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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.

CityGirl2012 Thu 29-Nov-12 13:25:25

hello - can anyone advise on the pros and cons of 7+/8+ v 13+ entry into top London day schools, please? thank you!

chooberry Thu 29-Nov-12 13:33:20

Yes I would be interested to hear views as well. We are in the position to send our son to a top prep school (and hence try for entry at 13+ for London day schools) or alternatively stay at his current school which will prepare him for 7+ entry. What are the pros and cons or is this just a matter of personal choice.

At the moment its hard to tell how academically able our son will be, but ideally we would like to send him to a top London day school (e.g. Westminster, St. Pauls etc.).

milkshake3 Thu 29-Nov-12 13:43:03

Hi CityGirl - upfront, I have gone down the 13+ route with my DCs!! The reasons are as follows:

- I wanted them to have a carefree time when they were little rather than being drilled to write a story and pass exams at 7 (and I didn't like the victorian type classrooms I saw when looking round schools that prepared boys for 7/8+ - silent, boys writing, teachers walking around, very academic focus not rounded, very few displays - it's probably changed a bit now though).
- Back then tutoring was not de-rigeur, but now everyone tutors meaning less time to do stuff outside school, and we did loads in the evenings and weekends (masses of sport, music, visits, travels etc), all of which teaches them life skills - teamwork, perseverance, making friends outside an immediate school circle.
- Boys develop later than girls so I wanted to put off the moment of testing until as late as possible - pre tests in year 6 and 7. My boys changed a lot between 7-13 yrs, and my DH and I changed our views of suitable schools for them in that time.

Reading threads on here about 7/8+, it seems to be a few of those boys who struggle with the transfer exam at 13 to senior school because it is hard to know how they will develop and also if they have been tutored to pass the test and can't keep up without that ingoing support. However, if you have your heart set on one of the academic day schools and can get them in at 7/8+ and they can keep up, you are done - no worries about pre tests and common entrance (although that isn't really a worry if you pick the right school for your DC).

HTH and good luck!

Turniphead1 Thu 29-Nov-12 15:15:15

Just to pickup on a point made by Milkshake - you DO still need to sit Common Entrance at some schools that have feeder preps - WUS being a prime example.

But for other prep/junior schools one of the major benefits is not having to prepare for transfer examinations at 11 or 13.

TennisMom Thu 29-Nov-12 15:43:31

Turniphead1, this is the reason why we are not even applying to CC for the 2nd son b/c the school runs would be too onerous given his brother is already at WUS.

CityGirl2012 Thu 29-Nov-12 19:52:19

Thanks! Agree a lot with what milkshake said - Just wondering: aren't the 7+/8+ assessments easier than 13+? Also, aren't there more spaces at 7/8 in the top day schools as opposed to at 13?
Finally, are tutors still needed even for boys who go to private schools?? smile

Mominatrix Thu 29-Nov-12 20:32:46

CityGirl, of course 7+/8+ are easier than 13+, but they are not easier for a 6-7 year old boy or 7-8 year old boy. As was mentioned above, the maturity level needed to successfully take the 7+/8+ is not something many boys have, despite academic promise.

There are many more spots at 13+ than 7+/8+ (they usually double the class size from the end of prep school to the first year of senior school), but also many more areas to shine.

In terms of pros to earlier entry, for us they were:
-bigger school environment than his pre-prep which he needed (even his teachers were saying that he has "outgrown" the school)
-as long as he continues as he has, it is a smooth transfer to the senior school, so less worries.

The boys are given great freedom, and thus great responsibility. They are on their own when it comes to getting to peripatetic music lesson (remembering the time their lesson is and getting there) and going to their various extracurriculars. They also have 2h15min of free time built into their day which they are responsible for structuring. In order to cope from 7 or 8 at these schools, they do need to be more mature and self-sufficient than average. They also need to be resilient and self confident. Many boys (most?) grow into themselves at prep school, and thrive more in a smaller, more supportive environment - these boys are much better off waiting until 13+.

