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Tiffin talk

(59 Posts)
Menagerie Tue 12-Oct-10 09:17:50

Did anyone go to the open day yesterday? What did you think? Does anyone have children at the boys' school? Was trying to see beyond the armies of parents to get a picture of what the school was really like and it was hard, but all the boys we spoke to were charming, kind, polite, honest about the school, confident but not pushy.

What do other people think? Is it worth going for?

DancingHippoOnAcid Tue 12-Oct-10 10:28:42

have not seen th boys school but went to see girls last year - and immediately discounted it. A massive emphasis on science and maths, very poor for the arts and humanities which are what DD is keen on. I sensed a "we are fantastic, take it or leave it" attutude from the head - speech was exclusively about exam results, never mentioned any other aspect of the school at all.

The immensely pressured entrance test is a real problem to me - really don't want my DD to spend hours a week from y5 slogging through VR and NVR tests with a tutor - what kind of childhood is that?

Went to Coombe Girls open evening last week - what a contrast! Had the advantage of being shown round by neighbour's DD who is there in y8. Teachers and pupils all very enthusiastic about their subjects and the school, came across as MUCH better to Tiffin. They do remarkably well given that they are entirely non-selective (but do stream from y7).

Have not seen Coombe Boys, I believe it used to have a bit of an iffy reputation. However is now managed under the same head and shares 6th form with girls school. Have heard it has improved a lot.

Personally, I decided not to go for Tiffin as she would have little chance of gaining a place without spending years of her young life in tutoring for a pretty pointless test, and I did not want that for her. Plus the school does not cater very well for her interests. Some people think I am mad as DD is very able but I just know she would hate the Tiffin atmosphere.

yes Tiffin gets good results but given the intake the results are really not as good as they should be.

Anyway, the most important question you must ask yourself is, would this school be the best for MY CHILD? You are the one best placed to answer that question.

Does Tiffin have tours of the school during a working day and an opportunity to meet the head and have a proper chat. Really, without these things it is very difficult to make a proper judgement of a school. I seem to remember last year finding out that Tiffin does not offer this, which made me rather hmm

MrsGhoulOfGhostbourne Tue 12-Oct-10 11:42:15

We assumed like all of SW London that Tiffin was the ultimate goal - as good as independent but free of charge. DS probably ould have got in, but we decided not to apply and I'm glad we didn't.. Of course it gets excellent results, but a friends son who is in Y8 is a similar disposition to my DC and is unhappy there and so parents are planning to move him. Lots of very industrial boys who work hard, don't seem to play, and then travel long distances to and from school. And a super-confident clique of boys whose parents are rich lefty tyes, smug at having got a free education with the kudoes amongst their kind that they are 'supporitng the state sector'.
At my son's selective independent there is ironically a much broader range of boy types and interests and less 'nerdiness' - biys are academic, but also well-rounded with wider interests.

DancingHippoOnAcid Tue 12-Oct-10 11:47:10

I don't agree it is as good as an independent. It does not beat the top independents on exam results (which is the yardstick usually used to judge Tiffin, certainly it is the one thay themselves see as most important). It is free, but you get what you pay for.

But I do agree that it is not suitable for a lot of bright DCs. It is a pity it is touted as the holy grail of state education as I think there are a lot of Dcs being forced into the school when they will not be happy there.

animula Tue 12-Oct-10 11:47:20

We visited the boys' school a few years ago and really liked it. Loved the fact they did dance. It was the year before "the great financial controversy", and so I don't know how all the funding has panned out, but I've heard no more, so I'm guessing all is well. Hope they're still doing dance.

Ds didn't want to put Tiffin top of the list (sigh), so I don't have any insider info for you. Bizarrely, he completely took against the blazer.

The entrance exam is only VR and NVR. I would say that makes it very much less pressured, and fairer, as an exam than the ones that include maths and English. Good for them.

I think it's definitely worth going for. But bear in mind there's an element of luck, and, actually, with this exam, it doesn't have to be too pressured for the boys.

DancingHippoOnAcid Tue 12-Oct-10 11:53:42

animula - I don't call being obliged to have several hours of tutoring per week from y5 less pressured! It is very pressured because the DCs have to do the test very quickly to have any chance of getting anywhere near the mark necessary to get a place. Which means hours and hours of repetitive multi choice test practice. Yes it is ONLY VR and NVR but on a much higher plane than the rest of the universe! I think anyone who thinks the Tiffin test is not pressured is deluding themselves.

The more rounded tests taking in maths and English skills are less stressed as it involves the kind of work the DCs would be doing at school anyway.

That said, if you are convinced the school would be the best FOR YOUR CHILD then go for it.

animula Tue 12-Oct-10 11:54:51

Btw, ds would have been offered a place if it had been higher on our list.

