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Is RGS too much of a hot house?

(32 Posts)
Lifesconfusing Wed 20-Feb-13 18:15:19

I have two sons and am thinking about RGS because they are quite bright and need stretching. It sounds like an amazing place academically. But is being the best school academically always the best thing for a kid? I know four grown men who left RGS during the last decade - one had a breakdown recently, three said they wouldn't ever send their own son there because they had been pushed too far and been miserable. The atmosphere strange because various boys asked to leave along the way because their results not good enough - would affect the league tables. Two said strangely that they hadn't realised how miserable they'd been until they left and realised what fun and hard work other boys had been having. I feel very confused. Is sending a boy to a school that is full of other very bright boys going to get them great results but mess them up - should we think about a school with a more varied academic intake?

Happymum22 Sat 23-Feb-13 21:22:04

racingheart- believe me a good proportion are hooked up with a lovely GHS or tormead girl by sixth form. My DD went to the RGS leavers with her boyfriend a year and a half ago now and all the boys had female dates, mostly from the local girls' schools. No need to worry about segregation!
My DS left in 2009 as well, he is currently in his 4th year of medical school. He is working very hard but loves it and can't wait to be qualified. All his friends, like Becks (wonder if there is cross over!), are similarly successful and happy. Some doing masters or many with jobs in london or on gap years taking that last chance to have lots of fun before jobs begin!
Really can't rate RGS and the boys that come out of there enough! One of the best decisions we made was RGS.

racingheart Sat 23-Feb-13 19:42:12

Beck it's lovely to hear what they get up to after they leave. your DS's group of friends sounds happy and fulfilled. And they've stayed close by the sounds of it. Also, rather relieved to know that RGS boys have girlfriends by 6th form. Was a bit worried that it could be very segregated.

BeckAndCall Sat 23-Feb-13 09:00:31

If your son passes the entrance exam, and if he's prepared to work hard, then it's the place for him.

Every boy there does their work more or less on time - life is difficult there if you don't - mostly because that's what the boys expect from each other.

I don think you actually have to be too much of an independent thinker, tbh racy - no disrepresent to my boy's approach but he is a science graduate and I don't think he really developed his thinking skills until uni. Just listening and learning from the teachers was his approach.

It's not a hothouse I don't think - they only ask what they know is achievable from their boys. Music and sport and drama all matter hugely there too.

So far as recent leavers are concerned, are they happy - were they happy overall? I can only speak for the boys I know from my son's year (left 2009). I don't hear of anyone who was unhappy, or is unhappy now - they're still at the masters stage at uni or have just graduated six months ago so are all doing exciting things in their lives. My sons closest friends are a Group of 6 to 10 boys from RGS and they are all young men to be proud of.

I don't know what else to say, really. If you're not feeling it for RGS, then you're just not feeling it but I don't know of anyone who's ever regretted the decision (also applies to my DDs' boyfriends' years too including current sixth form)

TiffIsKool Fri 22-Feb-13 18:59:16

I've heard horror stories from past pupils at my DSs' selective here on MN. I don't recognise the school from their descriptions.

I don't doubt that they were miserable at the school but IMO they were at a school that wasn't right for them as opposed to the school being bad.

Take our school. Each sport is set so you can be in set 1 for rugby but set 3 for hockey for example. This is so kids are playing against others of similar ability. Although the school takes its sports quite seriously I am not aware of the less sporty kids being picked on. But I can imagine that in some other schools these kids can be made to feel not accepted.

So while I would listen to any war stories, I would interpret them in light of what I know about the school. Just because someone hated the school 20 years ago that shouldn't be allowed to influence your decision.

racingheart Fri 22-Feb-13 10:14:49

Well, I've been thinking about this overnight, because we're planning on sending DS to RGS, but have a choice of other schools.

RGS is the right school for academic boys. If their brains move fast and they love independent thought, then they'll thrive there. What would be gruelling for some boys would be fun for a very academic boy, just as my DS's best friend in the county team can happily swim a mile whereas DS would weep if asked to swim more than four lengths!

