Amersham Bucks - Beacon School/Chestnut Lane Elangeni(29 Posts)
We have recently moved to Amersham and have been offered a place at a lovely state school local to us. Our aim was always to try for grammar school and if its not possible then thats ok.
However, we are told that the Beacon School in Chesham Bois Amersham is a good school and if you want to pass eleven plus your chances are better if you go to a prep school? I am not sure this is the case especially as I assume a prep school would want to keep children until 13 (to sit 13+) but does anyone have experience of the Beacon school and what did you think of it? Did anyone actually go to Grammar school after attending the Beacon school?
dh grew up in that area and there is a strong tradition of prep school pupils doing 11+ for grammar entry. He went to a state primary though and got in. Lots of secondary independent schools have an 11+ intake too now.
IMHO, Elangeni not as good as its cracked up to be. Pastoral support leaves something to be desired. Also HT, deputy HT and another very senior member of staff all left together last year, so there have been quite a few changes (not in a position to say what the impact of these have been). Elangeni will not do any 11+ preparation so it will be down to you or a tutor. Lovely kids, though.
Lots of boys go from the Beacon to Dr Challoners in Y7. I think the Beacon is sensible enough to realise that in the current financial climate families who might previously have gone the independent route are now looking to get their boys into grammar school. Bear in mind that the Beacon is very sporty I would be wary of recommending to anybody whos son dislikes sport.
Thanks LIZS and Mattelie. It is interesting to get feedback. As we have moved from London all of this is new to us. I suppose in London a lot of people go to prep schools as the local schools may not be that great. But it is interesting to see that people do the same here. We could stretch to send the kids to the Beacon school but we moved as we thought the state schools would be good enough here.
We actually did move here for the Chestnut Lane/Elangeni catchment so it is interesting what Mattelie said about the school. Please can you expand on why the school is not so good? We have heard rumours of other people not being so happy too.
Schooling decisions are so tough! I will be so glad when this is all over....
Have 1 Ds in Yr3 at the Beacon, another moving to Yr2 there in September so am obviously a fan of the school.
Would disagree completely about not sending un-sporty boys. They have a policy of Sport for All - every boy plays in a team at some stage. My geeky non-sporty ds has been in the the C teams for football and rugby having never done much of either sport out of school and loved it.
Pastorally it's been good - ds had a run-in with another boy, teacher dealt with it quickly and effectively, something that never happened at the local state school he was at previously.
As for senior schools, Beacon is one of the biggest feeders to Challoners, at least half usually leave at 11+.
Hi Weblette. Thanks for the response. Where did you move your boys from and why? I just wondered why you were unhappy with your previous school and what the Beacon did that the other school did not. THanks again
We're in a village which has separate Infant and Junior school. Weren't 100% happy with the junior school so moving somewhere else for Yr3 seemed logical.
Yr3 is a standard entry point for the Beacon - lots of people do it that way.
In terms of what's better, smaller class size obviously, experienced teachers, lots of activities. Ds1 is our bright one, they've stretched him far more and are far more on his case than the state school ever did or were. He loves it.
Seeing how well he's done has prompted us to move ds2 a year early - they're starting a third class for Yr2 in September so he'll be in a group of 14.
Please can you expand on why the school is not so good?
Sure, two examples: in Y2 the much-loved (and excellent) class teacher went on maternity leave and the cover they got was incompetent the whole class went backwards. Rather than admit the problem, much less do something about it, the school tried to cover their tracks and deny there was a problem.
Also, DC has a chronic medical condition which school never really got to grips with, failed to show any understanding or support and generally treated it as rather a nuisance seemed more concerned with how it affected their attendance figures than well-being of DC.
Had a major falling out when we politely (well, fairly politely ) pointed out that DC was covered by the Disabilities Discrimination Act and they were breaking the law.
Of course, none of this may be relevant to you, but personally I dont much care for schools which place their reputation or attendance figures ahead of the childrens best interests.
In fairness, I should point out that both schools have new HTs since our experiences with them.
I have DDs so can't really comment on the Beacon, although I did hear a rumour that their 11 plus results were down this year. We don't live in the Chestnut Lane/Elengani catchment either so didn't have the choice. As to prep schools getting more children into grammars I would say that certainly the smaller class sizes etc must help with general education (one reason we chose a prep), and at the margin this probably helps with passing the 11 plus, but I do suspect that most of the children who pass would have done so anyway, provided they were at any decent school. Also take 'percentage passes' with a certain pinch of salt because some preps encourage all their pupils to sit the 11 plus and in others those unlikely to pass don't take the exam - particularly where the school goes up to 13. Thus an '80% pass mark' might be 80% of those who took it and not the whole Year 6. Schools in Bucks - whether private or state - are not supposed to teach verbal reasoning (the 11 plus here is just VR) but it is true that in some they might get some VR type lessons in Year 5. However the vast majority of parents take up tuition outside school - it's a real industry here. Personally I think they should examine them in what they learn at school but I digress. Good luck with your choice - I know parents with children at both schools and most seem happy.
