Westminster. Your thoughts.

(43 Posts)
Crowler Mon 09-Dec-13 16:42:41

Note; I'm not invested in my son sitting for Westminster, I hate secondary school hysteria to the point where I'd like to leave England, but he would like to. He's down for the February exam.

How can I get a realistic view on how he'll score on the exam? As far as I can tell, they don't publish sample papers? He's been working on bond papers, the sample papers the school sends home (they have an 11+ curriculum) and Godolphin & Latymer papers (he's sitting for that exam as well). I understand it's 70% but aren't some exams are harder than others so which ones should I base this on?

Based on exams, he's in the top 10% of his current (prep), but uneven, lazy, and distracted. During my 11+ meeting with his school last year they suggested a range of schools that included St Paul's at the top with a caution that he'd have to take the test "on a good day". I gather his school does not have a strong relationship with Westminster.

I'd love to hear anyone's input and would welcome suggestions that he shouldn't follow through with the exam. My biggest concern with him taking it and not doing well is that 1. it would knock him down a bit and 2. if he buckles down in the next few years, maybe it would be better to do it later (if at all) so we don't have this bad score hanging out there.

EdithWeston Mon 09-Dec-13 16:49:31

What 'record' are you concerned it would be on?

If he flunks the pre-test, then the remaining route is the scholarship exam and previous performances won't be relevant.

If the prep is recommending St Paul's and/or KCS Wimbledon as serious prospects, then Westminster would also be one. If this is 'aspirational' then perhaps only one of those three. Sounds like you need a follow up meeting with your prep to see what they have to add since last year.

louloubelle Mon 09-Dec-13 17:03:32

I agree it is very hard to assess the actual level a child need to be at for a decent chance of success in the London day schools exams, particularly if not seeing an external tutor.
70% in one VR may not be the same standard as another...a CAT score taken in y5 may not be truely representative...or is it? And if so, is there a specific level for Westmisnter, or St. Paul's?

Crowler Mon 09-Dec-13 17:05:52

Edith, scores aren't retained?

Their suggestions included KCS & St Paul's (with above noted qualification).

Crowler Mon 09-Dec-13 17:09:38

I'm avoiding the tutoring route, mostly because I don't think we need one between me and my husband.

Glad louloubelle is equally confused. I'm circumspect about the whole process.

EdithWeston Mon 09-Dec-13 17:19:24

I don't know whether they are retained. But I think that whether they are or not isn't relevant because, if a candidate doesn't have a conditional offer, the only 13+ route is competitively via the scholarship exam. And if you score highly enough in that for an offer, no one's going to care one jot about one test a couple of years earlier.

I think that 11+ entry is for WUS but the pre-tests for 13+ entry to W are done in Yr 6 (just finished) so if he doesn't get through the 11+ then he will not be able to go for 13+ because he has missed the pre-tests (I am assuming he is yr 6)

As Edith said you don't need a conditional offer to try for a scholarship but that is tough.

Crowler Mon 09-Dec-13 17:33:24

By scholarship do you mean 13+ or financial assistance?

EdithWeston Mon 09-Dec-13 17:41:38

I meant scholarship to mean non-means tested award for academic excellence.

I think bursaries for financial assistance need to be applied for in parallel to normal admissions. You'd probably need to speak to the bursar if that's what you need.

Crowler Mon 09-Dec-13 18:45:55

We're not seeking a bursary.

basildonbond Mon 09-Dec-13 20:33:32

Presumably he's sitting Latymer not G&L unless he's planning a sex change ...

I'd go back to your head and ask for a realistic assessment of how he's doing right now. At dd's school the staff are very good at advising parents on appropriate choices for their child. You really shouldn't need external tutoring if your prep is doing the job for which you're paying large amounts of money!

From what they've said so far it sounds like St Paul's would be aspirational, Westminster and KCS would therefore also fall into that category. It's generally not a good idea to put your child in for too many exams - we're given the standard advice of no more than 3 (one aspirational, one realistic, one safe bet, unless your child is either exceptionally academic in which case most children's 'aspirational' would be their 'realistic' or struggling and would need to be looking only at most people's fallback options)

Londinium Mon 09-Dec-13 21:42:53

You beat me to it Basildon!OP slightly concerning that you may have applied for a girls' school. the relationship with the school will perhaps be because the 13_18 secondary schools don't poach pupils at 11 but expect them to join at 13 .Have you now mussed the 13 plus boat or does your prep actually finish at 11.

