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Kent Prep Schools - Saint Ronan's vs Marlborough House School

(22 Posts)
srseales Sun 12-May-13 20:01:08

Hi! We have decided to take the public school route with our children so have spent a lot of time researching schools and going to open days in our area. We are down to two schools, Saint Ronan's and Marlbourough House, both of which are in Hawkhurst and both of which seem to have strong academics and extracurriculars. We don't know anyone at these schools and so would appreciate any pros and cons from anyone on mumsnet. All views and opinions valued, but please give reasons for your preference. Thanks so much for the help!

srseales Mon 13-May-13 19:20:53


YoniFoolsAndHorses Mon 13-May-13 20:18:03

I registered at both and sent to st ronan's and we LOVED it. Fab school. Absolutely amazing care. Very, very pleased with our choice.

But MH is a great school too! You really can't go far wrong. Do you prefer the slightly wacky nature of ST R? (We did!) Or the more conservative MH?

srseales Tue 14-May-13 07:35:51

Thank you! We really liked the quirky nature of St Ronans but there is a part of me that wants to make sure it's not too free-spirited and that there are proper guidelines and rules. MH seems impressive but on the opposite end, we want to make sure it isn't stuffy with pushy parents. Our hearts definitely say St Ronans as it looks to have strong academics while also being an amazing place to be a child. I'm assuming your child has left St Ronan's now? Do you feel there is a large variety of leavers schools?

Bonsoir Tue 14-May-13 08:01:18

I know plenty of people with DC at these schools and they are both very sound. MH is probably a little bit more "Tunbridge Wells MC" and St Ronan's a bit more "UMC/rural free-spirited" and, while good friends of mine have chosen MH and are very happy with it, I would be a St Ronan's person myself. My father went to St Ronan's right after the war, though, so I am biaised! His younger brother went to Dulwich and subsequently sent all his DC to Dulwich - it is flashier and even more "Tunbridge Wells MC" than MH.

srseales Tue 14-May-13 15:30:14

Hi Bonsoir,

Thanks so much for your thoughts. I apologise as I'm not actually from the area but what exactly is "MC". Feel free to pm me if it's easier to answer in that fashion. Do you think the academics at St Ronan's are still on par with the other two? I like the idea of our DC achieving at a high level while still being able to run around in the woods being real children. I was worried that kind of school didn't exist until seeing St Ronan's. It's just a gut instinct so not sure if it's correct. Thank you!

Bonsoir Tue 14-May-13 17:31:18

MC = middle class
UMC = upper middle class

I think that sort of school does still exist - schools that are either proprietor-managed or still have a very strong imprint of the proprietor/his family. Think schools that have passed down through the generations. Hill House in London (obviously minus the running around) or Tockington Manor (lots of running around) near Bristol are two others I can think of spontaneously.

I would have no reason at all to query the academics at St Ronan's.

Bonsoir Tue 14-May-13 17:33:21

You are in a part of Kent with an extraordinarily rich market for schools - you are spoiled for choice, basically!

michaelrB Tue 14-May-13 19:10:19

Have a look at Ashford Friars Prep School as well. Great Good Schools Guide review and down to earth with excellent teaching.

Mutteroo Wed 15-May-13 01:24:20

DS played an away match against St Ronan's at rugby. He was very impressed with the after match tea. Goodness knows what that says about the school other than the food is good!

Go with your instincts OP, you can't go far wrong if you do that.

conorsrockers Wed 15-May-13 03:52:58

Bonsoir - I would dispute your assertions about Dulwich! MH, IMHO is much more twinset and pearls than Dulwich or SR. I personally could not deal with the chaotic nature at St Ronans, but we have a few that go there every year, usually because the academics are not their thing and its just too stressful for them. SR is much more 'outdoorsy'. The comments I hear are that MH is much more pushy than Dulwich. I think there is a very clear distinction between the two, and if your heart is at SR then that's where you should go. I only ever hear good things about it. Ultimately, if you get a few years down the line and change your mind, you can move. There is alot of fluidity between Dulwich, Sutton Valence, St Ronans, MH, Ashford Friars, Holmewood House etc... etc...
Good Luck!

