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Has anyone got daughters at Watford Grammar School for Girls or Henrietta Barnett?

(52 Posts)
FiveHoursSleep Sun 29-Jan-12 09:29:40

Or does anyone have daughters that will be sitting the exams this year?
We have a year 5 girl who is being tutored and we will apply for a music place for WGSG as well. DD has her heart set on HB for some reason but I'm wondering if it's going to be tricky to get her there.
We have two good local schools to fall back on if DD isn't successful so I'm not too bothered but DH went to a Grammar School and would prefer her to go to a Selective school.
Private schooling isn't really an option, we could just about afford it but it would make an enormous impact on our life style as we have 4 kids.

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breadandbutterfly Mon 30-Jan-12 08:30:38

DD is at WGGS and is loving it. I know both schools v well. What would you like to know?

FiveHoursSleep Mon 30-Jan-12 09:19:58

Are you in the 'catchment' area or are you 'out of area'? Out of the two schools WGGS is my first choice, but DD prefers HB.
The chances of us getting into either are minuscule really, but it's worth a crack we feel. DD is very academic and the tutor thinks she has as good a chance as anyone, but it all depends on how she does on the day really. She will also be grade 4 piano and grade 3 double bass by the time she sits the exam, so we will have a go at the music place, although I understand you really need to be grade 5 to have a chance?
Does your DD play any instruments? What year is she?
I'm a little worried about the commute. It will mean a couple of buses, then the train from DD and will probably take an hour each way.

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breadandbutterfly Mon 30-Jan-12 19:20:15

Right - re WGGS, check the catchment on their website. The catchment is divided into 2, inner and outer, and if you are not in one or the other, you stand zero chance of getting in, as it is understandably oversubscribed. So check your postcode. It doesn't matter if your dd comes top in the exam, if she is out of catchment, she is only entitled to any places left once everyone from in catchment has turned them down, ie not going to happen. If you are in catchment, either outer or inner area, you have a shot at one of the 45 exam places or 18 music places (marks required on exam are slightly lower in the inner area, but not much).

Re the music exam, officially grades are neither here nor there, as they are looking for potential not tutoring but in practice that may not apply; dd tried but didn't get through to audition so i don't know. The music standard at the school is great - fantastic, well-attended bands, orchestras etc and good teachers.

dd is loving it - great school. The quality of teaching is excellent, the girls pleasant and there is no peer pressure or bullying. Excellent facilities and extra-curricular activities. Quite high amounts of work and high expectations, so not good for those who don't want an academic environment but good for those who do.

If you have 4 kids, WGGS is preferable, as they have a sibling policy so siblings guaranteed a place at the girls' or boys' schools whereas HBS has no sibling places.

If your dd is at/near top of her current class she should give it a go and stands a good chance.

Re HBS, there is no catchment, so can apply/get in from anywhere, but i went there, so can tell you it's not an easy commute from anywhere - even locally! There is a school bus service though these days.

breadandbutterfly Mon 30-Jan-12 19:23:55

dd is year 7.

FiveHoursSleep Mon 30-Jan-12 20:55:40

Thank you so much for your post. We are outer catchment area and DD is in the top groups of her rather academic state school, so we are slightly hopeful. We have two good state secondaries near us for if she doesn't get into a selective, so we are not desperate but felt we should give her a chance. What will be, will be.

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megapixels Tue 31-Jan-12 17:22:55

Forgive me for jumping in, but can I ask you a question breadandbutter? Was your daughter tutored? Mine isn't, and I keep wondering if I'm being naive by not. I am doing some preparation with her at home of course, both techniques and practice. Do you know if there are many who get in untutored?

breadandbutterfly Tue 31-Jan-12 20:09:54

megapixel, my dd was tutored only by me. Like you, I worried if I was disadvantaging her and if it would make it impossible for her to get a place. In fact, the opposite appeared to be the case. Of my dd's group of 4 friends from the top group at primary school, who all applied to selective schools, only 2 got in - my dd and her best friend. They had in common that they were both 'tutored' by their mums (the best friend also had a very small amount of tutoring from a private tutor, but not much). The other two girls who had loads of private tutoring, but no help from home, both failed to get in. So to my mind, professional tutoring is not really the perfect solution it's made out to be.

That's not to say your dd can do it with zero preparation - it's a good idea to try practice papers, and if there is a VR or NVR paper they should try it first to get the hang of it, as there is nothing equivalent taught in most schools. But mums/dads can do this fine, with the help of a few books off Amazon or from WHsmith etc. No 'specialist' knowledge required. In my case, most of my time with my dd was spent doing maths - her class was fairly behind in maths and one needs to hae covered the whole year 6 maths curriculum before the exam. That said, it's only maths aimed at 11 year olds, so although O Level was my highest maths qualification (25 years previously), it wasn't hard.

