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Teaching approach / quality at ‘top’ performing Indies

(12 Posts)
LondonJJ Thu 27-Feb-20 07:38:35

Hi all,

I would be interested in hearing from anyone with personal experience whether they feel there is any discernible difference in teaching approach and quality at top London independent schools.

For example is the teaching at SPGS more inspirational than at G&L? Of course the more selective nature of SPGS will skew their results, but I would love to know any direct experiences of parents or even teachers (do certain schools pay more for example, so they attract and retain the very best staff?)

OP’s posts: |
Pipandmum Thu 27-Feb-20 07:55:27

Good question! I don't have children at the schools you mention but have experience of four children at four different independent schools. I find it's not so much that the quality of teachers differs much between top schools as how the school is run, and the atmosphere. This trickles down to teachers and the students. So I suppose there might be a difference in whole school approach (as there would be anyway as all teachers have their own methods and styles).
For example on paper (and on these pages) not much difference between WHS and PHS but I found them completely different in feel and character.
Certain schools attract certain types of pupils even if on the outside the schools are similar in results and location.
But I would also be interested in what parents with children currently at these schools think too.

AnotherNewt Thu 27-Feb-20 07:58:40

I think the differences are not great, and the 'performance' of schools is more a reflection of how selective they are at 11+, 13+ and 16+ (and whether they weed)

Reputation is often self reinforcing (schools with an academic reputation attract clever and diligent candidates, who then are happy and do well, so reputation is reinforced).

At the individual level, the best school is the one where your DC will be happy. There is a lot of pressure on teens, and their wider wellbeing is important. That might mean a less fashionable or sought-after school.

Themythsweliveby Thu 27-Feb-20 12:29:43

Westminster and St Paul's boys have many Oxbridge educated teachers teaching their degree subjects (for Maths, check out how many actually have a Maths degree - sometimes even Phd). So if you have a teacher who went to Oxbridge then it might be easier to then get into Oxbridge because it can be a certain way of thinking at a deeper level. There used to be rumours of certain teachers also being the ones writing A-level papers but I am sure that most now be outdated (if it were ever true). But at 11 or 13 plus you are not necessarily going to know what A-level subjects your child is going to choose and any fantastic teacher might have moved on. And just because they went to Oxbridge themselves, doesn't always make them the best teacher, just as you get dons at Oxford or Cambridge who are brilliant academics but not the best teachers. So I wouldn't overthink it too much - just go on the web page and look at their university destinations and qualifications for the subjects your DC might be interested in. Some schools will also openly tell you their particular strengths e.g. Maths/Science vs History etc

Themythsweliveby Thu 27-Feb-20 12:33:58

As Another Newt says try to think about your child's fundamental nature and strengths and find the right fit for them. You know your child best. I have certainly been confused by this in the past - trying to convince my child they were a certain way to fit into a school that might have been more convenient for me. I think the way discipline is enforced can vary as well as things such as are they allowed to use phones in schools/class. Some schools give their children a lot more freedom/choice/liberal approach than others and that doesn't work for every child, just as too much control/discipline doesn't work for some

pasternak Fri 06-Mar-20 13:13:41

There is slight difference due to the fact most teachers are Oxbridge educated able to work quite fast with a generally smarter and more hardworking group (esp. at the bottom end where it matters). This means they have to do (and are able) something extra to keep pupils motivated. In another indy there will be a wider range of ability plus you might get 1-2 bad teachers as you travel through the school.

Mominatrix Sat 07-Mar-20 08:47:44

I had an interesting conversation with a friend who applied for a teaching position a school which is always in the top 5 of all lists and also have a son at this school.

His observation is that there wasn't much teaching in that concepts were introduced, worked through very quickly a the class moved onto the next topic in a speedy manner. This happens because all of the children just picked up the concepts quickly thus making the pace of learning very fast. This allowed time for off piste topics which came up to be indulged in without impacting on the curriculum which needed to be covered.

OTOH, if 95% of students quickly got the topic, there might be 5% which don't. Because the other 95% of students were able to essentially be taught lightly, the teacher had time to focus on the 5% which had more difficult whether it be in class (not usually) or outside of class (usually) with optional sessions specifically for that student.

With very relatively few students struggling, those which are are dedicated loads of resources and time so, in the end, all students do well.

IN terms of teaching skills, I think that a different kind of teaching is required for children like this with a broad a deep knowledge of the subject more important than the ability to impart that information.

HighRopes Sat 07-Mar-20 12:14:48

That’s exactly what the ex-Head of SPGS said in her book, Mominatrix. That she recruited for teachers with a wide hinterland of knowledge who continued to learn and engage in their subject for fun, as well as the ability to teach well.

Mulberry10 Sat 07-Mar-20 17:48:39

I’m sure teaching is different in these schools, but it’s unlikely to show in the GCSE or even A Level results as most of the exams are fairly formulaic. I’m sure it benefits the DC who go there though, and might make a difference in terms of Oxbridge entry. I guess it depends what you want your child to get from school

Mominatrix Sat 07-Mar-20 21:52:11

I agree that this sort of teaching won’t show in national exam results except to demonstrate 95%+ A/A* grades. Where this sort of teaching shows itself is in national and international academic awards won by the student body as well as the sorts of competitions the students take part in.

rockylady Sat 07-Mar-20 22:17:59

@HighRopes nice to state the obvious as the ex- Head of SPGS book Clarissa Farr's book does. Nothing to write home about in that book really. Nor does she tells you the secrets of SPGS or why would she do that so soon after leaving. Anyways the review of her book is a non point for this thread.

What I know is that the feedback and tracking of the girls at SPGS is second to none - sure CF's book doesn't tell you how they do that, but beyond the teaching, the tracking and follow up and deep understanding of each of the girls, including what they need to thrive personally, is what makes them an outstanding school.

jeanne16 Sun 08-Mar-20 13:54:59

Rocklady. Since many of us know of pupils who have crashed out of SPGS with severe mental health issues, I think it is not entirely true that they have a deep understanding of how to help all girls thrive. I know many do thrive but certainly not all. My friend’s DD concluded she was stupid midway through y7 and nothing much was done to help her. She ended up in the Priory for 6 months.

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