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

(226 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.

dellon Thu 27-Feb-14 19:57:02

getting lost in the desert

peteneras Thu 27-Feb-14 20:02:19

And you call that something "of note"?

Had he gone to Eton he might have found his way out without any sweat. grin

WhoWasThatMaskedWoman Thu 27-Feb-14 20:04:39

Lovely James Blunt and Benedict Cumberbatch are Harrovians. Not exactly G8 leaders I grant you but definitely a cut above the appalling Mark Thatcher.

Lottiedoubtie Thu 27-Feb-14 20:18:11

OP can I implore you not to choose the school for your son based on 'people of note'.

Any of the schools in contention will allow any Boy to go on to great things and it really shouldn't be number one consideration.

peteneras Thu 27-Feb-14 20:39:10

Here’s an account of what an Old Etonian really thinks of an Old Harrovian.

WhoWasThatMaskedWoman Thu 27-Feb-14 20:40:35

Quite right, Lottie - I simply couldn't let any school be slurred with the accusation that Mark Thatcher was the pinnacle of their output.

Slacktacular Thu 27-Feb-14 21:26:53

Not sure if helpful, but DH and his brother were both at Winchester. Both academic, and one v sporty, one v musical. One confident and settled easily as boarder, one quite and homesick, but both speak of Win Col with tremendous respect and fondness. Both had incredible opportunities and an impressively rounded education. I can see Win Col has helped shaped the men they've become in a really positive way. So I know you're looking at a schoolboy now, but I thought I'd give you a perspective from someone who's married to a fully grown Wykhamist!

Lottiedoubtie Thu 27-Feb-14 21:29:59

grin no , I do see your point whowas

1805 Thu 27-Feb-14 21:57:27

Which school did you like best as a second choice?
Is Radley less well known than the others? Would that bother you?
Wardens List entry is a possibility - someone has to get the places!
Good luck!

summerends Thu 27-Feb-14 22:37:53

Lots of good comments here and from my direct and indirect experience Zero is spot on with the assessments of W v E. Exclude Winchester if your DS is mad keen on rugby or wants to be a professional sportsman. Harrow and Eton would fit the bill for that. Winchester is smaller than Eton and not all of the boys are keen on sports so the pool of boys for teams is smaller which means that the teams are generally less competitive than Eton and Harrow. There is however fantastic coaching at Winchester in a mixture of sports and quite a few very competitive sporty boys.
My impression from indirect experience is that Eton and possible Harrow are better for bright 'joiner-ins' but less 'academic' boys. Winchester seems to encourage boys to have a real concern for others rather than just smooth manners. In comparison to his friends who are at all these school my DS from his profile (which includes being sporty) would have been happy at E and W (although we never gave him the option of E), less so Harrow and Radley. However with a bit more hindsight W is even better for him than we initially thought. Have to say though that DS who has been to Eton a few times without us for various musical and sporting events does admire the Eton facilities (including the Costa at the pitches) but surprisingly finds them all a bit OTT, which is perhaps why he is best suited to Winchester smile

TheBeautifulVisit Fri 28-Feb-14 00:26:06

What is these particular schools teach then? What's prsent at these schools but not available at cheaper, less ostentatious schools?

usuallyright Fri 28-Feb-14 01:17:50

it's the prestige. That's what they offer.
35k per annum is crazy.

usuallyright Fri 28-Feb-14 01:22:56

am stunned that one of the criterior for dismissing a school is because noone 'of note' went there. Wtaf?!

TinkerBellThree Fri 28-Feb-14 07:36:23

Thank you Summer, Zero and Slack for some wonderful insight!

With WinColl I understand that you apply to a House Master directly so he will obviously be very important. Are there particular things we should look for?

1805 We don't mind at all personally whether a school is "well known" or not - but Radley was not advised from DS' prep - and that puzzled me a little as it is often seen as a fall back if you do not get into Eton
WinCol impressed us a lot but I am was worried that a boy who fitted well into Eton would not do so at WinColl.

Finally - I would hope that no one chooses a school based on the big personalities that have gone there before, but more on the schools ethos and the type of boys it develops...

summerends Fri 28-Feb-14 08:42:29

TinkerBell we did n't go through the process of W house selection but for what it is worth all the housemasters seem well liked and respected and the school will point you in the right direction for some choices. Personally I would try to find a housemaster who has a warmth and ease with your DS and the boys in his care, will be interested in and help develop your DS and seems to be a good manager whom the boys will respect. However since they all seem to be like that difficult to go very wrong.

ZeroSomeGameThingy Fri 28-Feb-14 08:43:47

OP I do hope you've found a few previous "Winchester" threads? They are very informative - if you have the energy.... Some very knowledgeable posters, and some others.

So - yes, you do have to apply to an individual Housemaster. Ideally your HM (or anyone you know who has current knowledge) can recommend to you two or three that your DS might get on with. Otherwise you need to call the Registrar - who will ask you about your Ds's talents and interests and try to match you with at least two.

