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Which Boys Boarding/day Schools to Register with

(22 Posts)
selvavalgardena Wed 05-Mar-14 14:19:38

We have visited the obvious, Winchester, Eton, Harrow, Charterhouse and going to see Stowe, Kings Canterbury and some others.

They all are dependant on passing the obvious pre-test so I don't want to aim to high and be left with nothing. I don't want to put my son through numerous pre-tests although this seems inevitable.

Why does everyone hate Stowe so much?

Does any parent have any advice? Our head advised to register with a top, middle and lower and see what happens at the pre-tests. I assume we must like all of the schools we choose not to remain disappointed.

propatria Wed 05-Mar-14 15:25:12

Your head should know the capabilities of your son,little point in putting him in for super selectives if he is unlikely to get in,the schools you have listed are not all of the same standard or likely to appeal to the same type of boy.
Stowe and Winchester are very different schools,what is your son like?It really shouldnt be a case of see what happens,the top schools are a lottery but if your boy doesnt have what they are looking for,there is little point in entering him,
What schools does your prep have good relations with?
Not everyone hates Stowe,some cant stand the Head and it had the reputation of a school for rich thick boys but that isnt as true as it was.

selvavalgardena Wed 05-Mar-14 16:16:09

Still early but registration for some of these schools will be autumn of this year. Our boy is in year 4. Our head says he is on the right path but things change so you need to keep your options open.

I am finding it hard to feel which school would suit my son but I certainly know when it feels wrong. We have seen some which we felt were not for our son. Each school tells you every type of boy fits in their. They say it does not matter if you are sporty or not, musically talented or artistic but they all require the academic standard.

Our school is small and according to our Head he says he has relationships with all of the schools. That is expected I suppose. We have our meeting about choice of schools in September next year but it seems very vague! We feel quite alone in our decision and quite confused.

When the time comes we would obviously not go ahead with a super selective if we feel it would be pointless but want to have an option of choice of the pre-test at least and see how he develops and feels about it .
How much help should we expect from our Head?

propatria Wed 05-Mar-14 16:38:22

It is the heads job to suggest schools that he thinks will be the best fit for your son Did he suggest Stowe and Winchester,I really dont see how a boy could be right for both of those.
How many boys per year does your school send to say Eton and Winchester?
As for every school saying every type of boy fits in,really?Did Winchester or Eton actually say that?
The first thing you should work out is do you want single sex,then do you want full boarding,you have to narrow your list or you could end up looking at virtually every school going,as you say you know when a school feels wrong and thats just as important as to what makes a school feel right.

ZeroSomeGameThingy Wed 05-Mar-14 17:10:43

"We feel quite alone in our decision..."

Are you sure you haven't jumped the gun just a tiny bit? Surely neither you nor your presumably 8 - 9 year old DS can even begin to imagine him at any senior school quite yet?

Obviously I don't know all these schools or when their optimum registration dates are, but why not leave any more looking until the last possible moment? If the earliest date is next autumn.....

I think your DS is probably too young to take a proper interest and it's too early for your HT to feel even tentative certainty about his capabilities and talents. It is awkward if you have to register at some places a year before you have your HT meeting - but by autumn they ought to be able to give you some slightly more specific guidance. Frankly I would save the worry of choosing and the effort of visiting until then.

And in the meantime study your schools leavers' destinations very closely....

happygardening Wed 05-Mar-14 20:10:26

We registered our DS2 with only two one had to be before his 8th birthday Win Coll when he was 9. We were recommended by our prep school head to consider Eton and Win Coll, Harrow was mentioned but it's as out of my area as Mars, Kings might have been a fall back if we'd not got a place at one of our two first choices but we were advised that we could leave the registration till after the results of the yr 6 pre tests were out.
We looked at Win Coll Eton and SPS, after a few visits we finally saw what made Win Coll the right school to register our DS for, Win Coll is a unique they do things differently, it's definitely not everyone cup of tea, but it works for us, I'm happy to answer any questions about it. We loved SPS (even though I didn't want too) a completely different school to win Coll; it's so very 21st century, so registered him there and although Eton is a good school, lots of friends have DS's there and they all talk highly of it but it just wasn't right for us so we never registered him.
I looked at Stowe many years ago for DS1 I hated it, we know a few there and some of my concerns have proven to be correct, I know loads at Kings all different, some clever, some sporty, some musical, some quirky all bar one seem to love it. Charterhouse has a macho reputation and no full boarders (we wanted full boarding), I liked a Tonbridge although no full boarders but would definitely have registered my DS2 if we had wanted weekly boarding.

