Winchester College Open Day

(346 Posts)
bico Thu 30-May-13 09:47:56

Anyone going this Saturday? Ds is in year 4 and keen to have a look, I think mainly because they have an 18 hole golf course grin.

happygardening Thu 30-May-13 17:08:48

Not sure you get to see the golf course in fact I hadn't really taken it on board that they had one.

bico Thu 30-May-13 18:07:12

I'm sure we won't see it (bisjo with a name change here) but it is one of the reasons ds is so keen on this school. My current thinking is that whilst he would have a lot to offer Winchester I'm not sure he will be academic enough for them (bright but lazy).

happygardening Fri 31-May-13 09:15:49

I personally think they don't want lazy how ever bright it would appear from their website that they are increasingly looking at taking the brightest best and of course hard working from abroad as part of the heads vision for the school. The boys are expected to very work hard literally from the moment they arrive loads of prep etc and the Pre U is significantly more demanding and I wonder if it might put the lazy off?studying.

bico Fri 31-May-13 11:59:12

No, I certainly don't think they want lazy. Ds is coasting at the moment. He will either be smitten with Winchester and put in the effort to show he merits the opportunity of applying there or he won't, so tomorrow will be interesting from that perspective.

He got a scholarship to his present school because when he visited it he decided he wanted to go there and put in the effort to ensure it happened.

happygardening Fri 31-May-13 13:01:51

We weren't "smitten" with Win Coll after attending the open day (unlike SPS which I was trying trying very hard not to be smitten with) others felt the same. Its different and thats why we like it but its very hard to see what makes it different at the open day.

bico Sat 01-Jun-13 20:45:15

I thought the Open Day was very organised but quite sterile. I had to make a conscious effort not to think that the parents of boys at WC would be like many of the parents at the Open Day. If I honestly thought that I'd run a mile.

Some very nice and friendly, some very very pushy and some incredibly arrogant and bigoted (one conversation I witnessed between a lovely boy showing us round and a parent rendered me speechless).

Head very keen to emphasise how beautiful the environment is and how that is especially important for adolescent boys. He also said order and structure are important (which I'd agree with). He did his talk in the Chapel where I couldn't help but notice that the music stands in the choir stalls looked as if they were made from plastic. Head told me they were made of metal. A silly small thing but I was surprised they weren't wooden (and they definitely weren't beautiful!). I didn't warm to the head at all. He seemed to be going through the motions with his talk which was odd bearing in mind they only have one open day a year. Registrar was nice and sixth form head prefect delivered a word perfect (and very practised) speech.

We were shown round the school by a senior boy who had only joined the school the previous year in the sixth form so he wasn't able to talk about what life was like for the younger boys. Very friendly but a lot of the questions I had wanted to ask I wasn't able to.

We were shown round a house by the head of house, the next head of house and his deputy. The housemaster and matron took another group. It meant we didn't have any opportunity to talk to the housemaster until the very end of the tour when he was keen to impress parents that he could remember the names of the boys he had shown round. Interesting having the pupils' perspective but we had that to some extent on the general tour and I'd have liked the opportunity to actually speak to a house master.

One parent asked a question about academic standard required and prefaced his question with a long speech about how he hasn't considered or compared his son's academic ability, nor that of his school friends and neither had his son's the school. I nearly bit my tongue trying not to laugh. From the housemaster's answer Winchester would suit ds, as he currently is, perfectly.

After the tour there were some housemasters and the registrar available to answer questions but you couldn't get anywhere near. I was some distance away but still managed to hear one parent asking the registrar very loudly about which year you had to apply for a place bearing in mind her son was a year ahead.

I asked ds what he thought of his visit. He wasn't at all impressed by the facilities (he is already at a school with a beautiful environment!), didn't like the bathrooms. He thought the dorms were okay. I'm less sure about putting 13 year ones all in the same room together. We saw the science school, the art school, library, chapel. We didn't see any of the sports or music facilities, or normal classrooms which was a shame.

I don't know how we decide whether to go back or not. I was amazed at how many parents had visited a wide range of other schools. Bearing in mind the open day was for years 3 and 4 I still think it is incredibly early to do visits. I have a real worry about how to decide 4 years in advance what would be the right choice for ds.

09870987 Sat 01-Jun-13 22:08:56

The truth is you don't have to decide 4 years in advance what would be right for your ds and you shouldn't because he will change a lot, especially in yr7-8. Just register him and forget it if you want the option of pre testing for that school. I went round a school for my ds when he was yr4. I came home and told dh that i had found the right school. It was my gut feel. In the meantime we looked round many other schools including the one i looked round in yr4 with and without ds, ds sat pre tests for some of them in yr6 and 7, we accepted offers from 3 of them, and then turned down 2 of them when we made our final decision in yr8....and he's going to the one I looked round in yr4. Follow your gut instinct!

bico Sat 01-Jun-13 22:14:41

Good point although I'd rather not be shelling out registration fees and making ds sit pre-tests if we don't need to. Also if Winchester is an option we will need to choose a housemaster in year 5, even if that housemaster may have left by the time ds starts at the school (which is the position with the housemaster we met today).

Xpatmama88 Sat 01-Jun-13 23:51:35

Do go back, and make appointments of visit with different housemasters. You will get a much better feel of the place and more personal, and they can answer all your questions. You can ask to tour the school again, the housemaster will most likely get one of the boy in the house to do the tour, you can visit the music school or see the sport facilities etc. You can then decide whether the school is really for your DS before you pay the registration fee. Honestly, it is a truly excellent school, very academic, and the boys need to be very self motivated.

happygardening Sun 02-Jun-13 08:41:57

I agree with Xpat ask to meet 2-3 HM's it's was only then that we could see what make it different, have a tour of the music school or where ever matters to you. Sport is not big at Win Coll especially team sports after the first year it's so optional some will never do sport again it's just not what it's all about. If you want lots of sport there are plenty of other academic schools. The boys are in dorms for often the first three years it doesn't bother me or my DS and maybe the bathroom aren't good I'm proud of the fact that I've never inspected a bathroom in my life but as an HM said to a mother when we went on the open day "madam you don't decide whether or not to send your son to Win Coll because of the bathrooms!" Again Win Coll is not about Bathrooms/Dorms or even food which in some houses is known to be pretty awful. We chose it because we liked the ethos don't get me wrong at times decisions seem odd but what underpins it the relationship between the boys and the dons which is pretty unique as is the increasingly academic/ intellectual standard offer to those who want it.
With regard to the parents by its nature it will attract pushy parents but again IME once your DS is there parents are slightly kept at at arms
distance so you have little to do with them apart from "hello how it going etc?" when you pick them up.

bico Sun 02-Jun-13 09:10:36

We need to look at other schools and then decide whether to follow up with Winchester. It is difficult to judge as it is the first senior school we've visited.

Ds saw the bathrooms, not me, and he didn't like them at all (comparing them to his current school). He wasn't bothered by the large dorms at all which I thought was interesting (he is in a dorm of 6 but only 3 or 4 beds are used). He is not a team sports player so that side doesn't overly concern me.

The boys we met were very nice and honest about their time at the school. Having slept on it I really didn't like the head but again I need to visit other schools and see whether that is an issue or not. I didn't like the housemaster (seemed smug) but maybe he had a right to be smug as apparently his house is the most popular.

I didn't like ds's current head when he was appointed but he's grown on me and ds thinks he's great.

gbxpat Sun 02-Jun-13 09:22:33

Food: Understand that there has been a reassessment and overhauling recently (unsure if it was for the whole school or just some houses) which resulted in a major improvement.
HM: Heard that the tradition of HMs offering places may be ending and houses would be chosen by the school. Parents/boys can shortlist preferences.
One of the most impressive thing about WinColl is the dons' knowledge and enthusiasm in their subjects. It is not unusual to find former post doctorate researchers among them. Most of the time, WinColl is not teaching but facilitating learning. Boys' self-motivation and curiosity is an important factor in terms of "culture" fit and maximising benefit from it. It is worthwhile meeting some of the dons especially some of the Div dons who might have more contact with the boys than even their HMs.
Agree with HG's point about distance.

Ladybird65 Sun 02-Jun-13 09:32:19

Bico what a pity you had a bad experience yesterday. We were there too and whilst the tour of the school was limited, we were impressed with how inclusive they had striven to make the day. The boys, the vast majority who had never previously met played in a massive group and the young man who took our group coped fantastically well with the youngsters and all of their questions. All the young men we met were lovely and are a credit to the College. It was evident to us what wincoll is all about: giving raw talent the environment to explore and discover the delight of thoroughly learning about subjects without the constraints of firm curricula. We loved the ethos but agree that the admissions procedure is a risk. Unless you choose the right hm you may not get a place which otherwise you would get. We came away enthusiastic and ready to make further appointments to see the registration staff who did seem beleaguered at times.

gbxpat Sun 02-Jun-13 09:41:28

HMs and admissions: Some HMs will warn you that his remaining term as HM may not last the whole 5 years for your son's time there. It is good to consider that as inevitable changes which come with HM transition may be unsettling for some of the boys especially if that coincides with Yr3 or Yr5 with exams.

happygardening Sun 02-Jun-13 12:04:33

HM's do 10 years in the job except one who is doing 15 obviously no one will guarantee they will last the whole 10 but most appear too. I only know one who is about to leave although I don't follow it obsessively if it's who I think it is not sure I would use the term "most popular" to describe his house that's not what Ive I've heard!! Although the one taking over is well liked by the boys.
The boys are known for their honestly when we went to the open day, I was thinner and less grey then, that's what struck us. They talked openly about the school it was the only school where the pupils didn't spout the usual stuff about how wonderful it was and how everything was the best. No rose tinted spectacles they discussed it's strengths and weaknesses but all bar 1 when asked even those who were openly very critical didn't want to go anywhere else.
The relationship between the boys and find is pretty unique significantly less formal than many this feeling I had was backed by a new Don who I was talking too who been at other big name boarding schools before coming to a win Coll and there is an ever increasing number with post doctoral researchers which I suspect is all part of the heads "international centre of academic excellence vision".
It is not everyone's cup of tea about 7 sets of parent s from my DS's yr at his prep looked at it only two decided they liked it Eton/Harrow remained most people's first I personally wouldn't touch either with a barge pole pole they are completely different.
Finally I do hope they don't change the admissions process it's one of the things we liked that human to human I like you as an individual not a sterile computer generated test and a brief interview with AN Other who writes a report that meticulously scored and carefully analysed as practiced by another just up the road.

bico Sun 02-Jun-13 14:49:41

The housemaster we met has been there 7 years so will be gone before ds would start but would still be the one to interview him. Apparently, at least according to this housemaster, he is the most popular and his house has the best food. I'm sure all the housemasters say the same! From talking to the boys there appears to be one housemaster in particular that is very unpopular.

We saw a group of boys playing with a tennis ball at lunch, with a boy in a white shirt leading the group. It was interesting watching the group dynamics. Ds decided to play pooh sticks with a smaller group.

Ds was asked by a friend today what he thought and he said he didn't think the facilities were very good. Maybe he needs a reality check of looking at some more normal schools. He has been lucky to go to two schools with lovely grounds, great facilities etc so his benchmark is pretty high.

If you were to ask me today whether I'd send ds there my answer would have to be no. I'm not sure if that is a clear no or whether my view will change once I've looked at other schools. I certainly didn't get the gut instinct of thinking ds must go there and nowhere else.

Ladybird have you looked at other schools? I'm trying to work out if my feelings about Winchester are because I haven't got anything to compare it to.

Interestingly ds said he would prefer central dining rather than in house dining so that rules out Eton too

Somethingyesterday Sun 02-Jun-13 15:46:18

Central dining? You need not rule out Eton. A good number of the houses have central rather than in house dining.

Ladybird65 Sun 02-Jun-13 16:25:17

Hi Bico I'm afraid our ds was one of the big group running around very loudly! We have slightly Puritan views which rule out eton and harrow in that we simply do not believe fancy dress can possibly enhance education. We also hold the view that this encourages a sense of otherness and dare I say it, arrogance on the part of the students. Unless they have changed things, I think that at Radley you can't speak to a teacher unless and until you have registered which we don't feel comfortable with either.

You could conclude that we had to like Winchester! However, I respect Eton's admissions policy far more. A character clash would be all that you need to exclude a prospective boy from a place at WC and as far as I can see, that is far more unlikely to happen at Eton.

We have considered the local (to Berkshire) next rung schools such as Abingdon and Bradfield bit failed to find much distinctive about them. Eg at Pangbourne they call themselves "proud to be different" but when we tried to nail down the distinction it turned out to be the naval uniform.

We genuinely found a substantial difference at Winchester. It may well turn out not to be the one for us but we are willing to take it further. I was sorry and interested that you came away disappointed and maybe a bit puzzled. We talked only to a few other parents yesterday I think the nicer ones! There will always be a mixture I think.

happygardening Sun 02-Jun-13 16:52:17

"However, I respect Eton's admissions policy far more. A character clash would be all that you need to exclude a prospective boy from a place at WC and as far as I can see, that is far more unlikely to happen at Eton."
Interesting its was Eton completely sterile admissions policy that for us was the icing on the cake of course combined with a loathing of ridiculous uniform. I don't thing prospective suitable boys are excluded because of a character clash they are are offered a place in another house. Surely its just as easy to have a personality clash with any teacher interviewing especially when the interview is only 8-10 mins long as it is at Eton.
I also agree that the facilities are not as smart as Etons; they were very flash truly awesome and also immaculately looked after or as 21st century as SPS but again thats not really what we're paying for its something that I'm not able to define that feeling thats its just right for my DS providing him with what he needs we're also comfortable there. I don't need Olympic lakes and pristine lawns and boarding houses we're just not those sort of parents.

Ladybird65 Sun 02-Jun-13 17:29:59

Happy gardening how are they offered a place in another house? Don't "rejects" get put on the headmaster's list to await a gap somewhere else in the school? That happens some two years later? The impression I have is that there may not be a gap if all the other places are taken. And there are five applicants for each place. I don't see any second chance direct between a house master and parent/boy? Having said that, I think it is the only drawback we could see - we felt comfortable with all the rest and so did our ds. I may have got the wrong end of the stick.

09870987 Sun 02-Jun-13 18:29:55

Ladybird - I have a few friends who looked around Radley, one on one as they don't do open days. They met the head master or a member of the senior staff. If they weren't registered they applied via the wardens list. The boys do wear gowns though so that may fall in your category of ridiculous uniform!!! Hope that helps.

happygardening Sun 02-Jun-13 18:46:13

As far as i understand these are the outcomes from the interview/selection process; 1 a place in your chosen house, 2 you are an excellent candidate for Win Coll but not suitable for the house you've registered with therefore your offered a definite place and will be over time offered an alternative house, 3 those who are interviewed by the registrar because they were too late to register with a house, some are also offered a definite place but again no house when the initial offer is made, 5 some are placed on a waiting list and 6 and finally you're rejected.
"there are five applicants for each place"
This is not my understanding I understood there are 2 1/2 - 3 applicants for everyplace as most HM's close their list when they've got 30ish boys registered (the popular houses obviously go quickest) I'm assuming its primarily because the interview process is at least about a couple of hours long so it would be unrealistic to interview more than that. Of course my info might not be up to date because we were told this 5-6 yrs ago and once your there you don't hear about these kind of changes.
I've been trying to work out what makes it different or at least why it works for us one excellent thing is that the boys really are encouraged to follow their own interests and do their own thing, they very obviously feel free and happy to do this however niche they might be so its perfect for non conformists. At times it feels like its living in a time warp and strange decisions are made but I like its quirky unpredictability. I personally think its very liberal in that the boys have quite a lot of personal freedom certainly when compared with others in the same league but as parents you do have to accept that they have very strict rules about certain things which could seem petty but there's no point fighting it you just have to accept that's thats the way they do it.
In contrast we felt that Eton was significantly more corporate as one father put it "Eton the brand," when we looked round they were trying too hard to impress us God knows why they're not exactly under subscribed but everything was so perfect. Eton is also I believe far more accommodating to the odd Saturday night at home etc.

gbxpat Sun 02-Jun-13 19:06:03

Eton's preselection process is a production line with no pretense of any interest to know the boys as real people. WinColl puts a lot of effort and time into knowing the candidates in preselection. Eton is completely mechanical. WinColl and Eton have very different end-products. Perhaps a bit unfair, one has products meant to impress and to a large extent conform and not question. Their values are very different despite their common roots. I suppose Eton's system works for the kind of output they desire.
Not that WinColl is above wanting superb exam results (far from it, you will be asked to withdraw if you get fewer than 6As in GCSE), but it expects good grades from the knowledge gained while Eton seems to focus more on how to get the grades. This may be perfect for some and not others.
Single study bedrooms accommodation is far more impressive than WinColl's dorms. As for facilities, neither Eton nor WinColl is that flashy compared with several schools around the country.
If a HM does not make an offer, there is a general pool (unsure if the Headmaster's list is the same thing) and there is the Election (scholarship) route. Some/few take Election without even going for preselection at all.

Ladybird65 Sun 02-Jun-13 20:31:32

Thanks so much. All really helpful. Lots to consider!

bico Sun 02-Jun-13 20:43:42

We haven't visited Eton so ds was comparing WC to his prep.

He is used to wearing silly clothes so wouldn't be put off by Eton's. If I tell him pupils at Radley wear gowns he will refuse to look at any other school. He was very taken with the gowns yesterday and was disappointed to learn that only those with academic scholarships get to wear them. He thought all scholars should wear them too.

Head said 400 applicants for 140 places. Must choose house in year 5 as all lists closed by first term of year 6.

Ladybird what did you ds think? Mine wasn't bothered either way. He said he would be happy to go there but wouldn't be upset if he didn't go.

Ladybird65 Sun 02-Jun-13 22:44:29

Hi bico DS liked it and liked the HM we met. We are putting to him the realities of life such as lack of personal space, lack of personal identity - by this I guess I mean that the house we saw was a bit bland- all the same duvet covers no posters on walls - no sitting room till top years etc etc his nine year old self says it doesn't mind and he said he felt good about it. The thing is so personal, I guess it just has to feel right for each family. I have no idea as we get further down the process if it will still feel right, whether they will have him or whether we find somewhere better for us. Eg we are going to see Monmouth school in October (family connections). That no doubt will be different again. You are bound to resolve the dilemma not least cos we all have to. It is one hell of a lot of money to make a bad decision about though?! And then only secondary in importance of course is the happiness of the DS!.

bico Sun 02-Jun-13 23:05:06

Whilst we probably got a more candid view of the house we visited by being shown round by pupils we missed out on meeting the housemaster and matron as we only saw them very briefly at the start and end of our tour.

I've been surprised at how little ds has had to say about the visit and when asked today by friends he was almost speechless. He usually has an opinion about everything. He is back to school tomorrow and I'm awy for the week so I shall ask him when he is back next weekend whether he has formed a view. He is also going to talk to the year 8 boys he knows about what they like about the schools they are going to (all going to boys boarding schools even though their prep is co-ed).

The house we visited (Toye's) had lots of personalisation - posters, home duvet covers etc. I thought it did have a sitting room for all the house to use. I didn't like the idea of 13 boys all in the same dorm though in the first year. Does your ds board at the moment?

happygardening Mon 03-Jun-13 07:48:52

"by this I guess I mean that the house we saw was a bit bland- all the same duvet covers no posters on walls - no sitting room till top years etc etc"
My DS (not in Toyes) also has his own duvet etc don't know about posters I have only ever really been in dorms at the beginning/end of term they can and do personalise their spaces in the mugging hall.
My DS was at full boarding prep own duvets posters lots of space own common rooms etc as he grew older he hated it in fact we thought he'd began to hate the idea of full boarding now at Winchester with less space common room etc he's happy again.
Its easy as parents to concentrate on the superficial obvious things or look at things through adult eye but I believe its the ethos in the school and in Winchesters case perhaps more than most and most importantly the ethos within the house that count. This is not just the relationship between the boys and the staff but also between the boys themselves. IME experience of being a mother of a full boarder for now over 9 years but also in my experience at work the HM is the key person he is the one that creates the ethos if he gets it right and its not an easy job then everything else will be right too and I doubt few care if they use their duvets or the schools or which posters are on the walls.

bico Mon 03-Jun-13 09:15:19

I know ds was pleased to see the personalisation of the dorm. Definitely something he noticed and took an interest in. Whether he would still be so interested at 13 just sums up how hard this process is when you have to decide on a school so many years in advance. That and having to choose a house when the master you meet may not be there by the time ds would start. In that sense it is almost easier to be on the general list so the decision of which house is taken out of your hands.

Ladybird65 Mon 03-Jun-13 09:36:26

We saw Trant's. I'm not sure if they had had a tidy up for the open day but certainly it was pretty uniform. I'm not saying it's a bad thing and yes you have to trust the HM. (Another reason for that important decision-and perhaps one in favour of the WC admissions system). My comments are honest ones against a background of being overall in favour of the ethos. It's all very useful and thought provoking "listening" to these other views.

bico Mon 03-Jun-13 10:01:36

I met someone who visited Cook's and they thought it could do with a good clean! I can only really compare WC to ds's prep in terms of boarding houses. I liked that they had a library in the house. One school I won't be looking at is Shiplake specifically because it doesn't have a library either in the boarding house or, apparently, at all.

The idea of Div will maintain my interest in Winchester. I sent ds into school today with a request that he talks to those boys who have offers from Winchester and see what they have to say about why they like the school. Ds liked it but wasn't blown away by it. He had a very strong reaction to his current prep, so much so that he burst into tears when he got his offer letter.

Ladybird65 Mon 03-Jun-13 10:10:07

Shiplake is an interesting school. A number of boys from Ds prep go there. They call themselves an "added value " school and the story goes that many of the staff go there because they are fed up with not being able to change much about the outcome for the very clever boys. They have just made a huge investment in a new performing arts building so that may now include a l

Ladybird65 Mon 03-Jun-13 10:12:19

A library. Many of the boys there have special support. Sorry I pressed the post button by mistake. Also they have lovely grounds and access to the Thanes for rowing. It is popular with many patents around here.

bico Mon 03-Jun-13 10:23:42

We aren't far from Shiplake, they have a bus that goes from our village, but ds's school isn't listed as one of the feeder schools.

You are right - the new building at Shiplake does include a library! It will be interesting to see if it is on ds's head's list. It may be worth a look although it isn't at all academic.

happygardening Mon 03-Jun-13 10:52:11

"That and having to choose a house when the master you meet may not be there by the time ds would start."
We met three when we were choosing all are still there and I would be frankly stunned if ours went before his time. All the others who were either already in the job or due to start are also there although the one from Furleys is going early having done 7 years but thats only 1 out of 11. I suspect most do it for the allotted 10 years as they know what an important position it is.
We looked at Shiplake for DS1 (not at Winchester) its virtually non selective and not likely to cater for the super bright in the way that Winchester can and does although I've no doubt their would be little difference in actual exam results except of course that they don't do the Pre U. But then DS2 could probably achieve the same exam results at our local very well regarded 6th form college or high performing state school assuming he hadn't died of boredom becasue both target the super bright and I wouldn't have to pay for it. You have to remember that at Winchester they frequently go way beyond the curriculum and that the Pre U is significantly harder but also more interesting so much better for the very able. I did think the staff at Shiplake and caring but we felt rowing was bit of an obsession and that it was aimed at those who were a bit wet.

bico Mon 03-Jun-13 11:22:29

Whilst ds would probably like rowing (we see the Eton boys out rowing on the days I drop ds at school when he isn't boarding) he couldn't be described as wet at all. I've signed up to their open day though. I am going to treat the search for ds's next school in the same way as when I've gone house hunting - try to look at those that should fit but also look at others that may be a bit of an unusual choice on paper. I'm hoping that my gut instinct will kick in at some point and I will just know I am looking at the right school.

The worry I have about choosing housemasters is realistically we need to look at those who have been in their role for less than 5/6 years. Any more than that then they definitely won't be there when ds would start in 4 years time. HG how did you decide which housemasters to meet?

I have been trying to arrange other school visits this term but nothing is available before next term. It doesn't help that I am supposed to be away for half of September so October/November will be very busy months for school visiting.

happygardening Mon 03-Jun-13 11:36:18

HG how did you decide which housemasters to meet?
We got advise from the admissions office they asked me about my DS and then suggested three HM's (I think in retrospect 2 would have been enough) we met them with out my DS, one we instantly didn't like and the other two we did we then took my DS back to meet these two and after loads of agonising, they were both excellent but very different choose one, ours is as we thought he would be and suits us all down to the ground.
The best way is too ask one of the boys already there becasue they actually know what they are really like!

