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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.

bico Sun 02-Jun-13 20:43:42

We haven't visited Eton so ds was comparing WC to his prep.

He is used to wearing silly clothes so wouldn't be put off by Eton's. If I tell him pupils at Radley wear gowns he will refuse to look at any other school. He was very taken with the gowns yesterday and was disappointed to learn that only those with academic scholarships get to wear them. He thought all scholars should wear them too.

Head said 400 applicants for 140 places. Must choose house in year 5 as all lists closed by first term of year 6.

Ladybird what did you ds think? Mine wasn't bothered either way. He said he would be happy to go there but wouldn't be upset if he didn't go.

Ladybird65 Sun 02-Jun-13 22:44:29

Hi bico DS liked it and liked the HM we met. We are putting to him the realities of life such as lack of personal space, lack of personal identity - by this I guess I mean that the house we saw was a bit bland- all the same duvet covers no posters on walls - no sitting room till top years etc etc his nine year old self says it doesn't mind and he said he felt good about it. The thing is so personal, I guess it just has to feel right for each family. I have no idea as we get further down the process if it will still feel right, whether they will have him or whether we find somewhere better for us. Eg we are going to see Monmouth school in October (family connections). That no doubt will be different again. You are bound to resolve the dilemma not least cos we all have to. It is one hell of a lot of money to make a bad decision about though?! And then only secondary in importance of course is the happiness of the DS!.

bico Sun 02-Jun-13 23:05:06

Whilst we probably got a more candid view of the house we visited by being shown round by pupils we missed out on meeting the housemaster and matron as we only saw them very briefly at the start and end of our tour.

I've been surprised at how little ds has had to say about the visit and when asked today by friends he was almost speechless. He usually has an opinion about everything. He is back to school tomorrow and I'm awy for the week so I shall ask him when he is back next weekend whether he has formed a view. He is also going to talk to the year 8 boys he knows about what they like about the schools they are going to (all going to boys boarding schools even though their prep is co-ed).

The house we visited (Toye's) had lots of personalisation - posters, home duvet covers etc. I thought it did have a sitting room for all the house to use. I didn't like the idea of 13 boys all in the same dorm though in the first year. Does your ds board at the moment?

happygardening Mon 03-Jun-13 07:48:52

"by this I guess I mean that the house we saw was a bit bland- all the same duvet covers no posters on walls - no sitting room till top years etc etc"
My DS (not in Toyes) also has his own duvet etc don't know about posters I have only ever really been in dorms at the beginning/end of term they can and do personalise their spaces in the mugging hall.
My DS was at full boarding prep own duvets posters lots of space own common rooms etc as he grew older he hated it in fact we thought he'd began to hate the idea of full boarding now at Winchester with less space common room etc he's happy again.
Its easy as parents to concentrate on the superficial obvious things or look at things through adult eye but I believe its the ethos in the school and in Winchesters case perhaps more than most and most importantly the ethos within the house that count. This is not just the relationship between the boys and the staff but also between the boys themselves. IME experience of being a mother of a full boarder for now over 9 years but also in my experience at work the HM is the key person he is the one that creates the ethos if he gets it right and its not an easy job then everything else will be right too and I doubt few care if they use their duvets or the schools or which posters are on the walls.

bico Mon 03-Jun-13 09:15:19

I know ds was pleased to see the personalisation of the dorm. Definitely something he noticed and took an interest in. Whether he would still be so interested at 13 just sums up how hard this process is when you have to decide on a school so many years in advance. That and having to choose a house when the master you meet may not be there by the time ds would start. In that sense it is almost easier to be on the general list so the decision of which house is taken out of your hands.

Ladybird65 Mon 03-Jun-13 09:36:26

We saw Trant's. I'm not sure if they had had a tidy up for the open day but certainly it was pretty uniform. I'm not saying it's a bad thing and yes you have to trust the HM. (Another reason for that important decision-and perhaps one in favour of the WC admissions system). My comments are honest ones against a background of being overall in favour of the ethos. It's all very useful and thought provoking "listening" to these other views.

bico Mon 03-Jun-13 10:01:36

I met someone who visited Cook's and they thought it could do with a good clean! I can only really compare WC to ds's prep in terms of boarding houses. I liked that they had a library in the house. One school I won't be looking at is Shiplake specifically because it doesn't have a library either in the boarding house or, apparently, at all.

