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Winchester, St. Paul's, or Eton?

(113 Posts)
PGWo Tue 21-Apr-20 21:21:12

I hope you all are staying safe.

My son is learning remotely from his prep school. He is about to finish year six, and our headmaster said he would be a good candidate to sit a scholarship examination for a public school.

Our son is very academic and dislikes sport. The headmaster recommends Winchester and St. Paul's, but has mentioned that Eton may be a good choice.

We want to give him an all-boy's, boarding school education. Any insight would help, especially about bullying and academic quality.

OP’s posts: |
talktalk2020 Tue 21-Apr-20 21:49:36

St Paul's is very much a London day school with a few boarders. He definitely wouldn't get a typical boarding school education there.
Has he done any pre-tests? I may be wrong but I thought Eton and Winchester both did pre-tests in Year 6.

ohnoquickhide Wed 22-Apr-20 00:30:02

Think you are too late for Winch, they sat the iseb common pre test in autumn year six, interviewed done last term and places offered soon for year nine entry 2022.

Growingboys Wed 22-Apr-20 07:20:15

Also too late for Aston

Growingboys Wed 22-Apr-20 07:20:25


happygardening Wed 22-Apr-20 08:47:07

The OP is talking about sitting the scholarship exams I think you can sit Election without sitting the ISEB pre test you would have to speak to the admissions dept to clarify this I dint know about the others. Competition for a scholarship at all three is very fierce and its not a done deal however bright your DS is you will need a fall back. Does your current school have a history of preparing a boy for scholarships into any of them this will definitely help. Some preps have a proven track record. I suspect most getting scholarships into SPS come from SPS junior or whatever its called now (used to be Collet Court).
All three excellent and different schools, some boys will suit all three but some will suit just one. A bright boy is likely to do will do well at all of them. Once they start having open days again go and have look and speak to the admissions dept they will happily tell you what they are looking for and provide past papers etc.
SPS has few boarders and I far as I'm aware mainly 6th form boarders.
Academically there is very little to choose from the three if you're looking at results although I suspect SPS has the slight edge. My DS went to Winchester (different head) it was unashamedly intellectual (other parents with sons at both Eton and win Coll said this) lots of intellectual activities, no compulsory drama in the curriculum although loads of extra curricular drama, sport was not big many managed to do no sport at all after the first few terms, it was liberal, little uniform, little meaningless ritual, a good place for lone wolfs, eccentrics and those who value there individuality as this is ever much encouraged hands off parenting (and thankfully few compulsory social events). Boys weren't allowed personal computers for the first two years everything is written by hand unless you have dyslexia etc. HM's are very significant in a boys school life. Its in my opinion living in a bit of a time warp especially in comparison with SPS which is on the other end of the scale; modern a very 21st century school outward (you cant help but be impressed when you go round) and we spent over a year choosing between the two but eventually we felt Winchester would suit my DS better it has a unique tranquility about it (I've worked in other very well known boarding schools so am speaking form experience).
Having said all of this this it has a new head so I cant comment on it now.
There is bullying at every school in every sector my DS said physical bullying was very much frowned upon by the boys but most boys are highly articulate so its inevitable that there will be some verbal bullying. I have no experience of how the school response to bullying but we found it a very caring environment so can't imagine its tolerated.
Good luck.

PerditaProvokesEnmity Wed 22-Apr-20 09:07:00

Rather a shame you didn't begin investigating senior school entrance before this. As pps have said, you've missed the normal entrance process for at least two of those schools - leaving you with no option but the yr 8 scholarship route. This is far from ideal - but not impossible.

Have you made it clear to your current headmaster that you only want a traditional boarding school? And do they have a record of scholarship success at the two mentioned?

You need to contact the schools as soon as you can so as to be fully informed of their current scholarship application processes. And you will definitely need to ensure you have back-up offers from other schools. You cannot rely on being offered one of their extremely scarce scholarships.

(Having said all that, who knows how public school places will be affected by the new economic climate?)

bullying and academic quality?

These are vague red herrings. If you're already at a prep school you should already know all you need to know about the relative merits of the public schools in question.

PerditaProvokesEnmity Wed 22-Apr-20 10:11:18

I'm curious - did your son only start at the prep school this year?

Because no headmaster of an academic prep school would be beginning discussions about senior school in the middle of yr 6. They would have missed the deadlines for half the obvious places.

