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Can anyone give me the scoop on Abingdon School in Oxfordshire?

(26 Posts)
Notalwaysabowlofcherries Fri 24-Jan-14 10:36:22

We went to the open day and loved what we saw. Hugely impressed by the Headmistress. We are moving into the area so looking at various schools for our DS (currently in Y5). He is very bright, but not child-genius level. He is quite a sensitive soul so needs somewhere with good pastoral cares - and we really want to send him somewhere with a decent moral compass if that doesn't sound too pompous. I liked the fact that 50% (?) of children joining Abingdon at 11+ are from local state primaries and it sounds as if the outreach programme is great. DS not hugely able sportsman, but does enjoy sport. So wondering if there are plenty of C/D teams at Abingdon or if you can't participate unless you are really talented. Any advice or input on anything about the school/levels of pressure etc would be really appreciated.

Antaresisastar Fri 24-Jan-14 21:37:27

I have a son in the sixth form, he has had a very happy time at Abingdon. He is bright (they all are) but I don't think he has ever felt pressurised.
The school fields as many teams as they possibly can ( 5 VIth form football teams playing tomorrow) but boys are all encouraged to find something they enjoy eg fencing, shooting, golf, rowing, sailing, swimming etc.
I think pastoral care is excellent, mainly due to the house/tutor group system. Boys stay with their tutor all the way through middle school (yrs 9,10 and 11) then get a new tutor for sixth form. Communication from the school is excellent and any concerns are dealt with promptly and efficiently.
Ds joined the school at 13+ but lots of his friends have been there since they were 11. His friends are a really lovely bunch of young men, polite, self-assured but not remotely arrogant.
Feel free to ask if you have more questions.

bisjo Fri 24-Jan-14 21:43:14

We went to an open day this year. I was concerned at class sizes - the lovely lad showing us round said there were 27 in his maths class. It seems to be a victim of its own success as class sizes are noticeably larger than they used to be.

nibs777 Fri 24-Jan-14 22:12:53

27 seems large in private because one of the draws is smaller class sizes ...I though the general limits there were around it because the school is getting bigger in numbers? It has a great reputation but that would concern me does that class size compare to comparable private schools and is it a typical size in other subjects too at the school?

nibs777 Fri 24-Jan-14 22:17:56

also wondered how many apply for this schools vs places...all good privates seems to be very oversubscribed this year more than before.

bisjo Fri 24-Jan-14 22:22:07

I got the impression that class sizes were getting bigger simply because it has become so popular. Grown in size but not same level of increase in teacher numbers.

Personally I would expect no more than 20 pre-GCSE and less for GCSE years. Don't know about other subjects. If it was a serious contender then it is something we would have asked. However we were looking for boarding and whilst we liked the head of boarding it seems that overseas boarders were in the majority. Also the boarding dorms had no personalisation at all (boys hadn't put up posters) which I thought was a bit odd.

nibs777 Fri 24-Jan-14 22:27:48

Boarding schools seems to differ that way'll find more personalisation at Eton in the single study rooms for all but not much at Winchester where you have several sharing dorms in the early years. Yes Abingdon boarding does seem mostly for overseas and is in the minority, so I think of it largely as a day school.

Oneglassandpuzzled Fri 24-Jan-14 22:30:49

My son is in lower six. He has been happy and done well, but if he had not developed a particular sports skill, I think he might have struggled socially. I know of several boys who have left as a result of bullying or general unhappiness and failure to make friends. A lot depends on the house. Our son's housemaster and tutor were wonderful when we had some early issues on the school bus.

They are good at finding what you are good at and encouraging you to do well.

I like most of the teachers. Some are brilliant and the boys really like them. If your son might be science-minded now is a good time to look at Abingdon, with all the investment in the new science centre.

sunnyweatherplease Fri 24-Jan-14 22:50:23

nibs - I don't know the numbers, but I think it is highly over subscribed at the moment. The letters offering/not offering places mention the fact that it was especially over subscribed this year. (not the actual words used, but to that effect.) That info relates to y3 entry 2015 and y1 entry 2014.
I presume the letters I read were general letters. Unless they say that every year of course??

As far as I know it is not super pressured - they are all bright boys.

Would you consider the prep school?

nibs777 Sat 25-Jan-14 00:47:58

"I know of several boys who have left as a result of bullying or general unhappiness and failure to make friends"

That's a bit worrying...pastoral care I thought was good there ....but perhaps any boys' school of that size is going to have similar issues.

nibs777 Sat 25-Jan-14 00:50:45


I don't know if it's more from overseas, the economy picking up, a bulge year or a flight to quality but just about every top senior school seems to be saying it has a record number of applications this year..

summerends Sat 25-Jan-14 04:24:06

Concerning the bulge in class numbers, I have heard that this is may be deliberate tactic by the headmistress to raise funds for further expansion / development using the surge in popularity that she has created. If that is the case did she do the same with Oxford High?
I suppose this would only be a problem for the near future.

