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Winchester for girls?

(72 Posts)
SchtenGraby Tue 27-Nov-12 16:09:32

My daughter is wilful, clever, arty, sporty (more in the 'tries hard, but enjoys it' side of things), not a massive self-starter (at this stage at least), eccentric (views the world through different glasses), a strong personality, kind and sensitive. She is also an only child.

We are not minted, so £30Kpa will be a big stretch. My wife and I are professional people who are Directors in our respective organisations, but we're socially liberal, libertarian types with friends in the media who think we're the most right-wing people they know because we send our daughter to a fee-paying school.

We're looking for a school South of London (we'll move) in the box bordered by Weymouth, Bath, Guildford and Brighton. We're possibly thinking of Bedales, Canford, Bryanston or a good state school that people can recommend. We definitely want a school that offers a day option rather than 100% boarding. Relaxed about co-ed (though she will definitely be distracted by boys!) or single-sex (though eating disorders are a fear!). We like a liberal ethos (uniform, teachers' names etc.), but worry about drugs, fashionable cliques, under-performing etc.. I'm sure this is all classic stuff :-)

Given her personality, our background (and therefore the hope that she doesn't fall too far from the tree) and the financial side of things which schools would people recommend?

Given her personality (self-starting aside, which I think will pass), I was bemoaning the - seeming - lack of a girls/co-ed version of Winchester or Westminster. Perhaps others know better - maybe such a thing exists? Or wouldn't suit anyway?

It's a mine-field - please help!

grovel Wed 28-Nov-12 17:12:14

By "sophisticated" I really mean "lefty" in this context.

SchtenGraby Wed 28-Nov-12 17:21:58

@Inclusionist - I'm surprised that you think our 'box' it's a dead zone given that it includes some quite illustrious names including Winchester (albeit that this is not a girls/co-ed school), Bedales, Canford, Bryanston, Charterhouse, Marlborough et al.

Perhaps my question should have been - what is the closest equivalent to Winchester in the girls'/co-ed space?

TalkinPeace2 Wed 28-Nov-12 17:31:34

move to Salisbury.
You'll fit in socially, the schools are good, the area is lovely and the houses are pretty nice too.
The two grammars work as a team so you get the best of all worlds

personally I'd say you'd be better with a posh comp like the ones in Winchester.

save your fees money for more amusing things.

Bink Wed 28-Nov-12 17:34:29

It's been said, but the answer to your 'closest equivalent to Winchester' is Wycombe. My two started at those (respectively) this term and I had a funny moment talking to three senior scholars on the first day of Winchester, explaining that ds's sister had just started at Wycombe, and all three said, simultaneously, "We've got sisters at Wycombe!"

Inclusionist Wed 28-Nov-12 17:42:45

I didn't include Winchester because obviously it can't be on your list.

Your question was which co-ed/ girls schools are a parallel to the top boy's schools. I really don't think ANY of those schools you mention come anywhere close.

My list of 'top' girls' schools (off the top of my head and not looking at any tables) would include:

St Paul's
City of London Girls'
Wycombe Abbey
Cheltenham Ladies

I'm sure others could add to this list (or point to higher performers) but I doubt anyone could add one in your zone. I'm not saying there are no schools at all in your zone, just not the one you asked people to identify!

Dustylaw Wed 28-Nov-12 21:43:50

Have a look at Roedean. Brighton or nearby sounds right up your street. Roedean does day and boarding with a new flexi/weekly option. Don't go by preconceptions - it's a surprisingly unstuffy place which would fit well with a wide range of parents and girls. Teaching is interesting eg RS kicked off with Plato's Cave.

Nonnus Thu 29-Nov-12 08:45:38

OP, none of the schools in your list is top-tier academically like Winchester. TBH if you want "Winchester for girls" you are looking at Cheltenham Ladies', Wycombe Abbey, Downe House. Co-ed schools are not up there academically, for either girls or boys, probably because teenage relationships are a distraction.

St Swithuns is v gd, if not absolutelt top-tier in league tables. Lots of Asian kids from overseas these days and yes, plenty of money but also some normal middle class families who go without to meet the fees.

Bedales is the most "lefty" of your list but you will find lots of rich kids there too. Noel Gallagher's daughter goes there and I think a few other celeb kids.

