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Feeling overwhelmed regarding private/public schools (not a debate please)

(28 Posts)
DeepSeaLead Wed 21-Nov-12 09:29:54

Name changed as could be seen as boasting

DeepSeaLead Wed 21-Nov-12 09:39:08

Ok that's worked

We recently went to ds1s parents evening. He goes to a very good prep school on a hefty bursary as there's no way we could afford it otherwise. He would go to the local state primary if we hadn't got it. We were expecting him to move to the local state secondary at 13 as there's no way we can afford private.
Anyway we went to his parents evening and he's doing brilliantly. Several teachers said he was definitely scholar material (unless something dramatically changes) and they will discuss it more in the future as he's only 9 at the moment. They told us to start looking at schools, to go visiting and decide which ones we like so that we can then discuss which are appropriate for him to aim for a scholarship at.
But I have no idea. I went to state school and the system is new to me (I didn't even go to university). There's hundreds of schools and as most are boarding (only one close enough for day) we could technically look at any of them. So which ones should we be looking at and what should we be looking for. Pastoral care is important to us as ds is mildly AS and can struggle socially, though that has improved greatly with the structure at his school.
I am completely out of my depth. Can anyone give me any advice please

Apologies in advance for any typos

SourMilkGill Wed 21-Nov-12 09:49:59

Could you start by looking if ds has any particular strengths, or is he an all rounder. Different schools offer scholarships for different things.
Would you need a bursary as well as a scholarship? What level of scholarship is awarded - 100% 50% ? Do you fit the criteria for a bursary for the other % ?
Location - somewhere within an hour? Full boarders will need a round trip to collect them every short while for exeats and half terms. 1 hour away is a 2 hour round trip. Would you need time off work to do this?
Boys only / Coed?
Any religeous importance?
What sports interest him / does he hate? Whilst many offer many, some have a focus.

DeepSeaLead Wed 21-Nov-12 10:14:08

He's academic though fairly good all round. His strengths are probably the core subjects, maths, English and Science and his weakest is probably French though he's still top set. It would be an academic scholarship. Most seem to be subject specific (unlike music etc) so I presume would be going for an all round one. If he could pick it would be science (though his history teacher want to put him in for the Townsend- Warner prize)
He enjoys sports and is a willing participant but will never shine. They play hockey and rugby as well as tennis and swimming.

Depending on how much the scholarship was we will probably need a bursary too. In fact we'll probably need 90% altogether. Our income seems to be low enough that we would probably get one if they want him. We have three other children and I'm a sahm at the moment.
We're not bothered about whether its co ed or boys only and though I'm CofE ds claims he' doesn't believe anything and I respect that.

We're in the eastern counties

There seems to be quite a few not so good private schools and we don't want him to go private just for the sake of it. But how do we tell which are?

happygardening Wed 21-Nov-12 10:18:12

Three questions? Where do you live? Do you want boarding if so full or weekly? Finally where very importantly does your prep currently get scholarships into?
Having had DC's at boarding school for nearly nine years and moved around in that time unless you own a helicopter or list driving as your main hobby/passion and are sitting at home with nothing to do then 1 1/2 hours one way to a boarding school is the maximum you should consider this also applies to public transport. If you work long and as importantly inflexible hours (I do the former but not the latter) probably an hour or less is going to be easier.
Im a little surprised your head isn't suggesting places. The requirements for an academic scholarship vary from school to school so for example the requirements for a scholarship into Eton and Winchester are significantly higher than the requirements for a scholarship into say Stowe. So lots of bright children could could consider the latter but only the OMG bright into the two former. Scholarships are also not just about how bright your DS its also how much he is prepared to give up and commit to it especially at the top level and the competition for these scholarships is becoming increasingly fierce because more and more children are coming from abroad.

happygardening Wed 21-Nov-12 10:28:01

Not sure how east is east but you could consider Oakham? Oundle? Rugby? Uppingham? Harrow? Stowe?
Id be asking your head for some advise otherwise you will be trotting round lots and getting increasingly confused.
"He's academic though fairly good all round" he going to have to be brilliant at everything to get a scholarship at 13 into a super selective.
My last piece advise re boarding if you want full boarding make sure the vast majority are in the same position ditto weekly boarding. I would never consider a school where the boarders are in the minority.

LIZS Wed 21-Nov-12 10:32:45

Ask the Head of Prep to give you a steer on which may suit your needs, in terms of your ds' academic profile and personality and your financial situation. Is he fundamentally suited to boarding? Could you move if needs be?

