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Is it too early to start a 2016 girls 11+ W/SW London thread?

(837 Posts)
orangina Tue 07-Jul-15 11:39:21

What do we think? DD is sitting 11+ for various consortium schools in January 2016 and I am slightly desperate for a thread to compare notes, pat each others shoulders etc..... I lurked on last years thread, but it didn't start until much later....

Just booking up open day places and filling in my registration forms now.....

Blinkinwinkin Tue 07-Jul-15 13:00:12

good luck, my girls have been through it already but happy to hand hold. which schools will your dd sit?

orangina Tue 07-Jul-15 17:26:03

Hi Blinkinwinkin..... thanks for responding! Just trying to work it out now.... G&L, NHEHS and FH NW1 so far. Am booked to look around FH SW1 and Queens Harley Street. Considering back ups, if such a thing can be said to exist...... Where did your DDs end up? And was the process as painful as I imagine?!

orangina Fri 10-Jul-15 19:59:06

Bumping this in the hope that someone might want to join in this thread....

TawnyPippit Fri 10-Jul-15 22:41:42

Ooh, I did this last year so I can be your mentor! Ask away! although we were mostly focussed on co-ed)

Giraffe44 Wed 15-Jul-15 14:22:47

I'd love to join this group as my DD going through the process in January and am interested in all above schools. Is it really as scary and competitive as looks?!

mertonmama Wed 15-Jul-15 19:49:46

We did it last year and are now at the exciting buying uniform and kit stage. Ask away as much as you like. You'll probably get straighter answers on here than in RL.

Are you doing / have you done any mocks yet? Really invaluable practice if you can.

NWgirls Thu 16-Jul-15 18:52:39

OP, you have registered for three great schools! G&L is the most difficult to get into (huge number of applicants, very selective), followed by NHEHS, and then Francis Holland NW1 (again followed by FH SW1 & QCL which you also mention, and which I believe are good and a bit easier again to get into). Our experiences and impressions (from two years ago) have been documented in some detail on various threads.

What is new since then is that DD has completed a year at FH NW1 which has been brilliant and a great fit for her - I can give more feedback later when I have more time. New head named and coming in a few months; we really, really hope that the very positive, warm atmosphere will remain unchanged. Many excellent teachers.

orangina Tue 04-Aug-15 15:44:49

So sorry everyone, I went on holiday and abandoned this thread!

Thanks for everyone who has contributed. DD coming from local primary school so we are not part of the great pre-school panic that seems to happen (going by what my pals report....). No others in DD's year appears to be going down the 11+ route.

Trying very hard to choose the right number of schools and not succumb to the "what if she doesn't get a place ANYWHERE" panic that gently lurks in the background.

NWgirls, glad to hear your positive feedback of FSH NW1.... I was very impressed at the open day I went to in autumn '15, but DH was less impressed when he went about a month ago, felt that the headmistress had sot of 'checked out'. Not sure why a headmaster has been brought in to head up a girls school either. All feedback gratefully received.

Am aware that G&L is SUPER competitive. DD is bright, but I fear she may not be super consistent, so in terms of exams etc, I think it will be very dependent on how she manages to perform on that day.

Welcome Giraffe44, we can compare notes and hold hands as we get through the next 6 months!

Shirleycantbe Tue 04-Aug-15 16:08:51

I'd like to join too! I am looking at G&L, Latymer, Putney High, Wimbledon High, Surbition High and Ibstock for my DD.

School have recommended the academic options but DD is quite slow at exams and I am worried the 11+ process really wont suit her.

Also feeling the fear as to what we will do if she doesnt get in anywhere!

Are you making your DDs do much work over the summer orangina and Giraffe?

orangina Tue 04-Aug-15 21:04:04

Welcome shirley!

Re: work this summer, we have just been away for 2 weeks.... first week was NO WORK, but in the second week, I'm afraid I made her do some maths each morning for about 45 minutes. Just trying to make sure she hasn't forgotten what we have been covering, and to get her to the stage where she can start doing actual practice papers, rather than just covering fractions etc.

DD's (state) school does absolutely NOTHING in the way of recommendations, so I am feeling my way the best I can. Trying to get info out of the tutor as to what schools she feels DD might stand a chance of getting into. Obviously I think she is clever, talented and all round amazing, but i may not be the most objective person to judge!

We are also trying to read some slightly more challenging books together as apparently Harry Potter won't cut the mustard....

Currently we are booked into open days at G&L, FHS NW1 and SW1, NHEHS, Wimbledon High, South Hampstead High, Queens College Harley Street and (possibly) St James. Also looking at Greycoates Hospital School and St Marylebone CE School (both girls state schools).

