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PostPosted: Thu Oct 22, 2015 7:38 am 
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We have a lovely dilemma but would really appreciate any feedback from current Dartford Grammar (boys) parents....

My son scored highly in Kent and Bexley and we have narrowed down our top two choices to Dartford and the Judd, with Dartford currrently top of his list. We live near Orpington but didn't feel that any of our closer options were a good 'fit' for him. He would take the school coach to Dartford, a long but straightforward journey.

Academically it looks great and we have been impressed with their open events. However, does anyone have any views - good or bad - on pastoral care and general well-being of the boys? Are staff alert to signs of stress or problems? Are boys helped along if struggling with a subject? Are boys generally competitive (academically) or supportive of each other? Is classroom behaviour generally good? Are the shy ones given space to find their feet or are they thrust into activities to 'bring them out of their shells'?

Apologies for all the questions - would be so helpful to hear any first hand experiences before we submit our CAF.

Thank you.


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 22, 2015 11:00 am 
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chg-2003 wrote:
We have a lovely dilemma but would really appreciate any feedback from current Dartford Grammar (boys) parents....

My son scored highly in Kent and Bexley and we have narrowed down our top two choices to Dartford and the Judd, with Dartford currrently top of his list. We live near Orpington but didn't feel that any of our closer options were a good 'fit' for him. He would take the school coach to Dartford, a long but straightforward journey.

Academically it looks great and we have been impressed with their open events. However, does anyone have any views - good or bad - on pastoral care and general well-being of the boys? Are staff alert to signs of stress or problems? Are boys helped along if struggling with a subject? Are boys generally competitive (academically) or supportive of each other? Is classroom behaviour generally good? Are the shy ones given space to find their feet or are they thrust into activities to 'bring them out of their shells'?

Apologies for all the questions - would be so helpful to hear any first hand experiences before we submit our CAF.

Thank you.

I guess you have been to see them all? Tonight is the last open evening. Have you worked out the logistics? Is one school easier to get to than the other?

My son goes to Dartford Grammar and he is very happy there. We are out of area, but his journey is direct and easy on the train. He also travels with friends and this is great for him. I know there are boys from Orpington who travel by coach. I believe the coach leaves them at the school early and they have time to play football before classes start. The journey by coach and the early drop off can give great opportunities for socialising.

In spite of being from out of area, my son has made great friends and they often meet at Bluewater during the holidays. I think it depends on the child.

About the school itself, well, it is great. I like the fact that it is a truly international school were languages and science are very important. Dartford Grammar is one of few schools were ALL students are entered to take TWO languages at GCSE level. So, their statistics are not just great scores for the few who got entered for the exam. Many schools manipulate their results by not letting children sit exams they may either fail or not get the results they want. They are very professional, conscientious and very well organised. The teachers are excellent and treat the children well. Having said that, discipline is also enforced and at the beginning, the teachers appear to be very strict. They loosen up later!

There are lots of school clubs and the boys are encouraged to attend at least one. All clubs are free.

They test them regularly and give them grades for effort as well as attainment. Should your child's grades, behaviour or effort slip in any way, the teacher will phone you immediately! I really liked the personal touch that the headmaster reads and sings all reports. I was even more impressed to see a handwritten comment from the head to my son.

At the school they are very keen on rugby and all students in year seven must attend rugby practice on Saturdays for the first few months.

You may also know that they do the International Baccalaureate.

Do you have other sons? At Dartford there is no sibling policy and if you are out of area, your other son would need to achieve a high score. This, of course, may not be an issue for you.

About pastoral care, the teacher in charge is very nice. All the teachers treated my son very well when we had a family crisis with both my husband and I spending a long time at hospital when my younger son was in hospital following an accident.

About the boys being competitive, most of them are. To quote the headmaster "Life is a competition". The odd thing is that they do not divide children into sets and to quote the headmaster again "All our children are gifted". Having said that, some are more "gifted" than others and if you do well in a subject, they put you on a "gifted and talented" program for that subject. Your son then would participate in activities which will stretch him. These sessions normally combine more than one subject and your son would have to catch up on the lessons he may miss.

My son is an extrovert, so, I would not know what would happen to a shy boy. Most of his friends are extroverts, but I can think of one who definitely seems shy. Normally, whilst they are in year 6, one of the head assistants or deputies visits the boys and asks them a lot of questions about their personality and the subjects they enjoy or not enjoy so much. This, I believe, is to place them in their houses with like minded children. I have asked my son whether there is anyone without friends in his class and he says that there is one boy who is quite demanding and can be unpleasant, but even he has a friend.

At the end of the day, you need to find what is best for your son. League tables and statistics do not mean anything as they do not predict how well your son will do or how happy he will be.

I don't know what else to tell you, but feel free to ask anything else. Whatever you decide, I think will be a good choice.


Last edited by salsa on Thu Oct 22, 2015 12:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 22, 2015 11:54 am 
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Thank you Salsa for taking the time to post such a detailed reply. It has put my mind at rest. I know there is another open evening tonight but to be honest, I'm not sure any of us can face yet another one and my son's mind is fairly well made up. The journey would be long but straightforward and football in the playground before school sounds just perfect! It sounds a great school.

