I was both concerned and intrigued by the impressions of Christ's Hospital expressed by the "Guest" user, as I, too, attended the open day on 1st October and came away with a very different view of the school (as did my husband who, prior to our visit, was not in favour of a boarding education for our daughter).
Yes, some of the customs seemed conservative, out-dated and too regimented; on first sight of the band (during the march into lunch), I was reminded of the Orange Day Marchers in Northern Ireland, which filled me with complete dread. However, one couldn't fail to be impressed by the sheer number of students playing instruments - and with gusto. Besides, in his welcoming speech, the Head Master was very forthcoming about his own initial impressions of the school, asking us to look beyond these somewhat bizarre customs, to discover what was good and great about the school for ourselves. There was no area of the school that was out-of-bounds to parents that day, certainly the student-guide we were allocated willingly obliged in meeting all of our requests throughout a long tour and, from his responses, he seemed a happy lad and one who very much appeared to enjoy his life at the school. Meanwhile, the children in the Science Labs showed every sign of enjoying the experiments they were involved with, readily spoke with us and included us in their work and all 3 science teachers engaged my family and I in conversation in the 30 mins we spent there.
The "Rock School" series (Channel 4) which ends this coming Friday night (9:30pm) has perhaps offered more of a "fly on the wall" insight into the school. Generally speaking, the children seem happy, mature, confident and seldom hesitate to express candid and firm opinions. However, one child in particular has come across in recent episodes as pretty arrogant and unpleasant, which gives me concerns about bullying and about to who do the more gentle or less confident children turn for solace and support when confronted by bullies of this kind?
But your comments and those of "Guest" have given me pause for thought and it would certainly reassure me to email/speak to you off-line and share out views more fully.
As for this weekend's initial exams, CH do not provide examples of these tests, though they will comprise English, Maths and what they call a "Reasoning" Test, which you can take to mean a mixture of both Verbal and Non-verbal reasoning. Given that the duration of the exams is approx 2 hours, I have assumed that they will be a scaled-down version of the longer January exams. (moreover I have assumed, rightly or wrongly, that, unlike the January exams which comprise different questions each year, the initial exams are probably recycled from previous years and hence their reasons for not publishing it on their website). If it helps, I have tutored my daughter and set her a series of mock papers from a variety of different boards (Nfer Nelson, Ayer, Bond), so that she's comfortable with both multiple-choice and free-hand responses. Clearly, the reasoning tests will be multiple choice, but nothing in the style of the January exams suggests that English and Maths will be. Still, if it's true that CH will be appraising the work of 600 applicants, to narrow this down to 300 for the residential exam, then instinct tells me they're not going to have the time to read 600 stories and will probably opt for reading comprehension and a grammar/punctuation test.
I've rambled on! Hope some of the above is useful. Before reading your entries, my daughter and I have been 100% for Christ's Hospital.. but I'm left a bit troubled by what has been said. If you're attending the Fulham centre on Saturday and would like to meet for a coffee (while the kiddies are hard at it!) let me know how to recognise you and we'll meet up!