Of course once we get the high speed railway thundering through here nobody will be able to concentrate on anything at school - no matter which one it is!
Re Chesham bois school. Going down hill. Not what it used to be, none of of the teachers from couple of years ago remain since new head come in. Not welcoming. NOt warm. Pastoral care- well whats that?! Faith school... Really?! non faith school cover more in this subject! Narrow minded. Some teachers are lovely but they dont seem to be hanging about, even new joiners. If one loves their job one usually stays put!
Having had my son as a student at The Beacon School, Chesham Bois, for the last 10 years I cannot recommend it as a a school. It is out of date, old fashioned, insular and the teachers run it like a private club for their own children and themselves.
Luckily for existing parents a new head teacher is starting in September, however he has been chosen by the poor board of governors, so good luck if anything changes. if you want a prep school education for your boy, try elsewhere.
and the sport is dire.
Franniem - very interesting. Beacon markets itself heavily but I suspect it doesn't support if you don't fit the mould.
I was interested in the comment about Elangeni and Yr 2. I assume this meant Chestnut Lane as Elangeni is a Junior School. I think most people would feel themselves very lucky to get a place at these schools. Chestnut Lane was always very sought after. I think posters who have children with problems are often not typical of parents at a particular school and may well have a different experience. If your child has special needs, OP, then this would obviously be a factor. There is also a big problem, that many schools face, including independent ones, that there are not enough brilliant trachers to go round to cover maternity. It is therefore difficult for Head teachers to get the quality they want.
The 11 plus is now based on the National Curriculum and that is taught at both the state schools you mention. If your child is bright they might need some exam tutoring but you cannot turn a less bright child into a grammar school one by tutoring. Many have tried and failed. However, at Elangeni there will be enough clever children to work with so you will know how your child sits in the cohort - if you see what I mean. Numbers of passes go up and down in ANY school! The cohorts are different each year so it is obvious that will happen. I would take Chestnut Lane without a shadow of doubt and then see what you want for year 3, but do not base it on 11 plus results. The Beacon will have a bigger mass of children capable of passing the 11 plus than almost any state school. That is why many people have chosen it - so it naturally gets the results. At Elangeni you will need to look for outstanding teaching and the ability to push the more able children. You will have to encourage your child to do all the other things that widen their general knowledge, knowledge of books, science and maths. It all helps.
Any thoughts on what the Beacon is like now? The new head has been there a while? I've been on a tour and interested in finding out what the cohort is like? Is the pastoral care good? Looking at either year 2 or 3 entry. Thanks
Strengths - choir, drama, sport, DT.
Maths is good if you get the right teacher.
Science average. Tech/coding etc seems weak. More of a chess club kind of place. Very traditional - a bit of a time warp.
Some of the form teachers are excellent and dedicated.
Site a bit cramped due to its popularity, but that probably helps it feel quite friendly and lively.
Not a fan of the new Head. One issue is he seems to be anti-grammar school despite the big % of Beacon boys going to DC Grammar. If you intend to stay to 13+ you will be warmly welcomed!
Thank you for your comments Jbjb123. Really helpful. Future plans would be to move on after year 6 to either DC Grammar, Chesham Grammar or possibly Berkhamsted. Anti-grammar view seems very odd particularly as Chesham Grammar is on the up. Is the pastoral care good? Bullying dealt with appropriately? Do you have to be a certain type of boy to be happy there? Many thanks
Know a few people who teach at the Beacon. Based on their apparent level of basic grammar and their social media comments, you'd have to pay me to send a DC there. HTH
Would be far more likely to choose Chesham Prep.
