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South Oxon/Berks independents advice - girls or mixed

(31 Posts)
Mountainscalling Mon 10-Sep-18 10:53:35

Does anyone have any experience/opinion of the following schools (aside from Co-Ed vs Single sex, Fees and travel, we've looked at those factors already)

The Abbey in Reading
St Joseph’s in Reading
Cranford House in Moulsford
St Helen and St Katharine’s in Abingdon

We’re considering them for DD who is bright but not super bright (so SHSK may be out of the question). She needs to be stretched academically otherwise she gets bored but can also be lazy if not given encouragement, she’s not especially self motivated unless something really grabs her attention!

The most important factor to DD is to be somewhere where she will 'get some attention' which has been a constant battle at her current primary where she feels she is always overlooked.

Any opinions (good or bad) welcome!

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HPFA Mon 10-Sep-18 11:23:39

I know someone with a daughter at Cranford - she said it was very nurturing but small so depends on your DD's personality whether she finds that cosy or claustrophobic!

The couple of girls I know at SHSK don't really fit the neurotic/genius stereotype so might be worth at least having a look, although personally I've always thought struggling at the bottom in a very academic school must be a miserable experience -is there a particular subject where your DD would get a chance to shine?

You could look at OLA in Abingdon - mixed and a wider academic intake. The children I know there seem happy and certainly don't conform to a particular "type" so might suit an independent-minded child?

I live in Abingdon so no knowledge of the Reading schools, I'm afraid.

Mountainscalling Mon 10-Sep-18 11:47:11

Thanks HPFA, that's helpful. We will look at SHSK but she certainly wouldn't be happy struggling at the bottom so we will be considering that.

DD doesn't really have any area where she'd particularly shine, academically I suspect she'll end up maths/science oriented but at the moment is a good all rounder and prolific reader! Not especially talented at any sport but likes to give anything a go. Plays an instrument but again, not going to shine necessarily, is just 'good' and likes it!

We did look at OLA but don't think the travel side will work (we know SHSK is manageable by bus as others do it from where we are).

Thanks!

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NellyBarney Mon 10-Sep-18 11:55:00

How about Wychwood School in Oxford? Very small but the intimate size would mean your daughter would not feel overlooked. It has a wider intake than SHSK and the Abbey but is able to support an academically able child.

NellyBarney Mon 10-Sep-18 12:00:45

If travel is a problem Wychwood offers weekly boarding at a reasonably fee. Your daughter sounds like she may actually fit well into a boarding school, even as a day boarder, as pastoral care is on average more comprehensive at a boarding school and a 'giving everything a go' attitude is what these schools are looking for first of all.

Mountainscalling Mon 10-Sep-18 12:51:51

Thanks Nelly. Unfortunately Oxford is just to far (we're closer to Reading) and DD wouldn't even contemplate boarding!!

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Mountainscalling Mon 10-Sep-18 12:52:42

That's too far obviously......

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DPotter Mon 10-Sep-18 13:12:52

DD used to go to the Abbey - Can heartily recommend the Abbey - supportive, professional and committed teaching staff. Just as good, if not better than SHSK- with whom I was very disappointed when we visited (although that was a few years back). If your nearer Reading than Abingdon, the travelling will be easier, especially if there are after school things your DD wants to be involved with. Very keen on seeing the girls as a whole person, not just the academic side. Very active sports department at all levels (which certainly wasn't the case with SHSK when we looked) and drama and music depts - again at all levels. Very keen on Duke of Edinburgh awards - silver and gold levels.
The Abbey does expect its girls to work hard but does seem to be very good at sussing out what makes them tick and how to get individuals to work for themselves.

It may seem a way off, the Abbey offers both A levels and International Baccalaureate - and gets very good outcomes for both. High proportion of pupils studying STEM. Also good at offering support after the girls leave the school as well.

As alternatively - have you considered Queen Anne's in Caversham - does have a high proportion of day pupils given its a boarding school and the school week is geared for boarders, but good results and friends with DD there are very complimentary about it.

St Joe's is picking itself up and again -good reports from friends.

St Joe's is the only day school that's co-ed; Leighton Park and Pangbourne college are co-ed boarding schools with day pupils, but I'm not as up to date with either of these.

Mountainscalling Mon 10-Sep-18 14:31:47

Many thanks DPotter. Good to hear that about the Abbey. DD will work hard but finding what makes her tick will be crucial!

Queen Anne's and Leighton Park are both a bit more expensive so at the moment we're not really considering them.

Interesting that you say St Joe's is 'picking itself up again', has its reputation not been great previously?

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DPotter Mon 10-Sep-18 15:20:02

St Joe's was a bit low about 5 years ago. new head has breathed more get up and go into the school. A neighbours 2 children went there - one at RG uni and 2nd now in u6.
QAS is eye wateringly expensive !

Do go along to the open days

HPFA Mon 10-Sep-18 17:37:07

DPotter

DD's state school had a match at SHSK and one of the accompanying parents said she'd expected to be overwhelmed by the superiority of the facilities but really wasn't.

I have heard anecdotally about one or two girls being really unhappy there. I suspect this is less the fault of the school but more parents getting carried away with the prestige of passing the exam and convincing themselves it's right for their daughter when it really isn't.

DPotter Mon 10-Sep-18 22:09:47

As I said - we were disappointed with SHSK, but that was 6-7 years ago and things do change.
My general advice would be to visit the schools early and often. We went to open days in year 4 & 5 to get the feel of places. It's more important to get a good fit of pupil to school than just going to a school with a 'good' reputation.

