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RGS Guildford and Reading Grammar

(37 Posts)
Indy5 Tue 29-Oct-13 10:46:11

I am trying to distinguish the appreciable differences between these two ...i know there is an older thread from last year and I've looked through it but want to refresh the opinions visits were brief and from those and websites as far as I can glean:

RGS Guildford (from 11 or 13)

hear it's like a very good state grammar but private
15k a year fees
25% Oxbridge success
Very strong in maths and sciences - big plus
Sporty but no green fields on actual premises (a downside) - facilities less impressive than other indies at least onsite (not sure if redevelopment program is also affecting facilities from a noise standpoint?) and seems more cramped than Reading Boys
Pain to get to if DS has to stay late, otherwise he can take the train but less local so probably less likely to socialize with friends outside of school

Reading Grammar (from 11)

absolutely free
16% Oxbridge (not sure what subjects though - can't see from website)
not sure how sporty or all rounded it is - very limited info on website
nice green space on premises
I did wonder what they did if much after school re clubs etc.
a bit more local so more likely to have local friends from school

DS would like to have a decent shot at Oxbridge, and RGS look like they haver a nice number getting into Cambridge for Maths and Natural Sciences which is a BIG draw though but saving of fees at Reading boys would pay for some lovely summer science or activity camps overseas which is also something to think about.

Anyone else with the same quandary between good grammar and good indy who chose one way or the other ? Be interested in insight into how all rounded a boy can be at either school and what is relative mix of intake of state to private school boys.

Biggest question though I am asking myself, is the difference between the two appreciable enough to be worth 105k (more by the time he goes there) which is what it would cost taking into account another 7 years private school fees. I can't help thinking that that could be a nice deposit on a flat for DS in a few years time.

Indy5 Wed 06-Nov-13 11:37:48

That is interesting Tanith...I guess you have to find the right school for your child's personality and I know Heads have their own views...and I am not sure to be honest what would suit my DS who is the non-conformist questioning type (not in a bad way), I think I will keep an open mind and ask more questions nearer the time ...but at least seems to be very well thought of from the parents with DSs there who have replied so that is reassuring.

Tanith Wed 06-Nov-13 07:45:32

Indy, I have to say we didn't even look at RGS.

DS's headmaster had recommended Winchester and given his opinion that RGS wouldn't suit him.

I might have gone to see RGS anyway (nearer, no boarding) if I hadn't also known two members of their staff, both of whom said RGS wasn't the school for him. I don't mean to offend those whose children are thriving there, but the reasons we were given by one of the staff were that it was too rigidly conventional for him. There was a lot of emphasis on curriculum and exam results, talking at the boys during lessons and quite passive learning styles promoted. I'm sorry - it's what one of them said and I knew DS wouldn't be happy.

DS is gifted with a real love of learning for learning's sake. He would probably have done well at RGS, as he would have done at any academic school, but it seems as though he belongs at Winchester and he is so happy there.

DalmationDots Fri 01-Nov-13 22:16:13

I agree racingheart, but I believe Winchester is even more going away from the curriculum.

Agree about the atmosphere, there is really different feel there and such an atmosphere of striving to do well and following your interests. The boys humor is very distinct.
My DD is two years younger than DS and when she reached sixth form and groups of boys started appearing at our house for various social occasions, I could tell in an instant whether it was an RGS boy or not. Their sense of humour is so unique and I found (may just be the boys my DC socialised with) were incredibly polite and generally very caring.
DS had a party when he was 18 and at the time my DD was recovering from an operation upstairs, the boys came and asked me if the music was too loud for her trying to sleep and the next morning the house was cleared of bottles/mess without any prompting, thank you's were expressed and they were gone without any hassle. Having anticipated a night of having to be the embarrassing mother telling them to shh, I was gobsmacked at their courtesy.

racingheart Fri 01-Nov-13 18:24:06

Summer, I got the impression the same was true of the teaching at RGS. They teach what they find interesting and then top up with relevant curricular stuff for exams. That's what several teachers have told us. And my DC have learned utterly different things in Yr 7. There's clearly no formal outline as to how information should be taught or what materials should be used to teach it.

