DS offered places at Rugby, Oundle and Marlborough - having a really tough time deciding on which one and would like some help from current parents.(26 Posts)
We live overseas so practical considerations like getting to airport (Gatwick), not emptying out on weekends and not that many exeats are important to us.
Marlborough was probably my least favourite mostly because of facilities, I feel, being more run down than most other schools we looked at and because of some of the scary things I read on Mumsnet about it but does tick many other boxes such as good friends going there, closest to airport and most importantly has the choice of IB which the other two don't.
We liked the feel of Rugby and loved the house which DS got into. Doesn't seem to be equal to Oundle to academically but not sure. The town is dreadful but at least it has a train station. Seems to be stronger on the pastoral side than Oundle.
Oundle is where many people from our country go to. It seems a little cold on the pastoral side to us though. Also cannot tell whether it will end up being too much pressure on the academic side as all I hear is how exhausted the kids are from work. They do have great facilities (although not really in the houses) and their system of voluntaries seems to be brilliant for those needing extra time on a subject.
Any feelings from people who have kids in the schools would be great. Our DS is a friendly and outgoing boy but he is also sensitive and does get homesick (currently boarding in his first year - year 7 - at prep school). He loves sport but not fantastic at it. Academically he is in the middle and does well with a push and positive support. He has the ability but probably not always the drive.
Marlborough is a proper full boarding school i.e. in all weekend, very few day children (it's big school as well) and activities organised for boarders on Sundays. My DS was only saying the other day that of all the schools they attend for sports competitions (about 10) "match tea" at Marlborough is the best! Marlborough the town is very nice unlike Rugby the town iwhich I agree is dump. I wasn't aware that it facilities weren't good but then frankly when I've been there to watch a competition I wasn't really looking and in fact was told by my DS that for his slightly niche sport they again were the best of all the schools they visit bar 1 if not the best.
Having said this I personally wouldn't send my DS to Marlborough I don't share it's ethos.
Marlborough does seem to have suffered a pretty consistent bashing from MN recently. A very happy customer here. DS is there and is thriving. We're in the UK (Surrey) and chose Marlborough over Wellington and the 2 super-selective London day schools at which our son was offered places BECAUSE of its ethos! We felt that the school was sufficiently strong at all levels - academic, pastoral, sporting and other extra-curricular) to allow DS to continue to thrive academically (and be encouragef and motivated to fulfil his potential without excessive pressure) alongside a busy and exciting sporting and social life.
I was very impressed by the admissions procedure which gives heavy weighting to a child's headmaster's report. To me, their procedure showed far more concern with ensuring that DS was a right fit for the school than the London super-selectives did. DS came away from the Marlborough interview process feeling that he belonged there.
I'd be interested to know what your thoughts on Marlborough's ethos are, HG - not to contest - really, just interested.
Not sure which facilities you mean, OP - perhaps you saw some of the older houses? Having seen the way the school has developed over the last 20 years, I wouldn't expect anything too dreary to remain that way for long!
Afraid I don't have any specific experience of Rugby or Oundle but happy to answer any Marlborough specific questions as far as I'm able.
Interested in the pastoral comments of rugby vs Oundle. We are leaning towards Oundle (DS a year younger than OP's) but DS did take an instant dislike to the housemaster we met so we are due to go back and meet a different one, and also go to rugby (first time with DS, although we have seen it without him and I am a little concerned about the town as DS is a country mouse). Hadn't even considered Marlborough and now not sure why apart from it's (now not so) recent troubled past.
I'm not against boarding if a child enjoys it, but if your son gets homesick is it the right choice for him? Is there nothing available in your country?
Marlborough is contrary to what many think is not in the slightest bit liberal in fact I would describe it as positively petty. Many probably agree with it's rules etc but as a slack liberal parent it's just not for me or my DS's.
