I've just read this thread to my DS, now in year 12 at RGS, and there is only one statement he's disagreed with. Though he didn't enjoy Year 7, he has enjoyed every year since, and has enormously benefited from the school. Comparing it with the GS my DD attended, it seems better organised, and with better teaching.
'They are regularly told where they are placed in tests for academic and sport.' This is the only thing he disagree with, which he says is not true for the most part.
Boys are very competitive, but not in a nasty way. You won't be singled out if you are not doing well.
'I think for an average or confident boy it is fine, I would imagine if you are a very sensitive boy and dislike a competitive environment it is probably not for you.' He agrees entirely. DS says it can be an intimidating school – most boys benefit from this, but it could be difficult for the sensitive.
'It is very strict and the kind of institution where rules and regulations are enforced, rather than expectations set and the students motivated to meet those expectations.' He agrees. He says it's not cold, but there is a very definite hierarchy, which melts as you go higher up the school and relationships develop with teachers. But you'd never be on first name terms with an RGS teacher – they are addressed as Sir or Ma'am.
'It places huge emphasis on CCF (Army Cadets) and of course rugby.' Whilst this is true, my DS did not join CCF (and was under no pressure to do so), and he played rugby very little, even when compulsory in the younger years. (There's a games 'rota' to rotate between sports.) There's a lot of tag rugby, and not a lot of full-contact in the first few years. However, when it comes to rugby, the teachers are not forgiving. Two unusual sports are well represented at RGS - fencing and fives, and there is a well-utilised indoor swimming pool.
'You can fit in via a focus on music as it has a very strong department in that regard but otherwise it is not a tremendously creative place.' DS agrees. Music is superb, and there are playing and singing groups for every conceivable level and interest. (Not so sure about GCSE teaching, though). He says there's no focus on art. (Eg he's never heard talk of competitions, days trips, etc, though to be fair, he has no interest in the area, so such talk may have passed him by). The only focus on drama is the annual productions (which are brilliant). He describes drama lessons from his younger years as 'sloppy' . However, DT seems to be well-taught here. It seemed intelligent and well thought out – my DD just seemed to come home from her GS with endless 'mood-boards' to create, without ever actually learning anything.
There's a lot of homework at RGS, particularly in the first term of Year 7. I had just about reached the point where I was going to complain about it when it slackened off. According to DS, 'creative' homework in the younger years just makes for more work than 'standard' homework.
DS reckons that the current head has little contact with the boys - it's the deputy who fills that role. Not sure what effect that will have on the new head's ability to make an early impact.