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Sir William Borlase Grammar School vs Reading School

(33 Posts)
Hattiehoo Tue 16-Feb-10 21:01:19

I am looking at both of these schools for my DS who is very academic but not geeky by any means. He does well but generally does the bare minimum. SWBGS has the advantage that it is very close to us and the journey to Reading can be a bit of a nightmare. SWBGS is also Co-ed unlike Reading and that would mean that hopefully my daughters could follow him there later. However I hear various rumours about the lack of discipline at SWBGS and that it isn't "cool" to be hard working (my son wouldn't need much persuading that this is the case). On the other hand, it sounds a lot of fun and Reading perhaps is too much all work and no play. Any information from anyone with knowledge of these schools would be very much appreciated! Thank you.

LAlady Fri 19-Feb-10 18:10:04

I can tell you about SWBGS. We have been looking at schools for our DS (he's year 5 at the moment) in preparation for 11+ next October. A number of the children from his current school go onto SWB as it is the closest school etc. Having looked at other Grammar schools, we went to the open evening expecting to be overawed by it. We weren't by any means.

The school has a specialism in performing arts so there's lots of dancing/singing etc. They have an excellent academic record, of course, but you have to bear in mind that your DS may have to participate in this part of the school day, a lot!

The discipline does seem to be an issue particularly the school uniform on the girls. Loads of very very short skirts. I would imagine for boys it could be a massive distraction. There were also some drug issues earlier this year (I know that it isn't the only school that experiences this but it was reported in the local press).

So although I wanted to be massively impressed, I am afraid I wasn't which is a great shame.

Don't know about Reading School as we aren't in that catchment area.

Milliways Sun 21-Feb-10 16:09:08

DS is at Reading (and another MNer had her DS there).

It IS academic, but the definately have loads of fun. Almost too much if I believe everyting DS tells me his form gets up too. They are very used to handling boys and have great projects etc to work on.

I do however believe the Star Trek day was just because the teachers wanted to see the film (day ended with a cinema trip).

Early Latin classes involved jackets off & re-enacting Roman wars.

We live in Reading & the journey is still a nightmare - sometimes think those getting the train in ghave it easier.

No idea about your other school though.

Hattiehoo Sun 21-Feb-10 16:25:45

Thank you both for your replies. I must admit LALady, my perception was a bit like yours of Borlase. Those skirts were unbelievable!! My DS is not much of a dancer either although I think he would really enjoy the music side of things.

I'm pleased to hear Reading is fun as well as being super academic. I think it is our school of choice and now all he has to do is get in!

mumblechum Wed 24-Feb-10 14:19:55

DS is in yr 10 at SWBGS. He's obviously brainy, they all are there, but by no means top of the class, if anything he thinks he's not doing well enough as he's "only" predicted 9As and 3Bs, whereas a lot of his friends, even the boys, are predicted 12 As.

Borlase is great in a lot of ways, certainly the academic expectations are extremely high, any slippage is immediately addressed by the form tutor or head of year. No one is allowed to fail, essentially, so the pressure is quite intense.

On the plus side, the extra curricular stuff is outstanding, eg there are loads of little rock bands who take it in turns after school to use the rehearsal studios and fully equipped recording studios. On the sports side there is a very good rowing team and ds has basically grown up messing about in boats in the evenings and weekends, does lots of racing at national level. There are lots of other sports teams, I don't know about any of the dance stuff, ds dropped it as soon as possible at the end of yr 9.

In a nutshell, Borlase pupils work and play very hard. There's a lovely atmosphere of fun and respect between the boys and the girls, without any pressure at all to go out with each other, but there's a lot of mixing at weekends on a friends basis.

We were hooked on the visit as it was a lovely summers evening, the roses in the quadrangle were in full bloom and the headmasters golden lab was padding around, the pupils were all very confident, polite etc. There's very little racial mix and the pupils are all, that I can see, in very affluent families which may or not be a problem. Many of them live in massive houses with tennis courts and/or pools which can be a bit offputting!

frakkinaround Wed 24-Feb-10 14:24:49

Discipline is a big issue. My mother occasionally subs there for maths and it's something she complains constantly about. The 'not cool' to work attitude is quite common and there seems to be a lot of playing hard and not much working hard going on. Incidentally I was offered my first drugs by a Borlase pupil...

