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Winchester College Open Day

(346 Posts)
bico Thu 30-May-13 09:47:56

Anyone going this Saturday? Ds is in year 4 and keen to have a look, I think mainly because they have an 18 hole golf course grin.

happygardening Thu 30-May-13 17:08:48

Not sure you get to see the golf course in fact I hadn't really taken it on board that they had one.

bico Thu 30-May-13 18:07:12

I'm sure we won't see it (bisjo with a name change here) but it is one of the reasons ds is so keen on this school. My current thinking is that whilst he would have a lot to offer Winchester I'm not sure he will be academic enough for them (bright but lazy).

happygardening Fri 31-May-13 09:15:49

I personally think they don't want lazy how ever bright it would appear from their website that they are increasingly looking at taking the brightest best and of course hard working from abroad as part of the heads vision for the school. The boys are expected to very work hard literally from the moment they arrive loads of prep etc and the Pre U is significantly more demanding and I wonder if it might put the lazy off?studying.

bico Fri 31-May-13 11:59:12

No, I certainly don't think they want lazy. Ds is coasting at the moment. He will either be smitten with Winchester and put in the effort to show he merits the opportunity of applying there or he won't, so tomorrow will be interesting from that perspective.

He got a scholarship to his present school because when he visited it he decided he wanted to go there and put in the effort to ensure it happened.

happygardening Fri 31-May-13 13:01:51

We weren't "smitten" with Win Coll after attending the open day (unlike SPS which I was trying trying very hard not to be smitten with) others felt the same. Its different and thats why we like it but its very hard to see what makes it different at the open day.

bico Sat 01-Jun-13 20:45:15

I thought the Open Day was very organised but quite sterile. I had to make a conscious effort not to think that the parents of boys at WC would be like many of the parents at the Open Day. If I honestly thought that I'd run a mile.

Some very nice and friendly, some very very pushy and some incredibly arrogant and bigoted (one conversation I witnessed between a lovely boy showing us round and a parent rendered me speechless).

Head very keen to emphasise how beautiful the environment is and how that is especially important for adolescent boys. He also said order and structure are important (which I'd agree with). He did his talk in the Chapel where I couldn't help but notice that the music stands in the choir stalls looked as if they were made from plastic. Head told me they were made of metal. A silly small thing but I was surprised they weren't wooden (and they definitely weren't beautiful!). I didn't warm to the head at all. He seemed to be going through the motions with his talk which was odd bearing in mind they only have one open day a year. Registrar was nice and sixth form head prefect delivered a word perfect (and very practised) speech.

We were shown round the school by a senior boy who had only joined the school the previous year in the sixth form so he wasn't able to talk about what life was like for the younger boys. Very friendly but a lot of the questions I had wanted to ask I wasn't able to.

We were shown round a house by the head of house, the next head of house and his deputy. The housemaster and matron took another group. It meant we didn't have any opportunity to talk to the housemaster until the very end of the tour when he was keen to impress parents that he could remember the names of the boys he had shown round. Interesting having the pupils' perspective but we had that to some extent on the general tour and I'd have liked the opportunity to actually speak to a house master.

One parent asked a question about academic standard required and prefaced his question with a long speech about how he hasn't considered or compared his son's academic ability, nor that of his school friends and neither had his son's the school. I nearly bit my tongue trying not to laugh. From the housemaster's answer Winchester would suit ds, as he currently is, perfectly.

After the tour there were some housemasters and the registrar available to answer questions but you couldn't get anywhere near. I was some distance away but still managed to hear one parent asking the registrar very loudly about which year you had to apply for a place bearing in mind her son was a year ahead.

I asked ds what he thought of his visit. He wasn't at all impressed by the facilities (he is already at a school with a beautiful environment!), didn't like the bathrooms. He thought the dorms were okay. I'm less sure about putting 13 year ones all in the same room together. We saw the science school, the art school, library, chapel. We didn't see any of the sports or music facilities, or normal classrooms which was a shame.

I don't know how we decide whether to go back or not. I was amazed at how many parents had visited a wide range of other schools. Bearing in mind the open day was for years 3 and 4 I still think it is incredibly early to do visits. I have a real worry about how to decide 4 years in advance what would be the right choice for ds.