09870987 Mon 03-Jun-13 12:31:32

Bico: if you have the time, visit lots of schools (as you are planning to do). This will challenge any preconceptions you have and also help in your decision making. You ds will change over the next few years, so my advice is to keep your options open for as long as you can. However, I take your point about not showering all schools within a certain radius with registration fees! We registered with 5 (but when ds was tiny so it was not as expensive as it is now) and he sat for 3 (one non selective co-ed as safety net, one pre testing coed and one single sex). then we enjoyed year 7 trying to decide!! As I've said before follow your gut instinct and also the advice of your prep school head. I agree with you that the process is like looking at houses - you know when you walk in its right, but inevitably there is something you will have to compromise on. Good luck.

juststartingtothink Mon 03-Jun-13 12:52:39

How very interesting! I just came on Mumsnet to find out if there were any comments about Winchester....
I, too, was there on Saturday and was intrigued. I went assuming I'd like it based on what I had read no the website and heard from friends with children there. My husband was indifferent and my son was completely uninterested (ie I don't want to go look at schools!!). The end result was that our son liked it, my husband did not, and I was less enchanted by what I saw than by what I had read.
My observations:
i) headmaster seemed pompous and made no effort to "connect" with parents. however, i did like his comments about adolescent boys and took mental notes for how I might run my own "house" more effectively as we reach the teen years. I thought his over-emphasis on the "beauty" of Winchester (quoted on the cover of the prospectus -- ie there is no more beautiful place in the world....) showed a surprising lack of knowledge about other schools. Undoubtedly, Winchester is beautiful but other schools can match it on that score alone.
ii) the student who lead our tour was nice (can't think of another word for him) but offered very little insight into the beautiful buildings or into life as a student. (as my son said, "he's a very nice boy, mommy, but he's not a good tour guide as he doesn't seem to know very much"). given the HM emphasised the physical environment as a selling point, it was odd the student communicated nothing about the facilities (ie didn't comment on the architectural significance of any building). More importantly, other than tell us he enjoyed tennis, he didn't offer any other comments about what he enjoys about life as a student
iii) my husband was particularly disappointed by the other students we met -- in particular the ones we met in the house we visited. they were pale and seemed almost autistic (ie incapable of looking at us or engaging with us when the housemaster asked them to talk about life at Winchester). As I told my husband, the boys who were indoors -- particularly the one in the house library -- on the most beautiful day of the year so far are not likely to be examples of the well-rounded, outgoing boys (who, presumably, were the ones we saw playing cricket or walking around town). But we were left wondering where the boys were and what they were doing on this beautiful day -- not very many were on the cricket pitches, we didn't see any in the art room or in the PE halls, none lounging around or kicking balls in the house garden.... Where were they? What do they do on weekends?
iv) my main disappointment was the quality of the house. We saw it on the best possible day with the sun shining brightly and yet it was dark and damp and dreary indoors. What must it be like on a winter's day?!?! Other than the dining room (which reeked of stale food) and the den (which could accommodate perhaps 20 boys all crowded in), there was no place for the boys to gather together. I had thought one of the attractions of Winchester Houses was the opportunity to engage with the housemaster and visiting "dons" and have the sort of conversations boys might have if they were at home. Unless the housemaster visits boys in their rooms, there didn't seem to be anywhere for such interaction to take place -- and no where for boys to relax on rainy days. Do they just lie on their beds? Or is there a central common room somewhere that the boys can meet to chat, play games, etc
v) the food was terrible! if what they served parents is an indication of what they serve boys, I'm not surprised so many looked pale and thin.... Judging from the awful smell in the dining room of the house we visited, I assume we were truly given a taste of what the meals are like... I asked one boy what he did if he was hungry between meals. He said he never eats between meals. The Housemaster interrupted and said "what about the XXX room?" I can't remember what the room is called but he later showed it to us -- a dismal little "kitchen" where the boys can make toast or tea...
vi) the housemaster we met was very unimpressive -- he seemed to still be in awe of himself for having ended up at Winchester. His interaction with the boys in the house seemed fake -- ie "look at me and how well I get along with Bill and Ben and Jack -- see? I know them all by name!"

On the positive.... I enjoyed speaking with two of the teachers (one science and one Spanish). Both seemed to be very enthusiastic and kind and to genuinely enjoy teaching there. If I had just met them -- and not seen the house nor the boys mentioned above nor the housemaster -- my positive preconception of the school would have been affirmed. For now, I will maintain an open mind and continue to speak with friends whose boys are at Winchester and will arrange another visit in the autumn. I still like it very much on paper ... and hope I can be convinced it is as good in reality.

Happygardening -- what did you like about SPS? having seen my first boarding house, I might revert to a preference for a day school....!!

juststartingtothink Mon 03-Jun-13 13:00:00

Happygardening -- just re-read some of your posts and realise I misunderstood your first comment about SPS and your son is now at Winchester. Your comments about his experience are very helpful.

Has anyone visited any of the London day schools -- SPS, Westminster or Dulwich? Do they have Open Days?

bico Mon 03-Jun-13 13:53:18

Glad it wasn't just me who wondered where the boys were! We did see some in lessons and walking to and from lessons but not many. Ds stood and watched two boys playing chess in the library. He thought the library was nice, he liked the science school but was very unimpressed with the art school.

One thing it has made me do is call other schools to book appointments. I've broadened the range of schools I will look at (I had thought I'd get away with looking at 3 including Winchester).

juststarting which house did you visit? PM me if you'd rather not say here!

IndridCold Mon 03-Jun-13 14:56:41

Open Days are useful for some things, for example compiling a short list of schools which you can revisit properly later. I don't think you can make a full and final decision about whether a school is the right one based on Open Days alone.

It is difficult to judge a school in isolation, so definitely worth looking at some others even if you are pretty sure about your first choice. For one of the selectives you might want to have a back up option anyway, and so will need to find two schools that you like.

When we were looking around we felt that the best way of getting a feel for a place was by talking to current pupils. It doesn't suprise me that the WC boys were steering well clear of Open Day chaos this weekend, but on a private visit you will always find boys to talk to in a more relaxed atmosphere.

Also, Open Day parents are not necessarily representative of actual parents, so don't let them put you off either smile.

So long as you like the aims and ethos of a school, if there is a clash it's more important to like Housemasters, Matrons and teachers rather than the Head in my opinion. It's my impression that in these big schools the Head is more of a political figure, responsible for the overall public image of the school and acting as an interface between the school and the outside world, rather than being involved in the day to day care of the pupils, as they would at a prep school.

A final little thing for those just starting out, I really wouldn't at this stage get too hung up on details like dining arrangements. I have several friends whose DCs had quite specific requirements, which were then completely forgotten about when they found a school they liked.

Like that property programme with Phil and Kirstie when couples have one or two points that they absolutely won't compromise on, but which are usually the first things to be abandoned when they find a place they like!

bico Mon 03-Jun-13 15:19:26

I've now booked open visits for Charterhouse, Radley, Uppingham, St Edwards, Bradfield and Shiplake (a very broad spectrum). Ds is registered for Radley (when he was 6) but the registrar says he is unlikely to get a place from the waiting list. She did say he would make a good candidate for the Warden's List. We will have a busy first half of next term!

Tried to book Eton but the person who makes the bookings is away today. They managed to hang up on me (hopefully by accident!) when I asked them what their half term dates were. The easiest school for ds to go to would be Eton in terms of familiarity and locality.

termsofuse Mon 03-Jun-13 17:22:37

Very curious about not seeing boys around, so I asked DS about it. He said except for the fourth year who had to be tour guides, no one else cared about open day and they all went about their usual activities. Also said that they always make a serious effort when guiding private or small group visits.

happygardening Mon 03-Jun-13 17:37:30

"Happygardening -- what did you like about SPS?"
Its a thoroughly modern multicultural liberal and progressive its a 21st century school. Its not pretentious or groaning under the weight of meaningless ritual or ridiculous uniform. Even before the new building work the facilities are awesome and they are going to be even better and it has a university feel about it. It does what it says in the can; provide an fab education super bright boys. Its exceedingly impressive we ummmed and arrrhed for months over which one to reject I understand and am unsurprised by the points and concerns you raised about Winchester but still feel we choose the right school.
Juststarted registration for SPS is ridiculously early or at least it was 7 years ago and competion for the 75 places exceedingly fierce.
"Glad it wasn't just me who wondered where the boys were!"
Looked in "short roll" sort of diary thing boys were in lesson on Saturday till 12 20 lunch starts 13 10 then the rest of the afternoon they do activities. I asked my DS of many parents went to the open day to which he replied he only saw a few so somehow they manage to keep them apart!?
"it was odd the student communicated nothing about the facilities (ie didn't comment on the architectural significance of any building)."
Doubt my DS would comment either I suspect they just take it for granted.
"Or is there a central common room somewhere that the boys can meet to chat, play games, etc"
In my DS's house they can all meet in the mugging hall and theres a library and other places to sit and chat my DS has friends in all years don't know where he sits and chats to them but he obviously does it somewhere.he certainly talks about conversations with various dons but I don't know how this is organised.
"the food was terrible"
Win Coll food is notorious although we've eaten at least three meals in my DS's house with the boys and it wasn't inedible mainly lasagne spag bol etc but definitely not Marco Pierre White. But my DS's house has a reputation for having some of the best food. But I've also eaten in lots of other boarding schools and have been generally unmoved by the quality of the food.
"the housemaster we met was very unimpressive"
We like ours we liked him from the moment we first met him he's very normal I don't think ours is in awe of himself and he certainly knows the boys. I too am curious as which one you went round.
"I enjoyed speaking with two of the teachers (one science and one Spanish). Both seemed to be very enthusiastic and kind and to genuinely enjoy teaching there"
This is my experience the teacher seem to genuinely love the environment I met one recently at another big name independent school school he said those were my best teaching days the relationship between the boys and dons really is fantastic. Like all schools there are fantastic teachers and a few mediocre one but I don't believe any sector can claim a monopoly on good teachers.
We went round Eton and loathed it is so different to Winchester we hated the presentation, the beaks we met and the boys who seemed shallow but plenty go and love it its horses for courses we all see things differently.

bulletpoint Mon 03-Jun-13 18:19:21

Just reading this thread out of interest, i'm quite astonished actually at the mention of Winchester AND Shiplake! I am clearly missing a trick and hoping someone will kindly enlighten me, I thought Shiplake was a school for children with learning difficulties, but apart from that it is lagging very near the bottom of the league tables, number one thousand and something, I know league tables don't always tell the full story. I do have a bright child with special needs so hope someone would expantiate a bit more on why Shiplake would be a good second option for a Winchester candidate.

bico Mon 03-Jun-13 18:28:00

Who said it is? confused I assume you were referring to my post wherein I said I was going to visit Shiplake. I didn't realise visiting = choosing that school. I also haven't said it was first or second to Winchester. All I have said that as things stand at the moment Eton would be a more familiar choice for us.

I'm working on the assumption that choosing a school is like choosing a house. Yes it must be great to view one house and that house to be the one. In reality you end up looking at a range if houses some that meet your broad criteria and some that don't and maybe some that seem completely different to what you are looking for. Ds doesn't want co ed but I'm not dismissing Charterhouse or St Edwards until we've actually viewed what they have to offer.

Shiplake isn't a SEN specific school although it does have good support for dyslexic pupils. You may be surprised to learn that Winchester supports those and others too.

happygardening Mon 03-Jun-13 18:31:52

It isn't!
The two are not comparable I'm not against Shiplake but your comparing apples and pears. The learning support at Win Coll is well regarded a ed. psych we know was surprised at how helpful and open they were to a boy he'd assessed with quite complex special needs who many other mainstream big name boarding schools schools wouldn't touch with a barge pole.

bulletpoint Mon 03-Jun-13 18:34:09

Who said it is? I assume you were referring to my post wherein I said I was going to visit Shiplake. I didn't realise visiting = choosing that school.

Please calm down! why does every innocent question on MN have to turn into a confrontation ? i didn't memorise names of people but did notice more than one person mentioned Shiplake as well as Winchester, surely visiting a school would indicate some interest, i just wanted to know more about Shiplake and its suitability for a bright child. goodness me!

termsofuse Mon 03-Jun-13 18:47:24

Yes, I can back up HG's example. Super impressed by the school's willingness and readiness to do it and super impressed by how far he got. Doubt if any of the schools mentioned here would have the willingness and capability to do the same. HM did a wonderful job, not an easy one. A clear demonstration of the school's ethos, not just PR.

bico Mon 03-Jun-13 18:49:34

bullet same here which is why I'm going to look round. I doubt it is the right school for a bright child but it is local so worth a look at what they have to offer. My visit to Winchester left me feeling I need to do a number of visits to other schools to work out what it is I'm looking for. I realise there may not be a perfect school for ds but the more info I have the better informed my decision will be.

bulletpoint Mon 03-Jun-13 19:01:00

Bico - Well you've summed up where we are at exactly, the more info the better informed. I quite like the idea of a single sex school with good SEN support, I'm just not blown away by Shiplake's results, but wondering wether there might be more to it than the tables are showing. Obviously we can't visit every school, information from other parents is always useful in making a shortlist.

bico Mon 03-Jun-13 19:35:53

bullet what stage are you at and what schools are you considering other than Winchester.

bulletpoint Mon 03-Jun-13 20:33:08

Gathering as much information as possible about various schools inorder to draw up a shortlist to visit in yr 5, ds currently in yr 4. Its been rather difficult because of SEN, ds needs a good academic school and it doesn't have to be super selective but with strong pastoral care. Considering Eton, Merchant Taylors (might have to go for day), might 'nose' around Charterhouse, would have loved Kings Canterbury but its miles away from us. On paper Winchester seems to tick all boxes but chats with 2 current parents are making us reconsider, its also miles away.

Ladybird65 Mon 03-Jun-13 20:33:15

Not sure the brightest of bright children would flourish at shiplake unless there was a special reason for sending him there. A good proportion have special support. It seems to be an extremely caring and supportive environment. I spoke to head poss the deputy head at a symposium thing and found him to be utterly genuine completely caring and ready to design a personal education for your child. We are not seriously considering it but it clearly works for a lot of parents and I can see why. No reason not to see it even if WC is another choice if for no other reason than for reinforcing your opinion.

happygardening Mon 03-Jun-13 22:59:11

We looked at Shiplake for DS1 (not at WC) admittedly quite a few years ago. He has moderate "dyslexia" his reading and comprehension of written txt are excellent. The head of special needs was very pleasant and friendly but on being asked what help they would give give my DS he repeatedly talked about lessons to improve his reading and comprehension comprehension despite having the ed psych report and my DS's repeated assertions that reading and comprehension weren't really a problem for him. The teacher also talked about touch typing like it was something Shiplake had invented and only available there but when I mentioned the words Dragon Dictation Program I might as well have been talking in Swahili. Don't get my wrong this is pretty standard answers I've heard it all before but I have no intention of paying for something my DS doesn't need and also paying and not getting something he clearly needs.
We felt Shiplake was particularly suitable for first time boarders with high anxiety levels because problems were anticipated and expected and measures put into place to provide lots of support hence my comment earlier that we felt it was a bit wet.
I did like the 6 th form where the children were encouraged to think more for themselves and do their own washing etc.

bico Mon 03-Jun-13 23:17:46

I discovered today that I know someone who has a friend who teaches at Winchester. He's happy to arrange a meeting if I think Winchester is a serious option.

Shiplake is worth us looking at as a day option with boarding if needed but I doubt ds will change his mind from wanting full boarding.

I need somewhere that will inspire ds. Since he started school it has been apparent that he excels when he is inspired but will do only what is required when he isn't. Sometimes the gap between those two viewpoints is huge. I definitely don't want somewhere that teaches to test.

juststartingtothink Tue 04-Jun-13 07:57:14

Bico and HG -- I'd rather not say which house we visited -- might help identify us and I wouldn't want anyone at WC to know my negative thoughts!!
HG -- While we were having the tour, most students were in their Saturday classes. Then, while we were having 'lunch" on the lawn outside New Hall (I think), the students presumably were having their own lunch. By the time we visited the houses (around 1:30 or 2, I think) the boys had finished lunch -- hence, our surprise not to see many engaging in any sorts of recreation around campus (other than those who were playing in the cricket matches). Our guide told us he planned to play tennis in the afternoon and then "go to town". When I asked what the boys did in "town" he said "not much; just go around shops". (He was a lovely boy, by the way; just seemed a bit uninspired...). Where DO boys "play" -- kick a ball, throw frisbees, etc -- on weekends? Other than the cricket pitches and the garden around the house we visited, it wasn't obvious where boys might be allowed to have kcik-abouts.
Re my comment about the buildings: I wouldn't expect our student guide to tell us the age or history of buildings but I would expect him to at least say "that building is one of the oldest buildings" or "that's the only surviving of the original buildings", etc. Frankly, he didn't seem to know what to show us -- indicating either a lack of imagination on his part or poor instructions from the registrar. Had we not asked to go into the library, he would have just pointed to it. As we did ask, we went in but he didn't know which way to take us once inside the building, nor did he tell us anything such as "here are the fiction books", "here's where we do on-line research" or ANYTHING that indicated how he, as a student, uses the facility. It was just very odd. What we observed on the day -- other than the two teachers I mentioned above -- did not manifest what we had read and heard elsewhere.
I'll definitely give it another chance.... though my creeping positive view toward boarding has been challenged by this experience!!

One more comment: I was very surprised by the people at the Open Day. Seemed to be quite a few from Pilgrim's and Horace Hill (?) which are feeder schools (and, hence, I would have thought parents already knew the school. Very few (if any) boys from London schools (Sussex House, Wesminster Under, The Hall, Wetherby Prep, etc) -- schools which tend to send their boys to selective boarding schools such as Winchester.

juststartingtothink Tue 04-Jun-13 08:35:11

sorry .. didn't complete my thought regarding attendees: given I thought the |"selective" London prep schools tended to send boys to the "selective" boarding schools, I would have expected to see quite a lot of people from London on the Open Day. I wonder whether they just didn't know about it, or they did know about it and prefer to visit on days other than "open days" (for reasons noted by others above) or whether they're less interested in WC than in other schools.
I did think, by the way, it was a very nice group of parents and boys. I enjoyed my conversations with other parents and I enjoyed seeing the boys play with each other during and after lunch.

happygardening Tue 04-Jun-13 09:34:07

"I wonder whether they just didn't know about it,"
As WC only holds one open day a year and always on the same weekend most feeder preps would know exactly when it is.
"By the time we visited the houses (around 1:30 or 2, I think) the boys had finished lunch -- hence, our surprise not to see many engaging in any sorts of recreation around campus"
I know my DS was participating in his chosen sport becasue I asked him but no idea what time they start I think its after 2 lunch is a 13 10.
"I would expect him to at least say "that building is one of the oldest buildings" or "that's the only surviving of the original buildings"
I doubt my DS would have a clue I will ask him next time I speak to him and we're a family very interested in architecture!
"Where DO boys "play" -- kick a ball, throw frisbees, etc -- on weekends?"
In my DS's house there is a concreted over area called I think "yard" where a ball is kicked around but my DS is not a ball kicker as far as I can ascertain most of his spare time is currently spent revising/working!!
"Had we not asked to go into the library, he would have just pointed to it. As we did ask, we went in but he didn't know which way to take us once inside the building, nor did he tell us anything such as "here are the fiction books", "here's where we do on-line research" or ANYTHING that indicated how he, as a student, uses the facility."
I once read somewhere that the library is under used and there is more than one three I think and I know my DS goes into one as he meets friends from other houses there and also goes there between lessons. "On line research" is I would have thought more likely to be done in house. Winchester is very housecentric the boys go back there all the time my DS's house has its own library although not very comprehensive and I've seen school library books at home so he must use it.
"When I asked what the boys did in "town" he said "not much; just go around shops".
I'm not sure what else they would do in Winchester?
As I said at the beginning of the thread we were frankly underwhelmed by Winchester when we attended the open day like you we went with very high expectations and these were not met. We only persevered because we'd already arranged to meet three prospective HM"s and it seemed rude to cancel. It wasn't till we met our current HM a few times and a few other dons, had lunch in the house and most importantly met the boys who in a more informal way that are views changed and we could then see what makes it different and IMV unique.

justsstartingtothink Tue 04-Jun-13 09:51:49

HG -- many thanks for your perspectives. It's very helpful to read insights from a parent who knows the school well.
Re "going to town" -- you're right to ask "what else would they do"! I didn't mean to suggest they'd do anything else. I just thought it seemed a bit of a dull way to spend an afternoon and it made me question the benefit of boarding school if boys can't think of anything more fun to do than go around shops...
I realise it's GSCE time so perhaps many boys were busy revising for exams -- which would explain why we didn't see them engaging in other activities.
Anyway.... we enjoyed the day in and around Winchester and it has certainly got us thinking about what sort of school we'd like for our son. Winchester continues to be -- on paper -- very attractive. I look foward to visiting again in the autumn.
Many thanks, again, for sharing your thoughts!

09870987 Tue 04-Jun-13 10:00:02

I think that the current economic environment is starting to put more pressure on selective London day school places. I know several families who have decided boarding is too expensive especially if you have several dc. My theory is that demand for boarding places will fall, even at a place like WC because there are comparable, academic schools like SPS, Westminster, Kings Wimbledon in London and you see this with the entry figures (2-3 for each place for WC, 9 for each place for kings pre test). The boarding schools will increasingly look abroad to take up the slack. This may be why you didn't see hoards of Londoners at the open day, or maybe they were being discreet that day?!

termsofuse Tue 04-Jun-13 10:26:07

Think back to the time when we were their age. Apart from the usual teenage thing, they all take the history and the surroundings for granted as they are immersed in it everyday. Few would see anything deserving more than indifference. Similarly, I wonder how many of the boys will make a point of visiting the Treasury (museum) in the school. Also, they are not told let alone trained about their surroundings. I honestly think what they know is limited to what they heard when they went on open days or private visits! Parents are likely to know more than their DSs.
They go to town to buy things, snacks or whatever. Some JP/MP boys go to get free wifi to download music or books at Starbucks or MacDonald's. Personal computers or tablets are not allowed at all until their third year, house dependent, some HM may allow them in the fifth term. Internet enabled smart phones are tolerated. Ereader are allowed. Many older boys with computers would let the younger ones play on them though which is nice.
Most houses would have their own computers for the JP/MP boys. Online work is done mostly in house as HG said.
Speculating here, would the middle of the exam calendar be the cause of fewer boys doing leisurely things outside (I kind of doubt it though)? The houses, art school, musical school, DT mill, sports fields and so on are fairly spread out. They could be walking around the streets surrounding the school to and from activities/societies too. Many boys are quite involved in extra-curricular projects at these facilities. I am sure there are boys working on things for Winchester Day right now.
Sundays can be a bit dull from what I heard and will take an effort to keep occupied, during second term is worse. Very little organised activities because quite a few boys would go home or be taken out by parents. Facilities have short opening hours on Sundays. Having an obsessive interest/hobby helps.
They will be ODed on visitors this month with New Men's Day this weekend and Winchester Day in a few weeks.

123flower Tue 04-Jun-13 10:26:56

At DS1 and DS2's London prep school, only the boys who weren't offered places at Westminster, St Paul's or Eton ended up going to Winchester - so it wasn't their first choice. I remember one London dad describing Winchester as too "tweedy" and stuck in the mid 20th century, so may it's less popular with metropolitan families...

termsofuse Tue 04-Jun-13 10:46:03

Hard to deduce from the geographic mix on open day alone. I think there is a fair population of London prep school boys but very hard to tell. The only thing released with that information is the Election Roll (scholar's list) which is for just one house. There have been London ones at least for College in the latest three years. Too academic, no compulsory sports, dated facilities, too hard, too nerdy are commonly heard.

happygardening Tue 04-Jun-13 10:49:14

"Similarly, I wonder how many of the boys will make a point of visiting the Treasury (museum) in the school."
I think my Ds might have been into the treasury (museum) (?now called the Heads Stable or something similar) when he started he remembered a model ship but I can't imagine he's frequently trotting off there.
"I didn't mean to suggest they'd do anything else. I just thought it seemed a bit of a dull way to spend an afternoon and it made me question the benefit of boarding school if boys can't think of anything more fun to do than go around shops..."
I know my DS did his chosen sport which would have lasted about an hour and then went into Winchester on Saturday afternoon. I think you'll find that unless there is a long match like cricket (thankfully my DS has no interest in cricket) most sporting activities like karate fencing etc last for about 1 - 1 1/2 hours. You do have to remember the boys work very hard they have prep on Saturday evening and Saturday after activities is time to do nothing (how lovely maybe I should go to Win Coll). They are allowed bikes and I know some go cycling in their free time.
I agree 0987 boarding fees are astronomical Winchester next year will be just shy of £34 000 PA thats a hell of a lot of money.
"you see this with the entry figures 2-3 for each place for WC, 9 for each place for kings pre test"
Winchester do restrict the numbers to 2-3 because of the length of the pre test although I've no idea if more would like to pre tested.
"Sundays can be a bit dull from what I heard and will take an effort to keep occupied,"
This frankly our biggest disappointment no activities are organised outside of the art room DT dept and gym being open and many go home we unfortunately have no realistic public transport option and have to drive to pick him up so we don't go that often. But having said this given an opportunity to come home this Sunday my DS said he was revising for his exams and wanted to stay at school [smug smiley].

