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6th Form boarding school for Italian academic girl

(105 Posts)
Italianmama67 Sun 09-Nov-14 21:24:06

Hello everyone!
My DD (15 in Dec) would like to study in England for her 6th Form, from Sept. 2016. She's very academic (always very top grades in all subjects), sporty (for pleasure), she likes music (she plays the guitar and sings in a rock band) and art. Active and enthousiastic. She can speak English very fluently, maybe needs to improve the written language.

I hope you can give us some good advice. Already read many threads about this topic, but I'm really confused. She comes from the Italian school system which differs from yours... more subjects, traditional way of teaching and studying and different syllabuses.

We're looking for

- a really full boarding co-ed school
- an academic school, but not too rigid, where she can learn and flourish
- a place with a limited number of EAL (she really WANTS to learn English as a native speaker!!!)
- a place where she can enjoy music and sport for pleasure (for everyone, not only for the excellence)
- don't know wether IB or A-Ls, maybe IB
- with good transport links (she would come home for holidays, mid terms...)
- excellent pastoral care

I really thank you for all the info. you'll give us!

pinkfrocks Mon 10-Nov-14 08:51:38

If you ask on a forum you will get some very emotional responses that are just opinions.
Have you thought about contacting a company such as Gabbitas who specialise in advising parents on exactly this- or reading/ using the Good Schools Guide ?

pinkfrocks Mon 10-Nov-14 08:57:31

If she is musical then have you thought about somewhere like Bedales? (I know I am doing what I've said people shouldn't- giving an opinion!)

I'd say almost ALL good boarding schools fit the list of requirements you list. If you want to be near an airport then that's a consideration so maybe home in on that? You could look at schools in Cambridge - eg The Leys - that are near Stansted airport, or if want the south east then think about areas like Sevenoaks ( school of the same name and they do the IBac) - I'd recommend you access the Good Schools Guide- either the book or subscribe online to it.

Needmoresleep Mon 10-Nov-14 09:55:23

If she is really strong academically I would take a look at Westminster. The sixth form intake is from all over, so there are plenty who stay through non-Exeat weekends, and there does not seem to be a social division between day pupils and boarders. Not Mallory Towers experience, but great academics, superb music and improving sport. Entry is by exam and seriously competitive, but it you get through, it is a unique place.

I would second Sevenoaks. Other than that I might start with the league tables and eliminate boarding schools which are not co-ed, convenient for an airport, mainly day or weekly boarding etc. This should give you a reasonable long list. This might include Charterhouse which I hear is great fun, Kings Canterbury, Rugby, Oundle, Bradfield, Malborough, Leys etc. Bedales seems quite Marmite. We have known a few DC who have gone there and who enjoy it. However most might have been described as "cool" even before they went there.

hardestdecisionever Mon 10-Nov-14 10:34:54

Another vote for Sevenoaks school here. They are an IB school and always get top results. Very well thought of school and good transport links.

goinggetstough Mon 10-Nov-14 17:18:44

Do check the number of full boarders and exactly what the school means by their definition. It varies a lot. Westminster according to the ISC website has 182 full boarders. However, a friend who was looking said that it is very empty at weekends. Bradfield too has many weekly boarders. So do be careful and ask exactly how many lower sixth girls were in last weekend and how many weekends the full boarders have to stay in. In some schools it can be as few as three per term.

Needmoresleep Mon 10-Nov-14 18:54:23

Going, I am going to have to disagree with your friend, however expert she is on the school.

Yes, Westminster is weekly boarding up to sixth form, but sixth former boarders often tend to stay the weekend, first because a higher proportion come from overseas, and second because they have more homework. Once you have had Saturday school, plenty of even the British students decide not to bother to go home. Day pupils will also come in to either do homework with their boarder friends, or simply see them. By sixth form boarders are able to go out and visit day pupils. (I assume they have to get permission but we certainly had a couple who came to stay regularly.) Plus you have London on your doorstep so scope to go to public lectures at Universities or Royal Institutes, visit art galleries etc. In short sixth form is very different but works boarding-wise, even though it may not be what OP has in mind.

goinggetstough Mon 10-Nov-14 19:00:39

need my friend certainly is not an expert she was merely looking. I would certainly not disagree with you. However, if the Westminster stats on the ISC website state they have 180 full boarders would you think that there are 180 in each weekend with the exception of fixed exeats? They don't differentiate between the age groups which could blur the numbers?
So thank you for correcting me.

OpalQuartz Tue 11-Nov-14 09:07:38

Is The Good Schools Guide completely independent, or does it have links with certain private schools? I thought someone on here said the people who own it run a group of private schools or something along those lines. Can't remember the details. Perhaps someone can clarify?

Italianmama67 Tue 11-Nov-14 10:58:42

Many thanks for your suggestions!

