Does anyone have any experience navigating the choice between these high schools?
I’m not a parent, but as a student I had to make the call between these schools. I visited them all, and eventually chose Saint Kentigern for a number of reasons.
Saint Kentigern is the only school in this list who offers the IB Diploma. If you want your child to take the IB Diploma, this may be a selling point. Counterfactually, both Kings and Grammar offer the Cambridge system of examinations, whereas Saint Kentigern does not. If you’ve done much research into how these qualifications compare, this may be a deciding factor between them.
All of these schools also offer NCEA examinations. At Grammar, NCEA is offered primarily to the students in the lower streamed classes. NCEA has a number of advantages if your child will be applying to Australian or New Zealand Universities (relatively easier to gain course entry in NZ, and converts to a slightly higher ATAR in Australia etc.). Cambridge and IB are helpful in terms of international recognition when applying further afield. When I was talking to Stanford professors before my application, none had heard of NCEA. While I’m sure that admissions will recognise it, the IB and Cambridge systems are arguably more internationally reputable, and certainly more rigorous.
- Campus & Facilities
Kings has a fantastic athletics setup. If your child is interested in track running/field events, Kings may have better facilities for this. Conversely, the football, cricket and rugby fields at Saint Kentigern are pretty incredible, and Saint Kentigern certainly has the largest campus among these options.
Obviously, with Auckland Grammar being public, it’s certainly a cheaper option than Kings and Saint Kentigern. However, you must be living in-zone (which is definitely expensive). Between Kings and SKC, Kings is slightly more expensive. I’m not intimately familiar with Kings scholarship options, but I know there are extensive scholarships available for sports, academics, music and all-roundedness at Saint Kentigern (I had an academic scholarship for my time there).
I’m also not a parent but I do advise many parents on making this choice and have made at different stages recommendations for all of the above over the others in different scenarios.
I personally compared them all and eventually chose King’s College. I chose King’s for a few reasons:
Although the top 25 students in the A class of Auckland Grammar would outperform the top 25 students at both King’s College and Saint Kentigern’s College, the top 2-3 students of King’s College tend to be consistently among the best students in the nation. For the last 5 years, the Dux and Proxime Accessit of King’s Colleges has outperformed both the AGS and SKC top students in most cases academically and for university admissions. I wanted to be in the most rigorous academic environment available with the most competition to push me as hard as possible so I chose King’s College.
I attended Saint Kentigern Prep and of the kids in my year choosing high schools, the significant majority were choosing King’s College then Grammar then Saint Kentigern College. This mix has shifted in recent times and the intake from Saint Kentigern Prep to Saint Kentigern College has gotten higher in recent times, but King’s does still seem to attract the most from SKS. My friends from Kings Prep also choose King’s College as their number one option in most cases.
King’s College has the most genuine all-round learning experience, from my perspective, closely followed by Saint Kentigern College. This is not for everyone. If you are a top athlete, the focus on academics and community service might not be what you like at King’s as well but for me, I wanted an all-round experience and KC provided this. Auckland Grammar has so many students that people naturally tend to focus on their core strengths and become more specialised. The top few kids at Auckland Grammar do tend to be incredibly well-rounded though.
I wanted to do CIE (Cambridge) because of the academic flexibility (it let me take 10 A Levels and self-study subjects at various times) which is quite distinct to the tight structure of the IB program. I never thought about NCEA because the stronger academic students at all of the schools do IB or CIE.
Some other interesting insights to consider for academically orientated kids:
King’s College has the strongest university admissions results of all of the schools followed by Auckland Grammar School followed by Saint Kentigern College.
King’s College is the strongest for mathematicians and for the last few years, has had the strongest mathematics olympiad team of these universities. King’s College has historically outperformed in the biology olympiad also. Auckland Grammar and King’s College are pretty similar when it comes to the International Young Physicist’s Tournament (AGS has had a slight lead historically)
The Top 25 academic kids at Auckland Grammar School outperform the Top 25 academic kids at King’s College who outperform the Top 25 academic kids at Saint Kentigern College.
I agree completely. Kings tends to have a great history of excellent academic performance, and there seems to be a much bigger culture of looking further afield for University and pure academics. I think that it’s something SKC needs to focus on more in the future - having a bit more support for foreign university applications, which it lacks at the moment.