Ha! As an old Marlburienne, I was never under any illusion that the school was liberal! I don't remember ever feeling so constrained by the rules that I couldn't be myself though. At ground level now, I see a fair and transparent disciplinary system and thankfully haven't come across any pettiness during DS's time - we've only praise for his HM. That's not to say that such hasn't been the case in certain cases in the past.
The school chucked out two children (17) caught have sex, expecting them to find new schools for the second year of their A levels, a particularly mean punishment at such a crucial time in their school career. A view shared by the Marquess of Worcester (son of the Duke of Beaufort) who commented on it in the Telegraph. Two 17 years old
in a day school having sex not in school time wouldn't be expelled, it wasn't if they were doing it on a desk in the middle of a math lesson. They also have a slightly obsessive alcohol screening programme providing lower 6 th with free restricted alcohol every Saturday and then routinely breathalizing them afterwards, and also weekly random drug tests on all above year 9. This all to my mind implies a lack of trust. Uniform is strictly enforced, children are not allowed up the high street unless they are wearing it and also restricted as to where they can go. Let's face it Marlborough, a rather charming small expensive market town with some pretty smart shops and its "low" crime rates isn't exactly Soho by any stretch of the imagination.
Teenagers do stupid things, they make errors of judgement, when kids live communally they get egged on by each other and do even more stupid things, no parent wants their child to misbehave, get drunk, bully other children, behave like idiots but they will. I'm not saying it's ok but we need to show some understanding to quote the line from the Mikado we should make it our "very humane endeavour" to "let the punishment fit the crime" and IMO this is how they learn, and hopefully don't make the same mistakes again or at least too many times before realising its a crap idea. Many children are increasingly weighed down with exam pressure, peer pressure, pressure from the media, they very sadly seem to be increasingly coming from homes where acrimonious divorce is common, and of course the vast majority of those at independent boarding schools will come from homes where there is a lot of money and many will have significant amounts in their own current accounts, Draconian life changing punishments for minor misdemeanours do not IMO and in my extensive experience working with children create positive outcomes.
As with all schools it's under lying ethos has to match your own being a slack liberal parent it clearly would match mine but many clearly approve of it's policies and are very happy I believe it's one of the few that are genuinely over subscribed.
Thanks for your comments.
Aventurine - there is nothing in our country and he is getting over his home sickness. I would expect it from an 11 year old and we are sure that by the time he gets to senior school he will be better.
Hmm, I agree that the expulsion of the 17 year olds was an unfortunate and ill-considered decision on the Head's part, one made very early in his tenure.
I understand that the random breathalysing is intended to keep the drinking within limits - I'd prefer this to my DS thinking he's going to get away with downing a bottle of vodka on a Saturday night.
I don't have any issue with the Marlborough uniform rules (though my 16 year old self was less impressed with being told to tuck my shirt in every 3 minutes). Funny, I'd always thought of myself as quite liberal but I am clearly nowhere near - must be down to my Marlborough education!
Deedles - apologies for the hijack - just testament to my fondness for the school!
I agree that a homesick 11 year old does not necessarily bode ill for the chances of the 13 year old. I had serious doubts about whether my over-sensitive 11 year old DS would suit boarding but he hasn't looked back. I hope that your DS will be the same wherever he chooses.
The two 17 year olds were expelled by the old head I think your find but a clear statement about the general ethos IMO.
I think you'll also find it's not a random breath testing all L6th and U6th are breathalised on a Saturday evening when they return to house.
Two groups of children are randomly drug tested every weekend as well.
Is expulsion no longer the standard consequence of being caught in the act at a (co-ed) boarding school - I'm pretty sure it is at our DCs? Finding another school was never a problem, either a crammer or a single-sex school (one girls school not a million miles from Marlborough was a common destination for those leaving co-ed boarding schools in Wilts and Dorset in a hurry).
Marlborough had a (rather exaggerated) reputation for many years as a drug fuelled shag fest and have done well to shake this without removing freedoms totally - this could not have been done without the breath and drug tests.
