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Bruern Abbey

(52 Posts)
Colleger Tue 12-Jul-11 16:24:58

Does anyone have a child or has had a child here? How is it viewed by the top academic senior schools, would they automatically refuse a child a place because they went there even if they were very able and had other strengths?

I'd also be keen to kno how very bright children with some difficulties do and how is music viewed within the school.

Colleger Wed 13-Jul-11 12:13:04


ECLEO Wed 16-Nov-11 17:18:03

Hello, did you find out any more about Bruern Abbey School? Are there any parents out there with experience of the school? Pleased? Displeased? Would be grateful for any views.

goinggetstough Thu 17-Nov-11 07:45:52

Bruern Abbey was in the news a few years ago (2007) when Ruth Kelly the Labour government minister decided to send her dyslexic son there. I would assume it therefore had a good standard as she was prepared to put her neck on the line so to speak to get her son the help he required.

It is a school for dyslexic and dyspraxic children that has specialist classes according to its CReSTeD accreditation. As to whether top academic schools would recruit from Bruern would depend on whether these boys can cope and achieve with level of support the senior school can give after they leave Bruern. This would depend on the individual boy and how much the parents was prepared to pay to get this support if their son needed more support than the usual SEN child at the senior school. It seems to send to a variety of schools including top academic schools. Why not ask Bruern for the list of destinations of their leavers from last year, so you can actually see recent number against names of schools rather than the blanket term many use of in "the last few years we have sent our leavers to...."

ILoveChocolatePudding Thu 17-Nov-11 23:11:59

My DC is a current pupil. Very pleased with the school. Would be happy to discuss.

horsemadmom Sat 19-Nov-11 17:10:37

Know a child about to do CE there. Lots of offers from top schools.

ILoveChocolatePudding Sat 19-Nov-11 18:06:07

Can confirm horsemadmom, being a pupil at BA is not a barrier to offers from top schools. Would comment that so far that my own experience is that top schools know what the school's purpose is, some have or have had pupils from BA so there are no surprises.

bobbybell Mon 16-Jan-12 20:02:45

Dear ILoveChocolatePudding (so do I by the way!)

We are thinking of sending DC to Bruern. Had a rough time at prep school and got final diagnosis of dyspraxia. Am nervous at re-entering independent system again but think BA would be ok.

Any words of advice would be most welcome. What is BA like as a school/culture.


ILoveChocolatePudding Thu 19-Jan-12 15:26:47

Well, when you enter the school grounds the sign greeting you refers to "Free range children".

Bruern is a lovely if slightly unusual small school. Many of boys have had a poor time at their prior school (I include my own child in this) and the one thing I have learnt since my son joined is that until you improve self esteem, it is very difficult to learn, no matter how bright you are. Bruern does this and the change can be quite marked, very quickly. Also, as the majority of boys have a learning difficulty of varying degrees, the environment somehow manages to normalise things, so not being able to spell, catch a ball or read poorly does not single a child out in the way that a mainstream school might. That said, the focus is on the boys passing Common Entrance at the end of senior school and returning to mainstream education.

The school is split into two, the juniors for 8 - 11 years and senior school 11-13 (14 in some cases). The main house contains the dorms, the library and a separate building the classrooms. There is a small pool, tennis courts, cricket nets and rugby. The boys play in the grounds and can take their bicylces to ride around. There are also woods, where they build dens, climb trees and do boy stuff. Activities on offer range from shooting, polo, judo, tennis, reading club, the list goes on.

With both occupational therapist and speech and language therapist on staff, these provisions brings Bruern into its own.

Social skills and food are very important and a key event at school is the twice weekly candle lit dinners (I kid you not). Parents are invited to the dinners and it is very well attended. John the chef and his team work very hard to provide good quality home cooked meals and the boys even have Fish Club to try seafood.

In the junior school, classes are small and teaching very personal. By the senior school, it is more akin to a regular prep school as the boys are following the 2 year Common Entrance course. Parents are provided with regular feedback with report cards at 3-weekly intervals and two formal reports per year. No form tutor, but each child has a tutor. Staff are approachable and very caring of their charges and want each child to do well.

I would strongly recommend that you visit the school as only you know your child. I am sure that the head will give you an opportunity to talk to some of the boys and possibly be shown around by them. Let me know how you get on.