AnnaBBB Tue 04-Jun-13 11:00:08

I went on a Winchester visit also (not the open day) and met two dons. I was pre-disposed to really like it but came away with reservations. I didn't like the six to a room bedrooms for first years - they were cramped and looked like you had so little privacy. Similarly, I found it strange - if it is 21st century that the boys are not allowed computers for the first two years, especially as it is for self -motivated types. The same feeling from the place where they do their "toy time" or prep - with all the individual booths and curtains puled across. Walking around the place it just seemed too "scholarly" and cloistered for boys so young as 13 (and I have been to Oxford so I know cloistered but this seemed even more so) .....I must admit even though the Eton tour is more impersonal and I went with no pre-conceived notions ...I thought the facilities at Eton were far superior including the single study bedrooms and wi-fi (albeit filtered) for personal laptops from day 1. It's not all down to facilities I know, but the atmosphere at Eton just seemed somehow more "full on". Horses for courses.... ...I genuinely think Winchester may be best suited for certain more intellectual types, but I had to ask myself if I was a 13 year old boy like my DS would like to live here for 5 years especially if it is more full on boarding than most boarding schools? I know Winchester has a great reputation for being one of the most selective in its entrance procedures, but even with its more personal pre-selection and difficult pre -Us and culling at sixth form (if you don't get the requisite As at GCSE) it still gets the same percentage into Oxbridge as Eton does (and Eton seems somehow more rounded) and as do some of the leading day schools. Finally, I also did wonder if they are filling up more spaces these days with pupils from the Far East. I don't know if there is any limit of percentage of overseas at any boarding schools.. At the end of the day, I have hesitated to register DS at Winchester though still thinking on it because I am having difficulty visualising him there, whereas I have walked away from other school tours, wanting to fill in the forms as soon as I got home.

happygardening Tue 04-Jun-13 11:00:51

I dont think many came from London preps in my DS's year/house mainly home counties and those who lived in London were at country boarding preps. Winchester is proper full boarding (no coming out on Saturday afternoon even for a special family party) and keeps parents at arms length you've got to not only like the school but also really believe in boarding to go down this road.
I also agree the lack of compulsory sport might put many off many are shocked at this and also the nerdy image.
"too hard,"
I take it term you mean the ethos this is far removed from my experience all the staff I've met are exceedingly caring and dedicated although it is an all boys environment I don't think its a place for the super sensitive but then few full boarding schools are.

AnnaBBB Tue 04-Jun-13 11:10:29

HG - I don't understand the comment re: Winchester is restricting pre-testing to 2-3 per place? I thought anyone could register if the simply filled on the form and paid the fee in time and then pre-tested - Don't they allow all who register to pre-test?

AnnaBBB Tue 04-Jun-13 11:14:15

One nice thing about having a laptop and a private bedroom from day 1 at a full boarding school is that you can always arrange Skype video call with home once in a while if you are homesick or parents/grandparents just misses you and wants to say hello!

happygardening Tue 04-Jun-13 11:19:11

"Winchester may be best suited for certain more intellectual types,"
When we first started looking at senior schools we were primarily interested in SPS but my DS's form teacher recommended Win Coll to us for exactly that reason. Her DS had looked at both Eton and Winchester she said he was very clever but not intellectual where as she felt my DS was not only very clever but also very intellectual.
it just seemed too "scholarly" and cloistered for boys so young as 13
I'm curious to know what you mean by this.
"it still gets the same percentage into Oxbridge as Eton"
I dont know what the figures are I thought Win Coll sent a fraction more (not that it really matters) but they do achieve more A*'s or equivalent at the much harder Pre U 0ver 50% more again not that matters either and more are going abroad (mainly to the Ivy League) I wonder if this reflects the increasing number of pupils from the Far East.

I agree Eton has better facilities and as you said is definitely more 21st century I personally don't like single rooms I think it can be very lonely I've recenly heard of quite a few struggling to settle Eton. I recntly asked my DS about dorms and he will tell you its in the dorms that friendships are made and often with boys who they may not have not been naturally drawn too although I do agree they are small and privacy is at a premium.
'whereas I have walked away from other school tours, wanting to fill in the forms as soon as I got home."
We all want different things and no one school/person is right I walked away from Eton thinking I wouldn't put the dog into it let alone my DS but I am perfectly aware that its a very good school and many many love it. In fact SPS and Win Coll aside (God knows why becasue they are like chalk and cheese) having trotted round quite a few in my time there were no others I would even consider I'd rather have turned to the state and used the spare cash to to enrich his education.
"I don't know if there is any limit of percentage of overseas at any boarding schools"
I doubt it.

happygardening Tue 04-Jun-13 11:24:35

AnnaB HM's close their lists when they have about 30 on them all on the list get pre tested.
"you can always arrange Skype video call with home once in a while if you are homesick or parents/grandparents just misses you and wants to say hello!"
My DS who does have a lap top but doesn't Skype me he txts or calls (usually once a week if he's not too busy) but then he's been full boarding since he was 7 and I think we've jut got a different mindset to those who aren't used to full boarding and these are teenage boys many of whom are pretty monosyllabic when talking to their parents and who hopefully have many more interesting things to do than Skype their parents all the time.

termsofuse Tue 04-Jun-13 11:28:06

Sorry HG, bad choice of word, "too difficult" meaning that many are put off by the myth that the entrance exams are just too challenging. No, totally with you about the caring and nurturing environment, especially for an all boys environment.
AnnaBBB, I think it goes a bit beyond the Oxbridge count and exam results though. There is often a discernible difference between the attitude and perspective of Etonians and Wykehamists generally speaking. Horses for courses as you said. Some may do well in either, but they will be molded differently and their values are quite different. For other school, that may not be so obvious, but it is for these two.
As for Far East, it is fair to say that regardless of nationality or race, quite a few boys had "far east" education before. Probably fair to say that those which that exposure tend to value the academic side far more than anything else. Perhaps that explains the attraction to families who are either currently there or had spent time there. Pure speculation of course. Unsure if there is a quota, but just noticed that there are different procedures for admissions for those applying from Asia, again just based on where they live rather than nationalities.
HG, I doubt if WC or its houses would do anything about Sundays. The short version is that they all defend the concept of free time being free. Not a bad thing, just could be better every now and then.

AnnaBBB Tue 04-Jun-13 11:34:01

HG - My DS is clever (at a few subjects but not all) but not intellectual - perhaps that is it then and why you preferred Winchester ...he came away from Eton tour wanting to go there ....but at Winchester - despite meeting dons and having a more personal tour, he seemed to have no particular opinion on the place! By scholarly, I mean rightly or wrongly, it seemed to be much more orientated on the cerebral and quirky and dare i say it, a bit more introverted in the boys it attracts than the all roundedness that some other boarding schools promote. Given my DS likes to run around a lot at whatever sport (albeit he is not top sporty type) and socialise (though I do worry that is just to many 13 year olds in a single small dorm, especially of one or tow dominate, I would prefer two to a dorm for the first year), perhaps it's just not the place for him. As I said, I don't know if I have the right impression - what I have learned from these school tours is it is so subjective and any pre-conceived notions about a place can quickly change - so I am going by gut feel as well as reputation and prep HM's guidance. My other reservation is that since Winchester don't let boys home as much as some other boarding schools do, they really should not be suffering from dull weekends at 34 k a year, given also here is no compulsory sports.

happygardening Tue 04-Jun-13 11:35:13

The entrance exam is certainly harder than CE especially the Latin math and French oral although currently no pass mark is required just a good showing although I wonder if this will change. IME small preps don't have suitable staff/rescourses to teach to the level required for the Latin/Math.

AnnaBBB Tue 04-Jun-13 11:45:07

At the risk of gross generalisation, I think the Far Eastern background means much more emphasis (by the parents also) on the cerebral and maths, and reaching advanced levels in music and chess and less so on the other arts, or drama...and an education that invites less creative opinion forming or questioning than a Western one.

happygardening Tue 04-Jun-13 11:54:07

"By scholarly, mean rightly or wrongly, it seemed to be much more orientated on the cerebral and quirky and dare i say it, a bit more introverted in the boys it attracts than the all roundedness that some other boarding schools promote."
Probably a fair description of my DS who's very quirky although not introverted but reserved there is a difference, not a team sports player and a bit of a lone wolf doing his own thing pursuing his own interest hence it works. Interestingly I would say from talking to him recently he's become more reserved and more of a lone wolf since being at Winchester perhaps he feels no need to make himself into something he isn't (IMO the root of his unhappiness at his prep).
"My other reservation is that since Winchester don't let boys home as much as some other boarding schools do, they really should not be suffering from dull weekends at 34 k a year, given also here is no compulsory sports."
I dont think the problem arises on Saturday but Sunday definitely could be better we feel under pressure to go and get him especially in the winter although unlike many boarding schools they are free to go the cinema which is just round the corner but not exactly a multiplex.

happygardening Tue 04-Jun-13 11:59:04

"At the risk of gross generalisation, I think the Far Eastern background means much more emphasis (by the parents also) on the cerebral and maths, and reaching advanced levels in music and chess"
Many generalisations are true and I think this one might be! Although in fairness many "Far East" children play at least 1 if not 2-3 instruments to a very high standard and there are certainly lots of "Far East" boys participating in my DS's s main choice of sport. Maths/further Maths and by extension physics are very very big at Win Coll and I understand very popular with the many of the boys but especially those from the "Far East" who are usually the best mathematicians.

termsofuse Tue 04-Jun-13 13:08:33

I think the generalisation is largely accurate in that there is a tendency and an expectation to be taught and fed knowledge rather than learn. There is a diverse "Far East" at WC though, many have mixed nationality/race parents, quite a few UK/EU nationals with family working/living in Asia, and the real Asians. Many would have done Kumon for example, but having been fed fairly advanced knowledge is not the same as being good as maths, it is fascinating that many of them find the Election maths papers very hard. WC insists that they are at worst CE standard which I think is entirely accurate.
Interesting also to see that pretty much all at WC end up questioning and pushing boundaries. My impression of Eton was the opposite in that they are even a touch proud of feeding and teaching enough contents and techniques to get the top grades.

termsofuse Tue 04-Jun-13 13:31:32

IME the same "Far East" emphasis also happens to those with less developed countries background (Africa, FSU come to mind). I guess it is easy to aim for things with measurable performance and linking them to future prospects that more fuzzy ones like drama, art, DT and so on. Even instrument playing is measurable which may explain the multiple instruments at diploma levels, but rarely composition.

AnnaBBB Tue 04-Jun-13 13:42:54

Off topic on Winchester but interesting to compare different generalisations, I think of Indian sub-continent education/background paying a lot more focus on Maths and physics but much less so than say grade 8 at piano than Chinese....creative out of the box maths is I guess what is needed for maths at Oxbridge - very different from GCSE or A level...I have no particular desire to say one Eton or Winchester is better than the depends on what suits a boy...but I would have thought the fact that they produce roughly equal percentages to Oxbridge means one is not just taught to the test at Eton, as Oxbridge looks for much more than that and more than just "top grades" at A level since so much is based on Oxbridge's own test for say maths and interview.

IndridCold Tue 04-Jun-13 13:53:50

I do not want to hijack a Winchester thread, and I cannot comment on WC teaching but it would certainly not be accurate to say that Eton only teach to the test.

termsofuse Tue 04-Jun-13 14:13:40

It is very much only an impression from visiting, going through the process and a few who are and had been there. May well be way off the mark and certainly not stating it as fact.

happygardening Tue 04-Jun-13 14:28:43

I understand that in my DS's year A set/top set maths (which I notice the boys use as a measure of how clever you are) comprises of virtually all from the far East. So it would appear Kumon maths has not just advanced their knowledge but made them bloody good at maths as well!

IndridCold Tue 04-Jun-13 14:40:03

The masters do tend to say things like 'This is what is needed for an A, A*', to reassure parents I suppose, but they then go on to describe all the other things they teach, and extra areas which are covered. I am sure that this is the same at Winchester too.

Both schools have to ensure that pupils achieve top grades in the public exams, yet these results don't truly reflect what extra stuff the boys are capable of. There was a letter to this effect in the paper on Sunday.

happygardening Tue 04-Jun-13 14:42:05

I suspect few super selectives teach to the test they leave this too the less selective schools aspiring for a whole pile of A*'s. My DS could get an A at Maths GCSE at 11 as I'm sure could many at both Eton and Win Coll this obviously leaves plenty of time to "off test". The only thing is that at WC for the whole five years they are there there is a daily Div lesson which does not end in a formal exam either IGCSE or Pre U and History and Eng Lit are not formally examined subjects until Pre U so the dons have a lots more freedom to go completely off test.
I aslo understand that the nature of the Pre U means its much easier and maybe even essential to go "off test".

lapucelle Tue 04-Jun-13 15:23:50

How many Eton and Winchester students go on to study maths or physics (Nat Sci) at Oxbridge? Are there statistics given anywhere?

I'm just curious as I am an academic in maths/physics and I have come across very few at Cambridge from those two schools - most Etonians and Wykehamists I have known were studying law, economics etc. The only Wykehamists I can think of in maths and physics are a faculty member in Cambridge pure maths (Shepherd-Barron) and Freeman Dyson (a long time ago).

justsstartingtothink Tue 04-Jun-13 15:26:13

Hi -- thanks for so many interesting and insightful posts! I feel like I'm getting a tutorial in secondary (boys' boarding...) education!
A few observations: someone I know who attended WC and has a son there and is on some sort of WC governing board mentioned a while ago that they do set limits on the number of boys they take from overseas. I'm not sure if it's a formal target or just an objective to maintain a balance. Another friend who comes from a long line of Old Etonians and has a son currently there told me Eton has changed dramatically in its intake since his time ... and now there are many Asians, in particular among the Kings Scholars (is that the correct term?)

One question about weekends: are boys required to stay at school Saturday after their classes and activities? Or can they go home (if they wish) and do their Saturday "prep" at home and stay through Sunday? The housemaster who showed us around said they "could leave as long as they fulfill their religious obligations" and then recited some gobbleygook about different types of Sundays (different letters....) and different church service times, etc which seemed completely irrelevant. (He really was very unimpressive!!!)

And another question: the hm's comments about "fulfill religious obligation" -- said in a rather offhand way -- seemed to minimise the importance of religious observance. One of the attractions of WC to me is that it seems to be still steeped in the CoE and has a Christian ethos (unlike SPS which, despite its name and origins, seems almost militantly secular).

termsofuse Tue 04-Jun-13 15:41:51

IndridCold: That was exactly the language used! But the follow on had more to do with practising it until they can do it in their sleep or along those lines. We were shocked.

Juststarting. Boys can't be away until after Chapel on Sundays AND they have handed in their Div homework. On X-sundays, that is close to midday, on Y-sundays, that is about 1030. Saturday toytime is compulsory. HMs can make rare exceptions but they are rare. The policy is please don't ask. Chapel and other services is a bit odd since many dons and lots of boys are atheists or agnostic, and the boys can be fierce in defending that.

termsofuse Tue 04-Jun-13 15:53:07

WC is not short of contradictions within. Please don't shoot me for saying this, but my impression is that when it comes to religion, WC is shallow but Eton is not. WC head is very religious (taught theology in his past). Heard that one year, someone suggested to him that WC should recognise atheism. The conversation apparently did not end well.

happygardening Tue 04-Jun-13 15:57:11

"One question about weekends: are boys required to stay at school Saturday after their classes and activities?"
They are not allowed home on Saturday even for a special occasion they have Div prep on Sat. evening but they are allowed home on Sunday after chapel. The Sundays alternate, X and Y, the houses are in two groups so for example in some houses on a Y Sunday they can leave about 9 30 ish after chapel but on an X Sunday I don't think they can leave till after 11 (we obviously don't pick up our DS up on that Sunday) for the other houses it will be the other way round and all have to be back by 9 - 9 15.
Does that make sense?
"unlike SPS which, despite its name and origins, seems almost militantly secular"
One of its big attractions for us it looked like no chapel would be built in the new rebuilding programme but sadly they've bowed to pressure!
I think first and second years have to go to Chapel three times a week third years twice week and the top two years may get away with just Sundays. Its a hotly contested and well documented issue at Win Coll many boys are very vocal in their objections to compulsory chapel.
For non CofE theirs and RC option and a multi faith meeting.

happygardening Tue 04-Jun-13 15:57:48

The head is a RC.

happygardening Tue 04-Jun-13 15:58:47

"WC is not short of contradictions within"
Hundreds of contradictions thats just the way it is.

AnnaBBB Tue 04-Jun-13 16:05:20

I wish Eton and Winchester would offer weekly boarding like others such as Westminster well as the full boarding option least where the boys could come home on a Saturday after sports/matches and go back on a Sunday eve ...especially if Sundays could be a bit dull! But I can't see it happening ...they are too wedded to the full boarding ethos, but I think they are losing some English pupils because of it.

termsofuse Tue 04-Jun-13 16:07:23

HG - yes first RC since reformation?
WC could and should do better with RS. In today's climate, it is not helpful to produce fiercely non-religious boys. Not about religion at all but harmony. Another contradiction: they question anything and everything, many question the concept of religious faith but atheism is for many taken as is, no questions needed.

happygardening Tue 04-Jun-13 16:07:39

lapucelle according to the WC website chemistry was the most popular Pre U subject; 54 out of about 130 do chemistry, physics come second with 45 doing it and 24 sit further maths Pre U. In contrast 14 do geography 9 do Latin and 12 Spanish.
Nearly all my DS know in the top year are off to study maths/physics or a related type topic with Oxford/IC seeming to be the most popular destinations He also seems to believe that these subjects are the most popular choices but this could be his particular house.

AnnaBBB Tue 04-Jun-13 16:08:07

"English" pupils in the broadest sense as opposed to overseas that is ....who would want full boarding

happygardening Tue 04-Jun-13 16:11:57

"HG - yes first RC since reformation?"
I think so.
"but atheism is for many taken as is, no questions needed."
No RS taught unless you opt to take it right at the start my DS is firmly in the atheist I don't see why we should go to chapel camp
"I wish Eton and Winchester would offer weekly boarding like others such as Westminster"
We chose it because it is full boarding if your mainly weekly boarding them you restrict your number to those who live within a sensible travelling distance.

termsofuse Tue 04-Jun-13 16:12:45

Should be at least one first year NatSci in Cambridge from WC. Not sure which college.

AnnaBBB Tue 04-Jun-13 16:14:47

Termsofuse ...."In today's climate, it is not helpful to produce fiercely non-religious boys. Not about religion at all but harmony. ......"

Sorry I have to disagree ....and especially in today's climate.....and compulsory chapel 3 times a week is putting me off further should be optional at that age. Sounds like a contradiction to nurturing questioning boys.

termsofuse Tue 04-Jun-13 16:17:29

HG, I meant they should address that in Div. Agree on point about chapel and given the superficial nature of it.

AnnaBBB Tue 04-Jun-13 16:19:02


I think others are more flexible about Saturdays nights/Sundays even when they might be considered full boarding and attract overseas pupils also, Bradfield, Wellington and Westminster come to mind

IndridCold Tue 04-Jun-13 16:21:32

termsof use 'That was exactly the language used! But the follow on had more to do with practising it until they can do it in their sleep or along those lines. We were shocked.'

Actually there are a couple of masters we met whom I can imagine saying that smile, happily this has not been our experience at all - quite the reverse.

termsofuse Tue 04-Jun-13 16:22:13

AnnaBBB, I do not mean chapel or services, but the attitude of many WC boys against religion. Not at all about forcing religion into every boy, not about discouraging atheism, but atheism and religious faith should be questioned equally. It is also more than just being respectful and sensitive to others with faith. Fundamentally, for the WC ethos, nothing should be beyond questioning. Chapel is something else which does not help to tone down the attitude which may be mixed with some resentment.

termsofuse Tue 04-Jun-13 16:28:17

The recognise atheism conversation with the head apparently was put forward as more productive use of their time. Didn't end well.

AnnaBBB Tue 04-Jun-13 16:31:43

oh dear....nothing is better than producing militant atheists of the future than forced religious services I imagine !

happygardening Tue 04-Jun-13 16:33:50

"I think others are more flexible about Saturdays nights/Sundays even when they might be considered full boarding and attract overseas pupils also, Bradfield, Wellington and Westminster come to mind"
But this is Winchester it will always follow its own path whether it be all Pre U's, no IGCSE Eng lit/history, its own entrance exam, or all full boarding. In this day and age of schools fighting for potential pupils it has decided to make its self obviously different. As patents we can take it or leave it.
"I meant they should address that in Div"
It is isn't it it certainly was in my DS's first year although of course every Div class is different.
"Sounds like a contradiction to nurturing questioning boys."
As already said contradiction is not unheard of at Win Coll. As a friend said I cant see what I'm "buying into" unlike Eton where even a fool could see what they're "buying into".
For some unknown reason no statistics on the number taking biology Pre U (I think becasue they've only just changed to the Pre U and the table only gives Pre U results) which is I'm assuming essential to study Nat. Science but its certainly the smallest part of the science dept with only 7 dons physics has 11.

termsofuse Tue 04-Jun-13 16:36:26

Agree AnnaBB. You can imagine how some religous grandparents feel "losing" their grandsons. WC ought to fix that and it should not be a difficult fix. It is worse when many dons are the same. Very bad to go through the motions and the rituals mindlessly.

termsofuse Tue 04-Jun-13 16:39:54

HG, all it takes is a couple of debates, pick members deliberately to oppose their own view.

AnnaBBB Tue 04-Jun-13 16:43:41

I must admit ...unlike HG, I liked the look and feel of Eton ...I think the facilities and teaching will be great for my DS but I don't like the brand Eton...the one that is portrayed, mystified and/or ostracized by the media least Winchester is happily not saddled with that ! To me, being seen as an OE for the rest of your life before other things is not great at all especially since we are neither aristocratic nor rich nor come from any old OE lineage ...not sure why I keep comparing these two schools..but it seems natural to compare them - before I went to see both I thought they would be far more alike...but having seen them I am not sure.

termsofuse Tue 04-Jun-13 16:45:24

Think biology is not a must for NatSci. Biology had a biggish transition. Head became HM of College, had new hire and so on. New head is impressive and fascinating to talk to, not just on paper.

happygardening Tue 04-Jun-13 16:47:09

"the one that is portrayed, mystified and/or ostracized by the media"
We know people who wont even short list old Etonians as they have a reputation for arrogance having said that all the young ones (recent leavers) we know are charming. i think it takes a long time to shift off a reputation.

happygardening Tue 04-Jun-13 16:48:44

term and I notice they are now doing biology Pre U instead of A level this is a recent change I think perhaps this the new head of biologys doing.

termsofuse Tue 04-Jun-13 16:50:12

WC is also smaller and settings more intimate and personal. AnnaBBB, hard not to look at both with their common background. Other than the exam grade saga, felt rightly or wrongly Eton has this hint of entitled arrogance which is absent in WC.

happygardening Tue 04-Jun-13 16:51:46

'Think biology is not a must for NatSci"
Not something I know very much about my DS is firmly in the maths/further maths/physics camp [yawn eyes glaze over smiley] God knows where he's got that from; not either of his parents.

termsofuse Tue 04-Jun-13 16:55:07

HG - that sounds wonderful. Must be a scary A-setter!

happygardening Tue 04-Jun-13 16:55:52

"Eton has this hint of entitled arrogance which is absent in WC.
Cant say I noticed this I just thought it was unsubtle sterile and just too bloody perfect. I thought variation on a theme or perhaps contradiction as mentioned at Win Coll were missing. As I've already said if you want this sort of education SPS offers it in spades and always has and no meaningless ritual/religion/ridiculous uniform.

AnnaBBB Tue 04-Jun-13 16:56:28

Current incumbents at number 10 and 11 and Boris don't help and in no way sell it to me...I liked it despite that ...I think it has changed since then with 20% plus on bursaries ...but yes, you are right long time before the media will see it any other way because so many are in the current establishment. You do wonder if it will be more of an asset in life than a millstone!

Having said that I also know of people who won't short list 1st class grads from Oxbridge because they think they are too narrowly academic for success in the commercial world, ridiculous perhaps but you never can tell...all depends on the circles you are in.

happygardening Tue 04-Jun-13 16:57:56

I'm not sure wonderful is the right term different perhaps we're all firmly in the art/classical music camp at home.

termsofuse Tue 04-Jun-13 16:58:45

Does Eton KS has a money component? Election Roll without I am sure puts people off.

happygardening Tue 04-Jun-13 17:00:00

There will always be stories about prejudice against Etonians, Harrovians or even those from Billericay Comprehensive I suspect in reality most just get on with their lives and don't experience much prejudice or the Old Boy network either.

happygardening Tue 04-Jun-13 17:02:27

"Election Roll without I am sure puts people off."
Does it? I heard on the grape vine that too many "unsuitable" candidates are sitting it and that they are going to pre test to stop this. It's purely and simply a status thing (look how clever I am) surely.

IndridCold Tue 04-Jun-13 17:07:52

AnnaBBB Boris and Cameron were there in the 70s and 80s, (Osborne was at St Pauls) it has changed since then. Even Germaine Greer gave Eton a glowing report on Question Time this month!

PM me if you are interested, or start a new thread. There are several Eton mums (and ex mums) on MN.

happygardening Tue 04-Jun-13 17:08:23

"Current incumbents at number 10 and 11"
George or Gideon as he was know at school rather unfortunately went to SPS we will have to assume he is the exception to the rule!