Do try to arrange your visits as early as possible; if lots of house lists are full you will have less choice. And I think they also try to limit the number of boys from any one school joining the same house - which may or may not be relevant for you.

It does make a difference which house a boy joins. The atmosphere and ..... oh, not so much ethos but manner of each house depends on the personality and interests of the housemaster. And I think personality is more important here than academic discipline. Ask lots of questions. Ask if he will still be there when your son arrives!

wordfactory Fri 28-Feb-14 09:02:38

OP, a few years ago I was chewing this over for my DS and in the end we plumped for...Westminster grin.

FWIW I don't think Eton and Win Col are offering the same thing at all. And for the pirces they charge (as someone has brought up) you may as well get a near-as-damn-it perfect fit for your boy.

There isn't room for too much nuance here, but I'd say Eton is for the all rounder, Win Col for the quirky scholar. That's not to say boys of each pursuasion don't go to the other one and thrive...but you get my drift.

Harrow is less academic (such things being relative) but has terrific sports, if that's important for your DC.

Radley I don't know too werll. Never seriously considered it for my boy but I know parents with boys there who are happy with it. It seems to be like a less highly charged Eton grin.

I don't think it's ever worth worrying about who went to these schools. But you might want to consider how flexible they are witrh boarding. For example, with Exeats and special weekends, a boy at Radley won't often go more than two/three weekends without coming home. Eton can be much less than that.

nongnangning Fri 28-Feb-14 09:23:05

To my great surprise as I am a diehard leftie who will not be sending my DS to any of these schools, I have something useful to contribute to this thread.

I have a couple of very old friends who teach at Radley. They live on the school estate as many of the staff do, so I have been there many times and met a number of their teacher colleagues.

It is a lovely place with a great feel. The houseparents I have met have been warm and caring and the teachers I have met well qualified and committed. On occasion when we've been walking in the grounds or at the river we come across gaggles of boys, who are unflaggingly polite and all look like Prince Harry. As I understand it the academic environment is less absolutely 'hothouse' than some of its competitor schools, although those who need extra help get it, of course. Rather brilliantly for such a posh school aimed at the sons of privilege there is a relationship with a school in an African village and a trip there every year - pupils have to make an effort to raise money to go on the trip (ie not just have daddy buy the ticket). Possibly all these schools now do this, dunno - but I thought it was good, anyway.

A new headmaster has either just started or is about to start. HTH.

handcream Fri 28-Feb-14 09:48:52

Non - what a lovely reply. There are so many people claiming to be left wing and they wouldnt be seen dead in these sorts of schools having NEVER set foot in one.

It is also my job to ensure that my DS's do not get too big for their boots and think that their very expensive education is the norm.

My DS is doing his A Levels and the school has been the making of him. Reason we chose boarding is quite simple. There werent any day schools around here that wouldnt involve us having to take him to either the school or the bus stop every day. As we both work we couldnt do it.

TheBeautifulVisit Fri 28-Feb-14 09:55:27

Handcream - what's your son hoping to go on to do? Which university does he plan to attend?

TheBeautifulVisit Fri 28-Feb-14 09:57:30

Add message | Report | Message poster TheBeautifulVisit Fri 28-Feb-14 00:26:06
What is these particular schools teach then? What's prsent at these schools but not available at cheaper, less ostentatious schools?

nongnangning Fri 28-Feb-14 10:07:50

LOL. Thanks handcream.

I went to a private school myself in fact (although I was the scholarship girl).

In terms of left wing ness I can't seem to get that worked up about a few private schools these days - I am more interested in seeing improved standards for the majority in state schools. What I would like to see is some of the great 'leadership' training that the top private schools seem to give, working its way into the state system (maybe some can tell me this is in hand!). Obviously if you come from a family of leaders - business, political, whatever - as some at these top private schools do then that helps some. And I think state schools do a good job of teaching children to be good citizens. But being a good citizen is not the same as being a good leader. This is a topic for another thread, perhaps.

ZeroSomeGameThingy Fri 28-Feb-14 10:11:37

TinkerBell You must feel very thrilled about the thread BeautifulVisit has constructed in your honour......


Have this brew while you peruse it....

TheBeautifulVisit Fri 28-Feb-14 10:18:35

Zerosome - I didn't construct that thread in honour of the OP. it is in honour of all the parents on the Internet who ask strangers to help them choose the perfect school for their brilliant, quirky, sporty, musical, sociable, confident, rounded, blond DCs. There are MANY.

TinkerBellThree Fri 28-Feb-14 10:21:05

Non what a great insight on Radley - thank you! And I see your point entirely!
Word Thank you for your input!
Zero - yes, I have been trying to find threads on the house selection at WinCol - which is why I knew it was important... now only to make the right choice...

Hand That is brilliant to hear wrt your DS! Crossing fingers for his A-levels! Stressful time I can imagine!

Beautiful I am not sure there is a significant difference in school fees between the different boarding schools? Or am I misunderstanding your question?

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