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Kent - Dulwich Prep vs St Ronan's (and Sutton Valence Prep and Marlborough House)

(17 Posts)
Bosseboo Thu 04-Jan-18 09:34:41

I am currently investigating prep schools nearby us in Kent and would be really interested to hear the experiences from any current parents.

The shortlist is Dulwich College Prep and St Ronan's but would also be interested in hearing views on Sutton Valence Prep and Marlborough House. What are the pros and cons and what are the big differences between each school?


goldenlilliesdaffodillies Fri 12-Jan-18 10:53:03

Hello I know 3 of those schools well. They are all very different. It depends what your child is interested in?

Out of those schools I would definitely choose St Ronan's. It is a fantastic school- very friendly, caring, creative, great education, lots of scholarships, forward thinking school. Music department is fantastic, wonderful farm and enormous grounds. It has just won Tatler Prep School of the Year, but isn't "showy" or "pushy". Any child who goes there is extremely lucky and will have lots of fun whilst still getting an amazing education.

SueSueDonahue Fri 12-Jan-18 11:27:27

I also know those schools well.

St Ronan's for me!! It's a bit whacky but charmingly so. It's in a different league to all the other schools you mention, as frankly there is nothing to touch it.

Bosseboo Fri 12-Jan-18 16:09:10

Thank you! St Ronans seems amazing. My only concern is that they don't seem to prepare for 11+ at all and most go on to independent schools at 13 . Not sure if this will change now that Cranbrook starts to take from 11.... Any experiences of leaving St Ronans at 11 or going to a grammar school at 13?

SueSueDonahue Fri 12-Jan-18 21:12:43

@Bosseboo no, I don't think St Ronan's would be the right place to go if you were only going to 11. Tbh though, I'm not sure any of the schools would be good for that.

They are specifically for up to 13 and then going on to 13+ schools and the best pupils don't (and never have) gone on to cranbrook.

goldenlilliesdaffodillies Sat 13-Jan-18 23:06:57

If you go to a Prep School the school's generally expect you to stay until 13. A small handful leave at 11, but most at 13.

I know some pupils do go on to Cranbrook from St Ronan's and lots from MHS and DCPS.

Bosseboo Sun 14-Jan-18 09:42:29

thanks! My children are still small so no particular interests yet and hard to know how academic they will be. However my eldest would start their nursery this year and reception next so need to sign up fairly soon. Tough decision as who knows what happens in 8-10 years time... Kent seems to have very good grammar schools and would definitely like that option to be possible. Saint Ronans seems like such a nice school though. However, I would hate them to be alienated and disadvantaged for the last few years if we decided to try and leave at 11+....

SueSueDonahue Sun 14-Jan-18 11:14:23

@Bosseboo if you want the grammar school system later, you might be best sticking with state all the way. Both Benenden and Tenterden have great junior schools and lots go on from there to the grammars.

I really would not advise going to any prep school and then trying to transfer at 11.

yodaforpresident Sun 14-Jan-18 12:56:04

I know a few people with children at SVS prep who intend to move on to the Maidstone grammars - SVS only goes to 11 so would be suitable for those pursuing the grammar route. Only about 30% of children at Saint Ronan's go on to Cranbrook at 13 - I really don't think this number will change much even if Cranbrook fully moves to 11 entry. MHS and Dulwich send much higher percentages of children to Cranbrook.

SueSueDonahue Sun 14-Jan-18 13:53:24

@yodaforpresident I do think it'll change with cranbrook now taking at 11. The cranbrook kids were never welcomed with open arms anyway historically as preparing for those papers distracted from preparing for CE and scholarship papers for everyone else... it was just necessary for bums on seats.

But now that 1) St Ronan's is full and more popular than other local schools as well as getting a name for itself nationally and a reason for people to move there from London

And 2) Cranbrook is now 11+,

I think St R's will increasingly not only want to lessen those kids but will be able to fill the school with kids that want CE at 13.

SueSueDonahue Sun 14-Jan-18 13:59:06

Cranbrook's reputation dropping probably will have an impact too.

They have so much less money per pupil now and have dropped so many extras and subjects as well as increasing class sizes. It's so sad. It's a different school now to a decade + ago.

Floralnomad Sun 14-Jan-18 14:03:48

If you want Grammar at 11 then have a look at St Andrews at Rochester if it’s within travelling distance , it only takes them to 11 and practically all of their pupils go on to Grammars . No proper prep school is going to prep for 11+ as it’s not in their interests to do so and that’s not really what their clientele want .

yodaforpresident Sun 14-Jan-18 15:34:55

Sue - that's what I was saying, I don't think that 30% figure will increase, as most people at SRS are planning on independent right through.

As for Cranbrook, I have never understood why it was so popular as its really not that good a school.

SueSueDonahue Sun 14-Jan-18 17:03:50

@yodaforpresident agreed. I think a lot of the hype comes because they do fairly well at GCSE level. But that's no surprise when they are academically selective and so many of their pupils come from the private sector.

But then they didn't ever do as well as they should for A levels where the teaching and direction really matter.

And my DH had to step in an rescue many of his colleague's children's UCAS applications.

But it was still a good school until these cuts have come in 😔 A decade ago it was a different place.

I have heard the Maidstone grammar schools are a similar story.

I am actually always super impressed by the local secondary modern in terms of drive, direction and results. I can't remember the name now, grrrr. The local one that goes from 11.

Bosseboo Sun 14-Jan-18 19:42:51

Thank you for all of your thoughts. Cranbrook seems to rate from not great to amazing depending who you speak to! I suppose it depends on everyones starting point. What secondary schools would you recommend/sent your children to?

laurenmcaughtry Sat 20-Jan-18 21:18:35

We just went through exactly the same process, looked round all of them, and registered our daughter for St Ronans this week. It stands head and shoulders above the rest, in our opinion. Case in point - to look round MH we have to wait for the next open day and troop along with everyone else. St Ronans made us an appointment a week after we called to ask, and when we arrived last week we found that the headmaster and his wife had taken the entire morning off to show us round the whole school. We saw absolutely everything and were very happy with it. The arts and sciences building is a bit shabby but they are rebuilding it for 2020. They've also got funding for a brand new indoor pool and an extension of the music block. Their school meals are cooked using the vegetables and meat from their organic farm, and their DT department is building a fully functioning plane (which my husband went potty over). I could go on but to be honest, having been in your position, I would recommend going to meet them in person and seeing what the school has to offer and if it's what you want. Our daughter will start in nursery next year and we expect her to go up to 13 and then onto probably Benenden or Kings Canterbury (for convenience) or possibly a boarding school further afield depending on what she wants and where her abilities lie. However, our neighbours have decided on MH instead as St Ronans was a bit too relaxed for them, and they plan to send their two to Cranbrook afterwards, so at the end of the day it really just depends what your own preferences are. Hope that helps!

goldenlilliesdaffodillies Mon 22-Jan-18 22:54:02

St Ronan's really is as wonderful as it appears. It's the best school by miles!

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