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The big Eton, Harrow, Radley, Winchester question...

(229 Posts)
TinkerBellThree Thu 27-Feb-14 14:29:25

I have been reading a lot of threads on this site and found it hugely informative (and sometimes quite amusing). I hope you don't mind me picking your brain as I find that I am increasingly confusing myself.confused

Our DS is in year 5 and we have started to visit senior schools for him.
We have seen Radley, Harrow, Eton and Winchester, and been to a few co-ed schools as well, but have decided that single sex is probably more right for DS.

DS is quite academic (though I tend to believe he is not as much so as his school tells me he is), sporty and very competitive. He is very social and he loves to try out new things.

Our DS' Prep is adamant that he is made for Eton and Eton is made for him, and I must admit we loved the school when we visited, so we have put his name down there. However, it is exceedingly hard to get into and I am not counting my chickens (and I think the likelihood of a place is slimmer than slim) so I believe we need (several) back-up(s) - so here is where I am getting confused...

Radley (who I understand is a "normal" backup for Eton) is not encouraged by our DS' school (not sure why) and Harrow worries me a little with its reputation of not being very challenging academically (has this changed?).

Originally we ruled out Winchester as it was not "sporty" enough, but having been to visit, we have had to re-think as we found there were lots of opportunities for our DS to do sports. Our DS' Prep think it should be on our list - but is a boy so "suited" for Eton really suited for WinCol?

All the above schools are within easy reach of where we live, so we will have ample opportunity to see matches etc.

Where should we put DS' name down? For all the schools on our list + some (as he may not get into any of the above)? Or should we be more focused?

I know a lot of you have vast amounts of experience and possibly been through the same conundrum yourself, and I would really very much appreciate your input.

ZeroSomeGameThingy Thu 27-Feb-14 16:21:43

Ok. I know the exact same boy - just a couple of years older.... Three of those were suggested to us.

I know nothing about Radley. And if you have not already registered him at this stage the only possible entry would be via the Warden's list which your HM may not feel is a reliable option. (But I only know that from reading it here...)

As to the others... If your DS's birthday falls in the early part of the school year - Sept to ermm Feb/ March (check) it could all fall into place if he has the Eton pre-test (and result) first, then Winchester interview. Harrow afaik doesn't pre-test til the following year. So you don't have to make up your mind all at once or pray for a blinding flash of clarity as to what your yr 5 will be like at 13/ 14/ 15...

It is difficult to be expected to decide though. My impression is that Eton wants boys who will take the academic achievement in their stride and really throw themselves into making waves in some extra-curricular field. Whereas the Winchester boys do seem expected to be scholars rather than just clever - with everything else (and there's a lot there, including sport and music etc at incredibly high levels) kind of falling in behind. (I can only tell you about Harrow from what I've seen on TV - we didn't go down that route ourselves.)

It's too early for him to know - but what did your DS think?

TinkerBellThree Thu 27-Feb-14 16:36:20

Thank you so much Zero for your insight. Interesting to know that others than us have had the same "strange" suggestions... perhaps they are not for such different boys after all?

Unfortunately DS' birthday is a very late one - so it seems the Eton interview will be similar time to a WinCol one.

DS loves Eton and he has not voiced any opinions on the others...- but I agree with you - it is too early for him to know, and ultimately we want to make the decision (though we will of course listen to him and not send him somewhere he hates)

How did you decide? Gut feeling?

Lottiedoubtie Thu 27-Feb-14 16:40:52

Honestly? It sounds to me like your headmaster has given you a list of schools he likes to have on his leaving statistics. The biggest thing they have in common is their prestigious reputations.

I'd take the HMs advice with a respectful pinch of salt and continue the visiting and get a feel for schools that way.

ZeroSomeGameThingy Thu 27-Feb-14 16:58:23

Gut feeling and timing all fell into place! But there's still a way to go; plenty of time for him to run off with a circus before the start of yr 9....

I think senior school must look fairly intimidating to a 9/10 year old. If they feel that at least one of them is somewhere they might grow in to then that's probably a good starting point. If, then, a school offers them a place you can feel reasonably hopeful that it's the right school. They do see hundreds of boys. (But I realise disasters can happen.) I guess what I mean is - unless you feel a strong dislike for any suggested school - just plough through the process. Either you'll be left with one school - and you'll probably say "yes" - or you'll be left in the possibly expensive position of holding two or more offers and can buy more time to choose.

I don't have any suggestions regarding other schools. A) because you're paying the prep to do that, and B) because if he doesn't get into any of the above then you'll surely be looking for a less selective school that tests a little later.(Making this up as I type - but I have read every single prep /public thread over the last three years. grin )

ZeroSomeGameThingy Thu 27-Feb-14 17:05:59

Lottie don't you think it's a little more nuanced than that?

