independent schools, how many, and interviews

(63 Posts)
MrsSteptoe Mon 07-Oct-13 21:53:15

As always, turning to you lovely peeps for a couple of independent school questions (how did you all get to know so much? Why don't I know the answers to these questions myself? Those aren't my questions.)

1. how many indie schools do you normally put kids in for (actually thru exams, that is, not just register)? Yes, OK, there's no straight answer, but I don't want to send him to too many exams. At the same time, I don't want to end up with no offers. I'm not going to confess how many schools we're registered for, but I haven't run out of fingers. Yet.

2. was hoping that the interview would just be a character assessment of an 11 year old, a chat. I fear I'm wrong. I have suddenly come across description of prep school project books, parents who prepare their kids with professional coaches... I didn't even want to TALK to DS about the interviews, just let him come across naturally. How naive am I being? Any info? Do I really have to prepare him? How utterly unspeakable. He's ten, for heaven's sake.

You guys rock.

ColdFusion Mon 07-Oct-13 22:01:22

It depends on boy/girl 11+ or 13+. It also depends on how strong the advice from your prep school is, and whether you are going for a non-selective or selective school.

We've just gone with one school for our DCs.

MrsSteptoe Mon 07-Oct-13 22:20:20

Thanks, ColdFusion. Boy 11+, and he's in a state primary so we have no advice whatsoever from our school - they are encyclopaedic on the subject of Catholic secondary schools and refuse to be drawn into conversations about independent schools. Indie schools we're trying for are all selective from the less demanding Emanuel through to Dulwich/Alleyn's. We're not trying KCS/St Paul's etc. - he may turn out to be much brighter than he is now, if you see what I mean, but at the moment he's quite immature which inevitably affects exam performance. His tutor thinks he's able, and certainly wants him to try for Dulwich/Alleyn's/City of London.

Labro Mon 07-Oct-13 22:23:42

Normally the advice is to have 2, one of which is the reserve.
Interviews vary hugely depending on how selective the school is. Your current head should be able to help with what sort of questions they ask and may even do mock interviews.

snowsjoke Mon 07-Oct-13 22:24:56

have a look at the Independent schools section on www.elevenplusexams forum. Very useful for all things 11 plus related.

Labro Mon 07-Oct-13 22:29:09

Ah ok, check each schools website as some put rough guidelines as to what the interview is. Ds has been to 2 - one the questions were 'if you could be any superhero what would you be called and what would your special power be' and 'if I gave you 1 million pounds what would you do with it' then the other one was far more a chat about interests, why do you want to come to this school and reading from a novel so hugely variable!

MrsSteptoe Mon 07-Oct-13 22:33:30

Thanks, people, highly appreciated. Our head knows nothing about independent schools, sadly. In his defence, he goes the extra million miles to help parents with their state paperwork. So I can't complain.

meditrina Mon 07-Oct-13 22:36:39

Do you have a good state school fallback? If not, then you need to be trying 3 or 4 in London, and some families are up to 5 or 6.

Alleyns is always a toss up, Dulwich is more academic than it was, CLB currently fashionable. Emanuel is reputedly easier to get in to.

Interviews may include mental maths questions, a couple of (usually dead easy) questions in whatever MFL has been studied, and an aural comprehension. It's not just a friendly chat.

Clavinova Mon 07-Oct-13 23:06:45

I would say 3 is not unusual in your part of London. I wouldn't worry about project books and interview coaches at all but a run-through of some possible questions would be helpful. My children were asked:
Why do you want to come to this school?
What book are you reading at the moment?
What are your favourite subjects at school?
What do you like doing in your spare time?
What would you change at your school if you were Headmaster?
What law would you pass if you were Prime Minister?
Who is the Prime Minister/US President?
Can you tell me about something in the news this week?
What do you think has been the best invention so far?
Nothing a fairly intelligent 10 year old can't answer but a totally unprepared child might struggle. There may be a few mental maths/fun maths problems or a short comprehension but that's usually if your child has shown a weakness in the exam paper or is being considered for a scholarship. The interviewer should know your son hasn't come from a prep school and make a few allowances.