AnnaBBB Tue 04-Jun-13 17:10:56

Gosh, excuse my ignorance ...I tarred him with the Bullingdon brush...he
has that air about him!

AnnaBBB Tue 04-Jun-13 17:12:07

Yes, time I got off this thread ...hijacked it enough already sorry all!

termsofuse Tue 04-Jun-13 17:15:15

A couple didn't bother with WC for that.
Not sure if it is just for status or the chambers system that prompt the choice, many boys are put up by their prep schools.
Heard that if you are elected, you can't opt out as an exhibitioner and go to the house that gave the offer.

happygardening Tue 04-Jun-13 17:59:39

"you can't opt out as an exhibitioner and go to the house that gave the offer."
You can as far as I'm aware.

vinz Tue 04-Jun-13 18:00:52

A useful comparison I was told by colleagues, for those who know Oxbridge but are having a first experience of public schools (I imagine not particularly uncommon amongst parents in London who grew up in the regions) was that Win Coll is a lot like Merton/Corpus at Ox or Christ's and maybe Trinity in Cam (don't know Cam as well), whilst Eton was more akin to ChCh/Oriel or John's/Caius and SPS equivalent to places like Exeter/Teddy and Queen's/Catz in Cam. Obviously, these are far from infallible but it gave a decent rough guide to the atmospheres of each before visiting.

MrsFrederickWentworth Fri 07-Jun-13 19:33:20

Coming late to this thread, Ds didn't go to Winco despite a place because he didn't want to board and made an excellent well researched and mature case, but,

Don't be put off by the Head, who is atypical of the school imv. He is a friend of friends so must be a nice man but our interview was a mixture of the surreal and outrageous.

Do understand that it is one of the few places that still provides an outstanding liberal education

Do understand that they are scruffy and don't care ( so is Ds 's school , we don't care )

And that you can be yourself. The only other place we have discovered is Ds 's school, in all the others we considered the peer pressure to conform or if not to conform to do so in a pretty standard way was immense. Interesting odd balls fit in.

bico Fri 07-Jun-13 22:13:52

A week on from our visit and I'm still a bit 'meh' about it and still shock at the questions of some of the other parents. I doubt my view will change until I have something to compare it to and that won't happen until next term. I've been abroad all week so I've not yet seen ds to ask him how he feels about it a week on.

I really like the idea of a liberal education and the opportunity to learn for interest's sake rather than just number crunching qualifications. The fact that interesting odd balls fit in is another aspect that attracts me. Ds will never be one of those dcs who conform, albeit he does like structure and order.

justsstartingtothink Fri 07-Jun-13 22:32:04

MrsFW -- Thank you for sharing your views. I think my own thoughts coincide with those of your son. I am still attracted to many of the features of WC but the visit might have put me "off" the idea of boarding (for my son). What day school did you find that is similarly liberal and does not force "conformity"? Is your son happy with his choice?

MrsFrederickWentworth Fri 07-Jun-13 23:03:09

Son has gone to a second order day school in London, but where imv the maths ( his subject) is prob better than Winco's, although at win co all do it to pre u level.

He is in the top sets and there finds some interesting friends. Tbh I think he would prob find more at Winco , given he likes to test out intellectual ideas and never never lets an argument go. I would say that not all the teachers are top rate teachers ( having a phd does not automatically make you a star at teaching, let it be said). But they are mostly pretty good, and mostly understand my son to a t. Those who claim he is really interested in their subject are those he rates less.....

The school is good at sport, excels in one sport and is big enough for Ds to get into teams.

It is good at art, drama, quite good at music, has a poultry club as well as a poker club, and turns out nice well balanced young men. Of Ds 's class, only 4 of them I reckon have both sets of grandparents born in the UK; one of the things I really like about it is that he comes across people from all backgrounds and nations, because his generation is going to have to compete globally and they know it.

In the lower school the pastoral care is outstanding. In the middle school they are,a bit more hands off but still pretty good. And their SEN provision is exceptionally good.

There are inevitablly some things I would change, but it us a far less pressured environment than some of the other London day schools we looked at. And I like that. And the scruffiness. They can relax.

And they don't feel ashamed of having families. I saw one member of the sixth pick up his baby sister and cuddle her, in the school car park, and every one else just regards it as rather nice. That doesn't mean that you don't have the teenage/ parent problem but they can show affection.

termsofuse Sat 08-Jun-13 09:12:32

To get a more complete view of WC and its ethos, visiting College itself would help, regardless of views or intention when it comes to scholarship. College is a unique setting. Not about monetary awards (none), or status or bragging rights (near absence of pride and arrogance among them) or even traditions, but the mix of stimulating personalities/conversations and for those who are not inside the box it is a place where you realize that there are others just like you. Not necessarily the "brightest" if there is even a way to define that. Lots of commoners do better or equally well, but just the setting. WC life is always about the houses.

MrsFrederickWentworth Sat 08-Jun-13 12:55:53

I agree wholeheartedly with terms, though having married a colleger would say that the houses are superior for normality!

happygardening Sat 08-Jun-13 13:29:56

"but where imv the maths ( his subject) is prob better than Winco's, although at win co all do it to pre u level."
MrsFred not contesting this just curious in what way its better.

MrsFrederickWentworth Sat 08-Jun-13 16:36:42

Happy, happy to pm you but don't want to hijack this thread. I know you are a Winco mum and fan, and this is just my view.

. I think Winco is, as I think I have said, outstanding at the liberal arts. I did quite a lot of research on maths teaching, results, and going on to read maths and at which HEIs , and imv at the time we were looking at Ds going there, their maths was not so strong as some other schools'.

Added to which the Head Man was snooty about it! But Ds's housemaster would have been a mathematics don, why we chose that house and not the ones that his cousins are at or have gone to. I am sure he would have done well there.

lapucelle Sat 08-Jun-13 20:57:43

Interesting comments about maths, as it confirms my impression. I also don't have a good impression of their physics, from their website. Most of the extension topics they mention have very little to do with modern physics. (But I don't know the school very well, only through family, as I do not have sons. It is slightly relevant to us as our DDs may go to its "sister" school which does some of its sixth form extension enrichment at Win Coll.)

MrsFrederickWentworth Sat 08-Jun-13 22:28:53

I'm sure that their maths is good, don't get me wrong.

But I wanted it to be as outstanding as the liberal arts and not to be a second fiddle subject or even just not the co leader.. I thought Ds's potential housemaster was prob excellent but equally I wanted large numbers of boys to be doing not just maths but further maths a level or the equivalent. I felt, possibly wrongly, that if you were not in college, and we didn't put Ds down for election, that you might not have lots of sparky mathematicians round you, whereas you would have lots of sparky barristers or politicians in the making. I may well have been wrong. Not saying that barristers and politicians can't also be mathematicians, of course , this Is is getting rather involved.....

It was interesting how difficult it was to get that information from some schools, or to find out where their pupils had gone to read which subjects.

anyway, ultimately we gave Ds the choice. It's his life and we were both unhappy at boarding school, so if he felt strongly we thought it should be down to him.

I do still regret it on some levels, BTW, because it is such an outstanding education.

Xpatmama88 Sat 08-Jun-13 23:41:11

The standard of Maths and Physics in Win Coll are actually excellent, my DS is in the top set of both of these subjects, so I know, and the topics they covered are far more advance. I has a DD who went to a top girl academic boarding school, and now in Uni. she is also very impressed with what her little brother is doing in these subjects, way more advance than what she covered during her A level in Maths. It is his second year in Win Coll, he is very happy that he is with a group of very able peers.

termsofuse Sun 09-Jun-13 18:31:35

This is going off topic. Partially share MrsFW's views and partially disagree with Xpatmama's yardstick.
This is yet another WC contradiction. If the maths (less so physics) were similar to that in the Election papers, then I would say WC's maths education was exceptional. The maths in Election is real maths not just bundles of topics in a syllabus or a count of advance knowledge as though you were collecting baseball cards. Not seen anything like Election maths anywhere. WC is the only school that dares to go there which is admirable wish it could carry that through to its teaching and learning.
Application and deep understanding of maths (different from Applied Maths) is lacking. It is not numeracy either. This is common to nearly all the school though. WC could do a lot better if it could do more Election style science and maths not necessarily going broader with topics but deeper into how and why theorems and methods came to exist and their implications. Right now, as far as maths goes, it is just a upper tier me-too nothing exceptional.
Somehow WC is prepared to venture towards depth in history, philosophy, literature, economics etc. May be this is a manifestation of its (over)emphasis on "liberal arts" and not having scientists and mathematicians to balance things out at the top.

MrsFrederickWentworth Sun 09-Jun-13 18:33:46

I am sure it is. And glad to hear it.

But, as I say, when I did the analysis it was not so clear to me that it had such an emphasis as elsewhere and certainly they could not talk to it as they did to other subjects.

Just saying.

For us ultimately it was the boarding / non boarding issue and there were other special circs.

termsofuse Sun 09-Jun-13 18:40:20

Overall, WC helps the boys to learn and question. So, it is very much up to the boys when it comes to becoming mathematically competent (not just getting As and A*s). Just wished it would do more to encourage that like they do with other subjects. Competence at a minimum is more or less summed up in ones ability to tackle every problem in Election maths which needs only CE level knowledge at worst.

MrsFrederickWentworth Sun 09-Jun-13 18:43:55

Terms, yes, that rings true, and for the top sets, xpat

Tbh, I didn't think the ordinary exam maths, not election, was stretching. So if you are in the top sets you will do really well. As I say, we didn't put him in for election because although the Head suggested it we didn't think he would get it and didn't want him to fail. Lots of baggage there.

I also wasn't sure if Ds would be in the top sets, knowing what college was like. But maths was his thing. So he needed outstanding maths taken really seriously throughout, or certainly the middle sets too. And I couldn't see that from the work his cousins are doing which is more pedestrian.

I'm not sure that our choice is much better. But he has ended up in the top sets.

I still think it is an outstanding school, as I say, and were Ds different would have pushed him to go. But he isn't.

You have to choose the right school for your child.

termsofuse Sun 09-Jun-13 19:10:28

I agree MrsFW. WC is certainly not for every child, like any school. Election comes with too much myth and baggage as you said. You have boys who are pushed/talked into it by parents and/or prep-schools and whether elected or not, the potential scars that come with it could last a long time. Then there is the unspoken expectation that if elected you had to be in top set everything (particularly maths) because that was the only measure of your cleverness. Not at all healthy by sadly at least real outside world.
Having said all that, the dons are exceptional. They are equipped to respond to individuals who feel a need to dig far deeper and to understand the whys.
Maths and science education is too mechanical overall. WC could do much better by encouraging every boy to dig deeper. It does it with other subjects after all which is exceptional education. Why not science and maths too?

MrsFrederickWentworth Sun 09-Jun-13 20:14:02

Terms, don't know Winco now save through his cousins' experience ( there now). ( nearly all my family has gone there for generations so took some really hard thinking not to override Ds. ) But married first on roll and the baggage is huge there and for LO if he were to follow.

And, regrettably imv, he's not a liberal arts chap unlike the cousinry.

Sorry if this has hijacked, but just trying to explain to people who don't know the school why we turned down a place, which is v odd.

AnnaBBB Sun 09-Jun-13 21:24:17

Mrs FW, This is of interest to me too, as my DS is deep in his comfort zone with maths and who knows could end up wanting to do a degree in it or in physics if inspired by the right teaching i.e. by teaching which is inspirational and stretching (rather than mechanical)...interestingly, we went to see one independent day school where the maths dept is very very strong - ...but I had doubts about the the school overall as a bit too narrow for DS as it seems to be focussed very much on results and I think he needs a more all rounded ethos and with strong maths dept, but I have yet to identify a boarding school which is as strong in producing a similar number of mathematicians that get into RG/Oxbridge .....but then perhaps I have not looked as far as I should. Wondered also about Winchester maths focus from looking at leavers' destinations,...I don't think DS is broadly academic enough for Election across the subjects overall, and not sure I would want that kind of pressure for him, though he may well be able to cope with the maths part of Election, as maths is so much his "thing" but am curious that others believe Winchester is more liberal arts focussed as I, rightly or wrongly, also came away with that impression.

AnnaBBB Sun 09-Jun-13 21:44:11

Out of interest, does anyone know where one can get hold of comparative annual stats on how senior schools do getting entrance into Oxbridge for maths or the natural sciences (as opposed to having to look at each and every school website for leavers' destinations)?

Xpatmama88 Sun 09-Jun-13 21:45:28

Terms, I agreed with you that the dons in WC are exceptional, they do encourage the boys to dig deep! As for science and maths, I can only say from my DS set, the dons do certainly expect the boys to dig very deep and understand the whys too.

termsofuse Sun 09-Jun-13 22:42:41

AnnaBBB. Election is NOT academic. Most definitely not. Broad, very much so. It is surprising how many pre-U A* boys, teachers, tutors etc are stuck on some Election maths problems although it really is CE level knowledge. Election papers are looking for thought process and evidence of in-place curiosity not what the boys have studied. There is a world of difference between numeracy, Kumon "maths" and maths as problem defining and solving skills. Knowledge alone will not impress them. In fact, some problems forbid you from using advance methods.
As for other subjects they all have their ways of extracting thoughts rather than right answers, languages are tough (vocab and use of language). You are judged on your best three or four not every paper sat and you elect subjects to sit not all subjects. All about taking boys out of their comfort zones, even in what they think are their strongest subjects - "your weapons are of no use here". Do look at some past papers, more than a few boys actually find them fun.
WC is certainly not average in science and maths. Dons are enthusiastic about their subjects and are well capable of inspiring. It is just that the kind of free range learning evident in many subjects is not in maths and to some extent some sciences. When asked by individual boys, they would go that extra mile to share their understanding, knowledge and curiosity, to inspire. The weak area in WC is in fact the old fashioned way of teaching modern languages. As said before, maths and science is an upper-tier me-too education, just good but not exceptional. It could do with less teaching and more provoking of learning.
May be it is a leadership issue which makes WC very comfortable with applying its learning ethos to non-maths and non-science subjects and uncomfortable due to lack of personal involvement in maths and science. Head's links with schools in Asia may be an issue too since Asia is widely admired by the UK and the US for high standard of maths (rigid taught version).

termsofuse Sun 09-Jun-13 22:53:20

I should have said maths and science is an upper-tier me-too education, just good but not exceptional compared with WC's education in other subjects.
Not sure I understand why, the dons are very inspirational and are well capable of the same free range style, yet they only use that capability on demand.

MrsFrederickWentworth Sun 09-Jun-13 23:23:00


You have expressed cogently my concerns. In fact from what you say Ds might have done ok in election as he is a creative mathematician, not an arithmetician, and usually invents alternative ways to the rage of weaker teachers. So perhaps I now regret it even more! But his current school does provide the support for the latter in the upper and middle sets.

The mfl is interesting. Ds's cousins have been going through the rather typical boy refusal to speak foreign languages when on holiday with us, despite I assume good teaching. Their father speaks several languages as do the rest of the cousins in common so I have put put it down to ethos at school. But I may be completely wrong. Whereas Ds's class is polyglot as so many London schools are and they all try out each other's languages and respect those who are multi lingual.

That said, I still think WC is a wonderful school.and in my less maternal moments wish Ds was there! And I would and do unhesitatingly recommend it for the interesting and interested boy.

AnnaBBB Mon 10-Jun-13 09:44:56

i would wish for Marcus du Sautoy inspirational type maths learning .....A level maths is kind of grunt work by comparison.

happygardening Mon 10-Jun-13 13:30:28

Interesting. I think MrsFred we may think you know what going on in a school or how things are done but its not till your own DC is actually in the place do your really fully comprehend the situation we also need to remember education even at places like WC is evolving all the time.
My Experience or perhaps I should say my DS's experience is that math/science is very strong at WC, chemistry is the most popular Pre U followed by physics. Many of his friend are avid about maths/physics and many of his friends in the 6th form have applied to do physics science at Uni or that is their intention.
At prep. my"exceptionally bright" across the board but identified by an ed. psych assessment as having a particular aptitude for maths DS did well but never excelled. But the teaching was mega traditional and being encouraged to question things was certainly not on the agenda, he left uninterested in virtually every subject bar art and Latin and after 6 years of French 4 times a week barely knowing anymore French than the dog in fact the dog probably had the edge. Just under two years later not only is he excelling but loving maths becasue its encouragement of a variety of problem solving approaches and so he should be bearing in mind his profile but also showing real passion enthusiasm and ability for subjects he find harder e.g English. He was the other week much to my surprise considering Pre U French (the dog is jealous) and is certainly thinking of doing another MFL along side maths/further maths etc this is from a child who two years ago hated any MFL and was planning to drop it as soon as possible.
Both maths and further maths are only studied now at Pre U up until recently I understand the former was done mainly only at A level and my DN whose very recently done maths pre U but A level further maths felt that the Pre U requires genuine ability wheres the A level could be learnt by rote. With regard to physics my DS is mad about it (he certainly wasn't at prep) and I notice that in the fairly recent past the school won 15 gold medals in one year at the British Physics Olympiad and Challenge and that all the boys were from yr 10. It's also certainly amongst friends with have at varies super selectives generally believed that WC is exceptionally strong for science and perhaps less so for the arts although this is not my experience.
AnnaBBB as a fairly recent mature student I came to the conclusion that one man's "inspirational" teacher was another man's nightmare and vice versa. We had a lecturer who IMO and the opinion of many others was truly inspirational but a good friend of mine hated his lectures and positively avoided them as she came away none the wiser. In contrast her inspirational teacher whose favourite saying was "fairly obviously" made his subject as far as I was concerned anything but fairly obvious. WC's liberal attitude (in most things) and its encouragement of the boys to question when combined with a child that feels he is at last free at school to be himself and not conform means that my "lone wolf" DS is excelling in all areas. But I am nothing if not a realists this ethos many not suit other very bright boys who would perhaps not excels there and would be better off in another super selective with a different ethos. We are lucky in that those of us who are considering WC or Eton or SPS etc have this choice many don't and it is those that I feel sorry for.

AnnaBBB Mon 10-Jun-13 15:35:58

HG ....ha ha about the dog...which is deserving of its own blog...I will keep an open mind on this topic and look into this further ...and ask around. My DS is not a lone wolf type so will need to assess what environment suits him best but I imagine other bright young sparky mathematically inclined boys around him to bounce off will be the ideal.

AnnaBBB Mon 10-Jun-13 15:39:50

Mrs FW, funny, my DS also often does maths problems his own way (who says maths is not creative) ...gets to the right answer though sometimes unconventionally which is also to the bemusement of his teacher...I don't even try to change that...whatever works.

AnnaBBB Mon 10-Jun-13 15:43:57

He is also the type that would have hated Kumon rote learning with a passion (never tried it as I know if would not have been motivating for him to do endless worksheets)

MadeleineBassett Mon 10-Jun-13 16:17:12

My son isn't a lone wolf type and he loves WC. Also , somewhat to my surprise he is doing Maths pre-U as he has ended up enjoying it . To be fair he has always been better than the dog at Maths , but possibly we just have a particularly stupid dog. So a bit like HG's son , mine has ended up taking a subject I would have put money on him not doing some years ago. So the WC maths teaching must have something going for it . I think often the boys just know where they will be happy. We didn't do the open day , just the meetings with HMs and it was the only school he came out of (and he'd been to see some good ones ) saying "I want to go here ".

AnnaBBB Mon 10-Jun-13 16:38:56

thanks MB, that's good to know....hope your dog is not able to read MN posts either ...poor thing ....As for HG's dog, HG has made it clear in a previous post she wouldn't send it to Eton !

happygardening Mon 10-Jun-13 16:58:32

The dog has carefully read many websites he's quite keen on Bedales he likes the idea of bread making and outdoor activities.
I'm wondering if he would get bursary or should we go down the scholarship route? I have to say he's not particularly clever although he's managed to organise his life so that someone runs behind him picking up his poo and staff to do his shopping and he will never need to work so perhaps Milton abbey would be a better choice.

MadeleineBassett Mon 10-Jun-13 17:59:42


If Bedales is the one with the sandpit our dog would love it. Unfortunately my propensity to call him stupid on a public forum has severely knocked his confidence and therefore I doubt he would pass the entrance requirements .

AnnaBBB Mon 10-Jun-13 18:01:31

i think you should rethink what Eton has to offer, the beagling and swimming in Eton Dornay would appeal for sure ...

happygardening Mon 10-Jun-13 18:08:54

"My DS is not a lone wolf type so will need to assess what environment suits him best"
In fairness to WC it's not packed to the gunnels with lone wolfs but from what I can ascertain there are quite a few and they are not just tolerated but actually liked. The school unlike some others being very liberal does not force encourage conformity on them and after all even a lone wolf has to go to school somewhere.

happygardening Mon 10-Jun-13 18:13:52

Yes thats true I was thinking he could disguise himself as a beagle and being black and white he's already half way to wearing the uniform but he does loathe water. I also worry that he too is a bit of a non conformist and definitely not a team player and the entrance test is oh so sterile his many qualities might not be immediately apparent in an 8-10 min interview.

pianomama Tue 11-Jun-13 07:09:42

How important is which house your DS goes to?
DS has just been offered a place in a house we haven't applied to/seen it/nor met the housemaster. I guess the question is - do they socialize much outside their houses or is each house a micro-school in its own right?

happygardening Tue 11-Jun-13 08:56:29

My DS has freinds in other houses as like all schools they make friends in lessons and also through their own interests outside of lessons. Although obviously in the beginning most friends come from your house. I suppose a lot depends on how sociable your DS is and what his particular interests are.

justsstartingtothink Tue 11-Jun-13 08:58:52

Plan -- congratulations to your son! how did the process work? Was he originally but on "hold" and then offered a place or was he immediately offered a place in a house other than the one for which he applied? Have you (and he) now been invited to meet the housemaster and visit the house?
I'm curious to know how the process works -- it seems it might be more flexible than the admissions instructions suggest.
(By the way.... I'm very amused by this long thread.... Having only just started to look at Winchester myself, it is interesting and helpful to be able to read so many opinions and experiences about it. I wish there were similar threads about Eton, SPS, Westminster and a few others so I could expand my education about schools.....!)

bico Tue 11-Jun-13 09:25:38

pianomama was your ds on the general list?

Having dismissed W as an option for ds his school has recommended we consider it for him (I asked them for a list of suitable schools but didn't tell them we had been to the open day). Talking to ds this morning he said he really liked it, which isn't the way he felt shortly after we visited. I think all we can do is look at other schools next term and then make an appointment to visit boarding houses if ds is still keen.

pianomama Tue 11-Jun-13 09:45:18

Thanks just . We only had a letter yesterday - he had interview in Feb.
A bit bemused myself as the other housemaster accepted him on recommendation , we have not met yet.They said he will be in touch soon so we will get to meet him after the firm offer .. strange but who cares - it's WC smile !

pianomama Tue 11-Jun-13 09:47:22

bico - no , not on the general list, a straight "house list"

bico Tue 11-Jun-13 09:59:27

That's interesting. Congratulations (my poor manners!).

At the open day they said you applied to a house but if you didn't get a place but were a strong candidate you'd go on the general list and be allocated a house from that. From your experience there appears to be a third way to get a place. Which house has your ds got? We looked at Toye's.

MadeleineBassett Tue 11-Jun-13 10:10:42


Whilst WC is very house-centric , and therefore getting on with your HM is a good thing , my observation from DS is
1. He has plenty of good friends in other houses
2. Whichever house your DS is in - it will be the Best House . Just as my son's house is the Best One and I am sure so is HG's. I am equally sure these are not all the same house. My impression is that all boys end up very loyal to their house so I would not worry.

DS was asked this by someone applying and his answer was that no house is a bad house (although his house is the Best House - see point 2 above )

happygardening Tue 11-Jun-13 10:19:04

Madeleine sorry but my DS's house is generally acknowledged by all to be the best. [smug smiley]

MadeleineBassett Tue 11-Jun-13 10:39:11

Happy , How lovely that our boys turn out to the be in the same house (warm glow emoticon)

happygardening Tue 11-Jun-13 10:44:05

You must be that nice mum I often meet.

bico Tue 11-Jun-13 10:53:10

At the open day there seemed to be a consensus amongst the boys we spoke to that one housemaster in particular is very unpopular (boys from different houses said this).

Amber2 Tue 11-Jun-13 11:09:35

HG - I just PM'd you on houses......appreciate yr views

Amber2 Tue 11-Jun-13 11:31:04

what is the timing of interviews and offers at W? You register with a housemaster sometime in Year 5 after an informal visit at houses,then what happens in year 6 ? Do house lists close once they reach a certain number of registrations even before they formally interview anyone in year 6 ? When do they make offers, and set a deadline for acceptance ?

bico Tue 11-Jun-13 11:53:17

They said that the house lists close when they reach 30 boys and this happens by end of year 5, first term of year 6. Not sure when in year 6 they interview (the registrar said it depends on when your ds's birthday falls). Offer letters sent out second week of June.

happygardening Tue 11-Jun-13 11:58:00

There is one thats not popular but I think that may be about to resolve itself.
Amber2 as you said you register with a house in yr 5 I understand HM's close their lists when they've got about 30 interviews are in yr 6 between Feb and April (I think it all seems so long ago my DS) and the HM's write to you and your prep school at the beginning of June.