Assuming the OP's son is at a prep school, she's been paying for that school to prepare her son for the senior schools that it has been successful with in the past. And those senior schools are likely to feel confident that the boys from that prep are ready for exactly what they will offer.

I'm sure there is a strong element of politicking - but it would be very strange for a HM to randomly suggest schools he has never or rarely dealt with - unless the usual routes really will not suit.

Lottiedoubtie Thu 27-Feb-14 17:09:50

Oh absolutely, I'm sure the prep has experience of getting into those schools and they obviously believe that the OPs son is bright, and well rounded enough to stand a decent shot at them. It seems remarkable however, that it's only Eton, Harrow and Westminster (three excellent but quite different schools) that the HT thinks would suit her son.

I'm quite certain that the OPs son would do well at one of these if that's the schools recommendation but I'm also quite certain that he would also do well somewhere less prestigious.

handcream Thu 27-Feb-14 17:13:15

We had a place at Harrow and turned it down. I really didnt like the macho theme of the place. Its also full boarding and not for everyone. The best HM's dont suggest schools without feeling confident that they will get in - if they do you will be after them when they dont!

If he suggests Eton is the right place and you like it then go for it. Lots of DS's friends went there and tbh - you need to be confident and organised, Eton is spread out and you need to be able to rub along with the other boys well.

Could I ask, how many boys does your DS's prep send to Eton, Radley, Harrow etc every year?

TinkerBellThree Thu 27-Feb-14 17:16:27

Thank you both very much for your input!

Lottie - quite possibly... and I am sure you are right to a certain extent. He did suggest a couple of co-eds as well to be honest (which we so far have ruled out) but I did find it a little puzzling do discourage Radley and put Winchester in the mix, I guess I just did not expect that...

Zero - Run away with a circusshock! That would be something! Would save us a lot of money though... wink

I totally agree with you wrt schools being intimidating and we have not taken him with us to all of the ones we have seen, we just thought it too much.
I am crossing fingers it will fall into place once we get there... but do I understand you correctly to just register for all of them and go through the motions, keeping all our options open?

Fwiw - you sound like you know what you are talking about smile !

handcream Thu 27-Feb-14 17:22:58

Can I chip in here. You HM is suggesting all types of schools, surely just one or two?

Co -eds are very different to boys schools and weekly boarding (which is what we went for in the end) is different to full.

I have to say that weekly boarding involves us picking up on Sat afternoon and then drop of early Sun so although it sounds like a half way house they are home for less than 24 hours and spend most of the time sleeping, eating and on their phones!

ZeroSomeGameThingy Thu 27-Feb-14 17:34:58

I meant our charming socialite might run off with a circus!

Handcream asks an interesting question about how many your school sends to various seniors every year. I've assumed - given the bold and confident suggestions - that your prep has a proven record of regular and not isolated successes. To be frank, if they don't have proven, visible, recent success - well, you're on your own.

I wouldn't say register with all, no. We actually only registered with two, because those were the ones we liked, and if neither had worked out then we would obviously have had to re-think. But I think MN wisdom suggests three as the optimum number. (Bloody hell - it's easy to type all this, I'm only pretending that it doesn't potentially cost a fortune...)

What it comes down to is "do you trust your HM"? (And it's all very well going off-piste, but you're going to need the HM's reference....)

handcream Thu 27-Feb-14 17:44:21

I asked about your schools history in getting boys to schools like this, because its really important.

Our prep school where my younger son is in the final year sends most of their boys to Harrow, Eton, Radley, Wellington, Charterhouse, Stowe (more recently). My older son went there too.HM has a brilliant track record of choosing the right school and if he says that's the school for your child (well its almost a given).

I have seen parents try and fight him, they rarely win, they dont know the ins and outs and unless they are a very famous celebrity or someone very very clever its IMHO a bit pointless.

A friend of mine pushed her DS into all sorts of pre tests even though he is the least likely boy to be at boarding school and had some quite serious reading issues. She said there was no harm in him sitting the tests and you never know... I strongly disagree. It harms the confidence of the young lad when he finds himself failing test after test.

TheBeautifulVisit Thu 27-Feb-14 17:49:16

There aren't that many Brits who can afford £35,000 per annum per child for school, so these schools probably aren't as competitive as you believe.

handcream Thu 27-Feb-14 17:54:47

I think you would be staggered by how many people will pay these sorts of fees (us for example!)

The big public schools are the envy of the world and could fill their places with boys from the Far East, Middle East and Russia but they tend to not allow more than 10-15% of abroad boys and I think that is the correct way to go tbh.