MrsSteptoe Mon 07-Oct-13 23:42:23

Super, Clavinova, thanks v much x

basildonbond Mon 07-Oct-13 23:52:19

at dd's prep school the advice is no more than 4 (and fewer than that if your child is particularly strong academically) - because there are so many children chasing the places at those schools you can get the odd unexpected result

as far as the interview goes as long as your child doesn't completely clam up and go into full 'i dunno' mode he should be fine - you don't need loads of preparation but it's a good idea to make sure he listens to the news headlines every now and then and to be reading a book he can talk about

GetMeOut Tue 08-Oct-13 08:40:10

This might sound a bit silly and/ or pretentious shock but I actually got my Dcs to practice shaking hands with an adult and looking people in the eye ! I had noticed that, particularly when nervous , they tended to shuffle around with their hands in their pockets starring at the floor ! I was like you and thought it was all a bit Ott and didn't do much prep but I actually wish I had done more. I didn't take into account the effect of nerves on a normally quite confident child. Whilst I agree with other posters in that you are unlikely to fail at interview and I have heard some very funny stories of alleged comments made by Dcs and they were still offered places , it is still a very nerve racking process and preparation and practice can help to overcome this ( hopefully ). Good luck smile

MrsSteptoe Tue 08-Oct-13 09:15:07

Thanks, GetMeOut! Doesn't sound silly at all. That balance between prepping children and sending them in looking as though they've been coached to within an inch of their lives is perilous. xx

Seeline Tue 08-Oct-13 09:22:50

Some schools request that the child take along something to the interview that they can talk about. Sometimes, but not always, this cold be a piece of school work, but often something they ae interested in, something they have made, or something to to do with a hobby/out of school activity. They can use this as an ice-breaker - particularly with a shy/less confident child.
Whilst we didn't coach our DS for his interviews, we did ask him to consider things like what book he had enjoyed reading and why, any authors he liked, why he might like to go to a particular school, what school subjects he liked, and to have a vague eye on the news the week before. He came from a state primary and we had no assistance at all. The schools are used to dealing with 10 yo boys from all backgrounds and are very good at getting the most out of them.

wordfactory Tue 08-Oct-13 09:24:56

I agree with getmeout

It's well worth preparing DC with things like a handshake, a warm smile, eye contact and sitting still (hands pressed between knees if DC are fiddlers).

FWIW my DC have had several interviews between them (though not for the schools you mention) and the styles varied hugely.

Some have been one to ones where it's just been a chat. What do you like about school? What do you dislike? What are you reading? Which sports do you like?

One of DDs was a group interview where three or four girls were given a task and then observed.

DS had a pretty challenging one where he was given a piece of poetry to read and then he discussed it with the interviewer.

Don't be afraid to pick up the phone OP and ask admissions at the schools in question. Just ask the format.

JourneyThroughLife Tue 08-Oct-13 09:29:23

Just remember, there is coaching and coaching! If you mean general things like practising a handshake, looking someone in the eye when speaking and getting your child to genuinely read books that she/he can talk about, then fine. But over-coached children stand out a mile. I have some contact with independent schools and I can assure you that they are well versed in interviewing children. They do not mind that at times they shuffle, look bored, yawn and can't spout off Einstein's theory with footnotes. They are looking for the real child and an over-coached one isn't real, and it shows.
Questions are usually asked to see how the child thinks and answers. Often it's useful to ask question that the child cannot possibly answer, beauase then she/he will have to think on their feet. It shows their attitude to tackling stuff they don't know - that cannot be taught, it's an in-built attitude. Interviewers are also looking for the 'spark' which lights a child up....doesn't matter if it's Harry Potter, dead insects or making paper 'planes, the child will be enthusiastic, bright, chatty and off-the-cuff. That cannot be coached in that either, and if parents try, it comes across as a stiff, forced child trying to please parents and give the right answer....and can go against them rather than winning a place...

Needmoresleep Tue 08-Oct-13 11:25:16

Hi standard advice is three schools. Aspirational, achievable and a fall back. However this depends a little on both the child and the school.