KildrummyDriver Wed 05-Mar-14 21:43:43

Selva, it might be worth contacting an independent adviser who, for the sake of a couple of week's fees, can give you advice and reassurance about the best schools for your DS. There's plenty more than the often quoted ones and many of them are brilliant but not so well known. I can PM you details of an adviser if you wish and, no, I'm nothing to do with her. I just know of folk who have used her and appreciated independent advice from someone who isn't a head with their school's reputation dependent on pushing children towards the so called 'top' schools.

happygardening Wed 05-Mar-14 22:51:18

Your prep school head is the best person to advise you. He, one, should know your DS and two know the schools he suggesting and what they are like. Most heads suggest a few to consider, you go and look at them, meet with the head afterwards and discuss how you got on. None of those you listed are bad schools in fact the complete opposite you just have to see which one you and your DS like the feel of.
It's a difficult choice, there's endless threads on here about independent senior schools, so you are not alone in struggling to choose, at the end of the day you need to find one you and your DS feel comfortable at that you feel suits you both and one that offers many of the things that your DS enjoys both academically and non academically.

selvavalgardena Thu 06-Mar-14 11:57:05

Happygardening - Thank you very much for your input I found it very helpful. Our DS is 9 and Win Coll hold open days for year 3/4 boys. Our son loved his day at this particular school including the activities and their particular way of inspiring him and involving him in the day. It is our favourite by far. We are however aware their entry seems very difficult. We are in the process of visiting and choosing houses which is why it is not really possible to delay until the last minute (Autumn). The process takes time on the availability of house masters and school dates and Summer nothing can happen.
Not seen Stowe so cannot comment. Everyone seems shocked I am visiting it which does make me curious to see what the fuss is about. I was told the Head is turning it around for the better. Kings we are really interested in visiting as it is co-educational and I would like to see the differences. We have a visit booked. We did like Charterhouse very much and did not get any macho feel at all. They tell us that they are full boarding but allow the boys home on a Saturday if they choose to. We do not mind Weekly boarding. Tonbridge we were told plenty of time to register so will wait to visit nearer the time. My only concern with Tonbridge is it seems very sporty. Mine likes sports but does not live sport he prefers reading and music.
After having visited them all we are due to see our Head and discuss our thoughts. We will register with Win Coll because we like it so much. It will then be interesting what he advises us.
As for looking at the leavers I do not really find that helpful because each child is so different and I believe it depends on the child not where someone else went. But in answer to the question our Head has sent other boys to these schools and has all the correct connections. Surely it depends on the pre test results and then which school the family/DS choose.
Now looking forward to our visit with the Head when visits are over.

propatria Thu 06-Mar-14 13:08:03

Charterhouse is not full boarding,its empty at weekends.
Leavers destinations are important for a variety of reasons,you want to know that the school is capable of getting boys into those schools on a regular basis,you need to know that for example if you get put on a waiting list that the schools will really listen to your head as he updates them on progress etc,all heads claim they know these schools,they have contacts etc,the reality is differentYou need to know that the school trusts the opinion of your Head.
The senior school needs to know what the product of your prep school is,that if you sit the pre assessment you are a serious candidate,so I would want to know for Eton,Harrow and Winchester,not only how many boys got in for each of the last five years but how many applied(and where did those that didnt get in go,for example if candidates for Winchester ended up at Stowe,I would tread with care)
If you want to consider co-ed ,have a look at Oundle and Rugby.

selvavalgardena Thu 06-Mar-14 13:49:43

Thank you very much. All helpful.
All the schools said they know our Head and in fact he was visiting one school on the same day in the evening. They also said it very much depended on the individual and not the school even though they had a relationship with ours. Eton were even more specific to actually say that it made no difference to them where the boy came from and mainly depended on the pre test of the boy but that independent prep schools did ensure no stone was left unturned. They asked those from the state sector to provide extra information as that was often missing. That has been the talk from the schools. Yes our schools send children to these schools but once again the boy has to pass the pre test and be suited to the school. I will raise it with our Head when we visit him.