On the plus side, Saint Kentigern tends to have a good culture in terms of roundedness. Out of the top academic performers, most were also in premier sports teams. I cycled at a national level, we had a world class triathlete, a NZ track running champion, a top netballer etc. I think SKC places a lot of emphasis culturally on being well rounded, which has possibly harmed and Top Scholars awards etc. This tends to be helpful when in the workforce, but doesn’t do much to help the school’s statistics.
Something important to remember through all of these choices is that your performance is mostly what you bring to the table. If you want to work hard, you’ll succeed anywhere, especially with services like Crimson providing specialist tutoring and application support nowadays.
Harry, really nailed this. I want to emphasise that historical results are fine but the most important thing is what environment you are going to outperform in.
My answer heavily focused on the hardcore academic types (which is what I was looking for personally) but I have recommended many students to go to AGS over KC or SKC over KC etc etc.
These other answers have covered the majority of the points I feel are relevant to make the decision between these schools, but I’d like to add an additional perspective.
I attended King’s College as a boarding student for four years. The boarding lifestyle at King’s is incredibly well structured and certainly goes a long way at developing your self discipline. Specifically, you wake, eat, sleep, and study at the same time each and every day (with the exception of weekends). There is an allocated ‘prep’ window from 7-9pm every night where silent study takes place, and is monitored by senior students.
Whilst this may sound intimidating, or even army’esque, I cannot express just how valuable this consistent routine was for me as a young student coming from a fairly unstructured intermediate education.
The only downside of the boarding lifestyle, in my opinion, is that as you progress to the latter years of high school (11, 12, 13), you aren’t given much more autonomy than you were in Y9 and 10. For me, this felt quite constricting at times. I felt as though I had reached a point where I could, and should, structure my own routine in a way that was optimal for me.
Obviously a boarding school needs to run smoothly and efficiently, and to do so they need to take a one size fits all approach, so this downside was just an unfortunate reality for me.
All of this being said, for every student who felt the same as I did regarding the lack of flexibility and autonomy, there are probably several students who (even in Y13) loved the structure and oversight.
Different strokes for different folks, but definitely something worth thinking about if part of your decision comes down to being a boarder versus a day student.
Also! If you’re a girl:
- Auckland Grammar isn’t an option
- King’s College enables girls to join in Year 11, Year 12 or Year 13
- Saint Kentigern College takes girls from Year 7 to Year 13 although technically college starts in Year 9 so girls in Year 7/Year 8 are in an intermediate phase. Saint Kents Prep offers girls education from kindergarten.
I sent my two daughters to KC.There were a number of factors. Firstly, we didn’t feel that the Ncea system was right for them nor were we happy with a lot of the teaching methods implemented at EGGS. We found the class sizes far too big for any of the teachers to have meaningful communication with students, lack of enthusiasm and respect from the student cohort in general and did not see the teachers give enough individual critical feedback. At the time, they were more keen on kings over skc because they found the academic environment At kings more appealing for them as well as the class sizes.We also liked the colorful variety of extra curricular activities available to them, the services provided by the school such as taxiing the kids back from events etc., but most importantly how the teachers treated the students as individuals based on their individual merits rather than as part of a cohort or group. my daughter said the frequent assessments were very helpful and the fact that the teachers were willing to spend time outside of class hours to help students if they were struggling
As an old Boy of Saint Kent’s I had the same choice as Harry to make a few years ago. When initially looking at these schools, the differences between these schools can seem to be very small. Personally I believe that there is in fact not much difference at face value - all three are exceptional schools for academia, have great sports programs in all major codes and great campuses. As head boy for 2016 I managed to interact with the head prefects and students from these other two school’s relatively regularly (as well as just having friends at KC and AGS) and the main difference that I saw was in the variations of school culture, which undoubtably shapes a child just as much as the curricular and co-curricular life of a school.
