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Getting into a north London private school at secondary

(37 Posts)
littletinkers Tue 03-May-11 21:37:27

I have heard from a few friends that to get into schools like habs, or ucs or south hampstead school for girls or henrietta barnet you really have to have kids in a prep school unless they are exceptionally bright. Would be grateful for opinions on this. Thanks.

severalyearsdowntheline Tue 03-May-11 23:03:55

Absolute rubbish. All those schools take a significant number of children from state primaries but you will need to find a tutor with experience of preparing state school children. I would say that if your child is on track for a 5 for their Yr6 SATS and has a good range of extra curricular activities under their belt then with tutoring they'll stand as good a chance as prep school children of getting in. In your friends defence though, regardless of where your children are for primary they will need to be exceptionally bright or they won't be able to handle the demands of the schools you mentioned which are rigorously academic.

frogs Wed 04-May-11 07:53:50

That's nonsense. The vast majority of the intake to Henrietta Barnett (and Latymer, and Owens etc) come from state schools. The private secondaries will have a higher intake from prep schools, obviously, but I know lots of dc who've got places at those schools (including scholarships) from state primary schools, and not particularly pushy ones at that.

If your child is bright, you keep your eye on the ball wrt what they're learning at school and top up with a bit of exam preparation in Y5 (maths and english esp for the private schools) there's no reason why they shouldn't stand as good a chance as anyone else.

frakyouveryverymuch Wed 04-May-11 07:59:12

I agree that certainly for Habs and HB you won't get in regardless of where you go to primary unless you're very bright. The difference is that a private prep will do the legwork on exam prep for you and a state won't, plus they will have years of experience of preparing children for these exams.

Plenty of children from state primaries get in, though - with and without tutoring - but the ones who get in without tutoring are usually mindblowingly clever.

horsemadmom Wed 04-May-11 10:50:01

Agree with the above. The advantage of a prep school is that the children will not have tutoring after school and will be prepared for the workload and organisation those secondaries expect. The standards (work, behaviour etc.) will not be a shock to prep kids. However, One of DD's BFs came from a crap primary and found that the senior school was really patient and helpful as she got used to what was expected- correct uniform, completing assignments on time and up to standard, polite behaviour to teachers, revision timetabling and organisation. DS had a classmate who, although an out and out genius, never managed to adjust to what was expected and was asked to leave. The private schools usually use yr 7 as time to get everyone up to speed. There is no social disadvantage to coming up from a state school.

breadandbutterfly Wed 04-May-11 18:05:04

From my experience at HBS, the dimmest children came from private schools. So arguably, if you have a dim child and want them to struggle for 7 years in a school that is too hard for them and be miserable in the bottom groups, send them to a prep school first to give them an 'advantage'.

Any bright child from a state primary will have no difficulties getting in. Obviously, they need to prepare but you can do this yourself - make sure they've covered the yr 6 curriculum thoroughly by the start of the year. But it's not hard - it's aimed at 11 year olds after all - so no need to hire a tutor to do this.

Contrary to horsemadmom's assumption, children at state primaries aren't actually feral savages, used to tearing at hunks of meat with their bare hands and grunting. We're actually quite normal, too. hmm

horsemadmom Thu 05-May-11 00:31:01

Hmmm...Not at all what I said.
To clarify-
Most state primaries do not give or only give small amounts of homework. Subjects are not taught separately by several different teachers.
State primary schools, even if they have a uniform, will not have separate kit for each sport which must be remembered.
My children stand when a teacher enters the room and step to the side when an adult passes in the hall. Not usual in state primaries.

In my experience, prep kids and kids who come from the state system do equally well. These schools aren't so stupid that they can't sniff out a child who has been prepped beyond their ability.

Littletinkers, ignore the chippy people. Not all of us prep/private parents make sweeping generalisations. Some of us just had really bad local primary options.

breadandbutterfly Thu 05-May-11 19:28:27

Being successful at secondary school, private or state, is not in my opinion, primarily about remembering your kit or standing up/aside for teachers.

If that is what you want your children to learn, then clearly private school is vital.

If, on the other hand, you value education rather than social snobbery like horsemadmom, then you can achieve that just fine through the state system.

frogs Fri 06-May-11 08:28:34

Bread, I think you're deliberately misinterpreting what horsemad is saying. I don't see in her posts any assumption that state school kids are feral savages, or that she values snobbery above academics. You do get people on MN who seem to say, or at least imply, pretty much exactly that, but I'm not seeing it on this thread.

She seems to be simply pointing out that most trad prep schools have certain formal expectations re uniform/homework/standing up etc that differ from those found in most primary schools, and that this different experience can be a bit of a culture shock for some primary dc moving into some private secondaries.

