Westminster Under at 11+. A good choice or two additional years of stress while waiting for CE?

(47 Posts)
OhDearConfused Tue 02-Oct-12 12:58:07

DS is at a state primary and we are looking around at options for Year 7.

One option (he is bright), and we like the look of it, is Westminster (the main school, not the prep).

The prep (Westminster Under) is nice too and an obvious choice if we would like him to go to Westminster Upper. However, we are put off by the fact that entry at 11+ does not guarantee a place at Westminster Upper. You still need to pass common entrance at the appropriate level.

This came up at the open day the other day and the Head addressed it in her speech. She said that there is no guarantee, but that any boy that enters at 11+ "should" (easily) be able to get to the right standard. Indeed, asking around separately, that is the consistent theme from staff. If your son gets in at 11+, barring a catestrophe, he will make the standard.

This sounds all well and good, but it is still a risk. There can always be a catastrophe (illness, bereavement, emergence of special needs, a "bad" year, onset of a little laziness, bullying, and so on and so on).

Given the stress we are putting ourselves now in the run up to the Year 7 move, are we not just adding two year to the four three two year or so of stress we are going through now?

Or perhaps is it the case that if such a catastrophe happened at another school (eg City, Alleyns, Dulwich) which didn't have the 13+ test requirement once you have started, you'd get "managed" out anyway. So it amounts to the same thing.

Added to this, coming through the state system, I have absolutely no idea what the CE is all about anyway. Is that also something that people tutor to high heaven for to get the DCs to an appropriate standard? [Perhaps I should start a separate thread for this.]

Sorry for long OP.

Interested in people's views.

acebaby Tue 02-Oct-12 13:27:07

Most senior schools require both a pre-test (taken in year 6/7) and CE. You need to pass the pre-test to be eligible to take the CE. The vast majority who pass the pre-test will also pass the CE at the appropriate level.

I don't think you can really tutor for the CE, because it involves getting to a high level in several subjects which are not focused on in year 7/8 of a state secondary. Some senior schools offer an alternative entrance exam, aimed at state school pupils, which looks more for potential than knowledge, but I don't know about Westminster. So you will need to find a good prep school to get your DS through the CE, and it is likely that you will need to get him through some sort of test at 10/11 anyway.

Getting into Westminster under is (presumably) the equivalent of passing the pre-test for Westminster Upper (there are bound to be Westminster parents on this board somewhere, who can confirm). So this may be a good option for your DS if you are keen on Westminster.

Good luck!

Marni23 Tue 02-Oct-12 13:37:08

We are also going through the delights of the 11+ at the moment and rightly or wrongly have ruled out Westminster/KCS/St Paul's because of the CE issue and I hated KCS when I looked at it anyway despite the fact that we were advised to go for them by DS's school.

Our thinking is that DS is in a school that ends at Y6 and we have no choice than to do 11+. It feels wrong to then put him into a school where he'll have to do catch-up Latin (he's never done any) and probably French (he's not done that much) in order to be ready for CE. And I struggle to see what CE is FOR if you haven't been in the prep/13+ system and aren't moving on at that stage. It's just another set of stressful exams between 11+ and GCSE (or whatever that twat Gove has introduced by then) which are unnecessary. Certainly friends whose DC have gone through 13+ found it v stressful, and tutoring seems to be the norm from what they say.

So we're sticking with applying to Latymer, Alleyn's etc which just seem to be a better fit with the system DS has been in thus far. And we loved them when we looked round them.

Farewelltoarms Tue 02-Oct-12 14:14:15

I'm with Marni - I'm put off any school that has its main intake (or total intake) at 13 as it's buying into this whole prep school-public school thing and clearly not welcoming children from state schools. Somewhere like City has no prep school and most of its intake at 10 and 11 which makes it a (relatively, I know) more egalitarian place.

Marni23 Tue 02-Oct-12 14:34:59

Quite Farewelltoarms. The more I think about it, the more I question why Westminster and KCS put their existing pupils through CE at all. The head of KCS 'junior' school said any boys who entered at 11+ were pretty much guaranteed to enter the senior school anyway. Surely having taught the boys for at least 2 years (and in most cases 5 years) they don't need to do CE? It's fair enough to have a 13+ for boys entering the school at that point (traditional 11+ schools do this for the small number of extra places they have at 13+) but why for existing pupils?

