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Is it really that hard to get a place at a good private school in London if you have been State educated at primary level?

(125 Posts)
Aubergines Mon 22-Mar-10 13:58:00

We live in West London and intend to send our daughters to the local State primary. It is a good primary, outstanding Ofsted etc.

The State secondary schools around here are pretty terrible so at 11 we hope to get the girls into a private school.

This all seems very sensible to me but several "friends" have raised their eyebrows and suggested I am taking a gamble and may well find that the girls don't get a place at any of the good private secondary schools. THey suggest good private secondaries (e.g. St Pauls, Latymer, Godolphin and Latymer) are incredibly competitive and children at "feeder" private primaries will be at a distinct advantage.

Is this really true? Is there a chance that at age 11 my girls will have no choice but to go to the local State secondary? Can that really happen, that at 11 you have no choice of education even if your parents are willing and able to pay?

Any words of wisdom appreciated.

Emmmmmaa Mon 22-Mar-10 14:48:00

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Horton Mon 22-Mar-10 15:36:03

I went to one of the schools you mention from a state primary, Aubergines, and my brother did the same. I am no genius, either. Two other girls in my year went to one of the others. I think about eight or so boys and girls from a year of around 70 at my school went private at secondary level at that time and most of them went to pretty good schools. My state primary wasn't supposed to be especially good and no extra coaching was offered - I don't think anyone had private coaching, either.

However, this was a long time ago. Possibly things have changed.

PollyParanoia Mon 22-Mar-10 15:42:07

As far as I can see this is a myth put about by private schools and private school users. I read a statistic somewhere about how a greater percentage of children are privately educated at secondary level than at primary - it was quite a bit higher so that would suggest that loads of people do what you're proposing. Every state school pupil I know of in London has got into the private school of their choice and I know three or four who've been offered scholarships. They did all have tutoring but only from year 5 and that seemed enough for them to catch up.
I think you've got to have faith in your child. If you think their only hope of getting into an academic school is through eight years of expensive preparation then do as your friends suggest. And if this is the case, would you really want your child to be in such an academic environment...
ps there's always a school for parents willing to pay. It's a market economy.

Builde Mon 22-Mar-10 15:43:49

How can you not catch up from a state primary?

I caught up and overtook most privately educated children by the age of 18...surely how you are doing aged 11 is more to do with your innate ability than the exact stuff you've been taught at school.

To be honest, the most balanced person I knew at University had been educated at a large west london comp. where as the St Paul's girls were all a bit unbalanced!

I think that private prep schools spread the myth that state school children can't catch up, and that in private schools children are 'working two years ahead' to get the business.

When I observe my children at their (supposedly rough) state primary and compare them with their counterparts at local prep schools, my children are way ahead.

Sorry to sound so cynical...I just think everyone thinks education is more critical than it really is whereas I think it's innate ability and self-motivation that's important.

amidaiwish Mon 22-Mar-10 15:48:13

in our state primary, 25/90 children are going private for secondary this year (SW London). it is very common. many did have some tutoring from Y5, just to practice the papers (e.g. for Tiffin) rather than because of any need to "catch up".

the private preps sell places on the basis of "pretty much guaranteed entry" to their private secondary. you see a sudden surge in class sizes in Y5 and Y6 in private preps as parents who are feeling worried move their children a couple of years early to avoid the stress of the tests.

personally i wouldn't worry. if your dcs are bright enough and your state primary isn't dreadful (which it isn't) then they will be fine. and if they are not bright enough then the school isn't going to be right for them anyway. imo.

Horton Mon 22-Mar-10 15:54:41

>> we've been told that children from state schools "wouldn't be able to catch up" joining the private sector so late. This may be true in some areas like French

I don't think this is true at all. I hadn't been taught a word of French at primary level but within a year I was in the top set at my highly academic and competitive private secondary school. We had also been taught pretty much no science (and I did science A Levels) and practically no geography or history. A bright child will catch up.

Emmmmmaa Mon 22-Mar-10 16:35:09

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

newpup Mon 22-Mar-10 16:35:24

My DDs go to a local state primary which on the whole we have been happy with. DD1 is in Year 6 and will be starting at a girls independent school in September.

I worried that she would be at a disadvantage in the entrance exam as I had heard the girls already at private schools would have an advantage in exam preparation. Six girls in her class of 29 took entrance exams for private schools and they all got offers. Although they are all really bright girls and DD was the only one not to have a tutor they obviously were not that disadvantaged!

If they are bright and have had a go at the type of exam papers beforehand they will be fine.

Blu Mon 22-Mar-10 16:46:21

Hang on a minute - what is all this talk of 'catching up' and needing to be 'really bright'?
Firstly surely there are private schools which cater for the full range of children? I can't see that children who are privately educated can all be super-bright! there must be some average, and struggling children, surely?
Secondly, isn't most of the discrepancy in preparation for specific exams? Many private schools specifically prepare children for certain private secondary admissions, so tutoring in those exams and exam techniques makes sense.

3littlefrogs Mon 22-Mar-10 17:02:33

There are loads of private schools for all abilities. As long as you have the cash.

Much harder to get into a selective state school IME.

Horton Mon 22-Mar-10 17:11:26

To be fair, the schools mentioned by the OP are not schools which have many average kids in them. Some struggle but they are children who would more than likely be considered bright at a different kind of school. If you want to go to eg St Paul's, you had better be pretty bright because otherwise you will struggle, IMO.

