Westminster Under School - 7+ or 8+

(49 Posts)
fourmummy Sun 25-Nov-12 23:56:12

Can anyone explain the difference (or, the reason even, e.g., historical) for having the 7+ and 8+ for entry to WUS? Is it better to go for the 7+ (to give DS more chances) or not? Why would someone choose to enter their son for the 8+ but not the 7+? Is the 8+ 'harder' to get into than the 7+? Generally, does it become harder to get into selective schools as the children progress in age? DD went into CLSG at 7+ and went through to the senior school from there. No experience yet of boys' schools so am watching threads closely. Am thinking of WUS for DS but am not sure of the 7+/8+ difference/terminology. Any information very welcome.

Propitious Mon 26-Nov-12 15:05:54

Building programme some time ago enabled WUS to expand the school roll and add an intake at 7+. More recent building work means even more space & facilities.

No real consensus on whether 7+ or 8+ easier/harder for entry at the Under School. Traditionally 11+ entry (used to be called 10+) statistically 'easier' as there were fewer candidates per place. 11+ often the route in for state primary candidates, 7+/8+ boys more often than not of pre-prep provenance. I taught at WUS for some time and some of the most able candidates entered the school at 10+ (aka 11+) and went on to take top honours in The Challenge (the scholarship exam) at the Great School (Westminster School). The 10+ candidates were a bit raw and required intervention in languages etc but from these rough diamonds high quality gems often emerged!

The Under School is outstanding at developing latent talent, but candidates do have to have talent in the first place. 7+/8+ candidates I always found to be a bit over-schooled (crammed?) by pre-preps and sometimes lacking in original thought. 7+/8+ entry also produced star performers but there are of course many more of them.

Can't recommend the place enough. It's a surprisingly well-rounded school with proper care and development, a lot of real achievement and enjoyment of scholarship in its broadest sense; and it's certainly not a hot-house. Do have a back-up plan for your son if you're contemplating entry because competition is fierce.

Hope this helps.

fourmummy Mon 26-Nov-12 15:05:56

Bumping this up - if anyone can answer, please, I would be very grateful. What is the main difference between entering your child for a 7+ as opposed to an 8+ exam? Are there any reasons other than the obvious (e.g., maturity)? Why does Westminster (and others) have a 7+ AND an 8+?

Propitious Mon 26-Nov-12 15:15:42

Competition. Schools who were early adopters of the 7+ entry thought they could steal a march on other schools with a trad. 8+ entry by scooping up the best candidates a year early. Now of course they're all at it.

fourmummy Mon 26-Nov-12 16:58:51

Thank you Propitious. One more question, if I may. In your opinion, are candidates who don't get in at the 7+ entry disadvantaged by this at the 8+ entry? Is it better to enter both for the 7+ andthe 8+ (assuming that he does not go through at the 8+) or really prepare (I don't mean tutoring but just at home) and go all out for the 8+? It seems that in my estimation, a difference of one year has a lot of impact in a boy's life in terms of maturity etc..They still seem VERY raw and young at six/seven.

fourmummy Mon 26-Nov-12 16:59:50

Apologies. My previous message meant to read "assuming that he does not go through at the 7+".

Mominatrix Mon 26-Nov-12 18:18:09

7+ entry and 8+ entry are equally hard in terms of candidates per place. The difference between 7+ and 8+ in terms of exam is that much more is expected of boys at 8+ than at 7+ in terms of maths and english levels- much more than just a year growth! Boys who are successful at 7+ are those who are the more mature in terms of following direction and ability to sit through and focus during a 3 hour exam at the age of 6. I know of many boys who were unsuccessful at 7+ due to maturity issues (definitely not in terms of ability), but flew through at 8+. It definitely does not hurt your son's application at 8+ if he was an unsuccessful 7+ candidate.

Many people gun for 7+ places because they feel that it is easier to get into in terms of what is academically expected.

Going back to 11+, this is actually considered the most difficult year to get into WUS IF one is coming from the private sector (also true of its rival Colet Court) as admissions are slanted towards state school applicants.

