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So Eton, everything I expected and more

(965 Posts)
JoanBias Fri 02-Nov-12 16:03:27

My DS is at a private school, so I have experience of private schooling, but my word Eton was like another world.

Not just the school, but the people there.

There was one prep school being shown around, all in tweed jackets, and to a boy the spitting image of Draco Malfoy (well there was one Chinese boy, but otherwise....).

One of the mothers doing the tour was not quite right in some respect, I'm not sure how but something wasn't wired up correctly or something. She was immacuately dressed, 6-inch heels (pretty daft considering the confirmation letter warns about having a long walk), but she was just bizarre. The admissions tutor said 'we have a waiting list of 80 boys and typically 35% of these will make it through', and she asked afterwards 'so 80% of the boys from the waiting list make it through?', and it was then explained again, but you could kind of hear the cogs going round and she clearly didn't get it. She had asked several other similar questions; e.g., it was explained that some Houses are catering and others go to a central cafeteria, so she then asked 'so they all eat in the cafeteria'? She pointed at the Fives Court and asked me 'what do they play here?' I said 'Fives' 'Is it squash?', she said. 'No, Eton Fives.' 'So is it squash?' It seemed as if this woman had had the benefit of the 'Finishing School for the Terminally Dim', because she was otherwise every inch the presentable upper middle-class wife.

Another family had a son who looked the prototypical pre-Etonian, and sure enough Daddy spent the tour braying on about his House when he had been there.

The facilities were extremely impressive, although they didn't bother to show us any of the academic parts, and basically the impression was 'if your son is incredibly pushy and self-motivated, send him here and we will teach him to be entitled'. They said 'every year we reject about a third of the highest performers on the test', essentially because they aren't pushy enough. (The House Mistresses seemed quite nice though.)

Fantastic training for future managing directors and whatever, but not for us.....

Well worth it to sign up for a tour, very illuminating. They take about 100 a day from what I can see, so obligation at all....

Blu Fri 02-Nov-12 16:15:19

Wow - they should have a visitors blog, so that we could read other people's impressions of you!
Do you have to pay to go on a tour? Sounds like a good day out. Private schools near me charge for open Days.

Or are you the marketing manager for a rival school?

agh, no, this is a state v private thread, isn't it? Doh!

happygardening Fri 02-Nov-12 16:20:48

'every year we reject about a third of the highest performers on the test',
They don't take these because there is no room for loose canons at Eton I would have thought you'd have picked that up from the tour!
It was when the heads wife told us in all seriousness that the boys we were about to meet at the tea and biscuits bit had been carefully chosen for their good looks that I knew we were looking at the wrong school,

quirrelquarrel Fri 02-Nov-12 16:22:08

Could have saved yourself the trouble of going and just kicked back and watched this.

Makes me laugh every time.

Colleger Fri 02-Nov-12 17:57:42

I'm glad you've discovered the real Eton after one tour. My son is there and I still don't know it!

Pointless post! hmm

dapplegrey Fri 02-Nov-12 18:12:53

Did you go on the tour just so you could sneer about it on mumsnet?

happygardening Fri 02-Nov-12 18:27:04

I doubt there are any schools out there that you can get to really know in a couple of hours. Most of these rapid guided tours are probably a complete waste of time your only looking at facilities dorms etc you might if your really perceptive get a general feel but not much more than that.

IndridCold Fri 02-Nov-12 18:34:06

You disliked a school because you went on the same tour as Mrs Nice-but-Dim??

Is that your point, because if not I'm not sure what is.

ScarahScreams Fri 02-Nov-12 18:38:27

So the woman in the heels was asking questions to learn more about the school stoopid fool! , but you knew it all didn't you? hmm

Coconutty Fri 02-Nov-12 18:39:29

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

bigmouthstrikesagain Fri 02-Nov-12 18:39:44

Sneering about Eton, no problem - though inverted snobbery about one private school when you send your children to another private school? Not sure about that really.

But the sneering over a dim woman, in heels shock, right on sister.