The idea of Div will maintain my interest in Winchester. I sent ds into school today with a request that he talks to those boys who have offers from Winchester and see what they have to say about why they like the school. Ds liked it but wasn't blown away by it. He had a very strong reaction to his current prep, so much so that he burst into tears when he got his offer letter.

Ladybird65 Mon 03-Jun-13 10:10:07

Shiplake is an interesting school. A number of boys from Ds prep go there. They call themselves an "added value " school and the story goes that many of the staff go there because they are fed up with not being able to change much about the outcome for the very clever boys. They have just made a huge investment in a new performing arts building so that may now include a l

Ladybird65 Mon 03-Jun-13 10:12:19

A library. Many of the boys there have special support. Sorry I pressed the post button by mistake. Also they have lovely grounds and access to the Thanes for rowing. It is popular with many patents around here.

bico Mon 03-Jun-13 10:23:42

We aren't far from Shiplake, they have a bus that goes from our village, but ds's school isn't listed as one of the feeder schools.

You are right - the new building at Shiplake does include a library! It will be interesting to see if it is on ds's head's list. It may be worth a look although it isn't at all academic.

happygardening Mon 03-Jun-13 10:52:11

"That and having to choose a house when the master you meet may not be there by the time ds would start."
We met three when we were choosing all are still there and I would be frankly stunned if ours went before his time. All the others who were either already in the job or due to start are also there although the one from Furleys is going early having done 7 years but thats only 1 out of 11. I suspect most do it for the allotted 10 years as they know what an important position it is.
We looked at Shiplake for DS1 (not at Winchester) its virtually non selective and not likely to cater for the super bright in the way that Winchester can and does although I've no doubt their would be little difference in actual exam results except of course that they don't do the Pre U. But then DS2 could probably achieve the same exam results at our local very well regarded 6th form college or high performing state school assuming he hadn't died of boredom becasue both target the super bright and I wouldn't have to pay for it. You have to remember that at Winchester they frequently go way beyond the curriculum and that the Pre U is significantly harder but also more interesting so much better for the very able. I did think the staff at Shiplake and caring but we felt rowing was bit of an obsession and that it was aimed at those who were a bit wet.

bico Mon 03-Jun-13 11:22:29

Whilst ds would probably like rowing (we see the Eton boys out rowing on the days I drop ds at school when he isn't boarding) he couldn't be described as wet at all. I've signed up to their open day though. I am going to treat the search for ds's next school in the same way as when I've gone house hunting - try to look at those that should fit but also look at others that may be a bit of an unusual choice on paper. I'm hoping that my gut instinct will kick in at some point and I will just know I am looking at the right school.

The worry I have about choosing housemasters is realistically we need to look at those who have been in their role for less than 5/6 years. Any more than that then they definitely won't be there when ds would start in 4 years time. HG how did you decide which housemasters to meet?

I have been trying to arrange other school visits this term but nothing is available before next term. It doesn't help that I am supposed to be away for half of September so October/November will be very busy months for school visiting.

happygardening Mon 03-Jun-13 11:36:18

HG how did you decide which housemasters to meet?
We got advise from the admissions office they asked me about my DS and then suggested three HM's (I think in retrospect 2 would have been enough) we met them with out my DS, one we instantly didn't like and the other two we did we then took my DS back to meet these two and after loads of agonising, they were both excellent but very different choose one, ours is as we thought he would be and suits us all down to the ground.
The best way is too ask one of the boys already there becasue they actually know what they are really like!

