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Winchester College - when to visit?

(17 Posts)
difficultpickle Tue 06-Nov-12 11:42:50

Ds is in year 4. I, it seems wrongly, assumed that I could leave visits until year 5. They have an open day in June for years 3 and 4 but I assume that is very general. You then have to choose houses in year 5.

My query is to those that know is do I do the open day in year 4 or should I organise something separate to or in addition to? How do I find out about individual house masters when I don't know anyone in RL with a son there? It is too early to have that discussion with ds's HM as HM is new (and interim so may not stay) and ds is new to his school so too early for opinions to be formed on suitable senior schools. And frankly trying to think about this all 5 years ahead of him starting senior school seems rather batty to me.

Eton seems easier as they don't appear to allow or suggest a visit before ds is 10, by which time I will know if it is a possible school for him.

happygardening Tue 06-Nov-12 12:26:17

The staff in the admissions office are really helpful. My DS's prep hadn't sent a boy to Winchester for years (they went to Eton instead) so didn't know any of the HM's so I spoke to the admissions office they recommended three and we went to meet them. I'm struggling to remember as my memory is crap but I think we did the open day thing when my DS was in yr 4 but had already arranged to meet three HM's a few weeks later.
When we first met the HMs we went without my DS one was definitely not for us the other two we very much liked we then arranged to take my DS back to meet them the two we liked and after a lot of umming and arrring he choose one it was a very difficult decision they were completely different but both were also very personable.
Most do ten years one is doing 15 and it clearly states in the Win Coll website when they were appointed.
IMO the system is better than the exceedingly impersonal Eton selection process. Your chosen HM interviews your DS for about 1 1/2 hours no one is trying to catch you out and in fact I remember it being described as a conversation rather than an interview. Children are given plenty of time to demonstrate their strengths and of course weaknesses and is better for a child who might be shy or over awed in a 10 minute interview.
Its important to remember that when you first meet them that in a way you are interviewing them. One women complained that one of the HM's she met talked about himself rather than ask her DS questions but that is the point this man is going to be in loco parentis; the boys are very much encouraged to turn to the HM first for all problems and certainly ours feels its his responsibility to sort things out so you need to be sure that 1. you have confidence in his decisions and 2. that you feel that you can approach him with any problem 3. you like the way he runs his house because as the boys will tell you the houses do vary quite significantly although probably not as much as they used too! Also although the boys do have personal tutors as well, the HM is their main tutor the person who they discuss careers universities etc with and he does their references etc. I've never met my DS tutor although I understand my DS meets briefly with his tutor every week. It is the HM who writes on report sorts out any academic issues etc so he is a very important person at Winchester.

happygardening Tue 06-Nov-12 12:30:41

Meant to say I do remembered coming away from the open day under whelmed and it was only after we visited the HM's and ate in one of the houses that I started to get a grip on what makes it different. We have never regretted our choice but it definitely doesn't suit all bright boys or for that matter all parents.

difficultpickle Tue 06-Nov-12 12:41:06

It just seems early to be doing all this. Ds is young in his year too so won't be 9 until near the end of the summer term. I don't know if Winchester is the right place for him but I like the fact that it seems to take bright, slightly quirky boys. Ds is one of those children that seems to make a lasting impression on those he meets (in a good way fortunately) and is never short of something to say. If the HM is so influential in school life then it is crucial for ds to meet them before we choose one.

Thanks for your advice. Did you talk to the Admissions office about your ds's likes and dislikes? I'm just wondering how they chose which 3 HMs to meet.

happygardening Tue 06-Nov-12 12:56:00

Yes they asked us about my DS his interests likes etc etc My DS is also young in his year but very very grown up! At the time I can remember (I think) that he seemed so young and little and I do remember him having lunch in one of the houses and sitting with the first years talking away to them asking questions about Winchester and the HM and he would only have been 9.
But time flies having chosen the house we registered him with it and then 18 months later he's interviewed, gets the place and still you think "theres ages to go before you sit the entrance exam" and suddenly he's about to sit the exams and then your DS passes it and suddenly your there at the new boys tea and he's made it, the whole reason why you've sent him to prep school in the first place, and now before you know it your driving home at the end of the first year and then you realise OMG before you can blink you will be driving home for the last time and its all over! It will be the end of an era.

difficultpickle Tue 06-Nov-12 13:02:07

I hope it doesn't go quite so quickly as you describe! They do grow up so quickly. Ds is part boarding so I dropped him off at school this morning. He spent the journey quizzing me on the US elections and said he planned to stay up and watch the results. I think his boarding master may have something to say about that plan. I don't remember being so interested in politics at 8 but then all children seem so much more grown up these days.