DS tried 2 academic schools and, as predicted, got both. DD (dyslexic) tried five, all a bit aspirational, and got two. No point in having a string of acceptances as you can only attend one school!

Watch out for schools like Alleyns. Popular mixed schools only have half the places for girls or boys and has a proportion of places taken up by their prep, so as Meditrina suggests, will be a bit of a lottery. Perhaps worth thinking of it as additional to the three standard choices. Emanuel used to be seen as a reliable "fall back" but is becoming tougher.

On interviews I was told by someone who does them that what schools are looking for is a child who can talk to adults and who has something to say. What they say is less important than the ability to engage. Teachers are used to talking to children and so will do their best to put them at their ease. My friend suggested that those who had been coached or done too many interviews can end up appearing quite "flat". Instead I might get a friend to have a conversation with your child using the questions and suggestions above.

You might also consider listening to Newsbeat or similar for a few weeks leading up to the interview and perhaps a bit of a family discussion on the main stories of the day.

Some schools will ask the odd maths or English question if the child has performed less well in one of the exams. I guess the solution is to not be fazed by this and get on and do your best.

Schools have to manage their acceptance lists and wait lists, so may ask about siblings and other schools applied for. On the latter you might as well be honest. I dont know if Registrars talk to each other, but if they do and your child had not been straightforward you might be sunk. And another reason to restrict the number of applications.

It varies but the proportion of acceptances to interviews at some schools is quite high. If your child gets an interview you are almost there so worth relaxing and being yourself.

EdithWeston Tue 08-Oct-13 11:41:40

IIRC, Dulwich only interviews boys who they intend to make offers or high wait list offers to. Alleyns invites the top however many from the exam passes (could be as many as 2:1 candidates:places, can't remember exactly) and the interviewing staff, confident that the on paper academic level is to standard, are picking the ones they think they'd like in the classroom.

Might be worth asking at open days, if you're still doing the rounds, what the call for interview policy is.

Some practical advice from DS's prep school head (DS is going for 13+ entry)

If they ask you about the book you are reading and you are only 23 pages in then tell them about the last book you have read as you can't say much about a book that you have only just started.

Ditto if they ask you what you are doing in history, for example, and you have had just had your first lesson on the Black Death then talk about your previous topic e.g. Magna Carta as you will know a lot more about it.

Have dinner table conversations about what is happening in the world with your DS so he gets practice at discussing topics one-on-one with an adult.

nextyearitsbigschool Tue 08-Oct-13 12:20:07

3. Wildcard, probable and back up. We have also done state applications for schools we are happy for DD to go to. The state schools are on par with probable and better than back up so we are in a comfortable position of being confident that we will have somewhere good regardless. If we didn't have state options I would go for 4 and do 2 probables. I have heard of children sitting for 10 schools which is just insane and very unfair on them IMO.

Shootingatpigeons Tue 08-Oct-13 12:20:24

This is all good advice. Just be careful not to listen to the Chinese whispers amongst parents who are applying, there will be lots of scaremongering, exaggeration and evidence free analysis. They should give Valium to some of them.

My own DD ended up in an argument with the Head of the school she eventually went to about whether North Korea should have nuclear weapons which instantly had the playground buzzing about the interviews at that school and the need to be swotting up to degree level on international relations, but actually she had Korean friends and it was just the way the conversation flowed. I think DD pursued the argument that if The US wanted North Korea to give up it's weapons it should give up it's own grin

I have reason to know that Dulwich have absolutely outstanding pastoral care, exceptional. They went way beyond what the other "top " London schools I am familiar with would have done in a situation I can't elaborate on.

MrsSteptoe Tue 08-Oct-13 13:44:48

Fab advice from everyone and really, really helpful. Much of it has been new; most of it chimes with my own feeling on the thing, except that it's hard to restrict to 3 schools as I have no real sense of what is "probable" for DS - and his school are not helpful, simply because they have so few parents going on to indies so they just don't have the experience. Many thanks to all. x

Ladymuck Tue 08-Oct-13 14:17:44

I'm not sure that many people register for schools that they don't then sit tbh. For 11+ the registration dates and exam dates aren't that far apart - I think that Sevenoaks for example had a 1 September registration date, but plenty are still having open days for next year's entry.

