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Could DS get into a private school? What should we look for? (Brighton College or other Sussex)

(20 Posts)
dontcryitsonlyajoke Mon 08-Feb-16 12:07:54

DS is in Y3. Seems fairly bright - top spelling group, first child in class to be given the "super duper" maths challenge, reading books that seem reasonably advanced for his age and reading a lot for fun, likes to draw maps from memory, design buildings and cities for fun (wants to be an architect). He got levelled at "3+" across the board at end of year 2 though school doesn't give detail beyond that so don't know if just level 3 or well beyond.

Given our fairly rural location, we only have one high school he could realistically get a place at. It is generally good with good behaviour overall but Ofsted and local parents I've spoken to suggest it doesn't push the brightest children as well as it might. I don't have big problems with him going there but wonder if we'd be selling him short given we could afford private school and it may help him achieve more.

I know little beyond the names of the ones round here but get the impression they are very academic, perhaps even a bit hot-house in environment: Brighton College, Lancing, Hurstpierpoint etc.

So how do you know if a child is suited to a pushy academic type place? When would you know? When should we start investigating this option? What should we be looking for in DS?

Current school doesn't really have kids moving onto private school so it's not anything I feel comfortable discussing with them at this stage. Plus I like the school and don't want them to think I don't. He is thriving there (first year there as it's a separate school to the infants) and being challenged as far as we can tell.

DH and I aren't set on private at all costs. The state school is good. DS has committed parents who help him. He has a lot of advantages to help him achieve what he wants already. We don't want to do it if it requires intensive tutoring to get him a place. Are we naive to think a child could get into say Brighton College on his own merits at 11 from state school? And how would we know and when would we know that this is the right path for him?

Just looking for some advice or thoughts so we can investigate whether this is an option worth pursuing. Thanks!

IndridCold Mon 08-Feb-16 13:43:38

I really think that you should go along and have a look at the schools you are considering and see how you feel then. Just because a school challenges bright children and makes them work, doesn't necessarily mean that they are pushy and a hot house. You should at least get a feel for their ethos and working methods during a visit.

Do you know anyone whose children go to those schools? You might be able to get a more informal sense of the ethos of those schools from them.

sayatidaknama Mon 08-Feb-16 14:13:26

I don't know Brighton personally but I know it has become harder to get into, no doubt due to its popularity. So yes you probably would have to tutor a bit or at least do some home prep, practice papers etc. Remember you are competing with a lot of London DC who will board there and most of them will have been massively tutored. Sad but true.

Drinkstoomuchcoffee Mon 08-Feb-16 14:20:47

Private education is a product - just like clothes, cars and holidays. The most important determinant for accessing it is money. So if your DC is of average intelligence and well behaved, there will be a private school whoch will take him if the school think you can pay. Schools try to make their product seem exclusive to increase demand - just like certain car and clothing brands.
Only 7 to 8 % of UK children are educated in the private sector. The vast majority of really clever DC are in the state sector. Some of them will be in academically selective schools, some in those that select on aptitude, some in those that select on religious denomination and others in those that select by post code. Most UK families who can get their DC into these desirable state schools do not look at the private sector.
So the small private school market is dominated by those who can't get their DC into a school they find acceptable, those who think their DC have special educational needs and those paying for the on site extra curricular and the perceived "value added". If your DS is doing well in the state sector, he will be more than capable of getting into a private school at 11.
Of the schools you mention, neither Lancing nor Hurst are academically selective. Brighton College is more so - but I know a number of DC who went there having not passed entrance tests to selective London schools/Kent grammars, so do not think it is that that hard. As other posters have said go along and visit the schools. Don't be put off because you think they are only for children from preps. You are a potential paying customer and you will be welcomed!

dontcryitsonlyajoke Mon 08-Feb-16 14:47:29

Thank you. This is v helpful. We both went to grammars and had no push from parents beyond a few last minute practice papers to make sure we knew to read all the instructions! So this whole tutoring approach we see around is alien to us, and we also feel strongly our kids need to succeed on their own merits. Paying for their high school feels is as far as we want to go (it's a big privilege and we want them to earn it IYSWIM). We're aware we know v little about how it works hence wanting to get our ducks in a row early so we know if it's an option and don't miss out by being late to it.

I know somebody with DC at Brighton, one child is very happy, one took longer to settle as struggled with being pushed but has got to grips with it after a year. They were in a (different) private prep though so the transition was at 13+ from a place whose job was to get kids into these schools so very different to what we'd be doing. My other friends either can't afford the private option or chose it from age 4 so have no truly relevant advice. Only one friend who has done this, in a different area of the country, so it feels like we're considering something very strange!