Amber2 Tue 11-Jun-13 12:01:44

Difficult - I really couldn't get the feel for the houses other than seeing their facilities we visited as v few boys around - all in lessons bar one or two in their room or a library - more of a 1:1 sit down with the housemaster and a walk around the buildings so it did not really click for my DS in that he did not come out saying ...yes I really want to go here...I am going more by reputation ...and we are too late for the year 4 tour...just not sure why they don't do tours for year 5 ...feel like it's a big decision because it is so full on boarding and an expensive investment to say the least

Amber2 Tue 11-Jun-13 12:17:01

Do people also choose houses based on a DS being good /very interested in a subject that the HM is specialist on?

happygardening Tue 11-Jun-13 12:26:41

We didn't we chose because of the subject he taught we chose one we personally liked who we felt had similar outlook on life as we do and we also met the boys of all ages to see what sort of boy goes to this house and how they turn out. Some are more sporty than others (you do need to get this into prospective its not a very very sporty school) and thus take inter house sports competitions and some are more musical and thus take inter house music competitions more seriously. T§here is variation between houses (although I suspect not as much as it used to be) some were/are liberal in the extreme some very strict. I think the HM's are very important more so than at other schools I know a lot about. The boys do have a tutor but the reality is that the HM's responsible for all aspects of your DS's school life and they person they or you turn to for advise about anything or in a crisis.

MadeleineBassett Tue 11-Jun-13 16:15:56

Amber2 (and Happygardening by copy )

If you wish to PM me please do & I can give you one parent's opinion on choice of house (parent of happy boy ) I think that HGs comments are very sensible . (Sorry HG if sounds weak - dictated by dog )

My opinions are only mine but as HG said upthread , you can do so much for your boy & after that they make their own way, if your son wants to go to WC and makes the choice , I would bet he will be happy there .

I am not a salesperson for Win Coll - there are other schools I personally would have been happy for DS to go to , but it was the one he felt comfortable with .

I also believe (and HG tell me if you think I am wrong ) a lot of the things I worried about prior to DC going to WC have faded into insignificance now he is there and forging his own way

pianomama Tue 11-Jun-13 16:48:55

MadeleineBassett - can i also PM you please? Don't want to start discussing houses on the open forum as you say - they are all the best except HG's one of cause smile.

happygardening Tue 11-Jun-13 17:48:21

My advise to all considering Win Cill Eton SPS or even some unknown out in the back of the beyond; do you like it? Do you feel comfortable is living up to your expectations? We looked at quite a few schools and only liked two but that doesn't mean that the others were wrong or bad school or that the two we liked were better but we as parents liked them and felt comfortable there. Our children are heavily influenced by what we we think they're quick to work out that we like X and don't like Y I think if they think that we believe its the right place so will they they will go with a positive attitude if we are alos positive about it. It inevitable that no where will live up to all our expectations and there's bound to be things we as parents think are wrong but as long as the good things far out weigh the bad and we still carry on believing in our choice of school then I think our children will. IME its when we stop thinking its a great school then our children also think this.
As parents its so easy to think that we have to send our DC's to a particular school but we need to ditch our preconceptions and critically evaluate each school forget where your DC's best friend is going or where everyone is currently going or which one the GSG likes or Tattler or the most academic/top of the league table or the most sporty just look at it and see if you as parents like it.

Amber2 Tue 11-Jun-13 18:02:20

good advice HG....I have walked into some schools with preconceptions (good or bad) and often changed my mind after the visit - sometimes i really wanted to like it because of its great reputation or it is closer so easier to get to, but didn't least not for DS .....other times I liked despite not wanting to...a bit like househunting but all the time thinking if I were my DS would i want to spend 5 of my most formative years here?

MadeleineBassett Tue 11-Jun-13 20:24:40


Of course you may

pianomama Tue 11-Jun-13 20:57:45

PM-ed you , thanks

britishsummer Wed 12-Jun-13 18:05:17

As a late contributor to this thread, I would add that one of aspects of Winchester that my DS thrives on is being able to choose for himself (with the advice of the housemaster etc) his mix of activities for the afternoons. The serious musicians, particularly after the first year, can spend most of that time (2 hours on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, 4 hours the other days) practising should they choose to do so, just as a sports enthusiast can spend much of that time doing sport . There are a very large number of very talented and passionate musicians (of all types including music tech) amongst the boys and therefore a very strong culture of music making and music talk. However my DS also has purely sporty friends who are equally very happy despite some of the team sports not being the strongest compared to schools like Radley.

justsstartingtothink Wed 12-Jun-13 18:59:03

Britishsummer (a hopeful name!!!!....): thank you for your perspective. I had not heard or read anything about "afternoon activities" (though I assumed they existed!). Are the times you mentioned formally set aside for "activities"? Are the boys supervised in some way -- ie do HMs keep track of what the boys are doing during their afternoons? I just assumed the boys were "free" to do whatever they wanted, without any structure (for good or bad). I think I still don't understand the relationship between the boys and the HMs and to what extent the HMs are involved in decisions regarding the boys' studies and activities.

pianomama Wed 12-Jun-13 19:13:32

Britishsummer - is your DS a serious musician? Do they all have instrumental lessons at school? Do you know anything about piano teachers in WC?

pianomama Wed 12-Jun-13 19:16:42

Also - all of you lovely WC mums, did you decide yourselves whether to go for Election or regular entrance exam? Is it up to you to decide/can you chose to do Election just in case and still get into your house if you do "well enough"?

happygardening Wed 12-Jun-13 20:29:23

There are afternoon activities every day on three days lessons finish at lunch time and on the other three afternoons there's space to participate in activities there are loads of things available to suit all tastes see their website.

justsstartingtothink Wed 12-Jun-13 22:47:13

Thanks, HG. I've seen the long list of activities on the website so am aware of the range of "extra-curriculars" available. What I was interested in, from Britishsummer's post, was the involvement of the HM in the choice of activities. (ie "my son thrives on being able to choose for himself with the advice of the HM"). Not having ever gone to a school where I sought, much less took, the advice of any teacher regarding my life outside the classroom -- and not having (so far) felt neither the need nor, more importantly, sufficient respect, to ask a teacher for advice regarding my son's after-school activities, I was interested to read about the apparent role of the HM in advising boys at WC. (I would see it as a positive, by the way, if HM were sufficiently respected that boys -- or their parents -- sought their advice on curricular and non-curricular activities)

happygardening Wed 12-Jun-13 23:11:27

Some boys probably don't need advise I don't believe my DS asked for it he arrived very keen on a certain activity and is delighted at how often he do it in a week. Others probably need encouragement and maybe even help to decide what to do.
Our HM is very keen that the boys participate in something on most days although as its not compulsory there will always be those who don't. At the end of the day we all know the rather over used but very true saying about horses and water.

britishsummer Wed 12-Jun-13 23:31:10

After today's weather my username is a confirmed oxymoron.
Re housemaster and activities, our personal experience from the early years is that the housemaster and team do guide and supervise the choice and balance
Re pianomama's question, yes my DS is a musician but not an amazing one at least in part because he also enjoys doing other things. He thinks his teachers ( including piano) are fantastic. You might be best meeting the head of music and attending some concerts with your DS to see what you feel about the playing and therefore the teachers. In theory I suppose he could continue outside lessons on Sundays.
My DS loved Winchester when he was taken there without us but he was in year 7 and perhaps better able to judge at that time. Particularly for competitive younger boys, sometime the kudos of a particular school with their peers may sway their judgment in thinking they want to go there?
Re election, DS was in the Eton / Winchester scholarship set at his school, and really enjoyed the teaching but in the end decided not to do the Election, reasons being that he did n't strongly want to go to College after a visit, is not very competitive and was a bit nervous about doing the exams outside his prep school.. Since he is n't brilliant enough to have done well when anxious, it seemed the right choice and his confidence was boosted by his entrance results. At his school the boys in his year who got Eton and Winchester scholarships were all boarders and did n't appear to have had extra tutoring.

britishsummer Wed 12-Jun-13 23:49:35

Sorry, to answer more specifically pianomama's 2nd question, if your son does the Election, on the Election form which is filled in towards the end of the Spring term of year 8, you choose whether if successful you will accept a scholarship and go to College or only accept an Exhibition and go to your selected house. Obviously if you get neither you will go to your selected house anyway

pianomama Thu 13-Jun-13 00:01:13

Thanks again HG and Britishsummer/*Oxymoron*. I guess we still have time to find all that out / but you did give me some great ideas, especially regarding music management. 2/4 hours or music practice would do us nicely/as for having outside lessons on Sundays - well, we've done that before when DS was much younger. I guess going to the College is completely different kind of experience and it it quite early to decide. Will discuss it with his current school.
Hopefully in 2 years time I will be giving a very useful advice to nervous prospective mothers. Back to my toy-time learning the Notions grin.

termsofuse Thu 13-Jun-13 01:21:20

Election is really about wanting the College environment which is quite different from the other houses. It is better if the decision comes from your DS rather than parents or school or others. Obviously, apart from the College environment, there is the question of the exam itself. Again, it is better to have a look at some past papers, if your DS finds them fun (and he likes College), then his decision would be fairly straight forward. For some, Election exams are definitely easier as they are less academic (as in requiring lots of studying). It is important to see some past papers because of the myths and misinformation surrounding Election. Doing it for prestige (for whomever) is bad because no one cares within WC, and the pressure/disappointment could be immense if the eagerness is not there or the style of questions is not compatible.
The chambers arrangement can be quite stimulating; older boys do mix well with and inspire younger ones. Different from mugging halls in other houses. Toytime for first and second years is done in School rather than in their chambers. Chambers have real fire places. College food is generally accepted as the best in WC. New HM and tutor are excellent and well respected/liked by collegers (Previous also a biologist and well liked/ respected, became second master in Harrow). There are a few trivial privileges for scholars. Accommodation is arguably inferior to other houses though they don't seem to complain. Mobile reception is non-existent inside and making calls means going outside which is not so great on cold rainy days. There were talks about not allowing those on the roll to opt out of College as exhibitioners in commoner houses, but it seems that it is still allowed. The Election form still gives that option at least. New HM may have made some subtle changes to the Election process if you read the tea leaves by comparing this year's roll with the last few.

termsofuse Thu 13-Jun-13 01:33:22

Forgot to mention that WC does not need to know about your Election decision until three months or so before the May exams. Prep schools invariably want to know two years ahead for special preparation. Frankly, one should question if such long organised preparation (for exam questions and interviews!!) is healthy. Once you have seen some past papers, you can judge for yourself.

termsofuse Thu 13-Jun-13 01:35:52

Just in case, Winchester Day is next Saturday.

britishsummer Thu 13-Jun-13 08:07:01

Again just from personal experience, it is only in the final year that pupils may need to be taught specifically for Election / King's scholarship and in fact there is no major difference between the syllabus required to be covered for the Winchester entrance and election. It is an advantage ( for both entrance and election ) to be at a school with good language teaching but the mindset, personal enthusiasm and interests of the boys is key IMO

termsofuse Thu 13-Jun-13 08:26:59

Agree. Boys' attitude is key. KS is at CE level or slightly stretched. Election is at of below CE, maths in particular is below CE in terms of breadth of knowledge needed but the little you need you have to have profound understanding of it. Somewhat true for Election science too.

happygardening Thu 13-Jun-13 09:32:18

"There are a few trivial privileges for scholars."
Someone told me scholars are allowed to have two gorillas commoners only one don't know how true this is but I suppose it could sway your decision.
"Winchester Day is next Saturday."
termofuse you've not been reading your WC correspondence its been renamed Winchester.
My DS also didn't go for the election heavily influenced by his dislike of college.
"it is only in the final year that pupils may need to be taught specifically for Election / King's scholarship"
I agree and for this your going to have to be at the right prep small non selective preps just don't have the resources number of children to run separate classes. If your serious you need to fund a prep with a recent and regular history of success in either/or the election/KS e.g. Summer Field. The language papers are a problem for prep schools the head once told me that many coming from preps don't do well in either Latin or French in the entrance exam so I'm sure the same problem applies to the election.

happygardening Thu 13-Jun-13 09:33:33

Let me try again termofuse you've not been reading your WC correspondence its been renamed Winchester Match.

britishsummer Thu 13-Jun-13 09:41:02

HG, from reading your comments, I think your son would have done very well in most of the Election papers although your dog might have had a better grade in French

happygardening Thu 13-Jun-13 10:05:32

The dog would have beaten them all at French when my son was asked by a French teacher who was assessing his French (or lack of it) "Quelle heure est-il?" he looked completely blank (6 months before the entrance exam) at least the dog looked at the clock he just crap with numbers.
You can understand my surprise when he was telling me he now loves French and he would love to be fluent so much so he is considering doing it at Pre U a real tribute to the MFL teaching at WC.

termsofuse Thu 13-Jun-13 10:37:43

Sorry HG. Case of reading and not registering. Match it is before I slip back to Day.
Election only requires a minimum of 3 optional papers ("4 is reasonable") and WC does not recommend taking many; best 3 counts. So if languages and classics are weak, there is no need to take them. Same applies to other subjects.
Seriously question if special sets or classes are really useful for Election (for KS yes and languages perhaps but not for other subjects). As for prep school track record, I would just flag that correlation not being the same as causation, classic pitfall of single aspect analysis of success. Worth asking yourself how many who got elected may have done so without (or despite) special tutoring and classes and (no so easily done) looking into those who didn't. Indeed there are quite a few in most years who only spent 2 months getting used to the style of Election questions. This year's roll says something. Not about cleverness or best academic performance, just inquisitive traits. Can't see how in a selective school like WC anyone there could be not clever and/or diligent. College does not care about what the boys know but how they figure things out and how motivated they are.

termsofuse Thu 13-Jun-13 10:46:15

Many dogs would make ideal candidates for College since they tend to be inquisitive and motivated to learn to get their owners work for them. They always do well with aural for languages.

happygardening Thu 13-Jun-13 10:50:17

Ok tern I'll register the dog for WC instead of Milton Abbey which I was never completely convinced was that suitable for him. He has a younger brother completely barmey do you think ..........

happygardening Thu 13-Jun-13 10:53:58

The good thing is that although scholars all live together in college they are all educated with the commoners my DS has scholars in all his classes.

termsofuse Thu 13-Jun-13 10:57:02

HG. You obviously did not read your correspondence either! Gorrilas are banned because of risk of primate virus jumping to canines. Over crowding of primates in College was to blame. New not so trivial privilege is that collegers can mark any tree but commoner just some.

termsofuse Thu 13-Jun-13 10:59:57

Totally agree HG. It would be awful to not mix them in classes. Another down side as collegers: with the gown, it is not possible to dress warmly and stay dry on really cold and wet days.

happygardening Thu 13-Jun-13 11:19:05

No gorrillas I've just ordered one for DS's up coming birthday do you think I'll get a refund if I send it back?
I'd better put the dog in for election he loves marking all tress.

termsofuse Thu 13-Jun-13 11:26:55

HG. Marwell if no refund for used gorilla? Though it is full of argumentative anti-chapel OWG already I heard.

happygardening Thu 13-Jun-13 11:34:15

I can imagine all giving eminently sensible and highly articulate reasons why they shouldn't have to go to chapel every Sunday. The keepers must be so bored.
"Yeah yeah we know you think you shouldn't have to go to chapel on Sundays, and you think you've found a way of getting out of it can we change the record now?"

justsstartingtothink Thu 13-Jun-13 14:46:35

Well...... I think I now know as much as I could possibly know about WC without being reincarnated as a boy and passing the entrance exam!
I just wish there could be similarly detailed threads about SPS, Eton and Westminster....
I will now just try to relax and enjoy the next few years before it becomes time to make a decision....!
Thanks to everyone (and your dogs) for sharing such insightful comments.

termsofuse Thu 13-Jun-13 16:48:12

Just. The essentials about the other schools. Fewer trees in London but perhaps made up by lamp posts. As for the other by the castle, they must have cut down a lot of trees for oars, boats and flashy buildings. Thus all lacking important facilities. All else is peripheral. Woof.

happygardening Thu 13-Jun-13 16:51:04

just I suspect that the reason this thread has been so informative is because it's not been hijacked by either the anti independent ed. brigade busy either telling us how immoral/unfair independent ed is and how our children should be educated in their "community", or how their state comp offers identical opportunities hmm, the oh so tedious anti boarding brigade and let's not forget those who think they know all about WC but in reality know nothing. I doubt any of us with DS's at WC think it's perfect but we do clearly like it weird irrational little quirks and all.

happygardening Thu 13-Jun-13 17:48:33

just Im sure if you start a thread about Eton many will be falling over themselves to tell you just how wonderful it is.

justsstartingtothink Thu 13-Jun-13 18:59:13

Thank you, HG (and dog!). I think I'll leave my thinking at "just starting" for the moment and enjoy prep school (vicariously....). I'll stick my neck out and solicit thoughts about other schools when I get closer to the crucial dates....

MadeleineBassett Thu 13-Jun-13 23:48:46



May I PM you ?
If this is too intrusive please say no (or ignore )


happygardening Fri 14-Jun-13 09:21:50

Madeleine I've PM'd you. I'm sure you'll be delighted to know my younger dog is called Barmy Fotheringay-Phipps obviously we pronounce it "Funghy Fipps" or Fung for short. grin

Tanith Fri 14-Jun-13 10:50:30

DS was elected to College. He did attend a prep school, for which we had a generous bursary. I can confirm, though, that he had no additional tutoring whatsoever for the simple reason that we couldn't possibly afford it.
In fact, I pm'd HappyGardener in a panic because I was so worried this would prejudice him. She very kindly reassured me.

I can also confirm that they seem to be looking for a certain type of mind, not necessarily a crammed boy who knows all the answers.
It's the kind of boy who comes home after Election and sets up a pulley system in the kids' water table because he wants to test out an interesting problem that came up in one of the papers (we're childminders and the pre-schoolers were bemused, to say the least grin).
He really loved Election: to hear him talk, you'd think he'd been away on holiday! He can't wait for September.

They told us that the best preparation we could give him was to read the leaders in the newspapers and we were able to do that for him. Not quite sure how that helped, but they obviously know best and it was a relief to find something we could do to help.
One of his current teachers did say they can tell a boy who is likely to become a Winchester Colleger or a Kings Scholar at Eton. It doesn't seem to be something that can be taught: it's the boys themselves.
I'm sorry I don't know enough to define it myself, only that DS seems to be what they're looking for.

Xpatmama88 Fri 14-Jun-13 11:37:19

Tanith - congrats, and well done to your DS. He will have a great time in WC with likeminded peers who all love learning, and thirst for knowledges. It's an excellent learning environment for the bright boys

termsofuse Fri 14-Jun-13 13:03:47

Congrats Tanith and to your DS especially. Hope you had a good New Men's Day on Sunday and his Pater's inside tour. I think your DS' pleasant experience with Election is shared by many collegers.
It is very clear that these special sets and Election tutorials in the year or two prior are at best futile and well off the mark, and worse potentially dull the mindset College is seeking. A real pity that there is so many misinformation out there along with all the "experts" supposedly helping boys to get elected. However, Election and KS are not looking for the same things.
The few passing first and second hand comments heard about this year's roll were very complimentary. This September's JPs appear to be already well liked. I am sure your DS will have the best summer holiday ahead. The induction ceremony and that first afternoon in September goes by so quickly. Be sure to take pictures (to help remember) and enjoy the moment. From what you described, he will definitely enjoy being in chambers and the conversations they have within.

britishsummer Fri 14-Jun-13 13:19:17

Tanith, your son epitomises what the Election process should be about. I think a lot of the boys at Winchester like learning but it would seem that those successful at Election have a particularly aptitude to enjoy tackling problems in what is often a non-conventional, original way.
It sounds as though he will thrive at the school

xvisitor Sat 15-Jun-13 05:13:05

Tanith and her boy must be so deservedly happy. DS won Election too although our family hardly talk about our children's accomplishments except privately with close friends who are in the habit of celebrating each others good news. Tanith's news brought back all the strange emotions. This is a moan about my experience. Sorry about that.

With something like getting a Winchester scholarship, you really discover who your friends are. Like Tanith, we did not have tuition as DS decided to take the scholarship very late. Within days of sharing that decision with friends, one of them told a mutual friend "just watch how far he has to fall from there". We of course did not hear this until much later. It is odd because her DD won scholarship in one of the top girls schools. Most of our friends and family were very supportive. For years, some of these friends were openly praising DS's talents although we always played it down fearing that it would go to his head. We would always talk about his gifts and remind him to be modest and humble. Imagine my surprise when a few of them suddenly turned cold when I invited them to celebrate with us after he won the scholarship. It was then I discovered how intense the jealousy was among these friends. What was difficult to understand was that they all had children in top schools, some with full scholarships. The snide comments became more frequent, some directed at us, others were indirect in the hope that they would get to us. Some got to DS, "my mom said that you did scholarship just so that you could show off how clever your are" and of course he was hurt and end up in tears. I got teary with him and even angry. Is this really the sort of attitude you should be teaching your child I wondered. Why is it not enough to see your own children's achievements? Does it really matter if others achieve too or does it have to be your own children's exclusively. Does competition have to go as far as being mean?

Over the years, we have learnt to be more thick skinned, but the surprises never stopped. Even in Winchester, it is so amazing that parents of boys in other houses would make sweeping judgment about my character and that of all collegemen just because they are scholars. Yet, they would not think twice about boasting to anyone and everyone that their DS were in top set this top set that and what prizes they had won within minutes of meeting them. So what house is your son in? Unless the one asking has one in College, you can predict the change of demeanour that follow the answer. So many times, they have said things like my son would have made it but he chose not to, it was all just for status. Thankfully, the boys themselves generally do not care about any of that. At the drop of a hat, you hear moans about the general public's attack on the independent school system and how unfair it is to be judged that way. Why can't they see the hypocrisy in what they say and how they feel about scholars? So, I have stopped going to school functions other than those in College even if it meant more sweeping judgement for not mixing with other houses. There are of course perfectly good natured parents in other houses who more than make up for the unpleasantness.

I hope this does not dampen Tanith's joy. Winning Election comes with baggage and no matter how you handle it, it follows you around.

Bink Sat 15-Jun-13 10:43:46

I guess I should add a wee bit about us, as we're maybe instructive and Tanith's ds is likely to hear about it.

Ds (who is now home & at day school & fine) flew through Election and started in College last September. He fell apart almost from the first week, made it to just before the end of the first term and then was out.

I think ds may have been a 'perfect storm' in Winchester terms, in that Election tests not only on the spot applied braininess but also depth and focus - you can't do the maths or the French (eg) unless you know the curriculum - and depth and focus is unusual without being a diligent sort of child. Ds isn't 'diligent' - he's lateral and questioning and synthetic, and no subject or discussion is too challenging for him to get interested & engaged in & go off and do his own research on - but he was utterly hopelessly overwhelmed by the pure amount of obligatory written product as homework and class work. But that he would be like that was invisible from his Election results, and we did not anticipate it.

This will be no problem whatsoever to a conscientious child, and my feeling is that generally a non-conscientious child wouldn't get through Election. But poor old ds did, and it was an experience not to repeat - and I wouldn't want any other parent/child not realising just how tough the pace is, not just intellectually (that's fine) but in pure words-on-paper output.

I am very glad ds is out of that environment, and funnily enough it meant an exact release from that 'baggage' the previous post described.

Amber2 Sat 15-Jun-13 11:09:41


thank you for such a refreshingly honest post is a invaluable insight ....sounds like your DS is thriving at his day school ...i am tossing the day vs boarding coin myself and think I will keep both options open til i know better how my DS matures by 13...having a smart child is not all ...I also don't know how conscientious and self driven he would be in a boarding environment especially at such an academic school and I think there's a premium on being like that that at Winchester.

bico Sat 15-Jun-13 11:21:31

Bink it sounds as if your ds had a terrible time and I'm glad he is settled now at day school. Had he boarded before he went to Winchester or was this his first experience?

Amber2 Sat 15-Jun-13 11:24:19

terms of use

I am genuinely curious - you said Election and KS are not looking for the same thing ...what are the differences in your view? (I have little clue but note the comments above on what kind of boy makes Election - but they both look incredibly tough is Election harder than KS or just different?)

britishsummer Sat 15-Jun-13 12:24:32

Bink, perhaps your son is so bright that he finds it difficult to conform to the self organisation that is needed in boarding school. Not sure if he had boarded before but if not, a first term of boarding in a fairly intense school with no time to think his own thoughts certainly must have been a very unpleasant experience for him.
Does he do a lot less formal work at his day school so that he has more time for creative thinking?

bico Sat 15-Jun-13 12:35:15

When we went to the Open Day a lot of the boys ds met were at day schools. I think it must be pretty hard to go from a day school to a boarding school like Winchester without any previous experience of boarding.