I think doing it yourself is much more time-effective as well as cost-effective; you can vary it and do nothing if your dd/you is tired, rush past something if it's easy, or slow down if it's not, and be tough if you know your dd ought to know this! You don't spend ages finding stuff of the right level because you know your dd already. I found it a good bonding experience, though hard initially.

Have confidence in your dd and yourself - really, no-one knows your dd like you do. Plus for the selective schools like WGGS or HBS, the work level and load once there is sufficiently high/hard that a child overtutored to just scrape in would probably not find it ideal anyway. As an example, one of my dd's best friends who is now at a comprehensive instead is doing really well there, g&t for loads of stuff - better for her probably to be near the top of an average school than scrape into a v highly selective one.

So don't stress either way - and remember that intensive tutoring as a necessity is a myth perpetuated by tutors!

breadandbutterfly Tue 31-Jan-12 20:13:10

Check out the 11+ website forum (done by area) for advice on precisely what each school exam requires. Not rocket science and certainly not a secret that only a long-term tutor will know.

Be aware the HBS exam is earlier this year - Sept not Nov.

FiveHoursSleep Tue 31-Jan-12 20:56:21

Breadandbutterfly are you in the inner or outer area for WGGS?
I tried to do the tutoring myself but my DD wouldn't listen to me, cried and said it was too hard and wanted to do whatever I had organised to entertain her younger siblings. I just didn't have the patience to persist. She seems to be doing okay with the tutor we have her with atm, is behaving for her sessions and doing her 'homework' without any fuss, so far.
So we'll continue with our arrangements for now but I would have preferred to be able to do it myself. I still think going through workbooks with them and teaching them how to do the stuff is tutoring regardless of who is doing it, although it seems to be regarded that they are only tutored if a tutor is involved.

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megapixels Wed 01-Feb-12 13:21:51

What you say makes a lot of sense breadandbutterfly. It is easy to get carried away by everyone being tutored and to wonder if you're doing the right thing. I have checked out the 11+ site (which I find quite intimidating as well as v v helpful), and armed myself with some of the suggested preparation materials.

It is reassuring that untutored children get in too. I'm not sure what methods tutors use, but I've found that some of the suggested techniques for VR (we are trying Susan Doughtry) are very time-intensive and dd works much faster by just looking and thinking without following a particular method. And yet for some other questions she needs to follow a technique or she'll not see the answer for ages. I'm not sure a tutor would have identified that in a group of students, I should think that the whole group is taught one way for each type and expected to practise accordingly.

I have the opposite with mine, she seems fine in Maths and needs work with VR. I also find that when I leave her to do a paper and get on with some work of my own she'll score much lower than if I sit there quietly watching her every move hmm. She is not sitting for HBS, I think Herts Cons will also announce test for September?

FiveHours is it only WGGS that you are applying for in the Consortium? Do you know if there's a thread for us 11+ parents for 2013 intake? It would be nice to share stories and advice and have stalwarts like breadandbutter who've been through it already share their experience too smile.

FiveHoursSleep Wed 01-Feb-12 13:37:09

Megapixels, are you outer or inner area? DD is applying for HB as well, the tutor suggested Palmiters but it would be such a faff to get there. We have two very good state schools only a mile from us in different directions, so are not desperate for a place. WGGS appeals on a number of levels though.

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megapixels Wed 01-Feb-12 21:39:12

Inner, but not close enough to realistically get in on distance. HBS too far to consider. Parmiters is a definite option as we have a very good chance on distance. On Open Day I loved everything about WGGS, I thought it was perfect, until the Head's speech confused.

FiveHoursSleep Wed 01-Feb-12 21:45:23

Apparently the Head is better once your DD gets in. We are in HA5 so will be a bus, then a train ride- will take almost an hour for her. DH very keen for Grammar School children. I'm not so fussed. We have two local decent schools but I agreed we would give it a crack and see what happens. I believe DD will get into the school she is meant to.

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breadandbutterfly Thu 02-Feb-12 08:52:49

I was quite ambivalent about WGGS because of the Head's speech too, if that makes you feel better - i think she's trying to put off non-academic girls who would get in on distance by stressing all the hard work once there, and in a sense she's right, a non-academic girl might well be happier elsewhere. But for academic girls, the teaching is absolutely fantastic and really stimulating (in non-academic subjects too - the sport, art, music etc are all brilliantly taught too - i've been v v impressed). In the event, I let my dd decide where to put first when applying and she put WGGS as she wanted to go somewhere where it would be 'hard' (she was bored of work that was too easy at a fairly bog-standard, unambitious primary), and liked the school's traditions, history and friendliness. Plus she wanted single-sex.

Anyway, as I said, before she started I was ambivalent about the school as i was worried it wouldn't be nurturing enough and the head too dominating and pushy. But 6 months on I can say all those worries have evaporated - it is very nurturing, the head knows all the year 7 girls already, and contrary to her slightly steely exterior is very warm yet efficient - I'm extremely impressed with her management of the school and the general atmosphere eg zero tolerance for bullying hence there is none.

