Does DD have a chance at Westminster school?(13 Posts)
DD is bright and a good all rounder but doesn't really excel at anything in particular. She's 15 (birthday in February) and she's keen on applying to Westminster school in London for sixth form 2015. We live overseas at the moment but are from the UK and have family she could stay with on weekends.
She plays water polo at state level and swims at the level below state (state is the level below national level, not sure what the uk equivalent is) and she also enjoys sailing. She has had articles published and a short story on national radio. She plays flute to grade 7 level and basic piano. Her results in most of her subjects are generally in the 80s or 90s but in some subjects which she doesn't enjoy as much she gets lower marks (sometimes down to the 70s in maths) and she regularly gets distinctions in academic competitions. She is currently doing silver duke of ed, she did bronze last year.
She's on her school debating team and also takes extra classes in Latin and French so she's at the top of her class for both those subjects. Her IQ is in the top 2% and she does a lot of community service/volunteering. The classes she currently takes are: Drama, art, French, Latin, English, maths, geography, history, science and physical education (It think I may have missed a class but I'm not sure). She has a job teaching primary school children in a creative writing course. I might have missed some details but this is all I can think of for now.
We aren't really sure if she has any chance and we know the school is very competitive so anyone's perspective would be very helpful, thanks!
Presumably she isn't going to apply to do maths A level? I think she'll have to do Westminster's own papers in the subjects she's interested in for A level & if she does well enough she'll get an interview. Is she likely to get at least 8 a*s & 3 as at GCSE level? If she isn't of the standard they expect in the exams her extra curricular activities are irrelevant. Have you had a thorough look at their website? What sports do they offer to girls? My dds are at a London day school & I've never heard of them playing another school at water polo. I've just looked at their website & there are about 60 girls a year. Rowing is a big deal & Westminster has a Boat House on the Tideway at Putney. Her swimming fitness would set her up well & if she is offered a place could she start rowing where you live now?
I think the school expects girls to sit exams in the 4 subjects they're planning to take for A level. As Eastpoint says, they're looking mainly for academic ability across the board, with stand out distinction in the proposed A levels. The extra curriculars are relevant to the extent that if this academic threshold is met, they show that a girl can work and play hard, and has capacity to offer something extra to the school community. But they aren't a replacement for high academic achievement and potential.
We live in Australia at the moment so DD wouldn't be doing GCSEs and there isn't really an Australian equivalent, so I suppose they'd just go off her exam results and her school reports?
She's a British citizen so wouldn't need a visa or anything.
DD has done a bit of rowing in the past, she would probably have continued but the training clashed with her early morning band practices so couldn't. I checked and they also offer sailing which DD enjoys (although I don't think it's a 'main' sport), lack of water polo isn't a huge problem, she'd be happy picking up a new sport. She isn't particularly invested in playing water polo, she just happens to be quite good at it.
I'd go for it what have you got to loose? As everyone has said it's all going to be about meeting the academic criteria, and the expectations is going to be very high, then they'll look at her hobbies interests etc. I've no idea how many apply but probably loads as it has an awesome reputation but who cares go for it.
Are you looking for a London day school, or a UK boarding school?
Westminster selects academically. Sporting prowess (which in UK terms would be regional level (above county, but below national) would be an asset, but not a clincher.
DS is there, and is very happy. It is a unique school.
I dont know a huge amount about the sixth form entry process, but understand competition is fierce and getting tougher every year. There is a long thread on Student Room. I think the numbers are at least 10 applicants to every place, though ratios may be better for girls as they have a lot places at this stage.
Entry is two stage. Exams in each of the four subjects you will want to study. Then interviews. I assume the exams are a filter to ensure you are up to speed academically. I understand they take more of a "maths challenge" sort of approach trying to test aptitude rather than knowledge or previous teaching, but you would obviously need to check what ground your daughter needs to have covered.