happygardening Wed 15-May-13 07:41:07

The other thing you should take into consideration is leavers destinations. If you were to choose a prep like Ashford Friars or Sutton Valance then they are basically feeding into their own senior schools and entrance exam preparation is going to be centre around this. Many like the continuity this brings I personally don't like it because I like choice.
Secondly if you were to choose an independent prep you still need to look at the leavers destinations especially if your thinking of a scholarship into a super selective. With increasingly international competition for scholarship places at the likes of Eton now only a few prep schools are able to teach to the required level and achieve consistent year on year success.

Bonsoir Wed 15-May-13 07:58:39

You have misunderstood me - I also think MH is more "chic" than Dulwich!

srseales Wed 15-May-13 11:29:10

Thanks, everyone. Bonsoir, I feel silly now as it's obvious that MC is middle class!

I'm not big into chaos but Saint Ronan's didn't feel that way to me when we went there. From what I'm reading, the school has changed a lot in the last 5 years - they've basically doubled in size, done loads of renovations and built new buildings. The academics seem comparable to the other area private schools now, maybe they weren't before? Their grounds and main building definitely outshine all other schools and if that was my only consideration, the decision would be easy. smile

Happygardening, it's a good point about the leavers destinations and we have looked closely at that. SR has a great variety which is what we want as we don't want to feel limited to one of popular area schools. My husband went on to one of the top schools and we want our DC to be prepared for that if we choose.

MichaelrB, thanks for the suggestion. The school does look great, but I'm afraid too far for us as we're in E. Sussex.

Conorsrockers, great comments. I guess I am thinking that part of the point of being in a country prep is the combination of great academics/extras and amazing outdoor space. My heart would definitely go with Saint Ronan's on that one.

I know we can't generalise all parents, but anyone have opinions one how the parents differ at each of these schools? It would be nice to get on well with the families too.

conorsrockers Wed 15-May-13 13:54:59

Cords, wellies, checked shirts and gilets in dirty old land rovers. Earthy UC eccentric types.
Twinset, pearls, Boden, Cath Kidson MC aspiring city types with a spankingly clean Range Rover Sport.

There's a mass over generalisation for you ....gringrin

srseales Mon 20-May-13 23:49:24

Thank you, conorsrockers! I think the decision is obvious for us even though my husband does like to keep our cars very clean and I do buy a fair bit of Boden! smile

Lm777 Sat 09-Nov-13 14:41:36

Have to say from my exp at MH there is no sign of any twinsets, although there is plenty of boden. Can't speak too highly of MH - excellent staff, lovely atmosphere. My two small children love it, and there is no sign so far of a pushy/excessively academic focus - there is plenty of outdoor fun etc.

charleybarley Wed 26-Mar-14 14:03:04

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Browners1974 Fri 23-May-14 12:01:36


Tinkerbee Wed 07-Jan-15 10:00:58

We've been to both schools and as such I have enjoyed reading this thread immensely. smile Especially the comparison between MHS and StR parents. lol.

I do wonder though - where did you decide upon in the end?

Meantime, thanks for the chuckle...

coefficient Tue 16-Feb-16 11:43:10

We are trying to find the right school for our little boy, who is outdoorsy and a bit playful still (a summer baby). Which is the better choice? Not sure he will be academic but seems bright enough.

Saint Ronan's

Marlborough House School

We also looked at Skippers Hill Manor Preparatory School and Bricklehurst Manor (Stongate).

Any others to think of?

Mumontherun66 Sun 13-Mar-16 23:02:17

MH is great, VH and st R all top prep schools which will prepare little ones for top schools. skippers hill lacks in facilities which is why it's cheaper than the rest . Lots of scholarships available to year three pupils so big class sizes . Avoid homely preps and go for the bigger well managed schools , if it pours of rain the kids are stuck in doors at SHs as the gym is tiny and the pool needs to be seen to be believed. Schools in TW are well knitted out. Bricklehurst is sweet and smaller classes than SHS .

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