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Radley College versus Canford, how much has Radley changed

(51 Posts)
handsfullallthetime Thu 02-Apr-15 08:19:31

Trying to decide between Radley and Canford for our DS, more on the introvert/arty side than extrovert/sporty. We loved the art & design facilities at Radley - much better than Canford, but are worried about how he fit into the general mould there. Has anyone had recent experience with Radley for non-sporty boys, who have not lived in the UK? Is their art and design really as good as it looks, or the product of a well polished presentation by the head?

happygardening Thu 02-Apr-15 08:40:12

Surely if youre abroad the most important difference is that Radley is a true full boarding school and Canford isn't.
All Boys I've met from Radley are well mannered and friendly but not necessarily overtly extraverts but without a doubt sport in particular rugby is very big there. It's a very traditional school and with a "man up" culture.

Buzzybeez Thu 02-Apr-15 10:41:14

Radley has not changed! I assume you are wondering if the new Warden has made some changes? Not yet....!! Agree with HG's views of the school.

summerends Thu 02-Apr-15 12:41:26

I think he would find a few like minded boys at Radley as well as the facilities and teaching for his interests. As said above I hear there is still a cultural divide between the sporting elite and the others. Housemasters are variable in their pastoral care for those who need it.

TinkerBellThree Fri 03-Apr-15 07:38:31

We have several friends with their DS' at Radley and a couple with DCs at Canford. As Happy very rightly pointed out, your first thought should be that Canford is not full boarding at all, and there are very few students left at school at the weekend. When we were showed around, we were guided by a boy whose parents live abroad, and he told us things were rather quiet at the weekends.
I know of boys at Radley who are very arty and creative and not at all sporty at the conventional main sports. However, they have come into their own at lesser sports and are thriving. Other boys we know are super sporty, but weren't at prep and are now in a-teams.
Ultimately, I am not sure where the Art and DT? departments differ and if the extra facilities outweigh the question of busy or rather quiet (lonely?) weekends for your DS?
I think your first question will have to be where you see him as happiest and thriving the most.

happygardening Fri 03-Apr-15 10:58:22

On the Win Coll (DS2) website there's a video about the music dept, the head of music believe that boys sing better without girls being in choirs. I wonder if this also applies to subjects like art. At DS1's school (state) GCSE art was mainly by girls, only two boys took it up. I think if art and design are important to your DS then at Canford I'd be enquiring about the numbers of boys taking it up and comparing it with the numbers at Radley. Also if the work you saw at. Radley was impressive surely this means that boys who are arty are doing art, ok maybe not in great swathes but for those who enjoy it they are able to do it. You could enquire how often art dept are open outside of normal hours, I was told that regular and continuous (four or fives times a week) access to art dept is essential once you go beyond GCSE.

I like single sex eduction I think the argument made by girls schools that girls are more inclined to take up sciences etc in single sex schools applies equally to boys in single sex schools taking up art subjects like art and history of art. For example history of art is apparently completely dominated by women university but at Win Coll last year it was more popular than geography and many of the MFL 's at Pre U (A level equivalent).

With regard to sport check out what sports are compulsory, are there a major and a minor sports? Major sports are usually three to four times a week and usually you choose between a three or four each term so for example in the autumn term the choices might be. Rugby, rugby, rugby, rowing, and maybe one other. This is frankly not great for the non rugby player, those who can't stand team sports in general or standing in the rain and wind three afternoons a week but it's likely to be the same at Canford. If your DS is crap at Rugby but still has to do it in a school like Radley where there are lots of boys to make up teams he is likely to be in a lower team and therefore have less matches which could be good for him! I know from a friend who works there that Radley also have excellent medical back up pitch side even for practice.

TinkerBellThree Fri 03-Apr-15 13:43:04

Excellent points made by Happy (as always) with regards to the uptake of Art and single sex vs mixed etc.

happygardening Fri 03-Apr-15 14:06:00

Just looked at Radley's website in the Michaelmas term it's rugby all the way as I said above rugby is "very big there".

