Views on Westminster School(8 Posts)
Our DS is a very bright boy who somehow managed to get conditional places at Westminster/St Paul's/KCS . His and our heart is kind of set on Westminster rather than St Paul's or KCS even though we live in SW6. Reasons why: he is quite quirky, excels in maths and loves English, not into rugby or football but rather individual sports.
We are quite an international family with no real English culture links but he does love all the traditions linked to the school. My only worry is: will he fit in?
I am not too worried about academics because all three schools are brilliant but more about the social aspects. Looking at feeder schools it seems most boys are coming from either WU or Hamstead schools with very public school background (and frankly some parents seem scary pushy).
I would appreciate some informed opinions about the school PLEASE!
A decade ago DS had offers from Westminster and SPS. Westminster made his eyes light up, SPS did not. I think he thought he would be going to Hogwarts. He went and loved every minute. For him it was the perfect school. Lots of clever friends and interesting teachers. He was happy playing football but slowly drifted towards climbing to join his friends. Other friends discovered fencing, shooting or real tennis, sports which may stay with them for life.
Westminster is hugely international yet curiously British. Only a quarter of my son's class had four British born grandparents, and I suspect a good portion of those may have international origins. Just look at the names on the scholars list. My own view is that boys like traditions, and this helps them feel they belong. Tradition is a lot lighter at Westminster than some other public schools (no silly uniform), though I have heard one parent complain that she felt uncomfortable with the Britishness and in retrospect might have preferred an International/American school. I think in contrast that the house system and the sense of belonging helps protect pupils from some of the extreme tiger parenting that exists in London's extremely cosmopolitan demographic. Westminster does things Westminster's way, very sucessfully, and that is it.
My DD attended Westminster 6th form. It is really quite an extraordinary school but definitely does not suit everyone. In the 6th form, they were pretty much expected to teach themselves the syllabus while the teachers went off topic to extend the pupils. I think this is why they get almost 50% of pupils into Oxbridge but it also means a minority of 6th formers do not do as well as they would at a more exam focused school. There is a very large percentage of foreign pupils, probably over half, so that is not an issue.
My DD loved attending assemblies in Westminster Abbey and the whole feel of the place is very special. I think it is an enormous privilege to attend the school.
Thank you so much for the feedback. It's always useful to have feedback from people that have first hand experience. Frankly, all the schools we've visited seem great and it's so hard to choose. Our DS is 11 and who can tell how he will be at 16!
He does love learning, interested in almost everything and completely self driven. It seems he will fit right in.
I do feel though that some other London day schools are much better at selling themselves. It might be because WS doesn't need to but still...
"In the 6th form, they were pretty much expected to teach themselves the syllabus while the teachers went off topic to extend the pupils. I think this is why they get almost 50% of pupils into Oxbridge but it also means a minority of 6th formers do not do as well as they would at a more exam focused school."
What an interesting point. This is exactly what Lycée Henri IV and Lycée Louis le Grand do, with similar outcomes in the bac (some pupils underperform relative to expectations). Of course, that doesn't really matter in France since HE offers are not conditional on bac grades.
I second what needmore and jeanne say about W.
My DD joined this September and says that the style of teaching is very different to what she is used to. The perfect antidote to the GCSE 'do this to get an A*' process.
advantages of Westminster over the other options include
1. Boarding. This means the school is open and active for much longer. DS liked to go in for breakfast, and in sixth form used to work in the library and stay for supper. Indeed in sixth form he discovered he could join his friends for Sunday brunch.
2. Girls in sixth form. This may not seem important now but makes a huge difference. First having a big intake at 16 is positive and causes new friendships to form. Girls also tend to work harder which causes boys to up their game, and will challenge the boys if their behaviour or attitudes are insensitive.
I would not worry about the big intakes from WU and The Hall. Boys come from all over with big contingents from South and West London. Many will be the only boy from their school. There will be some who stick to existing friendship groups, but they will be a minority, and their loss. A reasonable number from WU will be on bursaries.
OP -- Well done to your son for having such great offers! It sounds like you've made your decision and just need encouragement it's the "right" one. Westminster does indeed have many attractions.
However, there is no reason a "quirky boy with interest in Maths and individual sports" would not be equally happy at SPS or King's. I am more familiar with SPS than with King's so can offer the following observations:
1) while SPS does have strong team sports, only a relatively small number of boys are involved with rugby, football and cricket. The rest pursue a wide range of other sports to a very high level, with notable strengths in rowing, fives, swimming and fencing. It is indeed a school where boys can develop skills and interests in a wide range of sports -- and where they can practice their sports on-site during breaks, lunch or after school.
2) I think Sixth form at any of these schools is equally stimulating, with teaching more akin to universities than secondary schools. SPS has an independent cross-curricular research project alongside A-levels which gives an additional opportunity for students to stretch themselves intellectually
3) Although there are no girls at the school, there are many opportunities to work with girls in drama, music and some academic programmes and sports (as well as, of course, social events)
4) Recent information about air quality around SW1 might be another factor -- I would not want my child to spend all day in an area with NO2 levels well above EU health standards.
Best wishes to your son whatever he decides!
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