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Westminster Cathedral Choir School(18 Posts)
We are going to look round the school next week for possible 2019 entry into reception. Was wondering if anyone had any +/- experience with it?
The closest school to us (private or state) is Newton Prep, where we have a place at nursery next year, but WCCS is also quite close and easy to get to by public transport.
The haircuts, suits, accents, the occasional reception, and the ability to get good reports by ISI, GoodSchoolsGuide etc. are all 'top drawer'. Unfortunately, this is where my list of positives ends. The academic behind the curriculum left a couple of years ago; the teaching is delivered by an ever-changing group of (in many cases fairly young and inexperienced) teachers. The school, which was built for 30 boys, is now (with some extensions) catering for 180 and feels very crammed. A quarter of my son's class left the school last year; so did four of about 28 choristers.
I don't know whether you are looking at a choristership / boarding for your son. If so, my list can go on ...
I hope this helps!
GVal80, out of curiosity, where did these 1/4 of the class go? Is this for other 7+/8+ schools? Is your son a chorister?
GVal80, are you talking about Year 6 boys leaving at 11+, which is common at any prep school? Or are you talking about a younger year group?
I have only ever heard brilliant things about WCCS from friends so am rather surprised by your comments.
njshore, the ones I know have all gone to state schools, but I can't remember all of them. I think Cardinal Vaughan and The Oratory School were among them for 11+ entry. From the people we stayed in touch with we gather that their sons are thriving and much happier.
And yes, our son is a chorister, which adds another dimension!
sanam2010, not only for 11+, also younger ones. For choristers it is very rare to leave, even after Y6.
Yes, there were brilliant things and people (e.g. the former Deputy Head Academic) and there still are some, such as the cathedral music department (if only they were not inhibited in their work).
I assume that your friends' children are not choristers (?), otherwise they might have told you something different.
Paying full fees (and spending sufficiently at fundraising galas etc.) is definitely rewarded with courtesy ... Other than that, I doubt that it is 'worth every penny'. When reading the impressive leavers' destinations which are celebrated on the school's website, one has to take carefully into account who was successful (if this is indeed a measure of success), why, and at what cost - I don't necessarily mean financial cost.
Gval, yes they are all day boys, not choristers. I am not sure why you don't just say outright what you are unhappy with, rather than criticising the school on here without any detail?
Seems a bit unfair. I hope you have discussed your concerns with the school directly.
sanam2010, what we (and many other parents) are not happy with has many facets, and it is precisely out of courtesy (and not unfairness) towards the school that I do not mention them in every detail in this public forum. I can assure you that we have frequently discussed them with the school's management, as have many other parents. However, the sum of parents' collective and individual discussions, letters, and formal complaints to the headmaster, the governors, and the Cardinal have made practically no difference.
Anyway, DaisyFranceLynch asked about experiences with this school, and ours has been a disappointing one. If your friends have made better ones, please encourage them to share those.
I agre with sanam2010. I think it's really for unfair for any school when GVal80 and others come on here and say avoid this school, places doubt in one's mind but cannot come up with specifics. Damage done but no evidence.
I know several boys from my son's pre prep who went there at 7+ and 8+ and they are all very happy indeed. It has never been one of the more academic preps in London everyone knows that and the entrance requirements reflect this which makes it a positive proposition for less academic boys. If that is the "criticism" possibly made worse by the academic deputy head who you say left, then perhaps spell it out! I don't think a school can be given negative press for not being academic though - there is a pecking order for all these schools. It is as it is.
User749098562, please don't misunderstand me: I think the school's academic standards are generally fine (with some notable exceptions such as French - a notorious weak point at the school). However, its ambitious classic curriculum was set up by an experienced, intelligent, and devoted teacher, who has left the school and now there is nobody of the same calibre to deliver it. Instead, the school has a high turnover of young and inexperienced teachers who could really deal with an old hand to give them some guidance. E.g., the rough tone that many teachers take with the children is a tell-tale sign of a teacher who can't cope (and would not be tolerated at any state school, I imagine).
We have also encountered a bigoted atmosphere which puts me in mind of Jeeves and Wooster and would be unthinkable in most schools; e.g., Deputy Head to boy: 'eat your chicken drumsticks with knife and fork - you are British!'; and unlike teachers and office staff, matrons, kitchen staff, and cleaners are addressed by there first names by the children - why? According to another Deputy Head, ' to maintain a social hierarchy'.
By the way, I am not saying 'avoid this school' - everyone has to decide that for themselves and for their children. I know plenty of people who love bigotry and think that it is good for their children to be toughened up. They will love it!