He is, I would say, a grounded, pleasant little chap, with lots of interests. There's room for those in gs. Realy, these schools aren't some sort of holding pen for freakishly intelligent, social misfits. A lot of the children are pretty normal.

Without their uniforms they look just like everyone else ... .

animula Tue 12-Oct-10 11:57:24

Seriously, you are really, really not obliged to undergo all that tutoring.

Maybe I'm completely bonkers, but I think it's unnecessary. Not for a VR/NVR exam.

But that's just my opinion.

AmazingDisgrace Tue 12-Oct-10 12:01:04

The entrance exams that include maths are not less pressurised as the maths content includes areas most state primary children wont have covered yet. The maths tests cover all of KS2 work so up to the end of yr6.

DancingHippoOnAcid Tue 12-Oct-10 12:01:41

animula - I am sure your DS would have been offered a place and is very bright, grounded etc.

Maybe that is why he realised it was not right for him? Perhaps the "not liking the blazer" was code for an indefinable feeling that the fit was not right?

My point really is that Tiffin is NOT the best school for all bright DCs and regarding it as the best school for ALL is very blinkered.

Well done for not forcing him to go there aginst his wishes. Many parents would have done and he could have been very miserable.

Never said the Dcs at Tiffin are not normal, but perhaps they have different interests to my DD.

DancingHippoOnAcid Tue 12-Oct-10 12:06:07

animula - sadly I think DCs have less chance of getting in without the tutoring. Which is why I have a problem this particular entrance test. It requires Dcs to work at very high speed which can be drilled into them to a certain extent.

I think this puts off a lot of parents who can't afford the tutoring which I feel is wrong for a state school.

I think they keep it as a multi choice VR/ NVR as it is quick and easy to mark, not because it is a more objective measure.

Sari Tue 12-Oct-10 12:24:29

We're having a look round on Thursday morning as we couldn't make it yesterday. I'm very interested in seeing it with all the boys there and working out whether it would suit ds1 or not. He's in year 6 so we are at final decision time.

I disagree that the Tiffin exam is more pressure than others although I guess if you are desperate to go there it is pretty tough. However, I think that the amount of Maths you haven't covered by about the time in year 5 you start thinking about practising for other schools is very daunting. Plus a lot of these schools have very early tests which must affect your summer holidays. At least with VR and NVR that is all you have to do.

Pressure in my view is living about 60m too far from Graveney and therefore having to get around 98% in order to be offered a place at what is your nearest school when that school would undoubtedly suit you and you could wander up the road to it in 5 minutes. (Meanwhile certain of your friends talk openly about using cousins' addresses in order to get in, but that is another story.)

MrsGhoulOfGhostbourne Tue 12-Oct-10 13:08:42

Aniula grin at the taking agaisnt the blazer - love 'em!

Menagerie Tue 12-Oct-10 13:15:00

I'm in two minds. I expected to hate the place - had heard it was tunnel-visioned and pushed academic work to the exclusion of other fields, but it seemed more vibrant than I imagined.

My DS is a bit geeky, and one of the boys who showed us round said in an endearingly geeky way that he was very happy here because the other boys were just like him, so he felt he fitted in. But part of school life is to rub along with different types, i think, and work out how to get along with them all, as best you can.

Those NVR tests worry me a bit. The parents set on Tiffin round our way have tutors who work on these tests exclusively so boys can get in. They demonstrate a certain kind of thinking - Right/Wrong rather than If looked at this way/on the other hand.

Sari, would love to know what you think, if you get to see it without 200 prospective pupils and parents crammed into every single room.

Animula - Don't blame your son about the blazer btw. It's a bit brash.

Menagerie Tue 12-Oct-10 13:15:59

Mrs Ghoul - do you mind my asking where your DS goes, as it sounds like he is happy there.

DancingHippoOnAcid Tue 12-Oct-10 13:25:42

Menagerie - if you (and your DS) get a gut feeling that it would suit him, then go for it.Why not do what Sari has done and ask for a tour during the day?

Not saying Tiffin isn't a very good school, juts reacting against the local received wisdom that it must be the BEST school for all bright DCs. Sadly I think that way of thinking has resulted in quite a few DCs being pushed into a school which really does not meet their needs just because their parents think it is THE BEST. No such thing as a school which is the best for all DCs

I also share your concern about only assessing using VR and NVR tests. These only measure ability in a very narrow way. I suspect they are used because they are easy to mark and Tiffin can only cope with the number of applicants it gets by using a test like this.