happygardening Thu 06-Mar-14 14:25:58

My DS was the first to go to Win Coll from his prep for nearly 20 years, Eton/Harrow has always been the preferred choice for the parents. But a lot of it is down to the location of our prep school. Win Coll was adding just shy of another 60 miles on way onto the journey for many and thus easily exceeding the 1 1/2 hour driving rule! None have gone onto Win Coll since he's left either but then we always like to be different.
Agree with propatria about Charterhouse any school that allows boys home on Saturday evening will be virtually empty on Sunday, all fine if you live close enough by to pick them up every Saturday. A very different school to Win Coll, friends DS feels there's more "fun" in the early years at Charterhouse when compared to Win Coll.

happygardening Thu 06-Mar-14 14:57:05

"We feel quite alone in our decision"
It's not that you're alone, at the end of the day it's down to personal choice and where you feel suits you and your DS best. When we did the Eton guided tour thing there were about 8 sets of parents on our individual group tour bit, we all had the same talk, looked at then same dorms, were shown the same facilities, ate the same cheap biscuits but three of us decided on the spot it wasn't what we were looking for, three sets of parents were enraptured two seems ambivalent.
Many on here go to the Win Coll open day and are underwhelmed and many don't like it. We're often not looking for the same thing. I have no interest in bathrooms, loos or swimming pools, and my views are heavily influenced by my anti uniform, anti meaningless ritual stance, but of course many love tail coats, boaters, and pomp. This is why your head or any one else for that matter can only suggest schools you should look at, ultimately the final decision has to be yours.
Win Coll is hands off parenting, it's surprisingly liberal in the vast majority of things but petty and inflexible in others, e.g. going home a day early at the end if term etc. Sport is never going to be big, but there is no main sport each term, boys are free to choose a sport they like which is great if your not a team sports player or the thought of standing on the rugby pitch come hell or high water fills you with horror, you can even choose no sport at all but some other activity. Some think this is terrible, "no compulsory sport, how dreadful." It's also very collegiate and unworldly again some may not like this. Drama is big about 6 plays a term but there is no drama lessons in the main curriculum, you have to choose music out of a group of three/four before you start included in the three/four were art , DT and Russian (I think) so if you choose music you won't do art/DT unless you do it an an extra curricular activity. So for example if like my DS you very busy perusing something else you may not have enough time to be in a school play and thus 1st year house plays aside and the occasional house play never do drama whilst at school. But on the other hand he can peruse his slightly niche sport three times a week no other school we looked at would let him do this from day 1. As I said its all about deciding what you want from a school only you can answer that question.

selvavalgardena Thu 06-Mar-14 15:21:16

Thank you. I agree. All those things are the reason we like Winchester. DS likes his particular niche sport but hates football and it not being compulsory delighted him. He will sit the pre-test and fingers crossed!!
We are meeting 2 house masters to choose a house next month. We have already seen one but the master won't be there when DS would start so seems strange for him to interview him.
Thank you again for your input.
certainly have to rethink Charterhouse unless DS happy to come home each Saturday.

selvavalgardena Thu 06-Mar-14 20:28:58

Propatria thank you for suggesting both Rugby and Oundle. Will look at their websites. I will ask our Head why they were not suggested to us. Your points are interesting but very different to what we have been told. I just hope if our son does pass pre test our Head will have the relationship needed. Charterhouse I suppose would be an option if our son prefers to come home on a Saturday. Have you visited any of these schools yourself
Thank you

happygardening Thu 06-Mar-14 21:16:29

Travelling distance can affect heads suggestions especially if he's got some common sense. Clearly if you live in Deal then Rugby /Oundle could feel a bit like Mars on the other hand if you live in Durham Kings Canterbury would make Mars look quite close by.
As I've repeatedly stated I have an 1 1/2 hour one way driving rule (I'm speaking from bitter personal experience) or be so far away e.g. HK that popping down to watch a house play is not even on your agenda. I would also not want half the M25 between me and my DS's school or tedious narrow lanes, we've been there and got both those T shirts. A door to door train service of course would be wonderful but sadly only something I can dream about. If your thinking about weekly boarding I suspect even 1 1/2 hours is too much, max journey time, one way, 1 hour I would think is about all you or your DS can do every weekend.

