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Westminster. Your thoughts.

(45 Posts)
Crowler Mon 09-Dec-13 16:42:41

Note; I'm not invested in my son sitting for Westminster, I hate secondary school hysteria to the point where I'd like to leave England, but he would like to. He's down for the February exam.

How can I get a realistic view on how he'll score on the exam? As far as I can tell, they don't publish sample papers? He's been working on bond papers, the sample papers the school sends home (they have an 11+ curriculum) and Godolphin & Latymer papers (he's sitting for that exam as well). I understand it's 70% but aren't some exams are harder than others so which ones should I base this on?

Based on exams, he's in the top 10% of his current (prep), but uneven, lazy, and distracted. During my 11+ meeting with his school last year they suggested a range of schools that included St Paul's at the top with a caution that he'd have to take the test "on a good day". I gather his school does not have a strong relationship with Westminster.

I'd love to hear anyone's input and would welcome suggestions that he shouldn't follow through with the exam. My biggest concern with him taking it and not doing well is that 1. it would knock him down a bit and 2. if he buckles down in the next few years, maybe it would be better to do it later (if at all) so we don't have this bad score hanging out there.

jeanne16 Fri 24-Apr-15 19:13:15

Committed parent - that is an interesting comment. I have put both my DCs through private schools and I will never know whether it has been worth it. Although they have both done very well and the eldest is now at Cambridge, they may have done just as well at state schools. In my experience, most people don't really want to think about whether the money was worth it!

committedparent Fri 24-Apr-15 15:31:22

My DS went to WUS and is at the Great school. Looking back I ask myself every day whether it was the best route for him. The monetary cost has been enormous. I wonder if we could have used the money more wisely. He would almost certainly have had very similar good exam results had he gone elsewhere, whether state or independent. However he might have struggled had he had to do the IB rather than A levels. The IB requires high grades across all subjects. My DS is good in numerate subjects, not social sciences or arts. That makes a huge difference when applying to universities. There is also the fact that universities provide help to prepare for exams (such as STEP) for kids from state schools which it is assumed independent schools provide. The help provided by Westminster is very limited and comes too late in the year. I know of state schools who provide more help and get comparable or better results.
We do what we think is best. It's a tough job. I'd like to think that we didn't get it wrong. However I strongly suspect that different choices might have been better. Children change. Our young adult is very different from the child who sat entrance exams. My crystal ball is still as misty as it was twelve years ago when he entered WUS. A good state school supported by an army of tutors and the best after school programmes might have worked for my son. We'll never know.

pandith Sun 30-Mar-14 03:21:47

Hi Crowler, I am in the same position DC secured a seat at ASL and Dulwich prep school in dulwich . Absolutely torn, as he has always been in te american curriculum till date,( we are not from London) and shd I give him the English prep school experience? What did u finally decide on? Again worried about the entrance In a secondary school and all the pressure that comes with it. Any advice plzzzz. TIA . Btw I have not visited both the schools

Crowler Thu 12-Dec-13 14:00:55

I feel very torn about the American vs British system, ASL has incredibly seductive facilities and the kids were very cute and fresh-scrubbed when we went to an alumni event there - a buoyant rather than rarified environment.

Then again, they all have seductive facilities.

Michaelahpurple Wed 11-Dec-13 18:48:13

I do understand the uncertainty point - lord knows there is too much to fret about anyway in london schooling , but I would urge you to think carefully about it if you do think the school would suit him, and he gets a place of course, as it is a lovely school for the right boy and there really doesn't seem to be a real risk of not getting to great school

The American versus English education point is a tricky one. I have a number of American friends and is interesting seeing which way they go on this - ASL, uk but look to do IB as being more like the US system , or full UK with aim of going to an American university afterwards. Perhaps as the proportion of children in general going to US college continues to rise, it will be an easier call.

If you think it wouldn't upset him (or any other family member - my DH can't seem to get over my DS2 failing 7+), have a punt!