Of course it's a generalisation, and there are some private schools (both prep and senior) which are very laid back and informal, and some state schools that are very formal and traditional.

frogs Fri 06-May-11 08:31:18

Actually, thinking about it, most of the sought-after state schools in my area are if anything fiercer about uniform/planners/remembering kit than the private schools are. Both my older dc (in two different state schools) are expected to stand up when teachers come into the room, stand aside in corridors and address teachers as 'sir'. Forgetting homework/planners/kit is an instant detention.

wordfactory Fri 06-May-11 12:57:10

bread you are quite obviously misinterpreting what HMM said.

My understanding is that she is saying kids from prep school are better prepared for life at private senior school. That seems evidently true to me. Different subject teachers, moving class rooms etc - most kids at prep (except the smallest) are doing this from year three.

At no point was she saying that children from state school can't and don't make the transition. Of course they do. At DD's secondary, all except one girl has settled in from state school.

Their Mums tell me that yes, they did find the regime tough in the beginning (some more than others) but within a couple of terms all is well.

OliPolly Fri 06-May-11 13:30:01

Bread - seriously, stop with the bashing of a well put out comment. I also don't see any snobbery in HMM comment.

Its not surprising that the prep students will find the enviroment of a private senior school less challenging because they have come from a similar enviroment.

Its also not right to assume that all prep pupils are not independent enough to think on their own - its the very opposite. They start acting like secondary children at age 8 in Y3!

Pupils in state schools may find the enviroment 'different' but like everyone else in a new enviroment, they will cope.

Sometimes this private vs state debate is crippled by those who refuse to see the plain truth and try to use sweeping generalisations.

donnie Fri 06-May-11 13:35:17

interesting thread. When did it become ok for less academically able children to be referred to as 'dim'?

horsemadmom Fri 06-May-11 15:40:07

Thanks for the defence.
It never fails to amaze me how people read snobbery into everything.

Just to point up that ONLY ONE child out of all three of my children's classmates at three different schools failed to settle. All the others, no matter where they went to primary are doing fine.
BTW, UCS much more relaxed than the others on your list. Very scruffy.

wordfactory Fri 06-May-11 19:22:47

donnie the rule for MNet is that if children are from wealthy backgrounds and attend private school you can be as rude and dismissive of them as you like wink

You can call then dim, thick, living in a bubble. You can say they all struggle at A level and get kicked out of university (though there is no^ evidence of this ^whatsover.
You can say they are spoonfed and that 'I wouldn't want my children to mix with them.'

Tis the MN law.

breadandbutterfly Fri 06-May-11 20:26:22

I found horsemadmom's original post, quoted here, deeply patronising and offensive, personally:

" The standards (work, behaviour etc.) will not be a shock to prep kids. However, One of DD's BFs came from a crap primary and found that the senior school was really patient and helpful as she got used to what was expected- correct uniform, completing assignments on time and up to standard, polite behaviour to teachers, revision timetabling and organisation. "

The implication that kids from state schools have worse behaviour (eg rudeness to teachers being normal, apparently) shock
and are unused to completing assignments on time, lack organisational skills etc etc is based on no evidence at all and entirely contrary to my and my dcs' experience of state schools.

I can only assume that she has no knowkledge of state schools and this is based on watching Grange Hill or something.

As I have stated elsewhere, i think how well a child does at school has a lot more to do with home environment - parents who encourage and nurture their children will have children who do well at school, whether private or state.

I should also add that I came top in the entrance exam for HBS in English with no tutoring at all and FROM A STATE SCHOOL. Shock horror. I had a family who read a lot with high expectations and lots of books. That's all.

And no, we didn't stand up for teachers at HBS and no, I had no problems with 'organisation' either, thank you very much. Nor was I rude to the teachers.

I find horsemadmom's posts insufferably smug. Maybe that's what private schools do for you? Glad my kids are going state all the way...

OliPolly Sat 07-May-11 12:37:38

FGS bread - you came in with the with the feral savages comment hmm

Perhaps you should also clarify your 'dim' comment?

Wordfactory is right about the rule on MN about all this. How narrow minded can one be?

breadandbutterfly Sat 07-May-11 13:22:39

I used dim as the shorthand opposite for the shorthand 'bright' used in the OP.

Feel free to substitute your own politically correct and soothing alternative, as you wish.

I meant 'kids who are not very 'bright'' academically - does that clarify things? What would you like me to call them? Or would you prefer that we all inhabit a polite fiction where all children are academically equal? Not terribly helpful when discussing selective schools, as they (whether you think this is sad or positive depends on your views towards selective schools, I suppose) do not inhabit this fictive universe.

Incidentally, I did NOT start it, OliPolly - my 'feral' comment was in response to hmm's comment that I reposted a couple of posts back, and which I think was extremely offensive, as I stated.

horsemadmom Mon 09-May-11 10:17:13

Dear BandB,
I think you are making a generalisation that children who are sent to prep schools must be 'dim' and those who go to state primaries and get into good private secondaries are 'bright'. If you actually read what I, and others, posted without your spin on it, nothing was derogatory or offensive.Put down your political cudgels, please.
Littletinkers asked a question and this topic has ended up it the mire of your making. Why did you respond as 'you are glad your kids are going state all the way'? You haven't got any helpful experience or first hand knowledge of this issue. I certainly wouldn't comment on a topic where someone was concerned about admissions or transfer to a comp because I don't have anything to say. I most definitely wouldn't trash someone else's choices.
Does anyone with real experience from both sectors have anything substantive to add? Can we Mumsnetter help this parent with actual info? Anyone have a DC who has done it? What were the benefits and disadvantages of each option?

