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Berkshire/Oxfordshire Independent Senior School Question

(19 Posts)
Fastcarsandsoftcats Thu 31-Oct-13 12:33:10

I have been reading many threads with interest over the past few weeks and would like to ask my own question. My eldest son (YR6) is the youngest in his year, and whilst he is no slouch, I sense he's not as robust as some of the other lads at his prep school. We are not typical prep school profile parents either (although I do have an SUV lol). I have a senior school shortlist and would welcome feedback regarding these.

My boy is active in rugby, loves sport but is not uber-competitive (B to C team level). He's relatively able academically but doesn't push himself to the fore and as a result is set 2 for most subjects. He doesn't have any special needs or learning difficulties but is quite sensitive and lacking in overall confidence despite our best efforts.

I have narrowed our shortlist down to (i) Oratory, (ii) Pangbourne College and (iii) Leighton Park. All 3 are very different, and I like much about each of them. My own feeling is that he would thrive at LP, the head is pushing for Pangbourne (our prep is a feeder for it) but I also very much like Oratory as their extra-curricular activities and non-academic subjects are superb. Only downside with LP is there's no CCF and my son is quite taken with the 'soldiering'.

I am not looking for him to board, but flexi-boarding could be an option should he wish it when he is older.

We will keep revisiting all the schools until something gels; however any additional advice/insight, especially from current or recent parents would be very much appreciated. Thank you.

Amber2 Thu 31-Oct-13 13:47:36

I don't know the schools you listed so can't comment but have you considered Bradfield ...weekly boarding and quite modern and flexible on the boarding front and high in pastoral care I hear ...think it has CCF too as well as other vast range of extras that boarding schools offer.

Fastcarsandsoftcats Thu 31-Oct-13 14:05:09

Thank you Amber2. We are yet to look at Bradfield, but are scheduled to do so soon. However, we feel it might be a bit over our budget as we also have a younger son currently in pre-prep.

Amber2 Thu 31-Oct-13 16:59:14

yes that fat cheque you have to write every term....I know how that is! They do have scholarships and bursaries but no idea how they work myself having not got to that stage yet

Dancingdreamer Fri 01-Nov-13 16:37:48

If you like a school but no CCF, have you considered him joining out of school cadet force? My nephew was in Air Cadets and loved it. Learnt to fly, went on camps to Cyprus etc. Never wanted to join forces after uni (and no pressure applied by cadet force either) but was great experience for him.

Advantage that expands social group so not just reliant on school friends.

difficultpickle Fri 01-Nov-13 17:35:21


Fastcarsandsoftcats Mon 04-Nov-13 09:11:36

Dancingdreamer - that's a good option, I didn't think of that! As you rightly identify, it would also help broaden his social circle so would be win-win as it's something I'm keen on encouraging.

Bisjo - we have already looked around Abingdon and were both unimpressed by the headmistress who spent ages talking about the fantastic exam results during the open day presentation; but failed completely to mention the boys' happiness and wellbeing even once. It left me totally cold I'm afraid. Lots of my son's peers look to be heading for Abingdon but despite this we won't be applying.

LittleSiouxieSue Tue 05-Nov-13 12:33:57

Personally I would not see CCF as a deal breaker for a sensitive child who does not put himself forward. I think other aspects of a school are far more important and any good school will have lots of activities which could be just as interesting. When visiting schools we had a checklist of 'must have' and 'nice to have' and then compared how the schools matched up to our criteria also allowing for gut feeling. If you compare all aspects of a school and weight how important the different factors are, you may find CCF is not so important compared to other aspects.

Moofy1 Sat 28-Dec-13 14:10:29

The Head of the Oratory will airily and charmingly promise any extra-curricular activity that the parent asks about, just, it seems, to keep the school numbers up. Beware. Last year for example, some parents were told that if they sent their son to the school, he would be sure of a place on the school's basketball team. When he got there, he found that there was no basketball team, never has been, never will be. There is only rugby, football or cricket and as their son had never played cricket before joining the school, he got sent out all summer term to play rounders with some completely disinterested special needs teachers. When the parents complained, the Head acted all hurt and offended and said that his deputy was responsible for running the school. Meanwhile, the staff seem to be leaving in droves...