Crowler Wed 11-Dec-13 13:47:49

I wouldn't attempt to sit him as an overseas candidate if we weren't overseas.

scaevola Wed 11-Dec-13 13:06:26

You'll only be treated as an 'overseas' candidate if you are overseas at the time of the various applications deadlines, and you go through the entrance procedures in exactly the same way as other candidates (though you can sit exams in your country of residence).

JustAnotherUserName Wed 11-Dec-13 13:03:27

@ Michaela: Re getting into great school, yes in theory but in practice hardly any boys don't get into great school and for an 11+ boy not to make it would be extraordinary. The schools keeps yelling us that they expect all the boys to get places, and so to do no special prep for preselection etc.

But you still have two years of uncertainty. We are trying for WUS but are using it as back-up just for that reason. Ie if he gets into a school - not as apirational, natch - which goes straight through to 18, then we will pass on WUS. (I know that shouldn't happen and that WUS is the "hardest" school, but you never know - esp with the maths element - and the intereviews/on the day issues.)

Crowler Wed 11-Dec-13 12:31:53

I think he'd emerge in tact even with a bad score (maybe that's even a good thing). This thread has resolved my one concern which was that a bad score would possibly impact a later (good) score but it seems this is his only chance at Westminster in any case, so we may as well take it.

We may sit him as an overseas applicant in later years as there's a good possibility of us moving abroad at some point.

Unless you think he will be totally demoralised by the process then I think its a good experience. DS1 has just sat the ISEB pre-tests and the practice he has done for them has helped with his general school work (firmed up his maths a bit and speeded up his work). Even if he doesn't get through then he will have had a very good exam practice which could be useful if he does the CE later.

Crowler Wed 11-Dec-13 12:10:19

I can see from the context of the questions that I've entered into this more casually than most! By way of explanation - there's some dissension in the Crowler house as to where he goes next - my husband would like him to go to ASL (his alma mater), whereas my son is becoming more anglicized by the day. Westminster came quite out of the blue and I'm unconvinced he's up to the task, hence this thread. He's a very smart boy, used to feeling like a smart boy, and I don't think he appreciates the kind of competition he's up against if you see what I mean.

Michaelahpurple Wed 11-Dec-13 11:46:00

Sorry - telling us! A telling slip indeed

Michaelahpurple Wed 11-Dec-13 11:45:29

Re getting into great school, yes in theory but in practice hardly any boys don't get into great school and for an 11+ boy not to make it would be extraordinary. The schools keeps yelling us that they expect all the boys to get places, and so to do no special prep for preselection etc. in fact, getting in at 11+ would be her main route of going to great school now as she has missed the CE registration but presumably this is waived for 11+ entrants. I suppose scholarship offers a late registration option though.

JustAnotherUserName Wed 11-Dec-13 11:38:24

and also remember that if you get in to WUS at 11+, there is no guarantee that he will go to the Great School. He will still need to sit CE (or Scholarship).

Michaelahpurple Wed 11-Dec-13 10:01:04

Am very puzzled why if you are interested in taking a punt at WUS 11+, but with the option of staying at your prep until 13+, you didn't also apply for westminster Great school - if he doesn't get in at 11+, where do you plan to send him for year 9?

On 11+,ISEB is indeed irrelevant in the sense that they don't set the papers. Friends who have done the WUS 11+ have used the academic girls' schools resources eg St. Paul's girls papers, along with bond etc You need to be pitching well up - 11+ is probably the hardest entry point of all at westminster. Strong maths is essential.
Actually, galore park, the commercial arm of ISEB , have some good comprehension books and offer 12+ level, which is where you need to be thinking.
The year 7 boys at WUS are from all over. Lots of state school boys (many from North london, highly tutored in maths) but also prep schools. One school gate chum's lad came in from Thomas's Battersea, for instance, so I don't think there is a bar.
Remember that new year 7 boys need to do Easter and summer Saturday school in Latin and French before they arrive.

