Badminton Downe House St Swithuns advice please

(25 Posts)
Ahwoo Sat 13-Jun-15 17:01:53

Hello,
DD has applied to all three for 11+ (Y7) entry. I've read a few older threads which I don't want to resurrect. If anyone has comments to add on these schools please post here. If they are sensitive perhaps pm would be better.

Thanks in advance.

goinggetstough Sun 14-Jun-15 06:42:18

Are you applying for a day or boarding place? I presume as you have DH on the list that it is a full boarding place?

Ahwoo Sun 14-Jun-15 07:38:54

going yes full boarding for Y7 thanks

happygardening Sun 14-Jun-15 08:03:29

Choose the one which is full boarding, I believe although as I dont have girls don't know for sure that St Swithans is primarily a weekly boarding school.

Ahwoo Sun 14-Jun-15 08:34:06

happy thanks smile
DH has the better, or should I say, longer track record on full boarding.
St Swith's is primarily weekly boarding, high ratio of day students, but the weekend activities list seemed quite good from the materials I've read.
Badminton is sort of in between the other two.

Happy to hear from others who have heard or experienced otherwise.

happygardening Sun 14-Jun-15 09:15:09

It's not just about activities it's about the school,community as a whole if the vast majority are at home over the weekend, your DC's won't experience living a large 24/7 community and the myriad benefits this brings.

Ahwoo Sun 14-Jun-15 15:53:54

That's a good point Happy. Thanks for that.

I know some of the schools with a lot of day students do group their full time boarders into a smaller number of houses, say 2 or 3 houses out of a dozen or more. I'm guessing its to try create the sort of community spirit that you've described above.

happygardening Sun 14-Jun-15 20:27:22

Some schools will group all full boarders together into one house some won't you need to ask your individual schools.
If they don't IME, but then DS2's school is very collegiate, most stick within their houses at weekends. Girls (I only do boys) as I've said on another thread may be better at socialising, at seeing friends form other houses or those who are weekly boarders day than boys.

Ahwoo Mon 15-Jun-15 08:19:39

Thanks Happy

And as another parent mentioned on a different thread - you don't want it to feel like an EFL holiday course over the weekends. wink

PinkPenz Sat 31-Oct-15 17:56:32

Ahwoo - which school did you go for in the end?!

Ahwoo Sun 01-Nov-15 10:18:59

Hi Pink

DD has conditional offers from Downe House and Badminton, subject to a satisfactory score on the respective schools own entrance exams. St. Swith's is dependent on the score on the common entrance (CE) exam.

Of the 3, I'm leaning towards DH the most. For DD, she's still undecided.
On her 1st visit to Badminton and DH, DD said she preferred Badminton, but on a subsequent visit she changed her mind and now favours DH (I think the new junior houses made a big difference!).

I don't have anything against St.Swith's, just that both DD & I found the staff and the students to be more friendly at Badminton and DH. St. Swith has a lovely DT centre, but DD isn't into DT nor art, so her preferences were more based on what she saw in the science labs and the boarding houses.

As St.Swith's isn't among our top 3 choices and the other schools don't require CE, we're toying with the idea of giving up on CE. DD will sit 2-3 papers (for each school) in January, and I'm mindful that doing CE would burden her with another additional 3-4 papers.

I'm interested to hear your thoughts (PM me if you prefer).

Needmoresleep Sun 01-Nov-15 11:20:45

I am not sure that the suggestion that choosing full boarding applies to girls as much as boys. (Despite many posts on the subject I don't think Happy Gardening has girls or that much experience of girls schools - they really are different.) Communities with just girls can get quite tense and a bit of quiet time, when weekly boarders leave, can be useful. Also if your DD comes from an urban background you might look at how isolated a school is. The chance to visit a local town on a Saturday and do some shopping can make a lot of difference. Also the mix of nationalities, and how much effort the school makes to help those, particularly from an Asian background, integrate. "The Asians" are usually quite a diverse group yet sometimes can be stereotyped as hard working and non-mixing, wiht other pupils not making an effort to get to know individuals.

Its worth also looking at sixth form. Relatively few girls are jolly hockey sticks and will be careering across the country to play matches, whilst quite a high proportion may be finding a school which had been nurturing, is now quite restrictive. Smallish sample, but the majority of the children DD knew who went boarding, both boys and girls, tried to return to London for sixth form. DNs, in a well known and quite trad full boarding school, when DB said no, simply returned to London every weekend for parties. Similarly large proportions of some boarding schools will sit for a relatively small number of boarding places in Westminster sixth form, with most unsucessful. Being close to a town and having day friends may help alleviate the problem.

