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Westminster Under School - 7+ or 8+

(49 Posts)
fourmummy Sun 25-Nov-12 23:56:12

Can anyone explain the difference (or, the reason even, e.g., historical) for having the 7+ and 8+ for entry to WUS? Is it better to go for the 7+ (to give DS more chances) or not? Why would someone choose to enter their son for the 8+ but not the 7+? Is the 8+ 'harder' to get into than the 7+? Generally, does it become harder to get into selective schools as the children progress in age? DD went into CLSG at 7+ and went through to the senior school from there. No experience yet of boys' schools so am watching threads closely. Am thinking of WUS for DS but am not sure of the 7+/8+ difference/terminology. Any information very welcome.

Propitious Mon 26-Nov-12 15:05:54

Building programme some time ago enabled WUS to expand the school roll and add an intake at 7+. More recent building work means even more space & facilities.

No real consensus on whether 7+ or 8+ easier/harder for entry at the Under School. Traditionally 11+ entry (used to be called 10+) statistically 'easier' as there were fewer candidates per place. 11+ often the route in for state primary candidates, 7+/8+ boys more often than not of pre-prep provenance. I taught at WUS for some time and some of the most able candidates entered the school at 10+ (aka 11+) and went on to take top honours in The Challenge (the scholarship exam) at the Great School (Westminster School). The 10+ candidates were a bit raw and required intervention in languages etc but from these rough diamonds high quality gems often emerged!

The Under School is outstanding at developing latent talent, but candidates do have to have talent in the first place. 7+/8+ candidates I always found to be a bit over-schooled (crammed?) by pre-preps and sometimes lacking in original thought. 7+/8+ entry also produced star performers but there are of course many more of them.

Can't recommend the place enough. It's a surprisingly well-rounded school with proper care and development, a lot of real achievement and enjoyment of scholarship in its broadest sense; and it's certainly not a hot-house. Do have a back-up plan for your son if you're contemplating entry because competition is fierce.

Hope this helps.

fourmummy Mon 26-Nov-12 15:05:56

Bumping this up - if anyone can answer, please, I would be very grateful. What is the main difference between entering your child for a 7+ as opposed to an 8+ exam? Are there any reasons other than the obvious (e.g., maturity)? Why does Westminster (and others) have a 7+ AND an 8+?

Propitious Mon 26-Nov-12 15:15:42

Competition. Schools who were early adopters of the 7+ entry thought they could steal a march on other schools with a trad. 8+ entry by scooping up the best candidates a year early. Now of course they're all at it.

fourmummy Mon 26-Nov-12 16:58:51

Thank you Propitious. One more question, if I may. In your opinion, are candidates who don't get in at the 7+ entry disadvantaged by this at the 8+ entry? Is it better to enter both for the 7+ andthe 8+ (assuming that he does not go through at the 8+) or really prepare (I don't mean tutoring but just at home) and go all out for the 8+? It seems that in my estimation, a difference of one year has a lot of impact in a boy's life in terms of maturity etc..They still seem VERY raw and young at six/seven.

fourmummy Mon 26-Nov-12 16:59:50

Apologies. My previous message meant to read "assuming that he does not go through at the 7+".

Mominatrix Mon 26-Nov-12 18:18:09

7+ entry and 8+ entry are equally hard in terms of candidates per place. The difference between 7+ and 8+ in terms of exam is that much more is expected of boys at 8+ than at 7+ in terms of maths and english levels- much more than just a year growth! Boys who are successful at 7+ are those who are the more mature in terms of following direction and ability to sit through and focus during a 3 hour exam at the age of 6. I know of many boys who were unsuccessful at 7+ due to maturity issues (definitely not in terms of ability), but flew through at 8+. It definitely does not hurt your son's application at 8+ if he was an unsuccessful 7+ candidate.

Many people gun for 7+ places because they feel that it is easier to get into in terms of what is academically expected.

Going back to 11+, this is actually considered the most difficult year to get into WUS IF one is coming from the private sector (also true of its rival Colet Court) as admissions are slanted towards state school applicants.

