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Kings College Wimbledon and Brighton College

(30 Posts)
Stressandhassle Tue 02-Dec-14 14:06:27

We are currently in the process of looking at senior schools for DS1 (currently year 5) and need some advice. He is extremely bright and his school thinks he would fit in very well at a school like KCW or Royal Grammar School in Guildford. However, a little part of me is worried about the long daily commute (he would travel from Esher) and the fact that all his classmates would be from a hugely wide radius...so will he feel isolated when he gets home and is expected to start ploughing through all that homework. I'm also wondering whether or not these very academic schools will provide a well rounded education. DS1 is very into lots of different sports ( a solid "A" team player but by no means a superstar) and also loves art, music and drama - essentially he likes to be busy and is into everything! I need some reassurance that these day schools can provide all these opportunities as I would hate him to just be focused upon work. As an alternative we have been looking into some weekly boarding options too .....the head of his prep has suggested Brighton College as an alternative but I know next to nothing about it. I was wondering if any fellow mnetters had any advice on the pros and cons of day versus weekly boarding, and also on these particular schools.

Sorry for such a "vague" question but all views and opinions welcome!

BTW - We have completely ruled out complete boarding.

mertonmama Tue 02-Dec-14 16:44:22

Vote for KCS Wimbledon from here. Fantastic school for the right boy. Lots of boys travel in from Esher on the buses and it seems to work well for them. If I could attend I would, but I have to settle for sending the DS there.

Don't know Brighton College so can't comment on it.

ZebraDog Tue 02-Dec-14 19:59:01

RGS is fantastic and has lots of boys from Esher, they all get the train together (along with the GHS girls!). I honestly don't think my DS could have got a better education, he really thrived at RGS - all thanks to the school.
You can also consider Hampton boys, another very similar school.

Higheredserf Tue 02-Dec-14 23:38:45

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

basildonbond Wed 03-Dec-14 10:00:42

How long and more importantly how easy is the journey? Kings is a fantastic school but IMO no school is worth giving up more than 2 hours of your day to travel to and from ... How would he get home after late activities? How much of a pain will it be for you to schlep back out there for parents' evenings etc? And you will be providing a taxi service every weekend so your son can socialise ... I wouldn't only go by what your current head says - remember they'll want prestigious leavers' destinations to entice future parents

castlesintheair Wed 03-Dec-14 10:13:31

I agree with pp that KCW is the most amazing school (the only school I really loved) but it really is important to keep the commute as short as possible. I know one very individual, bright all rounder who is going to Brighton. He would easily get into KCW etc but Brighton really suits him for so many reasons, a minor one which is logistical, so I would say definitely worth a look.

Stressandhassle Wed 03-Dec-14 13:20:37

Hi! All very interesting food for thought! I will go and take a look and the options and see what my "gut" says!

Swimmingwithsharks Wed 03-Dec-14 19:29:13

Have you had a look around KCS yet? It is an incredible school which is academic and has excellent sports, music, art and drama departments. It seems tailor made for a boy like your son!
I don't think Esher is so far. There is an extensive coach system and the boys seem to enjoy chilling out with their mates on the coach.

mertonmama Thu 04-Dec-14 17:29:50

KCS featured on the Tatler documentary on BBC1 earlier this week. Worth having a look as it gives a good, if brief, insight into the school. I think it's about 12 mins if you're watching in Iplayer.

ohtobeanonymous Thu 04-Dec-14 20:17:32

KCS has just won some award for best independent school of the year or something.
Irregardless, it is a brilliant school if you have the money to pay the hefty fees (and your son is actually super bright). Not a school for the lower end of the intake though - top boys definitely given the opportunities.

Dustylaw Thu 04-Dec-14 22:05:40

Do also think about the logistics of attending matches - some will be weekday but others will be Saturday morning or afternoon and of course could be away matches as well as home matches. If weekly boarding would your son be able to stay over on Friday night or alternatively travel on Saturday? Of course, would have to travel to KCS or RGS matches on Saturday but the fixtures might be more local for you perhaps.

granolamuncher Fri 05-Dec-14 18:01:26

KCS is a great school by all accounts but is its future secure? It plans to open 10 schools in China, which strikes me as lunatic. Chris Blackhurst in the Evening Standard said: "The ambition-meter is flashing red with this one." (24 November)

It would be worth enquiring about this: you might be faced with some huge fee hikes in years to come if this venture fails as most pundits think it will.

Poisonwoodlife Fri 05-Dec-14 18:50:48

Granola they are not opening ten schools in China, they are in negotiation with a local partner with a view to opening one, in Shanghai. If that is successful they have a tentative plan there will be nine more, and that tentative plan has, as these plans always do, a guesstimate of potential revenue of £7m. With all due respect to Chris Blackhurst he knows diddly squat about how risky the venture actually is, neither does anyone not privy to knowledge of the partner and the detailed negotiations going on, and he was out to make a point, not a bad one, about rising school fees. But that particular assertion was wrong headed.

