Help! Need advice on senior schools SW London/Surrey/boardi ng

(58 Posts)
Twickenhamum Thu 25-Oct-12 21:28:58

Hello everyone, this is my first post and I need your help!
My son is in Year 4 at a Surrey prep and his head has advised parents to start researching senior schools now.
My natural inclination would be to register for the most academic ones, either day or boarding (St Paul's, Westminster, King's College Wimbledon, Hampton, Eton, Winchester College in no particular order).
However, and it's a big however, I am not entirely sure whether my son would really thrive in a highly pressurised academic environment (and that's assuming he would pass the tests) and would welcome any suggestions for good schools.
My boy is very bright but easily distracted, and is as capable of acieving peaks of academic excellence as of completely switching off and making really silly mistakes. While he will spend hours reading books on topic that capture his interest, he will happily do the minimum work required on stuff he finds boring. At present, he is towards the top of Set 2 in English and maths, average at sport (average to good in rugby) and a beginner (with moderate interest) at two musical instruments. More importantly, he is not very emotionally robust and am not sure how well he would take it if he were to sink to the bottom of the pile in a very competitive environment.
Good university exit is important to me, but obviously my son's happiness takes precedence. Does anyone have any suggestion for suitable day or boarding schools? We are considering both at this early stage.
Many thanks!

marriedinwhite Thu 25-Oct-12 21:51:48

If your son is in the 2nd set at prep school, not especially sporty or musical and not very emotionally robust, why are you even contemplating sending him to the most competitive, hot house schools in the country? How will this help your son?

I would have thought you, and more importantly your son, would be far better served by applying to schools which are gentler and where he will thrive and where his self esteem will remain intact. I think it is important to remember that this is about your son's happiness and nurture.

Personally I think your son would be better served if you look at: Hampton, Kingston Grammar, St. John's Leatherhead, Charterhouse, Lancing, Harrow, Epsom College, etc..

Knowsabitabouteducation Fri 26-Oct-12 07:09:28

Does the headmaster have any suggestions?

Twickenhamum Fri 26-Oct-12 07:15:29

Hi, he is not making suggestions yet, although he will later in the year. Said parents should get a feel for the schools first....

annh Fri 26-Oct-12 07:17:36

Forget your inclination to just register for the most academic and think about what would really suit your son. Use the expertise of your current Head who will have a very good insight into the different schools.

Twickenhamum Fri 26-Oct-12 07:21:30

Thanks Marriedinwhite, the most competitive schools were the ones I would have preferred because they are academically at the top, but the reason I posted is exactly because I felt that he would not thrive at those schools and I am trying to draw up a new list of places to visit, Thanks for the useful suggestions: i assumed Hampton and Harrow were every bit as competitive as King's College Or Etin, so good to hear they are gentler. Don't know Lancing at all, so I'll investigate!

abel1 Fri 26-Oct-12 08:24:40

Message deleted by Mumsnet for breaking our Talk Guidelines. Replies may also be deleted.

mebaasmum Fri 26-Oct-12 09:27:31

What about, Halliford, Reeds and Radnor House. cousins child was the only one in her family to not get into their top academic school. Went to a smaller school with good pastoral care and did best at A level and now has a phd from a top uni

happygardening Fri 26-Oct-12 09:38:40

St Edwards Oxford? Fab standards of pastoral care (most prep school heads will agree it in a class of its own) good for keen rugby players, the really bright do well and the results for all are improving year on year with the new head and boarders are in the majority. Happy content children although it is quite liberal so may not suit you (its personal choice) and not a million miles from Twickenham.

CalmingMiranda Fri 26-Oct-12 13:37:05

If he is not especially emotionally robust, would boarding really be a good choice?

teaandthorazine Fri 26-Oct-12 13:41:23

Whitgift School in Croydon is opening boarding from 2013. Worth a look, I would think.