Propitious Mon 26-Nov-12 18:48:49

There is some 'back-channel' chat during selection meetings about marginal candidates at 8+ who failed to get in at 7+...perhaps not looked upon as favorably as other single entry 8+ boys?? Needless to say there can be some pretty fine distinctions drawn between candidates.

Of course a lot depends on the quality of the candidate pool year by year....some years have many strong candidates, others a few less. However because WUS is now a very popular choice, the 'field' (candidates) seems to get stronger year on year.

All boys (children) mature at different rates. Yes indeed, a year is a huge difference in cognitive development in that age bracket but you can't really predict how any particular individual will be on their 'learning/achievement curve' (sorry about the cliche but it's good shorthand...) when approaching 7+ and later when approaching 8+. Some will surge ahead early, some later.....it's all down to individuals.

Sorry that my answer seems such a cop out but each & every parent has to make an assessment/best-guess as to where on the achievement spectrum their child is RELATIVE to other potential candidates when making decisions about early or later entry. Also bear in mind my comments about the strength of the field and apocryphal negative bias against marginal 8+ who failed at 7+.

Turniphead1 Mon 26-Nov-12 21:32:47

Propitious - thanks for your detailed comments. Do you have any thoughts about the extent of the "catchment" of boys joining at Year 3. We are entering DS (and clearly it's unlikely he'll get a place given the fierce competition). My worry if he did go is that he'd be the only one from our area of North London (it seems a lot more SW and W is postcodes) and that he would have a long commute (45mins at least). He's a state school boy too.

Propitious Mon 26-Nov-12 22:36:57

Yes, it would be a long commute for such a youngster but I know of many who have done it & survived, though special measures required to facilitate it in some instances - the parental 'taxi' etc. Many make huge sacrifices (time & money) in order to enable their son's presence at the school. There is no official catchment as such but questions of a practical nature would be asked by the school if the family home was really distant.

A significant majority of boys come from areas centred on Kensington & Chelsea though more are now prepared to travel from further afield (...those special measures again). Obviously easier as the boys get older and are more able to cope with the distance & public transport options.

If he is successful & gets in then ask around other parents to see if there are one or two others in the same boat (location) - you may be able to piggyback travel arrangements. Top tip: ask the school secretary for addresses of other parents in your locale - even if they're not in the same year group. A bit of networking may pay dividends. Lynsey Salaman, until quite recently the school secretary, was brilliant & helped a lot of parents with issues like this.

(Please don't use the school as an early morning child minding service - there's an agreed time when the school is open in the morning. Some parents liked to drop their sons off at 7.00am en route to the office....not fair on child with only the janitor for company....and not fair on janitor!)

Turniphead1 Mon 26-Nov-12 23:01:05

Thanks Propitious.

That is so helpful. I guess until I'm in the position of having an offer hmm I shouldn't worry. it's still up in the air whether the sacrifice (most notably for him of course) would be worth it. It's more likely that he will take a 7+ place at the school his sister goes to, which is much much nearer.

Admittedly once he was able to do public transport it would actually be a fairly quick whizz down the Victoria line.

How horrible for boys to be dropped off at 7. Admittedly I drop my daughter at 8ish (to avoid getting gridlocked in drop-off traffic) which gives her a 20 minute wait but 7 is a bit much!

TennisMom Tue 27-Nov-12 00:34:03

Hi Propitious,

For the 7+/8+ admissions, does WUS take into account a boy's birth date when looking at entrance test results ? I would imagine that boys who have already turned 7 by January when the exam takes place will have a huge advantage (maturity and experience) over boys who are younger than 7 at the time.

For example, my son will only by 6.5 y.o. in January when he takes the 7+ exam whereas his older brother had just turned 8 (December) when he took the 8+ exam in January.

I think 6 months make a huge difference in maturity and knowledge when taking these entrance exams. Hence, does the school take this fact into account when making its admissions decisions?

Turniphead1 Tue 27-Nov-12 08:27:19

Hi Tennismom. I am sure Propitious can confirm - but I am fairly sure that all schools with any entrance assessments take into account the child's birthday. My DS is an October baby which is helpful - but clearly he is nearly a full year older than an August child taking the tests. They do like to have a span of birthdays - otherwise these schools would be largely full of children born between September and January.

How is your elder son finding WUS? Is there a lot of homework?

