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independent schools, how many, and interviews

(63 Posts)
MrsSteptoe Mon 07-Oct-13 21:53:15

As always, turning to you lovely peeps for a couple of independent school questions (how did you all get to know so much? Why don't I know the answers to these questions myself? Those aren't my questions.)

1. how many indie schools do you normally put kids in for (actually thru exams, that is, not just register)? Yes, OK, there's no straight answer, but I don't want to send him to too many exams. At the same time, I don't want to end up with no offers. I'm not going to confess how many schools we're registered for, but I haven't run out of fingers. Yet.

2. was hoping that the interview would just be a character assessment of an 11 year old, a chat. I fear I'm wrong. I have suddenly come across description of prep school project books, parents who prepare their kids with professional coaches... I didn't even want to TALK to DS about the interviews, just let him come across naturally. How naive am I being? Any info? Do I really have to prepare him? How utterly unspeakable. He's ten, for heaven's sake.

You guys rock.

MrsSteptoe Tue 15-Oct-13 20:59:25

Apparently DS is going to be entered for Level 6 SATs in Maths. Who knew.

notagiraffe Mon 14-Oct-13 20:44:58

Know what you mean. DS has always been passionate about his music playing but was still only at Grade 2. Walked into chosen school to see tiny boys playing Grade 8 Beethoven at open day. [Hmm]

But it didn't hold him back. I'm pretty sure that what they are looking for with extra curricular is a sign of enthusiasm and consistency in something outside school. So loving Lego is absolutely fine if he can talk about what he likes building and why. I think they just want children who aren't passive. If their key interests are watching TV and skyping their mates, then they might feel a bit at sea in schools where they are encouraged to get really stuck into extra curricular.

The academic pressure is a bit gloomy though. I know several boys who were perfectly bright enough to thrive at the good local indies and they didn't get in. Bit of a shock to everyone.

Farewelltoarms Mon 14-Oct-13 14:16:35

MrsSteptoe, just wanted to say that I couldn't have written your posts bar the fact that my ds is y5 and we're the other side of the Thames. I bloody hate the process and the way it is already forcing me to judge my son and his lack of accomplishments and possible shortfall in academia. They are so little that it is crazy to be thinking like this. My ds is utterly charming, compassionate and kind, and actually pretty bright but I feel I'm being forced into measuring him up against some unknown prep school yardstick of chess champions and violin virtuosos.

Adding to my misgivings is the fact that I don't even much like any of the independent schools we've looked at anyway. Nor the state ones either, but at least they're not forcing me to judge my own child.

MrsSteptoe Sun 13-Oct-13 16:10:13

I looked at Ibstock but didn't care for it. I didn't feel DS would fit there. x

Shootingatpigeons Sun 13-Oct-13 12:37:53

Are you doing Ibstock Place? They have a very hmm attitude to learning difficulties. Have heard some stories that would make you grrrr. Incomprehensible when the other indies have good strategies in place.

MrsSteptoe Sun 13-Oct-13 09:09:34

Thanks for your post, Ladymuck. That makes it clearer. Three consecutive late nights at work (including Saturday) and not sleeping for long enough afterwards will derail my responses (in both the emotional and written sense of the word) sometimes, particularly when I look at Mumsnet at 3am before finally getting to bed.

Ladymuck Sun 13-Oct-13 08:35:17

It doesn't have to be a sporting and music achievement - if anything the scholarship candidates for those areas will already covered those areas sufficiently. It just has to be something that he can talk about - even just photos from a day trip that he enjoyed. I can't say that all the schools want it, and I don't know what your son is like. Some 10 year olds have no problems in talking in an interview, others do. I guess you can probably tell most from your sons reaction at open days: when he was asked questions by the boys or teachers did he shrink into the background, or step forward and engage? [I have children at opposite ends of the spectrum, and if you have one who will continue talking even if there is no one left in the room, you may not realise how long 15 minutes with a child giving one word answers can be!]

Precisely what the schools don't want is a year group who have done nothing in their spare time for the last year bar do practise paperswink. They are looking for boys who will get stuck in, and cub badges will demonstrate that as impressively as grade 7 on the oboe. If his thing is Lego, then photograph a few of his models or something.

If your son is naturally chatty, then don't stress about the interview. But there are plenty of boys out there who find the papers easy, but really struggle when talking to a stranger.

MrsSteptoe Sun 13-Oct-13 03:11:29

Oops, that sounded badtempered. It kind of was, really, or it certainly wasn't written with the best of humour, but it wasn't meant as ungraciously as it came across! All teh comments are really appreciated.