GaribaldiGirl Tue 19-Jun-12 21:02:49

ilovechocolatepudding - that's it, i'm making an appointment to look round. i have 2 dyspraxic sons at a very traditional sporty pre school and need to look at alternative. very interested to read your comments. does you son board? bit worried about the boarding idea.

ILoveChocolatePudding Thu 21-Jun-12 07:57:44

My DC is a weekly boarder and I would guess 85 - 90% of boys are. He has so enjoyed boarding that he has requested a senior boarding school.

Boarding. Tbh, the biggest challenges are to you as parents being comfortable with the idea of boarding. Neither my DH or myself boardered except at university and when you tell people your DC boards you do get varying responses. I have even been accused of not liking my child. What I can say is that Bruern has been an absolute tonic for my DC. I can't promise that it will work for your boys, but the choices for children requiring extra support are more limited.

I would comment that Bruern does not have all the bells and whistles of larger and better known preps particularly in the Oxfordshire area, but as a school of about 90 pupils on the roll, it offers a sea of calm and support not readily available elsewhere. More important, being dyslexic or dyspraxic is not seen as an impediment to learning. Support is given as needed, but expectations are still for each boy to do as well as they possibly can. Reports cards are the achivement and effort scoring, so its about the child's cognitive ability not their peers. Like all schools, there are ups and downs but overall we are very happy with our choice.

Do have a look and if you like it apply as soon as you can. For a school which is off the radar, Bruern does receive a lot of applications.

ECLEO Mon 03-Sep-12 22:19:34

Hello - picking the thread up a bit late but I am v interested in all the above comments. My DS spent a night there last year and was offered a place and we were v close to sending him. The only thing that pulled us back was his observation that some of the boys were quite rowdy and he was even told "don't come here, I hate it!" The comment was probably a boy showing off and being silly so we discounted it but the rowdiness got us thinking. Our DS is quite small for his age and not that tough so we wondered whether he was observing behaviour problems (though the school claims not to have these) or whether because he's at a mixed school he's just not used to the rough and tumble of an all-boy environment? How do they safeguard against bullying?
Also do you know of any boys who have started halfway through the academic year? How did they fit in?
Finding the decision what to do with DS's schooling very stressful so any thoughts much appreciated.

ILoveChocolatePudding Sat 08-Sep-12 02:22:52


As in all schools there is a mix of boys, some very confident, others very quite. The point of Bruern is that having difficulties is not a reason for not succeeding. All I could suggest is the question, are your DS needs being met in their current setting and what are your expectations going forward?

Meeting the educational needs of children with additional needs is never going to be easy and the choices out there are some what limited? The sign as you enter Bruern does say "free range children" but the context to this is that they don't leave the grounds and really it is about playing in the way many of us did as children.

Finally, I would comment that as you appear to have gone through the whole entry process and then decided against it that in your heart you may not feel that it is the right option for your DS. Sometimes, gut feel is all that we have to guide us. My own experience is that the younger they are when they join the better so that they "find" themselves before the last two years of Common Entrance preparation. Each child does find their niche and own friends. Being quite is just a "good" as being rowdy.

ECLEO Mon 10-Sep-12 15:00:44

Dear ILoveChocolatePudding (don't we all?!)

Thanks very much for your reply.
What you say is all very helpful. I think it may be the boarding thing holding me back. DS is 10 years old and a young 10 year old at that. He's not keen on the idea (and v reluctant to leave his current network of friends) but in every other respect the school would undoubtedly give him the boost he so needs. We need to revisit it i think.
Ah, decisions, decisions!

GaribaldiGirl Thu 13-Sep-12 23:12:43

Got my appointment to view next week. A friend of mine with a dyslexic son has just sent him there and is very happy. Am expecting to love it. But my eldest son is a quiet home-loving boy so the boarding would be a worry.....

GaribaldiGirl Sat 22-Sep-12 18:58:59

went to see bruern abbey and absolutely loved it. it really feels like an oasis of calm and happiness compared to the rugby focused super competitive environment my sons are in at the moment. it feels homely and nurturing but the boys were all charging about on bikes and just being boys. anyone else got any experience?
Husband going in a few weeks, since he was unable to go at the same time as me. my boys would have to board a couple of nights, which will be hard (for me).