I don't think that Dulwich/Alleyn's/CLSB gives you a sound back up to be honest (D takes 70 at 11+, A 40 and CLSB 60), but I guess it depends on whether you have a good state school back up as well. I would think about whether you think your ds would thrive more in a co-ed or single sex environment and possibly look for one more school in that category? Whitgift to the south takes 100 at 11+, Trinity 70. Your ds may be pitched at the right level for these schools, but I think that in part it is a numbers game, with only a limited number of places available.

Preparing for an interview with a professional coach is OTT, and ds's headmaster points out that interviews with a 100 boys who have all been told to maintain eye contact can also be a bit unnerving, especially if the child can't think of anything to say! 15 minutes with a 10 year old boy can go quickly, or can be a very long time! I don't think that there is any harm running through the sorts of questions already listed, and to try to give more than a one-word answer! I think it is worth preparing your son that he may be asked for specific informations as to why he wants to go to that school - the schools will want an idea of who is likely to accept an offer, and I'm sure that some children appear for interview without knowing which school they are in!

apatchylass Tue 08-Oct-13 16:08:13

Our DC sat for 3 schools, all of which were genuine contenders, but one of which was easier to get into as the others were quite academic and sought after. Any more and there's a danger of burnout. The worst case would be that the preferred school is the final exam, when they are exhausted and bored, after a string of them. As you say - they're only 10 at the time!

In addition, as prep, they did a few grammar school mocks - Sutton organises some and there are a few companies who do similar. they charge, but not a lot. These exams weren't identical in format to the independent exams, and the DC knew it, so they didn't expect to do especially well in them and we didn't even bother telling them the results. It was training for getting used to exam conditions, finishing papers on time and shutting up and sitting still for up to three hours at a stretch, which no state primary school child I've ever met has practise in!

I agree, practise the interview a bit, but don't do what I did and start asking questions as though you were the interviewer. That idea was ditched after one question. My, how that bombed! Just ask what they might answer if asked xyz, and then, if you think they are way off beam, chat to them a bit.

DC were asked, among other things:
Tell me a joke
If you had to spend a million pounds, but not on yourself, who or what would you spend it on and why?
Where did you last go on holiday?
They were also asked some mental maths questions. Square roots or primes - that sort of thing.

And the killers:
What is your favourite school from the ones you are applying to?
What is your parents' favourite school?

Those two questions could throw a child if he or she hasn't thought a bit about the answer in advance.

Needmoresleep Wed 09-Oct-13 08:13:47

Agree with Ladymuck. How about adding Emanuel to your list? There are good reasons why it is growing in popularity. Though they may take in a wider range they also do well for more academic children, have a strong top set and are pretty generous with scholarships.

Trinity and Whitgift are also reasonably selective, though probably not as tough as CLB, which takes from all over London.

basildonbond Wed 09-Oct-13 09:08:12

I'm pretty sure Emanuel's closed to new registrations now

JustAnotherUserName Wed 09-Oct-13 09:26:33

I have the same problem, MrsS,

except that it's hard to restrict to 3 schools as I have no real sense of what is "probable" for DS - and his school are not helpful, simply because they have so few parents going on to indies so they just don't have the experience.

State pirmary, the head just doesn't know the independent system, so have no idea if, say, Dulwich is "probable" or "aspirational".

We all think our DCs are bright don't we: and indeed comparing him to his peers ini primary he is: he is top table but at a very mixed primary - getting level 5s at end of year 5 and with a short of level 6 certainly in maths by end of year 6 - so by national measures "bright". But I know that this is comparing apples and pears when comparing to his prep school friends (who call all speak fluent Latin smile).

Just how do you know?

So am left with one "aspirational", one or two "probables" (but perhaps they are aspirational too), one back-up (but who knows perhaps that was really only a "probable" and he might mess it up on the day.

