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Independent schools in Wimbledon - any advice?

(15 Posts)
gefjun Fri 07-Jun-13 17:17:02

My DS is signed up for signed up for four independent schools in Wimbledon ? Donhead, Willington, Squirrels and Rowans -for a September 2014 start in Reception, but I am really confused about which school to choose for him.

Do any of you have any experiences with any of these schools?

I like very much like the facilities and caring ethos at Donhead, but I worry whether it might be for more "sporty" kids and that it is a feeder school of Wimbledon College. Willington also seems to be a nice school with small class sizes and good specialized teaching, but the facilities are not great, and I don't know whether the school is very academic. Squirrels is obviously a feeder school for King's, but what about the boys who do not get into King's at 8? Is it a very pushy school (my DS is quite shy)? He?s on the waiting list for Rowans too, but I doubt he?ll get a place.

Any advice or experiences with any of the schools that you are willing to share would be gratefully received.

womblehopper Fri 07-Jun-13 21:05:31

It is a difficult one and one that we agonised over - best advice we received was to think about what you are wanting longer term for your DS, as these schools have different age/destination schools. Then focus on pastoral care/facilities etc.

Donhead is not seen as a feeder to Wimbledon College in the way that it once was; you would still need to meet their criteria regarding being a practising Catholic.

If you want to try for a more academic school like Kings then a Kings feeder is the more obvious choice. The best entry points for Kings (in terms of numbers of places available) would be 7 or 13. Neither Donhead nor Willington are geared up to feed Kings at 7 and you would in all likelihood need to tutor if this was your aim from these schools. However, Willington does feed Kings at 13. We also heard that Willington was a less academic school but we did like it a lot upon looking round and they have a fairly new Headmaster so that may be changing.

Donhead does have good pastoral care and most boys who go there tend to be exceptionally sporty. A few Donhead boys do go to the State Grammars (about the same in percentage terms as from the outstanding state primaries) and a few to the highly selective private schools (not many have a large intake at 11) but the majority go to the slightly less selective schools that have an intake at 11.

I personally would ask each school for a detailed destination list of leavers and compare that with what you might want for your DS. Also look at the ofsted/ISI reports for each school as that will also have comments on personal development/pastoral care and normally information on facilities. Also look around when the children are actually there; we looked around most of these during the holidays and you really cannot get a realistic impression from that. I would also ask about class sizes, how they differentiate, teaching styles, homework policy and for some sort of measure as to how the children perform in standardised tests (I know Rowans used to do SATS or at least they gave us the levels the children achieved ie aiming for all level 3 at age 7) and how they communicate with parents. The Good Schools Guide does give a good list of questions to ask, but look more at how the staff react to the questions rather than the answers themselves - that is actually more telling.

elemis Sat 08-Jun-13 18:15:21

I think it really depends what you want for your DS
we looked at all of those, but decided on the Hall School Wimbledon, for lots of reasons
Check it out

Schmedz Sat 08-Jun-13 23:31:48

But Hall School Wimbledon junior school is actually in Putney Vale so unless you want a long walk across the common to get to the back of it, you have to go on the A3 and turn off near the ASDA.

Completely agree the one you should choose is one that suits your DS best. Don't go on other people's opinions..see what you think of each school when you visit and see what you think of the staff/student answers to the questions you have!

elemis Sun 09-Jun-13 10:17:48

true Schmedz, but I'm not close and the journey isn't that bad. Again, depends on circumstances
I'm a SAHM, the school's location is a bit of a nightmare if you are looking to drop off and then get on a tube to go to work

gefjun Mon 10-Jun-13 10:46:15

Thank you so much for your advice!

I think Hall School is probably a bit far. Both my DH and I work f-t, so we are would prefer a school that is closer to the station.