09870987 Sat 01-Jun-13 22:08:56

The truth is you don't have to decide 4 years in advance what would be right for your ds and you shouldn't because he will change a lot, especially in yr7-8. Just register him and forget it if you want the option of pre testing for that school. I went round a school for my ds when he was yr4. I came home and told dh that i had found the right school. It was my gut feel. In the meantime we looked round many other schools including the one i looked round in yr4 with and without ds, ds sat pre tests for some of them in yr6 and 7, we accepted offers from 3 of them, and then turned down 2 of them when we made our final decision in yr8....and he's going to the one I looked round in yr4. Follow your gut instinct!

bico Sat 01-Jun-13 22:14:41

Good point although I'd rather not be shelling out registration fees and making ds sit pre-tests if we don't need to. Also if Winchester is an option we will need to choose a housemaster in year 5, even if that housemaster may have left by the time ds starts at the school (which is the position with the housemaster we met today).

Xpatmama88 Sat 01-Jun-13 23:51:35

Do go back, and make appointments of visit with different housemasters. You will get a much better feel of the place and more personal, and they can answer all your questions. You can ask to tour the school again, the housemaster will most likely get one of the boy in the house to do the tour, you can visit the music school or see the sport facilities etc. You can then decide whether the school is really for your DS before you pay the registration fee. Honestly, it is a truly excellent school, very academic, and the boys need to be very self motivated.

happygardening Sun 02-Jun-13 08:41:57

I agree with Xpat ask to meet 2-3 HM's it's was only then that we could see what make it different, have a tour of the music school or where ever matters to you. Sport is not big at Win Coll especially team sports after the first year it's so optional some will never do sport again it's just not what it's all about. If you want lots of sport there are plenty of other academic schools. The boys are in dorms for often the first three years it doesn't bother me or my DS and maybe the bathroom aren't good I'm proud of the fact that I've never inspected a bathroom in my life but as an HM said to a mother when we went on the open day "madam you don't decide whether or not to send your son to Win Coll because of the bathrooms!" Again Win Coll is not about Bathrooms/Dorms or even food which in some houses is known to be pretty awful. We chose it because we liked the ethos don't get me wrong at times decisions seem odd but what underpins it the relationship between the boys and the dons which is pretty unique as is the increasingly academic/ intellectual standard offer to those who want it.
With regard to the parents by its nature it will attract pushy parents but again IME once your DS is there parents are slightly kept at at arms
distance so you have little to do with them apart from "hello how it going etc?" when you pick them up.

bico Sun 02-Jun-13 09:10:36

We need to look at other schools and then decide whether to follow up with Winchester. It is difficult to judge as it is the first senior school we've visited.

Ds saw the bathrooms, not me, and he didn't like them at all (comparing them to his current school). He wasn't bothered by the large dorms at all which I thought was interesting (he is in a dorm of 6 but only 3 or 4 beds are used). He is not a team sports player so that side doesn't overly concern me.

The boys we met were very nice and honest about their time at the school. Having slept on it I really didn't like the head but again I need to visit other schools and see whether that is an issue or not. I didn't like the housemaster (seemed smug) but maybe he had a right to be smug as apparently his house is the most popular.

I didn't like ds's current head when he was appointed but he's grown on me and ds thinks he's great.

gbxpat Sun 02-Jun-13 09:22:33

Food: Understand that there has been a reassessment and overhauling recently (unsure if it was for the whole school or just some houses) which resulted in a major improvement.
HM: Heard that the tradition of HMs offering places may be ending and houses would be chosen by the school. Parents/boys can shortlist preferences.
One of the most impressive thing about WinColl is the dons' knowledge and enthusiasm in their subjects. It is not unusual to find former post doctorate researchers among them. Most of the time, WinColl is not teaching but facilitating learning. Boys' self-motivation and curiosity is an important factor in terms of "culture" fit and maximising benefit from it. It is worthwhile meeting some of the dons especially some of the Div dons who might have more contact with the boys than even their HMs.
Agree with HG's point about distance.