I thought the proposal sounds interesting, the private education sector in China is booming. edition.cnn.com/2014/11/21/world/asia/china-private-education/, and what they want is a western education with a good brand. Expats worry that although at the moment they are being courted by these new entrant International schools being set up by the British private schools, in an environment where it is very hard to get places at existing established International Schools, once their reputation is established they will struggle to get places there too. Those making an early entry into the market eg Dulwich College have learnt the lessons, the importance of the right local partners etc. and the Harrow, Dulwich College and Wellington School are doing well, and the more established ones must now be generating revenue for the schools. As with any international venture providing the brand and educational strategy whilst the local partner manages the finance and local infrastructure reduces risk considerably. When Dulwich College Fell out with the partners in Thailand they walked away www.theguardian.com/education/2005/may/18/schools.uk and they have been more assertive in their contract negotiations with Chinese partners. I hope KCS have robust advice but assuming so leveraging their brand to generate money for bursaries sounds a good idea.

Their plan is Shanghai but there really are plenty of mega cities who have no players there at all. British Airways just started to fly direct to Chengdu because they can spot a market opportunity as it develops and expands at an exponential rate, it is every bit as much of an opportunity in terms of the education market .

I certainly would not worry as a potential parent, I can't say Dulwich College is in desperate straits even as a result of being the early entrant that gets to make mistakes......

granolamuncher Fri 05-Dec-14 19:35:35

All noted Poisonwoodlife. You obviously know a good deal about this. But the Chinese economy isn't what it was and the political climate there might well turn against foreign schools sooner rather than later.

I'd feel more reassured to hear a head commit to cutting expenditure instead of speculating in new markets.

Poisonwoodlife Fri 05-Dec-14 20:26:14

granola I know a little (which is a lot more than most western journalists) about that as well. The current (western educated) Chinese leadership are dependent on the goodwill of the middle classes that they have created through their "capitalism with Chinese characteristics". If you go from the most equal society (however engineered) to one of the most unequal (19th most unequal at the last UN measure I saw) you do not piss off the very people who you have privileged because you have certainly pissed off the ones you have not. Their whole strategy for remaining in power rests on the newly created middle classes, and the middle classes' priority is the education of their children and aspirationally, within their means for some form of western education.

And when you say a slow down of their economy, I don't think anyone now underestimates the threats to growth. However this really is a market at the very beginning of being exploited, the only risk is in finding the right partner who can deliver locally.

granolamuncher Fri 05-Dec-14 21:22:26

Poisonwoodlife China has had its ups and downs. Schools betting on it does look rather like European banks betting on the US subprime mortgage market. It's speculation.

As I've posted elsewhere, leading heads should lead their hyper expensive schools back to what their customer base can actually afford by cutting costs and reducing fees.

While journalists, MPs, other opinion formers, and salaried professionals, like the nice people at the Charity Commission, can no longer afford to send their own children to these schools, the withdrawal of charitable status can't be far off. In theory, that could include the seizure of assets by the Crown. That would give them a dose of what life in China can be like but their well meaning founders would weep.

granolamuncher Fri 05-Dec-14 23:26:09

Andrew Halls, head of KCS Wimbledon, said it himself to the papers last week: ‘We are in danger of coming across as greedy, because we can charge what appears to be limitless fees but in truth there is a fees timebomb ticking away. It feels like the build-up to the banking crisis. For the first time in my career, I feel that the shifts over the next 10 years could prove seismic.’

The question for any prospective parent at his school is whether it is taking the right steps to defuse this time bomb. From what I have heard about the China venture, I really don't think it is doing that.

A head of a school truly deserving the title "independent school head of the year" should be one who was brave enough to expand class sizes, cap staff numbers, cut back on luxuries, cut out sports which require expensive equipment, and drop plans for new buildings. If those things start happening and fees stabilise, if not actually reduce, these schools' natural supporters will return to them, which will be good news for all concerned, including Sunday Times journalists.

granolamuncher Fri 05-Dec-14 23:52:50

I have just watched the "Posh People" episode mentioned by mertonmama above.

Mr Halls of KCS is heard to say that Tatler "matters". Of course it doesn't. It's never even pretended to. I wouldn't dream of sending my DCs to a school where the head paid any attention at all to a silly gossip magazine, never mind saying on national tv it's a magazine that "matters".

Cripes! Stay well away I would.

Eastpoint Sat 06-Dec-14 07:34:41

KCS has great facilities & it's easy for boys to catch the train & walk up from the station (or even catch the bus if they are feeling lazy). I can't remember but isn't Brighton mixed? Do you have any daughters? Would you want them to go to the same school? That's something else to consider as KCS only has girls in the 6th form.

cakeisalwaystheanswer Sat 06-Dec-14 10:11:35

I agree with granolamuncher. As a KCS parent I find the Tatler association tacky and embarrassing. What next The Economist guide to fashion?