I also thought that the way the house system is structured at Winchester made it seem rather claustrophobic which may be an issue for some.

britishsummer Sat 15-Jun-13 12:39:52

I would also add that for a more normally bright child the set work in the lower years at least is supposed to be done in the 1hr 45 minutes of prep time. I suppose for the very bright they might find it difficult to decide when to stop an essay or researching a topic but otherwise the work should n't be overwhelming.

happygardening Sat 15-Jun-13 12:51:54

I think the boys both scholars and non scholars are expected to work exceedingly hard the pace is tough and words on paper out put when compared with other schools is very high. There is also no drama/music/art in the academic curriculum unless you choose to do it (no drama at all) although all are also available as extra curricular activities. Div alone (which is only examined internally) sets one piece of written prep week and from what I can see written standards/expectations are exceedingly high especially in comparison with prep school level so for many the whole thing must come as a bit of a shock. Many will be used to being "top" of their prep and find themselves in the 6th set for maths etc. with some seriously able boys way ahead of them. I also suspect the very able are under considerable pressure to produce work of a very high standard.
Boarding as I've repeatedly said is not for the sensitive in any school you need to have a slightly couldn't care less attitude otherwise you are going to be battered around my the intensity of living in close proximity to 60 others and at WC those 60 others are going to be highly intelligent articulate and argumentative at times.
All these factors could easily create a stressful and unhappy experience for a child regardless of how academic they are.

singersgirl Sat 15-Jun-13 14:58:57

Bink, how nice to 'see' you on this thread. I don't know why I lurk on all the Winchester and Eton threads! The other day I came across the 'dreamers' thread when searching for something and it was interesting in hindsight reading back all our various experiences over that couple of years.

I'm sorry that things didn't work out for your DS at W and hope he's happy where he is now and back home. Funnily enough, in some ways his experience is a bit like DS1's at his day school, where lack of diligence and inability to apply himself to anything he's not interested in is still proving a trial. No social problems and everyone agrees he's charm personified (not to me of course) but revision? research? long essays? DS2 is now at the linked prep school and, though he's found the transition tough too, is just more mainstream in his approach to tasks. I hope your DD is enjoying herself!

happygardening Sat 15-Jun-13 16:19:21

bico I think your right when we looked at senior senior boarding schools for my DS the response was frequently "we really like boys from ....." this was in the days when 98% of the school had full boarded since yr 3. In my experience and I think my DS,would agree those who've never boarded at prep take the longest to settle if they start full boarding at 13. I suspect part of the reason for this is that it is often at this age that children are significantly changing both physically and emotionally.

Amber2 Sat 15-Jun-13 16:50:46


I also agree with the comment about the house system at Winchester seeming a bit "claustrophobic".........unfair perhaps to compare, and perhaps it was wholly subjective, but I didn't get the same impression after the Eton tour though I can't put my finger on why one felt that way and the other did not

bico Sat 15-Jun-13 17:21:09

By the time ds reaches 13 he will have been c

bico Sat 15-Jun-13 17:30:17

Stupid phone

By the time ds reaches 13 he will have done compulsory weekly boarding for four years so he'll know whether he wants to continue that at senior school.

It will be interesting to see whether we find other boarding house school structures to be the same as Winchester. I don't have that feeling with his present boarding step up although I wonder if I would if he was older.

bico Sat 15-Jun-13 17:38:34

Sorry I meant ds will know whether he wants to do full boarding at senior school. I'm not keen on him going somewhere where he has to come home at weekends because that's what everyone else does.

britishsummer Sat 15-Jun-13 17:39:03

I can't compare with Eton as we did n't tour or apply. Maybe it is because Eton has a more campus feel that the house system feels less claustrophobic? Certainly for Winchester boys who are involved in extracurricular activities in addition to the mixing that goes on in lessons, their circle of friends is large and the house system does not sound claustrophobic although boys may find it initially easier to have close bonds to other boys in their house and are certainly very loyal to their houses. That is probably true of most boarding schools. Even in schools with central dining, boys tend to sit in their house groups I believe.
Settling into boarding is easier for those who like to be social and who are more organised and self reliant but as in day schools many can muddle along very happily with help from the staff and their friends

Amber2 Sat 15-Jun-13 18:31:03


I don't want to hijack into a boring EvW thread at all (I am genuinely looking at both of them assuming we do opt for boarding and my DS is smart and lucky enough to make the cut) and you may be right, I only saw W once - it may be the "campus" feel of Eton itself, it may have been the weather (Eton was on a nice sunny day, W on a cloudy day), and it may have been the facilities (larger own bedrooms vs six to a small dorm), it may also be because boys get entrance to Eton first then the house second whereas W seems perhaps more house centric, because admission is more the other way round, or because team sports or sports in general are more compulsory at E than at W so there is more forced mingling so to speak, and then some houses at E don't have in house dining so they go to a communal dining place (which looked like a canteen) albeit at their own tables based on house, - like I said I can't exactly put my finger on it - and it's a very subjective impression.

britishsummer Sat 15-Jun-13 18:48:57

Amber, I did n't think you were making it into E v W.
Just saying that from what I can glean W does n't seem to be claustrophobic but perhaps it does depend on whether the boy needs a push to mix.

termsofuse Sat 15-Jun-13 20:15:26

Amber. Sometimes, as parents, they may look unreasonably hard (perhaps we have forgotten or we are not not that interested). So, it is best to let your DS judge how difficult they are. Teachers and tutors always want to do that, but the initial determination should come from him.

MrsFrederickWentworth Sat 15-Jun-13 23:12:02

I thought the w house system was comforting if you hadn't boarded before or you came from a small prep school. Also , the slight scruffiness and the hm's dog made it feel very homely. Ds liked the idea of his toy.

Ds took a scunner to the matron and the twyford crew, alas. I know he would have been happy and thrived now, though he woukd have had a tough 2 initial years, and I still feel that issue about maths for the moderate, and have just said to DH I still regret him not going there. DH, a wickhamist, disagrees and thinks that the initial misery would not have been worth it and that Ds dis not want to board was important.

Again, it is about the right school for the child, as hg knows so well, and I would suggest you take your Dss ' views seriously. It will be their lives and I think the days of I went there so you must should really be over. Their instinct, even if badly expressed , is useful.

We came down to two schools with Ds, one boarding, wc, one day. Both had the features and characteristics we were looking for in principle and excelled in slightly different things. We then discussed with Ds over a period.

What is right and how to approach it will vary to family and child to child.

bico Sun 16-Jun-13 10:28:11

Our head told us not to take ds to school visits. I can't imagine visiting schools without him as he has very clear ideas and expectations.

termsofuse Sun 16-Jun-13 10:38:30

Xvisitor. To be fair, not true that ALL scholars do not care about the fact that they are scholars and the same is true about parents. It is probably biological that if your offspring does well, mine is deprived of some of the opportunities and vice versa. We can blame evolution. Not suggesting for a moment these justify anything, but morals aside since when do prejudices need justifying.

termsofuse Sun 16-Jun-13 10:40:52

Anyone going to Winchester Day Match next week?

happygardening Mon 17-Jun-13 10:29:33

My DS told us not to bother!

happygardening Mon 17-Jun-13 11:06:24

"I would suggest you take your DS"
I agree. The problem is that they (and we) look at schools like WC and Eton at such an early age its so easy for them their views (and ours) to be swayed by 200 acres of manicured playing fields, Olympic sized pools and books dating back to the 13th century. The reality is that its not these things that make a school.
We as parents also look at it through the eyes of the current age of our children ut also see other things through adults eyes; we see scruffy houses/small dorms/single dorms/immaculate houses and think that this is what matters because this info is easily quantifiable and comparable and we're paying a lot of money, but it isn't surely thats not what education/schools are about.
IMO a lot of the devil is in the micro detail; one well known boarding school doesn't allow even its 6th formers to get a taxi to the nearest big town to to the cinema on Sunday afternoon or allow any children into the local town without uniform on. None of the children are allowed to eat in either a cafe or restaurant in the town the school is based. To my mind these are petty pointless rules treating adolescence like toddlers would I have felt differently when my DS was 9 yrs old? Many do find this irritating but as parents and children these sort of details are often not discovered until your actually there. Maybe some of you on MN may agree with these rules? We seriously considered SPS but my DS (who was only 11 at the time when we were deciding) would have had to have got the train into London and then taken the underground on a Sun night and then either got a taxi or walked through the oh so scary Hammersmith Broadway often in the dark! We just couldn't see him doing it but then were rural, friends in London couldn't see the problem and my DH regularly did it when he was 13.
Other things to consider; I personally believe that every house should have a resident matron but many parents assume this is happening and then are a bit shocked when they discover its not not the norm or don't realise the implications of a non resident matron. Do also ask about finishing a day early at the end of term etc especially if your abroad and if it is full boarding can your DC come out on a Saturday night for his grand mothers 100th birthday party. If the answer is no never do you mind or are you always going to irritated by it.
Finally with regard to this comment
"Certainly for Winchester boys who are involved in extracurricular activities in addition to the mixing that goes on in lessons, their circle of friends is large and the house system does not sound claustrophobic although boys may find it initially easier to have close bonds to other boys in their house and are certainly very loyal to their houses."
Again IME boys do make friends outside of their houses as already said they have lessons with others houses and participate in extra curricular activities but if my DS goes to someone else's home on a Sunday its always with boys from his own house. But I suspect this is common in most boarding houses although if they are coed maybe less so. He knew and liked two boys who were also starting at WC at the same time as him (different houses) he was telling me the other day that he never see's either of them their paths just simply don't cross they are not in any of his lessons or share his extra curricular activities.

bico Mon 17-Jun-13 13:52:43

I intend to take ds on every school visit I can as he does have a different perspective from me. Eg he wasn't bothered by all the first years sharing a dorm in the Winchester house we visited (I couldn't imagine sleeping in a room with 13 others). He was bothered about eating in house rather than centrally as he worried this could limit his friendships. He met a boy on the open day that he liked and said that if they weren't in the same house or doing the same activities they would never see each other. It seems from what you say this is sadly true.

Having had a further conversation with ds over the weekend he is keen to go somewhere that will ensure he gets the best GCSEs and A level results (or whatever they will be called by the time ds sits them). He says he knows that they are important for his future (I'm wondering who he has been talking to, as it isn't something we've discussed).

I'm impressed at his maturity for someone who is not yet 9. It also helps explain my worries over senior school choices. All I wanted for prep school was for ds for ds to be happy and enjoy learning. The stakes for senior school are so much higher and harder to get right.

happygardening Mon 17-Jun-13 14:59:14

"The stakes for senior school are so much higher and harder to get right."
The good news is that most do get it right every school will loose a small % usually within the first couple of terms but IME the vast majority of children seem happy and just get on with it. Most independent schools now have high expectations (most customers parents are paying or better results than they believe they would get in the state sector) and the bright are likely to be given every opportunity to do well in public exams. Super selctives can go way beyond the curriculum a school like WC provides a whole raft of intellectual stimulation either as extra curricular activities or within the classroom itself and more and more staff have PHD's and for the super bright boy whose got a real gift and interest in a particular area this must be heaven sent but does this actually impact on A level results or is it learning for the sake of learning (not that there's anything wrong with this) I cant answer this, it may impact on the grade at the much harder Pre U but I cant be sure.
But I am unconvinced that this means that the bright wont do as well in terms of exam results in a less selective environments. I only have to look at our local completely non selective 6th form college where its very obvious that the very able seem to be pulling in the top grades.

Tobenotseemtobe Thu 20-Jun-13 10:39:53

My DD is at Wincol and hubby and I have drawn the conclusion that (a) it's not value for money (if architecture, history and greenery was so important we could have always gone to Hampton Court!) (b) the pastoral care is a figment of their imagination (where on earth do they get these Housemasters from? The food is atrocious and persistently lacking in quality and quantity except for tomorrow at Winchester Day where, if you go, you will be treated to fabulous food - for my part I would rather give it back, save the money and let the boys eat well and (c) IGCE's really do not carry any more weight than they'd have us believe because unless your boys are going to get 6 x A's (pre-requisite for Wincol Sixth Form) and the subjects offered only include predominantly core subjects (so you can't pad out with, say, art or an easier subject) you might find yourself, to some extent, well and truly ***. We are now left in the position, having paid £33,000 for last year plus extras, where we are having to consider entering ours for an extra GCSE's (starting over summer hols) just to be on the safe side as ours do not excel in Maths, Latin or Chinese which will diminish the amount of IGCSE's they get to probably 5. The local Sixth Form College just want 5 and IGCE's carry the same weight as GCSE's - A-C is preferable but even F is a pass. - Sorry, I appear to have started ranting! Does anyone want to buy me a drink at lunchtime ?

Tobenotseemtobe Thu 20-Jun-13 10:41:18

Art is a lovely subject. I wasn't criticising.

happygardening Thu 20-Jun-13 11:48:03

Tob an interesting prospective. I personally have never been bothered/interested in the buildings it never was a selling point for us but then we were seriously considering St Pauls which is hardly an architectural marvel.
IME experience the pastoral care is pretty good our HN seems pretty committed to the boys but then my DS is happy so I obviously can't comment on what happens if they're not.
With regard to the IGCSE's I personally have never been told by anyone at the school that they carry more weight than GCSE's although this doesn't mean their aren't harder. I do understand from a friend who's a Latin teacher Latin teacher (not at WC) who teaches both GCSE/IGCSE/AS/A level that that the IGCSE Latin is at least AS standard and to get an A* you cant "wing" it unlike the IGCSE and one of the set text for this year would normally only be found on an A level paper. Having spent the last 2 months assisting DS1 revising for his science GCSE's I hope the science IGCSE's are of higher standard becasue frankly I was stunned by how basic they were.
"the subjects offered only include predominantly core subjects (so you can't pad out with, say, art or an easier subject)"
What did you expect this an academic school? If you want film/media studies your in the wrong place all Pre U options are clearly stated on their website and art is offered at Pre U at least it was the last time I looked.
The school are asking for 6 A's at IGCSE to get into the 6th form but I think you will find that St Pauls et al. will also be asking for this in fact I believe that for my DS's year they are asking for 4 A*'s at IGCSE and I and others thought they told us when we started that they wanted 6 A*'s at IGCSE to get into the 6 th form.
I've heard lots of stories about the food in various houses. The food in my DS's house is certainly edible (we've ate their twice with the boys not on the Winchester Match day) and the boys told me that their house has a reputation for having some of the "best food" although I would be the first to admit its definitely school food.
Finally I believe the school is changing, the school is looking at becoming an international centre of excellence and I think that over time they are going to weed out from both the selection process and those actually at the school the less able the "also runs". I think they have decided to make this "international centre of academic excellence" their USP. If they are going to compete in the "global village" that we now all live in thye believe their aim has to be school full of straight A*'s at IGCSE and D1/D2 at Pre U and most of the boys going to to leading universities around the world.
I'm not entering into a discussion on the rights and wrongs of this. But I do know that my DS who was very unhappy at his boarding prep (where when the push came to the shove the pastoral care was non existent) is thriving at WC, all the dons I have met have been committed to the boys and my DS feels happy and supported in all aspects of his life, academically he has also never done better and having just received the end of year exams results frankly we're stunned at how well he's doing he's absolutely flying. But I've repeatedly said its not a school for every very bright able boy but then no where is.

happygardening Thu 20-Jun-13 11:51:01

"our HN seems pretty committed"
HM not HN.

britishsummer Thu 20-Jun-13 16:08:04

Tobe, I am sure you are right that the fees in part are higher since they contribute to the upkeep of the buildings, unfortunately that's part of the reality of the Winchester college 'package'. For DS, HM and pastoral care has been excellent (and the food rather good in his house) and in fact we have been delighted by the result of the school rather than us selecting the house for DS (as a late applicant).
Your experience underlines that if the range of subjects does not fit a boy's strengths and interests then it may leave that boy under performing at IGCSE level with subsequent sixth form entry difficulties. Possibly difficult to predict with certainty at 13 but definitely a factor to consider when making final decisions selecting the school.

happygardening Thu 20-Jun-13 17:29:38

"We are now left in the position, having paid £33,000 for last year plus extras, where we are having to consider entering ours for an extra GCSE's (starting over summer hols) just to be on the safe side as ours do not excel in Maths, Latin or Chinese which will diminish the amount of IGCSE's they get to probably 5."
So Tob if I understand you correctly (apologies if I dont) your DS(s) are now going to prepare for (I)GCSE's outside of school because you think they're not going to get A's in three subject and therefore not be allowed to stay at WC for the 6th form. For a start I thought all boys took 9 IGCSE's so that leaves 6 subjects to get A's. Secondly obviously I dont know where you live but have they got time to do this? My DS who rather surprisingly towards the very end of his prep school education turned out to have a natural ability at Latin/Ancient Greek when he opted not to continue Ancient Greek at WC toyed with the idea of doing it as an external candidate admittedly not sitting the GCSE but AS level at the end of yr 9. But the work load is pretty large at WC and he would have only been able to meet with his Ancient Greek tutor during exeats and holidays and thus he decided that his chance of getting a top grade were significantly diminished so he shelved the idea.
Surely its better for your DS(s) to concentrate on getting A's in the subjects they do at school rather than taking on more GCSE's which they will have to study outside of school with out the support of WC.

britishsummer Thu 20-Jun-13 18:01:55

Following on from that, one possibility would be to swap Mandarin to German or Spanish (which are the alternatives in the curriculum) so that he / they could be taught it during school time after extra work in the summer. My DD does Mandarin and it does require a lot of careful memorising, definitely not to everybody's liking although IME non native speakers can get high grades at IGCSE / GCSE level

happygardening Thu 20-Jun-13 18:26:48

Can he swap? I guess it depends what year the boy(s) are in. If they are in yr 10 I suspect its too late. I was told by the don who teaches Mandarin that it gets easier as you go along.

happygardening Thu 20-Jun-13 18:54:13

If T0b your DS(s) is only in yr 9 then isn't it a bit early to be thinking they wont get A's in some of the IGCSEs.
Even in September last yr I and his teachers thought DS1 (not at WC) wouldn't even get an F in maths GCSE he got a C in Feb and is predicted a B in the higher paper which he has just sat so don't despair yet.

bico Fri 21-Jun-13 11:11:08

Looks like we may be having another look at Winchester. The registrar visited ds's school yesterday and met with ds and three other boys. Ds only one from his year, one of the other boys was year 7 and has a place and two year 6s (not sure what their plans are).

According to ds he spent the morning in the head's office chatting to the registrar (I doubt it was that long!). The registrar told him all about Winchester football and how it is played. I'm not sure whether the registrar asked to meet him because we'd been to the open day or whether ds's school put him forward. Either way ds has taken it as confirmation that the head would support ds applying to Winchester (I'm not so sure but have a meeting next week to discuss senior school options).

pianomama Tue 25-Jun-13 21:38:30

Sorry, been away so got behind in this thread.
Any ideas where to get past Election papers from? Could't see anything on website..
I know it's early to say but at the moment DS loves the idea of College, the gown and of cause to be called a "scholar" - appreciate it might change by the time he is 13

britishsummer Tue 25-Jun-13 23:17:24

Sounds as though he might be a natural then particularly if he likes the historic feel of the Chambers. DS did Election questions in school so your DS's school would be the best place to ask initially, if not I assume you can request them from Winchester. Probably best not to overlap with any past papers his school might want to use to practise exam conditions. If his school has some experience of Election or King's scholarship then you can leave it entirely to them!

happygardening Wed 26-Jun-13 07:59:45

piano ask the admissions office they're always really helpful.

pianomama Wed 26-Jun-13 08:30:38

Thanks . Still had not been able to discuss this with current school - HM is away on a field trip.

Some schools don't like to give past papers so it's good to know WC is not one of them.

happygardening Wed 26-Jun-13 09:32:34

Also meant to add that I've heard rumours that they are now going to pre test for the election as too many sit it many of whom are not of sufficient calibre. Don't know how true this is might be worth asking.
We obtained copies of the normal entrance exam from the admissions office.

termsofuse Wed 26-Jun-13 10:16:18

piano, for Election past papers, you need to ask either Ian Fraser, Master in College (HM) or his assistant Mrs Robertson. Main admissions can only provide Entrance past papers.

termsofuse Wed 26-Jun-13 10:35:16

It is very common for prep schools to judge a boy's Election capability according to how well he does in maths which is misguided for two reasons: CE or even GCSE style of maths provides practically no preparation for Election maths, and some boys who struggle with regular CE or Entrance do find Election much easier; likewise, many who soar in CE (and even A* A-level boys) struggle with Election maths. I have seen more than one GCSE teacher and expert tutor for Election/KS getting completely stuck on a question which warned that there was no point trying to get to an answer with a calculator (far too many digits) and they were so stuck that they tried it on their calculators and got nowhere. Yet, the maths required was definitely within the capability and knowledge of a 8 or 9 year old. Very entertaining watching that.

Your DS is always the best judge by far. Same is true for all the other compulsory and optional papers. It is not uncommon to hear that boys found Election exams fun. They are NOT testing for knowledge in Election, instead they want to see profound understanding with evidence that the boy worked it out or thought it through himself, and in all papers, they want to see his way of thinking. Vast majority of questions either do not have right or wrong answers or have many answers.

termsofuse Wed 26-Jun-13 10:59:06

No point dwelling too much on past Election papers beyond getting a feel for the style of question. Practising past papers works for regular exams but will not help Election. If a prep school is serious about preparing its boys for Election, then it would come up with its own Election style questions and play with them everyday instead of teaching (stealth teaching of knowledge through them). So, don't worry about overlaps or exam conditions and so on. There are dozens and dozens of situations and topics in our everyday life that could be used as impromptu "practice", lots we take for granted actually have multiple perspectives (very grey) or need profound understanding of otherwise simple concepts to explain. IMO, it is not the sort of preparation best suited to school environment.