Propitious Tue 27-Nov-12 10:23:05

Hi TennisMom,

Ages/dates of birth all carefully scrutinised and taken into account. A few months can make a huge difference at that age.

fourmummy Tue 27-Nov-12 10:55:45

Thanks Propitious. That's really useful information. Do you (or anyone else?) know roughly how many sit the 7+ and 8+ entrance exams?

More generally, does birth date/month apply also at a 10+ sit (obviously, for a different school to WUS) or are these differences assumed to be negligible by that stage?

fourmummy Tue 27-Nov-12 11:02:10

Also, TennisMom,

Why did one son sit the 8+ while the other is sitting the 7+ (if you don't mind)? Just curious as to the distinction (but if a personal matter, then clearly no need to respond).

TennisMom Wed 28-Nov-12 00:09:13

how did you guess that one of my sons is currently at WUS based on my original post? Just curious because you guessed correctly.

I think he is in the right school as homework load is not too bad for him. Definitely, there is more homework at WUS than at his last school (once or twice a week) but very manageable. There is weekend homework where they are expected to produce more in-depth works but they tend to be creative and fun in nature (create a travel guide, create a map of a new city, do a presentation of your own created religion, etc.).

What I see is that for a bright, motivated and curious boy, the amount of work is not overwhelming. however, I guess where it can be challenging for a boy is if he doesn't feel inspired to do any of the projects or find the work level too difficult. for example, the spelling list is definitely more challenging than at his last school but he can tackle it with some thought. I can easily see, though, that the list is challenging for an average 8/9 year old.

In summary, if the boy is smart and loves to learn, he should be able to handle WUS with no problem. More importantly, you, as the parent, are less stressed out because he can do the work. If he is slow to learn new concepts, it will take him longer to perform same task and it will stress you out.

TennisMom Wed 28-Nov-12 00:09:56

Propitious, thanks for this info. It is very useful and comforting to know that they do take age into consideration.

TennisMom Wed 28-Nov-12 00:15:49


Oldest boy sat the 8+ exam because we weren't in London at the time of his 7+ entry exam; otherwise, we would have tried because he was very strong academically and ready at 7+.

What year is your daughter at CLSG? Do you have 4 kids hence the moniker?

singersgirl Wed 28-Nov-12 10:09:58

At a similar school to WUS where they have 10+ admission, they weight the reasoning paper according to age (though from that it appears that they don't weight the other papers). 7+ intake at highly selective preps is dominated by children who are older in the year, it's more balanced at 8+ and even more balanced by 10/11+. However, I once (in a sad, too much time on my hands and unhealthy preoccupation sort of way) went through the birth dates of all the boys in my son's selective prep (published with their class lists) and discovered a heavy imbalance towards the first six months of the academic year. Can you guess my sons are born in August?

Turniphead1 Wed 28-Nov-12 12:14:46

Tennismom - I think I remembered you posting when your eldest boy got his place. Well done him! And its kind of implied in your post that you are talking about WUS both times I suppose. 8+ is fairly rare apart from CC and WUS too. And that would be a tricky school run smile.

Glad your DS is enjoying WUS and I am sure his brother will get to join him next September.

TennisMom Wed 28-Nov-12 16:42:05

Thanks, Turniphead1, I hope so as well for my school runs sanity. I have another boy after these two and talk about stress getting all 3 into a very selective school!

Oldest boy is very special and bright such that he got in both WUS and CC at 8+ but still relatively normal, thank goodness.

Btw, what did you mean by this comment: "8+ is fairly rare apart from CC and WUS too. And that would be a tricky school run."

Turniphead1 Wed 28-Nov-12 17:45:53

Well - I know many schools that do 7+ but not many that do 8+ (apart from Cc and WUS). So if you had one at Colet Court and one at WUS that would be hard in terms of school run.

Mominatrix Wed 28-Nov-12 18:44:56

Actually, many schools do 8+ - some exclusively (like Sussex House). I don't know any who do 7+ but not 8+, but then I don't know all the schools in London (too many, yet not enough).

Turniphead1 Wed 28-Nov-12 20:26:59

Ahhh must just be our part of London.