It is so important to get a school that is the right fit as then eveything else falls into place. It sounds as if you have managed to achieve that with your ds.

happygardening Tue 06-Nov-12 13:16:02

It is so important to get a school that is the right fit as then eveything else falls into place
Yes IMO for what is worth this is key but also bloody difficult. We had four choices two independent two outstanding state schools. We did find it difficult to make up our mind there was lure of white sand blue sea and palm trees, less crappy cars, trips to the opera/theatre/ the ballet at Covent Garden such bliss (these really are a distant memory now) perhaps revisiting horse ownership again although I've probably come to my senses about horses but cows well thats a different matter! Or the ultra 21 st century independent so us multicultural liberal outward looking. But we eventually made our choice and have never regretted it. Ill get those cows when its all over and maybe even another horse perhaps it will be different fifth time round

difficultpickle Tue 06-Nov-12 13:27:08

I'm impressed you managed to get your choices down to 4. Was the other independent also boarding?

happygardening Tue 06-Nov-12 13:47:04

St Pauls he would have to have weekly boarded but there are now only a handful of 6th form boarders when my husband was there there were about 200. Its sort of flexi boarding we could have taken him out to dinner/tea any evening we wanted and even bought him home any evening we wanted my DH often works in London so we liked that bit and he stayed in the boarding house for one night and loved it but ultimately we lived to far to take him back all the time especially on a Sunday night and I think the atmosphere at Winchester suits him better. There are lots of quirky children there and for the first time in his life I think he feels that it is acceptable to be himself (it clearly wasn't at his boarding prep) and follow his own interests however niche they might be!

TheBigKidsDidIt Tue 06-Nov-12 22:45:20

Can I butt in? My ds is Y1 so mile soff but are there any plans for Winchester to do flexi boarding? I love the sound of St Pauls flexi but we don't want to move back to London. On the other hand how often would i get to see ds if he goes to Winchester? sad

captainbarnacle Tue 06-Nov-12 22:51:28

I keep reading 'quirky boys' in regard to WC. Can anyone give me an example of how this is demonstrated? Thanks

TheBigKidsDidIt Wed 07-Nov-12 00:34:01

Yes am not sure if mine's quirky enough or too quirky....confused

happygardening Wed 07-Nov-12 09:32:06

"Can anyone give me an example of how this is demonstrated?'
That a really good question. I think we're a normal family but I've learnt over time to accept that most people think we're completely barmy really eccentric. OK I can see I might be a little eccentric and my DH and DS1 well even I think he's barmy but I used to think that DS2 was pretty normal. When he went to boarding prep in yr 3 after a few weeks Winchester was recommended to us and one of the reasons why was because the school considered him very eccentric!?
Do we ever see our children or ourselves as others see us? My DS knows his own mind and is not swayed by others, he will not conform for the sake of conforming in particular to win approval of those in authority this caused lots of problems at his mega conservative prep, he speaks his mind and questions everything. He very very much walks his own path and does his own thing and couldn't care less if he's the only one doing/thinking something. Does this make him eccentric quirky I don't know. I looked up the dictionary definition of eccentric; deviating from the recognized or customary character, practice, my DS will always deviate from recognised practice if that is what he wants to do/say/think/believe so I suppose like the rest of his family he is eccentric! We have little contact with the other boys but I get the feeling he is not the only one. What matters for him is that after 6 years of his unbelievably conservative prep school at Winchester he is now very accepted by all and happy. Good enough for me.
"On the other hand how often would i get to see ds if he goes to Winchester"
Boys can come home on Sundays but they have to attend chapel depending which Sunday it is they either go in the morning earliest I think is 8 30 or in the evening maybe 6 30pm and if they go home have to be back by 9pm. We live in the next county (only just we live in the far north of the next county about 80 miles away) but by train it would take him 2 1/2 hours to get to the nearest main line station and we then would have to drive 30 mins to the station to pick him up so he rarely comes home on Sundays, generally we try and bring him home for a Sunday once a term (its a three hour round trip in the car), about three to four other boys in his house/year don't go home and of course there are other boys in other years there and various departments are open e.g. art DT gym etc but no activities are arranged by the school for those who "stay in." The boys work exceedingly hard do not underestimate how hard they work and I think many like the opportunity to just sit and chill go into Winchester etc etc. You yourself can obviously go to Winchester on Sunday Winchester restaurants seem full of parents and boys having Sunday lunch or they can go home with friends for the day. Winchester doesn't have as many exeats as other many other schools particularly in the 2 and 3rd terms. We are frankly pretty uninvolved by choice I speak to him once a week on the phone and send a txt most days he is too busy often to reply that day I feel that is how the school want it we trust that they are doing a good job, the few concerns mainly trivial that we have had were dealt with instantly by our HM. So if your someone who feels you need to know everything thats going on and be consulted at every turn this is not the place for you.
HTH

captainbarnacle Wed 07-Nov-12 13:29:40

OK thank you v much! So quirky = eccentric, knowing your own mind, non conformist? I guess it's one of those things - that you 'know one when you see one' smile But, like you said, my family are all completely normal to me!
DS1 is only in yr2 - it's funny to look at them aged 6 and work out what would be the best fit for their futures.

difficultpickle Wed 07-Nov-12 20:36:56

When he was 3 my ds was described by the head of his nursery as independent minded. She cried when he left to go to school. His yr 1 and 3 teachers described him as stubborn because he wouldn't conform and questioned everything. His reception and yr 2 teachers thought he was wonderful and loved his spirit. Sounds like Winchester would suit him.

ladygoldenlion Wed 07-Nov-12 20:47:44

"bright, slightly quirky boys"

My dad works there and this is exactly how he describes the boys.

TheBigKidsDidIt Wed 07-Nov-12 21:46:00

Happy gardening - thank you so much. You have given me hope that he would fit right in! People are always telling us we are eccentric but like you we think we are normal.

And we only live fifty mins away so Sundays every week would certainly be great for us - time to slot in Sunday lunch up there without dragging him away from friends.

It sounds like a fantastic school.

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