I have to say I'm now wondering which Y10 boy mumblechum's son is because there are apparently only about a handful who actually do work hard in the whole school. grin

Not for a child with any SEN either!

mumblechum Wed 24-Feb-10 14:32:44

Ahem, Frakkin, have you looked at the league tables recently? Borlase are consistently in the top level with, I think from memory, 100% A to C at GCSE

frakkinaround Wed 24-Feb-10 14:36:50

Doesn't mean they do their homework! Of course they're all naturally bright but that doesn't mean they actually work hard in lessons or do the homework. Or it might be an issue for sub teachers but that says volumes about discipline doesn't it?!

Having said that you could go to worse schools in the area.

frakkinaround Wed 24-Feb-10 14:38:01

Incidentally, mumblechum, my brother didn't get 100% A-C in his GCSEs and he went there so if they're consistently in that top level they're fiddling their figures.

mumblechum Wed 24-Feb-10 14:43:48

Just checked, in 2009 it was 99% Ato C at Alevel, 69% of all GCSEs were A* or A, and they're ranked 50 in the country. Must be doing something right! Ds does about 8 to 10 hours a week at home which is probably about right.

I'll take your word for the discipline thing, not having actually sat in class at all, but would be surprised if they got such good results with lousy class control, tbh.

frakkinaround Wed 24-Feb-10 14:50:56

I think in some departments the discipline is worse than others. My mother teaches a compulsory subject and sometimes the pupils just don't want to be there which probably makes the fight 10 times harder. She adores RGS because apparently they're all so lovely and polite and the boys hold doors open for her shock.

I still think, although this is only hearsay, that it's a problem throughout the school which is a shame because when I was a teen it was lovely and I only didn't move there because I was midway through GCSE at my current school and on a scholarship. Just seems the reputation's gone downhill and the pupil attitude has a lot to do with that.

LAlady Mon 01-Mar-10 16:01:51

I agree with frakkinaround. The school's reputation has gone downhill and when you attend other school's open days (John Hampden, Royal Grammar School) it's a complete contrast.

jacquie Mon 08-Mar-10 19:08:06

I find this thread utterly bemusing. Borlase has always been one of the most desirable schools in Bucks, one which sees parents move heaven and earth to get into. And among the reasons it is so is because it produces independently minded, spirited, bright young adults. Does anyone seriously believe a school that gets these kinds of results lacks discipline? Do folk really believe drugs are the preserve of inner city upper schools? Isn't how the school handle the issue the point?

But the bit about judging the school by the length ( or lack of) the girls skirts just made me hoot out load. Believe it or not folks, this is the 21st century, we longer demand girls cover up in serge, ankle length skirts as a sign of their...their what???

terryt Wed 10-Mar-10 14:13:59

I was also hoping to look at SWBG for my son. He is mildly dyslexic but does very well at school and also at his verbal reasoning (without support at present school). I was under the impression there was good support via learning mentors, etc. at SWBG but I am a little concerned by frakkinaround's comment - not a school for any child with any learning difficulty. Could anyone let me know if this is the case with SWBG.

Also is SWBG good for rugby, tennis and football teams/activities for boys.

LAlady Wed 10-Mar-10 18:20:43

Just observing that from the recent round of schools open evenings etc, it wasn't the number one choice for a number of people who thought it would be comparing to the other grammar schools they looked at.

Terryt - my DS is very into team sports (rugby his big passion) but the open evening didn't sell the sports in the same way as the other all boys' did. There was a huge focus on performing arts.

LAlady Wed 10-Mar-10 18:45:01

Jacqui - unfortunately first impressions do count re uniform. (And again, I believe this featured in the local press a while back too). Certainly not a reason to judge a school, I agree. Judgment follows actually visiting the school itself, meeting pupils and seeing it in action........

LAlady Wed 10-Mar-10 18:47:46

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/2484933/Schoolgirls-urged-to-lower-skirt-hems-to-avoid-unwant ed-attention.html

There you go, even the Telegraph got in on the act

terryt Sat 13-Mar-10 15:41:54

LALady - thanks for your comments re the sports at SWBG - my son also passionate about rugby - keen to find a school with good sports.

