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The new Wetherby Kensington school - is it good?(21 Posts)
Are there any mumsnet parents with boys who started at this new school in September or have friends there? It seems a great option for our son but I wonder if the new school so far is living up to the reputation of the established Notting Hill pre prep. I would appreciate any info.
I understand they will be following the Ofsted curiculum, unlike Wetherby in Notting Hill, and other independent schools, who are under the independent schools inspection. Apparently there s is something they have to do for a minimum of three years until they achieve ofsted outstanding and have a certain track record, or something along those lines. I am unsure of what it means for the actual teaching.
All Early years settings, including Wetherby pre prep in notting hill, use 'ofsted' curriculum i.e. the National EYFS framework. That is probably all they are referring to.
I can't imagine you can go too wrong with that school given the Alpha plus group's success.
DS2 is at Wetherby Ken (and enjoying it.) Predictably, there have been some teething issues, but nothing ridiculous and it seems to be coming together. There are definitely advantages to the "Wetherby way" sans Snell. Helen Milnes is good. I suspect there will be some staff changes for year 2 if not earlier.
We've not been a "totally loyal" alpha plus Minors/Wetherby/Pembridge family (shhhh!) and we have flirted with other options at nursery and prep level driven by DH boarding commitment, so we can be reasonably objective, but WK is OK and, I think, will come good. The difference for DS2 between the Kensington and Pembridge Square experiences will be negligible by the time he leaves and as we would not be a Wetherby Prep taker the fact that I can walk to Wetherby Ken for an easy drop off en route to work is worth more than any other difference.
The parent group is, if anything, even more worrying than the Pembridge Square crowd (and I never thought that I would say that!)
We are more worried about Pembridge Hall at the moment than Wetherby Ken.
nottinghillsam, thanks, that's very helpful! It sounds alright though I wonder if parents should have higher expectations for a school like that, given the level of fees?
Why are you worried about PHS?
Oh, sorry, I think parental expectations of Wetherby Ken are stratospheric (particularly of parents with first son in to Wetherby structure)....it's just that I think (/hope) that, predictably enough, I may have become more sanguine (?less neurotic?) with DS2.
PH worries are all about academics and support for brighter, or at least more academically inclined, girls. Head supposedly came in to turn PH in to academic powerhouse but there's no real sign of this and support for brighter girls seems to be culturally hobbled by inclusive "every girl must be recognised, no girl should feel excluded" commitment.
That worm must surely turn. 14 girls from Y2 have just got 2018 offers from Bute and most will go I think (up from 5 last year.) PH will fill the resulting places without difficulty but there's a lot of chat particularly because Head put up a campaign to discourage Bute applicants this year ("I won't sign a reference for anyone unless you tell me your plans in advance" etc.)
DD enjoys thoroughly but is en route to board at 11 so the whole Bute/St P's issue not our concern, but it's quite the hot topic and PH will need to respond with material and obvious increases in commitment and resources for academics.
As a parent at the Notting Hill Wetherby pre prep all I can say is that you can trust in the school to deliver for your son. The Head at Kensington is excellent.
Interesting to read nottinghill as someone with an older DD at Bute. In DDs year, just a few came from Ken Prep and Bute tried to keep admissions spread from a variety of preps and state primaries. I wonder how it will change Bute having such a large gang from one school. Bute is incredible and despite so many going onto St Paul's it doesn't feel like 'the pathway'. My DD will hopefully board at 11+. We just chose Bute (and were lucky enough to get a place) because it felt quite magical and high-energy compared to the other girls' preps (which to be honest are still excellent).
I can see why PH are cross but equally a 7+ place at Bute is a real achievement so something must be going right at PH unless all those girls were tutored for the 7+ ?
I do wonder if it is not just playground pressure to apply and a bit of a trend? Has playground gossip stirred up the idea of girls not being 'challenged' and then mothers competitively entering their DD to keep up with that others were doing?
Having said that, friends with academic DDs at PH in the past were happy enough with it and didn't consider moving as it is upheaval. I heard that not only 14 got Bute places but that nearly 30 applied which is surely almost the majority of the year group?
No wonder PH Head is going mad! You would hope PH would have a long enough waiting list and capitalise on London turnover and demand?