I can see how from the outside it may look like a hot house, but people who are naturally academic thrive in atmospheres that stretch their ability and shrivel in atmospheres that stifle thought. It's what they want and need. So if the OP thinks her son is naturally academic, then there's probably no need to worry.

Happymum22 Thu 21-Feb-13 22:37:19

PS as ivy squirrel said- it is not at all common -what I am talking about is very very rare!

Happymum22 Thu 21-Feb-13 22:35:58

trinity- I can understand and agree most schools should follow that ethos, but this is the case of super selectives like RGS which aren't going to be the right environment for boys struggling and achieving GCSE results way below the norm for that school.
In that type of school they can provide a large amount of support but it may be the environment and atmosphere which is not right for that child and I am glad schools like RGS who on one hand will want parents to pay fees, will also balance on the other hand, what is best for that child. They are prepared to think solely of the boy as an individual case and be realistic whether being around other very academic boys, many of which will achieve highly naturally, is right for a child self-esteem and pressure wise if they are significantly behind the norm.
RGS does provide special needs and general support for individuals- my DS did english booster classes at one point which were fantastic and there was no stigma about it. The cases we are talking about are very extreme where the boy even with significant help isn't progressing and the school realise their environment isn't right.

trinity0097 Thu 21-Feb-13 19:20:47

I work in a school where it is not the norm to ask pupils to leave if they are struggling. We would do all we can to help support the child to make progress within our setting. The only time that parents have been encouraged is if the child would be better suited to a special school rather than a mainstream setting, maybe one child every 5 years or so.

Aboleyn Thu 21-Feb-13 17:37:04

My boy is going there in September and we are very happy about the choice. Friends with children at the school (current and past) have also been very happy. I did not get the hothouse feeling at all, like has been said on this site before, just the privilege of being with other bright children. All the private schools have a similarly rigorous entrance process, and as Labro said, they determine who will suit the school. If you come from a prep school, you have the added advantage of advice from your head as to whether they think your child should be suitable. I think most private schools will ask you to leave if not performing. I know a friend who is expecting all her 3 children to be asked to leave their school, where they have been since age 7, when they get to 6th form! That is life, unfortunately.

IvySquirrel Thu 21-Feb-13 16:57:15

Glad to help racingheart!
I have never heard any of these sort of negative comments, which I think is probably because my boys were/are in state primary, hence only the pros & cons of the Guildford comps are generally discussed in my social circle! I imagine prep school mums' discussions are differently focused.
The comments certainly don't ring true with the RGS I have experienced in the last couple of years - there is plenty of room for fun & kindness.
I have not heard of anyone being 'asked to leave'.

Happymum22 Thu 21-Feb-13 15:51:06


I can't think of any specific examples perhaps one boy from my sons year of 150 was reccomended he left after gcses. IMO though all good selective schools should be doing this with extremely low achievers compared to their average; if they realise a child isn't thriving and is much weaker than other boys then I'd hope they would identify the reasons and if they realise the environment and academic atmosphere of RGS isn't right for a boy to do a levels there, then they will advise where he should try and go which will be more suitable for that boy.
If my son had struggled with GCSEs (and it would have to be seriously not doing well (Bs and Cs probably)) then I would not want the school to allow me to blindly keep my son in an environment where he would not cope or get the type of teaching and support he needed.

I always find it frustrating when parents accuse schools (normally falsely) of 'chucking out those with bad results'. If it is a selective school to start with they are simply thinking of the child and whether they are being best catered for at that academic environment.

I know a boy who achieved bad results but this was because he'd lost his mother just before the exams. Even with special consideration he still came out with very low grades not reflective of his ability. The school supported him during sixth form to retake some and progress to A levels. Shows every case is considered and they definitely aren't thinking in any way just about their grade statistics.

racingheart Thu 21-Feb-13 13:06:32

IvySquirrel, thank you so much for posting.

