Eton visit

(38 Posts)
difficultpickle Mon 28-Oct-13 21:33:28

We attended today in the hopeful anticipation that this will be the right school for ds. Tour was good, our guide was informative and we saw lots of lovely buildings. We had a film and a talk at the end by the Admissions tutor which was informative and interesting.

During our tour we saw no classrooms, no science labs, no language labs, one teacher (in the DT room), no pupils (it is not half term). The latter was explained because the boys have an afternoon break in lessons until 4.30pm (our visit was 2pm to 5pm). We had a nice cup of tea at the end and there was one current pupil to talk to probably about 100 parents.

Is that a normal tour or were we just unlucky? I find it impossible to form a view of a school without having the opportunity to talk to teachers and pupils. All the schools we have visited this term have fab facilities so what will distinguish our choice will be what attending the school is actually like. We can only get that from meeting people who live and work there.

Interestingly most of the other people on the tour were from overseas although at the end of the tour we met up with other parents whose boys were attending today's assessment and they all seemed to be UK based.

difficultpickle Sun 03-Nov-13 13:00:14

I agree about being guided by the school although in ds's case they've recommended quite a broad range.

I'm state grammar school educated and some of my peers had a very superior attitude so I think you can get that anywhere. In their case it was fuelled by their parents. Fortunately for ds he doesn't have those sort of parents grin

I'm also not particularly interested in names, ie if the local comp was the best place for ds then that is where he will go. If it is Radley or Eton then the same. That opinion probably puts me in a small minority of parents looking at private schools.

summerends Sun 03-Nov-13 12:41:28

Going back to OE tag, I agree it is a minor consideration if only Eton can supply what a boy needs. However I would n't discount the risk of boys at Eton (and certain other well known schools) developing "self superiority" during their time there, it is after all a fine line between that and promoted self confidence. This is n't helped by a reputation in particular circles that if you get into Eton or certain other public schools you are a talented elite. There are a huge number of equally or more talented children in the state system. Having said all that. I'm sure parental influence can counteract all of that and the teachers will certainly try to.

SthingMustBeScaringThemAway Sun 03-Nov-13 11:08:35

I guess there might be an element of separating the wheat from the chaff? So many people do only know the "brand" and might get to the tour stage purely because of that. Given the very slim chance of any particular parents boy "getting in" it may be that the non-handy-holdy nature serves to put off anyone who isn't actually serious. The Admissions tutor talk is hardly comforting!

And the truth is that most (obviously not all) serious contenders will be very much guided by their school. It may not make much difference if parents enjoy the tour or not. They're not taking pre-assessment.

difficultpickle Sun 03-Nov-13 10:54:40

The Radley visit just felt more engaging. We met the Registrar, we were shown around the school by two pupils and we had a meeting after our tour with the Academic Director. It just felt as if Radley were genuinely interested at the prospect of ds coming to their school.

The Eton tour was lovely but it was a tour it wasn't a school visit. I know little more about Eton today than I did before we visited. If Eton had been our first school visit I wouldn't actually bother visiting any schools as I'd figure I'd get more information from the prospectus.

The only interesting part of the day was the talk from the Admissions tutor and some of the facts and figures he imparted about the admissions process.

Interestingly a couple of boys on our tour were sitting the pre-test later in the week and the tour was their first visit to Eton. It felt as if we were being sold a brand rather than a school. Obviously some people are happy to buy into the brand without actually really knowing much about it. Clearly those two families (and maybe some others on the tour that we didn't speak to) are. For me that isn't enough.

SthingMustBeScaringThemAway Sun 03-Nov-13 10:08:43

Bisjo you put that so well. (BTW I think you were a bit unlucky.)

Could you please, please elaborate on why you preferred the Radley visit?

difficultpickle Sun 03-Nov-13 09:24:02

I'm not worried at all by the OE tag. If ds went there I think he would get a good education but I doubt he'd also get a personality transplant. The benefits will outweigh the negatives imo and I'm prepared to put up with giving him the OE label if it's the right school for him.

summerends Sun 03-Nov-13 04:44:32

Poor old Eton; it has managed to make itself as good a school as possible (and, as you say Amber, no more expensive than other boarding schools) and its selection procedure is as fair as possible to pick bright teachable boys with get up and go, including some from families that could not normally access it financially. Most boys there have an amazing time by all accounts, not surprisingly with all the opportunities and the large number of peers to mix with. However, to counterbalance that there remains the label of OE and the unfortunate propensity of some of their number to mistake privileged education for inner superiority (not always successfully camouflaged by their charm), thus perpetuating the label. Luckily Eton has grown to such a large school that the sheer volume of its output may provide increasing safety in numbers when penetrating the wider world wink.