Half term may allow PH to calm down a bit, but the mood among Y2 parents last week was mutinous. 14 departures and replacements even in a yeargroup of 65 will be hard to absorb - although PH say they have a ridiculously long waiting list of course. I'm sure that there was playground pressure to apply for Bute and of course the girls were all being tutored; PH is a tutorial bonanza.
The oddest thing (BF's DD2 is in Y2 so I have been subjected to forensic detail) is that Bute seem to have taken girls mostly not seen as leaders in the PH semi-streamed Y2 framework - a tribute to the power of tutoring I suppose - while the top-rated PH girls did not apply, presumably because their parents saw the PH system working well for them.
It's all very strange and will make quite an impact on both Bute and PH I suspect. Hopefully it may be for the best for both, but I don't imagine that relations between the schools are going to be very easy for quite a while.
I didn't realise PH was year groups of 65 - much larger than I thought so I guess less of an impact.
Having been a Bute parent for years I have heard a lot of the 7+ entry test day. It really is just as much about social skills. They observe them all day very closely and do so many different tasks it isn't just about the tests. Lets all sorts of girls stand out. They are very anti-tutoring and have a way of getting it out of the girls on the day if they've been tutored apparently.
I do hope PH calms down. London schools are madness - I entered into it a stranger and newbie to it all and I sometimes want to shake fellow parents and tell them with DC in a London prep and all the social security most of these kids have, nothing bad is going to happen: they'll most likely go onto the right senior school for them, most likely get a top uni place, most likely be financially secure. So sometimes we need to relax and let them be happy and carefree and grateful for the enormous privileges they have.
Absolutely agreed, although I think I only obtained such worry-free equanimity with and after third child whose complaints and worries are met with "oh really, I'm sure it'll be alright" to the astonishment of older sibs who sometimes remind me of the panic that similar situations for them used to engender.
Edited only to add that I think the Bute "tutoring recognition software" must have developed a serious bug this year....every single one of those PH girls had been on intensive after-school and weekend tuition since September and many (?most?) took tutors on holiday with them over their Christmas breaks. It sounded from reports as if those tutors were not concentrating solely on "academics" maths/comprehensions, but doing group play, interview technique, activity tasks... you name it! There's been tutor jealousy, poaching and fee inflation galore. I think we probably have to accept that tutoring is now here to stay for this lot although I'm sure that it's not terribly good for them (indeed part of our commitment to boarding is based on avoiding London tutoring compulsion!)
I am sad to read about all this crazy tutoring for Bute. My dds got places there from a state primary, without any tutoring - I don't say this to boast but more as an accolade to the school for being able to see beyond all this crazy, taking tutors on holiday stuff I'm reading about. We didn't actually accept the places simply because we preferred another school and - though it was a while back - reading this makes me even more glad, as people were very surprised we turned down this apparently golden ticket. They did have a way of winkling out the tutored - I realised what it was from something dd2 said to me - I'm certainly not going to repeat it here, but obviously others have got wise to it and they'll have to have a rethink.
Nottinghilsam that’s a very insightful post but also very depressing. My son sat the 8+ this year and it was the same story - frankly many mediocre boys got into the top schools on the back of rampant tutoring. There was one Mum who openly boasted that his son was receiving 8 hours of professional tutoring a week. Shame on the teachers and heads of these schools who cannot (or will not) see through the tutoring through the admissions procedures. I mean it’s not that difficult - eg they could speak to the current headteachers to establish which children have consistently delivered to a high standard over a period of time and are naturally bright vs which have suddenly shot up to dizzying heights on the back of crazy tutoring - taking tutors in holiday etc. That’s nuts!
It’s not that difficult. It’s just that
It’s not that difficult. It just requires a bit more probing at interview and further thought to factor in tutor proof questions in the exams. The entrance exams have all become too standardised and when you have former teachers from top schools and even former headteachers charging anything up to £300 per hour to pass on insider knowledge the system becomes rather corrupt.
Heliotrope, I do think they look kindly upon kids applying from state schools, as they assume they are less prepped - even though they may be tutored even more (out of necessity). Bute should know that most of the kids coming from the alpha plus group schools came heavily tutored. I think you did well not accepting this "golden ticket".
