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Wellington College Opinions - AS retirement announced.

(39 Posts)
Amazonskye1 Mon 30-Jun-14 14:47:01

I am considering Wellington College, Christ's Hospital and Epsom College for my son for 2015 Y9 entry. I have read reviews on all 3 schools but note that Wellington College has amassed a considerable number of bad reviews on mumsnet forum with most based solely on individuals dislike of the current headmaster, Dr. Anthony Seldon. I personally find it difficult to form an negative opinion of someone who has clearly achieved a great deal for WC. I have not yet read any offensive quotes from him in the media and, considering his C.V., see no reason why he should not be proud of his achievements and outspoken about subject on which he has so much experience.

I am just wondering if the opinions of those who reject Wellington College because of their dislike of Dr. Seldon have changed since he announced that he will be retiring in Summer 2015 to care for his terminally ill wife, Joanna?

I look forward to hearing your opinions.

Ladymuck Mon 30-Jun-14 21:59:28

Welcome to Mumsnet.

Presumably if one had rejected a school primarily because one didn't like the Master, then one would need to form a view of the new Master before reconsidering (assuming that you were still looking for schools). If your son pretested for Wellington, then presumably you formed your own opinion about the school and AS. Does AS leaving change your impression of the school?

middleclassonbursary Tue 01-Jul-14 00:09:06

I personally dislike AS because he's comes across as a salesman and a self publicist and I'm always suspicious of both. He likes gimmicks and things that create headlines and I don't think this is what education is about.
I also cannot imagine a bigger contrast between the parents at CH and those at Wellington and the two schools in general, few I would have thought often have both at the top of their short list!

propatria Tue 01-Jul-14 10:30:38

Why people dislike Seldon was actually for me summed up by his resignation,he could have just told the school but no he tells everyone by a full page article in the paper(cant remember if it was the Telegraph or Times) even then it had to be about him.....
Has he really changed Wellington,strip away the pr and what has actually changed,lets see what the next head is like
What has he actually achieved,has the school really changed in any significant ,permanent way?
If dc was a not very academic very keen rugby player then Wellington would be in the mix,Seldon hasnt changed that,he has not changed the school,what he has done is get a lot of publicity for himself and the school

Amazonskye1 Tue 01-Jul-14 10:38:28

Thank you for the replies.

@Ladymuck - I have yet to meet AS and have just been doing some general online research on independent schools. Recent media interest in my son, following a pretty massive academic achievement, has resulted in him being offered special scholarships and full bursaries to a number of schools including (in no particular order) Marlborough, CH, St. Paul's, Wellington, Epson, Charterhouse, Eton and Westminster. There has also been interest from a few others.

He would prefer not to attend an all boys school or one offering full boarding only. He has very little interest in sports (although he always gives 100%) and wishes to attend a very academic school. We have been given dates for entry exams to be taken between Oct 2014-Feb 2015 but have been told these are pretty much just a formality as his current Yr7 academic records have him at year 10 level for most subjects and ready for to sit GCSE's in French, science, English and maths next year (yr8). We had never considered a private education until April this year when it was highlighted to me just how exceptional his academic ability truly is. His current state school does not have the provision to comfortably support and stretch him and even I am now finding it difficult to add to the personal enrichment programme I have been developing for him over the past few years.

@middleclassbursary - My son thinks nothing of his extraordinary ability and is very modest and humble about he's achievements having turned down interviews with several national and international media agencies. Similarly, his concern and mine is not of the sort of parents who have children at a particular school but whether the school will provide my son with like minded peers and teachers as passionate about learning as he is. In fact, as the prospectuses have come through the door, he only ever asks me for the supplement information so that he can read about the standard curriculum subjects offered, the co-curricular opportunities and the leavers university destinations. The background of existing students and the bank balance of their parents is of no importance to either of us. In his mind he goes to school to learn, not to judge others, though he is use to being judged himself.

While I want the best education for my son, the provider has to be the right one for him.

Amazonskye1 Tue 01-Jul-14 10:45:49

@propatria - Thank you. I guess the bottom line is to let a schools examination results do the talking. I'm sure we'll find the right school for my boy in the end.

Amazonskye1 Tue 01-Jul-14 10:54:31

AS leaving does not change my impression of the school as I am still gathering information on it. It just stood out to me that he was quite disliked.

CharlesRyder Tue 01-Jul-14 10:59:00

I think a full boarding school would be great for your son.

Amazonskye1 Tue 01-Jul-14 11:07:47

@CharlesRyder - I actually think he'd love it too. I believe, in time, he would learn to fully embrace all the opportunities on offer and he has never had any trouble making friends. The full fees offers all cover full boarding but I think the whole idea of boarding is still so fresh in his mind that he just can't imagine not coming home for weeks at a time. Perhaps after he has attended a boarding taster day/days he will begin to warm to the idea. Many of these schools are happy for friends and families to visit and take the children out for lunch on Sundays so he would still see me between exeats.

