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Pre-prep, prep or straight through?

(17 Posts)
nordicwannabe Thu 17-Mar-16 20:17:08

I feel like I'm going round and round in circles about what type of independent school to choose for DD (starting in reception).

I'd like to minimise the stress of selective entry and I get the impression that it gets worse as they get older - ie they won't realise it's a test at 4+, then 7+ is more serious but probably not too bad, and 11+ sounds really tough. Is that right?

But I'm also very aware that at the age of 3, I have no idea what kind of school will suit her in 8 years time!

Possibilities near us are:
1. Pre-prep only, so would have to join another school at 7+. The idea then would presumably be to join a straight-through school, with a bit more idea of what would suit her. But that means going through all this again in just 3 years confused

2. Prep up to 11, then the major stress of getting into senior school. A lot of people around here do state primary and indie secondary, so entry is really competitive.

3. Straight-through, which takes out the exam stress completely, but means that she might not be in the senior school that suits her best. I'd worry about her getting in at 4+ (when it's less selective) and then struggling later. If I had to make the choice now though, I would want to get her into an academic school, because DH and I are pretty academic, so there's a reasonable chance she will be too.

We definitely don't want boarding, or any of the big name public schools.


Can anyone shed any light on pros and cons?

ridinghighinapril Thu 17-Mar-16 21:51:43

Why not go for all 3 types (provided you like the schools on offer) and see what you get? If you happen to get more than one offer, and there is nothing else to separate them, then go with the one that offers the least stress all round. If that happens to be either the 4-18y or 4-11y school then you can then relax, support her education and review as you approach the 7+/11+/13+ stages to see whether it is still the right school for her.

We have gone for a 4-18y option for our daughter and it is very comforting to know there is no pressure to sit these exams. Our son, however, is going to a 3-13y school, as we much prefer it and feel it would suit him better.

Good luck!

sendsummer Thu 17-Mar-16 22:05:18

IMO straight through schools, even when a new cohort join in year 7 or 9, have a high risk of DCs (particularly girls in all girls' schools) feeling a bit bored by their school and restless for a move certainly by year 10-11. That means they often want to move to other sixth forms. That may be no bad thing though.
If a child who gets in a selective school at 4+ is not suited to the pace of learning later on then the schools are usually pretty good at advising other options I think.

SAHDthatsall Thu 17-Mar-16 23:11:51

There's no guarantee of straight through anyway is there? Even Claremont Fancourt in Esher was reported to be moving on the bottom 20% of its cohort at the end of Year 6 in order to upgrade... and Claremont is known as the school that everyone applies to as a backup and no one really wants to go!

AimHigh100 Fri 18-Mar-16 07:02:59

Unless you've particular concerns about your DD's ability, go for a 4+ through-school. This will give you the option of going through to 18 but isn't an obligation but can offer great reassurance. Schools 'have a chat' with parents in Year 4/5 if they feel that secondary wouldn't suit a pupil (academic strength, usually), giving you time and advice in terms of a suitable alternative.
Starting in state school and transferring in later will often (depending on additional educational support at home) give a child a disadvantage academically as there may be a disparity between him/ her and nee peers. It may also be harder for them to get in. Bright children tend to catch up - but it's a period of adjustment and can be difficult and concerning. I'm sure that yhere are people with positive stories on this count, though.

Have faith in the school's assessment of children at 4 (to a degree) and talk to them about this valid concern.

nordicwannabe Fri 18-Mar-16 08:11:40

You're right, ridinghigh, all this agonising might well be pointless if we don't get offers. We have already been offered a place at one non-selective prep - so we will only apply for any others which we would prefer to that one, which is where this agonising comes from! Even though we really liked the school I worry that this would mean she's forced to do the very competitive 11+ entry.

We haven't visited all the schools yet though, so perhaps it will become clearer after that. Thank you for the good luck wishes, I think we will need them!

Summer - I can imagine that, 13 years is a long time! There's one through school we looked at where the senior school seemed amazing, but I was less keen on the juniors. But getting just into seniors is crazy-competitive (but progression from juniors usual), so I wonder whether it's worth trying to get into juniors just for that chance. But if she'll want to change then anyway, then that will be wasted. Although I guess if it's really great, then she might want to stay - and in that school the juniors and seniors are really quite separate.

SAHD - wow, 20% not making it through to seniors is a lot! The schools I've spoken have said that just a few aren't able to progress. That must feel pretty horrible to the child thoughsad. I almost worry more about her getting through, but struggling along at the bottom of the class. I guess I want it both ways: easier entry to selective schools early on, but I don't want her to be struggling confused

Aimhigh - no particular concerns, I just don't feel I can tell yet what DD's eventual ability will be. She is still so little! The schools I've spoken to do say that the selection seems to work out - I guess I do need to trust it. I do really like the idea of not having the pressure at 11+! But while it's true that there's no obligation to stay on, I can imagine DD not being willing to leave her friends at that point. I know that I didn't always make decisions for the right reasons at that age!

Thank you all for the viewpoints. It really helps to try to think it through.

Coffeeismycupoftea Fri 18-Mar-16 13:11:34

We did state then 11+ and it was a pretty hellacious process. However, it all worked out and he did well, getting in to pretty selective schools from a not particularly high achieving primary. I would (respectfully) disagree with AimHigh from our experience - now in y7 in a school where the vast majority come from private schools or the prep school attached to the senior, our child hasn't been in any way behind. State primaries really do have to push the able ones hard these days. Our child was ahead on maths, a bit behind on other subjects and about the same for the majority. Secondary is a step up for all pupils, regardless.

