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How to ask a Prep school if it is a hothouse or not?

(25 Posts)
JamDonutsRule Tue 14-Feb-17 22:16:01

What sort of questions can I ask a Prep school to try to work out if it is a hothouse or not? I just have no idea how to broach the topic since no school would ever admit to being a hothouse.

Under another username I tried asking MN about the specific school but it's not in London / not a MN regular so I didn't get enough responses. The school sends usually 3-4 a year to Eton / Harrow / Charterhouse and the rest to schools like Teddies, Marlborough, Bradfield, Kings Canterbury, Wycombe Abbey, Bryanston, Stowe plus about 1/3 year to local boarding schools, so there's every chance it could be a hothouse but not necessarily.

I've already spoken to the Head who told me they're pretty laid back about grades especially when the kids are younger, but quite honestly I find it hard to believe as the parents at open day had very "pushy parent vibes".

Advice on good questions appreciated!

Couchpotato3 Tue 14-Feb-17 22:20:58

Instead of wondering whether the school is a 'hothouse', whatever that means, why not just work out what you want from a school and see if this one fits your criteria. If your child can get what he/she needs from the school, do you really care what other people's children are getting up to? It sounds as though the school has a pretty good record of getting kids into good secondaries. Will it get your child in to the school you want and will they be happy there in the meantime?

ImaginaryCat Tue 14-Feb-17 22:24:22

Ask about scholarship streams, and how they help parents to pick senior schools. That will indicate a lot of their methods.

IrenetheQuaint Tue 14-Feb-17 22:26:09

Find a nine-year-old and ask them to conjugate some Latin verbs?

minipie Tue 14-Feb-17 23:03:06

Ask when they begin streaming and in how many subjects

Do the children know what stream they are in

Do they know each others' test results

How much homework at what age

How many children left in the last X years to go to a different local prep school

in reality - if the parents are pushy then the school will have to be fairly pushy, those are its customers after all.

JamDonutsRule Wed 15-Feb-17 00:12:07

Lol at conjugating Latin verbs!

I think the kids are streamed from Year 5 and the DC who showed me around on open day did seem to know that a specific class was the top set, but they were 10-11 years old, so I'm not sure if they just worked it out?

Pupils have Prep first thing in the morning and a few times a week at the end of the day, which I think may be a bit unusual?

JamDonutsRule Wed 15-Feb-17 00:13:51

Maybe I should quiz them further on homework as a good indicator?

JamDonutsRule Wed 15-Feb-17 00:16:24

couchpotato3 I know the school ticks most of the boxes, but most importantly I want to know if DC will be put under undue pressure, that's what I'm not sure about!

sendsummer Wed 15-Feb-17 04:11:02

For me the amount of homework would be the most important question.
At my DS's prep school, full boarders achieved scholarships to E, W on max 1 hour 4 days a week in year 7 and 8. Much more than that should not therefore be necessary if the teaching is good. There was setting for most subjects, I certainly would n't think that hothousing but teaching adapted to different paces and styles of learning.
Agree with PP that hot housing is usually a reflection of the parents rather than the teachers and may occur by what is done outside school However OP the prep that you are considering sends to a wide range of schools most of which are mixed ability. No pressure would be required for entry to them. Also chances of pre-test success for the likes of E and H are not improved by academic hot housing so a track record of entry to these is not a warning sign.

wickerlampshade Wed 15-Feb-17 06:27:20

Private preps survive or not on the it exit results so they all hothouse to a certain extent. I'd want to know from another parent what happens to kids who aren't going to get the prestigious school/turn out to have SEN. Are they managed out?

VolunteeringSucks Wed 15-Feb-17 06:31:34

Yes - trying to get a sense of reasons why people leave.

IME a 'hothouse' can just be a school you're struggling to keep up with. You don't have to play the game of pressuring your kid to be top of every class - but it's harder to do if the school culture is very academic results driven, and there is real threat of being managed out.

AnotherNewt Wed 15-Feb-17 07:28:20

It's an educational irregular verb

'Our prep has really good teaching and send pupils to all the best exit skills'

'Your prep works the pupils hard and has a lot of homework but does get good outcomes'

'Their prep is a hothouse'

It's all in the eye of the beholder. A clever child will not find any school a hothouse, because they will be thriving in an academic atmosphere. Most DC are fine in any school, because bar the odd lapse (which they can be helped through) it's all well within their reach. Some DC might not do well in some schools, and that's for a variety of reasons including mismatch with academic expectations.

So yes, starting with exact things you wouldn't want in your DC's education (such as lengthy, dull homework) see if you can find out about exactly that. Do they have current pupil's books available? If so, you can see for yourself how much/how repetitive it it.

