Eton or Winchestwr

(39 Posts)
ebgw Sun 17-Jul-16 08:28:34

We have been fortunate enough to have received offers from both Eton and Winchester. We visited both and see positives and negatives at both schools. Eg single study bedrooms vs mixed, more liberal vs more strict , div dons vs more all round but are very confused which is better fit. Our son is bright but also active plays tennis competitively is very sociable and energetic and comes from overseas. He wasn't tutored or prepared in any way as we wanted to see where he would fit in naturally . Having received these two offers I am now trying to decide with him. He likes both! Any tips or comments?

Needmoresleep Sun 17-Jul-16 10:55:27

There are lots of previous threads discussing the relatively merits of the two schools. It is worth using the search function, not least because any new thread is likely to attract the same contributors saying the same things.

happygardening Sun 17-Jul-16 11:15:43

DS2 has just finished at Winchester we chose it because we felt it was a unashamedly very civilised intellectual environment, academia is always going to take precedence over everything else. We also felt it's not a desperately competitive environment, my DS is not competitive. After he started I saw a programme about Eton the beaks (teachers) read out marks and your place in the class, that I understand rarely happens at Winchester. Boys are very much allowed to be themselves there is no pressure to conform, my DS was a quirky lone wolf a true non conformist and he has remained like that and is comfortable in his quirky lone wolf non conformist skin he found many kindred spirits. Music and drama are either an option you choose to do from day 1 in the case of the former or an extra curricular activity in the case of the latter. I know some parents who've said their DS's think there is no "fun" at Winchester my DS has not found this. I also know quite a few boys who were considered to be "very bright" at prep school who've got a bit of a shock at Winchester and at the end of the first year are in the "6th" set for the everything and feel rather demoralised, there are a lot of exceedingly bright boys there. Another said her DS found it too "studious". Also at Winchester your DS's HM is the most important person, ours has been simply fantastic but if your DS doesn't get on with his I can imagine this would be difficult.
Winchester currently only offers the much harder Pre U it is significantly more work than the A level and it is much harder (my DS could get an A on both the physics and maths A level papers at the end of yr 11 and was advised he'd be bored stiff doing AS French) and the boys do wonder why they're being put through it although none of course know how the A level works, I understand it's much more bity less joined up and more prescribed Wykamists are not always good at prescribed. As we know the pasture always looks greener etc. Winchester A* equivalent grades are significantly better than Etons and it appears that more and more universities are asking for A*'s.
There is no compulsory sport after the first couple of terms and no "major minor" sport, my DS did what would be a minor sport in most schools three days a week from day 1, no team sport player he threw his football boots away at the end of the second term with glee "no more team sports ever again!" I dont know how good the tennis is but I believe it's all grass courts but other may know more, you could look at "news/sports results" on their website to get a feel for it.
I know some feel Winchester is more nurturing, and it's very liberal and forgiving which I like adolescents are biologically programmed to take risks and schools need to be more forgiving IMO, it's also good for the disorganised; there's set times for prep etc, I've heard quite a few disappointing things about Etons pastoral but I could probably say the same for Winchester.
My DS who's boarded said nice yr 2 only got a single room in yr 13 he didn't like it, he genuinely believes that friendship are made when lights go out. At least 3 mums I know said their DS's have really struggled to make friends at Eton but this may be their personalities rather than Eton it's self. Winchester is sending more and more to the Ivy League with the associated expense I don't know what Etons doing.
Finally Div is unique to Winchester, for those boys who love it it's what makes their school experience, others feels it's a waste of time "learning and its associated prep for the sake of it". My math/science orientated non reading DS loved it and studied in particular literature that I know he wouldn't have at any other school, there is no history/Eng Lit IGCSE so the dons (teachers) who teach those subjects have more freedom to teach what and how they like). A friend teacher English at another school he said he'd love to be free of the examination curriculum and teach how what he wanted too.
I. The parents at Winchester are a casual bunch, if you want lots of social activities/opportunities I wouldn't recommend Winchester, as a review in Tatler many years ago said it's not the place for the "interfering parent, the rugger bigger or the social climber". In my experience from MN and friends many Eton parents think it's the best place in he world and can't or won't see anything wrong with it, they have completely bought into "Eton the brand" maybe I'm an embittered old cynic but I personally don't find this very healthly, no where should be or is that perfect, Winchester parents are IME are able to see its strengths and weaknesses warts and all but still believe in what it offers.
Good luck to your DS wherever he goes.

happygardening Sun 17-Jul-16 11:23:39

"Rugger bugger not bigger."

