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DS Boarding choices Y9 - advice please

(76 Posts)
Ahwoo Sat 13-Jun-15 12:18:13

Hi, I'm an overseas parent, with a DS who is thinking about boarding in Y9.
Where we are we don't have prep schools, so the only advice comes from 'agents' who, in general, do a good job but I wonder also if they may be steering me towards their preferred schools rather than what may be best for DS.

They have given me a list of schools, and I have done as much background research as I can (except visit - which is nigh on impossible given my line of work, and these schools cost, so I need to work sad). GSG, Tatler, A-level/IB/GCSE results etc. done all of that, check.

Abingdon
Bromsgrove
Caterham
Dauntsey's
Kings School Canterbury
Lancing
Oundle
Shrewsbury
Whitgift

If anyone has any comments, positive or negative, please post or pm me if you prefer.
Thanks in advance.

A bit about DS. Academically he's able & the agent said he easily meets the academic criteria for the above. He loves football (hates Rugby). Not very music oriented (although his highest grades are in music! & can play the piano). Fluent English, so EAL not required. He's friendly, popular at school, but I think he's a people person - he doesn't like to be alone, so pastoral care is something I probably rate above all else at this point.

(phew! hope that's not too long winded)

LIZS Sat 13-Jun-15 12:48:48

Epsom , Brighton, Tonbridge ? Caterham do rugby/hockey not football as I suspect do others you mention.

Decorhate Sat 13-Jun-15 13:37:18

The only one I've heard of is Whitgift. I know someone who went as day pupil & I think they have a programme where overseas students can go to a local family at weekends, holidays, etc? I'm guessing the parents have to pay towards the local family's expenses but if there is a good match it probably helps the overseas pupil to settle in

LIZS Sat 13-Jun-15 14:00:55

Yes most schools which take o/s students have a system of host families or can refer to a guardian service who would find one for you. Whitgift boarding is still relatively recent but expanding. You may want to compare numbers of full boarders to weekly/flexi as some schools can empty out at weekends.

inthename Sat 13-Jun-15 14:21:06

echo what liz has said about amount of full boarders, especially as you are overseas, your ds doesn't want everybody going home at weekends. Whitgift is also considered very sporty.

ZeroFunDame Sat 13-Jun-15 14:44:01

... these schools cost ...

They do indeed - so I would question whether as full boarding schools more than two or three on your agent's list would be worth your hard earned money. I'm sure others in the list are perfectly good schools - I wouldn't know. But they're not names generally spoken of as major boarding destinations.

Abingdon and Kings Canterbury are well thought of. (Is Abingdon full boarding?)

summerends Sat 13-Jun-15 14:45:51

Abingdon is the most academic of that list but is mainly day with a similar but more established set up to Whitgift for full boarders (very expensive relatively for full boarding considering the lack of Saturday school)
For a full boarder King's Canterbury and Shrewsbury would be my favourites from what I have heard , both suiting DCs with a variety of personalities and talents. Oundle is quite often mentioned on here as well. I think I would prefer King's Canterbury for access from overseas.

ZeroFunDame Sat 13-Jun-15 14:55:48

OP are you looking for a fee paying school in England with somewhere to sleep, or a traditional boarding school with a widely known ethos and reputation? There is a difference.

Your agent has left the most well known boarding schools that take boys off the list. Is this because you have insufficient time to go through the application process, or because they don't feel your DS would pass the selection process or because the agent is unfamiliar with them?

ancientbuchanan Sat 13-Jun-15 15:16:05

Some schools have a lot of people from a one or similar countries, iyswim. Eg the Eastern Europe ones, or Far East. Worth finding out.

And do you want co-ed or boys?

And which airport?

Ahwoo Sat 13-Jun-15 16:25:27

Thanks for the responses so far, please keep them coming.

I'm looking for a more traditional boarding school experience. My folks actually live in the UK but I am against sending him to the local grammar school (where I went), partly because I don't think it was all it was made out to be, and partly because if he was staying with the grandparents he'd be spoilt rotten.

Boys or Co-Ed no strong preference to be honest - I'm open-minded (or haven't thought it through enough) on this one.

Agent - yes they could have suggested more but I think the likes of Winchester Wellington Harrow Eton Sevenoaks Tonbridge Charterhouse were ruled out because of timing. DS is 12 already going to Y8 in September, so too late to apply to some of the above.

Again thanks for all your comments.

0verseasmum Sat 13-Jun-15 16:28:04

Bromsgrove very sporty, rugby for sure think they won the English schools this year. Only About 400 boarders mostly day but doesn't close for exeats which is handy for expats. Saturday school and activities. Oundle very popular and sporty also has way more boarders but rugby as well. The big football school is shrewsbury, it's full boarding only about 100 day students and 700 boarders. They have exeats one every half term but run buses to many locations. All three are coed with shrewsbury full coed from sept. 5th form don't have girls this year. I don't know the other schools well enough I'm afraid. Pm if you need.

Ahwoo Sat 13-Jun-15 16:37:34

Thanks overseamum.
Do you have children at boarding school now?

ZeroFunDame Sat 13-Jun-15 16:40:18

OP You said at the beginning that your DS is thinking of boarding in year 9. But - quite honestly - if you don't at this stage have a clear preference for singke sex or co-ed do you really think you've thought about this hard enough?

I'd say most parents who choose boarding are looking for something specific, which they think a particular sort of scool will provide.

Its quite a big thing starting boarding even within a country - has your DS had any preparation for boarding in a different country?

ZeroFunDame Sat 13-Jun-15 16:42:34

Apologies for numerous typing errors.

