I'm looking for a good sixth form with boarding...(35 Posts)
Dh and I have been considering sending 15 year old DD to boarding school in 2015 for sixth form (after she asked if she could go). She's very keen on the idea and has given us very good reasons as to why she should be allowed.
The problem is, now we've decided she can go if she wants, we have no idea where to start.
DD has given us a huge list of schools which I'll put at the end of this post but there are so many and I have no idea about many of them. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.
She's quite academic but not top of her year (usually comes second or third in a few subjects) and very arty. She likes music but isn't particularly brilliant at it and loves to swim.
The schools which she has looked at are:
Charterhouse (although I think they only offer pre-U?)
I'm sure these are all very different schools but I really don't know where to start. Thanks!
Others with experience will be here soon (we just started pre prep). I'd contact them all, ask for brochures, admittance criteria and how to take peep. Wiki and Google them too. Visit the Independent Schools Association site too, they have inspection reports.
Bishops Stortford College
Good luck OP
Maybe as a start you need to look at location. How far from home is she prepared to go? You may want to draw a 90 min radius around your home or look at public transport links because boarding or not there will be a lot of trips to and fro over a two year course. Also thinking about preferences about co ed or single sex will narrow things down slightly more. Then start sending for prospectuses and booking tours, you need to get out there and get a real feel for the school.
Do you want proper full boarding (hard to find) i.e. the option of only coming out on Sunday or weekly coming out routinely on Saturday going back Sunday PM or even Mon PM?
Unless you list driving as your main hobby/passion definitely no further than 1 1/2 hours one way less if you can is better and I personally wouldn't put the M25 between me and a school even if theoretically it's only 1 1/2 hours.
You state that your daughter is quite academic competition for 6th form places is quite fierce with many very bright candidates applying from abroad the requirement stated in websites is likely to be the very minimum.
We're living abroad at the moment so location isn't important (sorry, should have mentioned that earlier) and she has a full scholarship to her current day school which is one of the top in the country so I would say she's pretty academic and would have a good chance at getting in. We don't do GCSEs over here so she I suppose they'd go off her report marks or something? (please correct me if I'm wrong).
She is definitely looking for co-ed however if we saw a really incredible all girls school she would consider it.
The school doesn't have to be completely full boarding but it would have to be an option at the school. I think if the school has fewer than 20 full boarders in each year then it wouldn't work. She does have relatives all over the UK and they'd all be happy to have her so she could go stay with them on exeats or weekends if she wanted to.
I think we will probably order prospectuses from all the school she has told us about and try and visit if we can. Does anyone have personal experience with any of those schools?
If I was you I'd apply the 1 1/2 rule to the family member she's mostly likely to go to at weekends exeats etc. I would also choose a school with a high % of full boarders she will have more fun and that's what coming to the UK to board is partly about. Charterhouse is basically weekly boarding, I know nothing about Caterham, Uppingham Marlborough and I think Rugby are basically full boarding or have a small number of day children, the others I think have a mixture of day, weekly and full. Does she have a particular sport/hobby/musical instrument that she really enjoys? Do all the schools offer it? Does she want to be in a town or rural?
All the schools have good solid reputations, but everyone on here will have their favourite and also someone will be able to wheel out a horror story. In my now extensive experience bar a few exceptions there's surprisingly little to choose between them in tears of facilities, teaching standards etc. What matters is that you and your DD feel comfortable and happy there especially if your not in the UK. My DS is at boarding school, it's not everyone's cup of tea by any stretch of the imagination, but we are happy there, it works for us and that's all that matters.
Meant to say I believe Charterhouse offers the Pre U to it's most able students, A level and IB this is becoming increasingly common.
Being oversea mum, I think you also need to consider transport link to the airport. Is your DD doing MYP now? Do you want her to do IB or A level? If so, what subjects she is planning to take? Most likely the school will get her to sit entrance exam for those subjects before giving you an offer if you don't have GCSE. All school you listed here a good school, so it is really up to you and your DD preference and also location of your relatives.
So the best way is to write/phone all registrars and check if they have place for your DD for sixth form to start with, if they have place you can start the ball rolling. Short list 4 to 5 schools to visit. I would put Sevenoaks in the mix if they have place for her, if she is doing IB. Both Shrewsbury and Charterhouse are boy schools with girls in sixth form, if she is ok with that then all new girls will start at the same time, may be easier for her to settle in.
How about Peter Symonds in Winchester?