This whole process feels slightly insane. Am glad to be gathering a little band of you lot going through the same thing!

orangina Tue 04-Aug-15 21:05:07

... and we do have a bit of time with the tutor booked over the next 2 weeks, but none after that until term starts again.

mertonmama Tue 04-Aug-15 22:31:23

Dropping in to give you all some moral support!

I'm trying to remember what we did last summer. I think we took it fairly easy in terms of 'formal' work but DD carried on with her 'fun' stuff.

She read loads, when we went on holiday she devoured loads of books including most of mine. I'm not sure she understood all of them but she definitely got most of it. It was like a mini book club as DS and DH read the same books as well!

She also did loads of puzzles. We had Times ones (crosswords and sudokus) on the iPad for long journeys. We did the quick Guardian one to 'share' - she did a clue and I did one.

We also watched some 'good' films and TV with interesting plot lines - think Jane Eyre and Far From the Madding Crowd. I think this helped to get her thinking about more interesting creative writing.

So definitely carry on 'working' just find different ways to do it if you can.


GoddessErrata Wed 05-Aug-15 00:13:19

I did some creative writing tasks with DD once a week over the summer hols. Givng her short pieces on quirky topics to write (for 30 mins) then analysing them together - looking at sentence structure, vocabulary (and suggesting alternatives), grammar etc. Weirdly, she found it very exciting to let her imagination run wild!

For Wimbledon prep - loads of practice of VR & NVR test papers, so she got the hang of the techniques. (if they are still only doing these papers - not sure if new Head has changed test since this January)

We also did past papers from various other schools. Starting with the 'easier' papers (10+ from Emanuel for example), to help boost her confidence and graduating on to harder papers. We didn't really focus on speed until Xmas hols just focussed on understanding concepts and accuracy first. Also,discussed (multiple times!) technique of answering maths and comprehension papers to get max points. Took a while for her to understand that.

We are further south but I have experience of SPGS, JAGS, Alleyn's, Wimbledon, CLSG which I'm happy to share. No, she isn't a musical whizz - violin & piano Grade 1 which we didn't even bother to mention on any application (and wasn't asked about at interview); doesnt participate in art or drama in any way (does ballet); keen on sports but didn't go for sports scholarships. Can only speak English - no aptitude for language no matter what we try. Good all rounder in maths and English; hard working normal quirky (aren't they all!), quite confident 10 year old. Got offers to all but I won't say where she's going, as that may 'out' her.

We just went for it and hoped for the best. She seemed to enjoy the process because we didn't make too much fuss about it but always made the prep stimulating and challenging, in a good way. We didn't apply for any state places (foolish of us, because we honestly didn't know how stiff competition would be and there really wasn't a viable option in our area. In hindsight, I may have slept more soundly over Xmas and new year if I knew we had applied and at least she would go,'somewhere'). We had a tutor in the summer who was brilliant at discussing books and brining out her ideas. Getting her to explore characters' feelings and 'layers' within stories. Kind of books they read together- My Family and other animals, boy in striped pyjamas, Alice in wonderland. They basically chatted about books for an hour with the tutor asking probing questions - this REALLY improved DDs ability to hold interesting conversations with a 'stranger' and I think this helped greatly with interviews. She read voraciously (in prep for chats with tutor); and she's also an avid reader of BBC's Focus magazine, Guinness book of records and First News. Which also helped with interviews and creative writing. Tbh, we panicked a bit as we never really watch TV or did puzzles / crosswords with her. But she was fine. She had some interesting interview discussions (where I thought she had definitely blown it e.g. By telling her interviewer that rules are there to be challenged or broken; and she sometimes deliberately pretends she can't hear me).hmm

Do the prep gently. Don't panic or vent frustration in front of DC. From what I've seen on MN and Eleven Plus forum, every DC seems to get a place. The angst and agro arent worth it, in hindsight. Just ask as much as you can on here, as I found I got more out of MN than I ever got from any mums in RL.

One thing I would have done differently... I would have chatted more to DD about logistics of exam days. She was thrown by the fact that so many (up to 700 or more for some) kids were also sitting exams at same schools and some of those kids looked really stressed. She'd never seen so many children at once! (Her primary was tiny) or seen such anxious / stressed child and parent combos. Some parents were even pushing others out of the way or swearing over parking. That threw her confidence a bit and I had to give her a mini pep talk on the spot. She was fine.. But I could have spared her that bit of angst on exam day!

orangina Wed 05-Aug-15 07:37:40

Thanks so much mertonmama (think I recognize your name from last years threads which I lurked on...) and GodessErrata, very helpful advice. We are trying to do reading and general discussion, which has been fairly successful so far I think. She generally just races through books to get the 'story' and rarely stops to read the words, understand the structure, etc. Therefore anything that seems a little more challenging and doesn't provide instant gratification, she will often abandon.


