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Eton visit

(38 Posts)
difficultpickle Mon 28-Oct-13 21:33:28

We attended today in the hopeful anticipation that this will be the right school for ds. Tour was good, our guide was informative and we saw lots of lovely buildings. We had a film and a talk at the end by the Admissions tutor which was informative and interesting.

During our tour we saw no classrooms, no science labs, no language labs, one teacher (in the DT room), no pupils (it is not half term). The latter was explained because the boys have an afternoon break in lessons until 4.30pm (our visit was 2pm to 5pm). We had a nice cup of tea at the end and there was one current pupil to talk to probably about 100 parents.

Is that a normal tour or were we just unlucky? I find it impossible to form a view of a school without having the opportunity to talk to teachers and pupils. All the schools we have visited this term have fab facilities so what will distinguish our choice will be what attending the school is actually like. We can only get that from meeting people who live and work there.

Interestingly most of the other people on the tour were from overseas although at the end of the tour we met up with other parents whose boys were attending today's assessment and they all seemed to be UK based.

Musicaltheatremum Mon 28-Oct-13 21:51:10

I would want to see classes in action. That's the important bit. What facilities do they have for science etc. can you ask to go back and see this. If you're going to spend that much money they should bend over backwards for you. They obviously don't teach road safety as my brother lives about a mile from the school and a lot of the boys think they own the place, walking into the road and just expecting cars to stop for them.

difficultpickle Mon 28-Oct-13 23:01:11

We live very near too and there does seem to be an expectation that traffic will just stop for the boys!

I'm curious to know whether we were just unlucky or whether we did experience the regular tour. If we did then I would want to go back to see boys in classes. I suppose it is a school that attracts more spectators than most. Our guide was keen to tell us which boarding houses Princes William and Harry were in as well as Boris Johnson and David Cameron. None of which bear the slightest interest for us. I wonder if that is why they don't time it to see classes being taught.

I'm interested in the pastoral care, teaching, food and extracurricular activities. The one teacher we did see in the DT room said that boys could use the facilities outside class time. I asked what he did to manage the numbers that may want to access the DT facilities (assuming you must have to sign up and maybe your time would be limited because of demand). He said that this wasn't a problem as not that many boys wanted to do work outside class time (at least in DT).

Fortunately we are close enough to go back for another look but many of the others visiting were from overseas so I assume won't be able to do another visit until their son comes for an assessment day.

Dibbleofficer Tue 29-Oct-13 10:01:11

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IndridCold Tue 29-Oct-13 10:14:56

We didn't see any classrooms (except DT and art and a bit of music) or classes in progress on our tour either, although we did meet some boys at tea afterwards.

I would imagine that it would just be too disruptive. As you say, there were about 100 people in total and they do these tours every day. I guess this is why happygardening hates the Eton tour so much, and I'm sure it puts other people off too.

The whole thing changes completely if your DS is offered place, and it's only then that the school opens up and shows you what it is really like; you still have two years to make up your mind, and people do change their minds and drop out.

I'm sure that a proper tour of classes and classrooms would be arranged if your DS had a place but you were not sure.

What did your DS think bisjo?

difficultpickle Tue 29-Oct-13 13:34:17

He really liked the facilities but like me would have liked to meet some boys. I'm just loathe to pay the registration fee of £270 just to find out if it could be a possible school choice for ds.

Having slept on it I felt that yesterday's visit was more as a tourist than a serious 'come and look at our school for your son' type of visit. I did manage to talk to our guide about pastoral care and the quality of the food in the various houses. We saw one boarding house but only the entrance and the bedrooms, not the common room.

Thanks for your insight Indrid it is interesting to know that we did have the standard tour. We have another year to contemplate whether to register. Ds knows some boys who have just started at Eton so I'm sure he will be asking them questions.

jokebook Tue 29-Oct-13 16:38:38

Agree with Indrid - we felt it was very impersonal until DS was offered a place and then when we went through the house process etc it was as if "the penny dropped". That's when we felt we got our information about pastoral care, the food, met lots of boys, and could see how our DS would fit in etc. The boys I know who go there are Charming (with a capital C!).