NeedingCoffee Tue 11-Sep-18 07:02:17

SHSK is definitely best for those who will be in the top half of the cohort; stating the obvious to some extent but it really isn’t a school where you’d want to be struggling. A friend questioned the class sizes at an open day recently and the head said “this is a SELECTIVE school Mrs X; there is no need for smaller classes because we don’t have girls who can’t keep up”.

Cranford definitely used to be just small and nurturing, and I think it still is both those things, but the results and ambition are really going somewhere at the moment; a value-added score of 1.5 is pretty darned impressive to my mind and I now genuinely doubt the average child woukd get much better GCSEs anywhere else. Talking to friends whose children got gcse results this summer, they were very, very well supported and the whole cohort exceeded expectations.

New sixth form is untested of course but by the time your daughter gets there presumably more will be known.

NeedingCoffee Tue 11-Sep-18 07:27:08

Also, if you’re near Reading, what about Queen Anne’s?

DPotter Tue 11-Sep-18 16:21:18

Re class sizes - we were told the same at the Abbey - selective school, highly able pupils, no need for small class and to be fair this has been the the case. Although once in 6th form - class sizes did drop. DD was in one class by herself for a whole year for one subject!

Queen Anne' s not fair off double the cost of SHSK and the Abbey.......

Oratory1 Tue 11-Sep-18 18:43:39

I think you ll find the cost difference is down to boarding vs traditional day school. Even being a day girl at a boarding school will cost more - and you often end up spending longer there eg doing meals, prep and all sport/activities at school rather than leaving at 3 or 4 pm so makes sense. I can vouch for what has been said before about Cranford. Would be wary of our lady’s. We found weak management and average teachers - not bad necessarily but not any better than you would get in a standard state school. Can’t speak directly about any of the others.

Mountainscalling Thu 13-Sep-18 09:12:44

Thanks Oratory, hadn't thought of the fee difference being down to the school being boarding but makes perfect sense and applies to Leighton Park too.

Good to hear the positive feedback about Cranford House; that's the one we know least about really. Anyone know what class sizes are like there? Also at St Joseph's? We got the impression they were around 17 but didn't ask specifically.

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HPFA Thu 13-Sep-18 10:31:40

On the Cranford website they mention small class sizes several times so I think you can assume they will be pretty small - it's clearly one of their main selling points. Actually from your description of your DD and how the school is describing itself - it sounds like a good fit.

Always thought when DD was younger that if we had been considering private one of these small, nurturing schools would have really suited her. She's now at a massive comp which she loves!! So there's always an element of chance really.

Mountainscalling Thu 13-Sep-18 11:57:05

Thanks HPFA. Totally agree with the 'element of chance', when DD started primary we had a choice of a small cosy half form intake school or 'large' two form entry. We thought she might struggle with the size of the larger school but she breezed it from day 1!

Such difficult decisions, and we haven't ruled out state for year 7 either, just trying to look at all the options.

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NeedingCoffee Fri 14-Sep-18 18:05:18

My understanding is that Cranford Y7-9 classes are about 15-18 and then smaller for GCSE classes depending who chooses what. Junior school classes are 13-19. I wouldn’t delay too much having a look around; the junior school is now really popular (3 classes for the first time ever in year 6 this year, around 44 kids) and that limits the number of y7 spaces - y7 was traditionally 45 pupils in 3 classes. Some will leave at the end of y6 but unless a good few do leave, or they expand y7, they won’t have many y7 spaces next year. Being non-selective inevitably means “selection by first past the post”.

justkeepmoving Fri 14-Sep-18 20:45:36

Friends son just left St Josephs. loved it and did really well. Had a really nice group of friends, male and female. he is outgoing but not genius. really enjoyed taking part in the drama-musical productions

Halloween73 Mon 24-Sep-18 09:06:38

@DPotter Hope you don’t mind me jumping on this. My DD is currently at her senior schools sixth form and now worried she’s made the wrong decision by staying. We have contacted the Abbey to have a look around. From your posts it looks like your DD stayed for sixth form. Just wandered if you can give any insight to life in the sixth form. Are class sizes very small, are girls well supported in all areas and applying for university’s etc. I believe there were 7 girls who started at the beginning of the term who weren’t already at the Abbey. That was a concern that if all girls were already at the school she may find it hard to make new friendships as so many will already be established.

DPotter Mon 24-Sep-18 10:38:14

Just off to work so can't go in to details - will come back later. However just a quick reply - classes are small - think the largest DD had was about 12. Very well supported for uni selection / application - both girls and parents. They also seem to support in what they call 'Year 13'. DD's year had about 5 girls join at 6th form and one has become a close friend so I think integration isn't a problem. The head of VI is great and he has a good team around him as well. Wide range of A level subjects on offer including IB, which the school as a very good reputation for.
Back later!

DPotter Mon 24-Sep-18 17:29:54

Halloween Reading back my last post - I'm not too sure what I can add. We have been very impressed with the school as a whole. If your DD is at another school, you will need to move her over fast - in the LIV, the girls were given until half term to make any changes in subjects. Are there any other specific questions ? sorry I can't seem to get my return key to register so no paragraphs which is awkward

Halloween73 Mon 24-Sep-18 19:16:37

DPotter Thank you so much for your reply and the information. That’s very helpful and nice to know your daughter had new girls start in her year. She has already changed one subject at A level last week so she is happy with the four subjects she has chosen now. We are visiting later this week to meet the head of sixth form and look around the school. Will the have to make a decision quite quickly as time is of the essence! Thanks again though, I can’t thjnk of any other specific questions!

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