CityGirl2012 Thu 29-Nov-12 13:25:25

hello - can anyone advise on the pros and cons of 7+/8+ v 13+ entry into top London day schools, please? thank you!

chooberry Thu 29-Nov-12 13:33:20

Yes I would be interested to hear views as well. We are in the position to send our son to a top prep school (and hence try for entry at 13+ for London day schools) or alternatively stay at his current school which will prepare him for 7+ entry. What are the pros and cons or is this just a matter of personal choice.

At the moment its hard to tell how academically able our son will be, but ideally we would like to send him to a top London day school (e.g. Westminster, St. Pauls etc.).

milkshake3 Thu 29-Nov-12 13:43:03

Hi CityGirl - upfront, I have gone down the 13+ route with my DCs!! The reasons are as follows:

- I wanted them to have a carefree time when they were little rather than being drilled to write a story and pass exams at 7 (and I didn't like the victorian type classrooms I saw when looking round schools that prepared boys for 7/8+ - silent, boys writing, teachers walking around, very academic focus not rounded, very few displays - it's probably changed a bit now though).
- Back then tutoring was not de-rigeur, but now everyone tutors meaning less time to do stuff outside school, and we did loads in the evenings and weekends (masses of sport, music, visits, travels etc), all of which teaches them life skills - teamwork, perseverance, making friends outside an immediate school circle.
- Boys develop later than girls so I wanted to put off the moment of testing until as late as possible - pre tests in year 6 and 7. My boys changed a lot between 7-13 yrs, and my DH and I changed our views of suitable schools for them in that time.

Reading threads on here about 7/8+, it seems to be a few of those boys who struggle with the transfer exam at 13 to senior school because it is hard to know how they will develop and also if they have been tutored to pass the test and can't keep up without that ingoing support. However, if you have your heart set on one of the academic day schools and can get them in at 7/8+ and they can keep up, you are done - no worries about pre tests and common entrance (although that isn't really a worry if you pick the right school for your DC).

HTH and good luck!

Turniphead1 Thu 29-Nov-12 15:15:15

Just to pickup on a point made by Milkshake - you DO still need to sit Common Entrance at some schools that have feeder preps - WUS being a prime example.

But for other prep/junior schools one of the major benefits is not having to prepare for transfer examinations at 11 or 13.

TennisMom Thu 29-Nov-12 15:43:31

Turniphead1, this is the reason why we are not even applying to CC for the 2nd son b/c the school runs would be too onerous given his brother is already at WUS.

CityGirl2012 Thu 29-Nov-12 19:52:19

Thanks! Agree a lot with what milkshake said - Just wondering: aren't the 7+/8+ assessments easier than 13+? Also, aren't there more spaces at 7/8 in the top day schools as opposed to at 13?
Finally, are tutors still needed even for boys who go to private schools?? smile

Mominatrix Thu 29-Nov-12 20:32:46

CityGirl, of course 7+/8+ are easier than 13+, but they are not easier for a 6-7 year old boy or 7-8 year old boy. As was mentioned above, the maturity level needed to successfully take the 7+/8+ is not something many boys have, despite academic promise.

There are many more spots at 13+ than 7+/8+ (they usually double the class size from the end of prep school to the first year of senior school), but also many more areas to shine.

In terms of pros to earlier entry, for us they were:
-bigger school environment than his pre-prep which he needed (even his teachers were saying that he has "outgrown" the school)
-as long as he continues as he has, it is a smooth transfer to the senior school, so less worries.

The boys are given great freedom, and thus great responsibility. They are on their own when it comes to getting to peripatetic music lesson (remembering the time their lesson is and getting there) and going to their various extracurriculars. They also have 2h15min of free time built into their day which they are responsible for structuring. In order to cope from 7 or 8 at these schools, they do need to be more mature and self-sufficient than average. They also need to be resilient and self confident. Many boys (most?) grow into themselves at prep school, and thrive more in a smaller, more supportive environment - these boys are much better off waiting until 13+.

Mominatrix Thu 29-Nov-12 20:33:45

Forgot to address the tutors issues. Yes, the majority are tutored to get in (even from private). Now, whether or not tutoring is needed, or it is just to assuage parental fears is another matter.

fourmummy Thu 29-Nov-12 21:13:21

Really surprised about the tutoring Mominatrix. I thought that top schools were very good at weeding out kids who had been tutored. Parental/informal tutoring at home - by all means; full-on, private tutoring - frowned upon.

