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Dean Close or The Downs feeding into Malvern College. Any experience, current parents or knowledge of these schools would be a great help.

(28 Posts)
Wifepot Sun 11-May-14 08:51:56

We are a military family who are considering boarding schools for our boys. The first child will start either Yr5 or Yr 6 depending on when our next posting moves us on.
Both myself and husband had happy experiences of boarding school so we are pro the experience it offers.
After nearly two years of very considered list making, visits, research etc we have whittled it down to Dean Close and Malvern College (with them starting at the associated prep The Downs).
I realise they are very different schools. I think the boys would be happy in either and thrive after what has been a Shakey start to education due to constant moves. Insider knowledge would really help.
Background to our requirements
Location - both right for us
Good number of wkend boarders.
Some experience of forces families.
Good pastoral care
Sport (athletics, swimming, rugby, tennis their current favourites)
Academically right - they are both SEN due to 'delayed learning from lack of being taught' (that's a whole other conversation! However they are bright and catching up quick.)
A prep that feeds to the snr school, the eldest has had enough of moving and wants a 'forever school'
I have read every thread on here for both schools and you all have offered great advice already. However I wondered if there was knowledge of both and an opinion on what might suit a particular child.

happygardening Sun 11-May-14 09:10:50

Are you looking for full boarding? I met a mum fairly recently in a shop whose DS was at Malvern they were very happy with it but she did tell me it's primarily a weekly boarding.
We have friends who are a military family their DS's go to a very well regarded boarding school in the south east there only disappointment is again it's primarily a weekly boarding school. Their DS's are often often ones of only a tiny number not going home on Saturday.
Dean Close I suspect will be the same.
Proper full boarding schools are few and far between.

goinggetstough Sun 11-May-14 09:19:43

As an overseas/ military parent myself I would choose Dean Close prep over The Downs. After checking the ISC website it lists the Downs as having only 30 boarders and that some of them are weekly boarders. IMO that is not enough although I expect that the full boarders are towards the upper end of the school. Do ask exactly how many boys in your DSs year group are in each weekend. Do make them answer the question with exact numbers as schools often try to avoid that question with statistics. I also think at prep school it is important to have Saturday school as it keeps them busy. Lessons in the morning, sport in the afternoon and then a slightly quieter day on Sunday with some trips. If trips etc happen on Saturday and Sunday it can become quite expensive.
You mention that your eldest DS doesn't want to move again as he has had enough of moving etc. I can understand that as mine had had 5 schools when they finally boarded at age 8. However, if your DSs were to start in year 5 they would have 4 years at prep school. Plus you said that they have had a shakey educational start so in fours years time after continuity in one school they might have different requirements for senior school.
We have friends with DCs in both Malvern and Dean Close senior schools and they are very pleased with them. Pastoral care is very good and great sport too

Wifepot Sun 11-May-14 09:40:16

Thank you so much for the quick replies. We are looking for for full boarding but we have family near enough to close schools that we, or family, could get to them in an emergency. However it would be disappointing if that emergency was that they were the only ones left in.

Dean Close does have 4 boys starting this sep in yr 5 who are all military as full boarders. Being all military maybe good, maybe not, who knows till they meet the kids. The jnr House at Dean Close seems small and shabby. But they sell it as a homely gentle start to boarding.

I like the location of The Downs but yes, no Saturday school and less boarders thought the whole prep compared to DC. But we really like the house parents, teachers, kids and facilities. However this is a real risk they might be only 10 left at school. Again there maybe pros and cons to that.

We Did look at The Dragon and Cothill as they seem full of weekend boarders but felt the risk of not getting the school we want due to the 13+ and having the boys in separate snr and prep schools will be an added consideration which we felt we'd prefer to avoid. For them and us, but again maybe we are trying to get a catch all.

Interested to hear that your child has experienced similar moves during the early years. Has their confident and academics regained?

Sorry what does IMO mean?

Wifepot Sun 11-May-14 09:42:46

Sorry for all the mistakes, quick typing on the phone! I hope it makes sense.

summerends Sun 11-May-14 09:54:28

I would choose without hesitation either of those two Oxford preps rather than your initial choices as your DSs will have a fantastic boarding experience and both schools have an excellent reputations for SEN from friends' DSs who have been there. They both send children to a wide range of ability senior schools and will give you very good advice.

summerends Sun 11-May-14 09:58:23

Just to add that you will easily be able to select senior schools that take both of your DSs, many of the parents at either of the Oxford preps do.