09870987 Mon 03-Jun-13 12:31:32

Bico: if you have the time, visit lots of schools (as you are planning to do). This will challenge any preconceptions you have and also help in your decision making. You ds will change over the next few years, so my advice is to keep your options open for as long as you can. However, I take your point about not showering all schools within a certain radius with registration fees! We registered with 5 (but when ds was tiny so it was not as expensive as it is now) and he sat for 3 (one non selective co-ed as safety net, one pre testing coed and one single sex). then we enjoyed year 7 trying to decide!! As I've said before follow your gut instinct and also the advice of your prep school head. I agree with you that the process is like looking at houses - you know when you walk in its right, but inevitably there is something you will have to compromise on. Good luck.

juststartingtothink Mon 03-Jun-13 12:52:39

How very interesting! I just came on Mumsnet to find out if there were any comments about Winchester....
I, too, was there on Saturday and was intrigued. I went assuming I'd like it based on what I had read no the website and heard from friends with children there. My husband was indifferent and my son was completely uninterested (ie I don't want to go look at schools!!). The end result was that our son liked it, my husband did not, and I was less enchanted by what I saw than by what I had read.
My observations:
i) headmaster seemed pompous and made no effort to "connect" with parents. however, i did like his comments about adolescent boys and took mental notes for how I might run my own "house" more effectively as we reach the teen years. I thought his over-emphasis on the "beauty" of Winchester (quoted on the cover of the prospectus -- ie there is no more beautiful place in the world....) showed a surprising lack of knowledge about other schools. Undoubtedly, Winchester is beautiful but other schools can match it on that score alone.
ii) the student who lead our tour was nice (can't think of another word for him) but offered very little insight into the beautiful buildings or into life as a student. (as my son said, "he's a very nice boy, mommy, but he's not a good tour guide as he doesn't seem to know very much"). given the HM emphasised the physical environment as a selling point, it was odd the student communicated nothing about the facilities (ie didn't comment on the architectural significance of any building). More importantly, other than tell us he enjoyed tennis, he didn't offer any other comments about what he enjoys about life as a student
iii) my husband was particularly disappointed by the other students we met -- in particular the ones we met in the house we visited. they were pale and seemed almost autistic (ie incapable of looking at us or engaging with us when the housemaster asked them to talk about life at Winchester). As I told my husband, the boys who were indoors -- particularly the one in the house library -- on the most beautiful day of the year so far are not likely to be examples of the well-rounded, outgoing boys (who, presumably, were the ones we saw playing cricket or walking around town). But we were left wondering where the boys were and what they were doing on this beautiful day -- not very many were on the cricket pitches, we didn't see any in the art room or in the PE halls, none lounging around or kicking balls in the house garden.... Where were they? What do they do on weekends?
iv) my main disappointment was the quality of the house. We saw it on the best possible day with the sun shining brightly and yet it was dark and damp and dreary indoors. What must it be like on a winter's day?!?! Other than the dining room (which reeked of stale food) and the den (which could accommodate perhaps 20 boys all crowded in), there was no place for the boys to gather together. I had thought one of the attractions of Winchester Houses was the opportunity to engage with the housemaster and visiting "dons" and have the sort of conversations boys might have if they were at home. Unless the housemaster visits boys in their rooms, there didn't seem to be anywhere for such interaction to take place -- and no where for boys to relax on rainy days. Do they just lie on their beds? Or is there a central common room somewhere that the boys can meet to chat, play games, etc
v) the food was terrible! if what they served parents is an indication of what they serve boys, I'm not surprised so many looked pale and thin.... Judging from the awful smell in the dining room of the house we visited, I assume we were truly given a taste of what the meals are like... I asked one boy what he did if he was hungry between meals. He said he never eats between meals. The Housemaster interrupted and said "what about the XXX room?" I can't remember what the room is called but he later showed it to us -- a dismal little "kitchen" where the boys can make toast or tea...
vi) the housemaster we met was very unimpressive -- he seemed to still be in awe of himself for having ended up at Winchester. His interaction with the boys in the house seemed fake -- ie "look at me and how well I get along with Bill and Ben and Jack -- see? I know them all by name!"