Propitious Mon 26-Nov-12 18:48:49

There is some 'back-channel' chat during selection meetings about marginal candidates at 8+ who failed to get in at 7+...perhaps not looked upon as favorably as other single entry 8+ boys?? Needless to say there can be some pretty fine distinctions drawn between candidates.

Of course a lot depends on the quality of the candidate pool year by year....some years have many strong candidates, others a few less. However because WUS is now a very popular choice, the 'field' (candidates) seems to get stronger year on year.

All boys (children) mature at different rates. Yes indeed, a year is a huge difference in cognitive development in that age bracket but you can't really predict how any particular individual will be on their 'learning/achievement curve' (sorry about the cliche but it's good shorthand...) when approaching 7+ and later when approaching 8+. Some will surge ahead early, some's all down to individuals.

Sorry that my answer seems such a cop out but each & every parent has to make an assessment/best-guess as to where on the achievement spectrum their child is RELATIVE to other potential candidates when making decisions about early or later entry. Also bear in mind my comments about the strength of the field and apocryphal negative bias against marginal 8+ who failed at 7+.

Turniphead1 Mon 26-Nov-12 21:32:47

Propitious - thanks for your detailed comments. Do you have any thoughts about the extent of the "catchment" of boys joining at Year 3. We are entering DS (and clearly it's unlikely he'll get a place given the fierce competition). My worry if he did go is that he'd be the only one from our area of North London (it seems a lot more SW and W is postcodes) and that he would have a long commute (45mins at least). He's a state school boy too.

Propitious Mon 26-Nov-12 22:36:57

Yes, it would be a long commute for such a youngster but I know of many who have done it & survived, though special measures required to facilitate it in some instances - the parental 'taxi' etc. Many make huge sacrifices (time & money) in order to enable their son's presence at the school. There is no official catchment as such but questions of a practical nature would be asked by the school if the family home was really distant.

A significant majority of boys come from areas centred on Kensington & Chelsea though more are now prepared to travel from further afield (...those special measures again). Obviously easier as the boys get older and are more able to cope with the distance & public transport options.

If he is successful & gets in then ask around other parents to see if there are one or two others in the same boat (location) - you may be able to piggyback travel arrangements. Top tip: ask the school secretary for addresses of other parents in your locale - even if they're not in the same year group. A bit of networking may pay dividends. Lynsey Salaman, until quite recently the school secretary, was brilliant & helped a lot of parents with issues like this.

(Please don't use the school as an early morning child minding service - there's an agreed time when the school is open in the morning. Some parents liked to drop their sons off at 7.00am en route to the office....not fair on child with only the janitor for company....and not fair on janitor!)

Turniphead1 Mon 26-Nov-12 23:01:05

Thanks Propitious.

That is so helpful. I guess until I'm in the position of having an offer hmm I shouldn't worry. it's still up in the air whether the sacrifice (most notably for him of course) would be worth it. It's more likely that he will take a 7+ place at the school his sister goes to, which is much much nearer.

Admittedly once he was able to do public transport it would actually be a fairly quick whizz down the Victoria line.

How horrible for boys to be dropped off at 7. Admittedly I drop my daughter at 8ish (to avoid getting gridlocked in drop-off traffic) which gives her a 20 minute wait but 7 is a bit much!

TennisMom Tue 27-Nov-12 00:34:03

Hi Propitious,

For the 7+/8+ admissions, does WUS take into account a boy's birth date when looking at entrance test results ? I would imagine that boys who have already turned 7 by January when the exam takes place will have a huge advantage (maturity and experience) over boys who are younger than 7 at the time.

For example, my son will only by 6.5 y.o. in January when he takes the 7+ exam whereas his older brother had just turned 8 (December) when he took the 8+ exam in January.

I think 6 months make a huge difference in maturity and knowledge when taking these entrance exams. Hence, does the school take this fact into account when making its admissions decisions?

Turniphead1 Tue 27-Nov-12 08:27:19

Hi Tennismom. I am sure Propitious can confirm - but I am fairly sure that all schools with any entrance assessments take into account the child's birthday. My DS is an October baby which is helpful - but clearly he is nearly a full year older than an August child taking the tests. They do like to have a span of birthdays - otherwise these schools would be largely full of children born between September and January.