Oh dear about the grammar. Open day for Chesham Prep was ok but it would make our commutes too long. The DT, art and cooking facilities weren't as good as other schools. Missed the open day for Davenies so had a tour with the Head. Switching schools because of a house move to Amersham. Leaving a very large London state primary (rated Ofsted Outstanding but not got the pastoral care right) to just two classes of 20 at Davenies all the way through the school is too small scale for us. Gayhurst has just made it into the Good Schools Guide so went on their tour but it would also make the commute tricky. Merchant Taylors' Prep open day is in September so I might go to that. Elangeni and Chesham Bois C of E state primaries in Amersham get Ofsted Outstanding but they're full. We feel the pastoral care / small class size of a private school along with the music and drama opportunities would be better at a prep school. Doesn't escape the cliff edge feeling of what to do from year 7 if the only options are Dr Challoner's Grammar, Chesham Grammar or Berkhamsted but will cross that bridge when I come to it!! we don't want boarding schools. Then there's the 11+ tuition to do too! The Good Schools Guide have visited The Beacon this year. Their write up will be on their website in the next couple of months so it will be interesting to read their review. Always important to hear thoughts of parents so thanks for the comments.
FWIW both my two have been through CL and Elangeni and been v happy. Both are now at Challoners (DS and DD). Good luck.
Yes, Bucks Prep Schools like the Beacon face a tricky choice given the excellent grammar schools. Some have supported Grammars and let Year 7/8 wither. Beacon used to be balanced but new Head has decided to go for money and prestige of 13+. Probably a sensible commercial decision, but will alienate pro-grammar school parents.
Bullying? Some parents have felt trouble-makers were not dealt with fast enough. The rugby definitely toughens them all up - our son's pain threshold has definitely risen a lot since joining.
Are some geeky kids too who happily play chess and do rugby in the D team where there is less physical contact!
In general, it gives kids an all round mix of activities - is definitely not an academic hothouse, and bright kids can coast a bit. If you want a balanced general education and have the cash to pay for private, possibly boarding, to 18 then go for it. If your plan is grammar school at 11, then it is not a good fit under the new leadership.
Jbjb123 Very helpful thank you. Definitely not interested in boarding schools! Open to either private days schools to 18 or a state grammar school I guess either would be fine as long as it's not too far from Amersham and it's the right fit when the time comes. Undecided about co-ed, diamond or boys only for year 7 upwards. Great that Chesham Grammar is co-ed. Don't really like the idea of doing year 7 & 8 in a prep as it feels a bit strange to be around younger boys at that age.
Do most boys who go to The Beacon live in Amersham and Chesham or do they come from all over Bucks? Birthday parties and spending time with friends at weekends would be interesting if they came from all over the county...
Pastoral care and behaviour have been the issues where we are now & I'm keen to leave class sizes of 30. I don't have a problem having to pay for tuition to get ready for the 11+ test. 85% of those sitting the 11+ test get tutored but I suppose you still need the school to get them to the right level academically by year 6.
Tricky that choices from year 7 whilst living in Amersham are therefore pretty limited to grammars, Berkhamsted or Merchant Taylors to be close to home. At a stretch there's LVS Ascot and Shiplake that have day pupils but I'm not keen on the idea of being that far away from Amersham - not exactly great for a weekend social life for a child or getting to school every day/school events!
How can a head physically go about having much control over changing the focus to maximise the number of boys that stay to 13+? I supposed it could be dealt with via the admissions process and could take many years to shift the focus? How would they know what a family intends to do unless that information is shared with the school?
I hope this change doesn't mean the staff treat the boys differently i.e. favouring the ones they know will stay to 13 over those they're not sure about. Finances of a family being able to afford private schools changes rapidly and a Head can't control that. The Beacon is our preferred option after having visited Davenies, Chesham Prep, Gayhurst (going along to Merchant Taylors Prep open day but I hear it's an academic hothouse so probably a no). Many of the private senior schools take children from year 7 so the competition comes from both grammars and private senior schools. An interesting challenge keeping year 7 & 8 going at a Prep especially in Bucks. Sounds like a family would need to keep their thoughts very much to themselves about life beyond year 6 or do you have to share this info?
Bullying - not great trouble makers weren't dealt with fast enough. Great to hear it's not an academic hothouse but not so great bright kids can coast. Rugby is one sport I'd rather no school did because of the tackling but it's a massive sport and ouch about your son's pain threshold!!!
The 13+ focus is heavily pushed to parents including exhibitions from dozens of private schools marketing their wares. Head is heavily involved in this push to 13+ and any concerns raised about the academics for 11+ candidates are aggressively rebuffed. Grammar schools are attacked as narrow. Any talk of 11+ at school is banned so those kids going to grammars feel like second-class citizens rather than feeling good about their achievement, whilst the golden boys are prepared for greater things! The grammar numbers appear down again this year so the shift is real. Sad because there are wonderful things also about the school - dozens of boys loving choir, drama, DT etc due to some great staff. But definitely will be relieved to be moving to DC next year!
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