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Does anyone know when you have to commit to a final choice for boys' public schools, particularly Westminster and Eton?

(30 Posts)
Michaelahpurple Wed 07-Jan-15 20:35:31

I know I could ask them but I am in the throes of indecision and so really want to keep my head down. DS is in year 7, so I hoping not until well into year 8, but I have another boy to come and don't want to burn goodwill unnecessarily.

inthename Wed 07-Jan-15 21:29:05

without wishing to sound rude, presumably if he has a conditional offer at these schools, then the paperwork they send give full details of when the entrance deposit has to be paid by and when its too late to change without losing that deposit and/or becoming liable for a whole terms fees in lieu of notice?

WorkingItOutAsIGo Wed 07-Jan-15 22:35:27

I think deposits and commitment are meant to be this term? You could go beyond this date by writing multiple cheques but that would start burning goodwill. Why not start a thread to help you decide - it's a pretty common choice to have to make.

EdithWeston Wed 07-Jan-15 22:41:32

The exact dates will be somewhere in the bumf you have.

For many schools, it's some time around March in year 7 for the big deposit.

Schools expect some shuffling at the time the money becomes due. You won't cause any problems for subsequent DC in deciding against taking a conditional place further (as long as you do so within their admin timetable).

onebananatwobanana Thu 08-Jan-15 07:41:50

Have a look through the paperwork you have from both schools. Generally you are asked to choose one in the Michaelmas term of year 8 - some people even leave it until around March of year 8 when prep schools enter DC for 1 school for CE. You need to decide if you want to lose your deposit (c£1-2000) I would guess and also read carefully to see when you become liable for the first terms fees (c£11500 for E).

My advice would be to decide earlier as (1) you look like you are choosing between day and boarding - a fairly black and white choice and a very personal choice, (2) they are both great schools with W having the edge academically I would say, given it is more selective, and also having the advantage of girls in the 6th form to provide a more "normal" environment. Also, look at the characteristics of both schools - is your DS competitive - read some of the posts from regular Eton posters - they talk about E being competitive for everything - some DS love this, others will be crushed, especially if not sporty or if they struggle to find their thing there.

What advice is your prep giving you? You will relax more about the whole thing when you have made a decision, and your DS will also appreciate it as he will know where he is heading and what he's aiming for.

Michaelahpurple Thu 08-Jan-15 08:29:09

Thank you - v helpful. Given the circa £1k deposits are long paid there doesn't seem to be another financial pinch point until towards the end of year 8, so it was more intangible requests I was after

I know it should be fairly clear cut, but Ian making rather heavy weather of things, plus we have a bit of split between my husband and me, as he is pretty decided.

Sadly prep school not much help as am at the westminster under school so we don't really get a "prep school service" in that way

WorkingItOutAsIGo Thu 08-Jan-15 09:03:47

What does your DS want? I happen to think at this age they should be allowed to make their own minds up - both my DS were very clear by the age of 12 on where they wanted to go.

IndridCold Thu 08-Jan-15 09:45:14

At the end of the February in the year of entry you will have to let the CE exam board know which school will be marking your DSs exam, i.e. You will have to make the final choice.

I think that schools prefer it if you decide before then, as they would like to be able to offer places to waiting list candidates asap, but there does seem to be quite a big surge then so I guess that there are quite a few parents who do hang on for that deadline.

Needmoresleep Thu 08-Jan-15 09:55:19

I agree with both Working and Banana. At this stage DS was clear he much preferred the Hogwarts-type feel of W over the playing fields of St Pauls, whilst was never tempted by Eton, in part because opf a couple of very confident characters who were headed that way. (And partly because it had never crossed our minds that we as a family could "go to Eton", plus the fees....)

I have met a couple of Eton mothers who have said that in retrospect they should have send their second sons to W. What suited their elder was not right for their younger. Eton is a big busy school and a quieter academic boy can get lost, and might have preferred to have stayed at home. I've also heard W mums say the same. Their second sons were less suited to the "being a geek is fun" culture. I met one mother who had sent her three sons to all three schools, which seemed like an impressive investment in uniform.

Our son was absolutely happy at W. It was a perfect fit and he has made what I expect to be lifelong friends. I agree with banana that the presence of bright and hardworking girls in the sixth form is a huge plus. Add in the great teaching, the existing culture, and the amazing Central London location, and the final two year become something very special. DS more or less kept boarding hours, going in for breakfast and doing his homework in the library, and seemed to only come home to sleep (or play computer games.)

Which school makes your son's eyes light up? Does he have a good friendship group going onto W. (I say this because being at the junior school appeared to be a bit of a two edged sword. Peer impressions seem to have been formed early, and a couple of boys who were probably imature at 7+ never got a chance to reinvent themselves and might have been better off with a fresh start.) Does he want to board.