Ladybird65 Sun 02-Jun-13 09:32:19

Bico what a pity you had a bad experience yesterday. We were there too and whilst the tour of the school was limited, we were impressed with how inclusive they had striven to make the day. The boys, the vast majority who had never previously met played in a massive group and the young man who took our group coped fantastically well with the youngsters and all of their questions. All the young men we met were lovely and are a credit to the College. It was evident to us what wincoll is all about: giving raw talent the environment to explore and discover the delight of thoroughly learning about subjects without the constraints of firm curricula. We loved the ethos but agree that the admissions procedure is a risk. Unless you choose the right hm you may not get a place which otherwise you would get. We came away enthusiastic and ready to make further appointments to see the registration staff who did seem beleaguered at times.

gbxpat Sun 02-Jun-13 09:41:28

HMs and admissions: Some HMs will warn you that his remaining term as HM may not last the whole 5 years for your son's time there. It is good to consider that as inevitable changes which come with HM transition may be unsettling for some of the boys especially if that coincides with Yr3 or Yr5 with exams.

happygardening Sun 02-Jun-13 12:04:33

HM's do 10 years in the job except one who is doing 15 obviously no one will guarantee they will last the whole 10 but most appear too. I only know one who is about to leave although I don't follow it obsessively if it's who I think it is not sure I would use the term "most popular" to describe his house that's not what Ive I've heard!! Although the one taking over is well liked by the boys.
The boys are known for their honestly when we went to the open day, I was thinner and less grey then, that's what struck us. They talked openly about the school it was the only school where the pupils didn't spout the usual stuff about how wonderful it was and how everything was the best. No rose tinted spectacles they discussed it's strengths and weaknesses but all bar 1 when asked even those who were openly very critical didn't want to go anywhere else.
The relationship between the boys and find is pretty unique significantly less formal than many this feeling I had was backed by a new Don who I was talking too who been at other big name boarding schools before coming to a win Coll and there is an ever increasing number with post doctoral researchers which I suspect is all part of the heads "international centre of academic excellence vision".
It is not everyone's cup of tea about 7 sets of parent s from my DS's yr at his prep looked at it only two decided they liked it Eton/Harrow remained most people's first I personally wouldn't touch either with a barge pole pole they are completely different.
Finally I do hope they don't change the admissions process it's one of the things we liked that human to human I like you as an individual not a sterile computer generated test and a brief interview with AN Other who writes a report that meticulously scored and carefully analysed as practiced by another just up the road.

bico Sun 02-Jun-13 14:49:41

The housemaster we met has been there 7 years so will be gone before ds would start but would still be the one to interview him. Apparently, at least according to this housemaster, he is the most popular and his house has the best food. I'm sure all the housemasters say the same! From talking to the boys there appears to be one housemaster in particular that is very unpopular.

We saw a group of boys playing with a tennis ball at lunch, with a boy in a white shirt leading the group. It was interesting watching the group dynamics. Ds decided to play pooh sticks with a smaller group.

Ds was asked by a friend today what he thought and he said he didn't think the facilities were very good. Maybe he needs a reality check of looking at some more normal schools. He has been lucky to go to two schools with lovely grounds, great facilities etc so his benchmark is pretty high.

If you were to ask me today whether I'd send ds there my answer would have to be no. I'm not sure if that is a clear no or whether my view will change once I've looked at other schools. I certainly didn't get the gut instinct of thinking ds must go there and nowhere else.

Ladybird have you looked at other schools? I'm trying to work out if my feelings about Winchester are because I haven't got anything to compare it to.

Interestingly ds said he would prefer central dining rather than in house dining so that rules out Eton too

Somethingyesterday Sun 02-Jun-13 15:46:18

Central dining? You need not rule out Eton. A good number of the houses have central rather than in house dining.

Ladybird65 Sun 02-Jun-13 16:25:17

Hi Bico I'm afraid our ds was one of the big group running around very loudly! We have slightly Puritan views which rule out eton and harrow in that we simply do not believe fancy dress can possibly enhance education. We also hold the view that this encourages a sense of otherness and dare I say it, arrogance on the part of the students. Unless they have changed things, I think that at Radley you can't speak to a teacher unless and until you have registered which we don't feel comfortable with either.

You could conclude that we had to like Winchester! However, I respect Eton's admissions policy far more. A character clash would be all that you need to exclude a prospective boy from a place at WC and as far as I can see, that is far more unlikely to happen at Eton.

We have considered the local (to Berkshire) next rung schools such as Abingdon and Bradfield bit failed to find much distinctive about them. Eg at Pangbourne they call themselves "proud to be different" but when we tried to nail down the distinction it turned out to be the naval uniform.