JamDonutsRule Wed 15-Feb-17 19:38:49

Interesting, thank you all!

I believe all children from Y4 upwards have 1hr Prep 5 days a week but it is done in school during the first period of the day.

It's very hard to tell how many DC are managed out / leave because they can't cope. There are tons of international kids and a lot of mid year admissions / relocations because of this.

That's a very good point about a hothouse being a school that the child can't keep up with.

DC does have some mild to moderate SEN (which I don't want to go in to here as that's a separate discussion) so I worry there is always potential for not keeping up!

Interesting to hear pp that you think a lot of hot housing comes from parents not the school.... the parents do concern me a bit - some are "please get my son into Eton" and quite a lot are super wealthy so I'd not be surprised if it was pushy helicopter parent territory.

BaconMaker Thu 16-Feb-17 07:43:19

maniple's suggestions are good. Also find out how many leave for alternative preps. Some schools have a habit of telling average students that they're "not a good fit" for the school and encouraging them/telling them to go elsewhere so as not to impact the leavers destinations.

Arianrhod Thu 16-Feb-17 11:07:29

"I believe all children from Y4 upwards have 1hr Prep 5 days a week but it is done in school during the first period of the day. "

Ouch! My daughter's prep school have 45 mins prep three times a week from Y3, plus 45 mins homework set at the weekend, and they're considered to be worked quite hard. Although I'm not sure you can consider it prep if it's done in the normal school day - isn't that just a lesson, by another name? So perhaps not too bad.

Personally I would try to talk to other parents, especially parents of children who have already left if possible. Facebook page, if the school has one, or ask the school office if there is a parents' forum of any kind. Failing that, ask to be put in touch with the class rep for the year you're looking at, and from there, you can put questions out to the parents of your year.

CruCru Sun 19-Feb-17 17:56:45

One way can be to ask how many of their kids are also tutored and how the school feels about tutoring.

wickerlampshade Sun 19-Feb-17 19:07:34

One way can be to ask how many of their kids are also tutored and how the school feels about tutoring.

unless you have a close friend there you won't get an honest answer from either parents or school

MMmomDD Sun 19-Feb-17 22:48:10

It is a very strange question that you are asking.
What are you really trying to find out? Is the school preasured? To they go faster than national curriculum?

Most preps that send kids to highly academic schools would go faster than national curriculum. And for some kids - the ones that are clearly "academic" - at early ages - it's absolutely fine.
For example - both my my DDs started reception reading pretty well, and knowing what a 'ten' and a 'unit' were - they learned it in their Montessori nursery.
So - an academic school ('hot house' in your language?) - was just what they needed.

If I were you - I'd be looking at whether this particular school is good for the needs of your particular child.
Hothouse or not.

smellyboot Mon 20-Feb-17 11:33:42

I am confused why and hours prep is done in first lesson of the day. Thats not prep / hone work then. Its an hour when DC do work on their own & Within school day??! All preps near us are hot houses as thats what people expect and is what they are paying for. Why else would the go there?

smellyboot Mon 20-Feb-17 11:36:38

And is that what you want - a selective secondary school ? If it is then great, but I think the 'we dont worry about grades' will be total tosh.

BaconMaker Mon 20-Feb-17 12:08:17

Why else would the go there?

People choose private school for lots of different reasons beyond wanting a hot house. More sport, music, less government pressure, higher teacher to student ratios etc. There are definitely preps near me that aren't hot houses, although they tend to be non-selective.

CruCru Tue 21-Feb-17 17:25:39

*One way can be to ask how many of their kids are also tutored and how the school feels about tutoring.

unless you have a close friend there you won't get an honest answer from either parents or school*

I went to see one school and asked the headmistress how many of the children were tutored and she told me that 23 out of 26 kids were also tutored. She said that she didn't think it was necessary but it reflected the parents who choose that school.

smellyboot Tue 21-Feb-17 23:32:10

In our area heads will tell you the same as people use private preps to get into Selective secondaries. The less pushy privates all shut down. And yes honest heads will admit that parents tutor on top.

Prettybaffled Tue 21-Feb-17 23:42:04

I would want to know how much time on average is expected to be spent on homework in each year.

I would want to know what will happen if a child can't meet academic standards.

I would want to meet the senco and ask how many of dc under her care struggle with the pace and what they do about that.

OrlandaFuriosa Tue 21-Feb-17 23:50:38

The range of schools they go to suggests mixed ability, you haven't said whether they get the top E/W scholarships, or indeed any.

In which case , subject to the homework question and also what you can find out about extra curricular activities in the last two years, sounds reasonably normal to me.

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