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Tentatively considering leaving state primary for a selective private school. What would I need to prep for 7+? Or is it better to do nothing and just see what happens?

(30 Posts)
Notquitesureagain Wed 02-Oct-13 12:14:26

Both DC are at a good local primary. It's very well regarded and on the whole I'm really pleased with it. I suppose I've got a slight nagging doubt that DD1 (who's just started year 1) isn't quite reaching her full potential but on the whole if the decision were up to me I'd probably keep her there.

However, DH is increasingly keen to put her in for 7+ for entry to a highly selective single sex private school. I've done a lot of research on the school and I do think it's fantastic in many ways but have a number of reservations. Anyway, it's important that I take DH's views into consideration and in the interests of 'keeping our options open' I'd really like to know what sort of level DD1 would need to be at by next autumn when she would be due to take the entrance exam to said school.

Her reception teacher described her as being 'top of the class' at the end of last year but that's a bit vague obviously. I know she's about a year ahead of her target reading age but as I understand it, the v competitive private schools (we are in central London) expect a lot more than that. I'm really, really not keen to tutor her but it would be useful to have an idea of how far off the mark she is likely to be and whether a selective school is even an option. I've looked at the requirements for the school and been to an open day etc but I'd be interested in personal experiences of 7+. Or indeed any views on the subject (I know it's a subject many mumsnetters feel very strongly about so I'm prepared for a grilling).

Thanks very much

singersgirl Tue 08-Oct-13 10:28:16

I posted on this thread to give advice that I thought might be helpful to someone with a question, and wasn't intending to make an observation or prove a point about 'state schools' in general versus 'private schools'.

My advice was based on my combined experience of a relatively large number of children at different state schools and private schools who were preparing for 7+ exams, as well as advice from tutors, other threads on here and teachers at the private schools who were setting the exams.

Where I live, many pre-prep schools prepare children for these exams, so they have a lot of practice in all the individual elements of the exam including lots of timed story-writing. Neither of my children in fact did any 7+ exams and they were both at a wonderful state primary until they were 11. And one (rather unimportant thing) that they didn't do when they were 5 was write strictly timed 20-minute stories. They certainly had a time slot within a lesson in which they wrote stories, but there wasn't a bell going off after which they had to hand their papers in.

keepsmiling12345 Sun 06-Oct-13 15:21:31

Fair enough. At my DD's school, they did specifically have a timed element in Y1. Just shows the dangers in generalising about "state schools" on the basis of a single school. And the same clearly applies for "private schools".

singersgirl Sun 06-Oct-13 14:31:22

At my children's school there wasn't a timed element - not as in "you've got 20 minutes, now hand it in". There was also more emphasis on story parts (eg beginnings) and different genres eg instructions or news recounts. They did more complete story writing in Y2. But this was 7 years ago and the curriculum is always changing.

keepsmiling12345 Thu 03-Oct-13 20:23:37

I'm surprised by singersgirl's suggestion that state schools don't prepare children for writing stories in timed fashion. I think it probably depends on the school and the level of ability of the child. Certainly, last year in Y1, my DD's school had a specific activity each week to do exactly that. Clearly it then depended on the child's ability whether they were able to write two sides with a beginning, middle, end etc etc or a few sentences. But in my experience, lots of the children could write a decent story in the time given.

Farewelltoarms Thu 03-Oct-13 15:03:16

This isn't necessarily the question you asked, but isn't it important to question whether you actually want her to go before you put in the necessary work? I don't think these tests are something she's much chance of passing if you just rock up so some amount of preparation will be necessary.

And if you prepare, then you're invested emotionally which means if she doesn't get in, then you'll be disappointed for her. And yet, you'll be disappointed about something that you felt ambivalent about anyway since you're mostly happy with where she is.

I would have thought being top of your state primary means she's in with a very good chance, what with being in top 5% or so. It's not like every child in a prep school is some other worldly genius - the same sorts of kids tend to be top in both. You'd definitely have to do a bit of exam prep though. When I looked at the VR 7+ Bond papers for my son I realised that, while he was completely capable of being trained up to do them, it wasn't something I particularly wanted to train him up for. Bit like juggling or some other not particularly useful life skill.