I can see the appeal of all-through school because, as I say, the exams are no fun. However, a psychologist once told me that it's a really bad idea for a child to be in the same school throughout for two reasons. Firstly, they never have the challenge that comes with moving schools - the new journey, the new buildings, the new pupils and the life skills that come with meeting that challenge.

Secondly, they miss out on the opportunity to reinvent themselves. If they were the shy one/clever one/sporty one/incontinent one in reception then they have much less chance of overturning that role. My boy was one of the younger ones in reception and was easily intimidated by the older ones who were better at football. He's gone to secondary and seems determined to present himself as a popular, confident boy and it's working.

MissGintyMarlow Fri 18-Mar-16 13:39:49

I'd slightly disagree that you don't have a chance to reinvent yourself in a through-school as most mix up the classes frequently and have new joiners at big entry points like 7+ and 11+. And yes, if your child gets bored or seems trapped they can move then too.

But ultimately, it depends on which school appeals to you most once you've toured them, as all options can and do work out fine. My children started off in the state system and moved to selective privates without having any problems catching up at all and so did many others I know, so I don't see that as a problem either. As others said the state system teaches the able to a high standard these days.

Oh, and which is closest to you should be a big deciding factor, I've always gone for close schools and have gained many hours that would otherwise have been lost in traffic/on the bus/tube as a result which has been great both for me and children.

Almostdone2 Fri 18-Mar-16 13:40:53

I agree with coffee. The 11 plus is a nightmare avoided if at all possible. However, I also agree that not being able to reinvent yourself between the ages of 4-18 is not great.

One thing I'd say is that schools
selective at 4+ actually have a
Wide range of ability by year 4/5.

happygardening Fri 18-Mar-16 17:41:34

I personally don't like through schools because you just don't know how your DC will turn out when you start in either reception or even yr 2/3. Secondly If for example you start in reception loving the school a lot can change over the next 13 years, a new head for example can completely change the ethos, at a prep your able to change schools at a natural point in your DC's education without causing significant disruption. Thirdly I do think some children physically and emotionally grow out of a school and even their friends and the staff, they can get bored of it. Moving to another school represents new and interesting challenges for them Finally if your DC's are at a through school and you decide for what ever reason you want to move your DC at yr 7/9 you need to ascertain how much if any help they'll give you with entrance exams etc. We sent our DC's to a prep in yr 2/3 and then moved to a senior school in yr 9.

nordicwannabe Fri 18-Mar-16 21:11:58

That's really interesting that there are some clear advantages to a prep school, despite the awfulness of the 11+ exams. That's making me feel quite a lot more positive about that option.

Coffee and MissGinty - I'm sure that very able children make the switch with no problem. I do wonder whether middlingly-able children might just not get a place, whereas they might have got a place at that school if they had started at an age where the intake was less competitive. Whether that's a good thing for them or not is a different matter!

I can definitely believe that there ends up being a wide range in ability when selection is at 4+ almostdone. I do find it difficult to see how they are able to select accurately at such a young age.

happygardening - that is a very good point about 13 years being long enough for a school to change a lot. I hadn't thought of that. There certainly seems to have been a lot of movement of head teachers in the schools around us in the last few years.

That's also an interesting point about distance, MissGinty. What would you count as close? Is 25 mins in traffic too far?

nordicwannabe Fri 18-Mar-16 21:22:29

I also wonder whether there are more 'false negatives' than 'false positives' at such an early age. I can imagine that there are children who will have high ability, but are still quite immature at 4. Whereas if you have a bright, capable little 4 year old and you give them good teaching and a lovely environment, they are very likely to do well!

That - along with happygardening's point about a lack of preparation for external exams in a through school - makes me wary about a not-so-academic through school, even though I'm keen for DD to have a very nurturing environment while she is so tiny. So perhaps a nurturing prep is a good bet after all!

Chalk2000 Sat 19-Mar-16 07:48:46

I spent 10 years in an all girls school that went right the way through from 2/3 years old to 18. I joined when I was 6 and left when I was 16.
It was a very small school and by the time we were taking GCSEs I felt bored and demotivated. Also the girls who had been at the school from a really young age (and had spent longer at the school than I had) then really struggled mixing socially when they went off to different 6th forms.

When we were all in year 6 the school never encouraged anyone to look at other schooling options as they wanted everyone to stay on.

Chalk2000 Sat 19-Mar-16 07:51:33

Just to add we have gone down the private route for our kids. There is an "all the way through " school near us and a just to year 6 school and chosen the latter. I prefere they weren't at a junior school that feeds into the seniors ... Hope this helps and good luck x

MissGintyMarlow Sat 19-Mar-16 12:25:27

OP, personally yes I think 25 minutes is too long, that is a 50 minute round trip twice a day. A close school makes life hugely easier for you and your child.

AimHigh100 Sat 19-Mar-16 12:47:23

I have a 30 min route each way. We actually like it. It's time to chat, listen to audio books ( free from the library) and we are now even learning Spanish with an audio CD. My son really wanted to learn.

Independentandproud Sat 19-Mar-16 18:15:15

IMO the stress of getting to Senior at 11+ is much worse than either 7+ or 13+. Also, you can go for a through school and then decide to change if it doesn't work out for you, loads of people move on at these points to different schools.
Thinking about your options, I would go and see the school's you like for pre-prep and prep and see whether you like. You can then think about 11+ later - plenty of time.
A few posters have mentioned getting the right school for every child. I think this is a bit of a false assumption - unless you go single sex- most schools do well with all sorts of children. For example, a school with brilliant sports might also have an outstanding art department but you might think the one down the road is better because the art is the only thing they talk about (not sure I am making sense here).
Dc3 is in the same school as dc1/2 because that makes life easier - isn't that they way to go?! Or is that bad parent in the making?

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