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PostPosted: Mon Feb 15, 2021 5:34 pm 
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DS has got offers with scholarship from both Hamptons and Kings College School. It is likely (65%) that he will get Wilson offer on 01 March as well which is our first grammar school choice. We are very conflicted about which school to choose.

Money would be a bit tight but manageable. Travel distance is not an issue for both Kings or Wilsons (both 20 minutes away), but Hamptons is over 50 minutes away so it is out of the picture.

DD is very academic but dabbles with sports (cricket, etc.) and music minimally at the moment. He loves "make" programming, e.g. already programs Arduino boards and Lego EV3 systems (made an automated Rubik's cube solver). He tends sometimes to be shy, undersells himself and needs coaxing for things like public speaking.

So some questions for the parents who have sent their children to Kings College (or similar schools):

  • Specifically, does the transformation in self-esteem, confidence and motivation provided by private schools through the secondary years justify the fees they charge? And in comparison to top grammar schools?
  • One of their key selling point is Oxbridge placements* (Kings sends around 50 out of ~130 students to Oxbridge as compared to Wilson which sends ~25 out of ~130 students to Oxbridge). I attribute this to extra preparation of private exams (both Oxford and Cambridge have their own exams) and interview practice in Kings. For parents who have experienced this preparation (with Kings or others), do you think this preparation is a huge value add? (A hands on parent may easily be able to help their child (if inclined) in this).
  • Kings also sends around 8-10 students every year to US universities (MIT, Stanford, Harvard, etc.). Similar to above, parents who have gone through this, do you think Kings helped a lot for this, without excessive parent involvement?

Overall, are private schools worth the fees they charge (nearly £175K over 7 years)? Especially compared to top Grammar schools like Wilsons?


*I am aware that Year 13 is far (7 years) away for DS, but we can rely probabilistically on Lindy Effect for this: If Kings has sent 60 students to Oxbridge/Imperial every year since last 10 years, it will continue to do so for the next 10 years.


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 15, 2021 6:57 pm 
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We had a similar choice of different London schools with our DD. I mention this only to put into perspective what I have written below and also to highlight any bias that I may have - and trust me, on this question there is bias everywhere and from everyone. We chose the indie, which was the right choice for us, but travel was much easier and we wanted Co-ed which the grammar was not, so that made the choice a more obvious one
dh28 wrote:
Money would be a bit tight but manageable.
Never underestimate the weight of the fees. Apart from a blip when OH's company went under ( :shock: ) we managed OK and money was not too tight. But we both work full time and some. It still cost MUCH more than I had imagined and had OH's salary not risen considerably over the time it would've become a nightmare. Fees go up, and you feel the weight them even if you can pay comfortably.
So, as a parent who has sent their DDs to a similar school
dh28 wrote:
  • Specifically, does the transformation in self-esteem, confidence and motivation provided by private schools through the secondary years justify the fees they charge? And in comparison to top grammar schools?

That self esteem/confidence comes from parents, not the school. When I think of both cohorts my DDs were in, and their friends at other schools, indie made no difference to self esteem, they came out the same they went in. We all have experience of the confident indie DC but trust me those kids would be like that wherever they went, look at their parents, generations of success breeds it. There are loads kids in indie with low self esteem, we just don't notice them. As for motivation, I cannot compare with grammar as I have not had DC there but, the thing that I really noticed for my DC's school was that was cool/acceptable/respected to be keen, bright and have a go. At anything. This was the absolute opposite of my personal educational experience and as a parent I loved it. However, I imagine it is the same in grammars.
dh28 wrote:
  • One of their key selling point is Oxbridge placements* (Kings sends around 50 out of ~130 students to Oxbridge as compared to Wilson which sends ~25 out of ~130 students to Oxbridge). I attribute this to extra preparation of private exams (both Oxford and Cambridge have their own exams) and interview practice in Kings. For parents who have experienced this preparation (with Kings or others), do you think this preparation is a huge value add? (A hands on parent may easily be able to help their child (if inclined) in this).
  • Parents are out of the loop this - apart from forcing/encouraging DC to apply. Preparation varies hugely by department and subject in most Indies. Several Indies do outreach to local comps for Oxbridge prep and I can assure you those DC got more help and guidance than my DD did, as she was applying for something that was poorly supported. It also depends on the subject to be studied - History offers for example are rare as hens teeth, languages considerably less so. I suspect the numbers reflect the volume of applications and the 6th form intake more than anything else. On which note do remember that they have a 6th form intake and at that point, much like Westminster, they can select the DC they think will get in, having navigated the more challenging bits of their teenage years. I wanted a school that would give the chance for DC to be supported if they chose to apply, the grammar would have done this just as well in my opinion but more importantly DD2 chose a course not offered by Oxbridge so it turned out to be irrelevant. Having support generally is more important IMO.
    dh28 wrote:
  • Kings also sends around 8-10 students every year to US universities (MIT, Stanford, Harvard, etc.). Similar to above, parents who have gone through this, do you think Kings helped a lot for this, without excessive parent involvement?

