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Meeting with Head Teacher about the choice of senior (private) schools for DS - what questions to ask?

(52 Posts)
PrettyBelle Wed 02-Oct-13 15:13:50

DS is sitting 11+ exams in January and soon I am meeting with his prep school's HT who is reported to be very knowledgeable about boys seniors in the area. I am a bit overwhelmed with the choice - most schools are quite far away so I am really not sure how to make a distinction between them in terms of suitability. They all claim to have "superb facilities", be "pursuing excellence", "nurturing", "instilling confidence", etc. Not sure how much help the HT would offer - but I would appreciate any advice on what kind of questions to ask him in order to get a clearer picture of our options. Thanks in advance!

LIZS Fri 04-Oct-13 07:17:08

Think op has missed the boat as far as state 11+ is concerned.

Loopytiles Thu 03-Oct-13 21:53:34

And the prep schools to the sutton / kingston state super-selective grammars.

Loopytiles Thu 03-Oct-13 21:52:55

Whitgift/trinity do 11+

Lots of prep school boys do those tests.

Labro Thu 03-Oct-13 16:38:45

The only one I know is RGS and you have to state whether you are doing 11+ or 13+ deferred.
The exam is in January of the boys Yr 6.
The other schools in Surrey close their lists by the end of the boys year 6 and then pretest September/October.
Ones like St Johns leatherhead and Epsom college close their lists very early and I seem to remember pretest in the boys yr 6 as well.
If they pass 13+ pretest then they still have to pass CE in yr 8 as well at the requested %.

LIZS Thu 03-Oct-13 15:16:41

I've not come across the deferred option and am on the edge of your area. The schools we looked at all expected those sitting 11+ to take up a year 7 place or resit at 13+ for Year 9. Pretests for 13+ entry are not the same entrance tests as 11+ and are conditional on achieving certain CE results.

homebythesea Thu 03-Oct-13 14:55:57

Ah missed that bit smile it's the only one I know of that does the deferred entry thing!

Ladymuck Thu 03-Oct-13 14:50:49

CLFS is co-ed.

homebythesea Thu 03-Oct-13 14:14:05

Is it CLFS?

Ladymuck Thu 03-Oct-13 14:09:22

Tiffinland - now I understand the reference to 11+ mania!

I can only think of one school where the 11+ and pretest is the one and the same exam, and that is one which requires 70% in all higher level CE papers.

I suggest that you have a chat with the secondary school as well.

There are all sorts of reasons as to why a boy would wait until 13 if they are currently thriving at prep school. But I wonder whether you'll be able to make a fully-informed decision as to whether your son will be better at the prep or the senior school in years 7 & 8.

PrettyBelle Thu 03-Oct-13 13:35:25

Our first choice school indicates that appliacants for both Year 7 and Year 9 entries sit the 11+ exam but the latter defer their place.

It seems that if a child gets a place at 11+ it's easier for him to move at that point rather than having to take CE 2 years later. Or am I missing something?

PrettyBelle Thu 03-Oct-13 13:34:21

Ladymuck, thank you so much for the detailed information. We are looking at the area between Guildford and South London, so mostly Surrey. DS is really good at Maths, hard-working and I would say is quite academic, he is also into sports a lot, enjoys music (but only started learning an instrument last year), not into visual or performing arts so far... I think I would prefer a boys school. Both DH and I commute to South London/Kingston area so it would be easier if the school would be along that route.

I realise that CE covers a wider range of subjects and languages is a concern since Ds barely did any French at his previous school. However, judging at the level of their current French lessons I imagine he will catch up easily in time for CE.

Ladymuck Thu 03-Oct-13 13:11:52

11+ angst only seems to exist in London and Home Counties, and seems more common amongst parents who have gone state for primary and therefore don't have a such a supportive environment in terms of school and headmaster etc (with respect to selective senior schools that is). At the prep school gate, the discussion since birth has been about different senior schools, their pros and cons, and which boys would be "Westminster boy" or a "Dulwich boy" or whatever.

At the state schools everyone denies that their child is doing any exams, until they are spotted in the queue on exam morning.

Ladymuck Thu 03-Oct-13 13:03:36

OK, x-posted with everyone whilst putting that essay together (as well as answering the phone!)

Ladymuck Thu 03-Oct-13 13:01:22

If you were willing to tell us the rough geographical area, then you may find that there is a lot of fairly specific (though also hideously biased!) knowledge on here.

For day schools you are mainly looking at 3 types of entry -

a) 11+ (exams in Nov-Jan of Year 6)
b) pre-entry tests in year 6 or 7 followed by Common Entrance in Year 8
c) 13+ (exams in Nov-Jan of Year 8)

Your headmaster will not want you to go for option a. That does not mean that you should dismiss it. But for this first meeting, bear at the back of your mind that it isn't on the agenda. If you then come up with a list of schools which include ones which do take at 11+, then you need to consider whether that is a real option. Alas your headmaster will almost be professionally obliged to tell you to wait until 13, so you will need other sources of information and advice. In my experience there is no harm in going to talk to the registrar or even head of your target school. They will be very familiar with the dilemma of prep school parents, and will be ale to reassure you as to your best option. The other thing to look are fee levels. Some children stay at prep until 13+ as it is cheaper.