DH and I are both Oxbridge and it's the only school we walked into that felt like being back at university. There was an energy at RGS, you could feel the engagement and love of learning and the quick wit. My DC come home with so many tales of funny things other boys said. It is a particular sense of humour - very dry and offbeat, learned and quirky. You can see how Monty Python grew from an RGS mind.

summerends Fri 01-Nov-13 13:19:29

Indy, I have DC both at a standard superselective day school and at Winchester. Not sure if Winchester has on average brighter children and the boys there may well (on average) achieve no more grades wise than children at schools such as Reading and Guildford. However they have much more fun exploring in their learning on the way guided by the type of teaching. They cover necessary material but a major amount of time is spent off curriculum either in div or in the other subjects. That sort of education would not be worth it for a child who did not like learning for its own sake. A self motivated, child with a passion for a subject would not need it to get to a competitive university course but would very much enjoy it.

Indy5 Thu 31-Oct-13 13:14:43


Glad to know your DS is happy there but curious to know why you think he wouldn't have been happy at somewhere like RGS...I mean Oxbridge looks for passion in subjects over and above A level curriculum and RGS must manage to aid that or presumably wouldn't succeed in getting so many in. I think RGS's results are really impressive and when you compare selection in the first place and questions like value add ...Winchester takes from so far afield and overseas so have a bigger pool to pick from (and likely a more arduous entrance test) being a well known boarding school whereas RGS is really drawing from local talent. Do you think Winchester would turn out a different "product" as a boy at 18 even though so many end up at the same uni and probably same courses as those from somewhere like RGS? (I am genuinely curious not being facetious here- so much of this personal decision for me and my DS is separating the mystique or my own subjective notions of a place from what might be the reality). I've been to Oxbridge so at least I know from the inside the reality that that offers (as far as my own subjective experience allowed that is!)

Indy5 Thu 31-Oct-13 12:57:34

This is good feedback on DS is a bit of a non-conformist with quirky sense of humour and likes to question (not authority as such but ideas) I would hate to have him strait jacketed...but it sounds like that won't be an issue (though I did wonder to about Tanith's view), and there is plenty on offer music and sport wise, aside from the obvious focus on academics.

I did wonder if some go to state grammar til GCSEs then switch to Indy at sixth form (not because they do badly at GCSE but where they do well with say six As or more) as that could be another option.

DalmationDots Thu 31-Oct-13 09:17:18

I agree on the conformist teaching, but not a conformist whole school. Whinchester is probably less conformist on the teaching side as well as the activities on offer and atmosphere. No worries Tanith, you are bringing up a good point smile

Tanith Thu 31-Oct-13 08:25:20

Oh dear! I'm sorry - I certainly didn't mean to insult your DS's! thanks

I think it was the teaching style that was meant. We were recommended to try Winchester instead and, I have to say, they were spot on. DS couldn't be happier. I don't think he would have fitted in as well at RGS.

summerends Thu 31-Oct-13 05:37:11

Perhaps Tanith means more conformist teaching. I know of very sporty boys enjoying Reading. I imagine with both these schools the boys have to want to participate rather than needing a push to. The boarders at Reading do get more of a push. The advantage of these day schools is that it allows more flexibility for the very sporty (or very musical) to participate in county etc programmes. Reading have Saturday matches.

DalmationDots Wed 30-Oct-13 21:55:20

Agree with the above, RGS is far from conformist and very accepting of the quirkier, quieter, less 'ladish' types (as well as the conformist, loud, ladish types!) It really does suit most boys as long as they are the right academic level.
What I found great is in my DS' year, as I said before, every boy found his group of friends who he was really comfortable with and who were his 'type' of people. But despite that, there was great acceptance and celebration amongst the boys of all the different characters in the year group. They didn't have to be a sporty type or very musical or very academic, they can be all or none of those things and still fit in. There are so many opportunities there to suit all types which IMO reflects their view that every boy deserves an array of opportunities and they aren't all expected to want to do rugby/play in the orchestra they can be into shooting or theatre or comedy or model railway and there will still be a society for them!

surreygoldfish Wed 30-Oct-13 19:23:48

I agree with racing heart, DS 1 at RGS and has a very quirky sense of humour and is definitely not a conformist. It suits him perfectly, much more so than his prep school did as his personality isn't squashed. He's also enjoyed sport MUCH more - it's very inclusive and open to all those that want to join in. Travelling to the sports ground hasn't bothered him at all - although I do think it's a shame they don't have more on site. He's naturally very laid back and works reasonably hard but it's no hot house for those that are bright. The boys do need to have 'some get up and go', there's lots extra on offer but it's very much left to them as to whether they take full advantage of it all.