State, but has much better results than many private schools and a much respected music department.
If you read any of my previous posts on this topic you will see I am a bug advocate of Oakham. No connection. Just a very satisfied Old Oakhamian. Everyone leaves very well rounded. Happy to answer any specific questions. The Tatler and Good Schools Guide summaries of Oakham sum it up perfectly in my mind.
DD isn't all that bothered about IB vs A levels, she'll do either. At the moment she wants to do Maths, English, Biology, Art and Latin but she's pretty flexible about it. She's fine with a boys school with girls in 6th form. She's a bit of a tomboy and generally gets along better with boys anyway.
The things she enjoys are pretty mainstream and most schools would offer them, however, a school with a swimming pool + goodish gym would be a plus.
She's probably rather be in a school with large grounds so I suppose rural although she doesn't mind too much.
I am a little worried about all girls boarding houses. I know it may sound silly but she has brothers and I think living with only girls would be very strange for her indeed. How much interaction between boys and girls is there in houses? (can they go into each others common rooms etc.)
"Can they go into each other's common rooms etc."
It depends on the school. Some allow this. Marlborough has girls starting in the 6 th form who go into boys houses. Lots of posts on here about Marlborough I believe you can search it. There swimming pool/gym is very nice there although for 32k PA all will have pretty smart swimming pools gyms I would have thought.
If she's a tomboy Kings Canterbury might be worth looking at (lots of full boarders), a friend with three older boys and 1 tomboy daughter did the usual rounds and sent her there describing it as "a boys school with girls". Canterbury is a lovely small city with the best of all world, countryside, shops, safe, history and of course the sea just up the road. As a died in the wool country girls it's one of the few cities I would choose to live in.
There was a long thread recently that talked a lot about boarding for sixth form. Can't link as am on phone at mo, but do search on here for lots of people's opinions.
As had been said, there's really not much to choose between them when you have no preference over IB/A Level or location.
I'd say most of them are fairly rural, with access to nice small towns/cities. Thinking about Shrewsbury, Oakham, Kings etc.
They're all going to have excellent pools, art facilities and push the brightest pupils to achieve their potential in my opinion.
In terms of being in an all girls house - the amount of time spent with just girls is small. Part of that will be doing prep anyway. Lots of schools have societies going on in the evening, or pools and gyms open to use. As someone said, allowing boys in and vice versa will come doing to the school and sometimes the housemaster/mistress. Some schools have 6th form common rooms as well, so there's mixing opportunities there.
Few points I would consider:
I do think it matters how lenient the school is about going home for weekends, and how you feel about that. It really changes the feel when you get a lot of people leaving. To be honest I never really understand why students want to - the fun for me was always being surrounded by my friends, and exeats come round often enough! Although I've always been fortunate to be at / work at schools that make sure weekends are fun, so there's much more incentive to want to stay in.
Secondly, is DD bothered about being one of few new students or would she prefer to join a larger sixth form intake which mixes up friendship groups a bit more?
It's so hard when you're overseas, as really the best way is to visit. Often you'll find certain schools just click, and others won't.
Can I recommend Heathfield? Extremely Arty and girls get high grades and go on to highly respected Art Schools. Nearish to Heathrow as it is at Ascot. It is small but has upped its academic profile considerably. Some on your list are competitive to get into but Heathfield is not. It is full boarding and all girls. This may not suit but Art, including fashion and design, is taken very seriously there. Tatler may have their fashion pix on its website. They put them up in March after the fashion show.
I agree that the number of students at school on weekends is important. She'd need to be at a school with a fairly large number of full boarders I think but it doesn't have to be a school which only allows full boarding. I'd say under 25% full boarders wouldn't work. DD isn't all that bothered about being one of only a couple of new students, she's been to a few high schools where she's been one of only a few starting in that year and she seems to deal with it well.
My DS has full boarded for 9 years and there have been times when he's been one of only a handful but probably more than 25% in all weekend. IME it's never worked well. Friends who's DC's full board at a well regarded predominately weekly boarding school would say the same thing. At most senior schools your close friends are likely to be those in your house, most houses average about 12 per year therefore if 25% stay in you're talking about your daughter and one or two others staying in, schools are also less likely to run weekend activities for small number its just too expensive.
If I was you I'd start off looking at those which have a high % full boarding, that's most on your list, and only consider the weekly boarding schools in the unlikely event that not one of the full boarding ones feels right for you.