It's complicated because we can't easily move him to prep even if we feel that might be the best option (though he's very happy where he is and we're v pleased with the school so it's not really on our agenda) because we're edge of catchment in a tight area and the timing of our kids and the separate infant/junior schools mean it is near certain his younger siblings would end up without local state places unless he is still there for Year 6. I don't want them in private from the start as I love our state infant and juniors and it's important to us that they start there. So for our whole family, DS needs to stay in the state system through to 11+

Going to get brochures of local options as first step. It looks like Brighton has a spring open day so will register for that and check the others. May post on here for thoughts and other suggestions too.

Thank you!

Madcats Mon 08-Feb-16 17:52:43

You say that you are rural so (whereas I'd suggest that you nip into Brighton or Worthing library), you might want to get an online Good Schools Guide sub (I seem to remember you can pay just a few £ for a month). Also read the ISI reviews. They might give you a feel of the mix of pupils/boarding arrangements/catchment area/when children tend to join.

Parents go private for lots of reasons. Figure out the extent to which these are important to you:
- (Flexi)boarding or length of school day
- Pastoral care
- Emphasis on competitive sport/drama/music
- Extracurricular opportunities
- Core subjects and options
- Selective
The schools above will offer these in varying degrees.

Definitely definitely go to a few open days. Keep things low key if DS is likely to worry about being separated from his friends. I don't know if they run them, but DD's secondary school runs taster mornings in the Autumn term before the entrance exam.

So are you hoping to get DS in at 11+ or for 13+? I thought that Lancing and Hurstpierpoint mainly admitted for the latter (so you would have the last 2 years at prep instead of moving to state secondary at year 7), whereas Brighton College does have 2 classes in year 7 (with the prep school kids joining the school after they have done CE).

dontcryitsonlyajoke Mon 08-Feb-16 18:27:31

It would be 11+ but yes into the prep for 2 years at Hurst/Lancing. That's another reason I like Brighton as they do an 11+ entry into the senior school which suggests they have sufficient state school kids applying to warrant that whereas the others it feels more like you have to slot into pre-existing classes, friendship groups etc.

Not too rural - rural enough to only have on real school choice but only 10 mins from a library and supermarket smile I'll look at schools guides. Hadn't thought of that. So clueless smile

MuddyGardener Sun 14-Feb-16 15:14:04

I know a kid at Brighton - child of some friends - who is doing wonderfully and loves it. It seems to be an excellent school with a strong positive and inclusive ethos - and the headmaster writes lovely letters to parents. But for sure it's not too early to stick your nose in and see what you think of it yourself.

Re coming from state school and going to a selective secondary school - it is certainly possible. Our ds currently has an offer at a selective independent school, a reserve list place at another, and passed for the selective Sutton grammars.

He is at a small village state primary school, rated ofsted 'good'. I wouldn't say he's been stretched much there. Nor has the school been engaged in our onward choices.

I set ds at some verbal and non verbal reasoning tests when he was 9 or 10, and he seemed to take them in stride well, so I didn't fuss hugely about prep.

For the independent school exams, we did tutor him at home for a few months ahead of time, to make sure he would be familiar with the type of questions he might get, and to fill in any gaps we could see between what he was being taught and what he might be asked to do. I would recommend doing this level of prep, at least. We all worked quite hard, but it was finite.

How much prep makes sense depends whether there are genuine challenges with mastery of the material, or if it's a more matter of getting familiar with exam technique & format. There are tons of sample exams online. Worth using them as a guide to what might be asked, and doing them as mock exams.

For the grammar school exams, we only did a few weeks prep as we only decided a few weeks ahead to do the tests. (We live in a neighbouring borough and only worked out that the commute might be possible quite late on.) That worked out ok - but it would have been less rushed if we'd started at it earlier. Not saying I recommend that, but it is possible.

dontcryitsonlyajoke Wed 24-Feb-16 17:34:41

Thanks muddygardener - that's a really helpful post both on Brighton and on prepping for exams smile

Aussiejazz Thu 25-Feb-16 18:39:26

Take no notice of the inaccurate picture painted by Drinkstoomuchcoffee of Brighton College and other schools mentioned. It is ill-informed assertion. Have a look at them and make your own judgement.

bedelia Sun 24-Apr-16 00:45:35

Hi Don'tcry, have you been able to get a feel for schools you might consider for DS yet?

Our experience of state school to private is likely very different to yours, but I wanted to let you know that going from state school to an academic private is entirely possible if it's something both you (as parents) and DS want and are committed to smile

DD currently attends a school which has only very recently upgraded from "satisfactory" to "good", but has been awarded a scholarship to a selective, highly academic school from September.

I wouldn't say that I tutored DD intensively for the entrance exams, though as we only decided to pursue a place at private in the summer before January entrance exams I signed DD up to twice weekly sessions at a tutoring centre and covered lots of material for 11+ style tests which she wasn't doing at school.