Mominatrix Thu 29-Nov-12 22:32:57

Fournummy, the tutoring is not necessary to get in, just that the parents feel that it is. The stories of some of the in-demand tutors who cater for the very affluent central London areas made even MY jaded draw drop (people taking their tutors on holiday to not miss sessions, tutors booked from 7 am to 10 pm, and charging nose-bleeding rates). The problem is aren't paranoia, and when one parent hears that other parents are doing it, the fear spreads.

Mominatrix Thu 29-Nov-12 22:34:28

Jaw, not draw!

Mominatrix Thu 29-Nov-12 22:36:09

<sigh> is aren't

Cannot type legibly on an iPad!

fourmummy Fri 30-Nov-12 09:27:32

That is jaw-droppingly insane, Mominatrix. I haven't heard anything to this level re tutoring. We did not tutor our DD for CLSG at all bar some informal 'in the car while on the way to somewhere' tutoring from parent(s). I am firmly against tutoring. Furthermore, I can't understand this level of parental paranoia given that schools (supposedly) actively profess not to want (and will not take) tutored kids. I realise though that if most kids sitting these exams are tutored, then the schools can't stand that firmly in their policy not to take tutored children. It must be the case then that most kids who get in are in fact tutored. Is this the case?

Turniphead1 Fri 30-Nov-12 13:18:23

My view is that for a child from a state school to sit 7 or 8+ at a very academically selective school without tutoring is rather unfair. Whether that tutoring comes from the parents or an outside individual is neither here nor there really. The bottom line is that a child could be uber bright - but will not have covered, say, fractions until later on in year 2. He therefore needs to learn additional topics from somewhere to have a fair chance in these tests against pre-prep kids.

A parent could tutor just as intensely as an professional tutor if they wanted to. But for most parents they want someone who knows what is expected in these tests, can give them an idea how their child is doing and what schools they are likely to get into - and also they find that the child will do far more work for a tutor than they will for the parent.

A tutor won't be able to turn an academically average child into say WUS material - but they should be able to bring the child up to his or her best level. The old saying about making a silk purse from a sow's ear applies here I think.

The HM at one of the N London independent schools that do 7+ now says at his tour talks that he would advise state school kids to go to a tutor shock

Its a divisive topic - along with private/state and day/boarding - it takes up a lot of discussion on these boards!

Propitious Fri 30-Nov-12 15:16:46

Agree with Turniphead1 on 7+/8+ state school kids and tutoring, if they've not covered the expected ground in say maths when in primary school then how can they possibly show their potential at entry to prep schools?

Tutoring is a totally different matter for 7+/8+ pre-prep pupils. Parents of pre-prep children have paid good money and made a huge emotional investment in pre-prep education for their offspring, and the pre-prep should have prepared them adequately for prep entrance tests. However, over-ambitious parents quite often ignore advice from pre-prep heads when it comes to recommendations for the next school and join the throngs of aspirant candidates at WUS/CC et al. All the pre-prep heads (with one notable exception) I came across when I taught at WUS offered sage advice to parents on this issue only to have it ignored on many occasions. Perhaps it's these 'wild-card' parents who are filling the diaries (and wallets) of the burgeoning tutor cadre?

When I worked at WUS, candidates would be asked quite subtly whether they had received any tutoring...it was teased out during the interview part of the assessment. Some simply blurted it out! The head always told parents he preferred candidates from pre-preps not to have been tutored, but a significant portion had. Whether a candidate received tutoring or not was always noted on the candidate final compilation sheet. It doesn't require a huge leap of imagination to work out that marginal candidates from pre-preps who'd been tutored would not receive the benefit of the doubt in a split decision. (Incidentally, the age of the candidate in years and months was displayed at the top of the sheet in a huge, bold font - much more prominent than any other personal details.)

Parents would be well advised to listen carefully to pre-prep heads when it comes to next destination schools; they know the pupils, the system.... and all the pitfalls.