But we are working our way through Little Women and next on the list is My Family and Other Animals. She is a voracious reader, she just needs to have the confidence to try the more challenging stuff, and not just revert to the mashed potato of her comfort reading (Harry Potter and The Roman Mysteries).

Slightly worried about current affairs etc, as we don't let her near the main newspapers as all the grim reports upset her, and I just don't want to have to explain paedophilia etc to her. It feels like stripping her of her innocence much too young! Perhaps I am being precious?!

Very helpful advice re: the exam day, for me as well as for her I think! The open days will be bun fights I suspect, so perhaps that will give us both a taste of the exam days....!

Bonsoir Wed 05-Aug-15 07:42:29

orangina - I am a lurker on this thread as it is very unlikely (though not impossible) that my DD will be going to secondary school in London in 2016. However, I just wanted to say that on the current affairs issue I find The Economist invaluable: you can pick out articles that give a very complete analysis (rather than the bitty ongoing stories of daily newspapers) that is quite short and manageable for 10/11 year olds. The sentence structure is excellent and the vocabulary challenging.

Bonsoir Wed 05-Aug-15 07:46:46

Yes, and avoid paedophilia etc completely - no school interview is going to quiz her on that!

My DD is particularly interested in refugees at the moment (we do the Calais-Folkestone-Calais crossing on Eurotunnel many times a year) and we are reading, together, When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit and its sequels. She is also very interested in the Judaism/Nazism/WW2 theme, being of Jewish descent on her paternal side and having grandparents who were in hiding etc. Trying to tie current events in with own experience and historical issues makes current events more relevant.

Shirleycantbe Wed 05-Aug-15 08:14:28

Thanks so much for the advice mertonmamma and GoddessErrata!

Goddess - can I ask a question about the Wimbledon VR and NVR? Which types of papers did you practise with? We have Bond books, GL and CPG but the CPG seem a lot harder and the Bond fairly easy. Not sure which are most like the Wimbledon exams and what chance DD has.

We aren't doing any tutoring over the summer, a bit of mental maths to keep her mind going, aiming to do 3-4 comprehensions and essays and the same number of maths papers.

DD is naturally a keen reader but I probably need to discuss more with her.

thankgoditsover Wed 05-Aug-15 13:17:14

I was on the thread earlier this year though am neither W/SW London nor was my child a girl. We're North/Central and my son did three pretty selective schools - the equivalents of G&L, City Girls and Latymer.

He's good at sport but does no music and is monolingual. In fact, he's not too good in English, being a bit lispy, very inarticulate and shy with strangers. I cannot imagine he interviews well, but I think he was good in a mock class.

He's very good at maths, but very very careless so he'd get all the hard questions right, but drop marks on the easy warm-up ones on the paper. He's less good at English, struggled with the comprehensions and his handwriting is appalling (so much so that he's learning to touch type).

He's at a Require Improvement primary that had no head last year. Consequently he didn't have any head's reports, which is frustrating as his behaviour over the years has been excellent and his teachers have all loved him. Except for his y6 teacher who eventually cobbled something together which I'm guessing was as negative as she was.

Despite all of the above, he was interviewed at all three and offered two of them. As someone else said, they all get in somewhere.

At the time, I wished we'd applied to an easy back-up one, but we felt very strongly that our state schools were a much better option than a miles-away less academic private. (Not posh state schools at all - at least 50% FSM etc). However three turned out to be enough, he's pretty immature and easily tired and the whole process was incredibly tiring. Three exams took him out of school for three days. Then there are the interviews. It took us parents away from work a lot too. Only applying to three made us look serious (they all asked which others he'd applied to) and they were all so good that we knew we only needed one offer. We genuinely would have been happy with any of them.

Sorry, essay, but there's a lot of hype, especially from private primaries who tell you that the head's report really, really matters. Our experience suggests that they're like the interests bit on a CV. Ie only important if exceptional.

thankgoditsover Wed 05-Aug-15 15:57:48

Realise my post sounded v negative about my boy. He's adorable, so sweet and sensitive to others. Just not particularly blessed in the shiny qualities I thought these schools were looking for.

orangina Wed 05-Aug-15 18:34:00

Hi Bonsoir, thanks for your input. The Economist is a good idea. We were going to start with The Week, and see how that goes, perhaps tackle The Economist afterwards? Relieved that I was not being precious re: tackling tough issues with her.... I was speaking to a mother of a girl at DD's school the year above her who went through all of this LAST year, who said they had to tackle all sorts of issues like FGM and abortion with their (very sheltered) daughter, for (I think) the SPGS interviews..... I was horrified! DD is only just 10, and I just don't see how I can tackle FGM with her without getting her very upset.