Xenia Thu 29-Nov-12 09:13:45

As Inclusionist says there is her list of top girls' schools which are in the Winchester/Westminster league. Most boys and girls cannot get into those schools. I am lucky my daughters went to two of those and I highly recommend them if you can get in.

Also if she is not yet even 11 then you have time to help her exploit her academic potential and get into a good academic all round school.

Of the ones you list for exam results I give their positions below, whereas those Inclusionist lists are going to be in the top 10ish in the country. North London C usually top 5 even. there are some pretty poor girls' finishing type posh schools left over frmo the days when it was assumed women looked for rich husband and men earned money. You want to ensure your daughter does not mix with people with sexist views like that and is in a school where most girls will get good results as you tend to follow your peers as a teenager - if your peers are hardly even doing GCSEs and expect to help mummy with the flowers at home or pursue art... then you copy your peers.

Bedales 413th
Canford 155th
Bryanston 363th
Leighton Park 461st
St Swithuns 40th (looks like the best one for exam results)
Alton Convent 771th
Frensham Heights 871st

SchtenGraby Thu 29-Nov-12 09:50:10

Thanks all - really appreciate your input.

What I'm keen to avoid is exam-factories (I attended a school that was like this - regularly in the top 10 for all schools, though a state school). It was done with little regard for actually educating in any holistic sense (and, in fact, would regularly exclude many from taking exams if they weren't up to par - hardly what education should be about).

For me, it's more about being able to be intelligent rather than knowledgeable - pattern recognition, problem-solving, tangential approaches, left-field thinking and so on. These are going to be more useful in the coming century than exams designed for the burgeoning Edwardian bureaucracy. My understanding is that Winchester/Westminster nurture and encourage these ways of thinking (as well as delivering stellar exam results).

So, in that sense, I'm less worried that some schools that are a bit lower in this year's league tables if they are able to deliver this outlook on life.

Does that make sense? And does that change anything anyone has said?

Inclusionist Thu 29-Nov-12 10:02:59

My DH got binned from his Physics A Level at Winchester because he wasn't going to get an A.

He took a lot of drugs at school.

Somebody in his year killed themselves at school because of the academic pressure.

Not entirely sure the girls equivalent of that is what you want??

That said, he loved it and walked into Oxford (to read a Science subject, obviously not Physics wink ).

lapucelle Thu 29-Nov-12 10:10:07

I know many of the schools mentioned - my father went to Winchester (a long time ago!), my brother to Canford, I went to one of the girls boarding schools mentioned and my daughter is likely to go to Wycombe or St Swithuns (or perhaps Cheltenham).

I think the positioning in league tables is a bit deceptive. My brother went on from Canford to Oxford, topped his year at Oxford and became an academic. He had friends in the scholarship stream who did extremely well academically at Canford and who were stretched, extended etc as much as one could wish. The school have the resources and the ability to develop academic high achievers. On the other hand there are also much lower achievers at Canford, and this lowers their position in league tables. My own opinion is that a number of students underachieve at Canford, if they are not self motivated and especially if they are girls, and I wouldn't send my daughter there. I think she has a much better chance of developing herself and learning to think deeply at Wycombe or St Swithuns. I would not call the latter exam factories - we toured St Swithuns recently and the girls were doing all kinds of interesting extracurriculars such as building their own car.

Of the other schools mentioned several indeed have the reputation of being less academic e.g. Bryanston but I don't myself think that they compensate by encouraging independent thinking, problem solving etc. But this is a personal opinion and the OP probably needs to go and look at the schools.

Inclusionist Thu 29-Nov-12 10:48:56

OP I'm not actually sure the school you want exists. grin

-Great reputation, as in a school that people have 'heard' of.
-Little academic pressure but girls achieving wonderful results just by weight of their intellectual prowess.
-'Quirky' approach to teaching in that it really encourages independent thought and values developing cognitive skills above attainment (believe me, this would still be seen as quirky).
-The outstanding extra-curricular provision of a top, full-boarding school but at a day school.
-Guardian reading, sandal wearing Liberal voting parents who have given up Hedge Funding to run second hand bookstores.