Amber2 Sun 03-Nov-13 00:39:09

summerends....I think about the label too...Eton's an amazing school with great teaching and facilities, ...but I imagine the social label is something an OE may or may not want to reveal when he meets people depending on the circumstances ...as they say once an OE...always an OE...

I don't think there's quite another school that carries the sort of preconceived notions among the public at large as Eton does.

And if an OE is not enormously wealthy or aristocratic, I wonder if that makes it worse in a way ...i mean to carry the OE tag and the weight of preconceptions that goes with it....including the reputation of arrogance or entitlement (which is hard to dispel in the public's mind no matter how charmingly one behaves or however many clever boys are on bursaries there or however much work Eton does to outreach to the community) .

I speak as one of the "squeezed middle" who would be a first time buyer of the brand Eton and would be making sacrifices to send DS there as make too much to qualify for a bursary, While it costs pretty similar to most good boarding schools ...if DS went there, I do wonder about the pros and cons of the Eton label being the first thing folk would judge him by at uni and afterwards as if it defined him or his politics or outlook above anything else.

summerends Sat 02-Nov-13 21:09:13

Bisjo, if only because it is so close to you and well funded for bursaries it is worth keeping Eton on your short list. You can make a more informed decision after the admissions process and subsequent visits. Personally I think the main problem with Eton won't be pastoral care or teaching since it must be a large well run and well financed school but the social label after. Charming with a big C can be regarded as a veneer for arrogance in a proportion of Eton boys. Radley is often kept as an alternative choice, however getting a Warden's list place means committing to Radley as first choice in the December of year 7. Radley has excellent academic teachers and has a very good reputation for singing and musical theatre.

peteneras Sat 02-Nov-13 20:41:08

And which one did you go to grovel, Cheltenham Ladies’ or Wycombe Abbey? grin

Chottie Sat 02-Nov-13 18:10:57

Regarding meeting pupils, at my DC school, the boys meeting and greeting parents were carefully selected.

1805 Sat 02-Nov-13 18:05:20

nice to know that someone who went to Radley can afford the fees for Eton. grin

grovel Sat 02-Nov-13 17:13:09

My DH went to Radley. My DS went to Eton.

IndridCold Sat 02-Nov-13 17:11:03

I certainly agree with you that actually visiting a school is a far more effective way of judging whether it is right for the DCs than any number of reports and exam result league tables. I think that Eton's size (in terms of pupil numbers I think it is nearly double the size of Radley or Winchester) does make it very difficult to really get the vibe on the tours that they offer.

Good luck with the rest of your visits - I'm sure that when you find the right school for your DS they will be happy to have him!

difficultpickle Sat 02-Nov-13 16:00:35

At the moment Radley is top of our list although geographically Eton is slightly more convenient. I always read ISI reports like a more detailed Ofsted in that it doesn't always give you the most accurate picture from a pupil's perspective. However it will be good to have a new report to compare to Radley's which was done earlier this year.

Part of wanting to meet pupils is to see whether I can imagine ds being there and fitting in to the school. I (and ds) can see that with Radley more than any of the other schools we've visited. The main difference for us between Eton and Radley is with Radley ds would need to get a scholarship to access a bursary whereas at Eton he just needs the offer of a place. Also Eton is so close to where we live it wouldn't be an issue to visit for matches or concerts.

IndridCold Sat 02-Nov-13 15:29:12

' I'm also never completely convinced either about the usefulness of meeting boys. Only a very brave school is going to let you meet the unhappy inarticulate clod who's about to be asked to leave because his GCSE grades are not going to be good enough. '

Reminds me of a rather boisterous thread several months ago when someone who had just done the tour complained that the boys she met had clearly been carefully selected and were, therefore, not representative of the school as a whole smile. I think you were a bit unlucky not to meet any, though.

bisjo we have just had an email from the ISI to say that they are inspecting Eton this coming week. I'm not sure how long it takes them to put the finished report up, but it might make a few things clearer for you. I would say, however, that as your DS is only 9/10 you might have been a bit freaked by seeing a lesson in progress - I gather from DS that some of the teaching styles are quite 'robust'.