MrsSteptoe Sun 13-Oct-13 02:43:33

Ooh, thank you everyone for all the info - finally managed to get back onto Mumsnet after a few days of not being able to access it for some reason, probably nob-beaker related.
We live in SW1 near Victoria so really all the schools are easy to get to, though the odd one, like Ibstock Place for example, would be a bit of a wretched journey.
I do get hacked off, though, with this emphasis on music or sport or achievement. He's just a nice, bright-ish kid who builds a lot of Lego. He has never won a trophy at anything sporting - got a few karate belts but hated it so I allowed him to stop - and I haven't pushed him into doing music exams with his sax, which he's only played for a year anyway. So on top of all the practice papers, now I've got to try to get him to do something he can take to an interview. You'd have thought that being bright and good-natured and wanting to please would be enough. It's enough to put you off the whole process.

Shootingatpigeons Fri 11-Oct-13 23:30:15

Around this area, SW London, I have heard many stories of prep school parents trying to jump ship at 11 but coming up against Headmasters refusing to rock the boat by taking them before 13. I have DDs but it does look distinctly odd when you see a 6ft Year 8 with bumfluff looking self conscious in that sweet braided blazer that looked so cute aged 7. I know boys mature later than girls but it suits some but not others. Ignoring parents instincts comes close to a restrictive practise. However it does leave the way open for state school applicants, and certainly around here there are many more places at 11 than 13.

showmethemoney1 Fri 11-Oct-13 23:18:35

Very few left DS's prep at Y6, and those that did went to an 11+ school with no 13+ intake because the parents were worried about what school they would get into at 13+. It was the same story for about 5 other preps in this area, it was much talked about at the time because one prep lost a huge number of boys following the introduction of a new Headmaster.
Boys in this area are looking for London day schools, and I hope that OP and subsequent posters are re-assured that very few from this area will be competing for 11+ places, but it looks like a totally different story from South London. I am not trying to start a fight I'm just telling it as it is here!

notagiraffe Fri 11-Oct-13 19:24:25

Sorry Mrs Steptoe, I went to bed early!

Yes, he was fives when he sat exam and level six at end of yr 6 (not yr 5!) in Science and English, with high five in maths but still got into one of the very top academic day schools in England, from state primary but with an hour's tutoring for a year plus about 2-4 hours practise per week - so not onerous as school gave almost zero homework, so the tutor practise was in lieu of having nothing from school.

Show me the money I think an increasing number of prep boys leave at 11* stage. The indies that start at 11 have swayed the balance in their own favour by making 13+ boys jump through far more hoops to be guaranteed a place. Of course some schools don't start until 13, but those that do seem to far more aggressively encourage the switch at 11. At DS's school about 1/2 the boys are state school and half from preps that run to 13 but parents wanted to secure the place by moving the pupil at 11.

LIZS Fri 11-Oct-13 19:24:14

ah yes the "portfolio" !

Ladymuck Fri 11-Oct-13 19:22:00

There are a number of prep schools which finish at 11 in South London, which is where I assume the OP lives given the schools she is looking at. Not all prep schools are trying to feed to Westminster and St Paul's. Equally in that area there are prep schools who lose half their boys at 11+ to the south London day schools. In return these prep schools pick up a lot of state school boys who fail 11+ and resit at 13.

I speak as parent of one son who left his IAPS 13+ prep school early to go to a HMC school without any particular difficulties (along with the majority of his classmates) and have another son in year 6 at a prep school which finishes at 11 who will be sitting for some of the schools mentioned by the OP. May I assure you that the project folder is not a figment of my imagination. It may only happen in South London but it does happen grin.

showmethemoney1 Fri 11-Oct-13 17:01:48

Sorry, missed the "not" by KCS/St Pauls.

All our local preps are IAPS, I can only think of one school I've heard of which isn't IAPS - maybe its a location thing. Senior schools which have a 13+ intake really do try and discourage 13+ applicants from trying at 11. DS was at a 13+ prep and I've heard the stories confirming this from parents who would have preferred and tried for an 11+ move. You will also find that some prep schools hang on to huge deposits which you lose if you leave before Y9, at one prep it is over £5k!

In reality very few boys leave 13+ preps at Y6. I can think of only one which had a huge number leave 2 years ago following a change of headmaster, but this was a one-off.

I don't think OP/Belltree/anyone should be worried about competing against huge numbers of prep school pupils with their "project books" etc, as there aren't as many as you think. There are lots of 11+ places, and if half of these are taken by state school pupils your DCs have a good chance of getting in. And please don't be put off by the numbers sitting, some parents collect school offers like stamps.

Ladymuck Fri 11-Oct-13 15:49:33

Of the 4 schools mentioned by the OP, only one pretests for 13+ (CLSB). There are also plenty of other schools which do not pretest or rely on 11+ entry - Latymer Upper, Kingston Grammar, Whitgift and Trinity to name a few. There are also plenty of prep schools which do not belong to the IAPS.