Gruach Sun 17-Jul-16 11:23:57

I'm afraid I agree with Needmoresleep - there are a million threads comparing the two!

Clear your diary for the next week and type a school name into Search.

ebgw Sun 17-Jul-16 19:32:14

Thank you for the responses
I did see the other previous posts but none seemed to be that recent. Than you happy gardening for a very through response. It's so difficult to make a decision. Do you think the schools would be ok for us to visit again? Considering we live abroad we feel we need a bit more of guidance than the average parent

happygardening Mon 18-Jul-16 01:17:07

I sure you could visit again although both are now shut till September. Have you met your HM at Winchester?

ebgw Mon 18-Jul-16 10:53:44

Hello happygardening
Yes we have met he HM before the interview for a good chat and on the interview day very briefly. We actually met two HMs and chose one of the houses

FutureBoardingParent Mon 18-Jul-16 13:28:33

Probably the key thing to remember is that both are very good schools with a lot in common: if you're finding the choice difficult (some do, some don't!) it's likely to be an indication that your DS would be fine in either place. As, of course, is the fact that he's been offered both: the schools have a pretty good idea of who will be a good fit.

Visiting again seems like an excellent idea, and if that gives you a gut feel, whether or not you can justify it rationally, I'd go with that.

FutureBoardingParent Mon 18-Jul-16 13:30:03

ps if you have questions not answered on the old threads, I'm sure there are readers here who could comment.

Gruach Mon 18-Jul-16 16:55:57

There are. But they're probably slightly exhausted with all the threads that turn out to be absolutely pure imagination.

No disrespect to you OP.

Congratulations to your son.

Has he boarded before? If not he might well find sleeping in a dorm more convivial. Other boys adore having their own room to retreat to, entertain in and stamp their personality on.

Is he entirely cool at the prospect of swanning about in fancy clothes - and would he take being constantly photographed by eager tourists in his stride? For some boys this raises nothing but a huge grin - but not everyone would like it.

As pp have said, if he got into both he will probably be fine at either - boys (and families) who like one much more than the other tend not to apply to both.

sendsummer Mon 18-Jul-16 18:32:00

In addition to above comments
Ask your DS whether he would rather play high performance tennis during the term at Eton (assuming he is good enough to get in top teams) or do Div and play / compete in tennis mainly for enjoyment at Winchester.
Then ask him and yourselves which housemaster you instinctively prefer (assuming he is going to be there when your DS starts).

Finally if you live abroad do you like Winchester that bit more so as to have extra travel. I guess the answer is no since you are having difficulty choosing.
What your DS ends up achieving and enjoying at either school will be driven by him so I think you have to see what package excites him the most however subtle that is.

happygardening Tue 19-Jul-16 02:38:54

Winchester is very rigid about boys staying to the end of term, no going home a few days early or even a few hours because the flight is more convenient/cheaper. I don't know about Eton. Some may find this irritating I guess.

happygardening Tue 19-Jul-16 03:07:42

Have a our met your HM at Eton? If not can you delay the decision making until you have. I understand Eton has a complicated process of allocating HM's.
Winchester is probably more collegiate, because of the importance of the HM to the boys and all boys eat in house. At Eton some eat in a communal dinning area and I believe tutors play a big role in the boys lives.
At Winchester uniform is very relaxed jacket and tie/suit with lots of freedom to choose colour style etc so there's lots of room for individual preferences, great for the non conformist, boys don't have to wear "uniform" when not in lessons. My DS progressed seamlessly and in his own time through a scruffy look all the time to a smart suit and scruffy when not in lesson to smart suit and smart home clothes. No one interferes. It's also surprisingly devoid of meaningless ritual. I loath ridiculous outdated uniform and meaningless ritual so this was a big big plus for us.

