by MIT Ivy League and Oxbridge Educated Insiders

Westminster School London

Student rating 4.8/5 by University of Oxford student
17 Dean London London SW1P 3PB United Kingdom

Academic

Westminster School London review by University of Oxford student. I found the teaching at Westminster School to be truly inspirational and this was complemented with a wealth of extracurricular activities and help from tutors outside of the classroom. During the first three years in the run-up to GCSEs, the class size is normally between 15 and 20 students, but in the last two years, the class size drops to between 6 and 12. Furthermore, in the last two years, each class is split between several teachers in each subject, so allowing the students to gain from two or more separate methods of teaching as well as to receive teaching to a much higher level than that of A levels in two or more different areas of their subject, depending on their teachers' different areas of expertise. In the final two years we were frequently asked to produce work of higher standard than that demanded by the current A level system and I found that this has helped me acclimatise to the workload demanded of me by Oxford. I concentrated mainly on maths and sciences for my A levels and the science facilities in the Robert Hooke building were unparalleled by any that I had seen in the other schools I was looking at for secondary school. In addition, the quality of the teaching in both sciences and maths were superb, more than half of my teachers possessing a doctorate of some description. Another advantage of being taught at Westminster was that the teachers were very aware of any changes in the syllabus for exams, due to the fact that many of them were either markers for or were examiners for several of the examination boards in the UK. Thus, they could prepare us very well, not only for A levels, but also for any extra qualifications such as AEAs and also encouraged us to put ourselves forward for national competitions such as the biology, maths, and chemistry Olympiads. Furthermore, throughout the length of my schooling there, several of the subjects were setted according to ability, thus providing a system in which those who have difficulty have extra support whereas those near the top of the school can excel. However, in spite of this help when it comes to exams, the nature of the teaching did not emphasize exams too heavily and much consideration was given to improving one's CV in other areas rather than the pure academic.

College Counseling

We began to look at our choices for the future in year 11 (upper shell) when we had several meetings with our tutors, during which we discussed which subjects we would like to study for A levels and which subjects we could subsequently study at university. However, we started to look more closely at the university admissions process during my penultimate year at Westminster and this was aided by a tutor who was shared between the 10 of us in my year in my house. He provided us with prospectuses and arranged meetings between ourselves and the respective members of the faculty for our chosen subjects. We would meet on average once every fortnight for an hour for these discussions, but these were not our only source of admissions information because our housemaster also took an interest in our futures at an early stage in the admissions process and also advised us on which teachers we should talk to and also suggested some reading material on each subject that was outside the syllabus. The members of each house and year had their own tutor, but students intending to study similar subjects at university also had a subject tutor who was not necessarily attached to their house and these subject tutors ensured that no two students applied to the same oxbridge college for the same subject and also provided much necessary help for any particular entrance exams such as BMAT. Indeed, the prospective medics were enrolled in a series of weekly BMAT classes during which they could do practice papers and discuss several examples which could be used in the ethical essay part of the exam.

Admissions - Getting Accepted

I do not know much about the common entrance admissions process to Westminster because I took the Westminster challenge, which, as the name suggests, was really very challenging and served to separate those worthy of an academic scholarship from those who weren´t. The challenge not only involves an exam in each of English, Geography, History, Maths, French, Science, Latin and Greek (which is only taken by those who have studied greek at their preparatory school) but also includes two separate interviews, one with the Headmaster and one with the housemaster of college (the scholarship house), the latter of which involves several cleverly-put questions designed to test the intellect of the candidate and not only their ability in exams. The level of the challenge is well above that of 13+ common entrance and, indeed, I found that the latin exam was more challenging than that for GCSEs. There is a specific feeder school for Westminster; the aptly named Westminster Under School, but I do not know whether attending this school would help with admission to Westminster. Although a majority of the students studying at Westminster did attend Westminster Under School, this may just reflect how many applicants from the Under School there were. However, of the Queen´s scholars in each year (the boarding scholars who attend college) most are normally from the Under School.

School Life

I was a weekly boarder at Westminster and so I experienced pretty much all the school had to offer in terms of food, housing and extracurricular activities. The rooms in college weren't hugely spacious but they got the job done considering the house can't be expanded and I thoroughly enjoyed my time there, but for a more specific review of college, I advise going to the open day where current students show around prospective students and their parents. I ate three meals a day in the school and breakfast was always good, but occasionally lunch or dinner was not so great, but as a boarder, if dinner did not appeal to me, I could always go and get a takeaway from one of the many restaurants on the busy Victoria street. The area is very safe, probably because Scotland Yard is just around the corner. However, since Westminster is right in the middle of London, there are a limited number of fields used for cricket and football and the school also doesn't have a swimming pool. Instead, students who swim walk to the Queen Mary centre nearby and some football teams train in batersea park. After school, the courtyard (yard) becomes a football pitch which incorporates players from all years of the school in a fair, but occasionally boistrous match. This also spills out onto Green (Dean's yard) during the summer months. The faculty and student body are largely wealthy, from the comfortably well-off to the very wealthy as is the surrounding neighborhood and the ethnic background is largely Caucasian and asian.

There are a great number of activities and sports offered at Westminster, a number that I only realised could be exceeded when I first went to Freshers Fair in Oxford. During the first two years, the students take part in two or three LSAs (lower school activities) each week which range from sports such as fives to debating societies. Throughout the 5 years at the school, the students also take part in two afternoons of sport each week, the sport in question being the choice of the student. The main sports are football and rowing, but others include fives, judo, swimming, leisure swimming and punting. One feature about sport at Westminster that stands out most strongly for those watching from the sidelines is that our school colour is pink, so meaning that the footballers wear pink shirts and the rowers wear pink lycra, a truly intimidating sight on the waters of the Thames! Thankfully, however, the judo players are not required to wear pink costumes. In addition there are very active Drama and Music departments at Westminster. The school orchestra attempts several challenging pieces each term and is bolstered every year by a small contingent of exceptionally talented musicians that pass through Westminster. In the summer term, the orchestra traditionally plays pieces written by current students and these are without exception spectacular and capture the imagination of all the younger musicians in the orchestra. Furthermore, the school also provides music teachers for nearly all instruments that spring to mind. In my final year, I was also a member of envision, an environmentally- orientated society comprised entirely of current students which aims to raise money for charities both near and far from Westminster School as well as implementing new schemes around the school to increase awareness about environmental issues. Of all these activities, I would have to say that Judo, football and envision have had the most lasting effects on me because I am currently vice captain of the Oxford Judo club as well as captain of my college´s second football team and am currently in Ecuador working for a charity that aims to help the poorest children in Ecuador who work in the market.