Pinkfrocks you're right! I've read lots of ISI Reports and I sleep with The Good Schools Guide under my pillow! I also contacted Gabbitas, but it costs a fortune! I think I also need some 'emotional responses' because they can give me a point of view from the inside...

Goinggetstough: Thanks for you're tips. I'll certainly check!

Need & Hardest : Westminster and Sevenoaks are on my endless list, like Chaterhouse, Kings, Rugby, Marlborough, Oundle... I need to 'focus' a bit
(sorry for my English...)

Westminster & Charterhouse: excellent schools, but veeery difficult to be accepted! Besides, my impression is that they might be too 'rigid'. Am I wrong?

Sevenoaks & Kings: seem great! Any negative side?

Rugby & Marlborugh: academics? Snobbish?

No ideas about The Leys, Mallory Towers and Bedales(what do you mean by 'marmite'?). I'll check!

Thanks again! smile

aleny121scott Tue 11-Nov-14 11:13:43

Message deleted by MNHQ. Here's a link to our Talk Guidelines.

Needmoresleep Tue 11-Nov-14 12:00:04

Italianmama, what do you mean by rigid?

Charterhouse, based on visiting for matches, plus the experience of a friend's son, is absolutely beautiful and the sixth form is challenging, stimulating and fun. I was not aware that entry was particularly hard for a bright child. I also assume it is relatively easier to get into a school where girls are only admitted for sixth from. You also have the advantage then that all the girls are new so cliques have not formed.

Our experience was that Westminster was almost the opposite of rigid. I suspect it would not be much fun if you were struggling with the pace, but for a academic child who likes having bright peers and challenging teaching it is almost perfect. There is a lot going on, and you are in central London so scope to attend external lectures or visit art galleries or whatever your interests are, with friends (day or boarding) to go with. You are right though in that competition is tough. But for the right child it can be the perfect school.


1. Marmite is a sandwich spread made from yeast extract, that people either love or loath. The same goes for Bedales. Some people love it, others hate it, but most have an opinion. It has a reputation for being arty and liberal.

2. Mallory Towers is a series by Enid Blyton set in a girls boarding school. Girls get up to all sorts of terrific "japes" and it is all a bit "jolly hockey sticks". If your idea of boarding school is lots of space to run around, lots of energetic sports, and pillow fights in the dormitory, with most staying weekends, you are probably best looking well outside the London commuter belt.

In terms of looking, go and see a few as soon as you can, and it will help narrow down what you are looking for. Plus give you an idea of how likely your daughter is of getting a place, given presumably, she will be coming from the Italian system.

As for Marlborough and Rugby being snooty. I have no idea about Marlborough though would want to be reassured about the impact of the "Kate factor". I don't think Rugby has that reputation.

In terms of academics all these schools will take in bright kids who then do very well. To a large extent overall league table places will depend on how selective the school is in the first place. If there take a bigger range leavers destinations may stretch from Oxbridge to catering college, but not necessarily a bad thing. A good school is one which allows each child to realise their potential.

The Leys is a long established school in Cambridge, originally founded by the Quakers. They, and Bootham in York, would be good bets if you find some of the bigger name schools are wary of taking in a child from a very different educational system. Cambridge and York are both good places to live in, and both schools boast of good leavers destinations.

TreadSoftlyOnMyDreams Tue 11-Nov-14 12:34:32

You don't mention budget or a desire to have a top "brand" school so here's some alternatives.

Ipswich School in Suffolk has a v strong music tradition and is a reputable school with a boarding option.
Kings Rochester also

It might also be worth considering a school in Ireland as she will be taught through English, her peers will speak English and it sounds as though the education system at senior level is similar. ie - more subjects and traditional methods of teaching. Students typically study a minimum of 7 but 8-9 is the norm and personally I studied 11.
All girls
There's also a school called Sutton College which offers an 18 week semester programme which might be of interest.

These schools are all Dublin based so quick and easy links to Italy by air. They don't have the same prestige as some of the schools on the thread but they don't cost �30k sterling a year either.

Italianmama67 Tue 11-Nov-14 14:30:25

Ahahahahah!!!! I was looking for Mallory Tower School but I couldn't find it!!!! smilesmilesmile That's is what I mean for 'a point of view from the inside'!

- 'rigid' : I had the wrong idea Charterhouse and Westminster could be very formal, with too strong discipline and little fun. I'm glad it's just the opposite because my daughter visited Charterhouse in July and was delighted ... but it was closed, with no people around.....
I imagine it's hard to get in because I read it's oversubscribed, and the syllabus my dd is studying might be different. I definitely have to check!
Your suggestions, Need, are very helpful.

And thanks for your tips, Tread! I'll have a look! That sounds interesting!

By the way, why is Bedales not loved by someone?
And... maybe what my dd is looking for is some kind of Mellory Tower....

hardestdecisionever Tue 11-Nov-14 14:40:46

Kings Rochester is an excellent school that gets good results but I believe very few are full boarders which means it may be very quiet at weekends once the day/weekly/flexi boarders have gone home. It is primarily a day school I believe.