It is not about "intelligence" either; it is sad that Election/Collegemen are generally labelled as more clever or more able or College is more prestigious, simply not so. He either has that style of mind/thinking College is looking for and it is evident already or it is still latent that requires coaxing out, or he has another style. Very hard to teach that and I feel strongly that trying mold a boy into a different style of thinking could cause more harm than good.

pianomama Wed 26-Jun-13 11:51:13

That's very interesting term. My DS has such a busy life that we simply do not have time for extra tutoring.
With regards to what HG said about pre-screening, I now remember that HM who interviewed DS told us that he would recommend some boys for Election after the interview , may be this is exactly what it was and he won't be invited for Election after all.. I am sure we'll find out in due course. I would be very curious to see the Election papers though

termsofuse Wed 26-Jun-13 13:03:46

Piano. Not sure how that pre-testing would work. No need to commit to Election until three months before in Feb of the same year of entrance anyway. Not 100% sure, but I think constitutionally, you do not even need to be interviewed by anyone and you can simply put your name down before the Feb deadline for Election. More commonly, boy has interview with a HM for a conditional offer, HM may or may not suggest Election. Meeting with Head follows some months later along with parents in his study. At that meeting again, he may or may not suggest Election. These are just suggestions which the boy can follow or reject. I think any kind of barrier to Election may be against founder's intent and even violates WC constitution.
Do seek a meeting with Ian Fraser. He is likely to also say that tutoring is wasting your DS's valuable free time to think. I think you will find such a meeting sobering and him very helpful. No question that knowledge needed for Election is at worst CE. Any suggestion that it is harder or GCSE or higher is just plainly wrong. If you think about it, some of the questions that require the most effort to answer come from very young children.
As for harder or easier, it is like saying that playing the cello is harder than playing the piano or learning arabic; very different both easy and both hard. Similarly, collegemen are cleverer than commoners is like saying pianists are better musicians than cellists. Yet, prep school habitually make that kind of remarks, including those renowned for being feeder schools who boast about their track record of College entries, which proves only one thing - they are easily fooled by basic survivor's bias or worse in the implied assumption about their customersparents.

happygardening Wed 26-Jun-13 21:01:39

Interesting re Electiion DN was at a eye wateringly horrible pushy selective London prep with a good track record of boys doing well in the Election. DN was also trying for a scholarship into a fairly selective London day school all were taught as if going for the Election including including those doing the KS and scholarship into SPS because in the head view the Election was the hardest. My DN spent two years learning endless facts including Xmas day afternoon, all were encouraged to give up extra curricular activities and parents were strongly encouraged to assist in learning/revising etc in their every waking moment and those parents without time to devote their spare time to do this got tutors. All practised on Election past papers. All in his yr were successful in theirs scholarships including the KS SPS and of course the Election.

pianomama Thu 27-Jun-13 08:30:46

I wonder if a lot of it is parents' attitude. I am not a big fan of over tutoring DC - unfortunately I have seen a few sad cases when DC came out of top schools and suddenly going to pieces - not being able to finish their uni courses, generally feeling lost and not knowing who they are and what to do with themselves. I try to trust selection process - if DC didn't make it, it is probably not the right place for them.
I know my DS who is very busy does his best work in the little spare time he has.He writes poems and stories sometimes on a typewriter, reads a lot - sometimes he comes up with unexpectedly amazing poem written on a birthday card or a letter. I really like him the way he is smile . Of cause I want him to be in a top school but only if it is the right school for him.

termsofuse Thu 27-Jun-13 11:37:41

Piano. Completely with you on this which I think is far healthier. Parents' attitude and desires can end up playing a huge part if one loses full perspective. If you are not doing anything to get your child into a branded school (which is not optional), then you are failing your child. You also see children turned into parental bling.
HG. I do not have experience with or know anything about other scholarship exams, only that KS works with (and probably needs) tutoring but Election is the exact opposite (tutoring can harm). Just can't see how cramming facts could ever do anything to Election. Bayesian outcomes mess with all of us. We all want to find a single cause or formula to an outcome. Even those who are trained to avoid that fall prey to it every now and then. The medical profession (not short of fairly bright people) is a place where convariances in correlations are turned into spurious causation regularly when looking for causes of diseases or efficacy of treatments. They make good stories in the hands of reporters who are not trained in statistics (or never learnt much maths). With relatively small sample size, simplistic use of data (deliberate or not), you can weave all kinds of sensational relationships which you can describe as prove of cause and effect, and since doing something feels better than doing nothing, you have a great marketing tool. If you look at car insurance data on accidents, you are quite likely to see that quite a lot of accidents happened with wipers running and headlights on. You are likely to find a statistically significant relationship. So, having headlights and wipers running caused the accidents. We must do something, ban them. You don't need to go back to school as much of these types of flaws can be analysed qualitatively. As a digression, why do they not include this as part of the basic maths curriculum, conditional probability and its pitfalls?

happygardening Thu 27-Jun-13 16:57:43

term obviously my story is anecdotal although a quick look at the website of said mentioned prep school I notice another candidate was successful in the election this yr and most yrs they have at least one successful candidate.
I do think that all this cramming of facts and tutoring etc stifles a love of learning these are children we're talking about. We've only ever tutored for Latin and that was only when we discovered that the Latin teacher at the prep was not a Latin teacher but an MFL teacher but "it's ok because he did Latin O level" (30 years ago) so knew only marginally more Latin than I did. In fact my experience of preps is that they are exam obsessed and teach to CE (or whatever entrance exam your chid is sitting) and that rather than inspiring a love of learning they turn everything into a drudge. My DS now waxes lyrical about physics maths (he left prep hating it) and even English he's inspired and interested, he left prep frankly switched off and with a poor confidence in his ability.

britishsummer Thu 27-Jun-13 17:55:25

We experienced a poor prep that just focused on getting through material and then an excellent non selective boarding one with a more exciting creative way of teaching. In a multivariable analysis of a record of scholarship success one of the variables would be that the latter prep attracts some highly able children (some of whom might have dedicated parents) but they certainly facilitated their ability to think as well as cover required material. Excellent for slack parents like ourselves who wouldn't have the inclination or ability of parents like termsofuse to take over the preparation ourselves

termsofuse Thu 27-Jun-13 22:55:27

Looking at my last post, I realised that it could come across totally obnoxious - I apologise for that - it was never supposed to come across like that. Problem with posts and emails and the absence of other cues.
What I find particularly unpleasant and always draws a reaction is schools (for any age group) bragging about how many they put through such as such branded schools as scholars, or such ans such universities, using their throughput as their rightful marketing materials. And in every case, they use very simplistic statistics of their choosing to prove their success. If they were public companies, they would have been whipped by investors for such KPIs. Just don't believe you can measure a child's success this way as if you were training race horses or show dogs, counting trophies. It would have been fine if they were tennis schools. For selective schools especially (nothing against selectiveness), they cannot be unaware of their Bayesian bias. It is actually quite insulting.
When it comes to "preparation", the most valuable imo has to be giving a child free and boredom time. I see no difference between getting a school or tutor to ram knowledge into a boy for Election and doing it yourself as parents. It would be so sad to reduce yourself from a mother to a teacher and spend your time with your child tutoring him and rob him of his family time just playing or enjoying being with him. Extrapolating from that, parental or external tutoring/prepping imv is equally counter-productive. College is looking for a certain mindset which is not superior to others, but it is very unfortunate that even WC itself equates that to trophy "intelligence" or "cleverness" which could be quite damaging for those who are not elected and also runs the risk of producing egos amongst those who are, both could impair learning desires.

letsgetrealmums Fri 05-Jul-13 00:51:31

ok, I see that a lot of you here believe that Winchester is only for the elite but that is simply not true. 5 years ago my son came looking for an interview here having failed to get into Harrow, Radley and Eton. We had not enrolled him to do the Winchester entrance exam at all. However, very kindly they offered to interview him at short notice. At the end they said that they would give him a place, not on academic achievement but for the fact that he seemed like a Winchester boy, nice and not too egotistical and arrogant. He finished his last exams very recently and I would say that throughout the whole process, Winchester as a school has an ethos of being kind, creating long lasting friendship and producing very witty and charming men, rather than intellectuals. This is an honest report on what Winchester has achieved.

britishsummer Fri 05-Jul-13 06:43:45

I for one don't think it is academically more elite than the average grammar school and a boy who is not an all rounder would have more chance of getting into Winchester than Harrow and Eton. Those qualities you describe is go with the impression we have, it does n't seem to encourage inner arrogance despite the undoubted privileged upbringing most of the boys have. Hopefully that will continue and the type of education they give opens up rather than close minds.

Amber2 Fri 05-Jul-13 10:12:12


It's refreshing to see someone posting in a genuine way about a school rather than saying it's so much better or more elite than X or Y school ...and freely admitting let's face it there will be boys who get into Winchester who may not get into Eton and vice versa. What is best for one type of boy may not be best for another. What you said about Winchester is very positive and a better testament to your experience that if offered to your DS than focussing on how elite it is and adding a layer upon layer of mystique, the same way that people often do about Oxbridge.

happygardening Fri 05-Jul-13 11:01:02

letsgetreal I agree with a lot that you say regarding the boys but the only thing is that when your DS applied 6-7 yrs ago Dr Townsend (the head) was relatively new. I have definitely read somewhere ISI report I think that his vision for the school is a centre for international academic excellence. If you read their website you can clearly see they increasingly looking at taking very bright boys from Asia this section has expanded this yr and I was told by a couple of boys that the head very recently reminded the boys that they don't come to Win Coll to do sport but academia.
We have to ask ourselves why? Win Coll fees are some of the highest in the UK, they have decided to swim against the current tide and stay full boarding this is not popular with many parents who want more flexibility and more parental involvement again something Win Coll is not big on. Many parents also see sport and success at high levels as part of the package of a full boarding school. Against this back drop most independent schools even the fairly non selective ones are improving their results year on year, the selective ones; Radley Harrow Abbingdon Tonbridge are now closing the gap on Win Coll, SPS and Westminster reman in a league of their own. The is only a finite number of UK parents with £34 000 a year who want proper full boarding single sex and results only marginally better than a more flexible boarding school/London day school, becasue lets be realistic thats where the majority of parents with that kind of money live, with at best ok sporting results. Win Coll of course is not just about this and as someone who knows quite a lot about other super selctives it does offer something different but not all want or care this and not all bright boys like what it offers.
This is why I think the head has decided that he has to make it more academic its USP, appeal to the parents in the UK and outside of the UK primarily Asia who want top results hence the introduction of the much "more rigorous" Pre U for nearly all subjects , international connections with other very academic schools abroad and top universities abroad primarily the Ivy League etc. So I suspect the admissions policy will tighten up currently no passmark for the entrance exam but I'm sure that will change, when we first applied (I was thin then a not grey) you were told that having been accepted at yr6 the entrance exam was a mere formality they are now looking for a reasonable showing in the entrance exam how long before a pass mark is set? Someone on here said that they thought the interview process will change, no more will parents choose an HM who then interviews you and goes on his gut feeling that your DS is right for the school. The criteria for staying on for the 6th form is currently 4A* and 6 A's but again I think this will change not this year or next but in the future.
As I said before I'm not commenting on whether or not this is the right thing and I maybe wrong of course I am just going my impression and the views of a few others currently working in independent ed who also feel this is the way it have will go to survive.

happygardening Fri 05-Jul-13 11:28:23

Meant to add I couldn't care less where the boys come from UK Asia or even Mars we live in a globalised society this how ours and most importantly ours DC's future will be: all nationalities living, working and learning side by side and I hope in peace with each other.

Xpatmama88 Fri 05-Jul-13 12:21:54

Letsgetreal, I do agree with you, I think Winchester boys are charming and witty (many of them are very intellectual too). I see my boy develops into a confident young man, he does well academically, and he enjoys music, sports, and drama that are available. But again, these activities if the boys want to do it, they can, if not, no pressure at all, so it is up to individual boy. He went with school to watch two operas (free entrance for WC students) during the exam week, I'm not too sure about that thinking he needs to study, but he says he'll be fine and he wants to go. He loves the operas apparently they are very moving! It seems he did well with the exams too. So I can't complain.
We choose WC because it is full boarding which is important as we are expat living overseas, we also want a very academic school where my DC (we believe he is very able) can find peers with similar abilities and wave length and hopefully they can inspire each other.
So far so good, he is happy, and we can't wait for him to come back. School finishes tomorrow. Hurray!

peteneras Fri 05-Jul-13 22:54:55

Yes indeed letsgetreal, just let us get real - all this hype about Winchester 'not for the faint-hearted', 'very academic' (whatever that means), etc. etc. is just that . . . hype!

I seem to remember reading somewhere on MN that, for example, Win Coll’s Election is 'not looking for academic boys' therefore, implying Collegers at Win Coll are not academic. And yet, a common prelude and swansong often heard on MN whenever Winchester is mentioned is that it is 'very academic'. Which leads to the conclusion that commoners at Win Coll are more academic than Collegers.

Which is balderdash, of course.

So come on, lets get real!

pusspusslet Sat 06-Jul-13 13:38:27

I'm not sure what you're saying there, peteneras i.e. that you believe Collegers at Win Coll to be academic or not academic...?

It would be a bit surprising if scholars at one of the most academic of top-ranking independent schools were not extra bright, no? All the top academic boys' schools (Winchester, Eton, Westminster, St. Paul's et al) are likely to attract especially bright children for scholarships, I'd have thought. Don't you think so?

happygardening Sat 06-Jul-13 14:37:55

According to the 2012 FT league tables Win Coll came 9th Eton 17th.
According to both the schools websites at Win Coll 50.1% achieved the much coveted A** or A* at the harder Pre U and 80.1 % and A all carry more UCAS points than their equivalent grades at A level. At Eton 36.7% achieved an A* and 82% and A.
For anyone to describe Win Coll as not "very academic" or that the scholars are not academic or even more bizarrely that the commoners as a general principle are more academic than the scholars is frankly ridiculous. Quite a few of my DS's friends failed to to do well in the election all found the exams very difficult they talk about getting 15% in some papers none are stupid they just basically did not do well enough I think all would admit that they weren't clever enough for it.

termsofuse Sat 06-Jul-13 15:49:43

Real, you pretty much summed up what WC is about. WC has many who did not get through other schools's pre-selections. Know a few who got into WC but were rejected by the likes of Eton and vice versa. Does that make WC one of the best, perhaps but it could also be completely disastrous for someone with an incompatible learning style which makes it one of the worst.
What is "academic" exactly? Or "intellectual"? If academic means being a bookworm and studying/cramming/stuffing knowledge into your head, then it is not WC. Intellectual - if you mean completely isolated from the real world and spaced out in deep esoteric thought, single-dimension personality, then that's not WC either. WC is not above wanting good exam grades from the boys, but if being "academic" as described above is the only way of getting them, then I doubt very much if WC is suitable. Div would be a painful struggle for starters.
Extrapolating from that, you cannot study for Election; some try and claim it works but I seriously doubt if they would not have got through it without the agony. College wants boys who enjoy independent thoughts and question things, and perhaps have passion/obsession about hobbies/interests (other than sports), which has nothing to do with cleverness or "academic" capability or being "intellectual"; merely a style of learning and personality, learning capacity rather than capacity of being taught. So, Election is less "academic" than WC Entrance. Just pick up past papers of each and compare them side by side. For maths especially, Election is seemingly and superficially much more difficult by just mentioning even degree level concepts by name, but in reality, with the guidance given in the paper, most 10 year old would have the maths to solve them. This is not an exaggeration but you have to see for yourself. Same is true for other subjects. Euler's rule, Fermat's theorems, paleo-anthropology, natural resources based economy, tidal zone biology all spring to mind. Sometimes, they bury and disguise them by inventing non-existent names for them. You often hear complaints about "we have not been taught this .... Election is way beyond CE even GCSE syllabuses" which is total nonsense. Concepts sound daunting but underlying knowledge is minimal, you just have to know it deeply and well enough to apply it and you will not get there by studying it or having someone teach you; you can only get to that depth by having a learning style/personality that makes it fun thinking about it in your downtime and figuring things out in depth yourself. So, if you can't study for Election but you can study for Entrance, which is "more academic"? These are very confusing adjectives anyway.

termsofuse Sat 06-Jul-13 16:29:12

HG. It is sad that those boys felt that they "weren't clever enough". I have heard more than once collegemen openly admiring how much cleverer such and such from a commoner house was. There was a time when boys were obsessively and speculatively linking IQ scores to getting into College when no one had even done any kind of scoring, never mind the validity of defining cleverness on a single test score. Quite ironic given how WC boys question things. Glad that it is no longer topical. Talks of cleverness are both unhelpful (baggage of not getting elected and danger of conceit from getting in) and miss the point of Election (pretty sure the founder did not look at things that way). More curious than others, more driven to discover and learn, perhaps, not sure if that is really cleverness though.

peteneras Tue 09-Jul-13 15:24:03

Sorry pusspusslet for the delay in answering your question and for causing ambiguity in my previous post. I absolutely agree in everything you said about scholars. It goes without saying that Collegers at Win Coll would be extra bright and highly academic. How on earth would one even begin to comprehend the scholarship questions if one is not academic - let alone answering them to a high degree? But the same term ‘very academic’ cannot be uniformly applied to the rest of the school.

This thread (I thought) is about Win Coll. Just why would anyone come out with data and statistics about Eton is puzzling. If the idea behind quoting the FT league table is to say WC is ‘very academic and not for the faint-hearted’, then it must be said there are 8 schools above WC which would be even more academic. Two of these schools (state) are right here in my backyard (QE Boys had actually offered a place to my DS even though he was one year underaged. The other is a girls’ school). I have never ever heard either of them described as ‘very academic’ and ‘not for the faint-hearted’ in my 25-year residence here. Nor have I ever heard all the other schools above Win Coll described as such. So what is this idea of emphasizing WC as ‘very academic’ each time this school is mentioned, can someone please enlighten me?

Given the FT 2012 league table as I was, and when you click on Winchester College, the bar chart and graph don’t exactly tell me WC is more academic than that iconic school in Windsor if the last 6 years is anything to go by.

So please do get real!

pusspusslet Sat 20-Jul-13 08:36:45

Thanks for explaining, peteneras.

Ozankoy Mon 29-Jul-13 13:32:00

Bico, you seem to have posted a plethora of negative comments about Winchester and its boarding house experience (all based on one visit at the recent Open Day). If you're so negative, why don't you schedule some other visits and focus on those and forget about Winchester. If you don't want Winchester, I'm sure it won't want you. Is your son your only child? I understand (age 9) he's already away at boarding school and you appear to have too much time on your hands. We are not interested in the minutiae of your every thought process; just headline observations based on direct experience.

As for "Having had a further conversation with ds over the weekend he is keen to go somewhere that will ensure he gets the best GCSEs and A level results (or whatever they will be called by the time ds sits them). He says he knows that they are important for his future (I'm wondering who he has been talking to, as it isn't something we've discussed)." who are you trying to kid?? You don't sound like the sort of family who would never have discussed GCSE / A level results in front of your child to me!!

Time to move on and start posting to another thread Bico. Good luck with your search.

happygardening Mon 29-Jul-13 18:52:27

bico maybe Ozan has a point if a little sharply put. Sometimes we look at schools with great expectations we really believe it's going to be the perfect place we've read such great things about it or have friends there who rave on about it and we've convinced ourselves that it's going to wonderful and our search is over. At a lunch last year with a bunch of mums from my DS's DS's old prep (wince) not one had a child at the same senior school Many of us had looked at the same schools but we'd all seen them in a different way and let's be realistic most top independent schools are likely to get the "best" out if our DC's so it comes down to how comfortable we as parents and our DC's feel there. If you don't feel comfortable at Win Coll for what ever reason whether it's because you didn't like the head or the dorms or the plastic music stands that's fine the advise above to move on and find one you do feel comfortable with is very good.
As I get older fatter and increasingly grey I realise that's it often the person/thing that we initially don't have high expectations of that surprise us and turn out to be just what we're looking for. Our country is positively groaning under the weight of boarding schools the vast majority struggling to fill their vacancies as you DS is musical he's bound to get a scholarship broaden your search look at some you would not normally consider you never know you might be pleasantly surprised by one you'd thought unsuitable.

britishsummer Mon 29-Jul-13 22:03:36

Ozan, bico has n't posted on this thread for well over a month and so has certainly moved on from it. She also has a right to post her impressions from a single visit just as most of us post opinions based on quite restricted anecdotal evidence. She obviously wanted to like Winchester but was n't impressed on that first visit. The subsequent discussion on this thread may have been helpful to others independently of what she eventually decides.

Ozankoy Mon 29-Jul-13 23:14:36

I hope you're right that she's gone. She posts very misleading stuff and appears to be a trouble-making fantas cist. As it happens, I was on the same visit to Toye's / Moberly's at the same time as Bico. Her first fantasy:

"One parent asked a question about academic standard required and prefaced his question with a long speech about how he hasn't considered or compared his son's academic ability, nor that of his school friends and neither had his son's the school. I nearly bit my tongue trying not to laugh. From the housemaster's answer Winchester would suit ds, as he currently is, perfectly."

I know the man who asked this question. Lovely man, lovely son. He's recently widowed and we travelled to and from the open day with him and his son. I heard his question, which was simply "We don't go around comparing ourselves with other families and have found it too early (Year 4) for our current school to give guidance. So could you provide some guidance on the academic standards you're looking for?"

That was it. The rest (per Bico) is manufactured. I know of no one less competitive than the questioner, who is entirely focused on his own children's development as opposed to what everyone else is doing. If Bico had to bite her tongue over that, she's easily amused, as well as having bad judgement.

Then there's her crap posted June 2 - "The housemaster we met has been there 7 years so will be gone before ds would start but would still be the one to interview him. " If Bico hadn't been bent double and tongue biting at my friend's well-put and brief question (the answer to which was of great interest to most anyway) she would have heard Mr Herring say that the incoming BoArding Head would be announced by the time applicants are interviewed and he ;not Herring) would conduct the interviews and decide.

Bico, I know you must be bored out of your brains with very young kids already boarding, a house in hinterland near Shiplake and a husband off doing other things. But you really need to get your brain engaged and your facts straight. Or you get caught out and are made a fool of. Your fabricated tales are not helping anyone. So please refrain going forward.

peteneras Wed 31-Jul-13 06:16:32

One may not agree with another’s point of view but I’m truly amazed how one can slag off another for writing what is in effect a personal observation of Win Coll. And to wish the other poster never to return anymore is truly absurd! So that we can all listen to one narrow, lopsided and biased view without any challenges, I suppose. Is this what Winchester College and its supporters are all about?

I didn’t attend the Open Day and have no particular interest in Win Coll and therefore, I’m impartial as to which view is correct. But to ask for the poster of an opposing view to disappear is blatant cyber bullying.

I have made a special effort to read as much as possible this entire thread especially those posted by bico and I did not find her/him ”posted a plethora of negative comments about Winchester”. On the contrary, I find her/his postings reasonable, well-balanced and fair. (S)he is even contemplating further visit(s) to Win Coll before finalising her/his decision. Are these actions the hallmark of a person with a plethora of negative attitude towards the school? I think not.

Indeed, there are far, far worse criticisms of Winchester by others even at this very thread alone.

Such as:

”headmaster seemed pompous and made no effort to "connect"”

” was particularly disappointed by the other students we met”

”they were pale and seemed almost autistic”

”incapable of looking at us or engaging with us”

”main disappointment was the quality of the house . . . it was dark and damp”
[on a bright, sunny day]

”dining room (which reeked of stale food)”

”the food was terrible! if what they served parents is an indication of what they serve boys, I'm not surprised so many looked pale and thin..” [Me not surprised too] shock

Oh Gosh! I could go on and on but I think you get the gist.

Ladybird65 Wed 31-Jul-13 07:33:10

I agree peterenas. Until ozan's post this thread was informative and helpful. It was coming to a natural halt given the amount of info exchanged already but it is a pity that at the last gasp it descended into the worst mumsnet can offer rather than the best. Bico and others why not post further thoughts and comparisons onto another thread once the year five school search gets underway?

britishsummer Wed 31-Jul-13 10:54:57

Peterenas, the reawakening of this thread by a rather vitriolic attack has been followed by your comments which always seem to be the school equivalent of a politically biased broadsheet - opportunistic promotion of an unsubtle underlying agenda. This unfortunately actually diminishes and detracts from whatever useful /interesting contributions you could probably make.
Agree with Ladybird

peteneras Wed 31-Jul-13 12:47:21

That’s your opinion britishsummer, which of course is equally valid. Why, are you also one of those who’s afraid of an exposure of the realities of the school discussed on this thread?

The school equivalent that I think you have in mind does not need ”opportunistic promotions”. As a matter of fact, it needs NO promotions at all. It’s already being heavily promoted here on this Win Coll thread alone, having been mentioned at least a few dozen times already, not least by yourself. So there’s no underlying agenda on my part.

There are some very nervous parents out there thinking long and hard if spending £200,000 over the next 5 years for an education for their teenage child is justified or not. It would be good to let them have a better insight of the school, any school, and let them decide. And dare I say, the same kind of money could perhaps buy a better education elsewhere in every sense of the word.

britishsummer Wed 31-Jul-13 13:43:31

Not an opinion just an observation on your posts Peterenas (and I assume just from this thread not a particularly original one ). It bemuses me when people feel the need to be competitive against other schools and it does n't add any real information to help parents' choices, just spins the information already there.
However I agree that any parent should know 'all that glitters is not gold' when considering a particular school. It would seem from this Winchester thread that the opposite may also apply.

peteneras Wed 31-Jul-13 14:40:16

Observation or opinion, the fact you mentioned it implies you believe in it. It certainly bemuses me no end that people feel the need to compete against other schools when as far as I’m concerned there is absolutely no competition at all, iyswim.

But it doesn’t help prospective parents looking at schools when supporters of that particular school go all defensive whenever adverse comments are made by anybody.

happygardening Wed 31-Jul-13 15:24:40

There is a difference between defensive and stating the true picture. Some of the stuff written on this thread and others about Win Coll Eton or even Billericay Comprehensive is is ridiculously fictitious and/or incorrect. If parents at these various establishments know something to be incorrect then they probably feel a need to correct it and give a true version as we do in so many other walks of life I don't think any normal person would regard this as defensive. Just as if the wrong occupation was accredited to me or even worse I was thought to be a vegetarian bunny hugger I would be quick to correct this misinformation.
I like other on this particular thread tried to answer questions about Win Coll in a honest way. Unlike others on MN posting about other schools I don't claim its a perfect school or suited to every boy. It has a slightly different approach than most others in particular the fact that its not a school for those who are heavily into team sports/that sport is by and large optional optional, the fact that it only offers the Pre U, some trivial decisions do seem a little odd at times. parents are definitely kept at arms length it is truly full boarding no going home for the odd Saturday night, those considering stumping up "£200 000 over the next five years" might want to know these things and also understand details about the admissions process/choosing an HM.
Other info I've given of course is purely based on my own experience our HM seems fantastic capable enormously caring, the food in my DS's house is by and large pretty edible although it is school food but then I'm not expecting Le Gavroche , none of the parents we've met are IMO opinion what I personally would describe as ghastly (having spent 6 years in a boarding prep I can spot a ghastly parent at 10 paces) they seems pretty OK but I do acknowledge that many are very pushy with exceedingly high expectations of the school and their DS's but as we rarely meet them for long so who cares. But as we all know my experiences wont be the same as others.
Peteneras I understand why you believe in Eton as I do in Win Coll; becasue its really working/worked for our DS's, your DS was obviously happy there and did very well as probably did all the other boys you knew, But as we all know there is more than one road to Rome and Eton/Win Col/Billeracay Comp or even those two great London schools SPS and Westminster don't have the monopoly on which of those roads is the best for all.

IndridCold Wed 31-Jul-13 17:28:48

I agree with happygardening, it would be like saying Usain Bolt is a better athlete than Mo Farrar because he finishes his races much faster. Or that both of them are better than Bradley Wiggins because they don't need a bike to win races!

What this thread does highlight is the imperfect nature of the Open Day as a true representation of a school. If you are being shown around there will usually be one member of staff in charge of a group of 10-20 prospective parents. One or two annoying people in this group may well give other parents a negative view of a school which is not merited.

I was also struck by the unkindness of a couple of the comments about WinColl boys. It brought to mind a similar post about an Eton tour a few months back when someone took exception to the fact that the boys she met had obviously been chosen because they were very good-looking and super confident! The schools can't really win can they?