He gets the train and loves the freedom and social element to it - we talked about moving to Guildford but he doesn't want to !

Sorry, don't know anything about Reading Grammar so can't compare.

racingheart Wed 30-Oct-13 18:12:16

Indy, no we don't live locally. The school drops them back at school or they practise on the all terrain at school, so those who get the train, like DS does, can just do so/ Monday is a very long day for him and he's shattered, but he recovers quickly.

Tanith, what do you mean, you were advised not to enter your son for RGS because it is conformist? Not sure what is meant by conformist. They are very eccentric at RGS which is one reason DC love it there. Both boys and staff have quite an off the wall sense of humour. But they do work very hard. Why would an academic boy be dissuaded from trying for RGS? It is a great school for naturally academic boys.

DalmationDots Wed 30-Oct-13 17:18:05

My DS was at RGS, I can't fault it in any way. It was the best decision we made to send him there. A really well run school which understands boys' needs.
Music is outstanding. Sports caters for all abilities and so many choices. A really good mix of boys from all sorts of backgrounds.
Lots travel a long way, up to an hour and a half I'd say, to get there. There is a direct train from reading so it is very accessible.
Lots of links with local girls school, especially GHS where my DD was at.
The year groups are a good size meaning boys really do find like-minded friends who they are comfortable with.
The lack of on-site sports fields is not an issue, the fields are a 10 minute drive away and they are worth it when you get there!
Any issues DS had were resolved immediately and with great care.

I don't know anything about Reading Grammar, I'd go and have a look, look at the sixth formers and think is that the type of boy I want my DS to grow up to be like. It is tricky, and a huge amount of money to consider! I don't know what I would do if we had an almost RGS equivalent but free on offer to us! I think RGS would have to really stand out in comparison rather than only just top it.

BeckAndCall Wed 30-Oct-13 07:06:55

I can't help you with a comparison, but my DS was at RGS and my girls at GHS so I can offer some comments.

My DS ws not 'sporty' but did play badminton, tennis and ski race - the first two on site and the latter by minibus which then dropped them back at the station.

He was musical though and the music was great. And still is - my DD in the sixth form has always got a joint production going on with the boys - a show, or a choir event, or a summer tour.

As others have said, there is a direct train from Reading. It is not unusual for boys and girls to travel long distances to the schools - my own DDs have an hours journey, for example (nearer an hour and 10 door to door, actually)

BUT I've always wondered what we would have chosen if there had been grammar schools in our county.

Amber2 Wed 30-Oct-13 00:46:23

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Amber2 Wed 30-Oct-13 00:31:40

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Tanith Tue 29-Oct-13 23:49:45

I know both schools. I grew up in Reading and I now live not far from Guildford. I know boys from both schools.

My impression is that they are quite similar. Both have green areas very near to, or on the school site and both have sports grounds further away. Both use ancient old buildings: I think Reading, although not at its original site, is the older, and RGS does have more a more modern site across the road.
RGS is right in the middle of town; Reading is a little further out, opposite the hospital.
Reading is a state day and boarding school; RGS is a private day school.

The commute depends very much where you live. If you are driving in from outside Reading, it's horrendous. If you live in South Reading, you should be OK. It's well served by public transport but you would need to use buses from the main train station.
Guildford commute isn't nearly as bad to get to the town itself but, as I said, it's right in the middle of town and difficult to get to - most of the boys catch the train to London Road station.

Both are extremely academic and, it's my impression, are quite traditional and conformist. We were advised not to enter my very academic son for RGS because of this. Excellent teaching staff at both schools.

I believe it is harder to get into Reading - the competition for places is incredibly fierce.

Indy5 Tue 29-Oct-13 22:19:50


so what does your boy do after rugby on Monday evening, perhaps you live locally, but for those that catch the train, do the school drop them off by school coach back at school and then they catch the train home.(which may be less frequent than earlier in the day) ..just contemplating that on dark winter evenings hence some doubts on logistics

Indy5 Tue 29-Oct-13 22:16:11

thanks all...this is very useful...driving distance to Guildford given the traffic is something to think about even if just for the matches...logistics is important ....feel like it's an important decision for 5 or 7 years hence the dilemma...but this is all valuable input to put in the mix.

racingheart Tue 29-Oct-13 19:19:42


Both my DSs are at RGS. DS1 does a fair amount of sport - rugby practise every Monday evening and then a match on Saturdays, as well as swimming, games and shooting. Was going to do fencing too but it clashed with another club.

