Frensham heights(15 Posts)
Looking for anyone with first hand experience of frensham heights! We have 2 boys- 5 & 7- and are considering moving them there next sept. Our eldest is currently in our local state school (South Farnham) which is academically focused and does what it does very well! He has been there for a term and is settled- we've been told he's academically gifted (maths) so he's getting lots of extension work etc. Our youngest is an August baby who is academically able but definitely enjoys learning through play and physical experience rather than sitting and writing all day. We have spent the past couple of years looking into Steiner schools and after much research decided we didn't want yo move our whole lives for a school (I also had reservations about aspects of the approach). So frensham seems like a middle ground- space for the kids to be themselves, no shouty teachers on a power trip- small classes- creative focus etc...however, whilst I feel pretty confident it would be great for our youngest, I'm not so sure about our eldest, who does like structure/routine, likes to be stretched academically, and seems to enjoy the assessments. The progressive model at frensham fits our values and beliefs about education but is it a mistake to impose this onto our son?! My husband feels strongly that they should both take the same route, and feels that whilst our eldest might find the change hard (leaving friends and a system that he's become used to) in the long term he will gain more as a whole individual and thrive. One option could be to live youngest next year and then eldest join him there in 3 years for secondary but I fear leaving friends at that point might be even harder. So to stop my ramblings- any insight into experiences of frensham at both primary and secondary would be massively helpful!!! Thank you.
Hi - No experience of junior school but do have of secondary school.
We LOVE it, it is very nurturing, creative, children are definitely treated as individuals. As you can imagine it attracts quirky characters but also some really good teachers. It is well led and Andrew is inspired by learning and obviously runs a tight ship.
It is not an academic hothouse and there are quite a few dyslexic kids so it is not going to lead the league tables. But they do want the kids to do well, they will support them.
My child, who sounds more like your youngest, definitely likes the freedom.
He comes home with wet shoes having been scrambling through ditches at break time. Importantly, he is increasingly becoming more interested in academic learning.
I can see why you might want to leave your eldest. If he is happy, why move him. And South Farnham is a seriously sought after school which roles out great results.
Good luck both great options.
I clicked on this as we are considering it for 6th form, so a different stage to you OP. However I do want to pick up on your DH's view that your children should follow the same path through school. We thought that too, however we learned pretty quickly that each child has their Own needs and have ended up with 2 children at wildly different schools that suit each of them really well. One is a single sex school which we always said was verboten. Goes to show that the "fixed" ideas yiu have when they are younger don't actually turn out to be the best as they grow and develop different skills, talents and needs.
I've been to a training course there. Does that count? On speaking with members of staff there, I was very impressed.
The things an outsider will notice is that the students don't wear uniform and they address the teachers by their first names. The campus is impressive - gorgeous rural location and outstanding performing arts facilities.
At the end of the day, like other schools, they prepare students for GCSEs and A-levels. However, I get the impression that they are not slaves to league tables so the students do the courses that are right for them.
Our DS started at Frensham this September in the Junior School and we really love it. We came from a similar direction - August born and wanted a liberal approach to education, but didn't like the steiner approach and home ed really wasn't for us. Frensham was a great middle ground.
Nic, the head of the junior school is clearly passionate about what he does, and there is a fantastic atmosphere that I have not experienced at the other schools we have visited either state or private. The liberal ethos is very much practiced rather than preached.
The Junior school does seem to be more liberal than the secondary though- but there is a programme called Ethos Lead Learning where they are trying to bring a more "topic" based learning approach, similar to that used in the juniors, rather than the traditional subject lessons into the middle school. I guess this is a reaction to Andrews attempts to improve the academic results which some feel has reduced some of the "spark" that attracted people to Frensham.
We sent our son here because of the smaller class sizes and focus on the child as an individual. It has been great for him, he loves the school, gets on well with his teachers, has blossomed academically and has a great sense of loyalty to the school.
The teachers know all the pupils well and there isn't a barrier between teachers and pupils as there is in some schools.
Whilst they are doing better than they ever have at team sports, this still is secondary to performing arts. They do plenty of other alternative sporting activities; parkour, surfing, orienteering, capoeira.
Because it is not a large school, all pupils can get involved with activities of their choice, (great whole school productions and freedom to be creative musically, in drama, art and dance) and pupils are very tolerant and accepting of each other and there is a lot of mixing across year groups.
It would not suit all. If you child thrived on competition and wanted to compete at team sport at high levels they may suit elsewhere better.
Thank you for such helpful insights! Good to hear positive experiences- and definitely good for thought re: sending children to different schools. Your accounts back up what we had observed at the school- I'd be really interested if anyone out there had a different experience of it? In the meantime I think we've decided to move our youngest there this year, and possibly leave our eldest in SF until secondary unless he can be persuaded beforehand! I think when he sees his brother having much longer school hols he might change his mind!
One other question...any sense of how academically 'gifted' kids get on? The head did talk to us about funding for them, but just wondering as our eldest is apparently a whizz at maths...
There are academic kids there and the school has recently moved away from a monetary scholarship in favour of extra activities for scholars. Its early days and there is not much visible yet. It is certainly not a hot house or pushy of academics, which is possibly a negative and something you need to consider if your child is not self motivated.
I would say if your child is academic and self motivated they will do very well as you will see from each year's results. This is due to enthusiastic teaching, small class sizes and generally good behavior from the kids.
We are considering it for DD for Year 7 entry, she is very keen on art and the performing arts and is average academically (being assessed for dyslexia). I went to the Open Day in November and was impressed all round, especially after having spoken to a student with dyslexia. I'd say leaving your eldest at SF makes sense if he's doing well there, it is such a high performing school. We would not have even considered FH for our DS, it is totally not the right school for him, I do think you need to look at what's best for each child.
i think it works very well for 'average' kids or those who haven't yet got going yet. My eldest told me about the large amount of kids born in August in one of his classes. Being supported allows them to gain confidence and self esteem. Certainly it appears to be working for my two, they no longer tell me that they aren't good at XYZ.
I can't imagine it working for your DC who likes structure! Sounds like it could work for your youngest, but I'm sure if you wanted to you could find less alternative schools which are quite play focused, if you wanted to.
Why does your DH want the same school for both DC? Sounds like they have very different requirements and would suit different types of schools to me.
I think his main reason is his own experiences as a child- his two older siblings went to local state school and he was sent to a boarding school, I think he feels it created a divide and some resentments within the family. Going back to the last point about structure- would those of you who have kids at frensham say the days/lessons lack structure? It's clearly not summerhill but just wondering about the routines etc within the classroom I guess...
I think the major thing is trust, they trust the kids. That means they can learn in a way that suits them.
They have set lessons, they get tested each half term in the secondary school, they got graded on effort and achievement. There probably is more 'chatting' and flexibility in the classrooms.
But the teachers and parents want them to get good grades, the school is measured on exam results as well as all the other stuff. They are putting more emphasis on the academic and they are doing well on pupil numbers.
Yes they have structure. It's a normal school with a fixed timetable, homework, exams, discipline, sanctions etc etc.
I would recommend you arrange a visit during term time which may dispel some of the myths. You should also read the good schools guide which is a fair representation of what it is like. It's on the web site.
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