propatria Fri 07-Mar-14 09:33:03

We have had two go to one of the schools on your list and our third and final will be going to one of three on your list.
If your boy gets straight in to the school (as I hope he does) then the heads/preps relationship with the senior school is less important,if he gets on the waiting list then I think it becomes important,you need to know he will be updating the senior school on what your boy is up to and that the senior school will take notice,you want your boy off the waiting list,
Eton,Harrow and Winchester all have main feeder schools,schools that year in year out get serious numbers of boys into those schools, I would really want a track record from my prep,but that may just be me..Getting into those schools is a lottery and I would want to make sure that I had done everything to make sure the odds were as good as they could be..

selvavalgardena Fri 07-Mar-14 11:13:25

Thank you Propatria. I understand what you are saying. I had another look on the websites. Our school is down as a feeder school on the lists of the schools, even Eton, but they are long lists. It is a small school (at year 7 and 8 as it is co-ed and the girls leave mostly year6) 1 pupil occasionally goes to these schools each year as our Head says the parents in the end make the final decision following pre-tests. I will ask the Head at the meeting again but he says he visits the schools regularly and is known to them and would liaise with the school should pupils be on the waiting list. That is when he really does become involved. I suppose I have to hope for the very best and that my DS continues to not only do well but want to do well. He said he will now monitor progress of each child and continue to advise parents of their choices as time goes by. To ensure we are on the correct path.
He published the results of pre-tests this year which includes all of the schools except Winchester. Winchester is the least popular choice he says due to the fact it is also difficult to get into and it has its own CE some parents are put off by that. It has a different approach which does not appeal to all.
Not all parents want Boarding some only look at the day schools which also makes a difference to the final results.
I notice that the Heads of all these schools and many other I have not mentioned ( inc girls obviously) visit our school throughout the year each and every year. Winchester Head also was down last year. I hope this is a good indication of his relationship with them, maybe?
Thank you again.

propatria Fri 07-Mar-14 13:58:11

If the heads of Harrow,Winchester,Eton etc visit your prep throughout the year ,each and every year but as you say "1 pupil occasionally goes to these schools each year"then your school must have a very good if rather one sided relationship with those schools,most preps ,with regular admissions to those schools might get the odd visit but they are far more likely to get the registrar or someone else from the admissions department.
Winchester is as you say a unique school,I .
rather like the take it or leave it attitudeWinchester has but you either buy into it or you dont,for the right boy its a fantastic choice,but it is harder to see what you are getting for your money,its a marmite school,if you take the leap of faith then for the right boy it can be the best school going,
What are the most popular leavers destinations for your prep(boys)?

selvavalgardena Fri 07-Mar-14 16:49:52

There are visits but I can't say each and every year for the same school. Then if the Registrar attends instead i would not know. I know our Head keeps visits going.

Seems to be Eton, Wellington, Tonbridge, Chartehouse. Harrow has not been there for a year or 2. Surely it depends which school the family and school choose by this stage? Right boy to right school I mean. You can't push a boy for Eton if he hated it.
Thank you you have made me think and research and question which has greatly helped and removed confusion.

summerends Fri 07-Mar-14 17:15:16

OP, I don't think the pretests are a problem whatever the type of present school, preparation for those does not need to be more than minimal. However, although this may be looking a little bit too far in the future, don't forget Winchester entrance is not straightforward CE. If your DS's school has a good track record of preparing boys for scholarships to schools like Harrow, Charterhouse, then that should not be a problem but if they don't or rely on the parents then you will need to be much more proactive in year 7 & 8.

summerends Fri 07-Mar-14 17:23:51

I would add that your DS's headnaster's comment about Winchester entrance would concern me without more information. The parents or boys would n't be put off Winchester by the style of entrance exam (which is more open ended and interesting than CE for a bright boy) unless the school was unable to teach to that level.

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