Orbiting Sun 01-Nov-15 11:41:22

From observation I have to say that DH does n't seem to churn out girls that just conform to a particular personality type (excepting of course the socio economic criteria) but end up doing interesting things. As a school it is also very strong at drama as well as sport and music and IMO the preU is a more interesting challenging approach for sixth formers. It however perhaps has more girls who are not assiduous learners compared the other two.

Orbiting Sun 01-Nov-15 12:48:56

I partly agree with Needmoresleep. Full boarding is most of an advantage in the younger years and certainly sixth formers at DH have n't got easy access to get out and about. However full boarding once in the sixth form does work well for schools like CLC which are too far away to be London-centric at weekends (like schools such as WA) but have easy access to shops, cinemas and coffee places. IMO you should choose a school for the younger years especially if entry is at Y7 and realise that by Y11 girls in single sex schools will usually want to look at co-ed options even if they eventually stay. With regards quiet time at weekends then that depends on the mix of girls and the personality of the DD.

behindthetime Sun 01-Nov-15 14:11:19

Yes Orbiting - we discounted WA at it seems to be very London-centric, empties out at weekends and in addition to be very full on, we found the admissions staff impersonal - it was a cold place, not interested in the child, just the exam score, there didn't seem to be much fun there - it was all so serious. Or at least that's the impression we got (rightly or wrongly).

CLC - we liked the Head and the vibe of the school and that it was a town rather than campus setting. How well integrated are "The Asians" (as Needmoresleep says) - we saw groups of girls of the same ethnicity walking around together, talking together - not a lot of mixing. This would concern me in the boarding houses - do cliques form??....it was explained to us that you can't choose a boarding house, the school does that for you.

Girls change so much from yr7 through to 6th form. It makes 13+ entry look more attractive as moving again is less likely and being in one place for 5years seems more doable than being in one place for 7years.

Orbiting Sun 01-Nov-15 18:08:37

behindthetime I don't think the admissions team at WA do initial welcomes well but they are actually very helpful and kind after those first stages. CLC have a very impressive admissions operation but the school has got the balance of international students compared to UK students wrong especially from year 9 onwards. There are just too many for integration to occur however good CLC's intentions. That is a real shame as the advantages of having international students with a combination of cultures dwindle if the girls don't get to know each other properly.
It also means that UK students are in a striking minority and may be put off the maths and science quintet for A level.

I am not sure about later entry as those first two years can be quite bonding and even with later entry some girls still yearn after the co-ed experience by year 11.

Orbiting Sun 01-Nov-15 19:31:34

I meant UK students in CLC are in a striking minority doing the double maths, physics A level, they are not yet a minority at the school smile. The sixth form IB cohort has a better balanced cohort. .

Ahwoo Mon 02-Nov-15 02:52:48

Thanks Orbit & Behind,

I echo what you said about WA - the admissions team does seem a bit 'cold', certainly not having the same zest as DH or CLC.

However, I did meet with a junior housemistress at WA, and she had a lot to say about the admissions process. Reading between the lines, I think what she was hinting at was the admissions team were deliberately 'cold' so as to appear impartial in the selection process. I've no idea why they felt this was necessary, and thats just my interpretation, so please take with a pinch of salt.

Needmoresleep Mon 02-Nov-15 10:19:53

Orbiting, DD is a day pupil studying science A levels, and has lots of east Asian friends. They are a diverse bunch (Korean, Japanese, Honk Kongers, British born etc.) She regularly goes into school on a Sunday to do homework with them and occasionally one will stay the night either because the flight is the next day or after a Saturday night party (though in fairness neither DD nor her friends are part of the real party circuit).

In our experience Asian pupils make a positive contribution and DS had a brilliant time staying with one of his former school friends this summer, and was told to treat them as his family in Asia. However if not managed it can end up as an unhappy experiecnce for all, with girls from a similar background sticking together and not mixing.

I guess what has helped in DDs case is:
1. All girls start in the sixth form so few established cliques (other than already established London cliques given London private school pupils are only ever one Facebook friend away.)

2. Boys remain in the majority, and sciency boys tend to invite the girls they know, so a mix of UK and Asian. Also there are a lot of very bright quiet boys who make friends with quiet hardworking girls.

3. Day pupils are in the majority so plenty of UK based girls in science classes.

4. The school interviews carefully and is probably looking for potential contribution to the school as sheer academic horse power. And they can select, which may not be the case for all. And there are lots of things, like very strong music, which provide a chance for pupils from different groups to mix.

5. The boys are already a very international group, though all UK based, so new girls albeit from overseas don't standout.

6. Its an urban environment so boarders and day pupils often meet up for noodles on a Sunday evening.

There will always be one or two kids who are simply there to get the best possible grades and who don't often emerge from their bedrooms, but this is not just a boarder thing, and girls studying humanities will have fewer opportunities to get to know the Asian boarders.