Notalwaysabowlofcherries Sat 25-Jan-14 07:19:18

Big thanks to everyone for your comments. We are looking at day rather than boarding and DS sitting 11+ next year. Large class sizes do seem a bit strange - not something we asked about (I guess because the assumption is that all private schools will have max 22ish per class). Also rather worried about bullying element, but I suppose no school is without that. My school was brutal that way. DS is v. keen on science so the big new facilities are a draw. And we are currently in London (about to move out) where the level of over-subscribedness is astonishing. Any idea what the ratio of applicants per available places were this year?

Oneglassandpuzzled Sat 25-Jan-14 08:05:03

Only one was really bullying. The others were more just people not being kind. I think . you get it everywhere. Boys can be little sods. As I say, my son's housemaster has always dealt very swiftly with problems.

roguedad Mon 03-Feb-14 21:13:26

bisjo - at a recent open or 11+ taster day one of the teachers remarked that the lower school maths sets were uneven sizes, with a smaller class for those that needed a bit more help. It's possible that the boy making the comment was in a top set, which would then be rather larger, so that comment might not have been indicative of average class sizes. As for over-subscription - one of the invigilators told my son there were about 200 boys applying, so that would be over 3:1 if it's the same roughly 60 places at 11+ as last year. However, a very quick look at the table of boys' badges being picked up at the start of the exam day suggested around 2/3 that number - then again they were going fast, but perhaps some had been discouraged from sitting the test. Did anyone else amuse themselves by counting exam day badges?!

claraschu Mon 03-Feb-14 21:24:41

I know two boys who left because they were being bullied, but this was the year before the current head started working there. I have heard mixed things about her from friends at Oxford High (where she was the head previously). I have a feeling that Abingdon is a fairly conservative, traditional boys school atmosphere, so if you really don't fit into that ethos, you might struggle.

I also know two families who are very happy with the school, but I don't know them as well, so haven't heard details.

bisjo Mon 03-Feb-14 21:36:22

The boy that showed us around said that he had been bullied and said it wasn't dealt with very quickly. He said he was happy at the school though so hopefully it was dealt with properly.

3:1 is pretty good odds.

fortysomethingsemiretired Fri 25-Apr-14 13:47:59

We're current parents and have been bitterly disappointed. Our son is bright but not an uber-genius. He was at the associated prep school previously and thrived there. The culture has changed latterly. Too much academic push. If you are not a straight A* student all the way you are looked down upon. Some of the teaching staff are disengaged and defensive. Head is invisible unless you are at an Open Day or other public event. We are hopeful to have another option for sixth form, even if we have to pay considerably more. Sorry to be downbeat but my opinions are not unusual among current parents.

fortysomethingsemiretired Fri 25-Apr-14 13:53:05

oh... and also... highly unpalatable to be bombarded with mailshots asking for money to fund the new Science Centre. That was jolly off putting.

handcream Fri 25-Apr-14 15:46:43

My DS got a place a number of years ago (just!).

We turned it down because I thought the school was just trying to become a hothouse and taking a lot of abroad boys from China and the Far East where academic achivement is held in very high regard (but other areas such as social intergration less so often)

Having said that lots are very happy with the school.

Again, its matching the right school to your child

roguedad Fri 02-May-14 06:16:39

I rather felt that the fact that the school was successful in attracting boys from the Far East was a very positive indicator that the school had a strong focus on academic performance. I rather hope some of the Chinese culture of hard work rubs off on my son, and making some contacts in the world's major new economy and picking up a bit of spoken Mandarin is no bad thing either! If the Oriental boys stop coming, and/or the head starts blethering relentlessly about the "whole child", that's the time to really start worrying. And just what is the problem with forceful fund raising? That is precisely the way to generate resources for new facilities. Science is important, and a major part of the real job of a school. Take a walk around the STEM departments of one of the UK's leading unis and you will find a multitude of Oriental faces - our kids need to learn to compete with that at school and in the run-up to uni admissions. Bring on "academic push"!

1805 Fri 02-May-14 13:25:17

I heard that F Lusk had applied for the St Helens headship, but didn't get it. Does she want out of Abingdon? Or is it just a vicious rumour???
Any ideas anyone?

summerends Fri 02-May-14 16:03:30

Not heard that one but imagine that her ambitions won't stop at Abingdon and that she will be open to another change.

happygardening Fri 02-May-14 21:50:35

Lots of mixed views about the head. I've not heard that head is leaving she's not been there that long, surely a bit quick to leave? A couple of parents with DS's there told me they and the boys rarely see her always fund raising, recruiting more from Asia.
It's a big school over 1000 pupils a boy told me. I recently visited it and was struck by how immaculate and corporate it felt, the same sort of feel as Eton, not for me but very popular.

1805 Fri 02-May-14 22:36:40

The fact that she hasn't been there long made me a bit hmm as well. Maybe it's all just rumour.

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