Am I making good choice? Whitgift, Wimbledon and a MAJOR change

(31 Posts)
Ebullient Mon 01-Jul-13 13:42:58

Hi mumsnetters,

I often read past discussions and find these very helpful. Feeling increasingly stressed, I'd like to share my dilemma.

My DS, Year 5, got really disheartened with his prep. Since last year he's been nagging to change his school. It's a good prep that sends scores of children to the top schools every year. In Years 2,3 he had good results (between 80-90 pct) and boasted great self-confidence. In Year 4 this changed - his self-confidence went downhill as did his results. Now both of these are only a shadow of what they were. Around the same time my husband and I were going through divorce and this has certainly affected DS.

Because of the divorce and cost of living in Central London, I'll have to move a bit far out. Clearly the question where to move is tied up with the schools, which are both currently in Central London. As DS went on and on about complaining about his school, I thought that this was the chance to kill two birds with one stone. We visited a couple of schools - Dulwich and Whitgift and my son literally fell in love with Whitgift. Seeing him so excited and 'wanting' a school was a breeze of fresh air. He sat late 10+ exams. Effortlessly got in. He's due to start this Sep.

His dad isn't that happy with the choice of the school, and neither are grandparents. Understandably, they all dreamt of seeing this child in one of the top schools. They all hold me responsible for making this 'lousy' choice, for giving in DS's complaints. My ex is still probing whether we'd reverse our decision and keep him a bit longer at the current prep. To be honest, I don't know myself. On one hand, I want DS to be happy, self-confident and thriving. On the other, what if they were right, what if with this hasty decision I'm depriving DS of a better school later on?

This is not all only about schools. It's also about commuting. My DS2 is in a good state primary next door. I looked at Wimbledon as a potential place to move, and there are lots of good primaries there. However, an in-year place in one of the better schools isn't guaranteed and we'd need to commute to his current school. This could go on for a year or longer.

On the other hand, DS2 and I could escort DS1 by overground to South Croydon every morning. Gosh, what a drag that could be! And hire a chaperon to collect and bring him home in the afternoon. Or we could leave all as it is till DS1 is 13. The housing issue isn't urgent and I could stay where we're for another few years..

I am really quite lost. Would appreciate what anyone has to say.
Thanks!

tiredaftertwo Mon 01-Jul-13 15:04:36

I don't know what your family is on about. WG is ASAIK an excellent school - they may mean one with a bigger name but he will have every chance to do well and be happy there. It is horses for courses and if you and he feel it is right, then (fingers crossed) it is! I don't like comparing schools but in case it is useful many people consider WG and DC, and choose between them depending on their circumstances and preferences.

I don't really understand about the other decisions, but do not get locked into taking him to school every day. He can start travelling on his own in year 6, lots do, so work out where a good commute will be, whether he can get the school bus, be met at the train station, whatever it takes at first. Certainly in yr 7 and I suspect in yr 6 at schools that start then, the presumption is that children do the journey alone and he will want to.

flatmum Mon 01-Jul-13 15:10:19

I am a bit shocked that your ex family consider Whitgift to be a poor choice. Where did they want him to go? What about your other ds who is in a state school? whay was all the expectation put on ds1?

I get that route into London and there are 100s of boys coming and going to Whitgift - he would have plenty of company I think. Many I know travel on their own from year 7 - maybe you could just accompany him for the first year (though won't you need to be dropping your other son somewhere or working?)

Lfs2126 Mon 01-Jul-13 16:58:08

What delightful ex-inlaws you have..not. I take it this is a snob thing, Whitgift is certainly much more cosmopolitan than the so called big names and all the better for it IMHOsmile. The south croydon commute is not an issue, it's chokka with Whitgift boys every day he won't be on his own or check out the school buses they go all over the place.

FatalFlowerGarden Mon 01-Jul-13 17:41:46

Whitgift may not necessarily be one of the 'big names' but I am staggered that anyone would consider it a 'lousy' school. Your XH and ILs sound like horrific snobs. Have they given a rationale for their opinions?

Wrt travel - boys travel to this lousy school from all over London. If you can put him on a train direct to south Croydon then he'll be surrounded by other boys and they all walk up together. Check out the school bus routes as well. I understand that you might not want to do this right away but don't think that you'll be tied into an early morning school run for long.