Knowsabitabouteducation Fri 26-Oct-12 13:55:03


Twickenhamum Fri 26-Oct-12 14:01:10

WOw thanks everyone, lots of food for my schools to visit list!
CalmingMiranda, my boy is strangoli keen on boarding because many of the (older) boys at his prep are headed there, but yes, I have some doubts as to whether it would really suit him. I boarded and loved it, but my son is rather more sensitive than I was at his age. I quite liked the sound of Radnor House but worried about it beings bit new..does anyone have any first experience there? I heard mixed reports about Reeds as very academically unchallenging: anyone knows whether this is true? I hadn't even heard of St Edwards....will investigate!

basildonbond Fri 26-Oct-12 20:08:24

A friend has a has a very 'sensitive' boy at Radnor House and he loves it - he moved half way through Y7 at a very traditional 'robust' prep where he was utterly miserable and he's thriving - it's quite a small site though so depends on how rambunctious your boy is ...

Definitely have a look at Whitgift - the boarding house looks great and the school has been absolutely brilliant for ds (he's very confident, sporty and 'boyish' though so it's been a perfect fit for him but I can see that it wouldn't suit everyone)

difficultpickle Sat 27-Oct-12 16:30:15

Starting to look in yr 4 seems very early. How will you know what they will be like in 4 years time?

Twickenhamum Sun 28-Oct-12 10:38:18

Bisjo, I wonder the same thing but apparently an awful lot of schools close their registration at the end of year 5, so I'm not going to know much more then than I do now!
Ok, I have added Hampton, Kingston Grammar, St. John's Leatherhead, Charterhouse, Lancing, Harrow, Epsom College, Radnor House, Whitgift, St Edwards, Halliford and Reeds to my list of schools to visit. Have a couple of questions on some of the schools though if anyone can bear some more with me?
1. Hampton: among the parents at my son's prep, Hampton has a reputation for being almost as academically competitive (and nearly as difficult to get in) as King's College Wimbledon. Does anyone have any insights?
2. Kingston Grammar: do they have any intake to speak of at 13? Or is it just 11+?
3. If you had to pick between St John's, Reeds and Epsom College, assuming you had the choice of course, what would you go for?
4. A lot of children from my son's prep seem to go to Wellington, Marlborough and Tonbridge--I had a feeling Wellington was more fashionable than great but maybe I am wrong. Does anyone have any experience of these schools? How about Sevenoaks? Is it too difficult to get in? I'm an IB girl myself, and quite like the breath of the IB.
5. And finally someone (off board) suggested Bedales. I don't know the first thing about it (well aside what's written in the good schools guide). is it just too oddball?
Ages ago I had put my son down for Radley so that's an option too, although I'll have to have a proper look before they ask for the deposit in a few years' time, as it may be too tough an environment--heard mixed things about the pastoral care there.
Thank you so much for all your help, I really appreciate it!

blue2 Sun 28-Oct-12 10:44:24

I would say that - although not quite up there with the 'Harrow and Etons' - Charterhouse School would only suit pretty robust types. Their pastoral care can be a bit... patchy.

We looked at it for DS, and luckily chose Cranleigh School for DS instead. He is very happy there and I have no regrets.

Don't forget that 'Happy Children Learn'.

Please take DS with you once you've whittled down the list - its VERY important that he's happy with the choice, too.

blue2 Sun 28-Oct-12 10:46:58

Oh, and IB - good for children who are genuine 'all rounders' academically, but not so good for those that have a real passion and who would happily drop languages - for instance - to concentrate on the sciences.

MY DS is a classic example of a boy who would fail the IB horribly!

happygardening Sun 28-Oct-12 12:04:09

I (and many others on MN) can't stand the head at Wellington hes a self publicist who could sell snow to Eskimos but we've got atfriends whose daughter is there and they think vey highly of it. Tonbridge and Marlborough are all good schools and over subscribed both will have good standards of pastoral care but ultimately probably not in the St Edwards league it's one of its USP's.
Bedales is not everyone's cup of tea and I've recently rather sadly heard less than complimentary things about bullying and pastoral care which you would have hoped you wouldn't hear from a school like Bedales!

happygardening Sun 28-Oct-12 12:08:46

Oh and Tonbridge a fab school IMO is almost in the same league as St Paul's (where the head worked for many yearsand hardly any full boarders) Westminster etc.

mummytime Sun 28-Oct-12 12:20:58

If you think of Bedales then also look at Frensham Heights.
Boxhill is a bit alternative, but not like Bedales/Frensham, did well with a friend's son who had been bullied at Prep school.
Wellington, the only person I know who had children there, had two sons who went to Hull and Durham afterwards. It is pretty fashionable.