Mominatrix Thu 29-Nov-12 20:33:45

Forgot to address the tutors issues. Yes, the majority are tutored to get in (even from private). Now, whether or not tutoring is needed, or it is just to assuage parental fears is another matter.

fourmummy Thu 29-Nov-12 21:13:21

Really surprised about the tutoring Mominatrix. I thought that top schools were very good at weeding out kids who had been tutored. Parental/informal tutoring at home - by all means; full-on, private tutoring - frowned upon.

Mominatrix Thu 29-Nov-12 22:32:57

Fournummy, the tutoring is not necessary to get in, just that the parents feel that it is. The stories of some of the in-demand tutors who cater for the very affluent central London areas made even MY jaded draw drop (people taking their tutors on holiday to not miss sessions, tutors booked from 7 am to 10 pm, and charging nose-bleeding rates). The problem is aren't paranoia, and when one parent hears that other parents are doing it, the fear spreads.

Mominatrix Thu 29-Nov-12 22:34:28

Jaw, not draw!

Mominatrix Thu 29-Nov-12 22:36:09

<sigh> is aren't

Cannot type legibly on an iPad!

fourmummy Fri 30-Nov-12 09:27:32

That is jaw-droppingly insane, Mominatrix. I haven't heard anything to this level re tutoring. We did not tutor our DD for CLSG at all bar some informal 'in the car while on the way to somewhere' tutoring from parent(s). I am firmly against tutoring. Furthermore, I can't understand this level of parental paranoia given that schools (supposedly) actively profess not to want (and will not take) tutored kids. I realise though that if most kids sitting these exams are tutored, then the schools can't stand that firmly in their policy not to take tutored children. It must be the case then that most kids who get in are in fact tutored. Is this the case?

Turniphead1 Fri 30-Nov-12 13:18:23

My view is that for a child from a state school to sit 7 or 8+ at a very academically selective school without tutoring is rather unfair. Whether that tutoring comes from the parents or an outside individual is neither here nor there really. The bottom line is that a child could be uber bright - but will not have covered, say, fractions until later on in year 2. He therefore needs to learn additional topics from somewhere to have a fair chance in these tests against pre-prep kids.

A parent could tutor just as intensely as an professional tutor if they wanted to. But for most parents they want someone who knows what is expected in these tests, can give them an idea how their child is doing and what schools they are likely to get into - and also they find that the child will do far more work for a tutor than they will for the parent.

A tutor won't be able to turn an academically average child into say WUS material - but they should be able to bring the child up to his or her best level. The old saying about making a silk purse from a sow's ear applies here I think.

The HM at one of the N London independent schools that do 7+ now says at his tour talks that he would advise state school kids to go to a tutor shock

Its a divisive topic - along with private/state and day/boarding - it takes up a lot of discussion on these boards!

Propitious Fri 30-Nov-12 15:16:46

Agree with Turniphead1 on 7+/8+ state school kids and tutoring, if they've not covered the expected ground in say maths when in primary school then how can they possibly show their potential at entry to prep schools?

Tutoring is a totally different matter for 7+/8+ pre-prep pupils. Parents of pre-prep children have paid good money and made a huge emotional investment in pre-prep education for their offspring, and the pre-prep should have prepared them adequately for prep entrance tests. However, over-ambitious parents quite often ignore advice from pre-prep heads when it comes to recommendations for the next school and join the throngs of aspirant candidates at WUS/CC et al. All the pre-prep heads (with one notable exception) I came across when I taught at WUS offered sage advice to parents on this issue only to have it ignored on many occasions. Perhaps it's these 'wild-card' parents who are filling the diaries (and wallets) of the burgeoning tutor cadre?

When I worked at WUS, candidates would be asked quite subtly whether they had received any was teased out during the interview part of the assessment. Some simply blurted it out! The head always told parents he preferred candidates from pre-preps not to have been tutored, but a significant portion had. Whether a candidate received tutoring or not was always noted on the candidate final compilation sheet. It doesn't require a huge leap of imagination to work out that marginal candidates from pre-preps who'd been tutored would not receive the benefit of the doubt in a split decision. (Incidentally, the age of the candidate in years and months was displayed at the top of the sheet in a huge, bold font - much more prominent than any other personal details.)

Parents would be well advised to listen carefully to pre-prep heads when it comes to next destination schools; they know the pupils, the system.... and all the pitfalls.