Att100 Sat 28-Dec-13 16:03:02

aah beware charming heads ...don't know the school at all but private heads jobs these days often seems to be enticing new parents and making a name of the school than actual day to day running of it...glossy websites boast of extra-curriculars that are often focussed on the stars rather than being inclusive..

happygardening Sat 28-Dec-13 18:54:39

I second the"beware charming heads" it is their job to entice new parents especially those struggling to fill their vacancies! We never met the heads at any of the over subscribed schools we looked at!!
Although in fairness at most large senior schools it is the deputy who does the day to day running of it. Basically the head has the vision then he has a team of staff who implement his vision. But still be wary of charming heads, also IME from DS's old prep they usually are not liked by the pupils themselves children can see through all that flannel!

Att100 Sat 28-Dec-13 22:18:03

yep...charming teachers the often get a completely different view from the children themselves....the ones actually taught by them that is...

fredlin Tue 07-Jan-14 13:31:45

I know these three schools and, as you say, they could hardly be more different. If it's art, sport and Catholicism then go for the Oratory; if it's co-ed CCF then Pangbourne; Leighton Park more international, no CCF but does offer the IB. The academic bar is somewhat higher for Abingdon than the other schools - don't be put off by Miss L, my boys have thrived there. Happy to provide more info if you still need it.

Moofy1 Wed 05-Feb-14 21:24:25

and this is just the tip of the iceberg.

SoldeInvierno Wed 05-Feb-14 21:43:02

we are just about to send our DS to LP. He has a similar profile to yours, and after looking at many schools, we concluded that LP would suit him much better. Hopefully the right decision

CQ Wed 05-Feb-14 21:59:06

We looked at LP, Bradfield, Abingdon and Pangbourne for DS, now Yr 10.

The kids and I really liked LP but DH thought it was a bit scruffy and maybe struggling to attract numbers. The new and charming head we met didn't last very long and I'm not sure what's going on there now. Have heard some ishoos with discipline but I think you get that anywhere, and it was a while ago. I did like the roundedness of the education there (if that's a word), but DS is a coaster, given a chance, and I think he might have gone astray there.

We plumped for Abingdon and DS is flying. Loves being stretched academically, loves all the extracurricular stuff he can try out, and even loves being in his D-team for rugby. Miss L is distant and aloof - she's like the Queen, just seen but never approached, but TBH I view her as the business manager. The head of Middle School is warm and enthusiastic and DS's House Master, who handles the majority of his pastoral care, is just brilliant and his boys would walk on fire for him.

Bradfield was our second choice and I was quite relieved to turn down the place. I felt it was overpriced and arrogant.

I never even visited the Oratory. All-boys, catholic, boarding school run by priests in the middle of nowhere. Lots of red flags for me. Nothing natural about it. Only today, DS has shown me some hideous Daily Fail headline about it. Prob similar to Moofy's above. Shudder.

It's such a difficult decision, OP, and I'm so glad we are past it now. Good luck with whatever you decide - do look past the glossy brochures and spin and trust your own judgement

Oneglassandpuzzled Thu 06-Feb-14 10:35:48

Abingdon has done well by my son, not a natural extrovert and rather prickly. They found him a sport he could shine at and have given him lots of encouragement. He is in a very macho year, but his housemaster and tutor have been very supportive on the few occasions when he has found it overwhelming, and sorted out some bad behaviour towards him on the bus quickly.

The head doesn't really impact on them day-to-day. It's the housemaster/tutor and school section leaders who matter.

MillyMollyMama Thu 06-Feb-14 18:36:58

We looked at Bradfield for DD for 6th form. The Head was late for his slot to talk to the prospective parents. The teachers made excuses for him. Whole event was pretty poorly run and little signage to guide parents where to park, where to meet. The girl who showed us round was interesting. She left the school and did not stay for the 6th form herself! My DD hit it off with her and kept in touch. We were not impressed with much there for the price. The outside the theatre was weed covered. Obviously not used at that time. The girls' boarding houses were good though. I think they have a new Head now. They needed one.

SuzieB13 Fri 07-Feb-14 08:31:16

Have you looked at Shiplake College? They offer CCF.

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