Maybe it's out there, but it isn't in your box!

lapucelle is right, you need to go and see some real schools and see what you can compromise on. Have you asked your DD how she'd feel about boarding? If she wanted to it might be the best solution to live in your preferred area and let her board at Wycombe.

Hamishbear Thu 29-Nov-12 10:56:30

Wycombe is excellent but it's very traditional I believe (not sure you want this)?

Also I think in order to get into Wycombe you need to be very bright indeed (?) - you need to excel in cognitive tests etc. Some who make the cut for other very academic girls' schools do not get a place at Wycombe.

Xenia Thu 29-Nov-12 10:58:43

Winchester twins with North LondonC for some things - the good academic girls' schools on Inc's list are in the private sector and the equivalent and with the holistic etc approach you seek. It is just some children are not very bright and cannot get in so some parents call them exam factories because they are jealous their precious little Jessica does not have the brain power. I cannot comment on the state grammar you attended and whether state grammars are exam factories.

St S at 40th for exam results sounds like the place where cleverish people go in that area. You need to be careful about putting a girl in a sea of mediocrity as most people are weak and gravitate to the mean or even to the laziest they can be within a particular environment. If everyone else is not very bright it is easy to coast, do no work and then pursue a career on the minimum wage in the arts, whereas we want girls who can be leading surgeons and bankers, not pushed into a sexist career as housewife or low paid arts career just because they are female and supposedly not up to doing hard work at school. If this girl's father is bright and she is not pulling her weight she probably needs to planted within a sea of bright other girls and the school placed 40th and made to pull out her finger in all areas not just work but music practice to get her grade 8s and the like

joanbyers Thu 29-Nov-12 12:21:37

have a look at the Guildford schools, with three well-rated schools you should be able to pick the one that's closest to your lentilly vision.

milkshake3 Thu 29-Nov-12 12:27:10

I don't always like the way Xenia expresses herself but I completely agree with her here, especially the second paragraph. You are more likely to get activities that encourage creative thinking, problem solving, teaching beyond the syllabus etc with a brighter cohort of children, and thus a higher ranked school, as you are not having to explain the GCSE syllabus to them 3 times before they get it. Expectations will be higher.

grovel Thu 29-Nov-12 12:28:14

This thread is beginning to cut to the chase about how to select schools for bright and super-bright children. It's really hard.

Lapucelle points to her (presumably super-bright and motivated) brother's success at Canford. He could not have achieved more if he had been at at a super-selective school (Winchester/Westminster/Eton etc). Schools like Canford manifestly can and do prepare young people for Oxbridge etc. It would be interesting to know if Lapucelle's brother was happy at Canford. Did it bolster his confidence to be a big intellectual fish in a relatively small pond or did he achieve despite a relatively (compared to the super-selectives) unacademic environment? It could cut either way. I know of one Eton KS who was astonished and rather demoralised/demotivated to find that he was only average in terms of intellect in College (the scholars' house). He had been a superstar at prep school.

Will the bright but not super-bright child do better as a middle-ranker at Winchester or as a relatively high-flyer at Canford? Again, it could cut either way.

In the end it comes down to how a child reacts to his/her peers and that's a question of character. And children change.

TalkinPeace2 Thu 29-Nov-12 12:56:58

Also this thread has now excluded the 93% of the population who may also have incredibly bright children but do not have a spare £20k per year per child

joanbyers Thu 29-Nov-12 13:00:54

Honestly I think the A Level stats are misleading. Have a look at Oxbridge stats instead.

Tatler has these.

All around 10%

The St. Swithuns website confirms that in fact their university outcomes are pretty uninspiring:

Three to Cambridge - all in easier subjects to get in - no Law, Medicine, Maths, etc. One to Oxford - Music.

Bedales appears to be a slightly larger school, but they got:

Oxford: 2 * Medicine, 1 * Maths, 1 * French, 3 * English, 1 * Biological Sciences
Cambridge: 1 * History

which is much more impressive.

Exam results:

My 2011 GSG tells me there are 90 per year in the sixth form at Bedales, 60 at Swithuns, and with 40% A*-A students at Bedales, that translates to around 36 with the grades to get into Oxbridge, and with 75% at St Swithuns, that's around 45.

So it would seem that Bedales does a better job by its brighter students, they just aren't as common as at St. Swithuns.