If you get to interview I think it is four subject interviews and a general one. A passing comment from a teacher gave me the impression that at this point they are looking for pupils they want to teach and who will make a contribution in the classroom. I would assume that the school are also looking for girls who will settle in quickly in a co-ed environment and take full part in school life.
There is a lot going on outside the classroom. Sports are not particularly high level, but there is a wide range and participation is encouraged. There are lots of opportunities to try new sports like fencing and climbing. I think sailing is from the nearby Westminster Boating Base, so presumably pootling around in the Thames. (Too much information but a friend who took a course at WBB tells me that sailing gets cancelled after heavy rain - because of sewage in the water.) No pool so swimmers go to the local leisure centre. Inter-house competition in a range of sports, but again participation rather than performance. Some really first rate challenge type stuff, such as the 24 hours Lyke Wake Walk over the North York Moors.
Music is fantastic. Lots of pupils are very musical, and access to Westminster Abbey for things like carol concerts is a privilege. Drama is very good, as is art.
Have a go. Results are difficult to predict. I assume they are looking not just at academic potential but also want to take in girls offering a range subject combinations. So in part success will depend on the strength of the other girls offering the same subjects as your daughter.
I think you should give that a go, and also choose another academic boarding school as a back up if you intent for her to return to UK for sixth form.
Your DD need to choose the 4 A level subjects that she would like to do and advise the school together with a strong school reports to prove her abilities in those subjects if she do not have GCSE to support her. And also the school will request reference letter from your current school head to sent directly to them. She needs to sit entrance exam for those subjects. I think you can request them to send the exam papers to your current school, as long as she takes these exam in a controlled environment. They did that for us and we did not need to travel back to UK for the exams.
Both my DCs went to international school overseas, and applied to boarding schools in UK, my DS got an offer from Westminster after Common Entrance, but we opted for another boarding school instead as we think it provide better facilities for full boarders.
Westminster is an excellent school and I think your DD has a lots she can offer, she sounds very bright and able and with experience living overseas also provide great diversity.
I had a look at 6th form at Westminster for my eldest and the school is less interested in extra curricular activities and more about the applicant's academic prowess. The school is extremely competitive and the girls who win a place are expected to achieve A*/A in all GCSE subjects. The school has outstanding music and sports facilities and the girls are welcome to make use of them, but realistically those facilities are not geared towards or expected to be used by 6th form girls.
"but realistically those facilities are not geared towards or expected to be used by 6th form girls"
I am not sure if I understand this. Our experience has been that sixth form girls integrate rapidly into all aspects of school life: choirs, drama, sport, societies, house responsibilities etc.
As far as sport goes the fact that Westminster is not that strong for team sports probably helps. They offer a big variety and apart from football and cricket I cant think of any limited to boys, and even then I suspect there would be no problem with girls playing at House level. Even hockey is mixed and they field a girls football team.
Even though the majority are day pupils, Westminster operates as a boarding school, and there is a lot going on, especially in sixth form. Hence my assumption that they are looking for girls who can take the pace academically (and it is fast, with pupils who challenge and contribute rather than simply focus on getting the grades) but also have sufficient capacity to engage in wider school life. Some of the girls can boast of quite serious achievements outside the classroom.
I was at Westminster in the 6th form many years ago and at that point girls were fully involved in school music- in fact, at the forefront of it- and I'd be amazed if things had gone backwards in that regard. Sport less so but I understand that has improved significantly.
As others have said, they look primarily for academic ability not extra-curricular achievements. Having said that, they also want rounded, interesting, sparky children- it's not just a exam factory and many of the kids there achieve outstanding things outside their academic studies. So I wouldn't discount your daughter's achievements or neglect to mention them. I would, however, manage her expectations about getting in as it's extremely competitive.
"but realistically those facilities are not geared towards or expected to be used by 6th form girls"
This is what the current girls told us.
From what I've seen (recently), the girls are totally involved in music, sport etc at the school.
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