Crowler Mon 09-Dec-13 22:02:29

Yes- latymer!
Too many g&l test papers sitting around the house.
Low pressure as the school goes through 13+. I'd be not so laid back otherwise!

antimatter Mon 09-Dec-13 22:46:34

why is he lazy and distracted?
ale those papers you are doing with him too long?
is it done too late in the evening so he is too tired?
can he stick to on 45/50 min and finish it in that time?

Homeworkqueen Tue 10-Dec-13 01:34:09

As a parent who is facing CE this year and has faced all the horrors of year 6 pre- tests - I think there may be a few misconceptions here . If your DS doesn't get through the pre-test at most schools he won't be able to sit CE - that's why there is such a level of hysteria , tutoring etc in year 6 . If he doesn't get a place can he sit the scholarship exam in Westminster? I've not heard about that before - definitely not an option for St P , KCS etc .

Eastpoint Tue 10-Dec-13 06:54:14

The 70% pass mark refers to the Common Entrance papers taken at 13+. Places at 13+ are usually offered conditionally after an interview. There are different levels at Common Entrance, I don't know what Westminster require.

I don't think the schools worry about whether children reapply, I know of children who did not get in to Latymer at 11+ but joined in year 8 after others left.

scaevola Tue 10-Dec-13 07:03:17

Westminster pre-test (year 6) papers are published.

The Westminster website says clearly that it uses the ISEB pre-test, and links to that site, which in turn sells past papers.

The typical required CE mark for those holding conditional offers is 70%.

123flower Tue 10-Dec-13 09:15:10

OP Am a little confused: are you entering your DS for 11+ entry into Westminster Under, which offers places mostly to primary school pupils or the pre-test for Common Entrance? If it's the latter, then both Westminster and St Paul's have now changed the rules. Boys sit a computerised pre-test in English, maths at their own school. Both Westminster and St Paul's have access to the results and invite applicants who've performed well for an interview. With St Paul's this includes a further short test in maths and English. If you're trying for 11+ entry at either school, I don't think a "bad score" will be held against him. We know a boy who failed WU at 11+ but was later offered a place at Westminster.

Crowler Tue 10-Dec-13 18:33:22

We're down for the 11+. I know their policy, but they accepted our application - does that mean anything? There are quite a few boys from my son's school sitting for the 11+ (maybe five?).

I've just ordered the ISEB past papers. That's the missing piece, so thanks scaevola. I'm going to discourage him from taking it if he's well below 70. English is of course a mystery to me, but his English teacher would probably give me a good idea - she's the most helpful person at the school.

He's always been lazy, personality trait I guess? Possibly tired from school, yes. He can sit through a 45 minute exam with ease, though. He's motivated intermittently.

Crowler Tue 10-Dec-13 18:34:05

And thank you everyone for your insight, it's very useful. thanks

irisha Tue 10-Dec-13 18:43:34

70% pass mark refers to Common Entrance taken at 13+, i.e. papers in Maths, English, French, Latin, Science, History, RS and Geography. This is the pass mark for most selective schools, e.g. StPaul's, Westminster, Eton, etc.

11+ Common Entrance is taken mostly by girls who apply to boarding school (also set by ISEB). These papers are extremely easy (especially maths) and are a long shot from London day school papers. I wouldn't use them as an indicator for Westminster at all - they follow a linear syllabus with practically no harder, problem-solving elements.

Farewelltoarms Tue 10-Dec-13 19:39:40

Out of interest, what is Westminster's policy on 11+? It says on the site that it's primarily for boys from state primaries or privates that end at 11, yet the only boy I know of who's got in via that route goes to a very well known prep that ends at 13.
Dunno seems a bit disingenuous of them to encourage applicants from state schools and then pit them against boys who've been trained up at prep schools. Especially when they say one thing on their site but clearly do little to discourage boys such as OP's son.