Menagerie Tue 12-Oct-10 13:30:18

DancingH,
Didn't get a gut feeling either way, but expected to. Think you're right. We need to go back when it's quieter to get a better feel for the place as a school, not a cattle market!
Also, DS is bright but not sure he's bright to that degree and in that way.

DancingHippoOnAcid Tue 12-Oct-10 13:38:26

Menagerie - I agree that you need to see the school during the day to get a better feel for it.

Personally, I took against Tiffin girls quite strongly listening to the head's speech. Her emphasis was so far away from what DD needs that I just knew it was a non- starter.

DD was keen at first to go but found out that it was only because her best friend is having tutoring for the test. After thinking about it she came to the conclusion herself that she would not be happy there.

tropicalfish Tue 12-Oct-10 22:27:25

My dc goes to a different selective grammar however I can relate to the posters that feel that a warm welcoming hand is not held out to them at the head teachers talk. This could be that they are trying to deter people from making unrealistic choices.
I did however get a different perspective on going on the tours where I found the teachers and students to be very helpful.
I formed my main judgement from the displays of student work on the walls of the classrooms and corridors; which I judged to be outstanding in their quality.
It is alot of work to get into the school, but as my child got in, I do think it was worth it.
Not only for academic grounds, social reasons and also for the very strong musical interests that most of the students share to a very high level of attainment.
The peculiar thing I hadnt expected is that the school is not very strict and has very little homework although Tiffins may be different. It would be a good thing to get some opinions from parents whose kids are at Tiffins.

cybbo Tue 12-Oct-10 22:35:13

'Some people think I am mad as DD is very able but I just know she would hate the Tiffin atmosphere.'
Hippo I am interested to know what you think the Tiffin atmosphere is like based on a cramped ,desperate open evening.

My daughter goes there and I have to say there is no 'atmosphere'. It is a school full of bright girls who are friendly and talented, no different from your daughter.

It is very easy to get sniffy about Tiffin and its entrance exam requirements but no one forces anyone to go there. And 'tutoring' is one hour a week, IF you choose to do it.

'Very poor for the arts and humanities which are what DD is keen on.' I have to disagree here, the art and drama department are second to none (little experience of humanities but again am wondering what you are basing your opinion on)

cybbo Tue 12-Oct-10 22:36:12

tropical, my d is 15 Yr 10 and seem sto have hardly ANY homework, except for Art GCSE coursework. Rumours of hours and hours slaving away just aren't true.

DancingHippoOnAcid Tue 12-Oct-10 22:53:44

cybbo - every school has an atmosphere, I didnt mean anything derogatory. I just meant that this particular school did not feel right for my DD. Have also had feedback from lots of Tiffin parents I know, they also agree with me about my DD, though they all think she would be offered a place as she is academically very strong.

Decided not to go for tutoring as it would be pointless trying to get DD into a school that would not suit her.

tropicalfish Tue 12-Oct-10 23:05:58

The other thing about grammars is that they are socially inclusive in a way that high performing comprehensive schools are not. Children can travel from quite far to the school as there is no 0.5 mile catchment area and some children come from modest backgrounds which wasnt the case with dc's primary.
If I had chosen to send my dc to a private school I may have worried about his/her attitude towards entitlement to money and that most classmates backgrounds would be far wealthier than our own.

DancingHippoOnAcid Wed 13-Oct-10 09:48:29

I don't think you will find Tiffin all that socially inclusive, tropical - very few get in without tutoring which is not cheap and quite a few apply from private preps. None of the local comps have a 0,5 mile catchment area, that would only apply to the primaries.

willow Thu 14-Oct-10 09:02:30

Went to see boys' school last year and liked it. Boys who took us round were down to earth, confident and friendly - but, boy, was it rammed in there.

Am lol though at talk of how the VR and non VR are more pressure than all the other 11+s. As all the other 11+s round here seem to include English, Maths, VR and Non VR, can't see that Tiffin's any worse. If anything, it might be better for kids who need bit more time and space (than, say, an English exam allows) to let their creativity flow. As for tutoring, seems to me that if your child is in a state school - which mine is - you have to tutor (either paid for or DIY) for all these exams, if only to ensure that your child has a) covered the topics and b) has the faintest idea as to how to actually take an exam. Understandably, the latter is not something that state primaries focus on, unlike the independent sector where kids are prepped for 11+

Am also LOL at talk of catchment areas for secondaries. No, they might not have official catchment areas, but in our area unless you are in a linked primary and live nearby to your choice of secondary you haven't a hope in hell of getting into a good one. You could live on the doorstep of one and not be at a linked primary and you still wouldn't get in. LIkewise, you could be at linked primary and not live that close and, consequently, not get in. Either way, we're buggered as we tick neither of these boxes!

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