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Prep school Y7 and 8

(39 Posts)
MrsSteptoe Thu 28-Nov-13 15:49:40

Anyone got any experience of this:
I want to talk to prep schools about a place for DS should he not get an offer at 11+ (looking increasingly dodgy - performance just not matching up to expectations, which I had based on all the advice from his teachers. Slightly feel like I can't trust their assessments, which is very destabilising, but that's not the point of this post).
Left to my own devices, I'd probably completely alienate the prep schools by picking up the phone and trying but failing to conceal that it's a back up strategy - constantly sticking my foot in it because I am a useless liar and tend to rely on telling the truth, but I can see that that may not be a good strategy here - but I'm a bit concerned that if I don't call them soon, I might be ringing them in March and finding I've left it too late.
Does anyone have any experience of going this route, and when you need to call preps to try to sort out a Year 7 place if the 11+ goes tits up?
The two preps I had in mind were Newton Prep and Hill House, though that's really only because I don't know anything about any of the others.

Indy5 Thu 28-Nov-13 15:59:02

Instead of prep schools at year 7/8 why would you not be looking at indy senior schools that start at 11 (there are several of those)?

I am sure there are plenty in your boat that have a grammar as a first option and an indy as a back up. There's no commitment involved in going to see a school and registering ...once you accept though you may have to pay heft deposits but I imagine by the time of the acceptance deadlines arrive for the indy you would have heard about the 11+ grammar place.

MrsSteptoe Thu 28-Nov-13 16:01:44

Indy5 I'm so sorry, I didn't make it clear. He's already tried for the grammar schools and didn't get in. I think the knock to his confidence is partly why his performance in the practice papers is now so lamentable. In your opinion, Indy5, would the way to go be to apply in apparent good faith for a place at a prep and turn it down if he passes the 11+ for the schools he's applied to? Surely they'll ask if he's got an application in to take the January exams for the indies?

MrsSteptoe Thu 28-Nov-13 16:03:00

*I should have said "didn't pass" the grammar school exams, rather than "didn't get in". I'm aware that there are plenty of kids around who failed grammars but still got places at indies - but I'm still uneasy, looking at the random (and mostly mediocre) standard of his practice papers.

MrsSteptoe Thu 28-Nov-13 16:05:58

If it helps, we've got registrations at Dulwich, Trinity, Emanuel and St Benedict's in Ealing. His English tutor has warned us not to be optimistic even of St Benedict's, which would normally be the safest option as it has a nicely inclusive approach to selection, although it clearly gets some extremely able pupils.

LIZS Thu 28-Nov-13 16:11:11

Most preps would bite your arm off, especially if he has other strengths or simply "needs extra nurturing" to achieve a place at a good secondary. Are you happy for him to have to work his socks off to get a good CE result ? Most 11+ offers appear around Feb half term - early March so if you can get at least a call in beforehand that might be worthwhile. 11+ Leavers won't have to give notice until Easter so you may have some time to play with then.

WorkingItOutAsIGo Thu 28-Nov-13 16:11:18

Issue is if you go to prep school you also need a 13+ strategy in place and much of that entry process is already underway. And has your DS got the basics for common entrance in place eg has he been studying French and Latin?

You need to understand why the divergence now? Is he maybe just slower to mature? This would be a good argument to support a move to a prep school as your first choice. But you may not manage a brand name like the ones you listed as they are likely to be selective.

MrsSteptoe Thu 28-Nov-13 16:18:39

I believe he is slower to mature, yes, Workingitout. The issue is primarily with his English, although he can be very careless with his maths - his tutor believes him easily capable of 85% on practice papers, but he keeps cocking it up with careless mistakes.
One of the reasons I'm concerned about sending him to a prep to do 13+ is the fact that his primary doesn't teach a modern foreign languaeg, and the Latin's been very basic.
And without a crystal ball, it's very hard to see whether he'd be able to do either the sustained work or the new skills required to get through CE.
Workingitout, I understand what you say about brand names, but one of the things I feel rather at sea about is what the alternatives are: where do you get info about schools that are not selective? It seems to me that they're all selective. We do not have more than the fees (and a prudent hedge against inflation) to spare, so it can't be somewhere for rich kids. And we definitely can't do boarding.