LIZS Sun 28-Oct-12 15:10:06

Many look around during years 4/5 as an increasing number of these schools pretest in Year 6 and require registration a term or more beforehand. Sevenoaks was oversubscribed last year and more competitive to get into.

Aethra Sun 28-Oct-12 15:16:37

St George's Weybridge?

roquefort Sun 28-Oct-12 15:16:57

I would agree that Hampton almost as difficult to get into as KCS these days - local prep schools finding boys who would have got places in the past not getting in. Harder to get in at 13 than 11.

I think, but not certain, that Kingston Grammar no longer take at 13.

Consider City of London Freemen's in Ashtead (though probably not for boarding as only small number of boarders and mostly sixth form).

roquefort Sun 28-Oct-12 15:22:49

Academically, would rank 1. Epsom, 2. St Johns 3. Reeds. Reeds very sporty. Epsom more expensive than other - very long day (6pm finish) and 3pm on Sat as much more a boarding school.

bettys Sun 28-Oct-12 17:07:37

Actually Reed's is ahead of St John's slightly in the league tables (but not Epsom). It is sporty but the focus is also on academic results, although the intake is quite broad.

bettys Sun 28-Oct-12 17:11:58

Should also add, we chose Reed's over Kingston Grammar, but didn't look at St John's or Epsom as they are too far away.

marriedinwhite Sun 28-Oct-12 17:40:35

Sevenoaks is uber academic nowadays. In that direction what about King's Canterbury? I wasn't aware that Hampton was snapping at KCS's tail but our son is U6 now and things do move on very quickly. I don't know why but I thought Frensham Heights had closed years ago - is Pierpoint still around? Perhaps I got the closures the wrong way round?

EBDTeacher Sun 28-Oct-12 17:56:08

TBH Wellington only really suits outgoing, sporty boys (DH Taught there and we lived in a boarding house). It does provide a good education but putting up with Archangel of Bullshit Seldon for 5 years would probably be more than I could stomach.

One for the 'gently does it list' is Bradfield. It is very unpressured and supportive but still gets decent results.

EBDTeacher Sun 28-Oct-12 17:56:46

Would second St Edward's- it's a great school.

difficultpickle Sun 28-Oct-12 18:12:52

Gosh, the only school I was going to look at in year 4 was Winchester as it has an open day for that year group. I'm utterly clueless on what sort of school would suit ds. I had planned to look in year 5 assuming that was plenty early enough. No guidance available from school as ds has only just started there. Some schools are quite specific on what age you should visit, eg Eton.

difficultpickle Sun 28-Oct-12 18:16:01

Bradfield and St Edwards are on my list but then so is Radley.

mummytime Sun 28-Oct-12 19:09:01

Pier point closed years ago, and I think the Christian centre that replaced it might have closed too.
Frensham Heights is going strong, I know several people who have sent their kids there.

happygardening Sun 28-Oct-12 20:17:19

Bradfield puts all its first years in houses on their own for one year. Could be good as you have a wider selection of friends and less intimidating especially for first tome boarders. On the other hand there's no guarantee that when you DC is moved into a main boarding house in their second year that they will stay with their friends. Also some children may like mixing with older children especilly the more mature and the older children in the h

happygardening Sun 28-Oct-12 20:19:01

Bradfield puts all its first years in houses on their own for one year. Could be good as you have a wider selection of friends and less intimidating especially for first time boarders. On the other hand there's no guarantee that when you DC is moved into a main boarding house in their second year that they will stay with their friends. Also some children may like mixing with older children especilly the more mature and the older children may be good role models and be very supportive.

goinggetstough Sun 28-Oct-12 20:52:09

We looked at Bradfield and were impressed by their first year set up. I think it meant that all first years got to meet all their year group although it is true that maybe friends could be split up for the 2nd year. I am not sure whether pupils were allocated or they chose their house.

Bradfield has a high number of weekly boarders which might be great for you OP as your DS is at a Surrey prep and I presume you are reasonably close? Plus the boys play football and hockey, not rugby. Overall we really liked the school but were put of by the weekly boarding.