In terms of numbers of schools, it really depends on which route you choose. I would say that for route a, the average child seems to sit for 3, whereas for b, it seems more common to sit for 2. For route 3, again 3 would be the maximum, though it is a less common option to be honest. If your son does any music or sports scholarship assessment, then days are needed for these too, so sitting for 5 schools would mean 15 days of assessment (exam, interview, sports/music assessment) - possibly more with sport as some schools have a 2 stage assessment. It is a lot to try and fit in, and if you have clashes then you will be forced to show your hand early. And of course the schools talk to one another! Especially about scholarship candidates...

One reason as to why you need to understand which schools have which entry route is that typically for a and c Maths, English and Reasoning are tested, whereas with a CE offer, a lot of subjects are tested, and in particular languages can be an issue.

stealthsquiggle Thu 03-Oct-13 12:58:51

Less academic schools do offer more generous scholarships, though - we are debating that balance now - super academic school, max 10%, vs less academic school (who want to pull the standard up), max 50% scholarship but DS would be being used to pull general standard up.

Somethingyesterday Thu 03-Oct-13 12:57:45

(Just to clarify - yes I meant the HM would suggest 2/3 schools for pre tests. And if you're successful at your first choice first you can ignore the others...)

And then you go on to take CE for that one school as everyone has said.)

homebythesea Thu 03-Oct-13 12:54:27

Also bear in mind most scholarships nowadays only have a minimal financial value- one of my DC's has one worth £250 a year and that is generous!!

homebythesea Thu 03-Oct-13 12:52:06

The 11+ angst you read about is for Grammar schools where they exist as there are usually way more entrants than places.

If an independent school has an 11+ entrance there are two possibilities. Either they do CE common entrance or their own entrance exam. Either way they will have their own expectations of pass mark. Usually at 11+ you will have in mind 2 or 3 schools who will be sent the marks (CE) or mark their own papers and tell you yay or nay. Some schools are cheeky and ask for confirmation (and often large deposit) before you hear from your other target schools....

If you do 13+ CE or scholarship 13+ you are only going for ONE school. The target school marks the papers and if you meet the criteria then you are in. This is why pre tasting is so important- they very rarely massively over offer after the pre test as they pretty much expect the child to be able to meet the relevant pass mark when it comes to the year 8 exams. This does mean that if there is a massive blip (they will often excuse a dip in one subject) you are left with no senior school offer but honestly I have never heard of this happening in practice because preps will only guide you to the school the child is capable of getting in IYSWIM .

PrettyBelle Thu 03-Oct-13 12:39:21

Somethingyesterday, all schools that I looked at have exams in January.

About the scholarships: yes, I meant less selective and more expensive. My reasoning that popular academic schools will have higher criteria for scholarship applicants - incidentally such schools are also cheaper. But there is, for example, one school which I really liked but it costs about 60% more per term, and it is far less selective at that.

I like DS's current prep school and I would like to keep him in the private system - but paying full fees for an average school doesn't seem good value to me.

We probably won't qualify for bursary, with the combined income of around 82K.

Somethingyesterday Thu 03-Oct-13 12:36:29

X posted with you OP! I'm still certain you are conflating 2 different exams.

For boys:

Prep school "11+" is pre-testing.

Grammar school 11+ is something entirely different. (It looks extremely fraught but you don't need to concern yourself with it if your Ds is in a prep school and going on to public school.)

Somethingyesterday Thu 03-Oct-13 12:29:39

No it's definitely not me! OP you mention scholarships first in the context of "more expensive" schools and then later in the context of "less selective" schools.

I'm not sure that a school that is both more expensive and less selective would be worth the anxiety and expense.....

In my experience the HM would generally suggest perhaps three schools. But if their entry procedures are staggered you should have results from one or two (at pre-test stage) before going on to the third.

PrettyBelle Thu 03-Oct-13 12:28:26

Somethingyesterday, if after 11+ DS gets a place at his preferred school he will move at 13. If he doesn't - it depends on how strong academically other senior schools are. There are not many in our area, unfortunately.

I am still surprised - from what I read here it looks like a place is more or less guaranteed if the boy applies to the "right" school. Where do hundreds of applicants, sitting for most popular schools, come from then? And why are parents on other MN threads are so anxious about the whole 11+ process?

Some boys might move at 11+ if they are moving to a co-ed school rather than boys only. e.g. the main entry point for Latymer Upper in London is 11+ with only a few places at 13+.

If a prep school head and the pre-testing / interview process has worked well the boys shouldn't be going for schools where they are not likely to get in. The schools do have a discretion if someone gets a lower mark as it is the school that specifies their CE pass mark anyway. Its my understanding that the first choice school marks the CE papers but they could be passed on to second choice school if the boy didn't get into the first.

Somethingyesterday Thu 03-Oct-13 12:07:40

I'm confused. Prep schools go up to 13 to prepare boys for CE to a school they will join at 13. What would be the point of taking the 11+ (Except as an internal thing - to get a clear idea of where a boy sits in the cohort?)

And why would you consider moving a boy at 11+ when he has only just arrived at this school and is presumably close to that age now.

Regarding more expensive schools and scholarship. A scholarship is very unlikely to significantly reduce fees. For that you would need a means-tested bursary.

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