How is your elder son finding WUS? Is there a lot of homework?

Propitious Tue 27-Nov-12 10:23:05

Hi TennisMom,

Ages/dates of birth all carefully scrutinised and taken into account. A few months can make a huge difference at that age.

fourmummy Tue 27-Nov-12 10:55:45

Thanks Propitious. That's really useful information. Do you (or anyone else?) know roughly how many sit the 7+ and 8+ entrance exams?

More generally, does birth date/month apply also at a 10+ sit (obviously, for a different school to WUS) or are these differences assumed to be negligible by that stage?

fourmummy Tue 27-Nov-12 11:02:10

Also, TennisMom,

Why did one son sit the 8+ while the other is sitting the 7+ (if you don't mind)? Just curious as to the distinction (but if a personal matter, then clearly no need to respond).

TennisMom Wed 28-Nov-12 00:09:13

how did you guess that one of my sons is currently at WUS based on my original post? Just curious because you guessed correctly.

I think he is in the right school as homework load is not too bad for him. Definitely, there is more homework at WUS than at his last school (once or twice a week) but very manageable. There is weekend homework where they are expected to produce more in-depth works but they tend to be creative and fun in nature (create a travel guide, create a map of a new city, do a presentation of your own created religion, etc.).

What I see is that for a bright, motivated and curious boy, the amount of work is not overwhelming. however, I guess where it can be challenging for a boy is if he doesn't feel inspired to do any of the projects or find the work level too difficult. for example, the spelling list is definitely more challenging than at his last school but he can tackle it with some thought. I can easily see, though, that the list is challenging for an average 8/9 year old.

In summary, if the boy is smart and loves to learn, he should be able to handle WUS with no problem. More importantly, you, as the parent, are less stressed out because he can do the work. If he is slow to learn new concepts, it will take him longer to perform same task and it will stress you out.

TennisMom Wed 28-Nov-12 00:09:56

Propitious, thanks for this info. It is very useful and comforting to know that they do take age into consideration.

TennisMom Wed 28-Nov-12 00:15:49


Oldest boy sat the 8+ exam because we weren't in London at the time of his 7+ entry exam; otherwise, we would have tried because he was very strong academically and ready at 7+.

What year is your daughter at CLSG? Do you have 4 kids hence the moniker?

singersgirl Wed 28-Nov-12 10:09:58

At a similar school to WUS where they have 10+ admission, they weight the reasoning paper according to age (though from that it appears that they don't weight the other papers). 7+ intake at highly selective preps is dominated by children who are older in the year, it's more balanced at 8+ and even more balanced by 10/11+. However, I once (in a sad, too much time on my hands and unhealthy preoccupation sort of way) went through the birth dates of all the boys in my son's selective prep (published with their class lists) and discovered a heavy imbalance towards the first six months of the academic year. Can you guess my sons are born in August?

Turniphead1 Wed 28-Nov-12 12:14:46

Tennismom - I think I remembered you posting when your eldest boy got his place. Well done him! And its kind of implied in your post that you are talking about WUS both times I suppose. 8+ is fairly rare apart from CC and WUS too. And that would be a tricky school run smile.

Glad your DS is enjoying WUS and I am sure his brother will get to join him next September.

TennisMom Wed 28-Nov-12 16:42:05

Thanks, Turniphead1, I hope so as well for my school runs sanity. I have another boy after these two and talk about stress getting all 3 into a very selective school!

Oldest boy is very special and bright such that he got in both WUS and CC at 8+ but still relatively normal, thank goodness.

Btw, what did you mean by this comment: "8+ is fairly rare apart from CC and WUS too. And that would be a tricky school run."

Turniphead1 Wed 28-Nov-12 17:45:53

Well - I know many schools that do 7+ but not many that do 8+ (apart from Cc and WUS). So if you had one at Colet Court and one at WUS that would be hard in terms of school run.

Mominatrix Wed 28-Nov-12 18:44:56

Actually, many schools do 8+ - some exclusively (like Sussex House). I don't know any who do 7+ but not 8+, but then I don't know all the schools in London (too many, yet not enough).

Turniphead1 Wed 28-Nov-12 20:26:59

Ahhh must just be our part of London.

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