Italianchappie21 Wed 08-Apr-15 17:50:02

Spent lots of time at Radley over the past year making sure it is right for DS. Couldn't agree more with Tinkerbell - there are sporty boys and non sporty boys thriving there. Happy Gardening has put this on mumsnet before - the view that only super sporty boys will be happy there and that Rugby is big. I disagree as I have met all sorts of boys who are happy there. Don't be put off by one poster's comments - go and see for yourself. Have no idea if it has "changed" as I am only looking at the school as it is today but we love the school and they appear to like DS who is not going to be in the A team for any of the main sports. We are also impressed with new Warden!

happygardening Wed 08-Apr-15 17:57:29

You could be right Italian but tie colleagues have/had boys at Radley and this us also their opinion of it. I also know 2-3 people who work there or have worked there ago an this is their general view of it.
Of course we all see and experience the same thing differently and therefore form different views.

happygardening Wed 08-Apr-15 17:57:53

Two colleagues not tie!

summerends Wed 08-Apr-15 18:12:39

Italian we know a fair number of boys who are going through Radley. Whether a boy is A team material or not he has to like the team sport emphasis with the traditional sports including rugby being compulsory, frequent and highly regarded. That is not unusual at a traditional boarding school so Radley is not unique but certainly is well known for the frequency of team sport sessions. It does leave less time for practising creative pursuits (particularly for the disprganised) and therefore parents and DCs like ourselves were put off by that aspect.
I agree that musical, arty and creative boys will not be alone (and will have access to superb staff and facilties) but they will not be in the majority. The larger preps do direct a certain type of boy to Radley or are smaller preps that also have a Radley-type approach so the 'Radley-type' is a self-fulfilling prophecy. I think it is actually harder for a A team sporty boy at Radley to break out of the 'jock' mould and eg sing in the choir than an arty creative boy to enjoy his sport.
As I intimated above I would also advise some caution in choosing housemasters as some have the reputations of not being particularly involved with guiding their charges or in their pastoral care (anxieties etc). The academic side and talks / societies are great. It is assumed that the present Warden will try and break out of the middle England country set image (and reality) of Radley.

happygardening Wed 08-Apr-15 18:51:39

It willbe interesting to see what the new head does. But Radley unlike many other full boarding schools is completely over subscribed, friends we know with DS's there or who have been there like it's tradition ethos and it's "middle England country set image" the phrase "if it ain't broke don't fix it" springs to mind.
Secondly as it has a ridiculously early registration, it has to be assumed that future parents who are this organised and have currently registered their DS's are also "middle England country set" types with traditional values so I would have thought it would take quite a while to turn that particular ship around.

1805 Wed 08-Apr-15 19:47:53

DS about to join Radley, and we also spent a lot of time exploring the types of boy, and following up on the Rugby emphasis. DS is not massively keen on Rugby - enjoys team sports in general, just not rugby!! - but we and ds are happy he will be happy there. I have not got the impression from staff/boys/employees/timetables there that rugby will be too much of an issue. Yes he will have to play it, but most schools do rugby for at least a term. He is more of a cricketer.
Ds is also musical, and he has been invited to an afternoon soon to go through how to balance and organise his musical commitments alongside sport and academics. He will also talk to current musical boys to see how they juggle everything. I think that will be useful.
The new Warden impressed us, and certainly at least a few members of staff seem to think he'll be good. - into boys being independent and responsible for their actions/lack of actions!!
I think you have to do as much visiting and asking around at the school as you can and see what impression you get.
I assume you are considering Wardens List entry to Radley? Or is he already registered?
Oh - the art really is AMAZING (imo!!!)

summerends Wed 08-Apr-15 19:54:30

You are right HG the intake may not change apart from the Warden's List. However the outlook of the boys might.
A lot of these schools have teachers who have been through a similar upbringing of boarding prep, public school, a brief excursion into the outside world and then back to teaching in the same environment. It can perpetuate a certain type of social and 'man-up' ethos

Italianchappie21 Wed 08-Apr-15 20:10:42

1805 - completely agree with you re the Warden and also about the Rugby. I have done a lot of homework about this! No doubt a lover of Rugby can play an awful lot but the key point is that a non lover of Rugby has plenty of other options. Maybe this is a change from the past but I and DS are confident enough of this to send him (and after all you and I are the current intake!). The Monday activity programme is great for the non sporty type and also there is a whole sports afternoon dedicated to the minor sports (Badminton etc. if that is your thing) in addition to the Wednesday activity programme.
The music, drama and art are amazing and like you we have found them extra helpful in making sure the boys with interests in these areas are provided for and helped to make time to fit it all in.

