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Abingdon School vs Magdalen College

(14 Posts)
MuminBerkshire Wed 05-Nov-14 13:31:52

Hi All,

We are looking to move into the Oxford area and am just wondering if anyone can give me any feedback on these two schools. I am looking at them as possible options for my son who is currently in Year 6 in a prep school. I am not sure whether to enter him into year 7 or year 9 yet. So, any advice on the pros and cons of these two entry points would be useful as well. Do you think the test at 11+ and 13+ is very different? Is it more difficult to get in at 11 or 13? Any views on this would be welcome.

celestialsquirrels Wed 05-Nov-14 17:10:01

Abingdon takes half its kids at 11 and half its kids at 13( roughly). At 11 Maths, English, non verbal, interview at 13 pretest similar but not the same as 11 test, then common entrance, interview. They take their Abingdon prep intake at 13 for odd historical reasons. Jury is out on whether it is easier to get in at 11 or 13 - views differ which mean it is probably pretty similar. If you fail at 11 they may suggest you try at 13 if they think it is borderline and just a case if maturity for eg. Once in - great school, academic, but high emphasis on everything else non-academic ie an understanding that exams are only one part of education. Gets arguably better results than MCS if you take account of their broader (yet still rigorous) intake.

MCS take full entry at 11. Entry at any other stage is non-standard (except girls for 6th form). So that is one difference. They also take from their own prep at 11 - so everyone sits the same exam (Maths English) and they pick from there. They are more selective and then ride them bloody hard from day 1 until they leave. Homework appreciably higher, pressure appreciably higher, opportunities for extra curricular stuff less available and considered by school to be less important. Grades are what matter to MCS. They are very quick to tell children to leave for non-performance- both after GCSE and at any point they feel the league table position may be under threat. To that extent it has a very different feel to Abingdon which is much more about carrot than stick.
Some kids thrive in the MCS model. Some are unhappy and leave, often to Abingdon. A couple leave Abingdon and go to MCS every year to have a mixed 6th form experience.
You need to look at both and see what you think. Just don't underestimate the pressure at MCS and how your child will cope with it. If I was to compare them to other schools I would say that MCS is like St. Paul's boys and Abingdon is more like... I don't know. Winchester?

childrensservant Wed 05-Nov-14 20:01:23

If ds is currently year 6, you may have missed the date for MCS. They pre test in Jan of y6 if I remember correctly. Better check the dates for both schools. Ab pre tests for y9 entry early in y7.

I know of 2 boys going to MCS from their prep school at 13, so there is def scope for y9 entry into MCS.

Was it day schools you wanted? Radley is popular at the moment, and you can enter via either the Wardens List which is taken during y7 I think, or via Scholarship during y8. Neither of these ways require registering at birth!!

Personally, I would go with Abingdon, as I think they offer a more rounded outlook, but academically high too.

No idea where the recession was around Oxford, as all the private schools seem to be very over-subscribed over the last few years.

Good luck.

roguedad Wed 05-Nov-14 20:09:19

DS just started in Y7 at Abingdon and we are very happy indeed. I agree with what cel… said, except that they mix with SHSK girls for a lot of activities so it is not a totally single-sex environment and there is some common teaching in the 6th form already. I'd add that the Abingdon extra-curricular programme is outstanding (The Other Half). Subject to being asked to have a bit of a range of activities, the boys can choose to do a phenomenal number of different sporting, musical, cerebral and other activities. The sport is well run - the school is big enough that, e.g. this term a large clump of boys do rugby training and form a large number of competition teams, while a another large group pick other or more individual things to suit them - the large pool on site is a favourite of my DS. Music is excellent with a first and second orchestra, lots of singing and several other groups. You need to get your skates on to get them registered - see the timetable at
I also liked the look of Magdalen but heard repeated stories about boys being asked to leave if they did not expect to make top grades. I think it is the responsibility of a school to stand by their admissions decisions through to the end, unless someone is very disruptive. I can't otherwise help much with the comparison. As for 11 vs 13, note that at 11 the school takes boys from a very large number of schools, and while there is a lump from Chandlings, most of the boys are the only boy from their junior school. So everybody is in the same boat and there is an incentive to make new friends. I suspect that the intake at 13 comprises rather more cliques including from Abingdon Prep and a group of boarders from abroad. Just a thought. We definitely favoured 11 rather than 13 for pretty much those reasons.

CQ Wed 05-Nov-14 20:12:19

I've no knowledge of MC, but my DS is at Abingdon and thriving. We applied from overseas, having missed all the deadlines for pre-tests, tests, scholarships etc. as we'd only been given short notice that we were being repatriated.

They will always find a space if they want the child, in my experience. Worth a call even if you have missed various dates. DS just sat a maths and verbal reasoning test in January of Yr 8 at his school abroad. We did have a tense wait for a place while they sorted out all their routine acceptances etc, but we had a back-up place at another school and got confirmation by the Easter before he started in Sept, so we were able to pull out of the other school before we were liable for a term's fees.

It seemed to me that about two thirds of his year were new starters at Yr 9, about a third had come up from Yr 7. Starting at either age would be fine.

