Wycombe Abbey School - Help Needed!(14 Posts)
I did a search for Wycombe Abbey School, and, saw that some people here knew a little bit about it.
Right now DH and I are trying to decide which school will suit our DD best (she’s 9 but will maybe join at 11). We went to an open day at Wycombe Abbey School on Saturday, and had a lovely time looking around the grounds and visiting different areas of the school. DD said she had a great time there and would love to go (and some of her friends want to go too). But some of my close friends, who have daughters there say not to. They think it is now quite an unsettled place, with disruptive building works and lots of changearound. They put it down to the new head, who they say is very business driven (pushing a new building campaign). I also see from old posts that it has a reputation for being very pressured, but I my DD does well at school so I think this will not be a major issue. I guess the big issue is is the school getting worse?
So we’re a bit stuck – do we send DD to a school which she likes, but risk her being unhappy and pressured, or do we look at Godolphin and Latymer or Francis Holland instead?
(p.s. new to mumsnet and happy to be here!)
I don't know WA (I have boys one at Win Coll) but I have read some negative comments on here about it. What I do know is that paying for education gives you more freedom to choose somewhere that you believe is right for you and your DC. Every school you mention will have its detractors and supporters. I listened to a mum the other day who's DS is at my DS's school they felt the school puts lots of pressure on the boys to do very well and that their DS is struggling, when I asked my DS he said he didn't feel this at all.
It is good to listen to others experiences, but try and find more than a couple of people with an axe to grind, but in the end you need to decide what is right for your DD. My advise is visit the school as much as possible, open days are not always the best way to see what goes on in reality, pupils and staff are often polished, and are on their best behaviour, the roses have been painted and the lawns manicured, if possible try an go on a normal day observe and talk to staff and pupils do they look purposeful but happy and relaxed in each other's company (you are in their home), try and talk to both pupils and staff ask searching questions about things that matter to you and your DC. I repeatedly say on here if it matters to you ask never assume. Observe and talk to the the top year girls do you like the way they behave, answer your questions etc is this how you hope your DD will turn out? Finally go and look at at least one other similar school and maybe a coed school you'll have something to compare WA against. At the end of the day you can do all the research and be pretty sure your making the right decision but it's still a leap of faith.
I would imagine that all the top independent schools need to have almost rolling building works going in order to keep their facilities top grade.
You should look at a number of options before making a decision and weigh them up carefully.
Quietly hums in fide vade
Surely you should always look at more than one school?!
Hello OP - welcome to Mumsnet! We looked at WA for our daughter and she was registered and ready to sit the tests last year for 11+ entry. However, whilst we loved looking around the school, we did ask to go and look at the Junior Boarding Houses for 11+ girls. Sadly, that did put us off quite a bit - dreary, dark and rather soulless. It was a Saturday afternoon and some girls were being picked up by their families to go home and others were getting ready to board the bus to London and the ones left behind just looked rather bored. I then did some more research and spoke to Mums who had sent their girls to WA and they said that it is really a weekly boarding school, very pressurised, big foreign contingent due to their set up in Shanghai and also the sort of school with a big set leaving at 6th form mostly because they prefer co-ed schools or find the pressure a tad too much. You didn't say whether your DD was high achieving or not but do remember that getting in a boarding school nowadays at 11 (or younger) is easier than a Grammar School or highly sought after Independent School. I agree with the other mums - go back and look around, without your daughter if you can. You want to see it as many times as possible and also get a feel for what sort of child flourishes there. I visited many Boarding Schools for my DD last year and you can get a pretty good feel of how the children turn out just by talking to the older children there. Good luck with your decision.
Agree with mum above. Our DD was registered for WA. We looked round it several times. I didn't like the Head - great business woman but I preferred the approach and ethos of the Heads at other schools. I questioned what the value added was at a school like that as it is very selective and several current parents complained to me of the pressure their girls are under. Look at Benenden, St Marys Ascot, St Swithuns, chelt Ladies, Downe House, St Marys Calne. All very different - all fab! All much easier to get into at 11 than any London day school - it's s numbers game. Pm if you have any questions
I think there was a tv show on it that painted it badly. It was about the international rich - and the girls were all quite vacuous. I am sure it was just bad tv but it put me right off.
OP: Boarding or not is a big question. If you (and your DD) definitely want and are ready/suited for boarding, you need to look at several of them. Parents are generally positive about their DC's schools, so friends being negative would be alarm bells for me, especially if more than one.
London day schools are very high quality and the two you have mentioned are lovely with warm and friendly atmosphere. (My DD is very happy in year 8 at FH Regent's Park, and G&L was her favourite from many open days but proved too selective/oversubscribed for her to get a space).
I think most boarding schools have building work going on. They are constantly upgrading and usually a school will have a Development Plan but this is driven by the Governors, not the Head. Boarding schools are businesses and Heads are expected to maximise income. However, no Head can afford to take their eye off the core business which is results and keeping parents happy. I think any school with stellar results has a certain amount of pressure. Some girls thrive in this atmosphere. If it is not for you, there are loads of alternatives but I have yet to see a successful school that does not have high expectations of pupils. If you have recruited very many, very bright girls, there are high expectations from parents and the school. Lots of DDs friends from prep school went there and enjoyed it. New Heads always take time to settle down and lots of parents do not like change. Look around to see if anywhere else suits but very, very few schools are full boarding these days. Parents just don't want it.
I have to agree wholeheartedly with Mumofthree1976 - we were bitterly disappointed by the junior houses and the lack of warmth and activities at the weekend. Given that most weekends the younger years are required to stay put, this really put us off. The academic pressure bothered us only in that there didn't seem like anything else to do except study and all of the things that shape the girls for the future seemed to be missing.
Cheltenham Ladies will definitely be a better option for us.
If you want top notch junior accommodation then take a look at Downe House. It's like the Ritz!
There are schools that are easier to get into that are more flexible regarding boarding and have loads of things on at the weekend.
hello OP - i agree with the other mums above - if boarding is your preference then do look at other schools. We visited St Swithuns, St Mary's Calne and Downe House. DD was offered a scholarship but as boarding schools were our absolute last choice in case the 11+ process in West London didn't go well, we eventually went for Godolphin and Latimer which was our first choice. I would warn that children do go through phases of "wanting" to go to boarding school - something this is just a phase so do think through it clearly. Our DD who was so adamant on boarding, suddenly changed her mind as the sudden realisation of being away from home, never having any privacy or a moment to herself in a dorm, missing out on family life and just being away from all the great friends she made at her local prep put her off. St Swithuns was our favourite of the schools we saw but it is essentially a weekly boarding school. Whilst we live in West London and have easy access to the M4 - getting in a car for an hour's journey on Saturday (or indeed Wednesdays) just to go and see/support her - would eventually become rather painful. Good luck with the decision making process - you are doing the right thing to consider all the various options for your DD and you will no doubt choose the right school for your DD.
If your child goes to a prep where nearly all the children go on to boarding, missing friends is less of an issue. Some children do not change their minds and boarding is the right choice. If there a numerous friends attending senior day schools, then this totally alters the attraction of staying at home. Most schools do have areas for quiet reflection and are not full-on all the time. However, a child that wants their own bedroom, their own space and their own tv might be disappointed. One that wants to make new friends, join in with lots of activities and is gregarious will do well. Several people I knew chose for their very bright DDs to go to second division boarding schools. Less peer pressure and a less pressure to do well for league tables, but they thrived. Sometimes the most academic schools are not the best schools.
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