IMO expulsion of two 17 yr olds half way through their IB/A levels doing something that we all do is pretty appalling, and remember boarding children have no where else to do it they're not exactly going to do it at home whilst their parents are out shopping are they? If two 17 yr olds at a day school (state or independent) were caught having sex in a bush in a local park would the school expel them? I do hope not.
Of course you can find another school but what about the disruption to their lives? Sex is not illegal for 17 yr old you know.
happy, I'm broadly on your side on this but it does present a dilemma at co-ed boarding schools. You could argue that they are consenting adults doing something natural so let them get on with it. I suspect a school with that philosophy would attract very few parents. So, you've got have a rule and a sanction for offenders. Make that sanction too weak and you'll have kids making a calculation ("a detention for a shag? Bargain").
I agree Grovel. Such sanctions are, I think, a necessary backdrop to the running of a large co-ed senior school. In an ideal world, a school would deal with any such incidents with discretion, sensitivity and on a case by basis and this is how I believe most current co-ed boarding schools (Marlborough included) manage these situations all the time (and why such stories are not front page news more often). Unfortunately not in the particular case cited by HG.
Unfortunately not in the particular case cited by HG.
How do you know that the school did not act with sensitivity and on a case by case basis? And the only breach of discretion was by someone apparently totally unrelated to the incident (the parent of another pupil at the school) - I don't know who he thought he was helping by blabbing to a gossip columnist. Of course without a headline including the name K...e M...n simply because she went there 10 years previously it would never have been printed. ISTR that during the 70s and 80s you couldn't fart at Gordonstoun without it making the headlines, let's hope this effect wears off Marlborough soon.
I know that the school does act with sensitivity and on a case by case basis. I personally, believe that it didn't act as sensitively as it could have done on that occasion. A shame that the one occasion continues to be dragged up; I was trying, rather cack-handedly, I admit, trying to help lay it to rest.
For what it's worth for OP, both Marlborough and Rugby were popular choices at my DS's prep school with younger siblings following older ones (parents were happy with their choice of school from experience of an older sibling). I also know of a boy who was completely undervalued at another prep school and therefore lost confidence and who is flourishing at Marlborough. Not sure I would choose Rugby for a boy who prefers the countryside
I'm not sure the Marquess of Worcester was being indiscrete I think he was appalled at the way the school treated the two pupils at a crucial stage in their education and spoke out. OK i accept his name helped in that the DT gossip columnist published his comments but he was right to speak out.
We visited Marlborough at their last open day and I don't understand the bashing it gets either - we loved it. The D&T head had us jumping up and down with excitement right out of the gate!
I am surprised to see that they kicked some kids out for having sex, but then again, I'd be a bit nervous if I felt it was easy for them to have sex there.
Thanks islandmama (I think that we are from the same island) and TheLovelyBoots. Our son chose Oundle. Rugby was probably my favourite but we felt that Rugby and Oundle were both excellent choices. My son and I went through lists of positives about all three schools in fact and Rugby and Oundle came out evenly on most things except that a few of his good friends, from his prep school and from the island, are going to Oundle.
I must have missed the MN Marlborough bashing. My daughter loved it and made loads of friends.
Her academic results weren't brilliant, but she isn't particularly academic so she wasn't too disappointed. She had a wonderful housemistress and an inspiring piano teacher, both of whom she is still in touch with.
I think Lord Worcester may have had his own reasons to be annoyed with the school, apart from his criticism of sacking the children for having sex.
Talking of that, there was another, possibly apocryphal tale concerning Marlborough pupils:
A teacher walked into a student's bedroom where he found a naked girl and a naked boy standing there, the latter being in an obvious state of arousal.
The two were summararily expelled, but their parents appealed - and won -on the grounds that the rule was 'no touching' and the couple had not actually been touching when they were caught.
But would you want your children to be allowed to have visitors of the opposite sex in their dorm room? Would you be able to rest easy in this knowledge?
I doubt the infraction was "sex" but rather a boy in the girls' quarters or vice versa. Fair enough.
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