On the positive.... I enjoyed speaking with two of the teachers (one science and one Spanish). Both seemed to be very enthusiastic and kind and to genuinely enjoy teaching there. If I had just met them -- and not seen the house nor the boys mentioned above nor the housemaster -- my positive preconception of the school would have been affirmed. For now, I will maintain an open mind and continue to speak with friends whose boys are at Winchester and will arrange another visit in the autumn. I still like it very much on paper ... and hope I can be convinced it is as good in reality.

Happygardening -- what did you like about SPS? having seen my first boarding house, I might revert to a preference for a day school....!!

juststartingtothink Mon 03-Jun-13 13:00:00

Happygardening -- just re-read some of your posts and realise I misunderstood your first comment about SPS and your son is now at Winchester. Your comments about his experience are very helpful.

Has anyone visited any of the London day schools -- SPS, Westminster or Dulwich? Do they have Open Days?

bico Mon 03-Jun-13 13:53:18

Glad it wasn't just me who wondered where the boys were! We did see some in lessons and walking to and from lessons but not many. Ds stood and watched two boys playing chess in the library. He thought the library was nice, he liked the science school but was very unimpressed with the art school.

One thing it has made me do is call other schools to book appointments. I've broadened the range of schools I will look at (I had thought I'd get away with looking at 3 including Winchester).

juststarting which house did you visit? PM me if you'd rather not say here!

IndridCold Mon 03-Jun-13 14:56:41

Open Days are useful for some things, for example compiling a short list of schools which you can revisit properly later. I don't think you can make a full and final decision about whether a school is the right one based on Open Days alone.

It is difficult to judge a school in isolation, so definitely worth looking at some others even if you are pretty sure about your first choice. For one of the selectives you might want to have a back up option anyway, and so will need to find two schools that you like.

When we were looking around we felt that the best way of getting a feel for a place was by talking to current pupils. It doesn't suprise me that the WC boys were steering well clear of Open Day chaos this weekend, but on a private visit you will always find boys to talk to in a more relaxed atmosphere.

Also, Open Day parents are not necessarily representative of actual parents, so don't let them put you off either smile.

So long as you like the aims and ethos of a school, if there is a clash it's more important to like Housemasters, Matrons and teachers rather than the Head in my opinion. It's my impression that in these big schools the Head is more of a political figure, responsible for the overall public image of the school and acting as an interface between the school and the outside world, rather than being involved in the day to day care of the pupils, as they would at a prep school.

A final little thing for those just starting out, I really wouldn't at this stage get too hung up on details like dining arrangements. I have several friends whose DCs had quite specific requirements, which were then completely forgotten about when they found a school they liked.

Like that property programme with Phil and Kirstie when couples have one or two points that they absolutely won't compromise on, but which are usually the first things to be abandoned when they find a place they like!

bico Mon 03-Jun-13 15:19:26

I've now booked open visits for Charterhouse, Radley, Uppingham, St Edwards, Bradfield and Shiplake (a very broad spectrum). Ds is registered for Radley (when he was 6) but the registrar says he is unlikely to get a place from the waiting list. She did say he would make a good candidate for the Warden's List. We will have a busy first half of next term!

Tried to book Eton but the person who makes the bookings is away today. They managed to hang up on me (hopefully by accident!) when I asked them what their half term dates were. The easiest school for ds to go to would be Eton in terms of familiarity and locality.

termsofuse Mon 03-Jun-13 17:22:37

Very curious about not seeing boys around, so I asked DS about it. He said except for the fourth year who had to be tour guides, no one else cared about open day and they all went about their usual activities. Also said that they always make a serious effort when guiding private or small group visits.