Presumably you have already made applications elsewhere and have some indication of offers or waiting list places?

coronareality2020 Wed 22-Apr-20 10:36:31

SPS, Winchester and Westminster are eminently more intellectual and STEM than Eton. Perhaps less so in recent years but the profile is still very privileged compared to the other top schools.
A bit of trivia: no Chancellor of the Exchequer came from Eton at least in the past 40 years (haven't checked before) but produced plenty of well oiled and versed PMs. Chancellors have come from everywhere in the country, from grammar to normal state schools, and also including from SPS, Westminster and WinColl (current one). That tells you the profile a bit.... just saying.
gin waits for Pete to jump at this with plenty of other trivia to refute. gin gin hmm

nolanscrack Wed 22-Apr-20 10:51:33

Or to put it another way Winchester has never produced a single Prime Minster..and St Pauls just the one..

Bringringbring12 Wed 22-Apr-20 10:52:50

You have been let down by current school for not giving you heads up about this much earlier so you could properly research

coronareality2020 Wed 22-Apr-20 11:27:33

@nolascrack well with Eton taking the lion's share (god knows for what good and bad reasons), difficult for any school to post even one PM. Other forces may be in play perhaps?

It looks like you can be groomed to be a PM if you are decently smart (as all were, and some very very smart indeed to be fair) but not way you can pull it off if you don't have what it takes to be a Chancellor. Thanks god some things in this world are more than merit than privilege.

PGWo Wed 22-Apr-20 13:02:11

You're right, I mistyped.

I meant to say he is finishing year five and is about to enter year six. Sorry!

OP’s posts: |
PGWo Wed 22-Apr-20 13:05:30

Addington, a Tory Prime Minister, went to Winchester.

OP’s posts: |
PerditaProvokesEnmity Wed 22-Apr-20 13:14:54

Ah. Well, in that case, OP, I'd suggest you concentrate on the general application process (assuming you're well on the way with these) and see if your son is offered a conditional place in the normal way. He'll then work towards the yr 8 scholarship exams alongside his peers.

peteneras Wed 22-Apr-20 14:10:37

" Chancellor of the Exchequer came from Eton..."

OK, I did note you also said in the past 40 years but the headline message and the gist of it is misleading, to say the least.

Of course, there had been many OE's who were Chancellors of the Exchequer in the past - at least half-a-dozen or more: Walpole, Grenville, North, Canning, Gladstone, Randolf Churchill and Macmillan, etc. Most of these gentlemen went on to become Prime Minister, of course.

"It looks like you can be groomed to be a PM...but not way you can pull it off if you don't have what it takes to be a Chancellor. Thanks god some things in this world are more than merit than privilege..that tells you the profile a bit.... just saying."

We know what you're insinuating but please be assured privilege alone won't get you everything you want. Boris Johnson didn't exactly get to where he is today just because he's "privileged". He was challenged all the way through last July when Theresa May resigned as PM. And again in December but this time on a national scale in a general election. The Premiership wasn't exactly handed down to him on a silver plate.

Oh, btw, modern Etonians are much smarter than you think - who wants to be 'The Chancellor' when you can be his boss? grin

OK, jokes aside, but OP, given your circumstances I think by concentrating more on the Eton King's Scholarship is the best way forward for your child. I've discounted St Paul's because it's not a traditional full boarding boys public school that you want. WinColl is just too inward looking. Only thing I'm worried is that Eton is too competitive when you say your son doesn't like sports which is exactly where one learns to be competitive. This is where all the Boris Johnsons, Duke of Wellingtons, etc learn their trade!

And no, I'm not worried about the academics, bullying, etc at Eton at all. Academics, you just have to refer to the last few years league tables to see where Eton stands; and the bullying? It hardly exist!

Liam436 Wed 22-Apr-20 14:30:51

Eton is large, at 1,300 pupils. Also very spaced out, like an entire village. I recommend you visit it before applying.

Winchester is smaller at 670 pupils and far more compact than Eton. I personally would prefer this.

St. Paul's Boys' only has very limit boarding capacity and probably also has fewer facilities for boarders.

I have to emphasise that sport seems to be a very important part of the curriculum at most boarding schools and I think it's unlikely your son would be exempted. A local state school is far more likely to be flexible in this regard.

And I want to add that all schools seem to have problems with bullying to a greater or lesser degree. The problem with a boarding school is that there are more opportunities for bullying to take place and it's harder to parents to get involved to prevent it's escalation.

PGWo Wed 22-Apr-20 14:56:20

Could we please not turn this into a political discussion? I am not enrolling my child in school with the hopes that he becomes Chancellor or PM.

Now he dreams of being a Cambridge don. Last week he wanted to be a detective.