All of these institutions are brilliant places to be for top achievers - those that are driven would likely succeed at any of the above schools. However, due to Grammar being such a a large school, students there can be left despondent, feeling as though they are could never achieve as highly as they believed they could or had hoped to. The smaller size of SKC and King’s, though, does help to push kids forward when they are struggling through more interaction with teachers and intelligent classmates. The rigid alphabetic streaming of Grammar does also not help this side of the culture there, where kids in lower-letter classes may feel left behind and as though they have little chance at success in life because they are not necessarily ‘test-smart’.
Another marked point of interest between these two schools is the introduction of girls - none at Grammar, girls introduced in year 11 at King’s and girls being in all year levels at SKC. This makes for differences in the social dynamic of the schools. There are definite merits for both co-educational and single-gender schools, SKC and Grammar being on opposite ends of the spectrum and King’s being a hybrid of the two methods. On a social side of things however, kids from co-educational schools would have an advantage over those from single-gender schools in that the real world doesn’t have single-gender workplaces.
There are boys that would do very well at Grammar, but I think that Kent’s and King’s are more accomodating to students who are not necessarily the best academically, while also preparing kids for the real world on a social level more so than Grammar.
Just for some extra detail, Saint Kents has boys and girls all the way through from year 7, as well as having a kindergarten and single-gender primary schools from years 1 through to 8. Also, the houses at SKC are not single-gender, as they are at King’s.
No school is a ‘one size fits all’ solution, so there are many considerations that need to be looked at when a decision is being made about school choice. Sometimes there is no choice and a student goes to a particular school because ‘that’s where Dad went’ or because ‘that’s where friends are going’. Year 8 male students living in the Grammar zone are very lucky, as they have the choice of at least five excellent schools. Certainly I wish that every student in NZ had the opportunity to ‘angst’ between these choices! I am adding ACG schools into the mix as they are also an excellent option to consider.
My sons went to Grammar and my daughters went to King’s (years 12 and 13). My husband and I were engaged and active parents, and now that they have all left school, we have over 50 individual years of schooling to draw upon when answering this question. There was no Crimson on the scene when my children were at school and, if there had of been, I would have been very tempted to choose the local state schools and supplement that with a bespoke Crimson Personal Education Plan ‘PEP’ for each child.
The cost of a private secondary education ($100K) needs to be taken into consideration. Does a private school have added value of $100K or could that money be better invested in your children’s future after they have left school (e.g. university or getting on the property ladder - or both!)? For this purpose, let’s put cost aside and pretend that we are comparing apples with apples.
All the schools mentioned are excellent academically. Much has already been said about King’s and SKC in previous comments, so I will balance this up with my sons’ experience at Grammar. Yes, there is streaming, and for the large majority of boys, this is far more stressful for parents than it is for the boys. Everyone of the 500 boys in a year group is in a class of equals and there is the opportunity to advance if you are willing to work hard, or slide if you are not (a life lesson, learnt early). Most boys like structure, certainty and fairness - particularly in the junior secondary years. There can be no complaints about this not being present at Grammar, whereas other factors can creep in to outcomes at private schools. The boys respond to this, and there is little time wasted on soft stuff. I clearly remember John Morris saying at the third form parents evening during the first week of term that ‘when your boy comes through the gate on the first day, you are putting him in our hands and this is our job for the next five years’. This was a comfort for me as a mother, and it gave me confidence to step back and watch my boys taking their own journey to become independent young men of character. The massive support structure and reputation of Grammar was always there and success is always celebrated, whether academic, sporting, culturally or by serving the community. My sons quickly became ‘Grammar soldiers’, and I believe they will always remain loyal to that. In saying that, they have also maintained friendships with boys who went to other schools.
All the schools mentioned have excellent sporting and extra-curricular opportunities - the difference here being, that at private schools such as King’s, this is compulsory (must play a sport, I think up to year 11). I’m not convinced that forcing a teenager to play sport when they don’t want to is an ideal scenario - if not for them, then for the other people on the team. By 13, a young person should be able to make their own decision about what they’d like to do in addition to school work, whether this be rugby, drama, debating, music, chess, academic Olympiads or nothing. 500 boys is a large group, so there is pretty much always others with similar interests to have as a friend group.