DS2 isn't sporty. He's focused on other stuff. RGS has long lunch hours so the boys can do an activity every day if they want. There's loads on, to suit absolutely every interest you can imagine.

The playing fields are 5-10mins away. They do work very hard at RGS, so I think a bit of down time on the coach is part of the fun. It's triple games, not double, so they don't lose out on playing time.

It's very strong musically. Has a great art dept, has a very good voluntary and community service set up and all three options on CCF as well as Scouting etc if boys don't like the military aspect of CCF.

The teachers are great. Our experience of their pastoral work is positive.

It does seem that RGS boys come from quite far flung places. But it doesn't stop socialising. Both DC have met up with friends over half term, and they also go out and about a bit in Guildford as they get older.

NCISaddict Tue 29-Oct-13 19:02:06

My DS went to RGS, Quite a few boys came in from Reading area as train goes directly to Guildford. We live quite a way out and DS did have to get the train to socialise but it didn't seem to stop him and he became very independent.
I would like to say he is a well rounded young man who is caring and sensible but if he doesn't answer my messages from uni in Venice I may soon change my mind . grin He wasn't particularly sporty but enjoyed the variety of sport available such as fencing and shooting.

happilyconfused Tue 29-Oct-13 18:48:59

DS went to RGS and loved it. Most selectives will cull at Sixth Form but you don't have to worry about it as your boy is bright. My worry would be your son's friendship group I don't know of any boys coming in from Bracknell let alone Reading.

You also need to factor in any sports fixtures that take place on a Saturday morning. I can't remember but certainly in 1st form (Yr 7) there is a rugby D team and a hockey one too. There is Monday Period 8 which finishes after 4.10ish , any after school sport and music band is an early start.

mummytime Tue 29-Oct-13 18:42:55

Okay - I do not know Reading, although I do know people who have sent their sons there.

RGS is not an exam factory - it is a school for very bright boys. But being bright doesn't mean you are not well rounded. For example some boys give up their time once a week to teach my DD Latin, I have known several others doing their D of E voluntary work, others are extremely musical (and do joint productions with a local girls school). It does sport, and pretty well, but it isn't a "sporty" school, although those are often for the less bright. I know lots of boys do row with the local rowing club, and quite a few paddle in the Kayak club.

If he wants to go to Oxbridge, thats fine, but a good school will also be able to direct him to other good Universities - a breadth of University destinations can be a good sign too.

I would say that the teachers I know at RGS do tend to have passion for their subject. But so do teachers at other schools I know, including a local comprehensive.

Which school does your son prefer?

Indy5 Tue 29-Oct-13 15:02:04

Yes done all that with current school...and DS is academic and we wouldn't be going for a school if we did not think he could thrive there academically (as opposed to bob along the bottom) but he also has other interests (won't go into them all but I think it is healthy that he does)...not looking for an uber sporty school just one that is academic but not mere exam factory and which allows for roundedness (be it sport. music, drama etc)..but also interested in education in the holistic sense ...surely a day school can aspire to that and that is not exclusive domain of boarding schools ....and while that can lead to a wider discussion my questions are more around comparing the two schools from insiders.

Why Oxbridge? Because that is his aspirations, albeit at a young age and they are good aspirations to have if maths and sciences are your interest - who knows that may change and it's not be all and end all - and if he ends up chooses to study say International Relations at uni then UCL may be the first choice ... we know how competitive it is - but just as people choose prep schools that feed into certain public schools based on a notion for their 7 year old that they may want to go to X, Y or Z at age 13, I think it's rational to look at track record of Oxbridge success when choosing a senior school if that's what you are likely to aspire to...knowing there are no guarantees... the overarching theme for Oxbridge is passion for a subject. I don't tend to trust just A level results by themselves and think if a school has a good result for Oxbridge, it must be aiding or even inculcating that "passion" for a subject (over and above just the A level curriculum) which is what Oxbridge is looking for.

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