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Non-selective prep vs selective

(76 Posts)
Shiggle Tue 05-Dec-17 18:27:37

We are looking at a non selective coed prep vs a single sex selective prep for DS. The single sex prep is more academically rigorous (I think!) but I like the idea of coed better. I wonder if a non selective prep would truly challenge the top set?

Zodlebud Tue 05-Dec-17 19:38:23

Totally depends on the school. Ours definitely does. Some other local preps are hot houses with parents still tutoring outside school. Others are just nice schools for nice kids if you get my drift.

Leavers destinations are often a good indicator.

Shiggle Tue 05-Dec-17 20:26:06

How do you suss if it's in the category of "nice school for nice kids"? Most of the leavers destinations are just a list. They don't tell you how many are going to a particular school.

BubblesBuddy Tue 05-Dec-17 21:18:31

The schools the children go to are the key. Are they 13 plus? Are they 11 plus? Are they easy to get into? How many scholarships? How well known are the schools? What track record do they have of sending pupils to top rated schools? Or are parents paying for a nice little school without a thought about the future?

Depends what type of secondary education you want as to what prep school you choose. If you want Harrow or Eton, choose a school that preps for these. If you want the local independent that is barely selective, then go anywhere because it won’t matter.

Shiggle Tue 05-Dec-17 21:35:30

The school goes to 13. They sent 40 odd kids to 20 senior senior schools. What do you make of that? Everything from Eton to Cokethorpe.

Shiggle Tue 05-Dec-17 21:43:00

The leavers list isn't even specific to one year it's just a list of every school for 20 miles around...says they had 85 scholarships in the last five years so 85/200 although maybe some of those scholarships are the same kids? Are schools usually this vague?

fidgettt Wed 06-Dec-17 01:35:23

Hm, that sounds more vague than some would be OP. Virtually every Prep would have sent a child to Eton / Harrow in the last 5-10 years I'd have thought. Discounting those, is the list full of other famous schools or mostly full of local schools?

How do the fees compare with other Preps? Can you tell us to the nearest few hundred pounds what the fees are and what part of the country / how it compares to other Preps locally?

I assume as it goes to 13 this is a "proper" boarding Prep with Saturday school rather than just a non-London Indy?

If it's in the south east you can pretty much guarantee someone on MN will know of it if you feel able to name it / name change and start a thread?

Our non-selective Prep has bucket loads of kids with CAT scores 130+, and the top set are definitely challenged but I'm in quite a pushy parent area of the UK. We definitely do have bums on seats sorts of Preps too though.

Shiggle Wed 06-Dec-17 06:23:10

I don't mind naming the school. It's St. Hugh's in oxfordshire. The fees seem in line with other preps. They do flexi boarding during the week but no Saturday school. Other ones we are considering are abingdon and the manor but open to any I've missed.

Zodlebud Wed 06-Dec-17 06:31:54

You can ask the school to provide the breakdown of numbers by year. They have the information and you are a paying customer. I did and it seemed like it became so common that our school now has a full breakdown on their website.

LIZS Wed 06-Dec-17 06:45:03

85/200 doesn't seem high for a selective school. Is it just academic scholarships or does it include music, drama, sports etc. Some children may get multiple. Are the figures based on offers or those taken up?

sendsummer Wed 06-Dec-17 06:46:40

I don't know St Hughs but quick look shows this for up to date scholarship list
st-hughs.co.uk/Scholarships
There are some high level academic scholarships there which -if- achieved by school teaching rather than tutoring should reassure about academic standards. The Dragon school is non-selective and certainly stretches very bright children. However for you I guess it probably means commuting into Oxford.

Shiggle Wed 06-Dec-17 09:41:51

I had discounted the Dragon because of the full boarding. St. Hugh's weekly flexi boarding was about as far as I'm willing to go. I don't want DS to be a day pupil in a boarding school. I'd prefer a co-ed day prep that is selective but not a super selective but haven't found it yet. We currently live in London so could be anywhere really.

Gruach Wed 06-Dec-17 11:20:18

I don't know St Hugh's because we were only looking at single sex schools - but nice school for nice kids is not the first question to consider. Ask yourself first 'which three senior schools are we aiming for' (assuming you're able to make a judgement about your child). Then find the preps that regularly send to those schools. Then pick the one you think would suit your child best.

It's amazing how many people I've seen on MN complaining that their prep isn't doing the one thing they've discovered they wanted - when they didn't carry out the proper research before choosing! There is absolutely no point in a prep unless you have picked it to prepare your child for a particular path. Niceness is immaterial otherwise.

fidgettt Wed 06-Dec-17 12:17:40

I agree with the PP, you should have a vague idea what sort of Senior school you're aiming for and work backwards.

I've looked at St Hugh's, it's clearly not a top flight Prep but it seems reasonable, but if you can choose anywhere within commuting distance of London then I'd probably keep looking.

Abingdon Prep seems to not list leavers destinations but is aligned with Abingdon Public school and gives offers in Y5 to children at the Prep so they don't have to sit CE. This makes me think the CE prep will not be great. I wouldn't choose it unless I wanted Abingdon for Senior.

The Manor I've seen only goes to 11+? This makes me wonder if you're not aiming for any of the well known Public schools at all? Or will send DC to a London Senior? Can you clarify as either of these change massively what you need to look for.

Zodlebud Wed 06-Dec-17 12:43:36

Although to add that not every parent has a dead set "career path" for their child and it is OK to send your child to a school with a wide range of next schools.

For example, I have two DDs at a co-ed prep which goes to 13. Girls leave at 11 and mostly go to grammars and local independents (a real mix of top academic schools through to ones known more for pastoral care). The boys go to a mix of independent day and boarding schools. At both 11 and 13 some children go into the state sector.