I'm really glad we kept him where he and his siblings are very happy. I think children have a way of reaching their own potential in the long run and knowing times tables a year early doesn't make a lot of difference.

singersgirl Thu 03-Oct-13 13:55:45

To add to what other posters have said, in particular I'd make sure that your daughter can produce a story in 20 minutes - nothing complicated, but beginning, middle and end. Working to time on a story is something that they really don't do in state primary at this age, so it's good for her to be prepared.

kashgarexpress Thu 03-Oct-13 13:19:27

Don't be intimidated by this "test". It's really not rocket science, my daughter loved her test days there. She was at an unselective prep where there was no preparation for 7+ tests. All I did was check that she could write a story and that she understood how to use addition, subtraction etc to do basic story-type problems. Did a bit of stealth maths, practising using money while shopping and telling the time looking at the timetables on the tube. I'm sure that being a keen reader helps a lot. But then again, she's the kind of person who enjoys a spelling test. But this was a while ago (she's in the senior school now) and things may have changed...

missinglalaland Thu 03-Oct-13 12:08:12

Not sure what I would do to prep a 7 yr old. I am sure it would be worth practising on a few old tests. Just so the format doesn't startle her. Beyond that I really don't know. I don't have any "ethical" issues with tutors. Just not sure how you would find the right one, or even whether tutoring for kids that young "works". Good luck to you and your dd!

Notquitesureagain Thu 03-Oct-13 11:07:59

Missing There's a test and, from that, they choose a certain number of girls who will come in and spend a day at the school and do the taster thing of which you speak.

Yes, it does seem to have a lot going for it - I love the fact that they seem to take full advantage of London resources.

missinglalaland Wed 02-Oct-13 22:46:38

Is your dd going to take an actual, written test?

I live in the London suburbs and the private schools around here that take children at 7+ seem more interested in having the children come for assessment days where they play, interact, and have taster classes while the staff discretely watch them and judge the children's suitability that way. (Disclosure: we've never actually attended one. Happy at our state primary and can't afford it anyway!)

Of course CLGS is in a whole other league. Must admit, I'd love to send my daughters there if I could. smile

Notquitesureagain Wed 02-Oct-13 21:39:27

Table Right, yes - I know what you mean, I have wondered that. However I've also encountered folk who've tutored and then, as Mummyssays suggested, have needed ongoing tutoring to keep up once they're in. I'd hate DD to be in that situation, if she's not cut out for it then I'd much rather she didn't go.

Python Thanks, that's probably the mature way to go about it with our current head! Glad your school was supportive.

Tableforfour Wed 02-Oct-13 21:03:32

My experience from the 4+ is that the schools talk the talk about being able to spot the bright kids, please don't tutor etc but they actually take the tutored ones. Wasn't meaning to accuse you of naivety, my last post was badly worded.

Pythonesque Wed 02-Oct-13 16:31:40

Hope things work out for you - I think that once you've decided to go ahead with applying it's worth arranging to talk with your current head about it. Perhaps be up front that you're happy with the current school but wonder if she has the potential to do more and that sitting the selection test is partly a way to work that out.

Our situation was a bit different, at the beginning of year 3 I had to let my daughter's teacher and head (independent school already) know that she was auditioning for a choirschool and they'd be approached for references. She didn't get in (but then auditioned again the next year and did smile ). They were able to be positive about it with her and us. [next challenge is the senior school open day as she could end up going back to the same school in year 9!]

Notquitesureagain Wed 02-Oct-13 14:29:08

areyoutheregod that's really encouraging - thanks so much.

CLSG will definitely ask for a reference according to the website. The head of current school is very efficient but has a tendency to rub people up the wrong way and be a tad dictatorial. I've absolutely no idea how she'd react to this but I suppose if we think it's the right thing for DD, the head's potential reaction wouldn't be enough to put us off.

exex yes, that's true though I can imagine it would be difficult to prove. Thanks again for your input

exexpat Wed 02-Oct-13 14:18:36

If she did end up staying at the school and you thought she (or her little sister) was being treated differently, you would definitely have grounds for a formal complaint - it just wasn't worth it for me, since after the first session with the head I pretty quickly made up my mind that I didn't want DD to stay at that school anyway, so we just put up with it for two terms.