Below sixth form will be different, but it would be worth asking about how the school encourages mixing. Not having a Them and Us is better for all.

(An Asian friend has a story about arriving in the UK at 16 in a country boarding school terrified. She lined up for breakfast on her first day for breakfast and, Asian style, put everything into the same bowl. Porridge, Weetabix, bacon, scrambled egg. She felt the whole school was watching her. Its not easy, and 16 year old girls may not have enough experience, unless prompted, to reach out.)

behindthetime Mon 02-Nov-15 11:55:03

Needmoresleep - I don't think anyone is disputing the positive contribution diversity and different people bring to a classroom environment. I do think a full boarding set up vs the Westminster set up are different though. Your DD can come home every night. She doesn't have to be in a dorm with a group of girls talking the same language and excluding her. I think that is what we are exploring when talking about integration. It is the 24/7 living with people and ensuring that cliques don't form that is a concern.

Orbiting's view is a common held view about CLC and I know several families who have not applied to the school for the reason of integration, or lack thereof. It is a perception that the school needs to deal with head on.

There is also a question about whether their results are heavily underpinned by very bright Asian girls.....what value do the school add to the 11+ entrants, given the large international intake at 13 and again in the 6th form.

Ahwoo - strange that the WA admissions team would deliberately be "cold" to remain "impartial" - I see the admissions team as the front of office marketing department !! Strange way to run a business!

Orbiting Mon 02-Nov-15 12:51:15

There is also a question about whether their results are heavily underpinned by very bright Asian girls.....what value do the school add to the 11+ entrants, given the large international intake at 13 and again in the 6th form.

I think schools like CLC would better reassure parents of added value to potential UK entrants if they reported the results and higher education admissions separately for UK DCs and for international entrants particularly at sixth form admissions.

Needmoresleep integration is possible with the right measures although I suspect it would not work with the weight of numbers of international students at CLC. As you point out co-ed schools have the advantage that boys are often less cliquey than girls.

Needmoresleep Mon 02-Nov-15 13:35:21

behindthetime - I was not meaning to argue, simply trying suggest factors which might help having overseas students be a positive not a negative. Schools should have a clear management strategy.

If I were in Hong Kong, and I am guessing OP might be, I would be as concerned by any non-mixing. It goes two ways, with both groups of girls perhaps choosing friends from familiar backgrounds, whereas all might be better off if they found common ground and got to know each other.

There are plenty of options for those who just want the results, like Concord, Cardiff and tutorial colleges in London, Oxford etc. So I am guessing that if there is a problem at CLC, both Asian and British parents will be unhappy. (Oddly it used to be Roedean who had the reputation of selling too many places overseas to the extent that the school became unbalanced and school life compromised. I understand things then changed, and certainly DDs prep flogged it quite hard as a destination school.)

The other advantage co-eds (Charterhouse, etc as well as Westminster) have for sixth form is that a proportion of their applicants will come from UK girls boarding schools, and indeed sometimes from London day schools. So a new intake will have a mix of pupils, and no need to have any one group dominent in the dormitory. And being in an urban setting tends to mean there is not the same division between boarders and day pupils as all can do homework till late in the library and can easily meet up at weekends.

MidLifeCrisis007 Mon 02-Nov-15 14:04:46

I think the future is very uncertain for SS girls boarding schools in the UK. The fact that school fees have spiralled higher and higher and grown much faster than wages is a big issue. Many parents today are funding fees out of the equity in their houses rather than income. In 10-20 years time, that generation of parents won't exist - in fact they'll be struggling to pay down their mortgages.

Only the best girls boarding schools will survive as demand dries up from UK parents. Filling vacancies with overseas students is one option but Roedean discovered it's not a long term fix as it will deter applications from UK students. (I hear Roedean has only 12 boarders in yr 7..... DH has a very buoyant 43).

I think the 3 schools that the OP refers to will all survive. Many others won't.

Orbiting Mon 02-Nov-15 17:05:14

MidLife I don't agree. The most academically selective girls' full boarding school with international prestige will obviously survive but need to decide whether to cap numbers of international applicants and if so how to maintain their academic results including their record of top HE destinations. (I think new sixth form admissions at these schools are mainly overseas whilst UK girls are more likely to select co-ed sixth forms.)
However there continues to be a UK and international market for girls' boarding schools that are less selective but teach well and provide all the extracurricular add-ons and holistic pastoral care that good boarding schools do.
Some schools cater more for locals (such as St Swithuns and Badminton) with cheaper day plus weekly / flexible boarding. However they have recognised that the investment for full boarding programme is worth it for the overseas demand.

BoboChic Tue 03-Nov-15 13:16:19

I'm not sure whether it's the cost of boarding that will be a deterrent for UK parents of girls, or whether the long term trend away from boarding school will just continue its slow but steady path.

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