Crowler Tue 10-Dec-13 21:17:44

Yes. Sorry, WUS. I see now the source of the confusion, I'm very much in the habit of calling it Westminster.

scaevola Tue 10-Dec-13 21:05:39

Now I'm confused! Westminster does not have an 11+ entry, as the school begins in year 9 (but you have to do a pre-test in year 6 to secure a conditional offer).

So do you mean 11+ entry into WUS? Because if so, you can scrub the ISEB pre-test papers. I think the WUS sets its own paper (English, maths, reasoning) and says , for those doing them from state school, that minimum level 5 is expected.

Crowler Tue 10-Dec-13 20:56:55

He's not sitting for St. Paul's, he's sitting for Westminster 11+. We've also applied to Latymer. His school goes to 13, hence no safety school - safety school is his current school.

I get terribly frustrated in grading the G&L papers, why do they not assign points to questions given that they vary so much in difficulty? And, can anyone tell me how I should mark a question that's partially correct - if they show work, do they get partial credit on entrance exams? Because I'm so unclear on how to mark them, I normally just sit with him and go through them rather than arriving at a percentage, which is useful in some ways and not useful in others.

I've been heavily relying upon London Girls Consortium tests because he does them in a controlled setting at school and brings them home marked (what's not to like) and has scored in a confusingly wide range from the 70's to the 90's.

blackwattle Tue 10-Dec-13 20:16:32

Hi OP,

I'm a little confused. If your son is in Year 6, shouldn't he have just sat the SPS and Westminster 13+ pre-tests at his school in the last couple of weeks, or are you only going for 11+ entry? If so, did he take the Colet Court reasoning test on Monday? What other schools have you applied to?

As previous posters have said, the ISEB 11+ papers are far too easy as are the Bond books if you only have six weeks to go. What kind of scores has he been getting in the G&L papers?

Crowler Tue 10-Dec-13 20:07:22

irisha, a million thanks.

irisha Tue 10-Dec-13 19:56:37

I think they are great as a first experience of doing papers starting in mid year 5, but not much more than that. My DD was getting 95% on them in Yr5, means nothing. They are not worth the price - it's just that ISEB is a monopolist so they can charge that. You will do better by getting David Hanson books 1 and 2 from Galore Park which have ISEB style questions.

But given so little time left to exam, I would focus on schools' past papers, e.g. St Paul's Girls (on the web), Manchester Grammar School papers, and North London Consortium that you are already using. If he can get close to 90% on North London Consortium untimed and 80%+ timed, I would say that he is well positioned. Try Manchester Grammar papers and St Paul's girls paper B and C. If he is getting 60% on those, that's excellent. They are supposed to be very challenging.

Crowler Tue 10-Dec-13 19:41:40

Irisha - How about the bond papers?

I just spent 40 on the iseb papers. Are they useless? I may cancel the order.

Farewelltoarms Tue 10-Dec-13 19:39:40

Out of interest, what is Westminster's policy on 11+? It says on the site that it's primarily for boys from state primaries or privates that end at 11, yet the only boy I know of who's got in via that route goes to a very well known prep that ends at 13.
Dunno seems a bit disingenuous of them to encourage applicants from state schools and then pit them against boys who've been trained up at prep schools. Especially when they say one thing on their site but clearly do little to discourage boys such as OP's son.

irisha Tue 10-Dec-13 18:43:34

70% pass mark refers to Common Entrance taken at 13+, i.e. papers in Maths, English, French, Latin, Science, History, RS and Geography. This is the pass mark for most selective schools, e.g. StPaul's, Westminster, Eton, etc.

11+ Common Entrance is taken mostly by girls who apply to boarding school (also set by ISEB). These papers are extremely easy (especially maths) and are a long shot from London day school papers. I wouldn't use them as an indicator for Westminster at all - they follow a linear syllabus with practically no harder, problem-solving elements.

Crowler Tue 10-Dec-13 18:34:05

And thank you everyone for your insight, it's very useful. thanks

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