Dapplegrey2 Wed 20-Jul-16 10:22:04

Congratulations to your ds.
Eton was the best thing that happened to my ds. He loved it and has made a bunch of friends who look out for each other through thick and thin.
My DS was a very lucky boy to have had five years at that wonderful school.

peteneras Sat 23-Jul-16 11:07:14

Well OP, for a start, I don’t understand why others are telling you not to start a thread such as this one because there are similar ones already. Especially when it is doubtful they even have a child at either of these schools?

What then, is an educational forum such as this one for? And why bother to read this thread when you are “tired” of the two schools that’s clearly named in the title?

I suspected, OP, you must have read all the previous threads prior to starting this one and you confirmed that you did. Good for you! The thirst for knowledge can never be quenched.

Anyway, congratulations to both of you for the two offers. I’ll be totally honest and you don't have to agree with me, I think it’s a no brainer to even waste time considering the Hants school, paying so much for so little when you can go to the Windsor one for everything in the world.

What is it you are looking for?

Academics? Sports? Music? Drama? Art? Pastoral Care? Support? Friendship? Leadership? Oxbridge? Fame?

For paying between £40k and £45k p.a. (i.e. appx. £¼m in total) seeing that you come from overseas, the Hants school does not make economic sense if nothing else. I know of state schools in my backyard offering similar services and results, if not better, for absolutely nothing!

Needmoresleep Sat 23-Jul-16 11:11:35

Get the popcorn out and sit back....

sendsummer Sat 23-Jul-16 11:26:05

Needmoresleep I actually feel more like yawning.

peteneras Sun 24-Jul-16 14:59:46

”It's also surprisingly devoid of meaningless ritual. I loath ridiculous outdated uniform and meaningless ritual so this was a big big plus for us.”

Can you imagine the whole school getting up early and walking, in their school uniforms, to the top of a nearby hill to pray?

And they don’t do this ridiculous ritual once a year but twice!

OK, how about having a big party in remembrance of the removal of a wall over 150 years ago, just to be met with the sight of scores of candles illuminating another wall enclosing the school playing fields? grin

What humbug!

happygardening Sun 24-Jul-16 19:45:56

Interestingly OP both have or about to have new heads. The new head at Eton is actually an Old Wykamist he as I'm sure you know has come from Bradfield, the new head at Winchester is from the super selective MCS Oxford which interestingly is a day school. It's inevitable that a new head will bring in changes and most parents at Winchester I spoke to were speculating about what changes the new head will make.
A current parent at Eton stated very recently on another thread on here that the new Eton head seems to be trying to provide a broader education and not push the academic envelope any further. In contrast the retiring head at Winchester vision was to make the schools USP the fact that as I said up thread above everything else it's an unashademlly intellectual environment (hence the non prescribed Pre U for example). The new head like the retiring one has a has a PhD, and has previously been been a lecturer at Oxford. This one has been educated at a state school and has very successfully driven up MCS's academic standards and I pretty sure will continue to build on the success of his predecessor. So for example a couple of parents I spoke too thought that the school could do more to ensure "weaker pupils" got an A*/A equivalent at Pre U rather than an A (Winchester already has significantly more getting A*'s than Eton, rightly or wrongly many top universities are now are now increasing asking for at least one A* or its equivilant). Currently I think some of the dons see the the A** in particular as a true indicator of ability/genius and therefore are not teaching this level to weaker candidates, so for example DS's math teacher wouldn't teach boys how to answer the hardest questions because he believed if you really are a math genius you'll know how to answer them and thus deserve the A**. I think the new head will attempt to change this.
Both are committed to broadening access by offering bursaries to boys who would benefit from the education they offer and both I think are hoping to become or are completely need blind in the very near future. Eton I think already has a large bursary pot and Winchester thanks to a recent massive donation has nearly achieved their target. I believe that this is essential for both s hills.