Answers have also not considered the impact of commuting in the rush hour on a teenager - 1.5 to 2 hours per day of unproductive time is added to busy schedules. I am sure this adds to burn-out in highly capable, highly driven students and I have witnessed a number of examples of this at private schools. My girls would be away for more than 12 hours each day while they were at King’s - more time than most full-time working parents. They are resilient and tough but this was still exhausting.
The word I would use to describe Grammar is ‘honest’. They clearly outline what you can expect from them and what they expect from you, and for the most part this is delivered fairly and capably. If a school (or parents) sets low expectations then they will certainly be achieved.
Having attended AGS between 2008-2012, I can validate some of the above points, whilst also shedding light on some new ones.
As aforementioned, all schools would be fantastic options for your children, and as Harry stated:
I personally only ever considered Auckland Grammar, the other two presented too much of a financial barrier. Additionally, I was fortunate enough to be “in zone”. The fee breakdown for the 2016 year looked as follows, ranked lowest to highest:
- Auckland Grammar School - $1075* (donation)
Saint Kentigern’s College - $19,625
King’s College - $22,995 - $23,995
- Auckland Grammar School - $21,750
Saint Kentigern’s College - $36,465
King’s College - [unsure]
*The above are solely based on Tuition Fees, and exclude any additional costs (all of which you’ll find do have).
Let me first touch on a few of Ed’s comments:
Yes, to some extent I agree with this. Entering into a school with 550 students in your cohort alone will always be daunting. However, the feeling of being despondent quickly subsides; you simply don’t have time to feel sorry for yourself. From an outsider’s perspective, people are often hesitant of Grammar’s alphabetic streaming system (A - P). Yet, internally, it instills a sense of unrivalled competitiveness that I’ve yet to come across anywhere else. Everyone, whether you’re in the top class or bottom, has this perpetual desire to move their way up - outsmarting their classmates.
Throughout your time at the school, you’ll have 5 chances to move up (or down) a class: end of first term in Year 9/3rd Form; and at the beginning of every year leading up to Year 13/7th Form. Moving up or down is dependent on your internal examination scores for the previous year, you’ll be given your class rank and also your cohort rank. Typically the top and bottom 15% will see movement, whilst the middle stays put. However, each year there will be variance in this percentage. It’s not uncommon to move up/down multiple classes.
With classes being in a constant state of flux, students are kept on their toes and motivated to do well academically - this can be described almost as an informal competition, lasting 5 years. I will concede that as good as the system can be, it can see a small set of students fall through the cracks, those who might need extra attention; benefiting from smaller classes.
Although Grammar is a single-gender school, there is ample opportunity to socialise with that of the opposite sex. Grammar is situated in close-proximity to a plethora of top all-girls schools (Diocesan, St Cuthberts, Epsom Girls, and Baradene). You’ll have a chance to meet people from these aforementioned schools by:
- Attending a School Social - This is a great chance to meet people from a the above schools, typically held in central Auckland. Mainly for Year 9/10 Students.
- Biltmore Dancing - Every week on a Friday night for 6 weeks, there was two hours of dancing at Diocesan School for Girls. Schools involved were mainly St Cuthberts, Diocesan, AGS, and King’s. Note: Most people did not do this for the dancing, instead, they did it for the large social gatherings that took place afterwards, typically at someone’s house. Was only available for Year 11 Guys & Year 10 Girls.
- Numerous different extracurricular activities such as Production (done with EGGS, yearly), Korean Cultural Group, Chinese Cultural Group, Ultimate Frisbee etc etc
- Leadership Positions - If you’re a Prefect at AGS, you’ll typically communicate on a regular basis with the other Prefects at the likes of St Cuths and EGGS. For example, at St Cuths they will have an assembly takeover where AGS Prefects (typically dressed in St Cuths uniform) will perform some hilarious-and-embarrassing skit with the girls.
I don’t think you are going to be at any real disadvantage, socially, if you end up at AGS compared to SKC or KC.
Personally, my experience at Grammar was absolutely incredible. Over the course of five years I had the opportunity to not only develop as a young leader and learner, but form friendships that I still hold-dear today. I’ll summarise a few main points of interest:
I’ve already touched on this above. Grammar is perfect for those who want to be constantly pushed, surrounded by bright, young, sparks! However, success is largely derived off one’s self-drive to move their way up through the rank-system. If you don’t test well, you’ll struggle.