It's fantastic...for the right child. Ask your Head for guidance Bisjo at the appropriate time.

difficultpickle Tue 29-Oct-13 18:05:28

How did you know it was the right school for your ds? Or did you register at a number of schools and go through the assessment process for each and then decide?

jokebook Tue 29-Oct-13 18:15:18

the latter. He's also not the oldest so I had experience going through the process with other DCs. I also listened to the Head. IME, a lot of people keep 2 schools in the running through yr7 and then decide in yr8 and thats why waiting lists start to move in Jan-Mar of yr8. So not everyone knows what they want until they have to decide for CE entries (or their DC has taken a scholarship exam in the Spring before yr8 CE and that influences the outcome)

Dibbleofficer Tue 29-Oct-13 19:27:26

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difficultpickle Tue 29-Oct-13 22:31:47

Dibbleofficer not sure what point you are trying to make? If you have any knowledge to share about Eton then please let me know.

joke I'm glad we have a bit of time to consider but it does seem as if we'll have to register to find out more about Eton. At the moment I can't make a decision on whether it could be a suitable school for ds.

We have three more schools to see and then we can sit down and hopefully pick a top three.

Amber2 Wed 30-Oct-13 00:04:39

bisjo, (don't even bother with the troll) ....we had a similar experience on the tour although we did get to see a couple of boys in their rooms and have a good chat with was worth it though just to see the facilities on offer ..but we figured out we would have time to find out more if and when DS gets an offer as IndridCold and jokebook said.....I guess their pre-test and interview will help ascertain if it really is a suitable school for one's DS or rather vice versa ...we are registering for more than one school and we put Eton down because the deadline was looming - but it so hard also to decide at 10 what is right for 13+ (and I am sure there are many who are determined to put son down for Eton at before knowing how he would turn out because the allure is to Eton the brand or because they are OEs) but your head should be able to steer you in right direction before applying of course. At the end of the day, i don't care too much about the brand....i want to see past that and would want to feel my DS would thrive and be happy there and that may take the house visits and more in depth insight that that allows to determine that.

bookluva Wed 30-Oct-13 07:55:48

It might be that they don't like to introduce visitors to too many students for security reasons - some of the boys obviously come from extremely wealthy backgrounds. The usual route of league tables would provide info but it wouldn't help with questions about pastoral care, etc. Have you thought about phoning the school and asking to go in again? Some schools do private tours where you're shown around by a pupil. That might provide more of an opportunity for your questions. (By the way, if pupils walked out in front of my car, expecting me to stop, I would be straight on the phone complaining to the Head!)

IndridCold Wed 30-Oct-13 08:45:50

Well, I can't say definitely that boys never walk out in front of traffic expecting it to stop, but I can say that it is dinned into them from day one not to do this, and to thank drivers who do stop for them. If a master or popper saw them breaking these rules they would be billed.

Contemplative Thu 31-Oct-13 23:19:17

It's very normal for teenage boys to at times be oblivious of anyone else around them- whether it be cars, people in the street or people in the service industry. At that age they are just so caught up in their own world that they find it hard to empathise with anyone else, much less consider that they might be an annoyance. I have school boys walking out in front of my car regularly - from an all boys comprehensive. It does not make the Eton boys entitled just because they have done it.

In answer to your question about the tour I am pretty sure that you got the bog-standard one which does not interrupt the boys's studies/life within the school. If you were to go and visit Harrow or Radley I am sure you will get the same treatment.

difficultpickle Thu 31-Oct-13 23:21:11

Contemplative we visited Radley today and the tour couldn't have been more different than the one we experienced at Eton.

jokebook Fri 01-Nov-13 07:47:05

Contemplative - you are right about Harrow - our guide even had a tour guide badge on and we followed an umbrella...needless to say we did not get a good feel for the school! Radley only do one on one tours, no open days, so you get a very good feel for the school - time well spent!

Bisjo - what did you think of Radley? They would love your DS's music!!

peteneras Fri 01-Nov-13 18:49:22

When I was considering Eton many years ago, the thought of viewing classrooms, science labs, language labs etc. just never ever crossed my mind.

