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Girls' or mixed boarding at 13+. When does the preparation and admission process begin?

(16 Posts)
minipie Wed 10-Feb-16 22:18:41

This will seem ridiculously premature because our DDs are 3 and a baby. But, we are in the process of choosing a (private) primary school for DD1 and need to work out the possible secondary school avenues that will follow.

The primary school we prefer only goes to 11, and focuses almost exclusively on getting its pupils into selective private day schools at 11+.

However, we may well want the DDs to board at 13+ instead. (Not sure yet, but think boarding is at least equally likely to day school). There are a couple of prep schools locally that have a year 7 entry and go up to 13, so we could potentially go with preferred school for now and then switch to one of the prep schools for years 7 and 8.

But... is that too late to switch? Is there any aspect of the 13+ boarding entry process which begins before year 7, and therefore we would have missed by being in the day-school-centric primary school at that stage? For example I keep reading about pre-tests and even pre-pre-tests, which kids need to pass in order even to be eligible to try the entrance test... when do these take place? What about discussions with the Head about likely senior schools, when do these begin?

If someone could walk me through the usual 13+ boarding admissions process, and in particular when the very earliest steps of it happen, that would be much appreciated.


FutureBoardingParent Wed 10-Feb-16 22:53:20

Right now it's mostly boys-only schools that pretest; in fact I don't know an exception to that, though I can't swear there are none. This can change, though, so you need to keep an eye on it. Currently the earliest pretests I know of are in year 6, but they don't need preparation anyway, so even if your preferred school started pretesting, you wouldn't need to move your DDs prior to the pretest if it were that kind. You will, obviously, have to keep your eye on schools you might be interested in enough to know if they change their procedures. Discussion about likely schools begins informally in our experience; I think the first time we were asked to write down if we had any ideas and offered meetings about it was Year 5, but there was no real need to decide anything then.

A bigger issue is Common Entrance, which your primary school will not be preparing for. Switching into that syllabus at Year 7 might be hard in some respects, e.g. if your DDs have done no Latin up to that point - but it is unlikely to be insurmountable, unless they turn out to have specific difficulties (e.g. maybe a mildly dyslexic child might do fine with Latin started in Year 5, but struggle to catch up starting in Year 7).

More intangibly, and something I didn't understand fully until we were in the middle of it: the prep+CE+boarding school "route" is quite differently flavoured from the primary+day school from 11 "route", at least as we see them in the schools round here. Switching from one to the other can be done, but gives quite a clunk, not only in terms of syllabus but also in terms of how things are done: class size (smaller in prep), amount of sport expected (more in prep), whether a future of boarding is seen as normal (yes in prep), and so on. If when your DDs are approaching 8yo you still see the 13+ boarding route as the one you think will suit you, it would be worth thinking about avoiding that clunk by switching to a prep school then, if you have a good one available. As always, though, generalisations are crude and it all depends on the specific schools available to you and your own children's needs.

minipie Thu 11-Feb-16 09:10:22

Thanks, that's really useful. It does sound like there would be some significant downsides to switching courses at 11 - not insurmountable but not ideal.

Re the cultural shift - class sizes are 20ish in our preferred school and in the prep schools. Sport isn't a particular issue I think (DD has very mild cerebral palsy so it's never going to be her strong point...). But the culture of boarding being normal, and the chats with Head about future schools, and knowledge of admissions processes, are all things we/DD would miss out on. And Latin/other CE specific stuff.

Trouble is the prep schools near us, while good schools, aren't a great fit for us and DD, at least at present. So it's a trade off.

Switching at 8 could be an option but seems quite disruptive, especially as we'll have DD2 in whichever school by then as well and she'd only be 6...


Drinkstoomuchcoffee Thu 11-Feb-16 10:25:49

Actually I know some of the co-ed boarding schools DO pre test in either Y6 or Y7 for 13+ entry. Short list the schools you are interested in and check with their admissions staff. You will probably need to wait until Y4 or Y5 to get a clear idea of where your DC aptitudes lie - and much will change before then so not much point in getting too bogged down at the moment.
Co-ed 8-13 preps (day,flexi, weekly boarding) are often looking for girls at 11+ When many of the existing girls have left for girls only secondaries. They usually have a significant number of new students at that stage so it is easier for new DC.

stealthsquiggle Thu 11-Feb-16 10:49:06

A lot depends where you are, but I would say that there are lots of choice points - DC seem to join the prep school my DC are at throughout - and, Latin aside, preparation for CE doesn't start in earnest until Y6/7 - so, depending if there is oversubscription for the prep schools, you could reevaluate every year.

Also - you clearly can't know yet what sort of school will suit DD2, so that's a factor...

AnotherNewt Thu 11-Feb-16 10:57:11

If the school is teaching for independent day school entry tests at 11+, then this will cover for 13+ entry pre-tests in year 6 as they're not that different.

So one course to consider is going to that school with a view to passing some sort of test at 11+, then joining another prep for the next two years. It shouldn't be difficult to find a school ready to take in a pupil with a conditional offer, and there's usually some movement of leavers/joiners so it's not socially impossible either.