OP’s posts: |
happygardening Wed 22-Apr-20 15:07:14

"the bullying? It hardly exist!"
I think this is about of a rash statement bullying exists everywhere in school work clubs etc. Also what one person brushes off as harmless bit of fun another feels is bullying (no criticism of either intended). I remember once a deputy head at a boys prep once saying to me boys push jostle roll on each other usually its just harmless fun but sometimes they overstep the line between fun and unkindness often unintentionally and sometimes intentionally, it take a clever person to sort which one it is and then deal with it appropriately. As they get older boys "banter" amongst each other most of the time its harmless and the person doesn't mind but other times its not. It's inevitable if boys live together in a boarding house that this will take place (as it does between siblings at home), a good HM who has good grip of what is going on his in boarding house will again be able to see the difference between unintentional unkindness and deliberate nastiness and act accordingly.
Winchester didn't when my DS was there (don't know what happens now) have a major and minor sport this is great for the non team player because you can choose fro a huge variety of sports one that slightly appeals to you and do it to the level that suits you.
"when you say your son doesn't like sports which is exactly where one learns to be competitive. This is where all the Boris Johnsons, Duke of Wellingtons, etc learn their trade!"
I don't believe that sport is where you learn to be competitive (or that it's a particularly attractive trait) or where Boris et. al. learn their trade, I know plenty of non sports players who are exceedingly competitive so have obviously learnt somewhere elsewhere.
Lastly yes the stats show that if you're an aspiring DS PM then may need to go to Eton to be in with a good chance but personally I wouldn't wish that job my worst enemy but it's everyone to their own.

peteneras Wed 22-Apr-20 15:39:19

"I don't believe that sport is where you learn to be competitive (or that it's a particularly attractive trait) or where Boris et. al. learn their trade, I know plenty of non sports players who are exceedingly competitive so have obviously learnt somewhere elsewhere."

Like producing just 1 PM in 300 years vs 20, you mean?

peteneras Wed 22-Apr-20 15:55:25

"And I want to add that all schools seem to have problems with bullying to a greater or lesser degree."

I see what you mean and dare I say, I might even agree with it. But as far as Eton is concerned, it's good to understand how the school is organised, its general ethos and attitude, etc. You're right to say it's a large school, in fact, the largest British public/private school. But with almost 600 years experience under its belt, the school is run like a well-lubricated and finely-tuned machine.

Although large, the 25 boarding houses are run, managed and organised in a similar way throughout with perhaps the exception of College. Each house has a similar number of boys - around 50'ish [*College*= 70] and similar number (of boys) from each yearly cohort. Each house has its own flag/colours etc and the boys are fiercely loyal to their own house. Effectively, the 25 houses are like 25 small individual schools scattered around the Eton village.

But it must be said, traditionally College is the only house that all the other 24 Oppidan houses would like to beat in all the activities. Rather like England is the only country that the rest of the world would like to beat in all competitions. But all this is done in a friendly and genuinely spirited manner; even the "bullying" bit when certain boys may be taking the mickey of a certain boy or even group of boys for a very short period of time; all done in a jovial and good-hearted manner. But be sure the "compliments" would be reciprocated in due course. I've actually seen with my own eyes how DS (physically a big fellow) being taken the mickey of by a group of very small boys - all for a laugh. DS just smiled the whole episode away totally unperturbed.

peteneras Wed 22-Apr-20 16:02:08

"Now he dreams of being a Cambridge don. Last week he wanted to be a detective."

What makes you so sure he wouldn't want to be Chancellor or PM in 30 years time?

happygardening Wed 22-Apr-20 16:11:28

"Like producing just 1 PM in 300 years vs 20, you mean?"
This may come as a shock to you but it's not just PM's who need to be exceedingly competitive I work with very competitive people (some I find very trying) on daily basis none have set a toe in Eton and some are about as sporty as an ironing boards but they seem to be climbing the greasy pole very successfully and as I say I'm not totally convinced being exceedingly competitive is always a desirable quality. Still everyone to their own.
OP go and look at the three schools they each offer something different, dont be overly swayed by the views of others we aren't all looking for the same thing, ask lots of searching questions and try and choose one that you feel will suit your DS and you.

PGWo Wed 22-Apr-20 18:14:47

If you don't stay on topic Peteneras, I'm going to have to block you.

Choosing a school based on the number of prime ministers amongst its Old Boys is a silly metric.

The ribbing that you mention seems to be just bullying by another name. It's toxic and above all, asinine. It is exactly why I hated Charterhouse.
Hopefully WinColl is not like that.

OP’s posts: |
Wincollparent Wed 22-Apr-20 18:23:28

PGWo obviously there are some personalities at all these schools that may have a tendency to bullying but the pastoral care should keep that under control if used properly. IME Winchester staff certainly prioritise kindness and tolerance and I am sure the same is true of the others.
One comment from my DS, developing skill in banter is key to feeling part of it and enjoying it rather than a target of mockery. I think at all these schools the boys are pretty articulate and rapid thinkers and the style of banter reflects this.

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