Ahwoo Sat 13-Jun-15 16:51:21

zero you are right, as a parent I am looking for something particular, but I wanted to involve DS in the decision. Personally, I went to a single sex grammar school and hated it. Often felt I had to someone else just to fit in. I have asked DS what he prefers and he said boys only, but had you asked me at age 11, I would've said the same (something about 11/12yr old boys just hating girls). For this reason, I am open minded about the single-sex/co-Ed question.

DS is going to take a summer course for 3 weeks this July to see if he is suited for boarding. His younger sister (age 10) did the same thing last year, absolutely loved it, and is adamant she will board in the UK.

LIZS Sat 13-Jun-15 17:05:05

Many schools now pretest in year 6 or 7 for year 9 entry. However there may be some flexibility for o/s candidates on both timing and criteria. You should follow up each one but make a shortlist , maybe based on sport and options available for example if that is important to his happiness.

Millymollymama Sat 13-Jun-15 17:46:56

I would also consider how long it will take to get from the airport (Heathrow?) to the school. A few of these schools are quite some distance from London. I have heard of all the schools but I think you must consider whether they are full boarding and offer plenty of activities at weekends. I think some of the schools are fairly "local" in character so maybe not so busy at the weekends?

I think I would add St Edwards, Oxford, to the list and possibly Wellington College, although I do not know if they do football.

grovel Sat 13-Jun-15 18:07:05

Bradfield?

happygardening Sat 13-Jun-15 18:42:05

Very few full boarders at Bradfield I was there the other day on a Sunday it was like a ghost town, it felt like the holiday had started early, a friend with a DC there loves it in general her only gripe is that she didn't realise it's not a full boarding school.
St Edwards which has excellent pastoral care offers rugby in the autumn term there are a few alternative e.g. rowing but if you row your committed for the whole year so rubbish for those who like cricket etc so most do rugby.
Abingdon has only about 100 boarders so not that many, I personally wouldn't choose it if I was abroad and wanted a full boarding school. But you can choose other sports instead of rugby. Ditto Whitgift when it comes to full boarding. I hear mixed things about Dauntsey in terms of full boarding someone on here is adamant there's lots of full boarders but a mum I met at work recently whose DS was at the school told me there wasn't and there's certainly quite a few day children.
Lancing is also primarily weekly boarding and high church.
From your list I personally would seriously consider Kings Canterbury that's definitely full boarding with a small number of day although I can't comment on the rugby. Uppingham is also only full boarding don't know about the rugby thing.

summerends Sat 13-Jun-15 18:52:26

Ahwoo why don't you place them in the same school ? Has your DD a strong preference for single sex even though your DS has n't ?
I realise it is hard to get time off to visit potential schools but honestly I would make it a priority. Agents I presume will suggest schools where they have a track record for getting pupils in but you need to visit to get a proper feel for what you like, not just the premises and what is on the website but of the staff and other pupils. Otherwise you may pay a lot of money and miss out on a chunk of your DCs existence for something that is n't the best possible experience for them.
Downe House for example has suited some girls I know of very well but apparently there are some unhappy ones as well from that thread. I think that is the case for most schools but it can avoided to a certain extent by going to see yourself with your DCs.

happygardening Sat 13-Jun-15 19:09:48

I couldn't agree more with summer (waves) narrow it down to 2-3 choices frankly I'd go the the full boarding ones and come and visit them in person with your DS/DD. Trust me websites prospectus's don't give you a tyre flavour of a school. You need to visit them yourself and spend time there, talk to the staff, meet the pupils and get a really good feel for the ethos. Find one that feels right for you and your DS. Quite a few years ago I visited a very big name with three other sets of parents from my DS's prep, two of us wouldn't have sent the dog there, one was ambivalent and one could wait to complete the registration form. The parents who disliked it like I did then sent their DS to another big name I wouldn't send my other dog too! A friend looked at DS's school at hated it, it's very personal to you and your DC.
Before deciding which your going to visit do take into consideration town/city versus rural small market town, if you DS is a budding international tiddlywinks player do check they offer it, if he really loathes rugby do check alternatives are offered, standing on the rugby pitch three days a week come hell, high wind or driving rain for the next five years could make him really miserable, if your planning to use your parents as guardians I personally think the max journey one way shouldn't exceed 1 1/2 hours, efficient public transport links between the school and you parents/guardians make everyone life easier.
Spending time getting it right now will pay off in the long term it's much harder to move an unhappy child after 2 terms as your choices will be significantly more limited.

summerends Sat 13-Jun-15 22:38:52

HG wave back (there should be an emoticon for waving smile )

happygardening Sun 14-Jun-15 06:39:52

I think I'll suggest it.

Ahwoo Sun 14-Jun-15 08:12:54

milly yes Heathrow. My understanding was that most schools have buses, or can help with transportation from the airport for the younger children. I think the schools with the bigger %'s of overseas children do at least. So I'm not that concerned on the distance from airport.
But your point on full boarding and the issue of exeats is well noted.

happy summer thanks for your comments too.
DD is only applying to single-sex institutions. Unlike DS, who's late to this boarding concept and rather wishy-washy when it comes to making decisions, she decided years ago she wanted to study in the UK preferably w/o having boys around.

As for visiting, we're at the end of summer term, and most schools are not open for visits during the school holidays. Interviews for DS will commence in mid-September. Timing wise, I'm just not able to squeeze in a visit before that.

happygardening Sun 14-Jun-15 08:18:17

If you really can't visit do choose ones which are primarily full boarding e.g. Kings Canterbury or St Edwards especially if your DS is a "people person" otherwise he's going to spend many weekends with only at best only a handful of others in a similar situation.

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