Crowler Tue 10-Dec-13 19:41:40

Irisha - How about the bond papers?

I just spent 40 on the iseb papers. Are they useless? I may cancel the order.

irisha Tue 10-Dec-13 19:56:37

I think they are great as a first experience of doing papers starting in mid year 5, but not much more than that. My DD was getting 95% on them in Yr5, means nothing. They are not worth the price - it's just that ISEB is a monopolist so they can charge that. You will do better by getting David Hanson books 1 and 2 from Galore Park which have ISEB style questions.

But given so little time left to exam, I would focus on schools' past papers, e.g. St Paul's Girls (on the web), Manchester Grammar School papers, and North London Consortium that you are already using. If he can get close to 90% on North London Consortium untimed and 80%+ timed, I would say that he is well positioned. Try Manchester Grammar papers and St Paul's girls paper B and C. If he is getting 60% on those, that's excellent. They are supposed to be very challenging.

Crowler Tue 10-Dec-13 20:07:22

irisha, a million thanks.

blackwattle Tue 10-Dec-13 20:16:32

Hi OP,

I'm a little confused. If your son is in Year 6, shouldn't he have just sat the SPS and Westminster 13+ pre-tests at his school in the last couple of weeks, or are you only going for 11+ entry? If so, did he take the Colet Court reasoning test on Monday? What other schools have you applied to?

As previous posters have said, the ISEB 11+ papers are far too easy as are the Bond books if you only have six weeks to go. What kind of scores has he been getting in the G&L papers?

Crowler Tue 10-Dec-13 20:56:55

He's not sitting for St. Paul's, he's sitting for Westminster 11+. We've also applied to Latymer. His school goes to 13, hence no safety school - safety school is his current school.

I get terribly frustrated in grading the G&L papers, why do they not assign points to questions given that they vary so much in difficulty? And, can anyone tell me how I should mark a question that's partially correct - if they show work, do they get partial credit on entrance exams? Because I'm so unclear on how to mark them, I normally just sit with him and go through them rather than arriving at a percentage, which is useful in some ways and not useful in others.

I've been heavily relying upon London Girls Consortium tests because he does them in a controlled setting at school and brings them home marked (what's not to like) and has scored in a confusingly wide range from the 70's to the 90's.

scaevola Tue 10-Dec-13 21:05:39

Now I'm confused! Westminster does not have an 11+ entry, as the school begins in year 9 (but you have to do a pre-test in year 6 to secure a conditional offer).

So do you mean 11+ entry into WUS? Because if so, you can scrub the ISEB pre-test papers. I think the WUS sets its own paper (English, maths, reasoning) and says , for those doing them from state school, that minimum level 5 is expected.

Crowler Tue 10-Dec-13 21:17:44

Yes. Sorry, WUS. I see now the source of the confusion, I'm very much in the habit of calling it Westminster.

Michaelahpurple Wed 11-Dec-13 10:01:04

Am very puzzled why if you are interested in taking a punt at WUS 11+, but with the option of staying at your prep until 13+, you didn't also apply for westminster Great school - if he doesn't get in at 11+, where do you plan to send him for year 9?

On 11+,ISEB is indeed irrelevant in the sense that they don't set the papers. Friends who have done the WUS 11+ have used the academic girls' schools resources eg St. Paul's girls papers, along with bond etc You need to be pitching well up - 11+ is probably the hardest entry point of all at westminster. Strong maths is essential.
Actually, galore park, the commercial arm of ISEB , have some good comprehension books and offer 12+ level, which is where you need to be thinking.
The year 7 boys at WUS are from all over. Lots of state school boys (many from North london, highly tutored in maths) but also prep schools. One school gate chum's lad came in from Thomas's Battersea, for instance, so I don't think there is a bar.
Remember that new year 7 boys need to do Easter and summer Saturday school in Latin and French before they arrive.

JustAnotherUserName Wed 11-Dec-13 11:38:24

and also remember that if you get in to WUS at 11+, there is no guarantee that he will go to the Great School. He will still need to sit CE (or Scholarship).