happygardening Sun 11-May-14 10:08:22

We friends with DC's at Dragon (it's pastoral care is excellent apparently) the number of full boarders is declining rapidly and it's apparently very hard to get a place for year 7 we know two families hoping for a place.
Have you looked at Summer Fields? The other one with lots of full boarders is of course Windlesham although is completely out of your proposed area.
I too would not limit myself to a through school if you DS's are catching up you might like more of a choice at 13+ although I understand the logistics things very well.
The ISI reports state the number of full boarders but this doesn't mean full boarders as in not going home on Saturday I'm unsure what it means. Do get any prospective prep school head in some sort of headlock (your probably well trained in this area) and force the actual numbers of full boarders out of him (remember they want your money, and are aware that armed forces families can't move their children easily), friends have actually stood at the end of every bed and "does thus one full board?" And the numbers of full boarders dropped from "about 60%" to 10%! At one school when I thought an HM was being rather vague I actually said "so our of the 60 boarders how here how many were actually in last Saturday" after a few ummms he said "4". Not my idea of a full boarding school.

Wifepot Sun 11-May-14 10:14:28

Thanks summerends, the prep schools would be able to offer a wide choice of snr schools based on knowledge of the kids. Emotionally the boys are slightly battered (as we all are) from making good friends and leaving them and starting again. As that is a reason we are looking at yr5/6 rather than Yr9 entry we feel stand alone prep is perhaps not right for them currently.

BUT - I will always reconsider as their wellbeing is at the forefront of our decision.

goinggetstough Sun 11-May-14 10:14:34

I would second having a look at Windlesham as a good number of full boarders, excellent pastoral care, experience with FCO and military boarders and it is near Gatwick if you are posted overseas..... But sadly not near your family!

Wifepot Sun 11-May-14 10:21:58

We hadn't considered Windlesham, due to location, I will have a look now.

FYI schools we've visited over the last 2 yrs - The Downs, Malvern, Dean Close, Cheltenham College, St Hughes, Pineswood, Cothill, Dragon, Abbingdon Boys School, Stowe, Rugby and we are due at Oakham. You can probably gather I'm from the Midlands.

Wifepot Sun 11-May-14 10:24:45

Yes happygardening trying to pin down actual numbers of full wkend boarders is an art form! I will try the bed check one next time. Due to husbands job we normally force schools to see us at wkends. That's a real tell!

happygardening Sun 11-May-14 10:28:36

Don't forget that headlock OP it always work or I suppose you could try thumb screws although I suspect the UK military don't have those any more.

summerends Sun 11-May-14 10:32:11

There are loads of full boarders at the Dragon, (4 boys boarding houses for years 6-8) although some go out for the day on Sunday, often taking boarding house friends with them. It may be difficult to get into but well worth a try for a boarding place. Summer Fields is excellent but tends to feed into a narrower range of senior schools than either of the other two. You could choose a senior school such as St Edwards in Oxford that a large number of the children move to, they will then have the continuity.
However their self confidence and sense of belonging somewhere will be transformed after a year at these schools so their choices may be very different.

Wifepot Sun 11-May-14 10:32:36

Thumb screws would help!

Saying that the kids we met in brig schools seem happy and lovely. However they aren't going to out the sad kid in front of you.

Wifepot Sun 11-May-14 10:33:03

Both*! I'm useless at typing on a phone sorry!

Wifepot Sun 11-May-14 10:35:12

Really good points, I have heard great things about St Edwards. I will look at Summer Fields. You are right, what interests and motivates them at 8 I assume will be different at 13. If it's still minecraft, shot me now!

happygardening Sun 11-May-14 10:45:45

I think there are two Windlesham's you want the one near Worthing. My DS were both preventedstrongly discouraged from going home one weekend when they were at prep the head was muttering something about a party on Saturday and a load of other rubbish it turned out they had a military family visiting and they wanted the school to look full on Sunday!

Wifepot Sun 11-May-14 10:50:11

Interesting, they even know how to catch us out at our game!

goinggetstough Sun 11-May-14 10:57:06 is the website you need.

Wifepot Sun 11-May-14 10:57:51

It is unlikely we would ever be posted abroad. If we did it wouldn't be until the kids were much older. So if they wanted to come home at wkends when it was quiet, it would be possible. My parents and sister are close enough we can use their house for exiats etc. But every wkend wouldn't be brills.
Personally I weekly boarded at first and then begged to stay in as i had such a good time with my mates, my poor mum was heartbroken. I have had friends who hated boarding school which is why I think the right school for the child is important.
Maybe I'm over thinking it and just need to decide!

Wifepot Sun 11-May-14 10:59:36

Windlesham looks good, thanks.

Wifepot Sun 11-May-14 11:00:28

I'm currently reading all the ISI reports - are they good insights?

summerends Sun 11-May-14 11:02:42

We can decide for you ��. Dragon/ Cothill or the 'right' Windlesham -which ever has places for both your DSs.

summerends Sun 11-May-14 11:06:36

Sorry cross posted and my emoticon, meant to be a grin did not work! I think ISI reports are always positive so you have to look for superlatives!

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