We are talking about ETON the genuine article and not some wannabe Etons that one finds all over the world, are we not? My philosophy was simple:

If the school could spend millions on scholarships and bursaries annually, in addition to millions more on its continuous buildings and other assets development and maintenance programmes;

If the school could spend yet more millions digging up a pond just to race boats; and if the school’s Music Department could embarrass a small to medium size professional recording studio . . .

then I had no necessity nor the desire to view something as fundamental and mundane as the school’s classrooms, science and language laboratories, etc. Somehow, I didn’t believe the school would play second fiddle to other schools in these basic faculties.

It’s a given!

difficultpickle Fri 01-Nov-13 19:01:11

peteneras I found it odd not to have any interaction at all with any pupils. We have looked at a number of schools this term and in all of them we were shown around by pupils. Here we were shown around by the husband of a dame. He was lovely and informative but completely unable to answer mine and ds's questions about life as a pupil.

All of the schools we've viewed have great facilities, some better than Eton's, but the facilities won't be the deciding factor on which school ds goes to, As I've said upthread the pastoral care, teaching, food and extracurricular activities - in that order. The only one of these that I found out about on my visit were the extracurricular activites and again all the school we visited offer broadly the same range.

middleclassonbursary Fri 01-Nov-13 19:38:02

I too have rarely viewed a classroom, lab, swimming pool. Nearly all top schools have these. I'm also never completely convinced either about the usefulness of meeting boys. Only a very brave school is going to let you meet the unhappy inarticulate clod who's about to be asked to leave because his GCSE grades are not going to be good enough.
I've always tried to get a feel for the school, watched the daily interaction between pupils and pupils and staff; far more informative.
Current parents assuming they are not totally besotted with their choice can also give an interesting perspective often it's not what's said but what's not said. Years ago I looked at a school with a friend who's a teacher she put an entirely different perspective on things.

difficultpickle Fri 01-Nov-13 19:41:40

I agree that classrooms in themselves are not interesting at all but pupils being taught in classrooms are. I also think that even the best prepped boys cannot maintain that prep in the face of lots of questions. You know whether they are saying what they think or saying what they are told to say. If they are vague in their answers then of course you know you aren't getting the whole picture. Some of the boys that have showed us around their schools have been searingly honest.

1805 Fri 01-Nov-13 20:37:12

In case it might help anyone on here, our ds has spent some time at Radley on courses, and thinks the food is really really good. It also has the best swimming pool apparently too!! The staff we know could not be more friendly and relaxed and we have altogether been bowled over by the place. Mind you, we also like Abingdon........

IndridCold Sat 02-Nov-13 15:29:12

' I'm also never completely convinced either about the usefulness of meeting boys. Only a very brave school is going to let you meet the unhappy inarticulate clod who's about to be asked to leave because his GCSE grades are not going to be good enough. '

Reminds me of a rather boisterous thread several months ago when someone who had just done the tour complained that the boys she met had clearly been carefully selected and were, therefore, not representative of the school as a whole smile. I think you were a bit unlucky not to meet any, though.

bisjo we have just had an email from the ISI to say that they are inspecting Eton this coming week. I'm not sure how long it takes them to put the finished report up, but it might make a few things clearer for you. I would say, however, that as your DS is only 9/10 you might have been a bit freaked by seeing a lesson in progress - I gather from DS that some of the teaching styles are quite 'robust'.

difficultpickle Sat 02-Nov-13 16:00:35

At the moment Radley is top of our list although geographically Eton is slightly more convenient. I always read ISI reports like a more detailed Ofsted in that it doesn't always give you the most accurate picture from a pupil's perspective. However it will be good to have a new report to compare to Radley's which was done earlier this year.

Part of wanting to meet pupils is to see whether I can imagine ds being there and fitting in to the school. I (and ds) can see that with Radley more than any of the other schools we've visited. The main difference for us between Eton and Radley is with Radley ds would need to get a scholarship to access a bursary whereas at Eton he just needs the offer of a place. Also Eton is so close to where we live it wouldn't be an issue to visit for matches or concerts.

IndridCold Sat 02-Nov-13 17:11:03

I certainly agree with you that actually visiting a school is a far more effective way of judging whether it is right for the DCs than any number of reports and exam result league tables. I think that Eton's size (in terms of pupil numbers I think it is nearly double the size of Radley or Winchester) does make it very difficult to really get the vibe on the tours that they offer.

Good luck with the rest of your visits - I'm sure that when you find the right school for your DS they will be happy to have him!

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