happygardening Mon 03-Jun-13 17:37:30

"Happygardening -- what did you like about SPS?"
Its a thoroughly modern multicultural liberal and progressive its a 21st century school. Its not pretentious or groaning under the weight of meaningless ritual or ridiculous uniform. Even before the new building work the facilities are awesome and they are going to be even better and it has a university feel about it. It does what it says in the can; provide an fab education super bright boys. Its exceedingly impressive we ummmed and arrrhed for months over which one to reject I understand and am unsurprised by the points and concerns you raised about Winchester but still feel we choose the right school.
Juststarted registration for SPS is ridiculously early or at least it was 7 years ago and competion for the 75 places exceedingly fierce.
"Glad it wasn't just me who wondered where the boys were!"
Looked in "short roll" sort of diary thing boys were in lesson on Saturday till 12 20 lunch starts 13 10 then the rest of the afternoon they do activities. I asked my DS of many parents went to the open day to which he replied he only saw a few so somehow they manage to keep them apart!?
"it was odd the student communicated nothing about the facilities (ie didn't comment on the architectural significance of any building)."
Doubt my DS would comment either I suspect they just take it for granted.
"Or is there a central common room somewhere that the boys can meet to chat, play games, etc"
In my DS's house they can all meet in the mugging hall and theres a library and other places to sit and chat my DS has friends in all years don't know where he sits and chats to them but he obviously does it somewhere.he certainly talks about conversations with various dons but I don't know how this is organised.
"the food was terrible"
Win Coll food is notorious although we've eaten at least three meals in my DS's house with the boys and it wasn't inedible mainly lasagne spag bol etc but definitely not Marco Pierre White. But my DS's house has a reputation for having some of the best food. But I've also eaten in lots of other boarding schools and have been generally unmoved by the quality of the food.
"the housemaster we met was very unimpressive"
We like ours we liked him from the moment we first met him he's very normal I don't think ours is in awe of himself and he certainly knows the boys. I too am curious as which one you went round.
"I enjoyed speaking with two of the teachers (one science and one Spanish). Both seemed to be very enthusiastic and kind and to genuinely enjoy teaching there"
This is my experience the teacher seem to genuinely love the environment I met one recently at another big name independent school school he said those were my best teaching days the relationship between the boys and dons really is fantastic. Like all schools there are fantastic teachers and a few mediocre one but I don't believe any sector can claim a monopoly on good teachers.
We went round Eton and loathed it is so different to Winchester we hated the presentation, the beaks we met and the boys who seemed shallow but plenty go and love it its horses for courses we all see things differently.

bulletpoint Mon 03-Jun-13 18:19:21

Just reading this thread out of interest, i'm quite astonished actually at the mention of Winchester AND Shiplake! I am clearly missing a trick and hoping someone will kindly enlighten me, I thought Shiplake was a school for children with learning difficulties, but apart from that it is lagging very near the bottom of the league tables, number one thousand and something, I know league tables don't always tell the full story. I do have a bright child with special needs so hope someone would expantiate a bit more on why Shiplake would be a good second option for a Winchester candidate.

bico Mon 03-Jun-13 18:28:00

Who said it is? confused I assume you were referring to my post wherein I said I was going to visit Shiplake. I didn't realise visiting = choosing that school. I also haven't said it was first or second to Winchester. All I have said that as things stand at the moment Eton would be a more familiar choice for us.

I'm working on the assumption that choosing a school is like choosing a house. Yes it must be great to view one house and that house to be the one. In reality you end up looking at a range if houses some that meet your broad criteria and some that don't and maybe some that seem completely different to what you are looking for. Ds doesn't want co ed but I'm not dismissing Charterhouse or St Edwards until we've actually viewed what they have to offer.

Shiplake isn't a SEN specific school although it does have good support for dyslexic pupils. You may be surprised to learn that Winchester supports those and others too.

happygardening Mon 03-Jun-13 18:31:52

It isn't!
The two are not comparable I'm not against Shiplake but your comparing apples and pears. The learning support at Win Coll is well regarded a ed. psych we know was surprised at how helpful and open they were to a boy he'd assessed with quite complex special needs who many other mainstream big name boarding schools schools wouldn't touch with a barge pole.

bulletpoint Mon 03-Jun-13 18:34:09

Who said it is? I assume you were referring to my post wherein I said I was going to visit Shiplake. I didn't realise visiting = choosing that school.

Please calm down! why does every innocent question on MN have to turn into a confrontation ? i didn't memorise names of people but did notice more than one person mentioned Shiplake as well as Winchester, surely visiting a school would indicate some interest, i just wanted to know more about Shiplake and its suitability for a bright child. goodness me!

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