So really I am no wiser, cannot help you much, but only share the predicament!

JustAnotherUserName Wed 09-Oct-13 09:27:16

"shot of" not "short of" (they really should add an editing function to MN!)

meditrina Wed 09-Oct-13 09:30:14

OP had already mentioned Emanuel, so may well have already applied.

MrsSteptoe Wed 09-Oct-13 11:09:30

Yup, Emanuel interview is tomorrow. We were fortunate enough to get our reg off in time for the early cut-off.
JustAnotherUserName, sharing pain is always good. But while I have been told DS is perfectly (not super-) bright by most people who ought to know, I remain convinced he's a total idiot.

Shootingatpigeons Wed 09-Oct-13 13:12:24

By the way the new Headmistress about to start at CLBS is fantastic, the pupils and parents at KGS love her, her letters to parents, and comments on the current education system are on the KIngston Grammar website.

WillColbert Wed 09-Oct-13 13:59:43

Good luck for your DS for tomorrow. My DS had the Emanuel interview last year. If I remember correctly, they were given a sheet to fill in before the interview (hobbies,which clubs they are in etc) and the interview was mainly based around this with a couple of general questions thrown in. Interviewer made a big effort to put DS at ease - it felt more like a 'chat' than an interview.

notagiraffe Wed 09-Oct-13 14:23:00

Just another those grades sound very promising. Schools can see through the fact that a child is state educated, and very much take this into account. Anyone achieving sixes in Yr 6 should be a fairly safe bet for most schools. DS got into one of the most academic day schools in the country and was only level 6 in one subject. Rest were high fives.

JustAnotherUserName Wed 09-Oct-13 15:08:05

Thanks, NotAGiraffe, here's hoping....

MrsSteptoe Wed 09-Oct-13 17:01:09

notagiraffe, do you mean that he was high fives when he sat the exams, or when he took the Y6 SATs in whatever month they do them - May or whatever?

MrsSteptoe Wed 09-Oct-13 17:06:51

What I mean is, I only have end-year 5 grades for DS, and I don't think his school would test him again between now and January, so I'm working on the principle that he's 5C, 5C and 4A (writing). But he should be high or medium fives by the time he finishes Year 6. I know he's not the brightest, but am obviously hoping that he's sufficiently bright that he'll get mopped up by someone...

JustAnotherUserName Thu 10-Oct-13 09:41:36

My guess (as not agiraffe hasn't come back) is that she means high fives at end of year 5 (level 6 at end of year 5 would be genius!). Sounds like we have similar DSs as well as anxieties...

MrsSteptoe Thu 10-Oct-13 15:00:21

justanotherusername, Hmm, I read it as high fives and a six at the end of Year 6. Either way higher than my son's likely to get, I suspect. I'm guessing mid fives for him at the end of year 6. What kind of perverted world have we created where that's not good enough? This is where the pressure of London independents really makes me cross. But hey ho, no-one forced me to play!

JustAnotherUserName Thu 10-Oct-13 17:22:09

Yes - I read it the same way (but wrote it wrong). Level 5s and one level 6 at end of year 6, she says. So your DC's (and mine as it happens) 5C, 5C, 4A at end of year 5 seems to be a good indicator for being good enough (I think/hope!).

Likewise, could just opt out of this indie lark.

Ladymuck Thu 10-Oct-13 19:18:35

Unfortunately it is not about merely meeting a minimum standard, it is purely a competition for relatively few places. London independent schools are not particularly unhappy with a situation that means there are more boys chasing relatively few places. Sympathetic possibly, but not unhappy.

Mutteroo Thu 10-Oct-13 23:57:27

Best interview we took DS to was at his chosen senior school. The then HT's dog, who was sleeping by the fireplace, (the dog not the HT), started proceedings off by farting. We had to clear the room for a good few minutes until the smell left. It was quite lighthearted (funnily enough) after this. We had a more formal meeting (not really an interview) with his other choice school, but again it wasn't stressful.