We have friends whose DSs are at Radley and were concerned about the all male atmosphere but it has not been a problem.

uoYekorByMredluomS Sun 28-Oct-12 20:57:56

St johns probably by your description. You have to be very robust at Epsom rather like charter house. I thought whitgift boarding was going to be mostly for overseas students.

happygardening Sun 28-Oct-12 23:39:12

Bryanston also do the same thing with their first years and can then request two friends who they want to be with when they move for the second year and are guaranteed to get one. Initially I thought it was a very good idea but I now wonder if its unsettling it's like starting all over again when pressures of work etc are increasing so now I'm not so sure.

EBDTeacher Mon 29-Oct-12 07:50:28

We were there the year they set up Faulkners at Bradfield and TBH to start off with the behaviour up there seemed to be a bit wild. Putting all the Y9s together did give them confidence- maybe to the point where, within their little domain, they were too big for their boots!

I'm sure the school have got a grip on that now though. They were tightening up quite a lot of aspects around the time we left.

difficultpickle Mon 29-Oct-12 08:14:20

I think a single year boarding house could work well for those not used to boarding but it would be a big change for those dcs who boarded at prep. Ds's prep boarding house has a complete mix of ages and I don't think he'd like to be stuck with just his year.

happygardening Mon 29-Oct-12 08:18:45

Isn't part of going to boarding school the camaraderie of being in a house and having the opportunity to mix with all ages. The older ones help the younger ones and also usually assist with prep supervision bed times etc. many house activities/interhouse competitions extend across all year groups again with older children taking significant roles.My DS has always spent time talking to those in the 6th form istening to their plans for gap years universities etc. this has without a doubt helped him formulate his own plans. For those starting at senior schools in yr 9 the next five years fly by now it's frightening how fast it's going. When we were looking at senior schools I thought that the idea of a seperate house for first years was very beneficial for the child who'd never boarded or a shy child but are we looking at it throught adult eyes many parents worry about sending their DC off to boarding school and does a seperate house for first years make parents feel more comfortable? Now we're actually at the senior school I personally think that the benefits of starting off with all years in one house might outweigh the benefits of starting in a house with only your yr group. I recently watched the concern shown by an older boy for an unwell first year in his house ensuring he had books snacks etc both have without doubt benefited from living in a mixed yrs environment.

Issy Mon 29-Oct-12 14:03:55

"Pier point closed years ago"

If the poster meant 'Hurstpierpoint', I think it's still very much open as a friend of mine is the headmaster there! It's website is temporarily down for maintenance.

LIZS Mon 29-Oct-12 14:10:39

Hurst definitely still going but not the most academic - Ardingly and Worth similarly. You could perhaps consider Brighton College.

mummytime Mon 29-Oct-12 15:13:43

Nope there was a school in Surrey/Hampshire called Pierpoint, just down the road from Frensham, Moore House and Edgeborough, but it disappeared years ago.

Issy Mon 29-Oct-12 15:59:09

Ah! This Pierrepoint:,_Frensham

Which was closed in the '90s.

Annelongditton Mon 29-Oct-12 20:46:42

Going through your list in similar order:

Beware Hampton for 13+, they have some big feeder preps who take most of the places and it sounds like your ds isn't at one so it would be very difficult for him to get in, unless you move him now.
Kingston Grammar have stopped taking an extra class in at year 9, but they have usually got some places, I think there were about 10 this year, as they loose a few in year 7 & 8.
I am looking at Epsom and St Johns for DD at 13+, and would rank them in that order. Epsom is expensive and is known for expensive extras,that puts some parents off, but has the opposite effect on others.
Numberwise Wellington for boys was harder to get into than Hampton for DS's year, he is now Y8 - it is very popular and always in the news, and I do agree that is due to having the most self-promoting head in England. Marlborough is similarly fashionable courtesy of the Middletons.
DS's prep is very local for Radnor House, the head and staff make all the right noises about it, but they haven't chosen to send their own DCs there.

What schools does your prep have the strongest links with? Where do most go onto? Most preps have strong links with a small number of senior schools.

blue2 Mon 29-Oct-12 20:51:41

I'm not far from Frensham Heights etc. The heights is still going strong.