MrsSteptoe Thu 28-Nov-13 16:21:43

LIZS, thanks. I think that's the issue - I don't know if he'll work his socks off. It's been really difficult to get him to work for the 11+ exams, because his school is SO undemanding that he feels as though we're really unreasonable - and he's too immature to be able to connect the extra work to getting into one of the independent schools.
I don't know, maybe he is just dumb as a tack - what puzzles me is that his teachers have all consistently said he's easily higher ability, and with hard work could be very high ability. I feel like I'm really fucking messing up the whole process and letting him down by not knowing what to do for the best. And like I've already left it too late to do the bes tthing anyway.

happygardening Thu 28-Nov-13 16:23:09

Have you considered/can you afford a boarding prep? They often have more vacancies as they struggle to fill them and a broader intake lots of different abilities so this might help his confidence. Other qualities are also highly valued in boarding preps because it's not all about lessons.
I would be truthful from the beginning rather than digging yourself into a hole which you might have to extricate yourself from. Head are not stupid they will probably know what your up to, so you might as well be totally up front with them.

LIZS Thu 28-Nov-13 16:23:47

Many preps teach Spanish in the two years so that may be an easier option for him for CE. Maybe being in a culture of all working towards CE would help motivate him ?

happygardening Thu 28-Nov-13 16:24:33

Sorry OP x posted.

MrsSteptoe Thu 28-Nov-13 16:26:16

appreciate the input anyway, happygardening! And I love a vote in favour of honesty. I do deception REALLY badly. xx

I think I might feel better if I went and talked to a prep. Can't be the first time they've had a miserable mum come in not knowing what to do for the best.

happygardening Thu 28-Nov-13 16:35:05

I'm a crap liar so always go for honesty usually it pays off. It seems to me that your problem is where will he go at 13+? I understand from friends in London that places are fought over and sadly the brightest selected of course many are in the process selecting/pre testing for 13+ entry.
You haven't let him down the system is. It favours those who do well and appear bright in test/exams. There are lots of bright and capable children being failed because in exams situations they are not ticking the right boxes. There are also less and less schools who are prepared to consider either these children or those who frankly may not be academically bright bring lots of other qualities to the party.

Indy5 Thu 28-Nov-13 16:35:08

i am sure many preps will be open to you...a lot of them that go to 13+ lose a few boys to schools at 11 so the places should be can always get extra tuition on the side for latin and french if you feel he needs to catch up before CE.

MrsSteptoe Thu 28-Nov-13 16:40:28

happygardening - sing it, sister. The system is calculated to make parenting a depressing and stressful task in this particular respect.

Indy5, thanks for your input, and LIZS, too. Much appreciate all you guys.
Sometimes, I can't talk to DH any more because he just says "it'll be fine" and switches off. MN is kind of my refuge if I need to unload a bit of stress.

cake to all

Indy5 Thu 28-Nov-13 16:40:49

if you are in London and London preps are full (though I doubt they can all be full because as I said they must lose some at 11), what about some of the preps just outside London (which may even have buses) or those that offer weekly or ad hoc flexi-boarding? Your son could even take a train and taxi to a country prep. near a mainline train station if need be. But you will need to quickly figure out registration deadlines for 13+ schools..some of which have already passed with pre-tests to be sat in January - others test later as start of year 7 and some may be less selective (on tests that is) and not do pre-tests but rely on head's reports and interviews and 13+.

onebananatwobanana Thu 28-Nov-13 16:45:10

MrsSteptoe - where are you in London? That might help suggest some other preps to you. You want one with a broad range of leavers destinations - evidence of them getting DC into the right school for each child at 13.

I would definitely go and look round 3 - talk to the Head, be honest, and see how they react. Those who can't give you 1hr of time, coffee and advice when they see they might be a plan B, are not worth talking to again!

I wouldn't panic, I bet they all get calls at all times of the year. At the end of the day, they want your money but you need a school that will work with you over years 7-8 to come up with a 13+ solution, so you need to make sure they have plenty of experience of that.

mary21 Thu 28-Nov-13 16:50:12

What about Thames Christian College in Claphamfor less selective 11 +
Not quite sure where you are for preps but New land House in Twickenham often take some at 11. What about Thomas's
Might be worth putting up a question on here asking about preps to 13 in your area.
Quite a lot of mixed prep schools loose their girls at 11 so have space

almapudden Thu 28-Nov-13 16:51:15

The lack of Latin and French will be an issue, though not necessarily an insurmountable one. I am speaking as a prep school Latin teacher so have had quite a lot of experience of this situation.

French tends to be a bigger hurdle because, at most prep schools, the children have been learning since Year 3: that's a lot of vocabulary and grammar to catch up on.

At my school, the boys start Latin in Year 5, although many schools won't start teaching it until Year 6. I have found that bright, hard-working children who join in Year 7 are able to catch up with perhaps a few sessions of tutoring to go over the basics. Less able boys, though, really struggle to make up the ground. It's the same picture in French, I've learned from talking to colleagues.

Of course, if he's going to a fairly unacademic school at 13, then it won't matter too much if he just scrapes a pass at CE; the problems arise when a boy joins the school late but has or gets an offer from somewhere like Westminster, which is looking for 70% on the hardest Latin paper.