DS went to a state primary until year 7 & then moved to a prep school. He took COmmon Entrance exams for entrance to the senior schools so only one set of exams to contend with. DS was not coached either for the exams or for the interviews as we wanted him to come across as him & he was offered places at both schools. Going back to when we looked at Preps in year 6, one school assessed DS when he went in for the day to confirm he was capable of keeping up with his classmates. That was an academic prep with a strong scholarship reputation. DS was offered a place on the back of this, but preferred the friendlier feel of a less academic establishment & still won a scholarship to his senior school.

Best of luck to your son! I recall how we first felt when we choose to move the DCs to private schools & it was scary. Think the kids handled it much easier than we did.

Belltree Fri 11-Oct-13 12:18:21

In a similar position with a bright but not exceptional Y6 hoping to move from (outstanding) state primary to independent secondary. I've heard people say that the secondaries make allowances for the lack of prepping the state primary children will have had - even with tutoring I don't think there's any way they can fairly compete with prep school kids whose entire education has been directed to these exams rather than SATS. Does anyone know if that's true? If not it seems such an uneven playing field!

Ladymuck Fri 11-Oct-13 14:08:12

I'd say over half of the 11+ intake to the London indies are from state schools, so certainly he is in good company. And I do think that the indies are better at looking at the boys overall.

The selective preps often are aiming at 13+ transfer. The non-selective preps will have a range of abilities within their classes. So I wouldn't get too concerned about the competition.

What I do think that prep schools do differently is to try and make sure that their boys do have something to go in and talk about at interview, hence the infamous project books etc. And I guess observing some of the tutoring frenzy that can go on, that would probably be the one thing to ensure: that your son can keep up a range of (his) interests so that he has something that he can talk passionately about, whether it is his pet snake, or his football team. Make sure that there are still some things that light up his eyes!

JustAnotherUserName Fri 11-Oct-13 14:12:46

What's a "project book" ?

None of the indies we are looking at (central and south london way) have mentioned these.

Yikes - do feel ignorant.

Ladymuck Fri 11-Oct-13 14:39:38

Some, but not all, of the indies ask the boys to bring something with them to the interview (to get the ball rolling). I think it is meant to be something you are proud of, so could be a sport trophy, music certificate etc. Some prep schools work specifically on projects in this current term, so the child can turn up with a project book for example. No need to panic - it is what the child has to say that counts!

Certainly I know of one indie who is asking pupils to bring along their school English book and one other subject to interview. I crossed that one off our list grin.

showmethemoney1 Fri 11-Oct-13 14:48:02

Most of the London Indys have agreements with IAPs not to take boys from 13+ preps. Otherwise the preps would be left empty for the final 2 years, and there may not be enough applicants for the senior school's 13+ entry places.

All of the top London schools now pre-test in Y6, you are not allowed to enter a 13+ pre-test and an 11+ exam for the same school. Boys really aren't too badly affected at 11+ entry There are very few boys/co-ed private schools which finish at 11, I can only think of a few locally. I am actually surprised that they even take 50% of 11+ places.

I've never heard of project books and DS went to a very good prep which does extremely well for senior school places. I suspect this may be another playground scare story.

Flicktheswitch Fri 11-Oct-13 14:54:17

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Ladymuck Fri 11-Oct-13 15:49:33

Of the 4 schools mentioned by the OP, only one pretests for 13+ (CLSB). There are also plenty of other schools which do not pretest or rely on 11+ entry - Latymer Upper, Kingston Grammar, Whitgift and Trinity to name a few. There are also plenty of prep schools which do not belong to the IAPS.

I would assume that for those schools who select for 13+ entry, they have more evidence to go on as they are usually taking boys from IAPS schools and will have common entrance requirements too. I suspect few schools ask for props for interview at that stage. It may be just down to local demand - if the most local senior schools ask you to bring something to interview then word gets out and people prepare for it. Certainly if you check on the Whitgift/Trinity threads which run on here each January you will see that one or both of these DO ask for something to be taken to the interview, which means many of the south London preps will respond accordingly. They still take plenty of state school children though!

showmethemoney1 Fri 11-Oct-13 17:01:48

Sorry, missed the "not" by KCS/St Pauls.