Michaelahpurple Wed 11-Dec-13 11:45:29

Re getting into great school, yes in theory but in practice hardly any boys don't get into great school and for an 11+ boy not to make it would be extraordinary. The schools keeps yelling us that they expect all the boys to get places, and so to do no special prep for preselection etc. in fact, getting in at 11+ would be her main route of going to great school now as she has missed the CE registration but presumably this is waived for 11+ entrants. I suppose scholarship offers a late registration option though.

Michaelahpurple Wed 11-Dec-13 11:46:00

Sorry - telling us! A telling slip indeed

Crowler Wed 11-Dec-13 12:10:19

I can see from the context of the questions that I've entered into this more casually than most! By way of explanation - there's some dissension in the Crowler house as to where he goes next - my husband would like him to go to ASL (his alma mater), whereas my son is becoming more anglicized by the day. Westminster came quite out of the blue and I'm unconvinced he's up to the task, hence this thread. He's a very smart boy, used to feeling like a smart boy, and I don't think he appreciates the kind of competition he's up against if you see what I mean.

Unless you think he will be totally demoralised by the process then I think its a good experience. DS1 has just sat the ISEB pre-tests and the practice he has done for them has helped with his general school work (firmed up his maths a bit and speeded up his work). Even if he doesn't get through then he will have had a very good exam practice which could be useful if he does the CE later.

Crowler Wed 11-Dec-13 12:31:53

I think he'd emerge in tact even with a bad score (maybe that's even a good thing). This thread has resolved my one concern which was that a bad score would possibly impact a later (good) score but it seems this is his only chance at Westminster in any case, so we may as well take it.

We may sit him as an overseas applicant in later years as there's a good possibility of us moving abroad at some point.

JustAnotherUserName Wed 11-Dec-13 13:03:27

@ Michaela: Re getting into great school, yes in theory but in practice hardly any boys don't get into great school and for an 11+ boy not to make it would be extraordinary. The schools keeps yelling us that they expect all the boys to get places, and so to do no special prep for preselection etc.

But you still have two years of uncertainty. We are trying for WUS but are using it as back-up just for that reason. Ie if he gets into a school - not as apirational, natch - which goes straight through to 18, then we will pass on WUS. (I know that shouldn't happen and that WUS is the "hardest" school, but you never know - esp with the maths element - and the intereviews/on the day issues.)

scaevola Wed 11-Dec-13 13:06:26

You'll only be treated as an 'overseas' candidate if you are overseas at the time of the various applications deadlines, and you go through the entrance procedures in exactly the same way as other candidates (though you can sit exams in your country of residence).

Crowler Wed 11-Dec-13 13:47:49

I wouldn't attempt to sit him as an overseas candidate if we weren't overseas.

Michaelahpurple Wed 11-Dec-13 18:48:13

I do understand the uncertainty point - lord knows there is too much to fret about anyway in london schooling , but I would urge you to think carefully about it if you do think the school would suit him, and he gets a place of course, as it is a lovely school for the right boy and there really doesn't seem to be a real risk of not getting to great school

The American versus English education point is a tricky one. I have a number of American friends and is interesting seeing which way they go on this - ASL, uk but look to do IB as being more like the US system , or full UK with aim of going to an American university afterwards. Perhaps as the proportion of children in general going to US college continues to rise, it will be an easier call.

If you think it wouldn't upset him (or any other family member - my DH can't seem to get over my DS2 failing 7+), have a punt!

Crowler Thu 12-Dec-13 14:00:55

I feel very torn about the American vs British system, ASL has incredibly seductive facilities and the kids were very cute and fresh-scrubbed when we went to an alumni event there - a buoyant rather than rarified environment.

Then again, they all have seductive facilities.

pandith Sun 30-Mar-14 03:21:47

Hi Crowler, I am in the same position DC secured a seat at ASL and Dulwich prep school in dulwich . Absolutely torn, as he has always been in te american curriculum till date,( we are not from London) and shd I give him the English prep school experience? What did u finally decide on? Again worried about the entrance In a secondary school and all the pressure that comes with it. Any advice plzzzz. TIA . Btw I have not visited both the schools

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