PlanetEarth Sat 13-Mar-10 16:31:12

Don't know either of the schools, I just wanted to say there's nothing wrong with having your children at different schools. I went to a girls' school and my brother to a boys' school, and our own daughters may end up at different schools.

Kids are individuals and I am in favour of them going to the school that suits them best, rather than the one that suits their siblings.

hannahbw Tue 20-Apr-10 18:02:32

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hannahbw Tue 20-Apr-10 18:06:26

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jsmith007 Sun 06-Jun-10 23:37:22

Just a quickie to give a realistic account of one aspect which is certainly not lacking - the sport. Rowing is massive here (and RGS and JHGS don't even compare) beating most other public schools on a regular basis and having a string cadre of GB athletes in the pupils ranks, and hockey is very strong (particularly the girls - county champions throughout all ages 2010) wiht the boys U14 squad being the top squad. Other grammar schools can't compare here, despite what you may be told. Rugby is strong (although not as strong as RGS) but the football teams beat JHGS too. So Sport is modestly strong.

Results are great academically and lathough there may be issues with girls skirts, please, please put this into context!!

jsmith007 Sun 06-Jun-10 23:43:59

Terry t - be aware that there is a very full rugby programme at SWB with yearly tours and pre-season training. As the school is co-ed you will find there is more specialised trainig than some of the all boys schools by the dedicated rugby staff (and Director of Sport, county rugby coach). Maybe speak to someone who is an actual rugby player at Borlase? It may not have been mentioned by the HM at his speech but it means a lot to many of the boys.

MarlowGirl Mon 28-Jun-10 19:41:23

We are both Borlase pupils in our last year at the school, and we feel obliged to offer a true Borlasian perspective of the school and its community. We stumbled across this site whilst trying to find our internal school server and were utterly taken aback by some of the negative comments being offered. We can both put our hands on our hearts and say that Borlase has been the best thing to ever happen to both of us.
Academically - we feel we do not need to boast the schools academic record as it speaks for itself, but comments made previously about this being a result solely depending on natural ability are simply not true, as the teaching quality on offer is excellent and we feel that the school has prepared us in every way possible for the next stages of our lives. Support is offered to students who may struggle and all students are given the opportunity to thrive and are encouraged to reach their full potential.
The fact that it is a performing arts school means that pupils can be creative, have fun and participate in loads of extra curricular activities, however this is not to the detriment of other more academic subjects.
Borlase is very much a community where unfortunate things such as bullying are simply unheard of.
In response to the suggestion that work is considered 'uncool' at Borlase, we would like to point out that the vast majority of Borlase students turn out fantastic scores in both GCSEs and A levels before carrying on with higher education at some of the top ranked Universities in the country. To support this, we both have vibrant social lives, and many extracurricular interests, but both managed to produce all As and A*s in our GCSE's. These were not exceptional grades, it was the norm across our year group.
To finish off, we both wake up every morning looking forward to our day knowing that we will be spending it in a safe, sociable environment where we know we are receiving first class education. Also please do not let publicity about skirt length or drug use deter you from choosing Borlase, as these are issues that we can guarantee will be present in every school across the UK. Unfortunately Borlase received more publicity about these matters simply due to the contrast with its outstanding reputation as a Grammar School.

goodbooksinmarlow Tue 27-Jul-10 14:55:28

My daughter has just completed her first year at SWBGS and I can truly say it has been excellent in all respects. The standard of teaching and opportunities for extra curricular activities have helped her to blossom from a fairly quiet reserved primary school pupil into a confident and articulate 12 year old who is being encouraged to think independently and develop her personality. All the teachers I have met have been involved and committed to their roles.
I know many alumni of the school, boys and girls, now at University who have worked for me and they have all enjoyed their time there.

It's hard to form a balanced view of secondary education when your children are still in primary school and we all know how ferociously 'urban myths' develop through ill informed word of mouth. Borlase is a community school for pupils of Marlow and the surrounding area and in this respect, it performs its role amazingly well.

If your children do pass the 11+ ( and they may not!), don't hesitate to send your child there!

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