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Newstead Wood School: a warning

(124 Posts)
AnonymousBeing Fri 05-Jan-18 18:41:00

I'm writing this largely because I don't know how else to protect girls from this school. In my seven years there I and my friends never encountered anything remotely resembling competent pastoral care, and I've been left with the impression that this school cares about its grades, and not about its students.

Due, I believe, to the high pressure environment and lack of support, this school is a breeding ground for anorexia, depression, anxiety and self harm. No support is given for students who suffer from these, and whilst I cannot say for certain there were rumours that such students were asked to leave the school if teachers felt their grades were affected.

Students are made to feel that anything below an A grade is a fail, and below an A* is inadequate. Reward ceremonies after big exams are used to enforce this, for example at GCSE only students who get 7 A* grades or more are recognised as having made a notable achievement.

Bullying is also badly tackled at this school. The school will do next to nothing to combat bullying, and students often give up and suffer in silence when their complaints are not listened to. Attempts to stop bullying largely consist of team building activities in the classroom, which are deeply ineffective. The school is unwilling to allow students to move class no matter how bad the bullying gets.

They are also generally unobservant; because they only notice students when concerned about their grades, if a student is high performing then learning difficulties such as dyslexia can go unnoticed until university if they weren't diagnosed in primary school. This can be an issue because a lack of diagnosis can mean a lack of support and a lot of confusion for both the child and their parents when there are things the child inexplicably seems to struggle with or cannot manage. As someone diagnosed with dyspraxia and dyslexia at university, this is something I have first hand experience of. Instead of help, my struggles were met with perplexed teachers and the suggestion that I change subjects so as to get better grades.

And certainly don't send your child here if they might want to consider anything other than university afterwards; Newstead will force them to apply to university in hopes that they will change their mind and will be entirely unsupportive of their plans.

I'm sure there are some people who have enjoyed their time at Newstead, unfortunately there are far more who have been left damaged by it. So this is just a warning; I have experienced Newstead and would 100% NOT recommend it.

OP’s posts: |
DinkyDaisy Fri 05-Jan-18 19:12:42

You seem very bitter and angry. Have you recently left the school? How are you doing now?
I am not sure this is the best approach to vent your feelings but I do hope things are going well for you now.

airedailleurs Fri 05-Jan-18 19:20:46

I had a bad feeling at the open day there OP, when I took DD, and actually walked out as it felt so unpleasant...sorry to hear about your experiences but interesting that they confirm my impression. It's such a sought-after school though, I'm interested to see what other posters have to say.

AnonymousBeing Fri 05-Jan-18 19:33:25

This isn't about venting my feelings, this is about a strong desire to protect people; I've seen girls I've known since they were young go to that school and the change in some of them is absolutely shocking sad

OP’s posts: |
DinkyDaisy Fri 05-Jan-18 20:30:07

How are you doing now op? Are things going better for you?

AnonymousBeing Fri 05-Jan-18 21:03:51

Yes, but this isn't about me. The trouble is, it's partially the same thing that people are starting to say about Oxford and Cambridge- high pressure learning environments need good pastoral care and frequently don't have it. It's why I opted not to go to those universities. But because they're universities and therefore bigger it's started to end up in the news. With secondary schools that doesn't happen so much and I really think it should - it's feedback that's important for parents, schools and students. If the issues come to light, they have a much higher chance of being fixed whereas if people assume that that's just how schools are it will continue. It's so hard to find good information about secondary schools and I think more people reviewing their school experience would be beneficial to all.

OP’s posts: |
DinkyDaisy Fri 05-Jan-18 21:21:39

It's tricky. I avoided a school for my ds which is high pressured and the darling of the middleclasses. The thing is, the parents rave about it. It does favour the academic that is clear.
My child goes to the less favoured school in the area. He is touch wood happy and doing very well. However, parents can be scathing; those that don't send their children to the school and even ones that do. Shooting the school down that is trying so hard in an area with a lot of disadvantage.
I just hope my child comes out well rounded and with good choices to make. The school pushes for success for ALL abilities and perhaps does not have all the subject choices of the other school [no Latin etc] however- my gut says it is the kinder choice- the healthier choice.
We shall see!
Again- I wish you luck op....

airedailleurs Fri 05-Jan-18 21:37:32

dinky we are in a very similar situation with Dd, and I was apprehensive at first but I think with strategic tutoring it will all work out well for her...what part of the country are you in?