We genuinely found a substantial difference at Winchester. It may well turn out not to be the one for us but we are willing to take it further. I was sorry and interested that you came away disappointed and maybe a bit puzzled. We talked only to a few other parents yesterday I think the nicer ones! There will always be a mixture I think.

happygardening Sun 02-Jun-13 16:52:17

"However, I respect Eton's admissions policy far more. A character clash would be all that you need to exclude a prospective boy from a place at WC and as far as I can see, that is far more unlikely to happen at Eton."
Interesting its was Eton completely sterile admissions policy that for us was the icing on the cake of course combined with a loathing of ridiculous uniform. I don't thing prospective suitable boys are excluded because of a character clash they are are offered a place in another house. Surely its just as easy to have a personality clash with any teacher interviewing especially when the interview is only 8-10 mins long as it is at Eton.
I also agree that the facilities are not as smart as Etons; they were very flash truly awesome and also immaculately looked after or as 21st century as SPS but again thats not really what we're paying for its something that I'm not able to define that feeling thats its just right for my DS providing him with what he needs we're also comfortable there. I don't need Olympic lakes and pristine lawns and boarding houses we're just not those sort of parents.

Ladybird65 Sun 02-Jun-13 17:29:59

Happy gardening how are they offered a place in another house? Don't "rejects" get put on the headmaster's list to await a gap somewhere else in the school? That happens some two years later? The impression I have is that there may not be a gap if all the other places are taken. And there are five applicants for each place. I don't see any second chance direct between a house master and parent/boy? Having said that, I think it is the only drawback we could see - we felt comfortable with all the rest and so did our ds. I may have got the wrong end of the stick.

09870987 Sun 02-Jun-13 18:29:55

Ladybird - I have a few friends who looked around Radley, one on one as they don't do open days. They met the head master or a member of the senior staff. If they weren't registered they applied via the wardens list. The boys do wear gowns though so that may fall in your category of ridiculous uniform!!! Hope that helps.

happygardening Sun 02-Jun-13 18:46:13

As far as i understand these are the outcomes from the interview/selection process; 1 a place in your chosen house, 2 you are an excellent candidate for Win Coll but not suitable for the house you've registered with therefore your offered a definite place and will be over time offered an alternative house, 3 those who are interviewed by the registrar because they were too late to register with a house, some are also offered a definite place but again no house when the initial offer is made, 5 some are placed on a waiting list and 6 and finally you're rejected.
"there are five applicants for each place"
This is not my understanding I understood there are 2 1/2 - 3 applicants for everyplace as most HM's close their list when they've got 30ish boys registered (the popular houses obviously go quickest) I'm assuming its primarily because the interview process is at least about a couple of hours long so it would be unrealistic to interview more than that. Of course my info might not be up to date because we were told this 5-6 yrs ago and once your there you don't hear about these kind of changes.
I've been trying to work out what makes it different or at least why it works for us one excellent thing is that the boys really are encouraged to follow their own interests and do their own thing, they very obviously feel free and happy to do this however niche they might be so its perfect for non conformists. At times it feels like its living in a time warp and strange decisions are made but I like its quirky unpredictability. I personally think its very liberal in that the boys have quite a lot of personal freedom certainly when compared with others in the same league but as parents you do have to accept that they have very strict rules about certain things which could seem petty but there's no point fighting it you just have to accept that's thats the way they do it.
In contrast we felt that Eton was significantly more corporate as one father put it "Eton the brand," when we looked round they were trying too hard to impress us God knows why they're not exactly under subscribed but everything was so perfect. Eton is also I believe far more accommodating to the odd Saturday night at home etc.

gbxpat Sun 02-Jun-13 19:06:03

Eton's preselection process is a production line with no pretense of any interest to know the boys as real people. WinColl puts a lot of effort and time into knowing the candidates in preselection. Eton is completely mechanical. WinColl and Eton have very different end-products. Perhaps a bit unfair, one has products meant to impress and to a large extent conform and not question. Their values are very different despite their common roots. I suppose Eton's system works for the kind of output they desire.
Not that WinColl is above wanting superb exam results (far from it, you will be asked to withdraw if you get fewer than 6As in GCSE), but it expects good grades from the knowledge gained while Eton seems to focus more on how to get the grades. This may be perfect for some and not others.
Single study bedrooms accommodation is far more impressive than WinColl's dorms. As for facilities, neither Eton nor WinColl is that flashy compared with several schools around the country.
If a HM does not make an offer, there is a general pool (unsure if the Headmaster's list is the same thing) and there is the Election (scholarship) route. Some/few take Election without even going for preselection at all.

Ladybird65 Sun 02-Jun-13 20:31:32

Thanks so much. All really helpful. Lots to consider!

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