As a parent who had at one time considered WinColl for my DS I was interested to read this thread, and it has been very informative for the most part. Some people are obviously only comparing first impressions after one visit, and others are able to contribute first hand experience. Together, this give a pretty good overview of the school, and that is the joy of MN!

happygardening Wed 31-Jul-13 19:52:36

"better education elsewhere"
Finding that "better education or perhaps more correctly the right school means getting a variety of things right. I personally don't think its about Medieval building; our local high performing comp holds numerous services in our famous and beautiful local 12th century Abbey, or 30m swimming pools our local comp has everyday access to one of those or lakes the comp has the UKs largest water park on its doorstep. nor light bright buildings it has that as well and apparently the food is fantastic and cheap. If I wanted fab results my DS could have gone to one of the countries top 10 performing grammars also in my area. Its also not about a schools Alumni just because David Cameron went to Eton doesnt mean it doesn't mean your DS will be a prime minister if he goes there any more than your DS will become an obnoxious prat if he goes to the same school Jeremy Clarkson went too. This is why open days often leave us underwhelmed because its these things that are so often show cased, a friend oohed and arrhhed about seeing Byron's name carved a Harrpw but I doubt her DS is going to become a poet if he goes there. The current pupils you might meet an a open day might appear "pale and slightly autistic or "good looking and super confident" but that doesn't mean your DS will become either of those, a good friend is a hilarious but eventually after days of it a slightly irritating massive practical joker/magician he went to Marlborough but I know they are not endlessly churning out irritating pranksters.
Other factors have also to be considered logistics in my extensive experience should strongly influence your decision; friends (dad was an Etonian as were uncles great uncles grand father etc etc) felt that Win Coll was a ultimately in the ideal world better choice for their super academic DS but couldn't see the point of driving past Eton to get to it, we love SPS (it's so us darling) but a logistic nightmare now we're firmly ensconced in the "Shires". If you want full boarding don't choose a school where you've got pick them up on Saturday and take them back Sunday evening .
What I'm trying to say is that you have to feel comfortable at the school I personally never felt comfortable at the above mentioned high performing comp where DS1 went, nor when I visited the super selective grammar school I mentioned above, I also didn't feel comfortable at Eton there's nothing wrong with any of them in fact there's plenty of things that are very right just not for me. But I feel comfortable at Win Coll (as unlikely as that might appear to some) it works for me and works for my DS so therefore its providing him with a "better education" than he would get "elsewhere".

britishsummer Wed 31-Jul-13 22:16:36

Thinking about what has been said. The couple of open days we attended put us off those particular schools although we should have known that initial impressions are often misleading. I think from what everybody says, some schools are slicker at presenting themselves in a short space of time and some parents are swayed by feeling that a school is competing for their child rather than vice versa. Logistics and certain requirements reduce choice down for most people as it did for us.
What made my DS feel comfortable with Winchester? He really liked the different types of boys and teachers he met at his two visits to Winchester as well as the boys he knew from his previous school who had chosen to go to Winchester. He likes the fact that there is no pressure to be cool or conform to a certain type (as pointed out previously in the thread Winchester certainly has many uncool personalities), he loves (most of the time) the education and that it is a sparky place full of interesting conversations and possibilities. He was/is happy with the boarding facilities and appreciates old buildings. That combination is not unique to Winchester or private schools and could well be a deterrent to others making their choice.

bico Wed 31-Jul-13 22:47:01

What an odd post Ozankoy and welcome to MN. Interesting that your first post is a personal attack. hmm

You have absolutely no idea if what I reported is the question asked by your friend. The question I reported was accurate to my recollection and rather funny because I doubt that there were many parents attending the open day who genuinely had no idea or interest in their son's academic ability. Which is why the preamble was so memorable.

Clearly I only attend school open days to post fabricated rubbish. If that is the case then I suggest you get comfy as I've arranged a whole host of senior school visits for the autumn and will no doubt be sharing my thoughts and asking for others opinions. grin

As for the comments on my lifestyle you really have no idea but I stand in awe of the fantasy you have created for me. Thank you smile

bico Wed 31-Jul-13 23:00:12

Just seen the earlier post. Weirdly I haven't discussed GCSEs or A levels with ds. He has just turned 9 fgs!

Also, maybe weirdly, I am more interested in ds getting a good education than a collection of exam results. Div at WC is appealing for that reason although I am not able to form a view at this stage on whether it is a school we will revisit or not. Probably the hardest thing in this process is trying to evaluate what ds will be like when he is 13 and choose accordingly. 4 years is a long time and ds at 9 is nothing like the child I thought he would be when he was 5.

happygardening Thu 01-Aug-13 08:23:44

"some parents are swayed by feeling that a school is competing for their child rather than vice versa."
The reason why they feel like this is because the reality of the situation is that the vast majority of boarding schools are competing with others for your DC. They are struggling to fill their vacancies so of course they're going to roll out the red carpet for someone who is going to add £200 000 to their coffers over the next five years.

IndridCold Thu 01-Aug-13 08:39:14

I wouldn't take Ozankoy's post to heart, he/she is perhaps a bit sensitive for the hurly burly of the internet forum. I think most people who have been to a school open day understand where you are coming from.

Enjoy your visits this autumn. I, for one, will look forward to your future threads smile.

Ozankoy Thu 01-Aug-13 10:33:08

Aha, there you are Bico. We thought we'd lost you. But now you're back, you do not disappoint. Entirely predictably defensive. I knew it!

Bico - "You have absolutely no idea if what I reported is the question asked by your friend. The question I reported was accurate to my recollection and rather funny because I doubt that there were many parents attending the open day who genuinely had no idea or interest in their son's academic ability. Which is why the preamble was so memorable."

(1) As to your first sentence, yes I do because I was standing right next to you when the question was asked. Your report of it was completely exaggerated and created an entirely misleading impression. Better to stick with the facts I always find.

(2) I do tend to agree with you, however, when you say that you "doubt that there were many parents attending the open day who genuinely had no idea or interest in their son's academic ability." It seems to me that most people are indeed more interested in what others are doing (for all the wrong reasons) than in their own lot in life. Luckily it's most and not all, my friend being in the minority (thankfully). In any event, I'm not sure I get the level of hilarity his simple question sparked. And I don't think it was ever suggested that people had no "interest" in their sons' abilities, just lacked any kind of benchmark against other boys who might want to go to this school. Given many of the open day boys were only in Year 4, it's quite conceivable that many don't have a clue whether their sons would be on track for a school like Winchester.

Ozankoy Thu 01-Aug-13 10:51:45

Sorry, I posted too soon. I meant to go on to say the following:

But for the more intelligent bloggers to this site, the Moberley's / Toye's HouseMaster's answer to the disputed question about the academic standards looked for at the time of interview was, in essence, that the candidate had to be supported by his current prep school (as a baseline). If he was not, or it was obvious the parents were pushing the candidacy through, you likely wouldn't get any further. He said there was a high level of candour expected from the prep school heads - and not limited only to the child, but also some feedback on the parents. Assuming support from the prep school, the boy would be interviewed. It takes about an hour. The Housemaster gave no guidance on the sort of subject matter discussed, other than to say it would start with an area of known interest to the child (as a warm up). This Housemaster did not like fidgets and said he looked for the ability to concentrate and focus, which is quite a big ask for a 10 / 11 year old. There are a couple of computerised tests (reasoning / codes / that kind of thing) before the interview. I recall him saying they are out of 60 and are impossible to prepare for. He said the results of these tests are put into the mix, but are not definitive and that he'd admitted boys getting 50/60 and boys getting 20/60. Other merits (sporting or musical or other) also go into the mix and each Housemaster differs slightly in what he looks for, but all Housemasters looks for a mix / balance in the house. This one is keen on music, but added that you don't have to be Grade 8 to evidence musicality. You can play purely recreationally and have taken no exams. So there seemed to be no receipe for success, and a lot of flexibility in his approach to admissions.

This particular Housemaster, Patrick Herring, will be leaving his post at the end of 2016 and a new (yet to be announced) Housemaster will start from September 2017. Contrary to Bico's report, the INCOMING Housemaster will be conducting the interviews for 2017 entry and Patrick Herring will not take part in them.

Hope this helps.

bico Thu 01-Aug-13 10:55:06

Thanks for your reply. It confirms that I didn't report or hear your friend's question as there was no one standing anywhere near me when the question I referenced was asked.

The open day was for boys in years 3 and 4. According to ds most of the boys he spoke to in the house tour group were in year 3. He said he thought they were pretty immature and there was quite a lot of messing around as we went round the house.

I think year 4 is ridiculously early to be visiting senior schools let alone doing that in year 3. However after that visit we had a school meeting where our head said we had to submit a list of schools we were considering. I didn't do that as I think there is plenty of time to do that in the next academic year. Ds is one of the youngest in his year so the cut off point for some senior schools will be later for him than some of his older friends and enable us to leave some of the possible registrations until year 6.

happygardening Thu 01-Aug-13 11:47:11

"This Housemaster did not like fidgets and said he looked for the ability to concentrate and focus, which is quite a big ask for a 10 / 11 year old"
Is it? My DS's interview lasted a good two hours, no computer test (maybe things have changed) and when we picked him up I could quite clearly hear then laughing together, labelled a "conversation" rather than an interview I think they even looked around the house at one stage so I don't actually think done like this it is a "big ask" frankly.
In contrast the SPS one was very quick and my DS found put himself put right on the spot and challenged they required him to really think hard and show a high level of organised thought and an ability to express himself well.

bico Thu 01-Aug-13 11:51:55

Patrick Herring will be the house master I'd meet if I chose to take ds back for another look in year 5, hence my concern that we would not get to meet the house master before having to make a decision on which house to apply for. The strong emphasis on house masters and the admission process at WC makes it very important to choose the right house. From what I understand the house is heavily influenced by the personality of the house master. If we were to revisit I couldn't see the point of meeting a house master that would not actually be there when ds went up and wouldn't interview him for a place. That is the difficulty of a having to make a decision so many years ahead.

With regard to the hour long conversation he said that he was looking for boys who could keep his (PH's) interest for that length of time. Ds would do that easily and is very musical too but that still doesn't mean it is the right place for him.

One thing that I didn't like was the gratuitous and disparaging comment about the admission tests used by the 'school near Windsor underneath the flight path'. I didn't see the point of the remark. No one had mentioned Eton so I couldn't understand why he made the comment at all. It just made him appear to be smug in effectively saying that WC is better than Eton because their admission process is better than Eton (in his opinion). Imvho both are excellent schools and both no doubt have honed their admission process to ensure they admit the boys best suited for their school.

Ozankoy Thu 01-Aug-13 12:06:57

I remember him saying that too, but entirely in a tongue-in-cheek and obviously jocular manner. It was nothing more than friendly banter between two famous, leading, rival schools.

"Gratuitous and disparaging"? You seem to laugh at all the wrong things!

bico Thu 01-Aug-13 12:59:31

'banter'? I must have missed the bit where someone commented on the admissions process at Eton but maybe that bit was during the house tour. It did seem a bit of a random comment from him but it makes sense if there was already on-going banter during the tour. The only mention of other schools on our tour was when someone asked where one of the boys showing us round had been to school previously.

peteneras Thu 01-Aug-13 17:58:12

It is quite sad to see kiasu schools, housemasters and parents alike always having to look nervously behind their shoulders to see what that other School ‘under the flight path’ in Windsor is doing. More worrying still is the fact that a school like that of Win Coll’s stature have to make it a point annually to ridicule other schools in its bid to win business because ”it's not the first time speeches like this have been made to groups of parents” in their Open Day. Times must be pretty hard down in Hampshire because a confident school has no need to stoop to this base level.

It is also hilarious to see parents go all pear-shaped and defensive, not to mention the hypocrisy that’s cleverly veiled behind ‘helpful’ messages ‘wanting to help prospective parents choose a suitable school’, when their own school is being criticised . On the one hand, one has no qualms whatsoever in slating off an equivalent school’s cheap biscuits and then gets all hysterical when someone reported Win Coll’s stale-smelling dining room with underfed and malnourished boys. Actually more than one poster had said the same thing about the Win Coll food.

But of course, anyone who’d ever visited the School ‘under the flight path’ in Windsor will tell you all the ‘cheap biscuits’ stuff is written out of spite. For a start, the iconic Windsor school doesn’t do anything cheap. It’s simply not in their DNA! They don’t do plastic music stands and they don’t cramp 6 to 20 boys (or something like that) in a room. For a school which spends over £5 million annually on scholarships and bursaries alone, you can bet your mortgage (and all of your relatives’) they are not going to save and economise on . . . biscuit!!

And for an occasion like an Open Day, it’s more probable you’ll find a team of suitably attired professional external caterers manning the food tables at that Windsor school.

Likewise, when it was reported that pale and almost autistic-looking boys seemed to be the order of the day at Win Coll, we have #1 WC cheerleaders getting all worked-up and edgy and yet, would not bat an eyelid in telling us fibs about the equivalent school at Windsor putting out boys ?carefully chosen for their good looks? to meet parents on Open Day. Imagine, this supposedly to have been divulged to complete strangers coming to view the School by none other than the Head’s wife!

If you believe that, then you’ll believe anything. The hypocrisy in this entire thread is absolutely stunning!

peteneras Thu 01-Aug-13 18:03:12

As regards a better education and forking out £200,000 to a school widely publicised as very academic and nothing much else in return for just a handful of A*/A (I)GCSE’s and equivalent Pre-U grades, in my opinion, and nobody has to agree with me, that’s pouring good money down the drain because one could get all that for free in a state school.

For £200K I’d expect an education not only in the head but also in the body and soul i.e. a complete education of the individual. Yes, you get that in many good public schools elsewhere. Of course, everyone is entitled to choose and pay for a school they think is perfect for their child.

A quiet, non-competitive, nerdy introvert is not my idea of a man likely to achieve highly in today’s global world, I’m afraid. Not when you have hungry millions of ‘never-say-die’ ultra-competitive Chinese, Indians, Brazilians and the Third World etc. breathing down your neck!

britishsummer Thu 01-Aug-13 18:24:58

Peterenas, I've changed my mind, I now think your posts are wonderful. I am starting to comprehend your particular sense of humour.

Gunznroses Thu 01-Aug-13 19:21:34

Peteneras i'd like to buy you a drink smile

Ozankoy Thu 01-Aug-13 20:59:26

I don't think i'll join you in the pub. Peteneras sounds loopy to me. Paralysis by (over) analysis

britishsummer Thu 01-Aug-13 21:58:05

But that's the point of Peteneras' posts! I was slow on the uptake but he/she is obviously trying to make sure that we don't take all this school stuff too seriously.

Ozankoy Thu 01-Aug-13 22:39:15

Well if that's the right interpretation, we can agree. In any event, I'm looking for some serious sell-side activity from these schools. They are SO expensive, there's plenty of competition and our sons will be disadvantaged in UK university admissions processes by sending them to places such as WC (a position that's only going to get worse). As soon as I get a sniff that a school thinks it's doing me a favour, I forget about it (however prestigious). As far as I'm concerned, they are lucky to get my boy and they're going to have to justify having him. (He wants to board, I'd rather a day school - though my view applies equally to the Days too).

Ladybird65 Thu 01-Aug-13 23:32:28

Okay then ozan you can leave this thread about winchester College.

Ozankoy Thu 01-Aug-13 23:46:02

On the basis that....?

Gunznroses Thu 01-Aug-13 23:55:42

Ozankoy yes, go and lie down dear.

Ozankoy Fri 02-Aug-13 00:08:50

Don't you have anything useful to say?

britishsummer Fri 02-Aug-13 00:19:53

Not sure what you are expecting for university admissions ozan. It seems perfectly fair that children who achieve high grades in a poor learning environment should be given extra credit for that when applying to universities compared to those who have had a good education in the private / state sector.
For the most popular / 'best' day and boarding schools (however expensive) there seems anecdotally to be increasing demand from overseas and sufficient demand from the uk -although for how long who knows!? If you want some hard sale approach you should probably not look at these except possibly with an exceptional child.

Ozankoy Fri 02-Aug-13 00:31:18

Son of friend went through Colet and SPS and topped out for his A levels for his year. Pretty blemish free record there under. Good all-rounder too (music and sport). Wanted NatSci at Cantab. Got one interview and rejected. SPS intervened and the college were honest in saying it was a function of the pressure they were under to take more state school kids etc That's the sort of approach I fear.

I think foreign demand is certainly there. But they also seem to like the Britishness of such schools - that's the appeal (partic in a boarding context). So I'm not convinced we'll be overrun anytime soon.

Does anyone know which house has the universally unpopular housemaster that's been referred to in this thread a few times?

britishsummer Fri 02-Aug-13 00:56:38

If they liked him enough at interview they would have taken him, if there was an equally impressive candidate at interview from a more poorly performing state school that candidate would have had the edge, simple as that. Your friend's DS can look back on a fantastic privileged education and will have that for the longterm.

I did n't say anything about schools being overrun, just that impressive overseas candidates are also competing for demand of places in some of these schools.

Ladybird65 Fri 02-Aug-13 08:15:17

Because ozankoy this thread has, up to the point you rudely hijacked it with a base attack on bico, been a well thought out train of thought from (a) contributors who have not made up their minds whether to spend a great deal of money on educating ds's at WC or if not at WC, at another establishment of equal or similar standing;with (b) a great deal of information given by helpful and knowledgeable contributors who already are spending that money at one or another of the target schools. This latter group don't always agree but their (largely co-operative) debates have been illuminating for those of us who are still in doubt. You, ozan, clearly have made up your mind already. This is evident from the language you use. If you truely prefer a school at which there isn't a sniff of it doing you a favour (or whatever language you used) then Billaracy Comp should perhaps be the school of your choice. You, therefore are very unlikely to be able to contribute thoughtfully and considerately to any on going debate that is still possible on this thread.

Gunznroses Fri 02-Aug-13 10:53:36

Ozankoy you posted a sarcastic and rude reply I don't think i'll join you in the pub. Peteneras sounds loopy to me. Paralysis by (over) analysis to a post intended for Peterneras, (i thought his/her take on the discussion was well thought out and very well written). I replied in kind in that you best go and lie down.

peteneras Fri 02-Aug-13 12:08:07

Thank you britishsummer. Glad that you can see the funny side of education and especially the comedy in this thread.

Thank you also, Gunznroses, you’re too kind.

And the next round of Roséwine is on me!

[Hmm . . . didn’t realise your invitation extended beyond me . . .] confused

britishsummer Fri 02-Aug-13 14:49:32

You've certainly managed to inject some comedy into the thread. You deserve the drink (whatever type)

Ozankoy Fri 02-Aug-13 22:04:47

Ladybird Ladybird fly away.
Don't come back on another day.

peteneras Sat 03-Aug-13 15:32:34


peteneras Sat 03-Aug-13 15:49:26

Bursting into song . . . .

talking about sounding loopy . . . grin

peteneras Sat 03-Aug-13 20:38:13

Much have been said about the grotesque sub-standard food at Winchester College. It’s scandalous to hear comments from both prospective and present Win Coll parents alike saying things like, ” the food was terrible! if what they served parents is an indication of what they serve boys . . .”; “Judging from the awful smell in the dining room of the house we visited, I assume we were truly given a taste of what the meals are like...”; “Win Coll food is notorious . . .”; “dining room (which reeked of stale food)”; “I asked one boy what he did if he was hungry between meals. He said he never eats between meals”; “I'm not surprised so many looked pale and thin..”; and “while we were having 'lunch" on the lawn outside New Hall . . .” blush

Not much of a “lunch”, I know, but I hear your cry. Win Coll should be utterly ashamed of itself - what, with its boast of more than half a millennium boarding experience for boys? Parents who’d paid an arm and a leg to send their little darlings there have been massively short-changed!

C-mon Win Coll, precious little boys given to you in your care at a vital stage of their growth, a time when they morph from a giggling child to a (hopefully) young, strong and healthy adult, need the best nourishments under the sun to lay the foundation for such. The damage done to health due to malnourishment at this delicate stage of growth could be irreversible. As it stands, from what I’ve learnt, I wouldn?t send my dog to Win Coll.

Perhaps WC should glance behind its shoulders just once more to see what its nemesis under the Windsor flight path is doing for food and take a cue from there. Or rather, should I say, what they were doing for food in the last century (1993) - never mind today.

britishsummer Sun 04-Aug-13 20:43:13

Apologies for this random question (but this thread has become rather zany anyway so I am only following suit) and please ignore me Peteneras if you would rather not comment, but I am guessing from your syntax that you were not educated in Britain? Would also explain your ability to view with gentle humour private school establishments such as Winchester and Eton and all of us who seem to think so highly of them.

grovel Mon 05-Aug-13 16:24:14

Peteneras is a flamencologist whose soul is in Cadiz but whose body is in Scunthorpe. An Eton parent to boot.

britishsummer Mon 05-Aug-13 21:08:00

I know my question was a bit random Grovel but have pity on me, I have never been able to tackle cryptic crosswords and the image you have created is rather psychedelic! I always thought of Flamenco as being intense and soulful quite unlike Peteneras' humour which is rather Private Eye, even more so if an Eton parent as he/she is able to apply
satire to his/her son's school as well as to others.

OldBroom Wed 14-Aug-13 14:54:54

Nice to see that all the bashing seems to have stopped. It's probably obvious to point out that every school (state or private) has generated good and bad impressions. For Winchester, ours are all good.

On food: all I can say is that our son LOVES WinColl food, and having had many dinners myself in his hall, I can say that he's right. Sunday roasts, wonderful homemade crumbles, weekly BBQs on the Warden's Lawn in summer ... it all tastes homey, and he gets as much of it as he wants. Friday morning fry-ups are a treat. I could go on and on. In my son's house, food is not a problem.

As DS is an only child,sleeping in a dorm is what he always wanted. Pillow fights, seances, midnight feasts, running around after hours, hiding, and not getting caught by dons: it's straight out of a boy's own story, and again, he absolutely loves it. Being lonely is what he feared most (he'd never boarded before) and I know he would have cried himself to sleep in a single study-bedroom.

No posters on bedroom walls? Quite right. I agree with the housemaster, who bans them on grounds that the boys are there to concentrate on learning, not while away their time on frippery. Having said that, DS has a huge Ferrari poster in his toys.

Use of computers in first two years: Being a university academic, I see what comes out of all sorts of schools, and have to deal with students who think that serious research is done on the internet. It is not. What passes for knowledge on the web is mostly crap, and it's refreshing to find a school which acknowledges that, and teaches boys to read and write weekly essays by hand. I cannot speak highly enough of WinColl's practice of banning computers in lower years. However, blind eyes are turned on mobile phones, and if your son wants to talk to parents and grandparents, he can do that. To the bemusement of most new parents this year, we found that our sons had no time to phone or text us at all. They were too busy either studying, going to extracurricular activities, or playing British Bulldog in some weird WinColl version. Working and playing very hard, and having lots of fun.

Where do the boys kick a ball? My son does it on the Meads. I accept that there are many beautiful school grounds up and down the country, but come on .... you have to agree that the Meads, and the banks of the Itchen, and all that green territory behind the buildings, is absolutely gorgeous. Also, My DS is out on the sports field or skulling on the river in literally minutes. Few other schools are that close to their sports facilities (notably, Eton itself. The Olympic Lake is all very well, but it's distant from the school).

Where do the boys go to relax? My son goes to his chambers, where there are comfy chairs and, in winter, an open fire which burns all day long. The living room in matrron's house is another favourite place. This is where any boy can even go to sleep (she has beds waiting) should they want a quiet night. When DS is extra tired, he goes there and matron looks after him. She's absolutely wonderful.

Not much organised on SUndays: I agree with that one. After compulsory Chapel, the vast majority go home. We're too far away to do that regularly, but came down one Sunday to take DS out for lunch. He was tacitrun throughout, until we wormed it out of him that he'd planned to use the afternoon for music practice and work. At 13, that's pretty self-responsible. If your son will develop that way, this is the school for him.

We went to no open days, for Winchester or any other school. We did not register DS when he was 8. But, based on decades of academic experience in universities, we knew that WInchester produces wonderfully rounded, polite, genuinely modest and original-thinking boys. We just knew it was perfect for our son, who likes to think outside of the box, is not geeky, but sees through much of what passes for culture these days. The top Old Wykehamists of the last century are historians, philosophers, scientists, and LABOUR politicians. Therefore we chose Winchester, and never even thought of any other school. A Housemaster showed us round; DS was invited to live and study at WinColl for 3 days in the Autumn of the year of the entrance exam (that was the mechanism by which we were shown the School--which is pretty impressive), and the Headmaster never interviewed either us or the boy. That, of course, does not mean that he wasn't aware of what was going on. He just lets people get on with things. We didn't even catch sight of him until he gave his speech on the first day of school. We don't find him forbidding. He's just a typical academic. So, from the time of first thinking that DS should change schools, to having him accepted, was no more than 12 months. My point is that you don't need to get so het up years in advance. If it's the right place for your son, WinColl will make every effort to find him a place ... as long as he passes the exam, of course (Election, in our case). It's a fantastic place, and I don't have a bad word to say about it ... which does not adversely reflect on any other school either.

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