Academic Scholarships tend to be across the board but some award on their own 13+ entrance exam results(usually just English, Maths and VR/NVR) others on Common Entrance results or he'd sit Common Academic Scholarship or school specific Scholarship papers instead . Each school will differ so again the Head should advise on timescales and processes. You'll need to decide fairly soon whether to register him for any schools which pretest as they take place during Year 6 with an offer of a place for Year 9 subject to CE.

Has he seen an Ed Psych at all as if so the report may give you a picture of what criteria to look for and questions to ask. Sunday Times published its League Tables last weekend if that is any help as a place to start looking at academic and well reputed schools.

DeepSeaLead Wed 21-Nov-12 11:01:34

We're in norfolk
You'll probably manage to establish where he is so I'm glad I went incognito though I suspect any other parents at his school would recognise me from this

Last year over 30% of their leavers got scholarship. Recently they've been to places like Greshams, Oundle, Tudor Hall and Langley.

I'm probably underplaying him. His teachers think he's great (hence enterif foe the history prize) but he is only 9, which is why they told us to start looking in preparation of talks with the head. It is a very good prep (oxford group etc) and if they think he's got it in him then I trust their judgement. We are very supportive of him but have to take guidance as though I think he's wonderful they have the ability to compare against others. I currently have post it notes everywhere as he's teaching himself things.

I think he would be happy boarding. It is hard to tell as there's a big gap between 9 and 13.

He hasn't seen an ed psych since he was assessed (privately) for HFA/AS we took it no further.

We wouldn't move. We moved for the prep and his siblings are settled

I wouldn't like him to always be the poor relation

Thanks Hg ill have a look at those on paper to start.

Sorry it's bitty I'm trying answer as I see things but I'm on my phone.

DeepSeaLead Wed 21-Nov-12 11:02:16

*entering the history

happygardening Wed 21-Nov-12 11:38:21

If hr has mild AS then you need to be very careful about the school you choose. Most boarding schools may grand claims about their pastoral care but in your DS's case I suspect you are going o have to look into this very carefully.
Boys can be unkind not always deliberately they don't always know when they've taken it too far and of course some do and are genuinely not very nice people. Boys tease each other push and shove roll on each other etc and can be quick to pick up on weaknesses and exploit these. IME boys with AS or similar in boarding schools can sometimes come off badly. I suspect he might be better off at a smaller school (both Oundle and Oakham are big). Secondly how does he cope with academic pressure? You can be very bright but not be happy being pushed really hard, super selective with fab results achieve this by selecting the brightest and pushing them hard and making sure their high expectations are being met. Just as some people thrive in places where they are constantly making life and death decisions other hate it this also apples to to schools some love this pressure others crumble being bright doesn't IME mean that you will necessarily love a pressurised environment. Secondly most of he schools mentioned above will expect your DS to participate in a sport likely a team sport rugby, football, cricket for at least the first three years if not more 3-5 afternoons a week literally come hell or high water. Again in my experience lots of children with AS find this difficult they often in the D's or even E's but still expected to play a match every week many absolutely hate it. Do either you or your head know of other boys with AS at other boarding schools in your area who can advise you on how they are getting on?

LadyMaryChristmas Wed 21-Nov-12 11:55:34

Be careful with the scholarships. Usually they are a % off the fees, and can be topped up with a means tested bursary. HappyGardening is also right about SN, a lot of schools only want children who 'perform' (for want of a better word) and don't cause them problems. My son's incredibly bright but has boarderline aspergers. The poor boy's been to 6 schools as each has either denied that there's anything wrong or have said he's odd/weird and have tried to bully the traits out of him. sad

DeepSeaLead Wed 21-Nov-12 12:04:35

Ds loves doing the sport. He's not going to the next Brian Moore but he likes a good ruck and plays enthusiastically. It's good for him in so many ways

He also loves to be pushed. One of the reasons we moved him was because he state school couldn't understand his behaviour was linked to boredom and just labelled him as a naughty little boy. Since moving to prep where they have some expectations of him he's thrived and relishes everything they throw at him.

His traits are barely noticeable now, partly as he's matured but also because he's got structure. He was never formally diagnosed and he would have been borderline anyway. It's not a great worry but I do know some schools don't have great pastoral care and I do think its important. I do agree though, my instinct is not to go for a huge school

How do you tell though? They may say one thing but how do you judge the reality?

I think I need to go away and do some pondering. Maybe make a list with all possibilities by area then start ruling them out so there's just a few left. Then mug the ht for some of his time.