All our local preps are IAPS, I can only think of one school I've heard of which isn't IAPS - maybe its a location thing. Senior schools which have a 13+ intake really do try and discourage 13+ applicants from trying at 11. DS was at a 13+ prep and I've heard the stories confirming this from parents who would have preferred and tried for an 11+ move. You will also find that some prep schools hang on to huge deposits which you lose if you leave before Y9, at one prep it is over £5k!

In reality very few boys leave 13+ preps at Y6. I can think of only one which had a huge number leave 2 years ago following a change of headmaster, but this was a one-off.

I don't think OP/Belltree/anyone should be worried about competing against huge numbers of prep school pupils with their "project books" etc, as there aren't as many as you think. There are lots of 11+ places, and if half of these are taken by state school pupils your DCs have a good chance of getting in. And please don't be put off by the numbers sitting, some parents collect school offers like stamps.

Ladymuck Fri 11-Oct-13 19:22:00

There are a number of prep schools which finish at 11 in South London, which is where I assume the OP lives given the schools she is looking at. Not all prep schools are trying to feed to Westminster and St Paul's. Equally in that area there are prep schools who lose half their boys at 11+ to the south London day schools. In return these prep schools pick up a lot of state school boys who fail 11+ and resit at 13.

I speak as parent of one son who left his IAPS 13+ prep school early to go to a HMC school without any particular difficulties (along with the majority of his classmates) and have another son in year 6 at a prep school which finishes at 11 who will be sitting for some of the schools mentioned by the OP. May I assure you that the project folder is not a figment of my imagination. It may only happen in South London but it does happen grin.

LIZS Fri 11-Oct-13 19:24:14

ah yes the "portfolio" !

notagiraffe Fri 11-Oct-13 19:24:25

Sorry Mrs Steptoe, I went to bed early!

Yes, he was fives when he sat exam and level six at end of yr 6 (not yr 5!) in Science and English, with high five in maths but still got into one of the very top academic day schools in England, from state primary but with an hour's tutoring for a year plus about 2-4 hours practise per week - so not onerous as school gave almost zero homework, so the tutor practise was in lieu of having nothing from school.

Show me the money I think an increasing number of prep boys leave at 11* stage. The indies that start at 11 have swayed the balance in their own favour by making 13+ boys jump through far more hoops to be guaranteed a place. Of course some schools don't start until 13, but those that do seem to far more aggressively encourage the switch at 11. At DS's school about 1/2 the boys are state school and half from preps that run to 13 but parents wanted to secure the place by moving the pupil at 11.

showmethemoney1 Fri 11-Oct-13 23:18:35

Very few left DS's prep at Y6, and those that did went to an 11+ school with no 13+ intake because the parents were worried about what school they would get into at 13+. It was the same story for about 5 other preps in this area, it was much talked about at the time because one prep lost a huge number of boys following the introduction of a new Headmaster.
Boys in this area are looking for London day schools, and I hope that OP and subsequent posters are re-assured that very few from this area will be competing for 11+ places, but it looks like a totally different story from South London. I am not trying to start a fight I'm just telling it as it is here!

Shootingatpigeons Fri 11-Oct-13 23:30:15

Around this area, SW London, I have heard many stories of prep school parents trying to jump ship at 11 but coming up against Headmasters refusing to rock the boat by taking them before 13. I have DDs but it does look distinctly odd when you see a 6ft Year 8 with bumfluff looking self conscious in that sweet braided blazer that looked so cute aged 7. I know boys mature later than girls but it suits some but not others. Ignoring parents instincts comes close to a restrictive practise. However it does leave the way open for state school applicants, and certainly around here there are many more places at 11 than 13.

