Winchester College review by University of Oxford student. Winchester is extremely academically strong. We are put in sets right from the first year, with small class sizes even for GCSES, ensuring the teaching quality is optimal. It is a very competitive atmosphere where everyone wants to learn. A variety of teaching techniques were used, with each teacher ("don") having his or her own teaching style. Right from the beginning we were treated as adults and rarely spoon-fed information. Thus the teaching is not geared simply to passing public exams but to cultivating intellect. I think this was a great help when it came to applying to Oxford. The workload was fairly high but always manageable in my opinion. As an academically-focussed school, there was always help on hand for those struggling with their work: their div (form) don, their housemaster, their personal tutor etc. Another point worth mentioning is the subject "div", unique to Winchester, which covers History, English, PSHE etc. and is completely non-examined. This helped me to raise intellectual points in a debate, be a good public speaker etc. and in my opinion is the single best thing about a Winchester education.
Winchester is actually a very liberal school, despite complaints from the boys that it is too strict. However, boys aren't given much say in the running of the school (despite our obvious capacity for mature contributions), and this is a real problem. It creates real tensions between the senior dons and the boys, especially the senior prefects. The boarding aspect is another shady area. Often pastoral support can be very weak. The Housemaster / House tutors often are not on hand and 90% the boys are simply left to fend for themselves; the House being mostly run by the senior boys. For this reason it is essential you choose a Housemaster you think you will get on with, and who will give you support to your boy. But beware they could/will lie at the looking around stage if they want your son to come!
There are no lessons Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday afternoons to allow for school matches and extended recreation periods. Everyone is encouraged to get involved, although the school isn't particularly strong in the sport department. In the second year there is compulsory CCF/Corps. Then we could either continue with that or participate in Community Service, helping out at primary schools etc. You can also learn any musical instrument: they will get in a teacher if there isn't one available. There are also loads of plays, the boys are given a great deal of freedom with directing plays etc.