I would assume that for those schools who select for 13+ entry, they have more evidence to go on as they are usually taking boys from IAPS schools and will have common entrance requirements too. I suspect few schools ask for props for interview at that stage. It may be just down to local demand - if the most local senior schools ask you to bring something to interview then word gets out and people prepare for it. Certainly if you check on the Whitgift/Trinity threads which run on here each January you will see that one or both of these DO ask for something to be taken to the interview, which means many of the south London preps will respond accordingly. They still take plenty of state school children though!

Flicktheswitch Fri 11-Oct-13 14:54:17

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

showmethemoney1 Fri 11-Oct-13 14:48:02

Most of the London Indys have agreements with IAPs not to take boys from 13+ preps. Otherwise the preps would be left empty for the final 2 years, and there may not be enough applicants for the senior school's 13+ entry places.

All of the top London schools now pre-test in Y6, you are not allowed to enter a 13+ pre-test and an 11+ exam for the same school. Boys really aren't too badly affected at 11+ entry There are very few boys/co-ed private schools which finish at 11, I can only think of a few locally. I am actually surprised that they even take 50% of 11+ places.

I've never heard of project books and DS went to a very good prep which does extremely well for senior school places. I suspect this may be another playground scare story.

Ladymuck Fri 11-Oct-13 14:39:38

Some, but not all, of the indies ask the boys to bring something with them to the interview (to get the ball rolling). I think it is meant to be something you are proud of, so could be a sport trophy, music certificate etc. Some prep schools work specifically on projects in this current term, so the child can turn up with a project book for example. No need to panic - it is what the child has to say that counts!

Certainly I know of one indie who is asking pupils to bring along their school English book and one other subject to interview. I crossed that one off our list grin.

JustAnotherUserName Fri 11-Oct-13 14:12:46

What's a "project book" ?

None of the indies we are looking at (central and south london way) have mentioned these.

Yikes - do feel ignorant.

Ladymuck Fri 11-Oct-13 14:08:12

I'd say over half of the 11+ intake to the London indies are from state schools, so certainly he is in good company. And I do think that the indies are better at looking at the boys overall.

The selective preps often are aiming at 13+ transfer. The non-selective preps will have a range of abilities within their classes. So I wouldn't get too concerned about the competition.

What I do think that prep schools do differently is to try and make sure that their boys do have something to go in and talk about at interview, hence the infamous project books etc. And I guess observing some of the tutoring frenzy that can go on, that would probably be the one thing to ensure: that your son can keep up a range of (his) interests so that he has something that he can talk passionately about, whether it is his pet snake, or his football team. Make sure that there are still some things that light up his eyes!

Belltree Fri 11-Oct-13 12:18:21

In a similar position with a bright but not exceptional Y6 hoping to move from (outstanding) state primary to independent secondary. I've heard people say that the secondaries make allowances for the lack of prepping the state primary children will have had - even with tutoring I don't think there's any way they can fairly compete with prep school kids whose entire education has been directed to these exams rather than SATS. Does anyone know if that's true? If not it seems such an uneven playing field!

Mutteroo Thu 10-Oct-13 23:57:27

Best interview we took DS to was at his chosen senior school. The then HT's dog, who was sleeping by the fireplace, (the dog not the HT), started proceedings off by farting. We had to clear the room for a good few minutes until the smell left. It was quite lighthearted (funnily enough) after this. We had a more formal meeting (not really an interview) with his other choice school, but again it wasn't stressful.

DS went to a state primary until year 7 & then moved to a prep school. He took COmmon Entrance exams for entrance to the senior schools so only one set of exams to contend with. DS was not coached either for the exams or for the interviews as we wanted him to come across as him & he was offered places at both schools. Going back to when we looked at Preps in year 6, one school assessed DS when he went in for the day to confirm he was capable of keeping up with his classmates. That was an academic prep with a strong scholarship reputation. DS was offered a place on the back of this, but preferred the friendlier feel of a less academic establishment & still won a scholarship to his senior school.

Best of luck to your son! I recall how we first felt when we choose to move the DCs to private schools & it was scary. Think the kids handled it much easier than we did.

Ladymuck Thu 10-Oct-13 19:18:35

Unfortunately it is not about merely meeting a minimum standard, it is purely a competition for relatively few places. London independent schools are not particularly unhappy with a situation that means there are more boys chasing relatively few places. Sympathetic possibly, but not unhappy.

JustAnotherUserName Thu 10-Oct-13 17:22:09

Yes - I read it the same way (but wrote it wrong). Level 5s and one level 6 at end of year 6, she says. So your DC's (and mine as it happens) 5C, 5C, 4A at end of year 5 seems to be a good indicator for being good enough (I think/hope!).

Likewise, could just opt out of this indie lark.

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