1805 Wed 08-Apr-15 20:13:12

Italian - is your ds starting this september?

summerends Wed 08-Apr-15 20:16:19

1805 sometimes being in a significant minority has its advantages as the relevant staff will be very supportive. However I am sure that you are aware that a lot of the staff and boys will be more impressed by a sporting victory than the work that goes into a full orchestral schedule and subsequent performances.
I think that a boy like your DS who is very keen on at least one of the three main team sports played during the year will enjoy and make the most of the Radley sport emphasis.

1805 Wed 08-Apr-15 20:20:48

Happy - why is it "rugby all the way" at Radley? I really haven't been given the impression that it is any more rugby than Abingdon at least.
Most prep schools have compulsory rugby during the winter term.

Italianchappie21 Wed 08-Apr-15 20:37:56

and why is it assumed that the non rugby star can't be mates with some rugby boys? DS's two best friends at prep school are super Rugby players but they all respect and admire each other for their individual skills.
Note major drama competition in first term at Radley which brings huge respect for the drama guys from the house.

1805 Wed 08-Apr-15 20:44:01

OMG - the drama!!!!! Did anyone see The Producers? Truly amazing.

summerends Wed 08-Apr-15 20:54:57

Italian of course they can be friends and of all the arty pursuits the drama there has the highest profile and respect. The musical theatre productions are wonderful.
However as I've said, the very sporty boys find it difficult to break out of that first team mould.
You and 1805 are both happy with your choice of Radlley which means that you feel the school is a good fit. Not everybody will feel the same and it still suffers from being a fallback option for those who don't get into Eton

grovel Thu 09-Apr-15 17:53:07

My DH was at Radley. We have a couple of histories of the school which I have occasionally dipped into. It seems that the school has been trying to throw off its "rugger bugger" image (known as "bloodism" by the Victorians/Edwardians) for ever. It's curious because the founders set out to create an aesthetic and gentle environment to educate young gentlemen.

I'm pretty sure that a non-sporty Radleian can/will thrive nowadays but DH was amused to talk to a newly-appointed Radley don recently who was astonished that most Radleians can still name the first XV and will do so with some awe. That would never have been true at his previous school.

Mumofagrievingteen Thu 09-Apr-15 18:40:40

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

roguedad Thu 09-Apr-15 19:31:04

1805 - I rather think that Abingdon and Radley could hardly be more different. At Abingdon, boys have an almost free choice about how they spend their extra-curricular time (subject to doing some sport and having some diversity) and just under half of them make a choice to play rugby. As a result they field 4 committed teams in each age group. The first XV beat Eton this year and boys appear in national U18 squads, including a England Captaincy recently playing against Scotland with another Abingdon boy in that side! So it's taken seriously. But just over half the boys choose to give priority to something else, which might or might not involve a lot of other types of sport. Frankly, I think that is how it should be. We took one look at the Radley arrangements for extra-curricular activity and ruled it out immediately, many years ago. We thought the sports arrangements were ghastly. The first job of a school sports department is to make provision for kids to choose to do something that excites them and that they might be good at, including making the necessary provision to assess them to find out. It is absolutely not to impose some narrow obsession of the school on everybody. And as for the observation that "most prep schools" impose compulsory rugby for a term, I've experienced that nonsense and seen my son made miserable by it, and he is now much happier at Abingdon (senior) doing a lot in the swimming pool. I'd advise the OP to take a long hard look at Abingdon (boarding if needed) for another option where boys have a lot more choice and control.

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