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omerset Indies - advice re open days, scholarships, bursaries etc
My two DC are in their final years at a great primary school where they are doing really well and are very happy. Although our catchment secondary produces good results I have heard very negative things about bullying and other issues and for this and various other reasons I strongly feel that the best place for them would be a local independent school so I am looking in to our options.
They are both passionate and engaged learners who always try hard, achieve really well in academic terms and also have a range of co-curricular interests, particularly drama, music and art. They are generally not sporty children but do enjoy swimming and tennis and are happy to have a go at new things. I am confident they will get excellent references on all counts from their current school.
I think they may have a good shot at a scholarship but DP and I both work in basic level public sector jobs and so would need bursary help to top this up. However, I am finding that there is very little specific information about income levels and how they take property in to account etc for bursaries/assisted places and don't want to get our DC's hope up if there is really no chance.
I would truly appreciate any insight you can offer regarding the local Taunton/Wellington independent schools or elsewhere in Somerset/Devon with good transport links. Obviously open days are coming up so are we best to go to those, or make individual appointments to look round each of the schools as I suspect you would get different perspective from both? Advice on the scholarship and bursary processes would also be particularly appreciated. I might consider boarding if it was feasible but would have to look in to it a bit more as I'm not totally sure whether or not it would suit my DCs. I do realise that quite often bursary arrangements are confidential so please PM if you feel happier with that.
Thanks so much in advance!
My son is starting Kings Bruton which does day and boarding.
Visit schools and find out which one might suit and go from there.
How did your search go may I ask? I am in the process of moving my family down to this area and will be looking at the Taunton/Wellington schools for our three kids (2,4,6 currently)
Ideally we would like a day school but no option it seems. Do you have any local knowledge of the reputations of these schools currently? I am sure they are all fantastic but I mean are any more set up for boarding / any more "local"?
I know you need to go and look round and we will get there but currently based in Oxfordshire (and have three young kids!) so not so easy to pop down.
Hope your search is going well.
Many independent schools currently have virtual open days available on their websites that could be a very useful filtering tool to narrow down the few schools to visit. I have just checked Kings Briton definitely has this available.
Brilliant thank you I will check it out
My DS is at King's Bruton. Wonderful school, plenty of day pupils and boarders so no one feels left out, plus option to occasional board. V strong hockey school, no swimming pool, good but not brilliant sport but still has at least 3 teams per age group. Fantastic musically, but for me its main strength has been in bringing my under-confident son out of his shell, they really take the trouble to get to know the students, find out what their strengths are and what makes them tick. Brilliant headmaster, couldn't recommend highly enough. And there's a train station 5 min walk away.
My son left Taunton School 3 years ago to go to Uni. I would highly recommend it, but as ever, it depends what you're looking for and what suits your child best.
It's about 50:50 day and boarding and the mix works well - neither group are "outsiders". It's not selective as such but caters well for all levels, offering A levels, IB and BTec. Good range of subjects and sports etc but not over sporty if (like mine) your child isn't into sport. Saturday morning school, but normally day kids can leave between 3.30 and 5 depending on the timetable. It's not like some schools (Sherborne I'm looking at you) where day pupils can't leave till virtually bed time. There is a good regional bus servce provided.
DS had a partial scholarship for which the process was not too painful. Not sure about bursaries but have a look here
There's also a virtual open morning on the website.
Facilities are good without being OTT. They are currently building a new dining hall which will be a big improvement.
The current head has made several changes in the management team which seem to have paid dividends. I've heard good things recently about the pastoral care.
Obviously it's several years ago now, but we looked at all the Taunton/Wellington schools and felt it was the best fit for DS. King's Taunton is very boarding focussed and we just didn't get the right vibes from Queen's. Turns out that was prescient as the head was later sacked for doing some dodgy things!
I'll tag @Peridot1 here as her DS is still at the school I believe.
PM me if you have specific questions.
Hi there @daddydaddaddad!
Sorry but we haven't made a definite decision yet. We have looked at all of the local ones and liked them all in different ways. Having looked a bit further afield though, we are actually considering Wells Cathedral School as it seemed to be the best fit for our DC.
Best wishes with your move.
Wellington school has day and boarding students and it has a very good reputation. I know the area very well and it is a school that locals and those from further afield use so there's a good mix. Blundells in Tiverton is easily one of the best schools in the West Country but it comes with a very hefty price tag and is known for being a bit snobbish.
@daddydaddaddad - I would agree with all that @mateysmum says about Taunton School. DS actually finished last year so we don’t have experience this year but still have friends with DC there. The pastoral care is very good. Not sure about currently but Queens had a reputation for taking all the kids that were expelled or encouraged to leave other schools in the area so had a bit of a negative reputation. Kings is more academic.
I have friends overseas whose DC are at Sherborne and they love it. Parents speak very highly of it.
Thanks very much everyone. Really helpful stuff. We are settling on the Quantocks I think for a home which makes sherbourne / bruton a bit too far i think (we want day).
I'm getting a
blundells - big name and posh (dont mean that meanly!)
kings - boarding focused more academic
queens - meh
taunton school - bit more local and "not selective"
wellington worth a look too vibe?
I'm totally aware you cant pigeonhole schools so quickly like this and you need to go visit and we will but its a great start for now.
Thanks everyone. Now to find a house...
I think that's an OK summary for starters.
Whilst Taunton is not selective, that doesn't mean it doesn't have good academics - gets a handful into Oxbridge most years. It has enough resources to cater for all abilities in fact I'd say that's one of its strengths. If a child has a talent they will nurture it. I hear good reports of how it has handled teaching etc during lockdown.
Anyways, I guess all you can do now is online research but looking at a school's facebook and newsletters on websites, can give you a feel for the atmosphere of a school prior to a visit.