Thank you again.
:D


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 22, 2015 12:19 pm 
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You are welcome :D


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 22, 2015 1:31 pm 
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Thanks, I also found this very helpful.

My son is completely certain that he wants to go there if he doesn't get olaves. This is really because his best friend has put it as top choice, and based on previous years scores, they should both get in. I realise we have been very lucky.

My big worry is the IB. I may just be being a Luddite, but I like a-levels. I like the specialisation and the choice. I'm worried that a child who is really good at maths and physics might be penalised for not being that good at Italian literature or something. I'm worried that dartford sounds like it prides itself on taking the difficult option. Personally I'd like a school to pick the easiest possible syllabus and everyone gets an A*. I'm not sure employers know what IB points mean - I certainly don't.

I'm also nervous about everyone having to play rugby. When can they give it up? It is not a game I'm fond of (for personal reasons). Is it 'proper' rugby? I wouldn't mind so much if it was the other kind, but I don't want him going anywhere near a scrum.

I'm sure it is a great school, these are just my anxieties. On the other hand, there's a nice safe school bus, which is very reassuring.

It's a stressful time, with big life-changing decisions for all of us. I just want to get it right! I'd appreciate any further views / info.


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 22, 2015 1:49 pm 
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Happy hamster wrote:
Thanks, I also found this very helpful.

My son is completely certain that he wants to go there if he doesn't get olaves. This is really because his best friend has put it as top choice, and based on previous years scores, they should both get in. I realise we have been very lucky.

My big worry is the IB. I may just be being a Luddite, but I like a-levels. I like the specialisation and the choice. I'm worried that a child who is really good at maths and physics might be penalised for not being that good at Italian literature or something. I'm worried that dartford sounds like it prides itself on taking the difficult option. Personally I'd like a school to pick the easiest possible syllabus and everyone gets an A*. I'm not sure employers know what IB points mean - I certainly don't.

I'm also nervous about everyone having to play rugby. When can they give it up? It is not a game I'm fond of (for personal reasons). Is it 'proper' rugby? I wouldn't mind so much if it was the other kind, but I don't want him going anywhere near a scrum.

I'm sure it is a great school, these are just my anxieties. On the other hand, there's a nice safe school bus, which is very reassuring.

It's a stressful time, with big life-changing decisions for all of us. I just want to get it right! I'd appreciate any further views / info.


I wouldn't worry about the IB. If it was so crucial that your child needed A levels, you could always look for another school for the Sixth Form. Having said that, I spoke to a teacher about that and he said that it was very unlikely to a University to demand A levels, but should this be so, they would help the student with A levels. You would have to double check about this. Moreover, what matters more to employers is what university you went to and how well you did. At Dartford they believe in languages, that is why it is a language specialised school and a truly international school. All boys take two Cambridge IGCSEs one of which will be either Japanese or Mandarin.

My son's friend goes to St Olave's and during their first parent evening his parents were told that their son should not take a language GCSE as he was not very good. This would be unheard of at Dartford.

Moreover, you need 6 As, 3 Bs and 1 C to stay in the Sixth Form at St Olave's and 4As and 3 Bs for Dartford. You could ask how many stay at their Sixth Form at either school.

Please don't worry about rugby, I don't like it either. I can imagine my child with a brain injury every time. However, they pretty much can give it up after Christmas and they also play rugby at St Olave's. Oh, yes, it is proper rugby and there are scrums and such like. All boys can wear a protective rugby cap. If it was up to me, I would definitely make it compulsory and ban tackling!

About Dartford picking the hard option, I think it is picking the BEST option to prepare a child for this very competitive world.


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 22, 2015 3:06 pm 
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My youngest DS is in year 13 at DGS and has been there since Year 7, my two older DSs were at St Olave's, and if I had a fourth DS(!) I would choose DGS again. It is a fantastic school both academically and in its wider education including pastoral care. They are very supportive and encourage students to get involved in a wide variety of activities.

I have been very impressed with the IB as it provides a much broader education. My nephew left DGS last year and was initially very keen on maths type subjects for the sixth form, but in the end achieved his best score in English (and enjoyed it too).


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 22, 2015 4:19 pm 
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Thank you for your input Jiffreturns, that's great to hear. We are close to St Olaves but decided it definitely wasn't for DS as it seemed too focussed on results and Oxbridge whereas Dartford seems keen on providing an interesting curriculum and appears less pressured.

Really appreciate your reply. :D


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 22, 2015 4:53 pm 
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chg-2003 I think you are spot on! St Olave's was somewhat different when my older DSs first went there but since the current Head took over it seems to be focussed on exam results, Oxbridge/leavers' destinations, in fact anything that can be measured in a league table. I think the different approaches of the two schools is reflected in the welcome statements given by the Headmasters on their websites.

Good luck in whatever you decide for your DS, you have 2 great choices.


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 22, 2015 8:28 pm 
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Salsa - thank you for your thoughtful post! Very kind and helpful. We did not get on that well at the open evening, too much talk of Saturday rugby seemed to push him over the edge! Maybe DS was just tired. Will review in the morning!


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