FatalFlowerGarden Mon 01-Jul-13 17:43:51

By the way, unless grandparents are paying a hefty whack of the fees, I fail to see why they are offering an opinion anyway... Do they not want their ds to be happy?

basildonbond Mon 01-Jul-13 19:47:06

Lots of boys fall in love with Whitgift and with good reason - there's a huge sense of energy about the place that is lacking from some better known schools which maybe rest on their laurels ... It is not as posh as some other London schools as it takes almost 50% of its intake from state primaries and is all the better for that IMO

And why on earth would you even think of taking him to school - ds1 made his own way there when he'd just turned 10 - a couple of older boys going from the same station kept an eye on him and it was fine - in fact the journey with his 'train friends' was one of the highlights of his day!

scaevola Mon 01-Jul-13 19:58:45

What school do they want him to go to? Would his current head say he stood a chance? Have you and DS actually seen them?

It's a real pity this only came up now - surely XH was involved in something as important as school selection? Did he actually visit Whitgift?

FatalFlowerGarden Mon 01-Jul-13 21:12:20

The fact is that any new school is a shot in the dark, to an extent. Just because it's a big name school doesn't mean your ds would be any happier or more successful there than he would somewhere like W. So the idea of 'am I missing out on a better school in a couple of years?' is pretty moot, imo. You'd be taking a chance in a couple of years just the same as you are now.

Fwiw though, I do understand the enormous stress of parental disagreements around schools. It's very difficult if you're being put under pressure by family. But I'm not sure your family have really thought their arguments through!

Mumzy Mon 01-Jul-13 22:26:12

I think you should stick to your guns and go for the school which your ds is most happy with. Schools such as St Pauls and Westminster aren't for everyone and if your ds isn't cut out for them then he'll be miserable and you'll be back at square one. From what I've heard about Whitgift it seems a fine school.

Dustylaw Tue 02-Jul-13 00:25:47

I can understand that you might worry about logistics but as others have said children soon get used to making their own journey. As far as Whitgift itself is concerned, there isn't a 'better' school. Whitgift is an excellent school - what on earth are your in laws and ex on about and do they have a clue what they are talking about? Slagging off Whitgift is so laughable that I'm afraid I would suspect their motives.

mummytime Tue 02-Jul-13 07:25:03

I also wanted to ask about DS2, why is no one concerned with his education?

Whitgift is a great school BTW!

Ebullient Tue 02-Jul-13 16:40:22

Hello everyone, thanks so much for helping to resolve what's been eating me from inside! It's great to have people involved and interested in problems of another..

Well, I've been going through another round of hell these past two days. After we've accepted the place and I've filled in all the forms, scheduled to see a shop uniform on Thurs, booked to see houses in Wimbledon on Fri, my ex is pushing me really hard to reverse our decision.

What is his problem? The problem is he's an intellectual snob as are his parents. What matters to our son is the least of their concerns. One such thing is sports. DS is very sporty. Another is fiends, social acceptance. He's a very social, outgoing boy. My ex is an anti-social, anti-sport dork, we'd say, whose life revolves around w/d visits to British museum, consuming loads of books, documentaries and everything intellectual. The life of his parents revolves around music and church. DS plays an instrument but isn't naturally into music.

So these three things are what stands between them and the school.
And yes, the in-laws are very rich, they're the ones paying the fees. We unfortunately can't afford it. sad That's why DS2 goes to a state school. Grandparents are biased towards DS1 and ignore DS2, who's a bright kid. But I do work with him myself to compensate. They're prepared to pay fees as long as it's the same prep DS1 goes to, and which made him so miserable. The prep is of course of their choice. They're long time friends with the head. But seeing DS1 struggle there, I thought I better not do the same with DS2.

What school they all want is Kings. The head of form saying DS1 is not going to pass the exams, and that this school isn't right for him. At least not for now. But who wants to hear what some head has to say? They have their own opinion.

I feel like I've run into a wall, and that what DS wants and cares about nobody hears or wants to hear. It's depressing.

BuiltForComfort Tue 02-Jul-13 16:54:04

If you are moving, you can think very carefully about moving into the catchment of a good state secondary, or a grammar if you're prepared to move further out to Bucks say. Stop letting your in-laws make all the decisions. Especially as they favour one child over the other in such an appalling manner.

FatalFlowerGarden Tue 02-Jul-13 16:55:11

What a horrible situation for you and ds - I really feel for you sad

Are your ILs suggesting they won't pay the fees for Whitgift? Have they even visited, or are they just going on the basis that it's not King's and therefore must be rubbish?