Thanks! smile

grovel Tue 01-Jul-14 12:44:57

If I had a DS with your DS's abilities I'd go for College at either Eton or Winchester. I know that they are single sex and boarding but they are the only schools I know of where the cleverest boys live together in a house of like-minded children. There is no danger of intellectual curiosity being derided and the boys stay "grounded" because they realise that there are quite a few other furiously clever boys on this planet. I'm not suggesting that your DS could become intellectually arrogant for one minute - I just think that College boys at both schools feel less "different" because their abilities are closer to the norm in that environment.

CharlesRyder Tue 01-Jul-14 13:18:36

What are your son's aspirations? I'm not sure I can see clear reasons for doing academic qualifications early?

I agree with Grovel that it would be ideal for him to go to a very academic school (which Welly isn't hugely) where he can just be 'normal' and get on with being a kid.

How did the media find out about your son?

Amazonskye1 Tue 01-Jul-14 13:45:48

My son aspires to study at Oxford. He wants to become a Professor of Astrophysics, no less. Great aspirations which I genuinely believe he can and will achieve with the right education and guidance.

I agree with the idea that doing qualifications early is rather unnecessary and he will not be doing this. I feel it would be far more beneficial for him to expand on his current knowledge to increase his chances of hitting his straight A* GCSE predicted grades. With very little in place for more able children, his current school sees early GCSE as a next step. They don't really know what else to offer him.

Initial media contact came from word-of-mouth. No doubt my mum's very proud and large mouth. They contacted me after a recent event. I don't want to say too much at this stage as we are still weighing up our senior school options.

I will discuss single-sex schools with him again today. Though he is currently at a co-ed state school, all but 1 or 2 of his friends are boys and if he will get the peer compatibility that he so desperately craves at an all boys school, this has to be a serious option.

AuntieStella Tue 01-Jul-14 13:53:40

Have the schools actually made offers, or is it still at the stage of expressions of interest with indications of scholarships/bursaries available?

If bursaries have actually been offered, then resumably you have had extensive contact with the school/s and been through their means testing procedures. Which ones did you get the best 'feel' from, and which interviews did your DS enjoy the most?

ZeroSomeGameThingy Tue 01-Jul-14 14:31:23

My son aspires to study at Oxford. He wants to become a Professor of Astrophysics, no less.

I wonder if there's any possibility of your finding a last-minute place at a really good prep school for the coming September?

Obviously I know nothing about your DS's achievements but the top sets of the most academic prep schools are filled with children with similar aspirations. And those taking scholarships to the most academic public schools would all be being taught to GCSE (or higher) levels in at least some of their subjects by year 8.

A year at a prep would also help prepare him for the very full on extra curricular life that public schools provide and expect their pupils to involve themselves in.

grovel Tue 01-Jul-14 14:51:37

Some senior schools might pay for that year at a prep. Worth asking.

Amazonskye1 Tue 01-Jul-14 15:07:00

I would not say we have had extensive contact with any school. We have had 3 home visits so far. 2 conditional offers (entry tests pending). Completed scholarship and bursary forms via email for 4 schools. Everything has been moving quite rapidly. He has not been called in for any formal interviews yet bar the home interviews. He has an interview in 2 weeks, 3 scheduled for Sept/Oct this year. He has been extremely impressed by all schools as the opportunities are so immense in comparison to his current and past state schools.

I will look into him joining a prep school this Sept for Yr8. It had crossed my mind that this would be a great way of preparing him for private senior school but wrongly assumed it would be too late to apply.

It's all quite overwhelming! confused

ZeroSomeGameThingy Tue 01-Jul-14 15:31:03

Yes, it does sound like rather a lot to take in all at once.....

It would generally be far too late to apply but exceptions can sometimes be made. And it's not at all unusual for parents to find their plans changing at short notice - leaving an unexpected vacancy.

As we don't know where you are it's impossible to suggest a prep. (You might want to limit the distance even with a boarding prep.)

I would suggest you focus on the most academic senior schools - whether or not they have initiated contact with you. You will also find that the most well established schools are the most likely to be able to back up any bursary offers...

Ask them about the schools from which their pupils arrive. Lots of children move from state to independent schools but in all honesty it might be difficult for a child to hit the ground running and really take advantage of all the opportuinties available (particularly at a boarding school) without any prior experience.

Any senior school that is really interested in your son's wellbeing (as well as his exam results) will be open to discussing every possibility for his future.

I wouldn't have said Wellington was the obvious choice. Eton, Winchester, St Paul's, Westminster, Magdalen College School and a very few others around the country would be worth considering.

MillyMollyMama Tue 01-Jul-14 15:55:59

We went to an open day at Wellington when DD was considering 6th form change. We had the talk from AS - is it now Sir A S? All well and good. Liked potential students who enjoyed extra curricular, who were talented in other spheres, not just academics, etc.