CQ Wed 05-Nov-14 20:17:27

Xposted with rogue dad.

Totally agree about the Other Half programme - it's brilliant and I wish DD's school did it.

Our only concern was that DS had never been at a single sex school before, and having been at a girl's convent myself I was not a big fan. However, the school buses are shared with SHSK girls school so that is where the social life starts!

I wouldn't worry about cliques. DS was one of the few boys that didn't know another soul on his first day, but the school are very good at induction days (which he couldn't get to as still abroad) and boys are far easier at mixing in with new friends.

Good luck.

summerends Wed 05-Nov-14 22:17:26

Magdalen is primarily about academics and in fact attracts the sort of families / boys (including more 'intellectual' types) who would consider Winchester if they wanted boarding. The boys work very hard from early on. They do get some really good academic experiences thanks to the school's reputation. There is a good size 13+ intake from prep schools like New College, the Dragon etc. Abingdon has the major advantage of the extracurricular programme and would definitely suit a sporty boy better. I would say that Abingdon is probably the day school equivalent (although does have some boarding) of schools such as Harrow.

MuminBerkshire Fri 07-Nov-14 20:13:21

Thanks to all who have replied to this post on Abingdon and MCS. You have all really given me some very useful information and points for further consideration. If you have any more information which may be useful, especially about Abingdon and any pros and cons which may exist in relation to entering at 11+ vs 13+, please don't hesitate to add this. Thanks to all again.

childrensservant Fri 07-Nov-14 21:14:02

Probably significantly cheaper to stay at prep school for years 7 and 8 than Ab senior school!!!!!

Would senior school be a longer day? Would that be an issue at age 11 for your ds?

I think the intakes are pretty mixed at both 11 and 13 school wise. Abingdon Prep will send no more than 20 boys there at 13, and I would imagine that would be the largest cohort from one single school. When you think how many boys are in each year group, there must be a pretty large spread of boys from different schools.

Don't know if that helps at all, but I wouldn't think it would make much difference entering at 11 or 13 from a prep school.

MCS and Abingdon are both very good schools!!

Antaresisastar Sat 08-Nov-14 14:11:29

I have a son in his last year at Abingdon, he started in yr9 and didn't know anyone. He's been really happy and has done well so far.
If you move house, will he be able to stay at his current prep? If not, I would send him to Abingdon at 11 to avoid having to change school twice. If he can stay at his current school then I would go for yr9 entry, it's nice for them to be the oldest at prep school, perhaps have a position of responsibility etc.
Really I don't think year of entry makes any difference, they all mix in pretty well, the house system starts in yr 9 and each house/tutor group will have a mixture of new boys and those who started in yr7.
It's a great school for an academically able boy, especially if he enjoys sport, but the Drama, music, art etc are also amazing. Hope this helps.

skylark2 Sat 08-Nov-14 14:15:07

DS is at MCS and loves it. I've heard one tale of a boy leaving because he couldn't cope academically, and his mum said it was his choice not the school's (it was y7, I think, maybe y8). DS made a howling mess of his end of y9 exams (and dug himself into monster holes of homework-not-done a couple of times before that) and they've been nothing but supportive.

But it is very academic. A lot of bright kids don't even get beyond the entrance exam to an interview.

Big plus point, if you don't have a standard sporty boy, is that there are lots of alternatives. DS loathes rugby and hockey. So far this year he's done tennis, basketball, badminton and rock climbing.

Are you really in Berkshire? The traffic into Oxford is horrid. We're about 10 miles from the school and it takes DS an hour minimum on the bus. Can be up to twice that if there are roadworks or an accident. Abingdon would probably be more accessible.

Does he work hard? Yes, but it isn't make-work. He has friends at the local comp who get more volume of homework than he does.

MuminBerkshire Sun 09-Nov-14 14:07:57

Thanks for your further responses. I think that I will keep DS at current prep school until Year 9 and let him take Abingdon pretest in Y7. I think that my gut instinct tells me that he still seems so young to move up to a 'big' school (June birthday). I think that part of me wanted to try to get him in at 11 because I had heard that it would be an easier entry point than at 13. IF you have any views on this, I would love to hear from you. Also, I don't want to mess up his chances of entry if he doesn't do well in the 11+ entry test since I've heard that if a boy doesn't do well in this, they are not encouraged to sit the 13+ test. If anybody knows anything about this, please let me know. It's really difficult to know when it is right to move him. He spent a taster day at Abingdon yesterday, which was for entry at 11+. He really loved the school. I just want to do the right thing by him and give him the best shot at getting in.

celestialsquirrels Mon 10-Nov-14 22:49:12

I really don't think 11+ is any easier. 13+ arguably a bit more humane as the pretest gives you a gentle way of knowing if he is likely to get in or if you should think about alternatives without being such a bald "pass/fail" (and if the latter, panic!) as 11+. ..

HPFA Tue 11-Nov-14 11:01:31

I live in Abingdon but don't have personal knowledge of the school. However my DD's primary always has a couple of boys go there each year and that seems to be true of the other primary schools in the area. You do see the boys around the town a lot and I like the fact that the school doesn't feel "cut off" from the community.

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