They only take 40 kids at 7+, does Bute really think by coincidence half of those kids should come from the alpha plus group schools as they are particularly brilliant? It should be obvious that these families have the resources and the mindset to hire tutors. And once they do it successfully for the 7+, they will not stop once they are inside Bute.
Indeed, Sanam and I know a good number of Bute girls are tutored for 11 plus, that was one of the reasons I decided the school wasn't for us. Also put off by a friend whose dd went there and her description of the parents' 11 plus hysteria - if you've invested that much financially and emotionally in a prep you'll be even more invested at secondary level. It sounded a bit intense to me. But again, I wouldn't want to put off anyone from trying who liked the sound of it and would like to give hope that less tutored and untutored kids do get through, or at least they used to . ..
Massive tutoring goes on at all the prep schools, not just Bute. It is quite shocking given the high fees. However it is hard not to get caught up with all the hype and panic from the other parents.
You're quite right, Jeanne. I'm always gobsmacked by the amount of people I know with dc in expensive preps also paying for 11 plus tutoring on top of fees. We had very specific reasons to want to move our dc from state to private but in general I'd recommend anyone to stay in state system for primary and tutor for private secondary as I know loads of kids who've very successfully gone down that route.
This thread has moved a way off its Wetherby Kensington origin but the whole tutoring issue seems to me to have become a real problem in young children's lives. Particularly the 7-12 london-living or london-educated cohort who are now facing 7+/8+/9+ prep selections, pre-tests and 11+ and CE. Even more academic children in this group, already taught brilliantly at the London day pre-preps and preps and the top-flight boarding preps now face an exhausting regime of home and holiday tutoring that seems to me to impinge on their experience of childhood compared to our generation.
If schools genuinely believe that their entrance processes are not being exhaustively tutored they are kidding themselves, but I suspect that they know very well what is going on, but are helpless to intervene. The ethics of such intervention would also seem highly questionable at best (what are they going to say? "we won't admit this child because although they have done a brilliant job, they've been tutored." It wouldn't make sense....different schools provide different levels and quality of provision anyway, who would penalise a child whose parents seek to improve their children's chances by adding tuition to their own school's efforts.
Nevertheless, we have not been immune ourselves although (under DH's guidance! aaargh!) we have chosen paths that did not require admissions exams/tests/assessments through to DS1's pre-test and DD1's 11+ entrance. We subjected DS1 to tuition for his pre-tests including online test simulations and extensive tutored practice tests through both the Easter and Summer holidays. I feel he should have been off doing "stuff" instead. To be fair, DS1 doesn't seem to have resented tutoring overly and he did make/confirm his own senior school selection (although in open conspiracy with DH) which did make the tuition virtually mandatory. But, get this, the reason DS1 doesn't really object to the holiday tuition is "my London friends are all doing this three nights a week and weekends so I can't complain and I'm not having them get in and me off to Dullsville!"
It's madness, but when madness becomes ubiquitous I guess it's just the new normal although I am convinced this can not be good for this age-group's wider non-academic lives.
Sorry. Rant over. I even rather like the tutor we use, he's cool and made DS1 enthusiastic about subjects that he never expressed an interest in before. But still.....ho-hum. Wish it were not so!
I have talked to DCs' heads and friends who work at London preps about it. They know it, think it is ridiculous and DC's head even said she challenges parents on it who admit to tutoring or ask about it but there is little she can do. A good friend works at one of the well-regarded central London preps and says compared to schools she has taught in previously, these prep school kids are beyond lucky and get SO much more. The provision and education they get is already top-notch and gold standard (not just in the alpha plus sense!!!) and she wishes she could show parents this.
The best route is to trust your child's school, trust that at a reputable prep school (such as all those mentioned in this thread) their 11+ prep is going to be top notch and 'enough'. If your DC get into a school at 11+ with the already rigorous prep that prep schools put them through, it is right for them. If they need hours of additional input to get a place, I'd worry if the school was truly right for them or if perhaps they were pushed a little too hard and will sink back once the tutoring is stopped. Or having to continue such tutoring will only burn them out and deny them of a real childhood.
In London where competition is through the roof it is easy to start thinking well if those kids are getting extra, why shouldn't mine? But when you take a step back, just that attitude of such privilege and entitlement does sicken me a little.