Sevenoaks I went to a few times as it was linked with my grammar school for the IB. We always had lively and interesting debates down there, the students were really nice and pleasant. There was no animosity because one was a private school and one was a state grammar school, everyone was more interested in learning than money. It felt like a very nice and happy school. Again, I'm not sure how many there are full boarders, you would need to ask the school direct.

summerends Tue 11-Nov-14 15:46:57

Italianmama does your DD attend an IB type international school in Italy? If she does, I have heard that Sevenoaks sixth form attracts a fair number from international schools including from Italy so it may be not a different enough experience.
Does your DD want to study humanities or sciences (or both if IB). If the former or IB will she need EFL help? That may narrow your choices down.
Charterhouse does IB as well as preUs

Needmoresleep Tue 11-Nov-14 16:12:13

Search for Bedales on MN and you will pull up several threads and quite a number of opinions. Or google more generally and you will find things like this article

Also before your DD comes to the UK she should try Marmite. It will prevent others encouraging her to try it by spreading it on a piece of bread as if it were Nutella. A stunt my DC tried on a series of exchange students to their great amusement. (A love of Marmite isolates Britain from the rest of Europe as much as any policy set by Brussels.)

When you have a reasonable long list I would start at the top and phone the various registrars and ask what they will expect in the way of qualifications, including any specific tests for English. You will pick up a lot from how welcoming they sound.

It is also worth skimming The Student Room website, which will give you a flavour of how difficult entrance requirements are, and the sort of pupil applying.

Lilymaid Tue 11-Nov-14 16:18:37

The Leys (Cambridge) has had in recent years a lot of foreign students in its 6th Form. Quite a number of its pupils leave after GCSE and go to the (free) state sixth form college in Cambridge, so places have to be filled. Also, only half the pupils in the school actually board - the other half either are day pupils (leave 4-5 pm) or day boarders (leave later in the evening).

MrsCurrent Tue 11-Nov-14 16:30:25

If you're not looking at a specific part of the UK then Dallam School in South Cumbria might be worth a look. I know we really liked it when we looked around, they do IB and A-levels and are known as an outstanding international boarding school as well as an excellent local school.

pinkfrocks Tue 11-Nov-14 17:15:09

One thing no one has mentioned (I think) is that many schools are selective. A friend's daughter went to Sevenoaks and she had to pass the entrance exam. This is something you need to consider.

You need to think of the outcomes you want. Some schools are very focused on Oxbridge and manage to get a good percentage of their students there. Other schools place more importance on producing a 'rounded' individual ( not that the 2 are mutually exclusive) and some schools such as Frensham Heights and Bedales have fabulous facilities for performing arts.

If location is important then you are looking I assume at a radius of 30 miles or so from a major airport- so that means consider Kent, Surrey, Midlands ( eg Rugby, Oundle, Stow), Bristol / Avon ( eg St Mary Calne in Wiltshire or Millfield in Taunton) and London. Other options would be nr Stansted or even Newcastle airport.

Needmoresleep Tue 11-Nov-14 17:27:17

Pink frock, OP says her daughter is academic. Hence an assumption that she is in a good position to compete for a place at a selective school.

I would not have thought that a school like like St Mary's Calne was an automatic choice for an academic girl.

pinkfrocks Tue 11-Nov-14 18:24:52

I know what she said.
Many children who apply will be academic- they all sit the entrance tests and they are highly selective.
Not sure what you mean about St Mary.

Italianmama67 Tue 11-Nov-14 21:57:58

Thank you all! So many things to reflect upon....
I know these schools are very selective, with entrance exams and I'm worried, no doubt. I will let her try anyway, helping her as far as I can, but considering also some less selective alternatives.
She isn't studying IB. She's attending a school strong in maths and sciences (Sciences and Physics) and in humanities (Italian, Latin, English, History, Histoy of art, Geography). And she doesn't know what to study at uni. But she's fascinated by your schooling system and the way students learn, interacting, debating, enjoying what they do. After 2 weeks at a PGL camp her decision was taken!
I think I'll try Marmite to get into the right mood to reflect!!!

summerends Tue 11-Nov-14 22:16:07

Italianmama in that case if she is not sure that she wants to focus on sciences or humanities she should probably be aiming for a school that has IB as an option. However she does need her written English to be strong enough to write a humanities essay. That would n't be a problem is she was a mathematician or scientist.

Italianmama67 Tue 11-Nov-14 22:21:18

- Pinkfrocks, when you talk about schools focused on Oxbridge, you mean Sevenoaks, Westminster, Charterhouse and.......?
What about Stowe and Hailebury?
Rugby? Oakham? Are they focused on Oxbridge?
I know, this can't be entirely good or bad... Just to understand a bit more.

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