MrsSteptoe Sun 13-Oct-13 02:43:33

Ooh, thank you everyone for all the info - finally managed to get back onto Mumsnet after a few days of not being able to access it for some reason, probably nob-beaker related.
We live in SW1 near Victoria so really all the schools are easy to get to, though the odd one, like Ibstock Place for example, would be a bit of a wretched journey.
I do get hacked off, though, with this emphasis on music or sport or achievement. He's just a nice, bright-ish kid who builds a lot of Lego. He has never won a trophy at anything sporting - got a few karate belts but hated it so I allowed him to stop - and I haven't pushed him into doing music exams with his sax, which he's only played for a year anyway. So on top of all the practice papers, now I've got to try to get him to do something he can take to an interview. You'd have thought that being bright and good-natured and wanting to please would be enough. It's enough to put you off the whole process.

MrsSteptoe Sun 13-Oct-13 03:11:29

Oops, that sounded badtempered. It kind of was, really, or it certainly wasn't written with the best of humour, but it wasn't meant as ungraciously as it came across! All teh comments are really appreciated.

Ladymuck Sun 13-Oct-13 08:35:17

It doesn't have to be a sporting and music achievement - if anything the scholarship candidates for those areas will already covered those areas sufficiently. It just has to be something that he can talk about - even just photos from a day trip that he enjoyed. I can't say that all the schools want it, and I don't know what your son is like. Some 10 year olds have no problems in talking in an interview, others do. I guess you can probably tell most from your sons reaction at open days: when he was asked questions by the boys or teachers did he shrink into the background, or step forward and engage? [I have children at opposite ends of the spectrum, and if you have one who will continue talking even if there is no one left in the room, you may not realise how long 15 minutes with a child giving one word answers can be!]

Precisely what the schools don't want is a year group who have done nothing in their spare time for the last year bar do practise paperswink. They are looking for boys who will get stuck in, and cub badges will demonstrate that as impressively as grade 7 on the oboe. If his thing is Lego, then photograph a few of his models or something.

If your son is naturally chatty, then don't stress about the interview. But there are plenty of boys out there who find the papers easy, but really struggle when talking to a stranger.

MrsSteptoe Sun 13-Oct-13 09:09:34

Thanks for your post, Ladymuck. That makes it clearer. Three consecutive late nights at work (including Saturday) and not sleeping for long enough afterwards will derail my responses (in both the emotional and written sense of the word) sometimes, particularly when I look at Mumsnet at 3am before finally getting to bed.

Shootingatpigeons Sun 13-Oct-13 12:37:53

Are you doing Ibstock Place? They have a very hmm attitude to learning difficulties. Have heard some stories that would make you grrrr. Incomprehensible when the other indies have good strategies in place.

MrsSteptoe Sun 13-Oct-13 16:10:13

I looked at Ibstock but didn't care for it. I didn't feel DS would fit there. x

Farewelltoarms Mon 14-Oct-13 14:16:35

MrsSteptoe, just wanted to say that I couldn't have written your posts bar the fact that my ds is y5 and we're the other side of the Thames. I bloody hate the process and the way it is already forcing me to judge my son and his lack of accomplishments and possible shortfall in academia. They are so little that it is crazy to be thinking like this. My ds is utterly charming, compassionate and kind, and actually pretty bright but I feel I'm being forced into measuring him up against some unknown prep school yardstick of chess champions and violin virtuosos.

Adding to my misgivings is the fact that I don't even much like any of the independent schools we've looked at anyway. Nor the state ones either, but at least they're not forcing me to judge my own child.

notagiraffe Mon 14-Oct-13 20:44:58

Know what you mean. DS has always been passionate about his music playing but was still only at Grade 2. Walked into chosen school to see tiny boys playing Grade 8 Beethoven at open day. [Hmm]

But it didn't hold him back. I'm pretty sure that what they are looking for with extra curricular is a sign of enthusiasm and consistency in something outside school. So loving Lego is absolutely fine if he can talk about what he likes building and why. I think they just want children who aren't passive. If their key interests are watching TV and skyping their mates, then they might feel a bit at sea in schools where they are encouraged to get really stuck into extra curricular.

The academic pressure is a bit gloomy though. I know several boys who were perfectly bright enough to thrive at the good local indies and they didn't get in. Bit of a shock to everyone.

MrsSteptoe Tue 15-Oct-13 20:59:25

Apparently DS is going to be entered for Level 6 SATs in Maths. Who knew.

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