Annelongditton Tue 02-Oct-12 17:39:25

KCS boys don't sit CE, neither do St Pauls.

Marni23 Tue 02-Oct-12 18:29:29

They sit a version of 13+ though, at least that's what the Head of juniors said when I met him. And it's taken very seriously by the boys/parents who are there (those I know anyway). Doesn't really matter what it's called, my point is it's an unnecessary 'extra' exam on top of 11+.

MrsSalvoMontalbano Tue 02-Oct-12 18:48:42

It is taken seriously, but its true what they all say - the boys they take at 11 are clearly going to tpass the exam - the boys they took at 7 are more of a gamble. And the boys they select at 11 are easily able to catch up on French and Latin. It is no more strssful than going to a school without the headline 13+, but till have annual exams and regular assessments. At least having taken 13+/common entrance/tranfer exams they are very well organised and GCSEs far less daunting. The boys already in the schools also take far fewer mocks thant the prep schools which finish at 13.

Annelongditton Tue 02-Oct-12 19:46:55

What about KS3 ? same thing. Also, most schools, Indy and state, have end of year exams, should they all be abandoned as well?

CE isn't very difficult particularly at a school like Westminster where the boys are all incredibly bright and well taught. Its actually too easy for the very bright and they sit scholarship entry instead, I'm not sure what percentage of Westminster sit The Challenge, but someone will know, its probably on their website.

Westminster is the most selective boys day school in England, over 50% will go onto Oxbridge, anyone clever enough to be offered a place at 11+ should walk CE, even the level 3 papers. If your DS is really that bright you shouldn't be worried about a few exams in year 9. If he isn't super bright or you're just not sure, look around for somewhere less selective. There are lots of lovely second tier schools around, but as you have rightly pointed out OP, they will manage out anyone not performing.

Marni23 Tue 02-Oct-12 20:01:13

Of course all schools have end of year exams and no, they shouldn't be abandoned because they're a good gauge of how the DC are doing/if they are acquiring the necessary revision skills as they move towards GCSE. However, my DD is in a highly selective girls' school and there is nowhere near the hysteria around end of year exams that I have observed amongst friends who have boys in schools that do 13+/CE. No one has been 'managed out' either, and she's in Y10.

And maybe it's just me, but I hate the term 'second tier schools'. I'm not even sure what it's supposed to mean.

wordfactory Tue 02-Oct-12 20:49:29

I seriously wouldn't worry about the CE op.
They are not madly stretching. Any boy attending between 11 and 13 will be well on top of the curriculum.

milkshake3 Tue 02-Oct-12 21:01:17

I agree with word factory. CE is fine. I don't recognise the description of hysteria that Marni describes. The kids take it in their stride. They've been sitting the CE timetable for exams since the start of yr7 and in fact my DS said yr7 and 8 were the best yrs at prep school because it was interesting. I personally think the 11+ is a dreadful exam that can be tutored for in order to pass and has no interesting content.

I agree with Marni though that we shouldn't label schools by tier. Each person has a different set of priorities and so one persons "top tier" is another persons "not in a million years" school.

Marni23 Tue 02-Oct-12 21:19:50

Would agree with you re 11+, unfortunately we have no choice as school stops at Y6.

13+/CE does seem to induce a lot more stress amongst parents I know whose DC have done it than the equivalent Y8 exams in a non-CE/13+ school. But that may just be them. I have no direct experience of it myself so am willing to be corrected. Am still not clear on what it's actually for though iyswim.

And yes, 'top tier' is meaningless. As I said, KCS was a 'not in a million years' school for us, but I know many parents for whom it would be their first choice.

Bink Tue 02-Oct-12 22:06:21

Strongly agree with others, and in fact what the WUS head was saying between the lines. It is the 11+ entry to WUS you have to watch out for, not the CE! - that's a stage with a lot of movement and it's going to be competitive. So if he gets in at 11+, you shouldn't worry.