DinkyDaisy Fri 05-Jan-18 21:56:26

South east and non grammar school area. Lot of class divides with schools though...

Fineganbeginagain Sat 06-Jan-18 12:24:29

It’s a bit off slagging off a school like that publicly when they have no recourse to defend themselves isn’t it?

FanDabbyFloozy Sat 06-Jan-18 12:45:10

@Fineganbeginagain- really? I expect a tonne of parents to show up to talk about the support their own girls got.. That's life on the internet - all views are worthy of an airing.

The OP is raising a good point - there is a perception that certain schools are better than others when indeed they live off their reputation as results oriented. Only if you have very close friends there do you hear the real story (good or bad). I have witnessed this myself - what the kids tell others is very different to what their parents say. Maybe they value different things?

OP - I hope you've moved onto bigger and better things now..

Lowdoorinthewal1 Sat 06-Jan-18 12:56:40

I didn't find Oxford a high pressure learning environment. Nobody ever checked whether I'd done any work or not. Nobody gave any impression of being bothered how good any work I did was. You matriculated, turned up for lectures or not. Turned up for tutorials or not. Handed in a dissertation. Turned up for Finals.

In between just rowing/ coffee/ drinking.

Taught me a lot after being spoonfed at school.

Fineganbeginagain Sat 06-Jan-18 13:08:36

Fabdabby - yes really. If you say all views are worthy of an airing you will understand my view that this is a bit off. In my opinion.

FanDabbyFloozy Sat 06-Jan-18 13:14:55

@Fineganbeginagain - it's not off if we hear the other side as well. Whether we do or not, I can't predict as it depends on whether other parents are a) mumsnetters and b) actually disagree.

I do of course support your right to have a view that differs from mine grin

DivisionBelle Sat 06-Jan-18 14:05:41

“It’s a bit off slagging off a school like that publicly when they have no recourse to defend themselves isn’t it?”

The MN education boards are full of people giving objective and subjective info / views about named schools.

I have often seen this school mentioned as one to aspire to, so plenty of positive coverage,

Parents need to think carefully about these selective schools, how they maintain their cachet and the effect that has on kids.

The St Olaves scandal is indicative as to what goes on. How do you think kids feel when on top of their actual ‘grade pressure’ they know that getting kicked out of school is a real possibility if they are not contributing to the ridiculous A* % level that is broadcast on the website?

And parents need to be honest: how far does their own competitive instinct come into play when getting their child tutored for these rare super-selective places, and how does their child actually feel about the looming threat of eviction every time they hear their mother say, in THAT tone of voice, ‘oh Dd is at ^Newstesd Wood^’?

Girls selective schools do experience levels of MH difficulty and eating disorders. Schools and parents need to look at this with more honesty and more child centred integrity.

Astronotus Sat 06-Jan-18 15:11:12

As a former parent at this school I feel I need to support this OP. I am sad that her dyslexia was not diagnosed much earlier. Many girls enjoy the school but there are many who suffer from MH issues and the pressure on these girls is considerable. Historically the pastoral care was very poor, then the new interim head made many changes, which I hear are helping. There is now a vacancy for head and unfortunately this will be the fourth head in less than 6 years so I think that tells you something of the issues. They have used social media to give a more positive image of the school in recent years, but like open day brochures, I don't take that too seriously. Yes, A*s and As are expected, but then parents know this is a super selective school and have chosen the school for that reason. We found prize-giving ceremonies a joke, with, in our view , favourites among the high achievers who won multiple awards. Bullying was not dealt with quickly or robustly enough and there will always be issues with large groups of girls. Interesting point by the OP regarding being pushed to university. My child left for A levels elsewhere as we had heard that support in sixth form was limited. Experiencing another school helped my child put NW in perspective and as a family we are now cautious recommending this school to our friends' daughters.

