Choosing the right school for your son or daughter can be a complex and often challenging process. We prepare children for entry into Prep and Senior Schools, with School Entrance Examinations and Interview Practice, including Year 7 and Year 9 Independent School Entrance Examinations, the 11+ and 13+ for Grammar School Entry, Common Entrance and Scholarship Preparation. A significant number of our teachers work within the Independent and Grammar School Sectors and have excellent knowledge and experience of the process.
A Parent's Guide for current Year 5 children looking to do the 11+ Exam in September 2019 can be found here.
The 11 Plus (also called the 11+ or Eleven Plus) is an examination taken by some school pupils in their last year of Primary School to get into a Grammar School of their choice. In reality most children will only be 10 years old when they take the test; the term “11 Plus” refers to the fact that the test selects for schools with an entry point for children aged 11 or over.
There are now 164 Grammar Schools remaining in England, with the possibility of new and expanded provision in future years. The qualification rate for the 11 plus test varies considerably around the country. Some schools attract several thousand applicants for as few as 180 places; the four Grammar Schools in Kingston and Sutton are an example of such over-subscription, with a pass rate of perhaps 3 percent. In areas where the Grammar School System has been retained in full, the pass rate is considerably higher; in Buckinghamshire it is around 30 percent each year.
There can be up to four different “disciplines” used for the 11 Plus tests: Verbal Reasoning, Non-Verbal Reasoning, Maths and English. The combination of test papers varies considerably around the country.
Year 7 Entrance Examinations for Independent Schools are often based upon the Grammar School 11+ Exam, but they are not the same. Independent Schools generally publish sample papers for their Entrance Examinations on their websites, or they can be obtained by contacting the School's Admission Office. Year 7 Entrance Examinations for Independent Schools generally take place during Janaury when the child is in Year 6.
The Common Entrance Examination (also known as the 13+ Examination) is strongly supported by many of the top Prep and Independent Senior Schools in the UK. Its rigorous syllabuses and breadth of subjects provide a strong academic focus for pupils in Years 7 and 8, provides a measure of academic attainment used by Senior Schools to select their Year 9 intake ... and is still considered to be a good preparation for academic GCSEs.
Pupils sit the Common Entrance examination at 13+ when they are in Year 8. Pre-testing can occur in the preceding years. There are three examination sessions each year, in November, January and May/June.
The core subjects - English, Mathematics and Science - are compulsory. In addition, candidates can sit papers in a wide range of subjects chosen from French, Geography, German, Classical Greek, History, Latin, Mandarin Chinese, Religious Studies and Spanish. The core subjects, most modern languages, Latin and Classical Greek are offered at more than one level. Weaker candidates are not expected to tackle papers beyond their ability.
If you are interested in an Independent School education for your child, but cannot afford the school fees, it may be worth considering applying for a Scholarship or a Bursary.
Most Independent Schools offer Scholarships to attract the most talented pupils to their school. These Scholarships can be focused around academic, sporting, musical or artistic achievement; or some combination of these. Scholarships awarded by the more established and bigger brand schools (Eton, Winchester, Harrow, …) who have large foundations, can be financially significant. The majority of Scholarships, awarded by most Independent Schools, are now less about financial value and more purely honorary, resulting in a status within the school or a name on the honours board. The majority of these Scholarships are worth between 0% and 10% in fee discount.
Be honest… if your child is doing well, above average in their current good State Primary School, but not the outstanding academic, sports star or musician, then they are probably not destined to become a Scholar. If your child was reading at three, knew all their times tables at four and was reading demanding books at six, then you may wish to have them assessed by a teacher, to give a view on their current achievement and future potential as a Scholar.
Scholarships are highly competitive. You will need to be informed and to have done your research into the various schools. You will also need to invest in time and expertise to help prepare your child towards their Scholarships Exams and Assessments. Do not pressure your child, who of course will want to do well and succeed. Approach it with an attitude of "Let us give it a go!"
Most Independent Schools now divert their funds towards Bursaries, to encourage talented children of less well-off families to join their school. Bursaries can be worth up to 100% of school fees, though most are much less than this. The value of the Bursary is determined by means-testing a family's financial circumstances (including income and assets). The threshold for family income, in order to award a Bursary, can be quite high, around £50 to £60k.
Bursary Interviews take place throughout the year before entry. Be very honest in answering all the questions and providing all of the detailed information required. A Bursary awards are reviewed annually and can flex up and down a little, though the agreed intention is to keep the student at the school for the long-term.
Be reassured that schools do not publish lists or identify those students who hold Bursaries. Confidence is kept throughout the process.
It is also possible for a child to be awarded both a Scholarship and a Bursary, so do not be shy in asking the school if they would consider this.
At its heart, we know that education is a simple thing. Whoever we are, wherever we may be, we all need to experience the joy of achievement, our own and others' ... and then we need great teachers.