That would keep your options open, should you decide between then and now that a different type of school would suit better (eg day or boarding with main admissions at 11).

Blackjeans Thu 11-Feb-16 11:03:22

One other thing that's worth thinking about is the fact that a prep school will also give you a good steer about what secondary school is best for your daughter. Our DS1 went to a prep school at 7 and the school helped us make the right choice of school (which wasn't the one we'd had him down for since v small). Our DD went to day school and transferred to its secondary dept for years 7&8 but then did a separate exam for boarding school for entry at 13+ for those who weren't coming from the Prep school route (eg coming from abroad). Both our DC went to the same boarding school but in our experience, it was a better fit for our DS1 as he understood the system better and also had friends from prep school going to the same school. If I had my time again, I'd definitely do prep school at 7/8 - not necc boarding - as that will give you both day and boating options at 13+.

minipie Thu 11-Feb-16 12:09:05

Thanks all - I am reading and digesting!

Dapplegrey1 Thu 11-Feb-16 12:15:06

Marlborough is co ed and that has a pre test.

homebythesea Thu 11-Feb-16 12:52:29

Lots of co-ed schools pre test, so not accurate to say this is a boys' school thing

If you are fairly sure you are headed for 13+ I would go for a prep school at the latest for Y6 when some of the CE syllabus will start esp in languages and science. An earlier move will allow the staff to more accurately assess which senior school will be appropriate for your DC's- at our prep school conversations about senior school started in Y5 as there was a tendency to ease out those who were deemed not up to 13+ CE at the end of Y6.

You should choose a prep that regularly sends children to your shortlist of senior schools- relationships between schools are important especially in the event of a disappointing set of CE papers. The prep staff will also have a much better idea of whether your DC will be a good fit. Remember unlike 11+ you aim for one school only (11+ tends to be a bit more of a scattergun approach) so you need to be certain it's the one that's best!

Michaelahpurple Thu 11-Feb-16 13:01:20

The year 6 pre test schools are mostly boys ones (westminster, Winchester , Eton, radley). The mixed ones like Marlborough and Wellington are year 7 so fine for you. The girls schools now also do 13+ intakes which would also fit

Go to school which suits your child now - so important. They. You can consider moving at 8+ or indeed for an occasional place, right up to filling a year 7 place to replace a girl who has left at 11+ - there are always options then

Would be madness to go to a suboptimal choice now because of 13+ aims, although quite right to think it through and make sure you keep an eye on things.

homebythesea Thu 11-Feb-16 13:10:15

St. John's and Epsom College are 2 co-ed schools that pretest in y6. I don't think you can generalise!

TRL Thu 11-Feb-16 13:20:14

Wellington and Brighton College are pretesting our Yr 6's this term, Michaela - it's changed in the last two years.

minipie Thu 11-Feb-16 13:22:23

Sounds like we need to have a chat with preferred school about whether they are aware of, and will prep for, any pre tests in year 6. I know they do send one or two to boarding schools (either directly or via two years at a prep) every year so will quiz them a bit more about that.

Also need to find out a bit more about the two schools which go to 13 to see if they might be ok after all... one is very boarding focused (and also a bit too old school for us) but the other covers both day and boarding, so would be ideal in that respect but the culture is quite Marmite and may not suit DD especially given her slight physical issues. Subject of another thread I think!

Some excellent points made above. A few responses:

I do feel that 11 would be the best time to transfer to a different school if we need to (ie one that goes to 13) - I know the two schools I'm thinking of that go to 13 always lose a contingent of pupils at 11 and also have a good sized entry at that point. I'm sure there are ad hoc joiners at other stages eg age 8 but think the schools don't really see/encourage these as entry points, so it would be trickier space wise and socially.

Steer from the school about which secondaries would suit: yes, it worries me that we would miss out on this in the day school focused primary. DH and I really have no ideas as to what is going to suit the DDs and we wouldn't want to be steered towards day schools simply because that is the head's expertise iyswim. If we transfer at 11 then we could get a broader steer from the new school, but then how do we make the decision about transferring in the first place...?

Blackjeans out of interest why didn't you transfer your DD to prep school at age 11 (rather than day secondary) if you don't mind me asking? Just wondering if that would have given you/her the integration benefits she missed out on at day secondary?

minipie Thu 11-Feb-16 13:36:29

Cross posted with the last few posts. Sounds like things are changing fast and yr 6 pre tests are getting more prevalent. Eeep.

Transferring at 8+ would solve that problem... but I'm not terribly keen on that for the reasons I mentioned above. Not a disaster if we had to do it for unexpected reasons but not keen on it as a plan from the outset.

This would all be a lot easier if we knew we definitely wanted boarding, or definitely day. How do you decide at age 3 confused? My current instinct is for weekly boarding (avoids daily commute, so more time for prep/activities/sleep, but still allows family time and non school pursuits at the weekends), but that isn't based on much information and may change when I look at actual schools...

homebythesea Thu 11-Feb-16 15:03:30

Beware the concept of "weekly" boarding and Saturday school/activities/matches. The weekend may only be 36 hours or less


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