But are we happy with the school? - no;
Would we choose it again? - no;
Would we recommend it, based on our experience? - no.
Our other issues are mainly to do with the boarding life and the relationship between the school and the Cathedral Choir, both of which have steadily deteriorated since our son started there. Sorry, I can't be very specific, because some of it is very delicate, concerns individuals and other people's children, and does not belong in a public forum.
Our DS went to WCCS and, on the whole, had a good time - indeed under the guidance of the former Deputy Head Academic. But I definitely recognise some of the things that GVal80 citizises.
For all I know, especially the situation for choristers has become tricky in the past years. Under successive headmasters the school turned from being exclusively a choir school to being primarily a choir school and has now joined market place (or should I say cattle market?) of all the other prep-schools in London while it still has a choir attached to it. The focus now seems to be expansion and the recruitment of day boys rather than the choir. I can imagine that this is difficult to digest for those who come to the school primarily for the music and the choir.
@GVAl80: If you are so unhappy with the school, why do you still send your son there?
Placemarking as we are registered for Reception in 2019 too. We're currently living overseas but due to return and will be deciding soon which places to pursue. I've known WCCS and the Cathedral music scene for nearly 20 years and I can imagine what some of the problems referred to could be. However I also know lots of former pupils who loved the school, did extremely well, had their pick of senior schools and scholarships and became fabulous teenagers and young adults. We would be open to auditioning for the choir too. We're a musical family and DS1 can definitely sing but is only 3.5 so a few years to think about that!
There were a lot of Chinese parents on the open day I was on, which made me wonder if they're marketing to the educational agencies for recruitment. Anyway that's by the by.
My primary concern would be the commute as it would be a 15 min train journey and then a bus from Vauxhall but we'd do it if everything else worked for us.
I have many friends from pre-prep with boys attending WCCS right now, and have met more than a dozen families through them. Most of them continental and all RC. All very happy, and some already with offers at the most amazing schools (13+). I also hear that WCCS has become incredibly popular in the last 3-5 years and 7+/8+ admissions have become as competitive as some of the more sought after "academic" destinations for boys (even those who I thought would be put off by the RC angle, like me). In fact, I know many bright boys who were not offered a place this year (all ended up at other top schools).
Don't know much about choristers but it is evident that GVal80 is very bitter about something specific to her son, which is perhaps not applicable to all others. I bet it has something to do with his 13+ destination. Maybe things haven't worked out too well for him, and she's blaming the school?
The op asked for opinions, the opinions offered have been various but I think to cast aspersions on the motivations of posters is ill spirited indeed. The comments haven't been rude or personal, they're someone's experience and perfectly valid.
Thanks very much everyone for your replies and sorry for the delayed response - I’d been off Mumsnet for a few months (NY social media detox) and have just opened a new account - my user name isn’t available now so this was the closest I could get.
Your advice is really helpful. We have a couple of guaranteed places for him (Newton and Eaton House The Manor) but have heard mixed anecdotes about both of them and so still considering other options including WCCS - although some of the above is making me think again!
Our son is nearly three, so maybe a bit early to judge, but he doesn’t show any signs of being musical, so we were thinking of a regular day place. If anything he is more interested in reading/writing/numbers and one of the reasons we were interested is because the leavers’ destinations, and reports on the new curriculum, had made me think it was quite academically inclined. So this is all really useful
That's interesting you say your son is nearly 3 and showing no signs of being musical. My older son is 3.5 and I think he's showing signs of being very musical but I'm wondering if it's not too early too tell. Sorry - big old thread hijack!
Anyway best of luck with school selection. We are still registered for Sept 19 so receive all the newsletters and I think it does seem like the pre-prep is shaping up nicely.
My DS is at WCCS and frankly it’s a sensational school. The academic curriculum is first rate and includes in English the classics which I’m delighted with. Cannot recognise any of the points raised by GVal80, seems very specific to her son. You only have to look at the exit results to see that boys go to all the top schools. The head is sensational and visionary. The firm teachers are superb to date and has 2 so far in 2 years. At it’s a catholic school, there are many Italian, Spanish, Polish, French families and there is slot of moment as some parents are on medium term work secondments. One of my son’s friend’s left last term as parents relocated. That’s nothing to do with not being happy with the school. Ideally only visiting a school, talking to teachers and existing parents, knowing abilities and personality of your son - can help you assess what’s best for your family.
Hi - we are thinking about WCCS for our DS but we are not Catholics. Do es anyone have experience of the school from a non-Catholic perspective? Are there any meaningful disadvantages?