PollyParanoia Mon 09-May-11 15:58:56

I think you all have valid points, but getting back to the OP. From what I gather from my friends in private secondary schools, the cleverest kids in the class initially are the ones who've been to private preps, then it evens out into a mix of ones who'd been to private and state. However, the ones who are struggling are ones who'd been to private schools. That is in no way saying that private school kids are 'dim', just that they may have found their way into a selective school that they wouldn't have unless they'd had a prep with small class sizes etc.
What I always thought was appealing about going to a private primary (I'm in North London) was that you could subcontract out the worry about 11+. But what freaks me out is that parents at these schools seem to be even more neurotic than I am. They all have coaching on top of going private (even at y1 and 2 while I'm not even contemplating it).
I suspect that these selective schools want the most academic kids and are probably quite good at working out who they are and calibrating for school background.

maxirodrigues Mon 09-May-11 20:09:04

To provide some real experience, both my dcs got into selective London schools from a very average state primary. Both had a tutor beginning in Year 5 (definitely not earlier than this). One is pretty bright and was offered one of the very selective London grammars. The other is at a selective independent, considered to be pretty academic. It's definitely more possible than you are often led to believe and you do not need to be at a private prep to be successful. You do need to tutor for 6 months to a year though. I can't see any difference between the prep and state school kids at my dcs' schools by the way.

breadandbutterfly Mon 09-May-11 22:14:20

hmm - the OP wanted to know about whether you could get into good selective schools from state primaries or not - my experience is categoricaly that you can; my dd has just followed my lead and will be going to a grammar in Sept too, from a perfectly average state primary. I fail to see how this is irrelevant to the OP.

The OP's post is seeking advice on the best way to get into competitive academic secondary schools - the way it is phrased suggests she'd like to save money and not go via prep schools but isn't sure if that is possible. Rather than the one-sided view you'd like to present, it is actually perfectly possible. Indeed, paid-for tutoring is not required, assuming the parent has the level of intelligence of a bright 11 year old (not too hard) and some time to spare (I tutored my dd myself).

A number of my dd's friends got in from her not-especially-academic state primary. It is perfectly doable.

There are many perfectly valid reasons to send your kid private -eg smaller class sizes, better facilities etc - but the theory that by so doing you are buying your child a guaranteed place at a selective school that they couldn't get via state primaries is just plain wrong.

Also, I think you need to seriously ask yourself whether a child pushed beyond their natural ability into a selective secondary will be happy there and whether it is the right place for them.

breadandbutterfly Mon 09-May-11 22:17:39

hmm - re the dim comment, I suspect that what our viewpoints boil down to - and why we shall never see eye to eye! is that you are fundamentally a social elitist, I am an academic one.

Whilst you pillory my 'politics' happily, you seem wilfully blind to your own politics.

littletinkers Tue 10-May-11 22:01:56

Gosh just checked this out. Thanks for the varied and interesting comments!

Personally was privately educated at a girls school from 8 (I asked to go to avoid bullying) and went to Oxford eventually. However (chance to show off) was doing well in my state primary so may have done ok anyways. If going to Oxford means you have done "Ok"... guess depends what you are measuring! Hubby failed 11+ as school did no prep he says but got into a top state grammar at 16 then onto Oxford. And you can guess who wants what! I lean towards a good state mainly for local friends and keeping kids' local networks in place which I view as crucial to their social development. All my school friends lived miles away at school so have few friends at weekends etc. Hubby leans towards prep as his experience is that that's the way you get better chances... Well we have twins so they both have to get in whatever school we apply for!

horsemadmom Tue 10-May-11 23:31:41

BandB- you don't know me, my politics or my views on meritocracy. Keep on topic or go troll elsewhere.

Littletinkers, Twins complicate things. Boys? Girls? Both?
Local friends are important and convenient. Most of the preps are grouped around Hampstead with a smattering in Mill Hill and Harrow. School run is also a factor. Maybe you need to tell us what your local primaries are- MNs might know them and can offer an opinion and more specific info. Not all preps are equal. Some go to 7+, 8+, 11+ or CE. Some are laid back, some very academic.
Ofsteds are a bit of a joke as they can fail a school for a hole in a fence and rate one excellent that would turn your hair white because it does well with a very disadvantaged intake. G+T provision must be a factor if you are looking at those senior schools. A local primary that doesn't serve the needs of it's brightest pupils is going to make your job harder. Also bear in mind, most academic preps do not do KS1 tests as they are working well beyond it. It won't be a fair comparison.

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