happygardening Mon 25-Jul-16 04:32:33

I have asked my DS about "morning hills" my DS (who should know as he was at the school) didn't do it twice a year in fact on at least two years he didn't do it at all!
Illumina is a very informal thing which occurs when the boys break up at Christmas, it's at the end of the day so it's dark and the tall medeaval wall around meads (one of the playing fields) is lit up with candles and hot chocolate mince pies etc are served and the school choir sings carols. In five years both my DS and myself only attended once, we had a longish journey home, I work weird hours and it's the busiest time of year for me and boarders are usualy exhausted by this stage in the academic year so we just wanted to go. It's inevitable that schools of this age will have some meaningless ritual but attendance by parents is usually voluntary and it's usually very low key. Through my work and those in similar positions to me (it's a small world) I know quite a bit about of other boarding schools many seem to be adopting more meaningless ritual as they seem to believe this is what parents want, and this may be the case, and that's fine but I personally can't stand it, I'm more of a slack hands off parent.
As I keep saying chose a school where you and your DS feel most comfortable.

HPFA Mon 25-Jul-16 06:44:39

* I know of state schools in my backyard offering similar services and results, if not better, for absolutely nothing!*

As someone whose DD goes to a fabulous state school, I rather doubt this. The local independent to me has as many after-school clubs for Arts enthusiasts as DD's school has in total. Don't regret DD not going there - she would have been unhappy in its ultra-competitive environment but I can see what people are getting for their money.

peteneras Thu 28-Jul-16 10:01:24

I know of state schools in my backyard offering similar services and results, if not better, for absolutely nothing!

”As someone whose DD goes to a fabulous state school, I rather doubt this.”

Oh dear, but why are you so dismissive of state schools? Really, you should be very proud that your DD goes to a fabulous state school. And I’m not lying by saying there are state schools offering similar services - OK, maybe not to the extend and quality like those of premier public schools - but most certainly their academic results can seriously embarrass even the two schools named on this thread!

State schools like e.g. the Queen Elizabeth’s School (QE Boys) in Barnet, north London, regularly outperforms the likes of Eton and Winchester academically and sends dozens to Oxbridge each year. Take a look at the latest Sunday Times league table (pg 6). At No. 8 position it is the nation’s top state school and I do mean the very top. It is eight rankings higher than Eton and a whopping 3 dozen places (almost) above Winchester, the supposedly very academic school and all that; both of these two public schools you’d pay up to £¼m to attend and graduate.

QEB is free, of course, and so is the Henrietta Barnett School (Girls) snapping at the heels of Eton at No. 17 in the league table. Like I said, they are located at my backyard and you don’t find parents of both these schools drumming into your heads over and over again how very academic they are.

Let’s be honest, if I’d wanted a very academic school for my DS, I would have sent him to QEB and save myself loads of money and convenience. He would have gone there even at one year underage and still perform magnificently. But Eton could offer him quality extra-curricular activities in abundance not seen anywhere else in the world and still take care of his academics. For example, how many school kids can boast of having taken rides in a Chinook helicopter; spent weeks in the middle of an African jungle teaching English and Maths to jungle kids; going deep sea diving in the Red Sea; or an opportunity to spend a week as a private guest of the prime minister of a prominent Asian country, amongst other things?

On the other hand, what’s the point of sending a young kid at the start of his/her vulnerable and impressionable teenage years and throughout, away to a school only to be influenced and indoctrinated by one individual of a housemaster?

Someone is missing something fundamental - the whole point of education is to broaden the mind. You do that by going out listening to various people of learning, of experience, of expertise, of leadership, etc. You don’t sell yourself to one individual to indoctrinate you so that you live the rest of your life to be a carbon copy of him/her.

chameleon43 Thu 28-Jul-16 12:12:51

Peteneras - you honestly have kept your son's acceptance letter for QEB from 2003 and have attached it here - for what purpose?!

Your initial point was that state schools were as good as Winchester - but your most recent post is saying you didn't want your son (in 2003) to go to QEB because it would have been a narrowly academic education - you are contradicting yourself.

HPFA Thu 28-Jul-16 13:11:07

Oh dear, but why are you so dismissive of state schools?

I don't see how I was being dismissive, as I said my DD's school is great and we chose it over the private options available to us. In terms of facilities, though, well I live near Radley College and use some of the facilities there and I really can't imagine that any state school could match them. So I imagine it's the same at Eton and Winchester.

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