We have visited Donhead and Willington. I was very impressed by the boys and the ethos at Donhead. The boys seems both well-behaved and very happy. My main concerns are that the School only goes to 11, and I am not sure about its record in terms of more academic destination schools. Moreover, I wasn't very keen on its exclusive focus on Rugby. I would have preferred a more balanced approach to sports.

Does anyone have a view on whether Donhead and Willington is a better choice in terms of a school that both provides a well-rounded experience for the boys and a strong academic foundation?


womblehopper Mon 10-Jun-13 15:33:30

I think the concerns that you have expressed are perfectly reasonable and legitimate. However, most people are only going to have very good knowledge of one of these schools, not both and are therefore not in a position to give an unbiased view. Donhead does focus on Rugby (there is no getting away from that) and prides itself on the awards it holds for this sport; however, DS also plays cricket, golf (that is extra) and has played some 5 a side football.

In terms of record at sending to more academic schools I think you are really only going to get accurate stats from the schools themselves, but you need a complete list so that you can accurately compare, bearing in mind numbers in final year etc, etc. This information should really be freely available and if it is n't - there is a reason why it is n't! I know it is sometimes difficult to ask, but this is a big decision for your DS.

Wobblypig Mon 10-Jun-13 23:26:59

Our friends very happy with do head and describe it as relaxed and not too pushy which serves them well. Beware of the whole area at pick up and drop off. There are so many schooles in a few roads that traffic is a nightmare.
Ds at willington -sport is diverse , he is year 1 and so far has played cricket, football, rugby, hockey , tennis, gym, swimming and athletics but they don't take sport very seriously , it is all about the fun really.
Academically not a hot house but they do well at 13 plus. They do not prepare for 7 or 11 plus if you want to leave before then. Main issue I have is the small site, but a strong positive is the way all boys get on so well across the age ranges. Never heard of any teasing or bullying and there is lots of opportunity to mix with boys from other years.

Mrsrobertduvall Tue 11-Jun-13 15:19:27

Wobblypig....have they appointed a newhead at Willington?

elemis Tue 11-Jun-13 16:37:34

I think the head is newish, maybe 2-3 years

Mrsrobertduvall Tue 11-Jun-13 16:42:11

I thought the current head was leaving this term.

Wobblypig Tue 11-Jun-13 18:01:03

Yes, the headmaster was the previous deputy head and the party line seems to be that he prefers actual teaching, the appointed an experienced head to start September.

Mrsrobertduvall Tue 11-Jun-13 22:05:36

Do you know who he is?
I used to like Mr Hill.

Wobblypig Tue 11-Jun-13 22:08:21

Mr Chanter, yes I think everyone spoke highly of Mr Hill.

Primafacie Sun 09-Mar-14 01:40:41

Hi, just adding my two cents / resurrecting zombie thread following my recent experience with DS.

He will be 3 soon, but was a preemie and had a few health issues when he was born up to about 12 months. He is all fine now and is not behind, but likewise is not ahead though he is obviously lovely and cuddly and funny we haven't 'pushed' him and he did not get any tutoring either. He is also bilingual and raised in a dual-language environment, which I was told plays against children in selective Wimbledon pre-preps.

Still, we got offers from all the Wimbledon boys schools for reception (Squirrels, Rowans, Donhead, Willington). My point is, please don't get too stressed about the whole admission process, I know that schools like to say they will only offer to one boy in three/four/seven, but in truth most parents apply to several schools and end up with several offers.

Interestingly, I had a similar experience with DD last year with the girls' schools (WHS, Ursuline, Holy Cross, Putney High), so was much more relaxed this year about the whole process with DS. I suspect part of the school admission process is designed to pander to our insecurities and vanities as parents, and make us feel incredibly lucky/grateful/worthy (delete as appropriate) we got in.

This is not to say that the schools don't do a fine job once you are in - we are very pleased with DD's school, which has been great- , but having done the whole admissions malarkey twice in the last two years, covering pretty much all the local pre-preps for boys and girls, I just wouldn't stress so much about it if I was doing it again.

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