CityGirl2012 Fri 30-Nov-12 22:49:19

Mominatrix - thanks, that's very helpful. Our dilemma is as follows: is it a good idea to choose an independent nursery which is a feeder into top prep schools (4-13), which in turn are feeders for St Paul's, Westminster, UCS, Highgate and boarding schools, or choose another route - a nursery which will feed them into schools which go from 4-18 (UCS and Highgate)? Also, is the Wetherby worth pursuing or not given that it only goes to 7? What is the ratio of candidates to places on offer for St Paul's and Westminster at 13+? How do they compare to UCS and Westminster?

Turniphead1 Sat 01-Dec-12 09:42:37

Citygirl - not sure what ages your DC are but just to say that Highgate starts at 3. There are only 30 places - so very very difficult to get into. 7+ slightly easier as there are 50 places.

In general Highgate and UCS are considered tier below St Paul's and Westminster. The former are very much "north London/local" schools, the latter drawn from all over London (but more west/south west in case of St P).

All very different choices. I guess in theory a good pre-prep gives you a lot of choice - to see if you want a good all-round school like Highgate with boys and girls. Or a good liberal all boys experience at UCS.

Or if they turn out to be academic highflyers then you can aim for St P/WUS.

Would you consider state until 7 and then 7+?

CityGirl2012 Sun 02-Dec-12 17:25:19

Turniphead - thanks very much. My DS is a newborn smile so I am just researching at the moment and signing up for nurseries, pre-preps and preps. Think we will aim for a strong independent prep school - we are considering The Hall and Arnold House, which go up to 13. Hence my question earlier whether 7/8+ entry is better than 13. Also considering the Wetherby but wondering if we are not too far for that (based in Hampstead)? What are your views on these schools? We would also prefer more academic senior schools - which other ones would you suggest in addition to St P/W?

milkshake3 Mon 03-Dec-12 10:05:55

Hi City Girl - as your ds is newborn, why don't you just enjoy him and stop worrying about where he will go to school in 13 years time? A lot may have changed between now and then including him. Register him for any preps that are first come first served and at the right time register him for selective prep exams. You will then have options at the appropriate time. If you go down the 13+ route, you will know by year 4-5 if he is academically capable of getting into a super selective London day school and that's the time you register him. As for the 7/8+ choose your prep wisely so that this is the exam it focuses on, otherwise the curriculum will be geared to pre tests in year 6 and CE in year 8.

Go and have fun with your baby - they don't stay little for long...wink

fourmummy Mon 03-Dec-12 10:51:34

I second what Milkshake3 said. The children change so much. I would say that you won't really know even at 4-5 if they are academically inclined. Some boys don't mature until quite late - and then things can change seemingly overnight. You just don't know. Just provide the opportunities for him to learn - books, etc..

Turniphead1 Mon 03-Dec-12 17:47:38

Agreed with all others have said Citygirl. The main thing is keeping your options open. But sounds like you are well on the ball with the likes of The Hall etc where they do want names down at birth.

A lot of places - eg Highgate have changed and have an "apply a year before" system which to my mind makes more sense when they are going to assess. When my eldest was little it was "names down during window of three months after they turn one" which was just bonkers.

As others have said, you really can't say you'd prefer an academic school until you see what your DS is like.

CityGirl2012 Mon 03-Dec-12 19:19:43

I agree with all of you girls! I also think it is crazy that we have had to put his name down asap after birth - actually with one nursery even while pregnant! I am trying to enjoy DS as much as possible and to me this is most important. But as you know, London schools are notoriously competitive and one just has to put the name down ASAP and then sit back and enjoy him. Also, instead of paying tons of schools non-refundable registration fees, I thought it was better to do some research and narrow down the choices. But I fully agree with you that they change and mature so much over time, so ultimately we will only know what is best for him once we know what he is like! Thanks for the advice though, appreciate it! Any other views welcome! And sorry to the original author for hijacking this thread!

almapudden Mon 03-Dec-12 19:49:44

Wetherby has a prep school now as well as a pre-prep. It admits at 7+ and 8+. I don't know whether pre-prep boys get preference, though.

Might be a long commute from North London, though - the prep is at Marble Arch.

CityGirl2012 Mon 03-Dec-12 21:10:18

Is it worth commuting to, given the outstanding schools in N London?

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