Personally, I don’t test well at all. Therefore, I actually started my time at AGS in P - that’s right, at the bottom. Year-by-year I progressively moved my way up through the classes, gaining more confidence with every set of exams. That’s one thing that the school does very well, teaches you how to execute on examinations. They do this through practice, practice, and more practice. Every year, for three out of the four terms, you’ll sit internal examinations (75-100+ exams, and that’s just internally assessed!!).
In your first year, you’ll be taking core classes:
3A-3H will take English, Social Studies, Science, Mathematics, Latin and Te Reo Maori. They will also take one of French OR Japanese OR Spanish.
3I-3P will take English, Social Studies, Science, Mathematics and Te Reo Maori. They will also take one of French OR Japanese OR Latin OR Spanish (so two languages in total will be taken).
Note: all Form 3 students will also study Art, Technology, Music and Physical Education.
In most cases, there will be little change in your second year.
Once you reach the Senior School (Year 11-13), the school offers both the Cambridge International Examinations (CIE) and the New Zealand National Certificate of Education Achievement (NCEA). The upper band of the stream will do the former, and the lower, the latter.
Note: If you’re in one of the lower classes, you can talk to your Dean about the prospect of pursuing CIE instead.
Grammar offers a wealth of extracurricular opportunity. It’s not uncommon for students to take upwards of 10+ extracurriculars in their first year, just to get the feel of whether it’s something they could do long term. Typically, as their schooling progresses, students will begin focussing on 2-4 activities at quite a high level.
Although all schools listed in this forum have a wide-range of extracurriculars available, the one advantage of AGS is its size. You’ll have sports (Cricket, Soccer, Rugby, and Basketball) with such high numbers that there will be numerous teams within the one division. Allowing entry into a team, no matter where you are on the spectrum, beginners/those competing recreationally compared to someone competing at a high level.
AGS is the oldest of the three schools listed, founded in 1868. Followed by King’s (1896) and SKC (1953). There is an enormous amount of pride to be had when attending a school with this much heritage. Whether you’re currently attending, or attended 50 years ago, the community is binded together by the school’s underlying ethos.
To reinforce the idea that the school actively fosters a sense of culture, I’ll use an example. Every morning 2500 boys (+ all teachers) will cram into the grand hall. The bell will ring at 9am on the dot, the headmaster will walk on stage, and in unison - near 3000 people will stand. This becomes an integral part of a student’s daily routine, where they would hear the day’s notices, any upcoming opportunities, or changes to their schedule.
All three of the schools, AGS, SKC, and King’s are equally patriotic and overflowing with culture. If you’re wanting a strong school community, they will all provide this for you.
Although the above was heavily one-sided towards AGS (sorry!), I don’t necessarily think there is a wrong choice when it comes to choosing one - all will provide an excellent education.
I’d like to also share some of the negative attributes of King’s College for a more balanced perspective:
A. Racist and Sexist Culture (that still continues to underpin aspects of the school)
a. While I was a student there in 2012, a debate was still raging over whether girls should be allowed to be the head student. This seemed almost mind blowing to me at the time because in the spirit of equal access, a girl, if qualified enough should be allowed to be head student. It wasn’t until 2015 that people acknowledged that there should be both a Head Girl and Head Boy of equal level (when Amanda Ngo was Head Girl). Even to this day, the majority of campus still perceives the head boy to be senior. Back in 2012, the majority of girls at prefect selection camp still felt that a girl shouldn’t be able to rise to the highest level of prefect-ship.
b. It was not uncommon between 2008-2012 for boarder’s to use butter to write numbers on their toast and hold it up to the new Year 12 girls coming into the school to rank their appearances. As a boy you have to be shocked by this but can you imagine how brutal it would be a girl starting fresh at King’s, a bit nervous about your appearance like everyone is and have some boarder plaster a 4 on their toast?
c. There has been a fairly mind blowing trend that has continued at King’s for nearly 10 years in the selection of the top 5-6 deputy head and head prefects which is that there is always one and only one student from the Pacific Island/Samoan or Maori community. Never in the last 10 years has a students from one of these ethnic backgrounds ever been Head Boy. By the same token, never in the history of King’s has an Asian student been Head Boy of King’s either. The school continues to perpetuate a tokenism of sorts in the leadership selection process that is quite demoralizing to everyone but white students.
