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PostPosted: Sun Sep 18, 2011 8:12 am 
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I am getting increasingly torn and indecisive about which schools to aim for.

A childless relative has offered to help with school fees if we go for independent schools, which is incredibly kind of him and means we can genuinely consider them. I have two in mind - both academic and also well rounded - RGS Guildford and Hampton School. Looked round Hampton yesterday and it was superb - best facilities of any school we've seen. And yet... there was something about it, I couldn't quite pin down, that didn't feel right. It had a whiff of public school about it, of social as well as intellectual elitism. Given its astounding advantages over other schools, I was shocked to see that only a tiny handful had made it into Oxbridge. 6 to Oxford, 1 to Cambridge last year. That's not much higher than the comp I went to, which was a pretty rough mix inner city ex-grammar.

RGS felt fabulous, but I've heard from pupils and parents that it is very pressurised. If you don't get straight A*s you come out feeling like a failure. I don't want my children to grow up unable to appreciate and enjoy the talents they have because they've been trained to always feel not quite good enough if they are merely A grade, not A star.

The grammars are scruffier, more down to earth, and the boys from a wider range of backgrounds. But the nearest is Tiffin Boys and - gulp - we hated it. Visited twice and it didn't impress anyone in our family. I loved Wallington, DS and DH loved Wilsons which I didn't see. But these would involve a house move that I'm up for but my husband isn't. Not seen Sutton yet.

The local comp is currently getting G&T students gaining up to 15A*s and places at MIT and Harvard. But it is hugely oversubscribed. We're right on the edge of its catchment (in the street that the line is drawn around) and the next comp along is dire.

It would be sensible to make some decisions about which schools to aim for, as they all have different entry requirements, but I'm utterly stumped - as much by my own hesitations as by the wealth of choice. I have no doubt that I approve of selective education linked to talent, but am unsure of selective education linked to wealth. I disapprove of it per se, but am so impressed by the facilities and in particular the attitude of the staff at the indies we've visited. It's important to us that our sons don't end up with a sense of entitlement and privilege, socially, as a given. I want them to have some humility and a deep social conscience. It's also important that they get the best chance we can provide for them. And I just don't know which that might be.

Sorry for unburdening. I've thought about this all night long and decided some insightful, frank feedback from any 11+ forumers would be very welcome if it's offered. I'm sure some top-drawer verbal reasoning could make sense of it all! :)


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PostPosted: Sun Sep 18, 2011 8:33 am 
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There is a lot of overlap between the Grammar Schools in terms of entry requirements. For example most of them involve good English Comprehension skills, extended writing, maths, VR and Tiffin NVR. Covering those elements this year will stand a child in good stead for any entrance examination.
Independent schools generally have an interview process in addition to the exams. I do not know the specifics of the schools you have listed but again, many of the skills are transferable across any number of schools you may end up applying to nearer to the time
I would probably therefore say that it is a good idea to focus on the key aspects that most of the exams have in common and worry about which schools to list in which order a little nearer the time. Perhaps you could arrange to visit the schools by appointment during school hours, as opposed to on open days to see them in action rather than being shepherded around with hundreds of other parents? This might help you narrow down your options?


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PostPosted: Sun Sep 18, 2011 8:35 am 
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Gosh, Menagerie I can imagine what it must be like having so much think about! And in some ways, lucky you to have such a choice. Have you though of looking at other, more down to earth private schools? Or at least a wider selection just of compare. I think in your position I might sit the GS exams, if one of them is near enough & accptable to you, while knowing that if that fails here is a (faint) possibility of getting into the good comp. If this fails you have the private schools as back up. Do you have good transport links to any or all of the schools? Will you DS have friends nearby? My DS went to a private school for a while and I have to say she is more comfortable in her slightly scruffy state school! If you are fundamentally against indies I think it would be best to explore the other options first while keeping the indies as a backup, although it probably means a fair few exams. What does your DS think?


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PostPosted: Sun Sep 18, 2011 10:15 am 
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We had the state/independent dilemma as my eldest was offered a very good scholarship.
For a variety of reasons we chose the grammar and have never regretted it. I do sometimes deplore the lack of input into some of the sports, but if your child is serious about a sport they will pursue it outside of the school. The teaching is generally excellent and when we have the odd teacher who is dire, like every school, I always count my blessings that we are not paying for it.
For us the grammars are more local so it made the decision easier. Other things may sway people other ways. It is of course a very personal decision and some schools just feel right.
Our experience of Sutton is that it feels like a different school seen through the eyes of each of my sons, but meets the needs of each and allows us to save for the dreaded university fees.
We found choosing very difficult (it sometimes help to see what you have available after the results are out, although for two of mine I still struggled). I think it helps to know that there isn't one school which will be perfect for your child. It sounds like you have a range of excellent choices. So much will ultimately depend on things you have no control over -the circle of friends your child makes and whether they click with or are inspired by people in a particular subject.