JoanBias Fri 02-Nov-12 18:58:59

happygardening, we met one of these pretty boys though we didn't know we were going to. Basically I was standing in the tea and biscuits hall gawping as the Draco Malfoys laid waste to the biscuit pile, feeling slightly out-of-place (I make a point of not dressing up for open days), and wondering where all these people come from, and I was approached by a person in a wooly jumper who asked 'So did you have any questions about life at Eton?'

I'm not accustomed to people approaching me at open days and asking me things, and wasn't told to expected it, so I was a bit thrown by this and said 'er, no I don't think so'.

V. pretty though.

We spoke to the Admissions Tutor after that, a man with a shock of professorial hair and a bow tie, and asked what he meant by rejecting the top scorers on the test and what was expected, and whether they wanted depth or breadth and he said 'well if a boy had a grade 6 in violin we'd accept that, but if he had a grade 3 in violin and a grade 3 in piano we'd take that too'.

The whole thing was a little bizarre to be honest. We had heard they had special needs this and modern that, and then we did this tour with dozens of others, including, bizarrely, girls, and it was all about how wonderful that you could be building submarines and inviting Michael Heseltine to tea, and then the presentation at the end was basically 'if you're not captain of the rugby team/a leading light in the local amdram/whatever/don't waste your time'. The housemistress said that she did one tour per week, and I had to wonder why they invite so many thousands of gawpers round only to tell them that if they are not already burnishing the extra-curricular section on their UCAS at the age of 10 then forget it.

I didn't have an issue with the House Captains board saying '2008: Lord Derby' or whatever below the '2007: JA Smith' etc., nor particularly with the odd people on the tour, it's just that there is this sort of Eton stereotype and I had read 'oh no it's not like that, it's a marvellous modern school', which was more than a little misleading.

JoanBias Fri 02-Nov-12 19:09:28

There was quite a bit more re the pushiness, e.g., the Admissions Tutor in his talk about the waiting list said that some of the boys on the waiting list would email him with their test results from school on a regular basis, and when he visited prep schools they would make a point of having the waiting list boys show him round.

seeker Fri 02-Nov-12 19:13:16


exoticfruits Fri 02-Nov-12 19:14:54

I went on a tour-not as a prospective parent but on a public tour in the summer holiday. I was very impressed. The woman who did the tour was very down to earth and dressed very casually -no fashion style at all-she had had 3 DSs there and one DS was now a teacher.
They might have some pushy parents being shown around, but they will probably be weeded out.

dapplegrey Fri 02-Nov-12 19:20:20

The school is oversubscribed. What are they supposed to tell the 'gawpers'?
"yes of course your boy will get a place" and then inform them that no such place exists?

JoanBias Fri 02-Nov-12 19:26:22

The school is less oversubscribed than other schools, both state and private.

They however seem to encourage gawping in the form of a daily parade of tours, which seems a bit odd/disruptive.

exoticfruits, the tour woman did seem down-to-earth and casually dressed. The admissions tutor wasn't though.

Didn't get the impression that they wanted to weed out pushy parents, quite the reverse.

exoticfruits Fri 02-Nov-12 19:33:17

I can't really say-as someone on a tour ,who wasn't looking to get my DC a place, I was very impressed.

exoticfruits Fri 02-Nov-12 19:33:50

Had I been there as a prospective parent I may well have had a different view.

JoanBias Fri 02-Nov-12 19:51:39

oh and yes, very impressive. Just not my cup of tea.

Puppypanic Fri 02-Nov-12 20:12:39

Your point being what exactly hmm?

happygardening Fri 02-Nov-12 20:19:03

OP on the positive side at least you've made a definite decison; thanks but no thanks and you'll just have to keep looking.

Colleger Fri 02-Nov-12 20:29:26

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

kilmuir Fri 02-Nov-12 20:31:02

how odd

difficultpickle Fri 02-Nov-12 20:39:11

If you are on the waiting list and you know they don't offer places off the waiting list in strict rotation why wouldn't you be doing all you could to get a confirmed place? After all you have done the same as everyone who got a confirmed place but at the time the places were confirmed you weren't quite good enough/what they wanted. If you can show the improvement/change then it makes perfect sense to meconfused

Maybe I'm a pushy parent and I just haven't realised it?

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