1805 Fri 01-Nov-13 20:37:12

In case it might help anyone on here, our ds has spent some time at Radley on courses, and thinks the food is really really good. It also has the best swimming pool apparently too!! The staff we know could not be more friendly and relaxed and we have altogether been bowled over by the place. Mind you, we also like Abingdon........

difficultpickle Fri 01-Nov-13 19:41:40

I agree that classrooms in themselves are not interesting at all but pupils being taught in classrooms are. I also think that even the best prepped boys cannot maintain that prep in the face of lots of questions. You know whether they are saying what they think or saying what they are told to say. If they are vague in their answers then of course you know you aren't getting the whole picture. Some of the boys that have showed us around their schools have been searingly honest.

middleclassonbursary Fri 01-Nov-13 19:38:02

I too have rarely viewed a classroom, lab, swimming pool. Nearly all top schools have these. I'm also never completely convinced either about the usefulness of meeting boys. Only a very brave school is going to let you meet the unhappy inarticulate clod who's about to be asked to leave because his GCSE grades are not going to be good enough.
I've always tried to get a feel for the school, watched the daily interaction between pupils and pupils and staff; far more informative.
Current parents assuming they are not totally besotted with their choice can also give an interesting perspective often it's not what's said but what's not said. Years ago I looked at a school with a friend who's a teacher she put an entirely different perspective on things.

difficultpickle Fri 01-Nov-13 19:01:11

peteneras I found it odd not to have any interaction at all with any pupils. We have looked at a number of schools this term and in all of them we were shown around by pupils. Here we were shown around by the husband of a dame. He was lovely and informative but completely unable to answer mine and ds's questions about life as a pupil.

All of the schools we've viewed have great facilities, some better than Eton's, but the facilities won't be the deciding factor on which school ds goes to, As I've said upthread the pastoral care, teaching, food and extracurricular activities - in that order. The only one of these that I found out about on my visit were the extracurricular activites and again all the school we visited offer broadly the same range.

peteneras Fri 01-Nov-13 18:49:22

When I was considering Eton many years ago, the thought of viewing classrooms, science labs, language labs etc. just never ever crossed my mind.

We are talking about ETON the genuine article and not some wannabe Etons that one finds all over the world, are we not? My philosophy was simple:

If the school could spend millions on scholarships and bursaries annually, in addition to millions more on its continuous buildings and other assets development and maintenance programmes;

If the school could spend yet more millions digging up a pond just to race boats; and if the school’s Music Department could embarrass a small to medium size professional recording studio . . .

then I had no necessity nor the desire to view something as fundamental and mundane as the school’s classrooms, science and language laboratories, etc. Somehow, I didn’t believe the school would play second fiddle to other schools in these basic faculties.

It’s a given!

jokebook Fri 01-Nov-13 07:47:05

Contemplative - you are right about Harrow - our guide even had a tour guide badge on and we followed an umbrella...needless to say we did not get a good feel for the school! Radley only do one on one tours, no open days, so you get a very good feel for the school - time well spent!

Bisjo - what did you think of Radley? They would love your DS's music!!

difficultpickle Thu 31-Oct-13 23:21:11

Contemplative we visited Radley today and the tour couldn't have been more different than the one we experienced at Eton.

Contemplative Thu 31-Oct-13 23:19:17

It's very normal for teenage boys to at times be oblivious of anyone else around them- whether it be cars, people in the street or people in the service industry. At that age they are just so caught up in their own world that they find it hard to empathise with anyone else, much less consider that they might be an annoyance. I have school boys walking out in front of my car regularly - from an all boys comprehensive. It does not make the Eton boys entitled just because they have done it.

In answer to your question about the tour I am pretty sure that you got the bog-standard one which does not interrupt the boys's studies/life within the school. If you were to go and visit Harrow or Radley I am sure you will get the same treatment.

IndridCold Wed 30-Oct-13 08:45:50

Well, I can't say definitely that boys never walk out in front of traffic expecting it to stop, but I can say that it is dinned into them from day one not to do this, and to thank drivers who do stop for them. If a master or popper saw them breaking these rules they would be billed.

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