I am also not happy with the China plans. If as Mr Halls claims middle class parents are no longer willing to pay fees for his school how can the answer be to use money from 10 schools in China, a developing country where real poverty exists , to subsidise school fees in Wimbledon? Particularly as part of Mr Halls problem is he claims that state schools have improved so much that parents feel they don't need to pay for private school. It would make more sense to keep that money in China and use it to set up charity schools in remote rural areas.

I would like to see schools like KCS state how many boys receiving a bursary would qualify for FSM, I would be surprised if it's any. Two of DS's friends receive bursaries, they come from very nice middle class homes with good household incomes and live in nice homes. The parents have more than one child and couldn't afford to send all the DCs to private school, but they do. Both these boys were offered places at Tiffin boys, a local grammar. Schools like KCS have no interest in finding genuinely poor boys with potential, they need bursary boys with good manners and the right accent so as not to upset the big donors to their building projects.

Poisonwoodlife Sat 06-Dec-14 12:18:52

granola the Chinese economy can in no way be compared to the American sub prime mortgage industry, it's a major developing world economy with a billion people with a serious work ethic, far more complex than you seem to understand and plenty of sensible businesses are investing or looking to invest, albeit with sensible strategies to reduce risk. Honestly you are sounding a bit Daily Mail, and I am sure on other issues you are not. Try this from a journalist who actually does know what he is talking about www.theguardian.com/books/2014/apr/10/contest-century-new-era-competition-china-review

cake totally agree. Yes it would be good if schools to a greater extent tried to seek out pupils from genuinely deprived backgrounds instead of the ones who will add to their results, and whose accomplishments they can show off on websites. And what a good example to set to the pupils , both in the UK and China to reinvest the money made by schools in China into schools serving the genuinely poor globally, instead of just the odd sixth form trip to build an orphanage......

granolamuncher Sat 06-Dec-14 12:45:34

poisonwoodlife I thought RBS was a sensible business when I joined it as a customer many years ago. The government kindly bailed it out after its much lauded management made some catastrophic decisions. We shall see what fate awaits KCS and similar schools. I can't share your confidence.

I don't read the Daily Mail or the Sunday Times or Tatler but I'm a supporter of independent schools, which is why I'm distressed to see some of these "leading" heads writing their schools' suicide notes.

cake It's heartening to hear there are KCS parents who are concerned about what Mr Halls has been saying to the press. He has given the impression he's after Tatler readers and would like Chinese sweatshop owners to help them with his fees.

He has form. When he was at Magdalen College School, he put a big notice outside proclaiming it was "Sunday Times Independent School of the Year". These proud institutions deserve better.

Poisonwoodlife Sat 06-Dec-14 13:30:57

Granola "Chinese sweat shop owners" Now you are getting dangerously close to racism. Unlikely to be Chinese sweat shop owners, apart from anything else, rising incomes means the sweat shops are now in Cambodia, Vietnam or any one of a number of countries in Africa that the Chinese are investing heavily in. They are more likely to be bankers, lawyers, doctors, engineers, civil servants, SME owners in any number of not just manufacturing but service industries, pretty much the same occupations as the parents of students at KCS. We are talking upper middle class in a developed economy, which is why it is such a lucrative market for these schools to exploit. The greatest source of risk is not the ones you have identified but finding a partner that can navigate China's organic ways of doing business with integrity. However hopefully as I say they are getting sound advice, but we are not in a position to assess that are we?

RBS was never a sensible business. It's management are still about twenty years behind best practise in the Financial sector, especially their risk management processes, believe me, this is something else I know a bit about.

granolamuncher Sat 06-Dec-14 13:47:50

You obviously know a great deal about these matters, poisonwoodlife . Please rest assured I was not suggesting the Chinese middle classes are sweatshop owners. I know perfectly well they're not. What I'm saying is that Mr Halls is relying on income from a part of the world where people here might have the (false) perception that that's the sort of business from which big profits will be made for evermore. I don't think this is sensible.

granolamuncher Sat 06-Dec-14 14:24:33

poisonwoodlife I hesitate to refer you to the Daily Mail but here's a story I had seen elsewhere: www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2846676/Fury-China-unveils-14-000-copy-Range-Rover-British-company-legal-action-little-known-manufacturer-launches-brazen-copy-roader.html

It is precisely because the Chinese economy is so sophisticated and constantly pulling surprises that it can't be sensible to treat it as a cash cow.

There are solutions closer to home to what even Mr Halls has belatedly realised is a crisis for these hyper expensive schools. They begin with cost cutting. It would be refreshing to hear a commitment to that.

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