I agree with others that it's best to start looking at the possibilities as early as possible, you'll have much more time to prepare than we did if you decide this is what you want. Take DS along with you to open days, ask questions about the subjects offered, curriculum, extra-curricular activities, and pastoral care; discuss how these compare to your state school option. This should help you decide whether private is the right option for DS, and help direct your attentions to the schools you feel would be most suitable for him.

Catmuffin Sun 24-Apr-16 13:11:30

Aussie What is it that you don't agree with that Drinks posted about the schools?

Drinkstoomuchcoffee Sun 24-Apr-16 16:45:22

I would also be interested to hear exactly what Aussie thinks is ill informed assertion in my post. I am very careful not to post anything here which I can not back up!

Needmoresleep Mon 25-Apr-16 07:15:30

Selective private secondary schools are looking for potential. Exams will not be 'first past the post'. They will want bright children who want to engage in education and in the wider life of the school.

Your child will need to be familiar with the content of the exams and be used to timed tests so a bit of tutoring/practice will be needed. But it should be about being prepared not being pushed. You have plenty of time so go to an open day and then speak to the school about what will be required. Transferring from state to private at 11 is very common.

MABS Mon 25-Apr-16 07:46:20

Hurst and Lancing both have Year 7 entry now, Hurst certainly creates an extra class for new intake. Both are definitely selective now too, Hurst particularly . I have/had children at both so I speak from personal experience.

Both a fabulous schools, as is Seaford College now too.

Godson at Brighton, brilliant school academically, but he is a very bright child and has been there since pre prep. Agree with what has been previously said about lots of children having tutors before Year 7 and 9 entry now.

Brightonhome Sun 08-May-16 23:15:31

Hi, I have a DD in Y8 at Brighton College Prep School. She has been there since reception and is thriving in every way possible. It is getting more selective, but CE requirements aren't as tough as some London schools. Entry at Y7 is usually into the Lower School; two classes of approx 20 each which is on the senior campus (as opposed to the Prep School next door). DD is very bright and has just completed a gruelling round of scholarship exams, which has meant very intensive revision for the last two months. No private tuition needed as these kids are motivated and focused. They have been taught how to revise independently (thank god, because it's too hard for me!) and just get on with it. Since going up in the league tables (5th in country for A levels The Sunday Times) it has attracted more families, so it's getting harder to get into. Hurst has definitely upped its entry requirements too. It's becoming much more selective. I have friends there with very happy kids who can't speak more highly of it. We have a few kids in Y8 opting to leave for other schools and not join the college. These are families who feel that their children either wouldn't pass CE or who feel that the highly academic nature of the senior school is not what they want for their kids. It isn't for everybody. All the kids I know in Y9 or Y10 (who I have known since they were little), absolutely love Brighton College. They are buzzing with life.
The only way to get real info about your DS's possible entry at Brighton College would be to book a meeting with a member of staff in Admissions. I can't help you further than that, but if your son is very bright, and you can afford it, he will get a string of A*s at GCSE and A level plus an excellent chance of Oxbridge and Russell Group. Yes, he would do extremely well in the state sector too I'm sure, and it's free, but if any other independent school offered us a free place, we'd turn it down.

user1469200607 Mon 25-Jul-16 10:40:34

Hi dontcryitsonlyajoke, I hope I'm not too late but as a pupil at BC I think I can give you some first-hand advice on this.

If your DS is coming from the state sector after Y6 he will go into the Third Form at the College. This is equivalent to Y7 and 8 at the Prep School except lessons are held on the main College campus instead of over the road at BCPS. The Third Form is designed to integrate those coming from state schools into the College community straight away.

The year group will be made up almost entirely of children from the state sector in the first two years so your DS will be amongst people in exactly the same boat as him. While academic standard are high, in line with the rest of the College, the support from teachers is outstanding and they are always happy to talk in what some might find a difficult time.

There are plenty of generous scholarships and bursaries available, especially in academics and music, which many pupils joining the Third Form recieve. Once your DS has spent two years in the Third Form he will join the Fourth Form with the rest of the children from BCPS who achieve the required CE grades as well as those joining from other schools across the UK, Europe and Asia.

If you have any more questions about life at the College please don't hesitate to ask. You can also contact the lovely Headmistress of the Lower School, Ms Leah Hamblett, who can discuss with you some of the finer points of entry and interview that we students don't get to see.

TortoiseVTurtle Mon 25-Jul-16 10:48:40

Our neighbour's son goes there, his two brothers went to Tonbridge but he was rejected.
They are without question, the most uncouth and objectionable family that I have ever come across but the youngest boy seems to have gained some manners which is probably down to the school.

user1469200607 Mon 25-Jul-16 11:26:15

I think the College is great at giving pupils skills for life. This includes good manners and an ability to talk to people in a thoughtful and modest way. We have lessons in how to lay a table, iron a shirt and change a tyre, things that other schools wouldn't normally do. Our headmaster is absolutely adamant that the College turns out good, well-rounded young adults who are ready to contribute to society in a constructive way.

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