dorm for the first year), perhaps it's just not the place for him. As I said, I don't know if I have the right impression - what I have learned from these school tours is it is so subjective and any pre-conceived notions about a place can quickly change - so I am going by gut feel as well as reputation and prep HM's guidance. My other reservation is that since Winchester don't let boys home as much as some other boarding schools do, they really should not be suffering from dull weekends at 34 k a year, given also here is no compulsory sports.

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