Alfieandzoesmum Mon 24-Sep-12 14:47:00

We have just been to see an ed psych who has recommended this school to us. My son is only 5 (and emotionally immature) and the thought of him boarding from the age of 7 is unthinkable to me. How do you cope with this? I havent been to see the school yet. Is there anyway he could be a day boy or would he feel left out???

ILoveChocolatePudding Mon 24-Sep-12 17:31:30

GaribaldiGirl, glad to hear that you liked the school. Do say what your husband thinks.

Alfieandzoesmum, to the best of my knowledge Bruern does not take boys as young as your DC. Think they start at 8. There is a variety of formats available, day, flexi and weekly boarding although in fee terms there is not as much difference as you might expect. The school has a new head and day boys are now allocated a "bed" so are fully included in school life.

Boys do cope. Of course you get children that are home sick, that is only natural. Most settledown in time. My own observations are that the boys experience in their current setting seems to be a good indicator of how they take to boarding. By that I mean, if they are very happy in their current school, a change to any new school whether boarding or not, is going to be a hard sell. However, if the child is having a poor experience which their additional need seems to make more difficult, it is not such a hard sell on changing school and/or how they attend. If that makes sense.

The point is that the range of choices for children with additional needs are limited and sometimes whilst the idea of boarding seems far fetched especially if as parents you did not do it, don't dismiss. Keep an open mind. Sorry if that sounds preaching, not my intent.

GaribaldiGirl Wed 26-Sep-12 21:58:27

ILoveChocolatePudding - if you don't mind me asking - was your son dyslexic or dyspraxic? and at what age did he move?

i loved it. the disadvantage for us is that our sons will lose touch with their local schoolfriends and the boarding (think that's more my problem than theirs). also my eldest son is not good with change, am sure he'll find the move stressful.

but if my husband likes it next week i'm swaying in the BA direction....

ILoveChocolatePudding Thu 27-Sep-12 10:25:43


Great to hear from you. DS is neither dyslexic or dyspraxic (has other learning difficulties) but it is recommended that he is taught in a multi-sensory environment. My son also does not take to change, however he has adapted well to BA.

On the local friend front, he will lose touch although his eventual move to senior school would in all probability do that anyway. Also, normal family life is squeezed into weekends, I am not sure that they will notice. However, if there are local clubs that they attend at weekends, they will still have the opportunity to see old friends. I suppose the question I would ask, is how important are childhood friendships compare to the positives to be gained at BA. That might seem harsh, but by your late teens, how many friends from primary/prep days did you retain. I would guess not many.

My son started BA aged 10 although I wished he had started at 9 as BA comes into its own during the period of junior school. Then classes can be as small as 5 and the boys are really drilled in English and maths and this is something which is not readily available at other schools (I guess it is also the reason the fees are quite high).

BA is without doubt a very quirky school and not everyone will take to it. That said, the boys have a freedom to roam and behave in a "boy" like way which is not possible in their home environments. The biggest plus point is that for however long they are there, they are with other with difficulties and this normalises things. Boys openly ask each other what they have as though it is a badge of honour which is quite refreshing. The uniform is annoying, you try finding brown school shoes, but if you can put aside the oddities of the school and focus on the benefits for your DC then it is worth considering. Not everything is perfect and I have had my issues with it, but if I look at the educational choices that my own DC now has, they are very different from what they were. DC has a confidence about him which was never there before BA and friends and family do comment on the positive effects.

For my husband and I, boarding was an alien concept however now that I have seen the positive (and negatives), I do wish we had done it earlier. It is hard as a mother to see your children away but I have not regretted the decision.

I realise that ECLEO did ask the question about bullying. If the issue arises, as a parent you can contact the head who will investigate. The boys can go to their tutor, head, housemaster and matron to raise any issues they have. Being a small school, staff are more accessible than might be the case in a larger establishment. They do take the issues and concerns of parents seriously.

ECLEO Thu 27-Sep-12 11:32:03

dear ILoveChocolatePudding
All your comments have been most helpful. Thank you!

I am now wondering whether we made the right decision and we should have started DS this sept rather than waiting a year until he's 11 and into the senior school. Argh. Guilt - it's a daily feeling in my house!