I've heard feedback of such differing kinds, including quite a lot of negative comments recently: 'it sapped the fun out of my child'; 'it's not a fun school'; it's not a kind place to be'; 'it's very demoralising if you are bottom of the class.'

These comments really concerned me, as when we looked round the school (three times!) DS, DH and I all felt it was exactly the place you describe. It seemed warm and safe and a place where bright boys could be themselves without being sneered at for their keenness and geekery.

IvySquirrel Thu 21-Feb-13 12:03:34

As I often post on RGS threads you may know I have DS1 at the school and DS2 has a 11+ place for September.

I would agree with Happymum22 - RGS is a place where boys can be what they want to be and all are accepted. At primary DS was called a nerd & geek for being academic - at RGS his friends genuinely applaud his achivements, and he theirs. He went there from state primary not knowing a soul, and now has a great group of friends. He often says he is really glad he went to RGS and it is worth the money!
As RGS has this reputation as a 'hothouse' people assume DS is slaving over hours of homework every night - more like an hour of homework & 2 hours of PS3...

racingheart Thu 21-Feb-13 11:09:37

Lifesconfusing - the boys you know who left - are they the only ones you know from RGS? Or do you also know some who were happy there?
Where did the other boys go to school who they said were happy and fulfilled? I bet you could find boys from those schools who had also been miserable. School days aren't perfect anywhere.

Can you directly ask the school if they get boys to leave if they achieve below expected level. Their reply is better than gossip and hearsay.

I am interested in your post, as DS has also got a place at RGS. It seemed to me a happy school, full of bright and rather eccentric, gentle boys. But as you say, it's not all about exam results. These are formative years and we want them to come away feeling happy and confident as adults.

Where's the wand that lets you see into the future? smile

Labro Thu 21-Feb-13 00:04:26

when is the acceptance deadline? Maybe wait til nearer the deadline gives you a bit more time. What other schools are you looking st, also, presumably his current head recommended RGS?

Lifesconfusing Wed 20-Feb-13 23:59:01

Ok, point taken HappyMum22 :-) you're quite right, they take their lead from us in most things. Sounds like you're a happy mum of a happy 20+ year old ex RGS boy who's thriving - so I'll count your son as an RGS success in my sample :-)

One question if you have time and don't mind? Is it true that boys are asked to leave if their grades aren't good enough? I've heard this has happened a few times?

Happymum22 Wed 20-Feb-13 23:33:46

Son went there, it definitely is not a hot house. If your son is bright enough to get in comfortably then he will be fine, well more than fine- most likely thrive, have a lot of fun, great friends which are like-minded and an environment of total acceptance of each and every boy whether they are sporty, ladish, geeky, musical etc etc.

I said this previously on a thread about GHS and I think the same applies -it comes down a lot to the parents. I've seen it happening.
If the fact he is at RGS makes you become very pushy and put unnecessary pressure on your DS then he will feel pressured to do well and if you don't celebrate his achievements however big or small then he will lack self-esteem and feel he isn't doing well enough. Parents are the primary place academic children get reinforcement often. They want their parents pride and approval and this is what will give them the confidence and hence let them relax, enjoy their school and make the most of opportunities without worrying about failure.

Dededum Wed 20-Feb-13 21:40:41

Well my brother went there - last year of 11+, so long time ago.

He did well academically for O levels, left for A levels which he scraped through and then got a third class degree. Very smart but didn't learn how to motivate himself, think that might be an ongoing issue with private school kids though.

Not very helpful.

It is very difficult to get in though, so maybe keep an open mind and don't fix on one school. I know parents ho made RGS entrance there one aim, tough on the kids when they fail and end up at the very good local comp.

Lifesconfusing Wed 20-Feb-13 21:32:11

Gosh those are great questions to ask yourself aren't they; thank you for the good approach to thinking about it holidaysrcoming.