(La la la sticks fingers in ears for a while longer)

thankgoditsover, very helpful feedback from you, many thanks and I didn't think you sounded at all negative about your boy, FWIW! I have a DS 2 years behind DD, so I will be going through all of this process for him at either 10+ or 11+ or possibly both (aurgh!). Am parking the issue of him until we get through DD's secondary school entrance though.

Am booked to look around WHS but am almost hoping it doesn't appeal as I can't face bringing VR and NVR into the whole thing, although I think she quite enjoys doing them. Haven't started tackling any of that until I feel I want to put her down for WHS. It isn't desperately close, so I would have to feel that there is a good reason to add it to the list, but feel we ought to see it before we strike it from the list.

A general question to all out there. How many schools is it reasonable to apply to, without vastly increasing the risk that there will be no place at the end of it all?

Zeta4343 Wed 05-Aug-15 23:38:55

Oh my goodness, The Economist, FGM, abortion.... What on earth are you thinking (or being told) is necessary for 11+ interviews?

My DS has just been through the process and we did 4 independent schools, 2 of which are very academic and I'd say are in the categories described in this thread. The interviews were friendly and age appropriate, some had specific questions of an academic nature and others were general chats about family, interests etc. They want to ascertain that the child is bright and has the right personality for the school but they are only 11 for goodness sake.

Please don't get too worried about interview prep. Above all they need to be themselves.

GoddessErrata Thu 06-Aug-15 00:29:00

Shirley, we started with the Bond, but eventually did the CGP test papers. She said all the books / papers we used were useful for getting her used to the concepts. But Bond wasn't enough. Speed seems to be key for (N)VR, so timed practices (only about a month before exams) help. By then, she'll be more used to the structure of questions and have more vocabulary.

GladToBeDone Thu 06-Aug-15 08:14:06

Completely agree with Zeta4343. We also applied to highly academic schools last year and used magazine/newspaper articles as a way to expand my DD's awareness of current affairs. However, we excluded topics (largely along the above lines) that we felt were not appropriate for DD's age. Children grow up way too fast already and there was no way we were going to expose DD to things beyond her maturity for the sake of the 11+.

Like GoddessErrata, we as a family watch very little TV and I felt that DD might have been slightly disadvantaged because some questions in the English exams (open-ended writing exercise) and interviews touched upon popular culture. Again, we weren't about to change our habits for the 11+!

In the end, our protective stance did not hurt DD.

Needmoresleep Thu 06-Aug-15 09:10:43

Its a few years since we did this, though it was a difficult experience as DD is dyslexic and was likely to present a very uneven profile. We realised quite late in the day, too late for external help, that DD would struggle to get over the bar in English at selective schools and that to maximise her chances she really needed to shine in maths.

Interview. Really they are just looking for a child who has something to say and who can talk to adults. Beyond that it does not matter. They are only 10. Newsbeat or similar child appropriate material is fine. See if you can get into a habit of discussing things that catch their attention with them. (At SPS DS talked about Ghengis Khan, an interest sparked by the Age of Empires computer game. They reassured me that it did not matter what sparked the interest, simply that he pursued it. He got a place!)

Gaps: If you need to fill gaps, either in maths or English, Galore Parks "So you really want to learn..." books are great. They follow the independent school/CE syllabus but are also designed for home teaching. We used several of the English book classroom exercises as a family when at dinner or in the car to help extend DDs approach.

Independent schools are businesses and they want to attract new pupils. They will try quite hard to make the assessment process fun. Its worth trying to keep the pressure down. Your child needs to be sufficiently prepared that they can show what they can do in an exam room, but it is not a first past the post system. Schools are looking for potential, and will fator in age and school background. They will want a balance of personalities in the class.

DD ended up applying for quite a lot of schools, state and private and got 2. One was all we needed. Plus we had a plan B of staying on at her 13+ prep. Looking back I think it was, bizarre as it might sound, quite fun. She tended to sit next to the same girls aphabetically at different schools, older girls would entertain them in break times, the food was usually good, she missed school and I took her for pizza afterwards. Two tips though. Check requirements carefully (clear pencil case, ruler, rubber, calculator etc) and check routes and journey times. Don't worry if there are clashes. Just speak to the Registrar. They are used to it and usually have alternate exam days.

And remember that West London has a number of very good schools. There is no such thing as "the best school" but the best school for your child. Some children thrive in very academic environments, others like to take things at their own pace, or feel more comfortable towards the top of the year group. There is quite a lot of, sometimes quite rude snobbery, both from parents and their daughters about schools. DD school did not have the same cache as some of the others, but it suited her and come UCAS she will be applying to the same universites/courses as those at supposedly more academic schools.

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