Box Hill School? It is an international school, and a lot of international boarders so a large proportion of full boarders. It's co-ed as well.
Dallam School near the lake district. Its a state boarding school,mixed comprehensive. Oustanding at Ofstead. All in all a very normal good school that caters for the local community as well as offering accommodation for boarders.
Ok, well maybe 50% then? I'm not really sure how many that would (on average) leave in her house but I think she'd be fine if there were about 20 people in her house (not necessarily in her year) on weekends.
Hurtwood House? Nearly 100% boarding, some boarding is coed, 6th form only college. It's strength is in the performing arts though.
Most boarding houses average about 60, often each yr will have its own common room, corridor, cooking area, and at bigger schools weekend activities can be organised by yr group. Even at full boarding school most allow children home on Sunday for the day and many will go, Sundays are often quieter especially at those which have school on Saturday; all with a high % of weekly/full boarders, boarding is very tiring, children work hard, they get up early 6 days a week, campuses are often large with lots walking, sport at least three times a week plus other activities, so Sunday is a time to relax be with friends usually in house and just chill out, this is why she needs to be in a school with lots of full boarders otherwise she could be rather lonely.
Ok, do you think 50% would be enough full boarders? I have no experience so your opinions are really helpful.
I'd say most, if not all, of the schools on your list are at least 50% full boarding. So it's not really a worry in that sense.
But the question you need to ask the school is how flexible they are on pupils going home at the weekend (Saturday to Sunday). Some schools will say they are 100% full boarding (and parents will pay full boarding fees) but will be happy to let pupils go home on a Saturday after lessons and sport. I know for example Charterhouse used to empty out a lot in Sixth Form on a Saturday afternoon until Sunday evening.
So you need to ask how many boarders they have in on an average weekend.
It's great if you have family in the UK who DD can visit if she chooses, but I think it's also great if there's a vibrant boarding community over the weekend with activities on offer (and time to chill). Often Sixth Formers are allowed into town for meals in restaurants. Some schools have a bar on site where students are permitted a limited and highly controlled amount of alcohol! Plus there will be formal dances and dinners etc.
In terms of Sundays, lots of schools let parents/family visit and take students out for lunch (and often friends get invited along on such trips). Some will go home for the day (and DD is bound to be invited to Sunday lunch by new friends who are heading home!) but it really depends on the how far away home is for the students.
In my experience lots of Sixth Formers enjoy a laid back Sunday as a time to chill at school and then to get a head start on work, especially if they fill their weeks with plenty of sport and other extra-curricular activities.
In DDs full boarding school, they had more exeats in upper 6th. So even with full boarding many go away from school. Some stay, of course. There are no hard and fast numbers in a boarding house. Some schools have separate boarding for lower and upper 6th. If it is a small school, there may not be 60 in each year group. Schools differ in how they group children in boarding houses, but we did rejected one that put the new 6th form girls into one house. All the newbies together seemed not to promote integration and it is one on your list. I think it is really important to know where your DD will fit in and where will have the best teaching for her subjects. Also for art subjects, being near London is a real bonus as schools tend to visit exhibitions for inspiration. More to do at the weekend too. Remote schools can be a bit, well, remote. Lots to think about.
We know a couple of staff members who work at Sevenoaks and they say its the most businesslike school they've ever worked at. Pupils are treated as clients and the pressure on teachers is enormous. They feel it is a very impersonal environment.
Rugby has a good reputation and we know two sisters who have passed through there. Can't recall what A level grades they got but one sister's at Exeter while the other is at Oxford so can't have done too badly.
Shrewsbury has a bit of a reputation for taking those who fail to get into other schools. This may be a completely inaccurate perception of the school and I don't know anyone who went there or who has considered to for their DC.
Caterham doesn't have many full boarders. It does have a growing reputation but I would be concerned if my child was one of the few at school over the weekend.
Charterhouse clears out at weekends and again may not be the best place for your daughter.
Uppingham is full boarding and may be a more suitable school for an overseas pupil? Fantastic school.y
Marlborough is incredibly popular at the moment. We didn't like the atmosphere and felt uncomfortable when we looked around.
Canford is being talked about quite a bit on here. I don't know anything about it.
Your first priority is ensuring the school has the right ethos for your daughter. She needs to feel comfortable as it'll be her home for two years and it would be wrong to just choose a school because its been recommended by someone. We looked at numerous schools for our DC and it felt like a never ending conveyor belt of school visits. Was worth doing though.
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