Good luck with your search.The Quantocks are beautiful, but it really is an area of small, villages and can be quite a drive to get to the M5/A303. That might not be important to you, you may want to be very rural. Also, if you stick closer to Taunton/Bridgwater check for new housing developments as there are a lot planned which will affect commute times.
Taunton can be incredibly sport focused. Fab if dc's are very sporty, but they value it above all else and there is definitely a sport 'class system'. Those not excelling at sport looked down on slightly.
King's good but academics are shakey. Excellent facilities but again very sport orientated. Can be very elitist, boarders rule the roost and tend to come from very affluent backgrounds. Tends to be a little bullying over 'the right trainers'.
Wellington- good all-rounder. Excellent academics and sport, but not the pushy sport focus. Musical and good facilities. Very family orientated and smaller number of boarders than the others. Excellent pastoral care system. New head who seems very proactive.
Queens... Wouldn't touch with a bargepole. Children leaving in their droves. Absolute shambles.
Blundells- again good all-rounder but not a great pastoral system. Lots of bullying and a bit of a rep for drugs. Good sport, semi pushy, but not as extreme as taunton/Kings.
Our Dc's have been to two of the above and we have lots of friends with dc's at all the others and friends who are teachers at all of the schools. As you can probably guess we plumped for Welly after considering all of them. Our DC's our ridiculously happy. During this crappy period the school has been incredible. Full lesson timetable delivered remotely, full pastoral support, regular, consistent contact from teachers/Headmaster with parents. I know some friends at others schools above who have been incredibly disappointed by the school's shambolic response and have/are jumping ship to Welly.
Can't recommend it highly enough.
Good to know Wellington is on the up. When we looked round some years ago we weren't that impressed by the then head - goes to show how a change of leadership makes a real difference.
Just to say, my DS is the least sporty person on the planet, but never felt looked down on at Taunton.
As an aside, we rejected Millfield early on as (apart from the fees) that really does have a sports emphasis.
Yes sorry mateysmum.. Was a bit tired last night! Our DD was at Taunton. Very sporty, we felt she was pushed so hard and a lot expected of her to the point where that her academics suffered and then self esteem started to drop and she started to hate sport!! Moved her to Welly. Picked up her academics and has flourished at sport again as not feeling so 'hot-housed'. Now playing two County level sports without too much fuss. Lots of our friends are sports teachers there and I know they are under a great deal of pressure to get performance figures. I didn't mean to say the kids were looked down on, but there was definitely a thrive to survive mentality when we were there. My DD loves music, but that was totally dropped in order to make way for yet more sport practice. I sometimes, think that lots of schools- both private and state, forget that these are just kids and they are not coaching Manchester United.
Yes, we were offered a scholarship to Milfield - on the side of a pitch. Tempting--its always tempting! But we're really happy with Welly. New head is definitely very different from the last!!! Very strong and great with the kids--be it rather sadly remote at the moment.
Each child's experience is different - one school will be great for one child, not great for another.
In fact, I think if my DS had gone first, we would be still be at Taunton, or even King's. He's ultra competitive and takes it all in his stride- DD needed a bit more gentle persuasion in order to feel rounded.
Both lovely schools though and we're very lucky to have such choice.
Yes the choice of independents in Somerset/North Devon is incredible. There's something to suit every child (and parent!).
We moved here after being expats and apart from a family connection to the area, the choice of schools was a key factor in choosing where to live. We knew if our first choice didn't work out, there were other options to move to. Also, there must be competition between the schools for the limited pool of fee income, so that helps to keep them on their toes.
Yes, we moved down from Hampshire- another private school heavy area, and were really pleased with the competitive quality on offer.
You have to wonder though, with all this going on who will make it through. Park in Yeovil has just closed down and I know of another in Exeter. I would be looking at the financial strength of the schools if choosing a new one- also the quality of their online provision as I know lots of parents who are moving schools based on this. Although (hopefully) this situation won't last forever, I think that the amount of effort and consistency the schools have put in are a marker to how much they will value the children and parents going forward.
Facebook is a very good place to start- follow several feeds for a few weeks and see the content of their posts- you will spot the bluffers a mile off.
I think I have to agree that there is definitely pressure on the sports at Taunton. In fact my DS’s year was seen as very weak in rugby and going into senior school they brought in a lot of boys on rugby scholarships. Worked well for some and they blossomed. Not so much for a couple of others I think.
A friend moved her DD to Welly (prep) a couple of years ago from TPS as they weren’t happy. They are much happier with Welly.
@mateysmum - what year did you arrive at Taunton? Did you live on Staplegrove Road for a bit?
I think it's terrible for the kids morale when they fly drop in a bunch of sports scholars. We know of several children who have gone through other schools, putting in every Saturday and Wednesday (along with their exhausted parents) since the age of 7, to then have a big scoop of elites drop in their heads at year 9 and sixth form and they can't within a mile of the team.
I'm not saying school's shouldn't be competitive, but it does rather take the joy and fairness out of the game for some.
The schools then claim success on the back of other coaches/parental input without really ever having to improve their own teaching standards.
Sorry- gone off topic a bit!! I think I'm missing the school a bit too much. Supervising a full timetable for three on top of working from home has truly opened up my eyes how much the school does!!
I think you make some good points @glindathegoodbitch, especially about which schools will survive. Taunton/Wellington area has 4 independent schools. I wonder if it really needs 4 and if they will all be there at the end of this...
I have heard that Queen's is in financial difficulties and is selling off properties etc. Difficult to know if this is actually true or just talk though... If it is true, I should think they're pretty worried right now.
glindathegoodbitch I've pm you for some school advice if that's ok
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