B. Boarding School Bullying Culture
a. King’s is pretty tight-lipped on the pervasive boarding school bullying culture but it is absolutely real and pretty terrifying. Multiple students left King’s College in my team there as a result of extreme harassment. Many more of my friends were physically kicked, punched, throw in rubbish bins by older students who were using their “seniority” to enforce some “discipline”. In the boarding school environment there is no escape from your bullies and the house masters, more often than not, let this culture continue. The head of Parnell house was made to resign from my understanding after so many parents complained about the bullying culture in Parnell that the school had to do something about his lack of engagement with the problem. Here are some NZ herald articles referencing this problem:
The culture is usually horrendously bad for only a few students that get ganged up on and reasonably tolerable for a lot of students provided they have thick skin and have other friends going through the same problems so they have some support but it’s important to note going in.
C. Complacency in some of the teachers
I had a lovely teacher in Social Studies who was very fun to be around but value for money as a fee-paying student was pretty negligible as he basically put on movies for literally nearly every class. Naturally students don’t exactly tell their parents about this because it makes life easier (until exam time) but the very strong union culture of King’s means there are many older teachers around who have gotten fairly complacent. For every lazy teacher, there are phenomenal ones but it’s important to note the wide variance in quality. This quality variance does exist at all schools but an environment like ACG does hold teachers to more accountability in terms of results than a place like King’s College.
I concur with the above that bullying was definitely an issue at KC during my time there.
Physical harassment from older students in the boarding house was common, and at the time most of us, oddly, saw it as some form of ‘rite of passage’ that had been around for decades. In reflection, I now see just how absurd and damaging that mentality was. There would be times when our dorms would be raided during the night and certain students would be singled out and physically hurt, all for the amusement of the older students. Despite this being a common occurrence, I only recall a few students ever being punished.
For me, the worst part is that speaking out, at the time, seemed impossible. Older students would convince us that those of us willing and able to take the most punishment without complaining were the toughest, and that’s what being one of the lads was all about. Instead of forming a solid bond between others who were going through the same issues and speaking out together, people would criticise you heavily if you ever brought the idea of ‘narking’ up.
The bullying culture definitely decreased throughout my time at King’s, though it’s hard to say whether this is because I became less of a target as I got older, or because the bullying itself became less prominent. It’s been several years since I’ve left the school now, I hope they’ve made progress in this department; the bullying was an unnecessary stain on what, otherwise, is a phenomenal school.
I attended King’s College from 2008 and experienced some of the best years of my life. The focus on the ‘all rounded education’ with the school offering a vast array of opportunities across academia, sport, community service etc. was amazing.
One of the elements I would like to focus on is the Leadership system within King’s. Yes, during my time I was a part of the ‘Head Girl’ or ‘Senior Girl’ debate, but overall King’s strives to remove the notion that only year 13’s should have leadership roles by constantly offering positions for all students in all areas. This will only increase as girls are to be introduced from year 9 and the roll evens out.
As Head Prefect of St Kentigern School, naturally I was searching for the next leadership position I could get involved in from day one at King’s. To my delight, there were no shortages. As an example, in year 9 you could already be the leader of multiple junior sports within your House, year 11 you could be leading the house in Small House Music and in year 13 you could hold positions such as a School/House Prefect, Leader of the Glee Club or Sacristan in the chapel. The positions are unbounded. As I reflect, some of my best friends went to Auckland Grammar after leaving St Kentigern, and I know that similar opportunities before year 13 were pretty much unavailable and only a select group were named Prefects in their final year (with little to no promotion opportunities).
King’s offers a multifaceted and flexible leadership structure. There are so many positions and ranks within the school and one’s House that someone can always strive for something. If you were not fortunate enough to be named to a certain position at the end of year 12, there were always multiple opportunities to move up the ladder through promotion. You can even start year 13 with no responsibility, and by the end be a Senior Prefect (the highest accolade). Contrast this with the offering at Auckland Grammar whereby it is very black & white and rigid in terms of position, and the prefect team can be relatively predictable in some cases.