Anonymous, I hope you are able to move on from these difficulties, although I would recommend you also tell the education authorities of the problems, especially as you have now left the school.

airedailleurs Sat 06-Jan-18 15:30:16

division belle great post and totally the reason I didn't even let my DD sit the entrance exam for NW even though she was capable of passing.

astronotus and anonymous I'm truly sorry to hear about your experiences. The school should not be allowed to whitewash its shortcomings as young women's mental health is at stake. Let's hope it's addressed somehow. Maybe the whole 'super-selective' ethos is flawed and unhealthy; I wonder if it will even survive, especially in the light of events at St Olaves.

BubblesBuddy Sat 06-Jan-18 16:23:06

Why did you stay for 7 years OP, when you were so unhappy there? Could you not talk to your parents about moving schools for 6th form? Are Kent Grammars super selective? Are they not a grammar school
county? However, a lot of the problems are because the schools have to have bums on seats, anyone from anywhere can apply making the competition stiffer to get in. When schools catered for relatively local children, they understood their children a bit more. However, if parents cannot see a school is not suitable, what hope is there? Grammars position themselves in the market. No parent has to accept a place there. No doubt they do expect pupils to go to university. That would be normal for any grammar school.

Grammars have always praised academic excellence with prizes and rewards. For centuries. If that is not the ethos for you, you don’t have to stay at a school or go in the first place. It does not seem to be a school that excluded pupils on performance but clearly it does not suit every child. Perhaps pushy parents should know their children a bit better and be prepared to listen to them and facilitate a change of school? Your story seems sad in that no-one listened to you, op.

bookgirl1982 Sat 06-Jan-18 16:31:11

It was the same 20 years ago. Fortunately my parents noticed my unhappiness and moved me out to a smaller, more supportive school.

MumTryingHerBest Sat 06-Jan-18 16:51:22

BubblesBuddy parents have very little to go on in order to assess the quality of the pastorial care a school offers. Blaming parents and children for the poor pastorial care offered by a school isn't going to fix the problem, nor is simply moving schools.

I think this thread raises some interesting points:

Taffeta Sat 06-Jan-18 16:57:57

*form? Are Kent Grammars super selective? Are they not a grammar school

Kent is a grammar School county

Some schools in Kent are super selective grammars as only the highest scoring get in, a standard pass won’t do

NW has its own, separate test

And educationally isn’t technically in Kent

Hamptonborough Sat 06-Jan-18 19:07:06

All schools have their issues. It's not hugely surprising that some will not have a great experience of NW. It's hugely competitive to get in, it's hard work when you're there and there are plenty of brilliant students to compare yourself too. In my experience its focus on academic excellence is exactly why parents want to get their daughters in. In my experience, when there have been pastoral issues I can't fault the school who have dealt with it quickly and well. Plenty of girls love it and are thriving there. I'm sorry that not all do, but I'm sure that there are issues at any school.

PettsWoodParadise Sat 06-Jan-18 19:26:46

Sorry to hear this. So far DD’s experience at the school has been very different. She is happy, getting a good education and no one she knows I know at the school seems to have the problems described. She has a lovely set of friends and they are all supportive of each other. She is however only in Y8. I have heard rumours of one class a few years above her that is said to have a catalogue of problems in one particular class but I have friends who have had DDs go through the school, one left just 18 months ago ago and they were also happy there. I have friends with DCs in Comps and they also have mixed experiences depending on the year and class. In my neice’s all girls comp in the same Borough a girl committed suicide a couple of years ago but that never made the press but as NW is a grammar it seems to be the school people love to hate. I know one parent whose DD didn’t get into the school and she used to take a huge amount of glee about any negative rumour about the school, to the extent she missed the fact her DD was getting bullied at her school and is now finally looking to move her. NW has of course not been perfect and it can be a different experience for each child. I know the headmistress who was there a couple of years ago was universally disliked and really rather horrid but she has been gone for a few years now and the staff and students are happier for it. I am not naive as to think things have a certainly to always be as good as DD is currently experiencing, but I think that would be the case with any school.

I certainly wouldn’t keep my DD on at a school she was miserable at or at risk in let alone insist she stay on there for sixth form.

MumTryingHerBest Sat 06-Jan-18 19:42:59

PettsWoodParadise - any thoughts on the 20.3% persistant absence? Is this in line with the other secondary schools in the area?

airedailleurs Sat 06-Jan-18 19:53:03

pettswood there was suicide at NW in 2015...

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