Admission to private secondary schools(7 Posts)
When would you start preparing a child for the entrance exam?
Is it difficult to gain entry at secondary level at fee paying schools?
We have chosen to keep ds2 at a local Catholic Primary School because it's very good, but would like him to go to private school starting in Year 7.
Does anybody have any tips on how to start preparing and what things to do in order to prepare. I haven't a clue where to begin.
its not difficult, no. Private schools welcome state primary kids, and some, for example St Pauls in London, have special earlier exams for them so they are not competing directly with prep school kids. However, you may find that many state school kids will have done some preparation; the pattern round here seems to be 1 year's tutoring of one hour a week plus practice papers, starting the Jan of year 5 and ending Dec year 6, as exams take place in Jan of yr 6. But that varies depending on area. Children who have been well prepared, either at home with 'Bond' papers available from smiths, or by a tutor, generally get offered places at private schools.
So much depends on the school! Some are ferociously competitive, others less so. And, sorry for stating the bleedin' obvious, but just because a school is private, it doesn't mean it'll be better for your individual DS.
You don't say how old he is - but I'd say it's important to look at, and keep looking at, a variety of schools and not close off any options.
For the independent sector, that means going and looking around. To get back to the point of your post, you need to find out two things - the dealing for applications (and remember to apply!) and what the admission criteria are. Typically, exam, precious school reference and probably interview.
You need to find out what form the exam takes - VR/NVR/subject papers? Are any past papers available from the school? How much of this can safely be expected of the current school? What gaps do you think there might be?
You can do quite a lot of VR/NVR preparation yourself. Get hold of the Bond test papers books and practice. Your DS would be at an unnecessary disadvantage if unfamiliar with the style of question. Practice them until he "plateaus" - they're meant to be ability based, and endless repetition doesn't do much once his marks stop improving.
Really depends! We did 2-3 months of practice, some others we know did none. We had no past papers to go on but we did get a list of exam subjects (e.g. 1hr maths) and used 11+ papers to practice on. Plenty available both on-line and in bookshops.
I'd say it's a great help to do some of this - I'm sure my kids would have got in without the practice, but it's good to send them in prepared. They are both bright but still made improvements during the tests - and they said that some of the kids who hadn't done any practice were a bit freaked by the verbal reasoning papers. Also, my kids weren't used to doing things in set times, so it helps to get them to practice timing - not much good writing a great story in 2 hrs if you're only going to get 30min in the test.
Whether they need to do much practice to get in depends not only on your kids I think but on the schools and what area you live in - some are very competitive, some are not.
Thanks for all the info.
The school that we were looking at for him is applying for free school status, so I think that will mean they'll only be taking children from their geographical area and we live miles away.
We're going to have to look at other schools now.
The other think that will happen routinely at prep schools, but probably won't at a state school is interview practice. Two things to do - make sure your child has things to talk about (get him reading (lots, including bits from newspapers), also places he's visited , hobbies and interests) and is used to talking about them (mealtimes, on the school run). And also try to find someone suitable to give him a mock interview (rope in a teacher from his school, a friend of yours who is a teacher, or a scout leader) just so he has practises talking to an unfamiliar but friendly grown up (search MN for threads on the sort of things that get asked). Even if he's shy, make sure he can make reasonable eye contact and is confident shaking hands.
I would also suggest taking him to visit schools, and before that if there are any local independent school fairs (such as the Battersea independent school fair) take him to those. How he talks to the teachers (and how they talk to him) will tell you a lot.
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