Thank you

DeepSeaLead Wed 21-Nov-12 12:07:46

Sorry just saw your post ladymary

I know that scholarships are generally quite small these days but from what I can see if you get a scholarship you're more likely to be able to get the top up bursary. This is what our ds2 has done at the prep. He was turned down for a bursary, then got a scholarship so we applied again and he got a bursary.

I hadn't considered any of this when I had my babies. Was expecting state schools all the way. It's a whole different world

DeepSeaLead Wed 21-Nov-12 12:08:16

Is your son happy at school now?

LadyMaryChristmas Wed 21-Nov-12 12:17:35

Not really, Deep. He gets on a lot better with the teachers but struggles to make friends (probably because he thinks that they are all immature!), although he does have a few. At least the teachers are not bullying him now, and academically he's doing very well.

happygardening Wed 21-Nov-12 12:20:15

I'm right out of your area if we apply the 1 1/2 drive rule the only school I would genuinely recommend is out of your area. Stand on the side of the rugby pitch and talk to mums with older children and preferably those with children at senior school IME most mums love to share they experiences and also gossip about other schools.
If I was looking I would then go and see the schools find out how involved the medical centre is. At schools with high standards of pastoral care the medical centre may be involved with children identified as requiring a little extra help/support. The medical centre should be a place a child can go too to step out of school and get support which is confidential and the nurses are acting as the child advocate. A resident matron I think is essential for you DS not all schools have them and talk to the learning support dept ask questions exactly how many children have they had recently with your DS's profile how did they get on which boarding house house were they in do any of the learning support staff have links with the houses. I think I would also want to know the staff ratios on boarding houses (this is where a lot of unkindness takes place). Meet housemasters can you choose a house, how big are the dorms, do they have fixed time for prep, where do they do prep in their room is it supervised. Look for house master whose interests are the same as your DS someone who you and he feel you can relate too.

DeepSeaLead Wed 21-Nov-12 12:22:57

Thank you HG
That's all very helpful

I'm glad it easier for him Mary I hope it continues to improve

happygardening Wed 21-Nov-12 12:26:44

"struggles to make friends" Im a great advocate of boarding but i would be very very careful in your situation. Having few friends at boarding school makes you very lonely. There are likely to be no more than 12 others in his year/house although children obviously mix with other year groups when in lessons etc at the end of the day they go back to that house and those 11 others this is where most of their friends will be. Can you not find a day school? Many provide buses etc covering quite a distance.

LadyMaryChristmas Wed 21-Nov-12 12:27:55

The paediatrician seems to think that he'll become happier as he gets older, there's less of a gap between him and adults if you see where she's coming from. Happygardening has given you some great advice. Most schools have a personal tutor system and your child will have the same tutor throughout, someone he can go to if he needs to. Ds's headmaster did say that the brighter the child, the more issues they come with, so looking for somewhere academically selective is probably a good plan as the staff would have knowledge of the additional needs of a bright child.

happygardening Wed 21-Nov-12 12:30:25

Sorry OP didn't notice that it wasn't you who said "struggles to make friends!!

LadyMaryChristmas Wed 21-Nov-12 12:30:47

Mine doesn't board, happy. smile

happygardening Wed 21-Nov-12 12:37:06

Most schools have a personal tutor system and your child will have the same tutor throughout, someone he can go to if he needs to.
Check this too all have tutors but some change them every year!! Is there a sport your DS really likes do make sure they play it! No rugby at my DS's school one mum was saying how upset her DS was about this but if you read the website rugby is not mentioned!! Also if it says the school is only full boarding (these are few and far between) then they are are unlikely to let you take your DS home every weekend even if its not working out. If it matters ask before you sit the exams stump up the deposit and sign on the dotted line.

happygardening Wed 21-Nov-12 12:49:09

Meant to also say as far as Im aware and according to the nice mum at DS's old prep with a DS at Oundle no exeats. This may be an issue for a AS child.

happygardening Wed 21-Nov-12 12:52:50

Just skimmed Oundles website they do have exeats (leaving me wondering where afore mentioned child goes!) but definitely not as many as others.

Lonecatwithkitten Wed 21-Nov-12 15:08:10

I no longer live in East Anglia however, have had family members go to nearly every school you mentioned OP. The schools are very different.
It only costs you the petrol to visit all the schools and you are not commiting in any way at all by visiting the schools.
I have to say in my Family, Greshams has tended to suit the quirkier individuals not just recently, but over an extended period of about 70 years.

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