ImSoNotTelling Mon 22-Mar-10 17:21:10

confused latymer isn't private.

Also it is in north london/north east london isn't that a bit of a trek from west london?

going to read thread now grin

ImSoNotTelling Mon 22-Mar-10 17:23:05

private primaries also do not "feed" into the private selective secondaries in the manner in which I think you mean. They may be familiar with the entrance exams and teach to that level but the exams themselves are a straight competition.

ImSoNotTelling Mon 22-Mar-10 17:28:01

Everyone else has said it all really.

There are a range of private schools for children with different abilities. And backgrounds wink

In north london it is harder to get into one of the top selective state secondaries than the equivalent private.

If it is selective we're talking about, then yes a bright child will be fine from state primary I would guess, I imagine people who are dead set get a tutor for the last year or so. OTOH I know people who are tutoring their children from age 6 to get them prepared for local grammar schools.


seimum Mon 22-Mar-10 17:31:39

If you don't like your west London secondaries & your kids are bright they can get into grammar schools in Berkshire (lots of kids seem to take the train to Slough of a morning).

jackstarbright Mon 22-Mar-10 17:43:14

Do these schools take many bright girls from state schools? - of course. If your dd's are very bright and do well on the test day - they should get in. If you're happy for sit them for 3 or more schools - they will get something.

Schools of that calibre will have 4 or 5 children sitting for every place. Some girls who would do well at the school will be wait-listed and some even rejected. If you really want them to go to a particular one of these schools then sending them to it's main feeder is a virtual 'guarantee' that if they are right for the school - they will get in. But if the senior school is not right for them - attending a feeder school will not result in a place.

ImSoNotTelling Mon 22-Mar-10 17:44:42

Thinking about it I suppose it must be a different latymer!

SofaQueen Mon 22-Mar-10 18:27:35

Yes, the OP is probably referring to Latymer Upper School in Hammersmith, not the N London grammar school.

ImSoNotTelling Mon 22-Mar-10 19:08:18

grin yes that makes more sense!

confused no longer.

Needmoresleep Mon 22-Mar-10 19:35:08

It is hard to get into the schools mentioned simply because there are a lot more applicants than places. I heard somewhere that the numbers applying to Latymer Upper had doubled in the last 5 years. Recession, what recession?

They all boast of taking a significant proportion from state primaries. Given they test potential (through VR and non-VR) rather than achievement I can't see why this would not be the case. We know some very bright prep-educated kids who have failed to gain places.

There are plenty of other schools nearby where the competition is not so ferocious. Because they are not so popular...

Aubergines Mon 22-Mar-10 19:54:38

Thanks everyone. You all talk sense.

I do get the impression that the private schools work to propagate the idea that they are very hard to get into because then everyone applies to loads of them thus generating lots of registration fees etc. However, I have no doubt that the ones I named are highly competitive.

I just hope they do select with the knowledge that the private preps prepare kids for exams and that you need to look beyond the polish of that preparation to see a kid's real potential. I expect we will go down the tutoring route in the end though.

I wish there were selective state choices near here but there just aren't. In fact any decent state choices would be a very pleasant change. I think Berkshire would be a bit far to travel from here! In fact the schools I named are partly my first choices because they are in walking distance from our home and I would love my kids to go to a great local school.

NMS - What are the other great West London choices which are less competitive?

amidaiwish Mon 22-Mar-10 21:05:05

Aubergines - why don't you find out the schools the children came from for this year's entry? Plus ask your school which schools this year's leavers are going to? Then you will have some facts. The schools you mention are amongst the most selective and academic in London.
Here in SW London, my state primary has children this year going to Lady Eleanor Holles, Surbiton High and Tiffin, plus a lot of boys going to Hampton School. You need to find out if this is FACT from your school.

zanzibarmum Mon 22-Mar-10 21:42:26

What the thread seem to be saying is that unless the DC are coached and preped for 11+ entrance exams they won't get in to london independent schools. Whatever the anser what does it have to do with education.

IME independent secondary schools have entrance procedures by design which favour the preped and tutored. So you are right. On the other hand if your child is naturally bright surely they will shine infront of any admissions arrangements.

What I think does happen is that as one poster says of SPGS that the candidates who get in can be somewhat unbalanced - not educated but trained and socialised to a life of taking exams.

Needmoresleep Mon 22-Mar-10 21:50:28

"NMS - What are the other great West London choices which are less competitive"

Ha...bound to attract controversy.

However a sample:
Harrodian - lovely school but much more mixed ability
Ibstock Place in Roehampton
Putney Park - seen as a gentler alternative for the less academic
St Benedicts and Emanuel, which are often used as fall back schools for those seeking co-ed but who despair at the numbers applying for Latymer Upper.
St James Girls School,
St Augustines Priory
Also some of the smaller schools that form part of the West London Consortium (More House, Queensgate etc)
To some extent some of the Girls Days School Trust Schools, though Putney Wimbledon and Notting Hill and Ealing are competitive but lovely and generally cheaper. Generally Surbiton and Sutton are seen as easier to get into (though the latter turned me down when I was a child!)

LEH is another option though may well be as difficult as the schools you mentioned.

I am sure there are more.

London is a nightmare. The most difficult of all to get into is Tiffin Girls, the girls Grammar in Kingston. Competition is seriously ferocious and you need to tutor.

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