  • London Indies do well here and offer more support from what I have seen BUT, check how many of those offers are legacy, sports scholarships or US citizens. Our school sent 10+ every year to the top US schools but many were legacy, sport or citizenship related. Always dig into the stats :wink: .Also, scholarship or not if you think Indies are expensive don't even look at US uni fees (and remember there is no loan eligibility)!
    dh28 wrote:
    Overall, are private schools worth the fees they charge (nearly £175K over 7 years)? Especially compared to top Grammar schools like Wilsons?

    It won't be 175K, it will be much, much more :(
    From 2 friends whose DC joined KCS at 6th form they were a bit surprised at the lack of diversity and slightly heavy testosterone - said it have a bit of a country feel at times. Might not be a concern for you and also, being sample size of 2 might be nonsense - anecdotes do not make data!
    Whatever decision you make do not ever look back. It is a pressured time for DC, now more than ever. It is important they do not feel their successes or failures are being framed in the context of a school choice. More to the point, for your sanity once you have made the choice embrace it and let them make the most of it, whatever the choice is.

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    PostPosted: Mon Feb 15, 2021 8:35 pm 
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    That was a comprehensive reply, thank you so much for taking time for this! This is what makes this forum so great..


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    PostPosted: Mon Feb 15, 2021 10:47 pm 
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    I’m not sure your Oxbridge figures are correct: KCS’s headline sell is that they send an average of 25% of leavers to Oxbridge. Obviously still very high; I believe the upper sixth cohort is around 200 and 38 went to Oxbridge last year.


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    PostPosted: Tue Feb 16, 2021 1:01 am 
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    Seven years ago we were in the same position although our KCS place was for 13 plus.
    We opted for Wilson’s.
    It’s a truly amazing school.
    We also know lots of people with children at KCS who have been very pleased with their choice.
    We know several who got KCS places but not Wilson’s.
    Wilson’s also has a good Oxbridge track record although it is getting harder to get in from indies and grammars alike.
    Wilson’s was very close to us. The journey to KCS would have been a slog.
    In retrospect we could have afforded it but it wouldn’t have been easy.
    The Wilson’s head is phenomenal and staff are loyal with a low turnover.
    Music and sport were amazing.
    My DD also went to a Sutton grammar.
    Wilson’s was head and shoulders above it in every way.
    Just been voted London State school of the decade.
    Wilsons is strict and the boys hit the ground running academically.
    Not too sure about subjects on offer at KCS but at Wilson’s no GCSEs/ A levels in drama or psychology.
    Business studies A level is also no longer on offer.
    I guess you need to wait until the state offers are out now.


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    PostPosted: Tue Feb 16, 2021 10:36 am 
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    My DS is only in Year 7 but I also have a family member who works there and I was nodding along to so many of the points in Moon Unit’s post. It is an incredible school. Have a look at the Enrichment and the Year 7 music programmes on their website (if you haven’t already).


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    PostPosted: Tue Feb 16, 2021 10:46 am 
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    Do remember that sixth form isn't just moving up from year 11 to year 12; in the state sector, at least, there will be a new set of entry requirements (and I doubt that many indies selling themselves on their Oxbridge output allow everyone to continue into the sixth form, regardless of their achievements at GCSE). Have you looked at the entry requirements for the schools which you are comparing, if post-A level destination (of students who will have left school a minimum of 8 years prior to your own DS) is a major factor in your decision-making?

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    PostPosted: Tue Feb 16, 2021 11:57 am 
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    When my DS got his KCS offer they were getting 33% into Oxbridge.
    It’s getting harder year on year particularly for top schools to get places.
    Wilson’s do send the occasional pupil to US unis but as far as I am aware it was pupils who got support from schemes targeted at low income families.
    Don’t think anyone in my sons year went to one ( would I guess be a bit of a nightmare at the moment I suppose with not being able to travel).
    When looking at the Oxbridge stats it’s worth seeing what the courses are.
    There are way more applicants for say Economics than Classics.
    One of the great things about Wilson’s is everything is done to level the playing field for parents under financial pressure.
    The Geog field trip in year 11 was to Croydon!
    Zero cost with an Oyster card.
    The uniform is relatively cheap.
    They do go on a trip to Wales in year 7 or 8 but the school help parents who might struggle with that and the cost from memory is about £200.
    The whole of year seven get an instrument on loan ( no most) and free music lessons.
    In the sixth form the lads are very much expected to help out.
    They run clubs help out the younger lads etc.
    I guess that happens at most schools.
    Do be realistic about journey times.
    It takes way longer than 40mins in the rush hour to get from KCS to Wilson’s so you may not be 20min from both at the time your son would travel.
    We live 2 miles from Wilson’s and my son used to leave home at 7.30 to be sure of not being late.
    I don’t think you could go wrong with either school.
    It’s a lucky lad who has the choice of them.


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    PostPosted: Tue Feb 16, 2021 12:01 pm 
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    I have friends with sons joining both schools in September last year. The impressions from the parents are that both schools are amazing, with excellent pastoral care and offerings of activities etc. Both sets of parents are extremely pleased with their choices. There are many subtle differences (ie not those you are already aware such as fees, facilities, and destinations) though, these might matter to some people but not others.