I have no idea what the head thought she would achieve by being so hostile - it was hardly likely to make us want to stay - but people skills were not her strong point.

areyoutheregoditsmemargaret Wed 02-Oct-13 14:18:01

MY dd got in to a pretty prestigious school at 7+ from a not-amazing state primary and 3 yrs on is thriving there. I think I've been on threads on similar subjects before. She failed to get into another school, and in hindsight it would have been totally wrong for her, so I very much believe the right school finds the right child.

She wasn't tutored. Nor is she remotely a genius. Very shy, no dazzling extra-curricular activities to boast about. In preparation, I did a couple of VR tests with her (she was naturally good at these and I suspect that's what got her in) and made a pathetic attempt to have her learn her 2- 5 x tables, not sure she did in time, she still doesn't know them that well.

So I firmly believe that tutoring isn't necessary, in fact I believe the industry is a huge con. The schools do take the educational backgrounds into account and they can see right through a child who's been intensively tutored, In any case the heavily tutored children I know often failed, despite being considered dead certs, and I think it's because all the pressure was too much for them.

The two years ahead thing is bollocks. Ahead of what? Probably ahead of the lowest achieving child from a very difficult family background in the state school. There may be one or two gaps, but again the schools take this into account.

I don't know about CLSG, some of these schools don't ask for a reference from state schools but others do. How the current school will react to this, you'll have to gauge. Mine were extremely gracious about it, though clearly they'd rather dd had stayed.

I hope this makes you feel a bit better. Oh, and I'm very glad I sent dd to her school from a state school, as my friends at the current school have told me blood-curdling tales of the madness surrounding 7+ at the pre-preps. DD would have hated that and i'm sure it actually worked to her advantage to avoid the circus.

Notquitesureagain Wed 02-Oct-13 14:14:06

Mummysaysno yes I think that's possible. I know, for example, that she's able to read far more complicated books than the PACT ones she's coming home with. Also she's been complaining a bit about a lot of repetition in class e.g. endless practising of letter formation. BUT, I'm not a teacher and it may well be that what they're doing in class i.e. a lot of reinforcement of the basics, is far more valuable than setting her more challenging work at this stage. I really don't know to be honest.

Thanks again for the suggestion re contacting the school. I'll definitely do that.

exex crikey, that is pretty depressing, sorry to hear that. It is a bit of a worry but I guess we will cross that bridge when we come to it. Also DD has a younger sister at the school and I wouldn't want our decision to affect her experience at the school either.

Mummysaysno Wed 02-Oct-13 14:10:27

Sorry exexpat...x posted and just read your awful!

Mummysaysno Wed 02-Oct-13 14:08:11

Ps...and you mentioned if you end up staying at your current school, would she be 'marked out'...well I'd sat yesterday's news is tomorrow's fish and chip paper... There's always going to be someone doing something worse that the school is dealing with so I'm sure it would be quickly forgotten!

exexpat Wed 02-Oct-13 14:06:09

It's a few years since DD did the 7+, but I'm pretty sure the school gave a list of what test papers would be involved in the prospectus or on the application forms. I just had a quick look at the City of London school website - the 7+ admissions page does mention 'reasoning' as one of the things they test, so I would assume that is the usual V/NVR type paper. But I would contact the school and check.

The reaction of your DD's school to being asked for a reference, even if she ends up not going, really depends on the head. In theory, it should not make the slightest bit of difference, but I'm afraid I have to say that in DD's case, it did.