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PostPosted: Sun Sep 18, 2011 3:20 pm 
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There is nothing public school about Hampton, try visiting Charterhouse, Kings College etc just for comparison.
DS's prep send a lot to Hampton, but it is considered very 2nd division to schools like Westminster, St Pauls and Kings. I know very little about RGS, but parents I know who have sent their boys there are delighted with it, RGS is considered to be superior to Hampton by most preps.
I was absolutely underwhelmed by Hampton's A level results. They look great on the league tables, but they are one of the few Indys where practically everyone sits General Studies, it add to their points per pupil but GS is not and will never really be considered an A level. Last year 32% of Hampton A levels were at A*, this compares to nearly 60% at St Pauls and Westminster where they would never dream of sitting GS.
With the best will in the world a fee paying grammar is not likely to be very different to a state grammar, particularly if it was previously a state school.
It may be worth looking at other less headline grabbing schools in the area which offer a different experience. Try City London Freemans, Epsom College, Cranleigh, Reeds etc. Look at the website of local prep schools and see where they are sending boys on to, those are the schools which probably run buses from your area.
At least you can give the grammars a try, apply for your local comp that you like and have an Indy as a backup. Its a nice position to be in.
Having heard many horror stories of relatives stopping payment of fees, I would personally want to see all the money up front before I took up an Indy place. Your relative may even want to pick the school themselves (its happened before), and remember his circumstances and commitments could change, 7 years is a long time. Sorry to be negative, but you did ask for feedback.


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PostPosted: Sun Sep 18, 2011 4:30 pm 
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DMB, thanks for your honest feedback, though I'm not sure what you meant about grammars. RGS Guildford and Tiffin are poles apart in every way. Do you mean the emphasis will always be on exams over all-round education, because they were set up to push bright boys?

What you say about Hampton A levels is very interesting. There was something that didn't quite tally to me when I looked at where the 6th form were all headed after they left. Bog standard unis and courses. There's no shame in that, but it doesn't suggest a school has the academic edge.

I agree it's worth being careful about relatives offering to pay, but, without going into details, we don't need to worry that the situation will change.

Several of my friends have sons at Reeds and I admire the school. Its open day clashed with Hampton. Chose to visit Hampton because of its academic edge, but Reeds is definitely worth considering. I like Reeds boys so much. It seems like a vibrant, happy school. City of London Freemans looks interesting too. Not visited yet, but it is on the list. I feel like DS especially is getting punch drunk with it all - so many choices.


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PostPosted: Sun Sep 18, 2011 10:41 pm 
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Despite its name I wouldn't call RGS a grammar, most people view it as only a smidging behing Kings.
My point re Indy grammars really was that if you have a mostly 11+ intake from state schools, and you will all have to start GCSE syllabus in year 10 you only really have 3 years to do anything different academically, and at least one of these (usually 2)will be spent setting and standardising whats been learnt to date.

I am very critical of a lot of selective schools in this area, state and Indy. A* A levels are awarded to 7-8% of A level entries, we have super-selectives which are supposedly creaming off the top 2% academically at 11+, but many of them are only achieving 30% A* A levels. There are other much less selective schools who are achieving comparable resuts - it doesn't make sense.

It sounds as though you're sorted financially so good luck with your search, you sound like you've got your eyes open, your head screwed on and won't swallow any bs they chuck at you - you would be surprised at how few people actually bother to read anything but the headline information they get given.

Good Luck


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PostPosted: Mon Sep 19, 2011 9:09 am 
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DMB,

You too sound as though you've given this some proper thought, and seen beyond the veneer to what the local indies are actually delivering. Which schools do you think excel in our area? Are they the ones you outlined before - Reeds, City of London. Both these are on our list to consider. (I'm assuming you are in our area from your knowledge of it.)

Which have not impressed you? And are you suggesting RGS is way above Hampton, academically? I'm pretty sure they get 30% of all 6th formers into Oxbridge if they want to go there. The same can't be said for Hampton. We're avoiding Kings as we've heard from friends who went there (admittedly some years ago) that it is gruelling rather than stimulating.


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PostPosted: Mon Sep 19, 2011 10:07 am 
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Hi Menagerie, we are in the area and Kingston Grammar seems to be first choice for parens as it is a very local school. Then Hampton boys and then Reeds. Reeds somehow is never first choice, but back up. So I presume it is easier to get there. I know just one family with the child in the City of London Freemen's (Not to be mixed with the City of London Boys/girls), and parent's are quite pleased with it. KGS ans City of London Freeman's are both co-ed schools, as a new Radnor School in Twickenham. Everyone is sitting for Grammar's as well.


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PostPosted: Mon Sep 19, 2011 10:54 am 
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Thanks la Boume. We hadn't considered Kingston Grammar - not sure why - it seemed very urban and cramped, going past it on the bus, and (illogical I know) but we really disliked Tiffin, partly because of its site, so dismissed it alongside.
I do know people for whom Reeds was first choice - not the most academic boys but bright enough. I've heard nothing but good reports of it. But my DS is fairly geeky and even DS's state primary teacher admitted he'd be happier with a class load of fellow geeks to work alongside, so we are looking for a fairly academic school.


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