If you google Galore Park you will find loads of textbooks & revision stuff for CE. It isn't that big a deal at all, if you have a diligent straightforward self-organising boy.

propatria Wed 03-Oct-12 09:50:18

CE isnt a problem or stressfull,if you have picked the right school/level,its only a problem if youve gone for a school that doesnt suit your sons academic abilities,if you have to tutor to pass CE then there is a problem.
Of course there are first and second tier schools,to pretend otherwise is silly,its perfectly possible to admit somewhere is a top tier school while at the same time understanding it isnt suitable for ones dc.I usually find its parents of children at second or third tier schools who dont like the use of top tier..odd that...

AndrewD Wed 03-Oct-12 10:15:52

I went to the W.U. open day recently too and I can recall 2 relevant facts:

- 100% of boys that wanted to go to the "Great School" got in through the 13+. It's not CE, it's a test of all subjects that they are taught. Some boys go to Eton etc as their first choice. The last boy not to get in to first choice was 2000 (12 years ago) and still got a good school.

- They design the tests at 11+ to be "tutor proof". It's all about reading, comprehension, thinking and articulation.

florenceuk Wed 03-Oct-12 10:47:57

Bink - I like that comment "if you have a diligent straightforward self-organising boy". I think that rules my DS out immediately...

MrsSalvoMontalbano Wed 03-Oct-12 10:59:51

Most 11 year olds are not, nor are expected to be diligent and well-organsied grin. The are bright boys and have exceptionally good teaching.

Marni23 Wed 03-Oct-12 11:15:26

I usually find it's parents who were determined to get their DC into certain schools at all costs, and think Oxbridge is best regardless of subject, who use the terms first, second, third tier schools. Odd that...

propatria Wed 03-Oct-12 11:22:09

Sorry,should have added to my list parents who claim dc go to prep school when in fact they go to nothing of the sort,what they actually go to are private schools that stop at 11,by definition thats not a prep school.

Marni23 Wed 03-Oct-12 11:35:35

Who said anything about a prep school? confused And what's that got to do with anything? confused

propatria Wed 03-Oct-12 11:46:48

Why the face? Just adding more people to the types that dont like talk of first tier schools,could have added those who say dc attend public school when they actually attend private school,The post was nothing to do with you,unless you fall into one of those categories.

Annelongditton Wed 03-Oct-12 12:00:29

I don't actually see why its ok to describe a school as "highly selective" but take offence at the terms 1st or 2nd tier. The fact is some schools are more desirable and consequently harder to get into than others, call them what you will.

My point is that you are spoilt in the London area for boys schools as if you don't go for the top three there is still a fantastic choice. Not so with the girls schools, once you leave the "highly selective" schools there is not such a wide choice, and probably because they were "only girls schools" they have never had the same money spent on them and do not have as good facilities and grounds, unless you are prepared to travel out of town or board. Boys parents are spoilt in London.

milkshake3 Wed 03-Oct-12 12:01:45

It is more appropriate to label schools by selectivity. By definition the most selective schools will end up with the most academic children (or heavily tutored), and then get the highest exam marks and be top of the league tables. Doesn't mean they are the top tier for everyone....to me, the academic value added and pastoral care is more important. In my opinion, a school that can make a child's soul sing will allow them to leave school fulfilled and equipped to deal with the challenges of life. It that is accompanied by a string of A*s then great. Labelling schools by tier is usually done, in my experience, by those parents in the playground who have DCs at the top of the class and who yearn for them to go to the most academic schools.

But back to the OP.....I have no experience of WUS 13+ process (or at least the exam to go from WUS to W), but it sounds like it's a formality. So if you want WUS go for it! If you want other options, buy yourself more time by doing yrs7-8 at a prep school where you can look round other schools and then sit CE for that school in yr8. The entrance to a prep school is not that hard...they are businesses and want bums on seats!

Good luck.

Marni23 Wed 03-Oct-12 12:03:48

Oh, ok.

I'll add to my list of people who use the 'second tier' label those who give a flying fuck whether a school is a prep, ends at 11, and is private or public.

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