It's tough because so far he's been lucky enough to be top in many things because his prep school is good but not extremely academic, and he hasn't experienced that mediocre feeling too often - I know it's coming though and he should experience it if he is to get a true feel for life! I think he enjoys competition but if he continually 'loses' he does actually back off - a sport/instrument/subject - and say he's rubbish at it, even if he's actually ok just not the best. In some instances competition does spur him on to do better but if his better doesn't work, he then gives up. That's not a good attitude I guess but it is what it is for now until we work on it. What to do - stick him in to RGS and hope I can teach him it's okay to be mediocre and keep his head down anyway, or let him feel good about himself elsewhere and learn the mediocre feeling when he gets to Uni/work instead? I guess by then, his hormones will have settled a bit and he'll be able to deal better with these tough feelings!?

Out of the now six 20+ year old ex pupils in my sample of old RGS boys (my 4 and labro's 2), 5 didn't cope with the above feelings and one did - would that be a fair conclusion? A few more to make it fair would be good!

Really grateful to you all, I'm going in circles with this alone and yes I know I'm boring and over-analyse...

holidaysrcoming Wed 20-Feb-13 20:51:16

depends on your ds. Is he the sort to feel 'not quite good enough' and what effect will that have on him? will he lose self esteem/give up/shrug it off, or will it spur him on to do his best?

strangely enough, I have considered the girls local equivalent, academically my dd is likely to be of the standard but like you, I know several 'old girl' parents who are emphatic about not sending their dds there and for me, I know my dd is not resilient enough to cope with feeling mediocre when she has given her all.

Lifesconfusing Wed 20-Feb-13 20:37:51

Thanks Labro for more on the 20+ ex pupil examples, all interesting and v helpful. May be I over-think things? I just want the boys to be happy in life after school too - but their school can make or break that sometimes. What a choice, and he's only 10! I'm not cut out for all these big decisions!

Lifesconfusing Wed 20-Feb-13 20:29:27

Hmm. I think that 'thick' feeling Mummytime is a common theme - I guess when a boy has been top of his prep school which isn't that selective, always felt good and confident about himself, and then joins a population of very select boys who are all v bright, and turns out to be the 'thicker' one amongst them, it can be quite a knock. Even if the reality is that none of them really are 'thick' at all! Hopefully the school manage that well?? And if not, may be having a wider variety of academic levels around you is better and hothouse (for want of a better word ) is not the answer?

Labro Wed 20-Feb-13 20:08:32

I've got good friends both in their early 20's - one had a fantastic RGS experience, went on to Cambridge and is very confident, very much a 'public speaker' type. The other is much quieter, more musically orientated and felt somewhat battered by his experiences and has ended up as a perpetual student. Not sure if this helps you, though if your ds didn't accept RGS, where would he want to go?

mummytime Wed 20-Feb-13 20:02:57

The boys I know there seem happy. Several decided to stay on into sixth form rather than go elsewhere although they did look. I don't really recognise it as a "hothouse". It is for bright boys, and they achieve but don't seem especially hot housed.

However if a boy just scrapes in he can go through feeling "thick" despite being one of the brightest in the general population.

It also advises boys to go to the best Unis for them not just Oxbridge or Medicine.

Lifesconfusing Wed 20-Feb-13 19:52:50

Thanks Labro and good point. I didn't mean to be misleading but should have said that my oldest DS has been offered a deferred entry place and am now trying to decide whether to take it or not. I'm worried that it might be too intense - the whole entrance exam process showed me just how intense it could be and made me start thinking about whether there are after-effects on the boys who go through a school that is as selective and hot house in its approach as it is. That's why I sought some points of view from old (but quite recent) RGS boys and sadly got negative answers. I guess I could do with hearing from some happy old RGS boys to balance it out - anyone got a hub who's been through the school with an opinion for me? I don't know why this seems important info to gather but I'm niggled now and need advice.

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