Additionally, one of the greatest parts of King’s College is the House System. From a leadership perspective, you can both move up the ranks in your house as well as within the school, meaning one year you could have a Head of House leading your specific cohort working alongside the multiple Senior Prefects and other leaders. If you miss out on the coveted Head of House position, you may be selected as a Senior Prefect essentially placing you on the same rank. This environment offers prestige to the roles and inspires students to not give up when they don’t reach their goals the first time.
Outside of the leadership perspective, the House environment as a whole is one the best experiences a student can have at King’s. Day in and day out, Houses compete on multiple stages such as various levels of Rugby matches, House Music and the overall shields given out at Prizegiving. During school, there are few better feelings than winning the Athletics Carnival, Cross Country or a Cultural extravaganza that you and your 80+ peers have worked tirelessly on for a number of weeks (and months in some cases). Having your House as a solid base throughout your 5 years at King’s is something not offered at say Auckland Grammar. I know that St Kentigern College has Houses, however I cannot comment on their culture.
Overall, King’s really is a community. You work together to manage the school in so many different leadership capacities, battle it out through the House System and come together to support the 1st XV defeat your rivals. Despite King’s having cases of bullying, I am sure the other schools in consideration have multiple cases of bullying too. For parents looking for a community environment in which students are encouraged to strive for greatness by both their peers and teachers, King’s is one of the best.
My time at Saint Kentigern was really awesome, and I struggle to think of much that I found negative.
I feel that bullying at Saint Kentigern is not a huge problem. It definitely exists, but it’s two or three kids who get the brunt of it, in a cohort of around 400. While this isn’t great, it’s very minor - mainly verbal teasing, I’ve never heard of anything physical at my time there. In fact, I’d go as far as to say socially Saint Kents is really as good as I’ve ever seen. A lot of kids who were insular at primary school really developed into great young people throughout our time there
However, SKC still has some major problems. The one I’m most passionate about is the lack of support for driven students. During my time there, only mathematics was accelerated (the school now accelerates sciences, too) - but at schools like Westlake top students can be pushed a year ahead from the start in all subjects, and then have a year studying towards solely scholarship subjects. This leads to SKC underperforming in Scholarship exams.
Furthermore, there is really no support for foreign university applications. I got a generic letter of recommendation, basically only having my name changed, and got no help navigating the international applications process. There’s no encouragement to apply further afield than New Zealand, and despite the caliber of students being every bit as good as anywhere else, the combo of lack of academic acceleration and lack of encouragement in foreign applications leads to SKC falling dismally behind in terms of students being accepted to foreign Universities.
I feel like more support in these areas would make a great school even better - SKC has the students and the teaching to really be awesome in terms of international acceptances, but is let down but the institutional lack of support in these areas.
Although all of the above schools are without question phenomenal, it’s great to see some openness in regards to their faults. All of which have plenty.
As a former student of Auckland Grammar School, I’ll concede to some of the negative aspects of the institution. Preemptive apologies, I’m going be blunt. Period.
Bullying is alive, well, and has no immediate plan on leaving. I’d confidently say that most students, one way or another, would have experienced bullying. Especially if:
You’re LGBTQIA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and allied/adjacent). You better be prepared to either i) suppress your emotion and true identity for 5 years (this happens - view article at bottom); or ii) endure 5 years of undeviating bullying.
You’re considered socially impaired, awkward, or struggle to communicate effectively with peers. Then the likelihood is you’ll get a plethora of verbal slurs thrown your way on a daily basis for being weird; many students will also try to take advantage of you.
You’re overweight. Well, your skin better be as thick as hide. If it isn’t you’ll be receiving torment in way of light hearted jokes. Yet, these ‘jokes’ will most likely take place throughout all parts of the day: assembly, walking to class, at lunch, in line for tuckshop, and most definitely in the changing rooms.
You’re asian. You won’t be able to hide from the constant stereotypical slurs - lumped for 5 years into one bracket: “asian”.
You’re known to be of a certain religious belief. Muslims and Jews face the grunt of religious distasteful slurs. Students love to throw ‘funny’ verbal bricks, at no point do they realise they are being islamophobic or anti semitic.