    Ethnic representation:
    Wilson has around 5% White. KCS around 80% White.

    Homework:
    Wilson is heavy from day 1. KCS is quite light.

    Subject spread:
    Wilson has combined science in Year 7 & 8. KCS has separate sciences from Year 7.

    Location:
    Both schools draw boys from a wide area so common location for hanging out will be the schools. Wallington vs Wimbledon. Where would you prefer your sons to have a time of their life outside schools?

    Those were observations from boys having been school only for one term. In further years the overall impressions are that, for the same academically talented boys, Wilsons is more competitive and demanding, KCS more relaxing and gentle.

    In my personal opinion, if you can afford, obviously the big IF, then generally like many good private schools KCS will give the boys a gentler, nicer journey through school and come out with similarly outstanding results as those achieved at Wilsons.


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    PostPosted: Tue Feb 16, 2021 1:20 pm 
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    Wow, such an amazing diversity of helpful replies!

    Oneoftwothings wrote:
    I’m not sure your Oxbridge figures are correct: KCS’s headline sell is that they send an average of 25% of leavers to Oxbridge. Obviously still very high; I believe the upper sixth cohort is around 200 and 38 went to Oxbridge last year.

    Yes, that is correct, KCS do send around 25% of students to Oxbridge. In my figure of 50 students, I was including Imperial admissions for KCS as well.

    mad? wrote:
    Parents are out of the loop this - apart from forcing/encouraging DC to apply. Preparation varies hugely by department and subject in most Indies.Preparation varies hugely by department and subject in most Indies. Several Indies do outreach to local comps for Oxbridge prep and I can assure you those DC got more help and guidance than my DD did, as she was applying for something that was poorly supported. It also depends on the subject to be studied - History offers for example are rare as hens teeth, languages considerably less so. I suspect the numbers reflect the volume of applications and the 6th form intake more than anything else.

    So the key question would be this: how strong are private schools for preparation in core subjects (for University entry exams) like Mathematics, Sciences and Languages? Is there considerable variation in support for these subjects as well?

    ToadMum wrote:
    Do remember that sixth form isn't just moving up from year 11 to year 12; in the state sector, at least, there will be a new set of entry requirements (and I doubt that many indies selling themselves on their Oxbridge output allow everyone to continue into the sixth form, regardless of their achievements at GCSE). Have you looked at the entry requirements for the schools which you are comparing, if post-A level destination (of students who will have left school a minimum of 8 years prior to your own DS) is a major factor in your decision-making?

    I understand that 16+ provides another opportunity to join these schools in the 6th form (based on an entrance exam in GCSE year and predicted grades, with minimum GCSE grades required in subjects of choice).
    But again, that is another needless hassle at that point, if there is already an option to join these schools at 11+. (On the other hand, entry at 11+ is no guarantee to stay in the school's 6th form as well, as you might get filtered out at that stage because of lower GCSE grades).
    Even though DS's university is 7 years away, I think it is worth considering the optionality a school can provide, and the judgement of this is only possible unfortunately with their performance right now.
    Basically, once a decision is made at 11+, it will be hard to go back from it (until 6th form or University), hence it deserves extra attention, IMHO.

    mad? wrote:
    London Indies do well here and offer more support from what I have seen BUT, check how many of those offers are legacy, sports scholarships or US citizens.

    That is an excellent point, I was not aware of this! I will inquire them deeper on the US university stats.

    Moon unit wrote:
    We opted for Wilson’s.
    It’s a truly amazing school.

    Oneoftwothings wrote:
    My DS is only in Year 7 but I also have a family member who works there and I was nodding along to so many of the points in Moon Unit’s post. It is an incredible school. Have a look at the Enrichment and the Year 7 music programmes on their website (if you haven’t already).

    Definitely, Wilsons is what we are leaning towards (if DS gets admitted there), however, the thinking was to give KCS a strong consideration as well, if they provide value for money especially with a markedly better support than Grammar Schools like Wilsons (or SGS), which was the reason for this post.

    Moon unit wrote:
    When looking at the Oxbridge stats it’s worth seeing what the courses are.

    This is so true! I doubt DS would ever show interest for studying Veterinary Medicine or Japanese degrees (even at Oxbridge, though nothing wrong with these areas of study as well). But who knows!

    That is why, if DS shows enthusiasm and aptitude for hard sciences or engineering, it would be worth exploring the support for going to US universities as well.

    mad? wrote:
    Whatever decision you make do not ever look back. It is a pressured time for DC, now more than ever. It is important they do not feel their successes or failures are being framed in the context of a school choice. More to the point, for your sanity once you have made the choice embrace it and let them make the most of it, whatever the choice is.

    That is the precise plan after 01 March! As with all parents in this forum, the ultimate aim is to support DS in achieving a great start in life to the extent of his enthusiasm and capacity, and spare no effort for this (OH and I both work, money is a (manageable) second consideration).

    Once again, thank you everyone for the replies, it certainly provides a wealth of information and food for thought!


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