If your ds's current prep sends lots of boys to top schools, surely they must see that head has some idea of what he's talking about wrt passing exams etc?

Very difficult situation. I don't agree that school choices should be entirely based on the child's preference but my god, he'll have a fantastic time at Whitgift, especially if he's sporty! Your xh and ILs are depressingly shortsighted, but I have a feeling you know that already...

Ebullient Tue 02-Jul-13 17:03:24

I've spoken to the head again today. She said my ex should call her and she'd repeat everything she said to me. She thinks Whitgift is a good school and that it is right for our son at this point. He needs to stretch his wings and get his confidence back. She also said that the remaining years of prep will be very tough and very stressful; the day will be longer still. She said that this was totally unnecessary and harmful for the child. She totally thinks we should do the move.

But ...will he call her to hear what she has to say? I am not sure.

Whigitft said both parents need to sign a couple of forms to keep the place. But he's not signing.

I've got money for the first year. From then on I could find part of it. Then perhaps DS could get a scholarship or bursary. His dad could perhaps come to terms with it and chip in the reminder.

The school is waiting. They break for holiday on Friday. I was told Friday is the last day to give back all the signed forms.

Do you think, if we fail to reach an agreement by Thursday, I should come over to school and talk to them about my situation?

Ebullient Tue 02-Jul-13 17:10:36

Thanks, Builtforcomfort. I'm aware of this and looking for a house within a very short distance from two excellent primaries.

scaevola Tue 02-Jul-13 17:14:33

It's normal for a private school to request signatures from both parents. Indeed they usually require both on the application.

Is there any way you/HT could persuade XH that Whitgift is an excellent fit for DS as he is now. And that he could sit the KCS pre-test from there.

Ebullient Tue 02-Jul-13 17:16:52

FatalFlowerGarden - ILs have visited the school. As their focus is on music and pastoral care, they were not terribly impressed with it.
Still they said they understood why DS liked the school and that they'd pay the fees. But now it's my ex who rebels against it and not signing the forms.

scaevola Tue 02-Jul-13 17:21:57

OP: have you and DS visited KCS? It's a brilliant school with an excellent reputation for pastoral care, and I hope you're not setting yourself against it just because XH likes it.

Ebullient Tue 02-Jul-13 17:24:27

Scaevola, hi, um, it appears to be that he's got information from trusted contacts who say that a secondary school won't prepare DS for common entrance. This is I understand. My intention was to patch whatever was missing with tutors. I guess, he's not convinced that such patching would be adequate, sufficient or affordable.

Ebullient Tue 02-Jul-13 17:26:49

We haven't visited it yet. I am not setting myself up against King's at all. I'm sure it's a brilliant school. I booked a visit for Sep.

scaevola Tue 02-Jul-13 17:33:43

Good - not because KCS is necessarily going to be right for DS, or achievable for him (talk to the school about entry from a school which doesn't do CE preparation: if they want him after pre-test, they may have some pragmatic wriggle room) - but because it should show XH that you really are considering all options.

Something he should be doing too.

But the more you can persuade him that a move to Whitgift doesn't close off KCS chances, the better. And if he really won't sign and the admin troubles get too much, then you'll have to negotiate with Whitgift to change the 10+ offer to an 11+ one, and also sit the KCS pre-test next January. See what turns up.

Ladymuck Tue 02-Jul-13 17:50:11

If you are not certain about what you want at 13 then I would advise against W now. It will be hard on your ds to motivate himself to sit exams that his classmates won't have to, and you will be working against what the school is trying to do, rather than with them. Clearly W won't want to write a reference for KCS, though of course they will. And it would be unlikely that your ds, having settled at W, will want to leave his friends at 13. Transfer from top of prep school to public school is very different from leaving one senior school to go to another. W isn't trying to cover the CE syllabus, whereas a prep school would.

W do offer internal scholarships from time to time, but it is much easier to obtain these by external entry. Presumably ds's prep was getting him ready for Yr6 pre-entry and junior entrance exams in the next 6 months. Why not see if W would defer his place until next year? Then your ds can pretest for KCS. If he fails to get an offer then your ILs may change their mind about W.

basildonbond Tue 02-Jul-13 22:04:10

How can you possibly allow this situation to continue - I can't believe that anyone in your family thinks its ok to treat your two children so differently.

I would refuse to engage with the whole ex-in-laws' induced circus over ds1's education until both boys were being given equal consideration.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now