Where would you try for at 13+, OP?

irisha Thu 28-Nov-13 17:04:03

Mrs Steptoe,
Are you sure you are not being defeatist? Although that's the pot calling the kettle grey - I am in exactly the same situation and having nightmares about plan C and plan D, etc. I don't know from what experience your English tutor speaks, but St Benedicts is really not that selective - if his teachers are saying he is high ability, I can't imagine he won't get in there. Re practice papers, my daughter is also very uneven - but I think it's also a bit of a burn out, when they do practice papers every week at school, and then at home, I don't think they concentrate and care that much. I stopped doing practice papers for now and am working on specific areas instead. E.g., for maths, I cut up all the papers into separate topics/task and have different folders with assorted problems from various papers but on the same topic. Once we go through these, I will start giving papers again, but after a bit of a break.
I would try to concentrate on 11+ for now rather than looking for a prep - because if you are not considering boarding, then you will have this nightmare all over again with 13+ day entry in 1.5 years. Do you really want to go through this again?

BTW, what sort of scores he gets on practice papers and what are the papers? Who grades them? I think if he gets 55-60% on Dulwich papers, he should definitely get into St Benedicts or Emanuel.

Also, I think you may be over pessimistic - SW/SE London is quite well served in terms of boys schools, I feel much better than the girls, i.e. you have Dulwich, Trinity, Whitgift, Eltham college plus co-eds like Emanuel, Ibstock, Harrodian, Kingston Grammar, Latymer Upper. Hampton further afield. My point is that people will be applying to 4/5 but can only go to 1! So there is more hope than it seems on the surface. Well, at least that's what I keep telling myself when I am plunged into the depths of despair by OUR practice papers.

In terms of preps, there is also Thomas's and Eaton House. I am sure they will have movement as some boys will.

Also have you looked at Claremont Fan Court - two boys of my colleague's sisters go there and are happy, but I think it really is Plan C/D.

MrsSteptoe Thu 28-Nov-13 17:09:01

Some good suggestions here - thanks to all - I'm central, SW1, and we are definitely the scrape-the-fees-together type of people, which I think perhaps knocks some schools out of the equation for us.

almapudden, the answer to your question would be, probably the same range of schools, although if he were in a rpep we would obviously take the advice of the teachers there. As it stands, Dulwich, St Benedict's, Emanuel, and Trinity - originally, we thought DC and Trinity would be reasonably ambitious, and Emanuel and St Bs would be reasonably safe, although I know Emanuel is now hard to get into and St Bs getting harder.

We are not trying to get him into Westminster or KCS, we're just trying to avoid certain state schools that we'd be likely to end up in by virtue of our location. It is a somewhat negative strategy, the opposite of a positive choice, and I find it all rather depressing.

almapudden Thu 28-Nov-13 17:17:16

Have you had a look at Kew House? It only opened this year so I don't know much about it, but it won't be oversubscribed yet.

MrsSteptoe Thu 28-Nov-13 17:18:18

irisha, it's very hard to know if one's being defeatist, isn't it? Rushing off to work now, but appreciated your response, as someone who's in a similar boat by the sound of it xx

Ladymuck Thu 28-Nov-13 17:56:00

Well, from your previous posts there is certainly something going awry if he is being put in for Level 6 SATS but messing up practice papers. He passed the Sutton SET so he can't be weak academically.

In terms of 13+ I didn't think that the schools on your list were of the "pretest at 11, CE at 13" type. Most of these allow you to register in year 8. Trinity (and Whitgift) are English/Maths/VR, Dulwich is English/Maths/Science/NVR. Emanuel test Maths/English/Science and French. The others will test you in a language for setting purposes if you accept an offer, so I wouldn't get too het up on CE, especially if you are not looking at boarding.

I have one son who, at that age, would typically underperform in an exam, sometimes quite drastically. And I have another who seems to perform better in exams than his general classwork would suggest. I wish there was an easy answer, but I do think that an additional couple of years maturity does help.

I don't think that there is anything wrong in contacting the preps and discussing options. That said, don't get too surprised if they try to get a registration fee out of you before you so much as visit them! (In fairness they might let you visit, but...). I'm out in the sticks (relatively speaking) but Cumnor House in South Croydon (walking distance from Purley station) loses lots of boys at 11+ to Whitgift and Trinity and will always take boys for Year 7. Homefield in Sutton will also lose boys at 11, and send to a wider range. Bickley Park, Bromley is also worth a call. I would definitely look for schools who prepare for 13+ schools rather than just CE ones as he will need to sit the 13+ English papers in January and these are tricky if you haven't been prepared (relatively speaking more tricky than the 11+ ones).

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