The head teacher of DD's old school was extremely hostile to private education, probably because a lot of children from that school did tend to go independent at various stages during KS2, which I know made budgeting difficult for her. However, her reaction was extremely unprofessional, IMO: when she heard that DD had been to an open evening at a private school, before I had even applied, let alone actually made up my mind to move DD for year 3 (her older brother had stayed at that school until the end of year 6), I was summoned in to the head's office and questioned in a very hostile way about my intentions. After that, the head did not speak to me again for the rest of DD's time at the school (two whole terms of blanking me in the playground), and although before that DD had been sent on various G&T enrichment days, there was nothing in the last two terms - possibly coincidental, but I did wonder if her name had been crossed off the list.

However, I think our experience was unusual, and most heads would probably react in a more mature manner. I'm sure in London it is hardly unusual for parents to be considering a variety of different options, and if it is a good school, there would be no problem with filling school places in KS2, so it may not be such an issue.

Mummysaysno Wed 02-Oct-13 14:04:33

Is it possible that your DD could be capable of working two years ahead, just that the current school isn't able to work her at that level? That could be the which case her potential is what matters.

Don't get too worried about the two year ahead thing...

Also, anecdotally, it's said that children who need to be tutored to pass a tough 7+ then still have to be tutored to manage once at the school...for this reason the schools prefer you don't as it's just not fair on the child to always be playing catch up, and must be pretty horrible for them.

I really hope you are suitably surprised by the school being helpful...we will 're-enter' the day school system from overseas and the schools I've spoken to have all been very helpful.

Notquitesureagain Wed 02-Oct-13 13:55:07

wellgetthere thanks v much - just to clarify, the state primary were doing VR and NVR tests with him already and that's how you knew his scores were high? Or you tested him independently? And if so, did you do that at home with booklets?

When I went to the open day I mentioned to the head of lower school that I was reluctant to tutor but that DD would be coming from a state school. She said she'd actually much prefer it if parents didn't tutor and that they take previous schooling into account. However, I wonder if she just felt she had to say that and I've since found out just how prevalent tutoring for 7+ is. Also, having heard from a couple of sources that children need to be working two years ahead to have a look-in with these schools, I started to panic a bit!

For example, at DD's schools they won't even start to learn times tables in year 1 as far as I know, but they are definitely expected to know at least 4 for the CLSG 7+ assessments, so that's something we've started doing at home…

wellgetthere Wed 02-Oct-13 13:42:28

My DS was top of top sets at a state primary. We also knew he had very high VR and NVR scores as it was tested by that school. We spoke to a very prestigious London Indie and they said straight away that he was not working at the level his scores suggested he should. I asked if I should get him tutored and they said no, they would take into account his background of a state school. They were more interested in the NVR and VR, as that indicated potential.

I would mention your concerns to the school and see what they say about tutoring.

Notquitesureagain Wed 02-Oct-13 13:38:26

mummysaysno that's a very good idea. Feel slightly sheepish about approaching them for some reason but sounds like a very sensible way of going about things.

You see the 'two years ahead' thing makes me wonder if she'd have a chance at all. I think she's probably capable of that, but isn't doing that (or working towards it) where she is currently. So I'd have to do a fair amount of extra work with her at home to get her to that level and I'm not sure how well she'd respond to doing a lot of extra work with me outside of school hours.

Also, and this may be a daft question but I'll say it anyway: the school will ask DD's headteacher for a reference (which I guess is some kind of statement of her current levels across the board) if we do put her in for an assessment. If we do and she fails, a little bit of me is worried that she'll be 'marked out' at school as someone who is looking to move. Whereas in fact, if she didn't get into said school we'd probably be very happy to keep her where she is for the foreseeable. Am I being paranoid?

Mummysaysno Wed 02-Oct-13 13:30:44

I would contact the school, and explain your situation...they will understand and should be helpful. They may be able to send you a sample 7+.

Also, get familiar with the education books in waterstones etc. They sell Bond assessment books.

Typically working two years ahead is seen as 'normal good' iyswim in good pre-preps. However, there is more to this than just numbers...some highly capable kids fall apart on assessment day, and others suddenly perform super well.

One thing pre-preps will guide children on is also exam not leaving a blank answer as an answer is better than none etc etc. Also in gaining confidence if there is a face-to-face interview.

I hope the school is helpful...I would see this as a good indicator of the school/parent relationship going forward!

All the best with whatever you decide!

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