We purposely chose our school as it kept our options open. Whilst we have every intention of staying in the independent sector my husband's job security is often volatile. In the same way that someone might choose a school based on very specific next schools (Eton, Harrow etc.), some want to wait and see what happens and have no definite plans until the later years of their child's prep school "career". I believe a good prep should work with you to identify which next schools are best fit for your child. If they are not Wycombe Abbey material then they should be the voice of reason.

It is therefore so important that you do think about what you want for next schools. Aiming high then choose a school that consistently sends several children each year to the schools you like the sound of. Are you focussed on grammar schools and therefore need an 11+ factory instead? Are you thinking boarding or day school? Or are you like us and it's only from Y3/4 onwards that it has actually become clear what sort of school we need, but we know our school can help us with that?

I agree with the poster above about parents getting grumpy when the school doesn't match expectations. Our school likes the boys to stay until 11 and so the 11+ prep for them isn't as strong as it could be. The school is very open about this though.

This is one of my local single sex schools listings of destination schools as an example:

www.lockerspark.herts.sch.uk/about-us/destination-schools-2/

Zodlebud Wed 06-Dec-17 13:09:38

Sorry, that should say the boys to stay until they are 13!!

Shiggle Wed 06-Dec-17 13:10:48

I really don't know which senior schools we are aiming for. I've not been to see any and assumed they would change enough in the next 8 or so years that it was pointless. We aren't interested in boarding schools which I imagine knocks out most of the very big name schools. I would like him to go somewhere that's reasonably academic but not a hot house. Pastoral care is top of my list. I suppose we don't see education as a means to an end. Grammar schools don't seem to offer the extracurricular options I'd hope for so not looking for a feeder to those. I assumed we would wait and see how he matured. We were both raised abroad so our understanding of the English system is rather limited. Should I go see senior schools?

Gruach Wed 06-Dec-17 13:21:41

Ah ... OP it's not really a question of seeing education as a means to an end. (Completely with you there.) But if someone says they're choosing a prep school then people familiar with such schools might assume that they want the preparatory element. (Rather than simply a nice school to see their child through to 18.)

If your child is 5(ish?) then you'd be looking for a pre-prep - I'm not sure how crucial that decision is as it wasn't the route we took.

fidgettt Wed 06-Dec-17 13:48:52

But if someone says they're choosing a prep* school then people familiar with such schools might assume that they want the* preparatory* element. (Rather than simply a nice school to see their child through to 18.)*

Yes, ^ that's exactly what I assumed.**

If you just want a lovely school which will educate your child well and keep your options open for Senior schools then I think St Hugh's will do a great job.**

I'd be a little cautious of Abingdon purely because it could tie you in to Abingdon Public school quite a bit.**

I'm a little confused OP.** You say you live in London but to not want a boarding Senior school, so why are you looking outside of London but are open to many locations? Do you mostly just want to relocate out of London? If so, do you have any commuting requirements? Since you're not very specific about schools perhaps you should find a lovely area to live first?

fidgettt Wed 06-Dec-17 13:49:29

Oh, the fucking bold never works!

BubblesBuddy Wed 06-Dec-17 15:17:47

If you want a London Grammar or London selective independent, you are better off using a day prep in London that preps for these schools.

If you do not want boarding, lots of the top boys schools are out but you can look at co-Ed with flexible boarding from 13. There are plenty to choose from. If you want day then you will need to live within reasonable distance of the school you want.

I tend to think some preps do specifically prep for the big name schools and others are more generalist. What you do not want is a school where the majority leave at 11 but your DS stays on with a handful until 13. This provides a very dull last two years at prep. Therefore you do have to work ha kerfs, especially if you do not want boarding.

I would imagine St Hughes children might go to Radley or St Edwards for example.

sendsummer Wed 06-Dec-17 15:25:03

You need a very good largish co-ed prep school which are experienced in feeding to all sorts of secondary schools so that they can advise you at the right time what is best for your DC. If you prefer day schools I presume are thinking about relocating as PP said are you thinking of relocating? Cheam school in Newbury and Dragon school in Oxford both have lots of day pupils and flexi boarding as well (fairly new for Dragon).

sendsummer Wed 06-Dec-17 15:50:09

meant ^as PP said are you thinking of relocating anywhere outside London depending on the school?*

Shiggle Wed 06-Dec-17 15:51:10

We currently live in North London and DS attends a preprep where he is one of the only children not being heavily tutored for the 7+. It's just not for us. But at the same time the only less selective option near us is Belmont which I didn't really think much of. Nor do I want DS in a car being ferried across london for hours a day. I would like him to go somewhere with nice facilities where he isn't constantly on a coach. We aren't tied down by jobs as DH works from home most of the time. Oxfordshire seemed to have lots of choice for preps and senior schools plus it has oxford for some culture etc. I don't really want to leave london but will do it for the kids. Once we find the right school then I'll sort an area for us to live.

It sounds like I should have a look at the dragon. The only people I know IRL have commented that is has lots of weathy foreign boarding students which didn't reallly appeal. Will have a look in Newbury. Thanks for the recommendation. Abingdon senior school appealed for their "other half" curriculum.

fidgettt Wed 06-Dec-17 16:26:21

That makes sense OP. I think leaving London to escape the 7+ / 11+ tutoring sounds sensible!

I'd have a very good look at Senior schools for the area you want to move to OP. Make sure that there is at least a school you're almost guaranteed to get in to, a realistic option and an aspirational one. You don't want to end up in a situation like my friend who moved to an area with 6 viable Prep schools to choose from but for Senior only a rubbish school which isn't worth paying for or 2 which are impossible to get in to and hideously expensive. It's always harder finding Senior options as there are fewer Senior schools around.

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