So for me, league tables here don't tell the full story.

Xenia Thu 29-Nov-12 13:03:59

Yes, children can change. It has always been a debate for parents. Did I do fairly well (well very well, best A levels in the school in my year, scholarship to university, almost top of year at university, pretty good career, earn a lost 25 years + on because I was good at school better in my position in the class than say my girls at NLCS/Habs? It certainly could feel isolating at times at school as you want someone to bounce ideas off, have very fast debate. May be it helped me though think I am brilliant something far too many women lack and then holds them back.

I can do anything I set my mind to. I earn a lot. I can have masses of children and still do well. I can even buy my own island. Did that come out of being within a relative sea of mediocrity or did it flow from a nice small school in which I had a chance to shine intellectually with some very good teachers? As my older children have ended up with a pretty identical career path at present I don't think we can say one or other route is best. I think they got to see and do more at their schools than perhaps I did but that was then and I was even earlier. I did suggest to my head I applied to Oxbridge and was told as I was a year young through school I was too young (which in hindsight is ridiculous as Ruth Lawrence went at 13) but I don't think it's held me back whatsoever that I didn't try and of course I might well not have got in (my siblings did).

These are nice choices as we are not comparing the local sink comp with Manchester Grammar or Westminster. we are comparing schools not that well up the league tables .. I suppose it often comes down to little Jessica may well not have a hope in hell in getting into the school ranked 40th as her parents think she's a free spirit but really she's a lazy little thing who avoids work and she does not have Tiger Parents so she'll get into the one which will have her and we hope when she's there she will do fine. However if you do end up in the local private schools where people go because they cannot pass the tests for anyone higher up the rankings you will be with chidlren who struggle and there may be an overall lower standard. Look at the destinations of leavers.

teh Sutton Trust chart accessible here which gives destinations of leavers is interseting and of course I like it as Hans and NLCS I think from memory are in the top 5. Some schools may do well in league tables because they major in Needlework A level. Which universities children go to which is how most good employers recruit - by institution much more than subject is perhaps the ultimate goal unless her father really wants her to become a housewife or flower arranger or waitress I suppose.

joanbyers Thu 29-Nov-12 13:07:43


mummytime Thu 29-Nov-12 13:17:31

I have to say I would look at the Guildford schools (one is boarding) as all three are pretty academic, and its certainly hard tp say which is top out of St Cats and GHS (I'd say it varies from year to year). There are also other girls schools locally if your DD is less academic when she reaches 11. The area is pretty pushy, so little chance of girls getting A'level flower arranging, although Textile Art is a pretty well respected subject on offer at some schools.

One school you might want to look at is Priorsfield, which was founded with quite feminist ideals.

I have known girls flourish at all these schools.

TalkinPeace2 Thu 29-Nov-12 13:20:41

DD is doing textiles GCSE in amongst her academic ones, as it includes
art, design, sewing, business plan, costing, marketing, product research
all of which I suspect might be useful one day
the equivalent A level would presumably lead to St Martins and then into well paid design work ....

lapucelle Thu 29-Nov-12 13:23:51

@ Talkingpeace. Private schools have both bursaries and academic scholarships. My brother had a 50% academic scholarship at Canford and I had a 100% academic scholarship at my school. Scholarships these days are less generous - back then, assisted places provided means tested scholarships, freeing up money for academic scholarships for families like ours who couldn't pay full fees but weren't poor either, i.e. our family could have afforded private day schools but not schools such as Canford.

There are less scholarships nowadays but there are still scholarships available for very bright children, particularly those who look like potential Oxbridge candidates. My daughter has been offered an academic scholarship at her prep school and I think she will be a strong candidate for academic scholarships at her next school. If parents have a very bright child but can't afford full fees then they should talk to the schools to see what is possible.

TalkinPeace2 Thu 29-Nov-12 13:28:21

THat assumes that the parents WANT their children removed from their whole domestic scene
and that the parents can get funding for the trips and uniforms etc etc
for the 50% of the adults in the country living on less than £18,000 that is a VERY big IF

my local selective private has 4 academic scholarships, none 100%
DDs school has 30 kids who could have got it BUT many of their parents could not have afforded the other costs (including bus fares)

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