However, on the 6th form subject evening it was a different story. Apparently you were not really wanted if you were not IB (6/7) calibre or likely to do 5 A levels. AS said that is the standard they were looking for. Extra curricular attributes were totally out of the window! What a waste of time! Students already there, and the staff, told us they were trying really hard to get the academic standard up and had invested heavily in the IB so needed everyone do it. It certainly was not for us but I would not say it should not be in the mix. It really depends on the child and where he feels most at home.

If he is taking the school 13+ scholarship or Common Entrance exams then I would, at minimum, think about getting a tutor to run through the style of the exams as they may be different from what he is used to. He may well have the knowledge to answer the questions already but he may need some pointers in dealing with the style of question and form of answer that is usually expected.

Prep schools know the schools and the style of the exams so can makes sure that the boys know how to answer that type of question.

As he is likely to have a choice of schools then I would be quite tough in assessing them. Don't get blinded by facilities and playing fields - they all have good ones - pick the school that will suit your son. Look at the older boys and think about how your son will be at their age. What about his other interests, does the school meet them too?

I went to a very average state school so going around some of these schools has left me a bit open mouthed. They all offer so much more than I had when I was in school but not all of them would suit my DS.

CharlesRyder Tue 01-Jul-14 16:34:12

his concern and mine is not of the sort of parents who have children at a particular school but whether the school will provide my son with like minded peers and teachers as passionate about learning as he is

I think you will need to carefully prepare your DS for 'very bright' being the norm to the point where it is no big deal. If he goes to somewhere like College at Eton or Winchester for many kids it will just be a case of choosing whether to apply to Oxford or Cambridge- it will be no big deal and they will be more focussed on other things, certainly in the lower years. DH taught at a London super selective and many of the kids were more into online gaming than work grin. It changes a bit in the 6th form when the applications start going in.

It is some time since I went to Oxford but most of the undergraduates I knew were pretty blasé about it all too and more concerned with rowing and their social lives than work. I knew one guy who got called back for All Souls (the preserve of the super brains) and I can honestly say, even though my boyfriend (now DH) lived with him, I never saw him do any work!!

If your DS thinks he will be surrounded by very studious, intellectual types at a selective school or as an undergraduate at Oxford he might need some support when he realises this is not the case. They will, by and large, just be lazy buggers kids. It will be good for him though, he will be able to spread his wings.

Good luck!

ZeroSomeGameThingy Tue 01-Jul-14 16:55:44

In his mind he goes to school to learn,

Do try for a prep OP - he could have so much fun!

Start a new thread asking about prep schools (within a certain area maybe.)

middleclassonbursary Tue 01-Jul-14 17:06:47

Neither CH, Epsom or a Wellington are in the top 10 academically they have good solid academic reputations but non would be considered super selective. I have an academically exceedingly able DS, although not as bright as yours by the sound of things who's academic needs were not being met in state ed. We were advised many years to send him to a super selective where he would be with lots of other like minded children and we did he goes to one of those listed below. I have never regretted it he gets a broad stimulating very academic curriculum. So frankly I agree with the comment above if I was you Id be looking at the top six super academic schools depending where you live either MCS, St Pauls, Westminster, Eton, Winchester and Manchester a Grammar maybe (right outside of my area but it used to be very academic But check).

amazonskye Tue 01-Jul-14 17:08:36

Haha...yes, he does hope to be able to converse regualrly with like-minded peers but, being a child, he too has his 'Mindcraft' moments.

I think he'll be OK. He's never been a follower and I can't see his innate intellectual and studious abilities being negatively influenced by those with less focus.

Thank you EVERYONE for your positive and supportive comments and advise. I am very grateful! smile

middleclassonbursary Tue 01-Jul-14 17:22:52

My DS isn't a follower by any stretch of the imagination but loves the stimulation you get from being surrounded by others who basically absorb, think and learn at the same pace he does. Before his current school which was selective but not super selective he was top of the year for maths and miles ahead of the others but he couldn't be in a set on his own so was with others who are good at maths rather than brilliant. Now in his super selective he's top of 2nd set out of 10 sets and there's little to choose between him and his classmates, the pace is exceedingly fast, no point is laboured over, any one who doesn't get things immediately is chucked out of the set because it's not suitable for them. They have time to go beyond the curriculum and study other areas, they spark off each other, he's doing so much better now he's properly challenged. He was considered lazy at maths in his prep, he's now considered one of the schools riding stars and get high grades for effort and achievement.

ZeroSomeGameThingy Tue 01-Jul-14 17:37:44

I can't see his innate intellectual and studious abilities being negatively influenced by those with less focus.

Hmmm... OP you may slightly be missing the point. As CharlesRyder pointed out your Ds may be going to a school where (extreme) cleverness is pretty much taken for granted. He would find school life lonely and uncomfortable if he arrived with no desire to make an effort with everything outside the classroom - including a good deal of messing around and having fun. This is not defined as "lacking focus" but as growing into a well rounded human being.

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