The SE in particular have lots of parents and grandparents with stacks of equity in their houses and GP's are paying I believe at least 25% of school fees these days (sadly not ours!).

The less well known schools I would agree but not these sorts of schools

handcream Thu 27-Feb-14 17:57:45

We both work full time in well paid roles. However our Plan B is the equity in the house. If we needed to release thats fine. We could move further out and still have a really nice house. That makes me sleep well, I would love gp's to help out with the fees but they are much too busy having a grand old time on holidays etc and enjoying themselves which is how it should be.

TinkerBellThree Thu 27-Feb-14 18:17:55

Handcream - I think HM just wanted us to see a good selection so we knew what was available. He has been very clear all the time. I do trust him very much indeed, he knows DS very well and is an amazing HM. I guess I am just thinking it is seems so difficult to get into and thus out of our reach. The school send boys to these schools every year, but not by far as many as some other schools do.

Zero - ha ha, perhaps they will both run away with the circus together...

Lottiedoubtie Thu 27-Feb-14 18:18:49

There aren't that many Brits who can afford £35,000 per annum per child for school, so these schools probably aren't as competitive as you believe.

Relative to the number of places at these schools yes there are.

Whilst it is a tiny percentage it is a huge number.

TiaTheTulipFairy Thu 27-Feb-14 18:21:49

Have you looked at Tonbridge? Single-sex, strong on sports with good facilities, strong academically and good range of extra-curricular activities. Weekly boarding there would generally mean being able to be out from after sports on saturday until sunday evening

handcream Thu 27-Feb-14 18:27:07

Could I ask as Eton is in the frame. How many boys went to Eton last year and the year before?

TheBeautifulVisit Thu 27-Feb-14 18:48:52

Excepting Eton, those remainder schools are all a bit of an embarrassment. I'm struggling to think of anyone of note in recent years who went to Harrow, except for Mark Thatcher although I think they did have an old boy who was a contestant on Big Brother. It's the same for Winchester: it's basically the training ground for reasonably senior civil servants.

I know Eton are refreshingly open about their ways, but do those other schools publish destinations of leavers and full GCSE and A level results? What about retention rates? Are they actually any good, because they certainly aren't the best schools for getting their pupils into the best universities? But perhaps it's the case that their pupils have no need of university as it won't help them mount a military coup.

handcream Thu 27-Feb-14 19:01:28

Oh I have to disagree. Schools like Harrow, Charterhouse etc have published lists of leavers. Charterhouse sent 15 pupils to Oxbridge last year and most went to the RG uni's (if that's important to you)

TinkerBellThree Thu 27-Feb-14 19:11:04

The Beautiful - Would you really say so? I see what you mean wrt not too many profiled people lately, but what type of boy (I should say man, but that just seems so very distant) do they turn out?

Lottie that is so right - these schools seem to have 4-6 applicants per space?

Zero thank you, focus on the list of three then perhaps? With some less selective as fall backs? But back to my original question, is a boy so "suited" for Eton really also suited for WinCol?

Tupil Tonbridge looks wonderful, but is sadly too far away.

Handcream it is only a few that go to Eton each year.

I really appreciate all your input! Thank you for taking the time!

dellon Thu 27-Feb-14 19:30:27

"It's the same for Winchester: it's basically the training ground for reasonably senior civil servants. "....oooh, sharp intake of breath waiting for the countermissiles from Winchester parents ....

As for Eton, I don't think there are any dead certs anymore, the numbers applying are just too look at some and wonder why they got in and others who looked like dead certs and wonder why they did not.

ZeroSomeGameThingy Thu 27-Feb-14 19:45:42

But back to my original question, is a boy so "suited" for Eton really also suited for WinCol?

That's the question we asked ourselves at the time OP. They both need to recruit a steady supply of clever, forward thinking boys. I think you give them both the opportunity to meet your DS - and he gets a glimpse of his possible 13 year old self. One of them will obviously be more "right" than the other. It's not always obvious - we've been surprised at how things have gone for other boys who were entered for both.

I'm inclined to think it might be a difference of style rather than substance. Does your DS want a room to himself from the beginning or would he prefer a dorm? Will he be able to work diligently in his own room and organize his own work, or would he be better working for two hours in a cubicle in a large room full of boys every evening? Will he want to row or will he care more about fishing the finest river this side of wherever?

I think Winchester seemed a calmer, more civilized environment; the other more rough and tumble and more suitable for a mainstream, outdoor, fun-loving kid rather than a "quirky genius." Who know?. Words on screen etc.

peteneras Thu 27-Feb-14 19:52:46

”I'm struggling to think of anyone of note in recent years who went to Harrow, except for Mark Thatcher. . .”

Of note for what? confused

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