CityGirl2012 Fri 30-Nov-12 22:49:19

Mominatrix - thanks, that's very helpful. Our dilemma is as follows: is it a good idea to choose an independent nursery which is a feeder into top prep schools (4-13), which in turn are feeders for St Paul's, Westminster, UCS, Highgate and boarding schools, or choose another route - a nursery which will feed them into schools which go from 4-18 (UCS and Highgate)? Also, is the Wetherby worth pursuing or not given that it only goes to 7? What is the ratio of candidates to places on offer for St Paul's and Westminster at 13+? How do they compare to UCS and Westminster?

Turniphead1 Sat 01-Dec-12 09:42:37

Citygirl - not sure what ages your DC are but just to say that Highgate starts at 3. There are only 30 places - so very very difficult to get into. 7+ slightly easier as there are 50 places.

In general Highgate and UCS are considered tier below St Paul's and Westminster. The former are very much "north London/local" schools, the latter drawn from all over London (but more west/south west in case of St P).

All very different choices. I guess in theory a good pre-prep gives you a lot of choice - to see if you want a good all-round school like Highgate with boys and girls. Or a good liberal all boys experience at UCS.

Or if they turn out to be academic highflyers then you can aim for St P/WUS.

Would you consider state until 7 and then 7+?

CityGirl2012 Sun 02-Dec-12 17:25:19

Turniphead - thanks very much. My DS is a newborn smile so I am just researching at the moment and signing up for nurseries, pre-preps and preps. Think we will aim for a strong independent prep school - we are considering The Hall and Arnold House, which go up to 13. Hence my question earlier whether 7/8+ entry is better than 13. Also considering the Wetherby but wondering if we are not too far for that (based in Hampstead)? What are your views on these schools? We would also prefer more academic senior schools - which other ones would you suggest in addition to St P/W?

milkshake3 Mon 03-Dec-12 10:05:55

Hi City Girl - as your ds is newborn, why don't you just enjoy him and stop worrying about where he will go to school in 13 years time? A lot may have changed between now and then including him. Register him for any preps that are first come first served and at the right time register him for selective prep exams. You will then have options at the appropriate time. If you go down the 13+ route, you will know by year 4-5 if he is academically capable of getting into a super selective London day school and that's the time you register him. As for the 7/8+ choose your prep wisely so that this is the exam it focuses on, otherwise the curriculum will be geared to pre tests in year 6 and CE in year 8.

Go and have fun with your baby - they don't stay little for long...wink

fourmummy Mon 03-Dec-12 10:51:34

I second what Milkshake3 said. The children change so much. I would say that you won't really know even at 4-5 if they are academically inclined. Some boys don't mature until quite late - and then things can change seemingly overnight. You just don't know. Just provide the opportunities for him to learn - books, etc..

Turniphead1 Mon 03-Dec-12 17:47:38

Agreed with all others have said Citygirl. The main thing is keeping your options open. But sounds like you are well on the ball with the likes of The Hall etc where they do want names down at birth.

A lot of places - eg Highgate have changed and have an "apply a year before" system which to my mind makes more sense when they are going to assess. When my eldest was little it was "names down during window of three months after they turn one" which was just bonkers.

As others have said, you really can't say you'd prefer an academic school until you see what your DS is like.

CityGirl2012 Mon 03-Dec-12 19:19:43

I agree with all of you girls! I also think it is crazy that we have had to put his name down asap after birth - actually with one nursery even while pregnant! I am trying to enjoy DS as much as possible and to me this is most important. But as you know, London schools are notoriously competitive and one just has to put the name down ASAP and then sit back and enjoy him. Also, instead of paying tons of schools non-refundable registration fees, I thought it was better to do some research and narrow down the choices. But I fully agree with you that they change and mature so much over time, so ultimately we will only know what is best for him once we know what he is like! Thanks for the advice though, appreciate it! Any other views welcome! And sorry to the original author for hijacking this thread!

almapudden Mon 03-Dec-12 19:49:44

Wetherby has a prep school now as well as a pre-prep. It admits at 7+ and 8+. I don't know whether pre-prep boys get preference, though.

Might be a long commute from North London, though - the prep is at Marble Arch.

CityGirl2012 Mon 03-Dec-12 21:10:18

Is it worth commuting to, given the outstanding schools in N London?

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