Both choices are good ones, so your son is unlikely to make a bad decision. There will, whatever the Eton posters say, be a small number of boys who dont enjoy their schooling at either school. The risk of this is less if your son is allowed to make the choice, and you then avoid him turning it back on you. Plus a safe start in a process of him taking control of his future.

summerends Thu 08-Jan-15 12:11:51

Although not faced with the same choice, I agree with others in that my DS was very clear about his own preference in year 7 (which happened helpfully to be what his school suggested). He certainly did not regret turning down other options later. I wonder if your DS is not expressing a clear preference as he realises there is a split between you and your DH.
Is he ready for a new environment (ie Eton) at this stage or is he very happy where he is (WU) ?

onebananatwobanana Thu 08-Jan-15 13:12:11

Agree with posters who say their DS had a preference in year 7. Ours did, and we went with it. You will never feel 100% sure of the choice...like life, there are always what-if scenarios, and no school is perfect.

I think Summerends has got it right that the split opinion between you and your DH is muddying the waters here. When we looked round 2 of the 4 houses we were given at E, 2 of the HMs said they had had boys leave in the first year because they were unhappy and felt lost "but had come here because their Dad had wanted them to". I know my DH would have loved to go back to school when we looked round secondary schools - they are all amazing.

However, you have time given you have paid your deposits and don't mind losing them, so you can see how he develops over year 7, and try and get him to express HIS opinion on where he should go, which doesn't have the line "because that's where you want me to go" in it!!

summerends Thu 08-Jan-15 16:15:35

Just following on from onebanana's post, I also wonder that if he does not express a clear preference for Eton at this stage (whether because of being sensitive to trying to keep you both happy or unsure himself) if it is the school for him. I think a boy has to be excited and determined about it to get the most of it and as we said would have that instinct by this stage even if worried about boarding.

IndridCold Thu 08-Jan-15 16:53:53

I have to say that I'm not sure that my DS would be have been able to make a decision like this at this age, in spite of what other posters have said. In fact I remember looking at him at the end of year 7, and even at that stage I could not envisage him at 'big' school. However, he changed hugely during year 8, and by the time he left prep school he was raring to go.

As I said, OP, you have over a year to decide, if your DS isn't ready to make this decision now, then postpone it. I wouldn't worry about annoying the relevant schools, they are dealing with hundreds of admissions at any one time, and you won't be the only family who are still making up their minds. It is an important decision, no point in hurrying it.

summerends Thu 08-Jan-15 17:01:16

Indrid even if DCs continue to mature into more capable to handle the demands of senior schools (so that they and parents or more reassured that they won't be at sea) your DS must have expressed a preference for Eton before otherwise why continue with the uncertainty of the waiting list?

IndridCold Thu 08-Jan-15 17:09:41

Not really, because there wasn't a choice at that time so it didn't really come up for discussion, and we didn't want him to end up at Sherborne but wishing he'd gone to Eton. We were the ones feeling the pressure, but we worked very hard to keep him free from that.

He did flummox us at one point, when he announced out of the blue that 'I don't want to go to Eton anyway'. When the offer was made, however, he had no doubt whatsoever.

summerends Thu 08-Jan-15 17:20:18

They say that Eton are keenest on boys who show enthusiasm for what they offer so your DS's indifference may explain why he was on the waiting list.

IndridCold Thu 08-Jan-15 17:40:33

No, his crap maths was the reason for him being on the waiting list, they were more than happy with his enthusiasm in his interview grin.

In any event, our DS was not choosing between two schools, as is the case with OP. We had Sherborne as our first choice (which DS liked) and Eton was a flyer. We had told him that it was hard to get into, but that if he was happy to try then we would have a go!

OPs DS has places at two excellent schools, and cannot decide which he prefers. I stand by my post above which is - OP has over a year left in which to decide, so why not just give her DS a bit more time? I don't think she should feel pressured into making the decision now if it is not necessary, which was the reason for her original question.

summerends Thu 08-Jan-15 18:01:05

I don't disagree with more time just (completely surmising as Michaelah has not commented) that if she and her DH are split and her DS has no strong preference for Eton by this stage in year 7 (despite a definite place offered) then he may be happier at Westminster.

IndridCold Thu 08-Jan-15 18:18:25

By the same token, if he cannot decide then presumably he has no strong preference for Westminster either ...

summerends Thu 08-Jan-15 19:09:16

smile continuing this theoretical discussion I would suggest that it requires more positivity to move to Eton and to a full boarding hectic extracurricular environment than staying with what he knows at Westminster.

IndridCold Thu 08-Jan-15 20:08:48

Yes, that's a fair point. But the OPs original question (which I am the only person to have answered directly I notice. I'm a great one for answering the actual question, then taking it from there) implies that she feels that there is a chance that a decision made now may not be the best one, and wanted to use all the time available.

i also get the impression that everyone has assumed that the DS really wants to stay at Westminster, but it could in fact be the other way around. Maybe he has chosen Eton, and Mum doesn't want him to board full time! As you point out, this is all theoretical smile.

summerends Thu 08-Jan-15 20:50:57

Also fair point Indrid. I think onebanana was initially helpful answering the question whilst I like others went off on a tangent (well-meaning though before we strayed to the realms of fantasy).

IndridCold Fri 09-Jan-15 10:14:02

Ah yes, but how else would we waste time on MN when we should really be doing something else? wink

summerends Fri 09-Jan-15 10:47:06

[grim] see I could n't resist the opportunity to 'waste' another minute.

summerends Fri 09-Jan-15 10:47:41

Should be grin

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