But on to more nitty gritty teaching side of things - is your son on a laptop? does this work well? how multisensory are the classes? how big are the classes in the senior school? what do you think of the teaching generally? I imagine they "get" the whole multisensory side of things and how best to support boys with verbal short term memory and working memory problems etc.

I think how I'm starting to look at things is that whatever gives DS the best chance to fulfil his potential and not feel frustrated about himself is the way forward. he might have lovely friends at his current school but if he feels bad that he can't keep up (and so much of his day is taken up with school work) then we need to change that. and as you say, how many of these friends will he keep up with anyway once at senior school?

one other thing, do they get homework at the weekend or do they get to leave all "work" at school? would be a major plus point if they did..

so many questions....

thanks for any insights. much appreciated!

ECLEO Thu 27-Sep-12 11:40:15

p.s. ILoveChocolatePudding - what stage is your son at now? has he got long to go before the dreaded CE? how do they help the boys deal with the pressure of that?

ILoveChocolatePudding Thu 27-Sep-12 13:26:57

Hi Ecleo,

I will try and answers your questions. Firstly, don't do guilty. There is no right or wrong answer but what feels right for your DC.

STARTING AGE - Junior vs Senior School
When my DC joined, the term often used was being Bruerned and it takes about a year.

My observations are that the junior school time just gives them the opportunity to catch up, "discover" themselves, realise that having learning difficulty is not unusual and demonstrate their abiities/talents. Once they start the hamster wheel of CE, BA like all prep schools needs to cover the CE curriculm so there is less time, if that makes sense.

Also there is the issue of senior school choices. There is every likelihood that you won't discover your DC abilities until end of their first year and you may start viewing senior schools in the first year of senior's so there is less time. Some senior schools want registration 2 or even 3 years out, I would just caution that their performance in their current school may not be indicative of their true ability. It is my opinion that the educational choices for children with additional needs is not simple and a lot of time and effort needs to be spent to find a suitable choice or choices. Finding BA is a challenge in itself and then what to do after that is a whole saga.

It was the case when my son started that you had to provide them with a laptop. Every boy has weekly typing lessons throughout the school and some papers of the CE exam are produced by the boys on laptops - RS, history and English I think. This is also the case for intenal exams.

As I touch type, I had my son learn before he started at BA. It is not necessary, but if DS is not starting until next year, I would say it is worth considering. I used a programme called English Type, which I found the most comprehensive. Son now types in excess of 40 words per minute, which is respectable.

I think about 8, 9 or 10 but cannot be 100% on that.

My DS does seem more engaged than at previous school though that is not true of every subject. Latin has been introduced and this seems to have gone down well with the boys. It is difficult to comment on the quality of the teaching. I do believe that a child left last year after scoring an average of about 90-95% in each of the 7 CE subjects, so guess they must be doing something right.

I cannot answer this but would comment that many of teachers hold dyslexia diplomas/qualifications and attend courses at Helen Arkell Dyslexia Centre.

They get 40 minutes of homework at the weekends. Single subject, typically maths or English. Prep is timetabled during the school day when they are expected to complete any homework then. As the school day is long, it finishes at 6.15pm for both boarders and day boys, it is not carried over into their own time. So you can have family time over the weekends.

I am not trying to minimise the importance of friendships, but as DS gets older and is "left behind" this can open up a whole can of worms and child feels increasingly isolated. My experience is that low self esteem hinders learning no matter how bright they are.

My DS will do CE June 2013 so not long. Knowing my son, he is oblivious to the pressure, just how he is. It will be interesting to see how or if he changes over the next year.

My take on pressure is that it relates to the choice of senior school. If DC is down for very academic, eg Winchester then they may well be aware of what is expected of them. Other schools may not require such high scores. I guess a conditional offer by a senior school will be made following reference from head, so would say that an offer would be made only if all feel child can achieve requirement. Could be wrong, but would not make sense to offer if no possibility of child reachng required score.

Hope that helps, but let me know if you want to know anything else.

ECLEO Sun 30-Sep-12 12:26:50

Dear ILoveChocolatePudding
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer. It's all really helpful. Back to Bruern in December so we shall see...

ECLEO Thu 04-Oct-12 23:07:32

sorry, one other question! DS is at a fairly down-to-earth private school with quite unspoilt and level-headed children (despite being in london!) and so I was wondering what the mix of boys was like at bruern? thanks

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