We came from the inner area, by the way, which makes it slightly easier to get in.

Re the VR, and doing papers generally, i found doing papers against her ie competing to beat me, worked wonders for my dd's concentration. She also had real issues with carefulness at maths ie lots of careless errors so I actually ended up bribing her ie cash if she could get above 90%, then gradually raising the bar - this worked when nothing else did! Re techniques, I found the videos on the chukra ( site really good at explaining the methods simply. But if it's not broke don't fix it - i agree the susan Daughtrey methods are quite long-winded and not nec if your dd can do it anyway. With VR, the real issue is speed - doing 100 qus in 45 mins is tough. Plus having a good vocab - if your dd reads widely, that should help.

FiveHoursSleep - i am sure if you have a good tutor that can be as good as a good parent; just be aware that not all tutors are that good and don't rely on the tutor cariing like you do. Do test your dd yourself to check the tutor is teaching her the right stuff. I'd do a practice timed test with your dd and mark it to see where she is now - obviously you've got months to go so you don't need to stress. But it should highlight which areas she needs to work on. In my dd's case, she was scoring hgh 80's/90's in VR from the beginning, so only really needed fine-tuning. But in maths she got 60% in the first test I did with her in May of year 5 - I panicked and realised, going through the paper with her, that about half of those errors were careless ones which could be removed by obvious things like laying out her work neatly, checking things etc, and half were areas they'd just not covered in class yet so she couldn't attempt (and hence I taught her the whole year 6 maths curriculum by July of that year; not that hard actually). Only abou 2 qus off any one paper were actually 'hard'; allowing for 1 or 2 errors, a score of 90% plus was actually perfectly achievable and my dd was getting that in practice papers by Oct.

breadandbutterfly Thu 02-Feb-12 08:56:58

Oh, all those I know with kids at Parmiters rave about it too - if I'd wanted co-ed that would have been my first choice.

Plus should add that my dd2 should be going to WGGS too (sibling place - phew) at the same time as yours as she's in year 5 as I assume yours are. Hope they get to be classmates!

FiveHoursSleep Thu 02-Feb-12 09:24:52

With sibling places do they still need to do an exam?
We also have a year 4 DD , as well as a younger boy and girl, so it's worth our while to do everything we can to get DD1 in!
We will do the same with DD2, whether DD1 gets in or not.

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breadandbutterfly Thu 02-Feb-12 09:33:15

No, with sibling places there is no exam. From 2013, it is also likely the cross-sibling rule will be reintroduced ie entrance to boys' school if sibling at girls' school and vice versa (currently not in operation). So if you have 4, ds as well as dds, that's a huge incentive over HBS - you only have to go through the stress once instead of 4 times.

megapixels Sat 04-Feb-12 14:41:30

Thanks for that breadandbutterfly, I'll check out those things you mention. Dd reads widely but still struggles a bit with VR. Not with accuracy but timing, though it's early days yet and there is plenty of time to build up speed.

Good luck FiveHoursSleep, I'm sure we'll be crossing paths on related threads in the coming months.

mrsobriain Tue 14-Feb-12 09:16:39

I think my dd must be at a totally different school to breadandbutterfly. I haven't been impressed with the extracurricular activities, many run by sixth formers and a bit hit and miss. Not sure what will happen to these when exams come along. There seems to be a general attitude of 'you are lucky to even be here' and I wonder how much of the success of the schools' academic achievements come from the school itself or from parents pushing/tutoring their children as and when they may need it.

FiveHoursSleep Wed 10-Oct-12 10:45:45

Does anyone else have children who sat the South Herts Consortium 11+ exam?
In the end we decided against HB and just sat for WGGS. We got our results yesterday and are going to the open day tonight but are still no clearer on whether DD has a chance of a place or not!

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blisterpack Thu 11-Oct-12 13:36:30

We went to the open day too. Is your DD's score borderline then FiveHoursSleep?

FiveHoursSleep Thu 11-Oct-12 14:07:53

No, it's about 10 marks above what normally gets in.
There is no telling what will happen this year though... It's driving me mad!
We are in the outer catchment so it's tougher.
What about your DD? Is she year 5 or 6? What did you think of the school?

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blisterpack Thu 11-Oct-12 14:57:32

I thought 10 marks above should be safe. I know it varies year on year but not by more than a few marks. Do you mean that it's ten marks higher than last year's cut-off for outer catchment?

Mine is Year 6 and we liked the school. What about you?

FiveHoursSleep Thu 11-Oct-12 17:04:14

Yes 10 marks higher for outer catchment in the March offers. So we are hopeful but only March will tell. What about you?
Yes, we liked the school too. We have a fallback plan that is perfectly fine but I think we'd prefer WGSG.

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