Pierrepont (I think its pronounced) is now a Christian Centre.

difficultpickle Mon 29-Oct-12 21:18:20

Anne I thought Wellington didn't start until year 9?

EBDTeacher Mon 29-Oct-12 21:27:06

Wellington is 13+ only.

difficultpickle Mon 29-Oct-12 21:30:11

That is the only school I definitely know I won't look at for ds!

Twickenhamum Tue 30-Oct-12 06:59:05

Thank you so much for the detailed information. I am a bit wary of fashionable schools so Wellington, and possibly Marlborough are looking like a less appealing prospect at the moment.
AnneLongDitton, my son's prep is unusual in that, even though it is day, it feeds a lot to many different boarding schools, plus the usual day hothouses and a bunch of local schools. The most academic tend to go to St Paul's, King's, Hampton, Tonbridge, and Eton, while the least academic usually go to Reed's or St John's.
My son falls in neither camp: he is doing well academically but is not a superstar (he is at the top of the second set); he will not take well to being bottom of the pile and doesn't thrive in a hugely competitive environment, but at the same time, he will, perhaps paradoxically, do significantly better when he is stretched and challenged (he tends to lose focus otherwise).
So I am looking for a strange beast, an academically challenging school (boarding or day, coed or single sex) that doesn't out enormous pressure and (but that's my preference) ideally sends pupils to good universities. Radnor House sounds like the right mix, for example, but it's somewhat telling that the head and staff at your son's prep didn't send their children there...
Bisjo, I work so I have limited time to go and visit schools and need to spread this across two years (4 and 5) especially because it looks like I will have to visit a lot of them to find a couple that could be right...
If I ever live again, I am going to send my children to a 4-18 school and save myself all the stress!

difficultpickle Tue 30-Oct-12 07:28:32

Same here Twickennamum in terms of working but I'm worried that arranging visits so early will be a waste of time. I chose ds's prep when he was 3 (he started there at 4). Good school for him then but completely the wrong school by the time he was 8. I couldn't have predicted how he would change which makes me concerned about senior school choices. Good luck with your visits.

Knowsabitabouteducation Tue 30-Oct-12 09:39:26

If you are looking at weekly boarding, check out the public transport options.

While you may be happy to drive back and forth twice every weekend, that sentiment will soon wear very thin.

Annelongditton Tue 30-Oct-12 12:43:36

See where you're coming from, and having a prep that scatters in all directions doesn't help. I think you are right to start looking at schools early, schools always seem to pick the same open days. If you are at a leafy Surrey prep with lots of facilities these are probably more important to to you than you realise, you just take them for granted and assume that all schools have them!
Cranleigh may suit you, it has been suggested to quite a few friends for their DS's, it is very popular with prep school heads along the A3. I have never been, but someone on MN will know it.
I am looking for somewhere for my DD for 13+, ideally not to board, but with boarding school standard facilities. My favourites are Epsom and City London Freemans. They both have big school bus networks, and shuttle to the rail stations. As someone has said you need to think about transport, especially if you are working.

moimaman Fri 18-Jan-13 15:34:32

I agree with Annelongditton, it's not easy choosing that early. A child that age changes so much... I have a daughter in a single sex grammar school and one at Dover College. I would say that Dover College offers my year 7 daughter (who sounds a bit like your son) the ideal combination... the teachers know her very well and ensure she is pushed when needed and supported when she is day-dreaming. So far a great choice. What I really like too is the mix of British children and internationals. Her outlook on the world is very open. University wise, their results are good and there is a wide range of courses attended. Check their website it is very comprehensive. At the end of the day, it's a bit like buying a house, you need to get a feel for the place. Good luck!

corlan Fri 18-Jan-13 22:47:55

Have you thought about Twickenham Academy?

SavoirFaire Fri 18-Jan-13 23:36:43

I think you need to chill out. No one can look at all those schools and stay sane. Shorten your list. Your child will probably achieve similarly wherever he goes.

Tuppenyrice Fri 27-Jun-14 12:01:12

Sorry to resurrect this thread but just wondering where you decided on?

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