I could continue with the above list, but I’ll stop. What I’m emphasising though is that there is a systemic issue within AGS where “boys culture” prevails over anything else; cultivating a breeding ground for bullying and torment. Most of the bullying that takes place is verbal and within the confines of the school’s walls. Bullying someone has almost become an intrinsic characteristic of being a student at Grammar - a rite of passage - worst of all, people don’t even realise they are doing it. Even if students do realise that bullying is in effect, few people will speak up at risk of being targeted.
Staff are well aware of the bullying that goes on, but choose not to tackle it head on. In their eyes, ‘boys will be boys’ and eventually the problem will dissipate into nothing.
As previously mentioned, most people will experience bullying at some stage throughout their five years at Grammar. Therefore, it’s important to realise that you’re not the only one going through this and typically everything is short-lived. In addition, the advantage of AGS is that you’ll have 550 people in your cohort, allowing you a high probability of finding a fantastic group of friends.
King’s also has a serious drug problem within the school. Multiple students have passed away in recent years as a result of drugs and alcohol which is never a good sign. This is particularly a problem within boarding houses. In Averill, for example in my year, nearly the entire dorm were frequent drug users and at one stage this was flagged to one of the senior administration and dismissed as not real. To this day, I’m not sure whether that senior administrator felt the problem was just so systemic it was hard to deal with or was blissfully ignorant.
The combination of access to money many King’s students have alongside the repetitive nature of the boarding house and the desire to look cool in front of the peers you spend everyday with and find some way to be unique does seem to be a trigger to drive boarders to experiment with drugs. Be aware that if your kids are getting sent to boarding, I would estimate at least 30-50% of all borders by Year 13 experiment with drugs of various forms.
I attended King’s from 2012-2016.
In response to the bullying, sexist, and racist culture that some people have associated with King’s College:
I’d say sexism has really died down in recent times (2013 onwards), and more specifically since the introduction of Girls at Year 11 last year. Both students and staff no longer see it as “a boys’ school,” but rather one that promotes gender equality.
- It’s one of the first schools (to my knowledge) to allow both girls and boys to perform the Haka at the same time.
- In terms of Prefectship, the amount of girls and boys who were school prefects was very similar to the respective ratios of girls:boys at the college last year.
- The ratio of girls:boys has increased significantly in recent times, and will continue to increase in the near future.
- I think after Amanda’s year (2015), Head Girl is definitely seen on par with Head Boy.
I would say that yes the sexist culture you are referring to used to exist - girls were sometimes even put down with chants like “this is a boy’s school” at sports events etc. The only reason for this was that King’s was in fact a single-sex male school. However, this has now changed, and as a result the chants have ceased to exist. The school’s philosophy has really adapted to embrace both genders equally, forming a cohesive learning environment.
To potential parents of girls: I’d say that King’s offers an equally good education regardless of gender, and remains to be one of the best schools in the country. Girls are really not seen as inferiors in any way, and are welcomed in each and every aspect of the college, especially as King’s continues to increase the female student body.
“There has been a fairly mind blowing trend that has continued at King’s for nearly 10 years in the selection of the top 5-6 deputy head and head prefects which is that there is always one and only one student from the Pacific Island/Samoan or Maori community.”
This is completely true, but I think that’s primarily due to the fact that no one has been seen as good enough to be Head Boy. I can’t name anyone over my time at King’s who didn’t get Head Boy or a Senior Role just because they "weren’t white."
I think the fact that “there is always one student from the Pacific Island/Samoan or Maori community” actually promotes anti-racism as opposed to what you suggest.
Bullying occurs at every single school. I would say that NZHerald has a strong negative bias to degrade King’s College, which is probably seen as newsworthy, and thus more people hear about bullying specifically at King’s. I’m sure if you went to any other private/public school in the country, you would see a culture of bullying that far exceeds what he have at King’s.
I think with leadership changes and a bunch of new Headmasters, the school has really moved to create a safe, enjoyable learning environment that really doesn’t discriminate based on gender or race.
Go Amanda Ngo, it sounds like she had an amazing impact on the culture at King’s College!