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How difficult are the London 'Super Grammars' to get into?

(66 Posts)
likestoplan Mon 08-Aug-16 20:41:31

We all read the stories of their being 12 applicants per place, endless and expensive tutoring needed to get in, and kids getting places from private schools but I'm wondering...

How hard is it to get into one of the London 'Super Grammars'?

Tiffing schools, Latymer, Newstead, Henrietta Barnet; theses are all incredible schools, but it just seems that to get kids in it requires intense training with practise papers and exam technique, and then they have to peak at exactly the right time.

I'd love to hear stories from people who have tried to get DC in, both success and failure stories, and whether the whole experience was stressful on both parent and child or whether you could treat it more like a game and keep things calm.

Many thanks for any info.

allthatnonsense Mon 08-Aug-16 20:48:03

I have no idea, but I'm watching with interest. I expect that the answer is depressing, especially for the bright kids with loads of potential but fuck all support. So sad that those places go to average kids who been tutored to the max.

SAHDthatsall Mon 08-Aug-16 21:07:12

OP - from what perspective are you looking at this, are you looking for a story or what is your situation?

The first reply seems to have pre-judged the outcome of responses anyway!

Wriggle45 Mon 08-Aug-16 21:36:05

I've been surprised by a few successes at Tifffin's (applicants from state schools).... I think there are so many applicants it makes it all slightly random

PettsWoodParadise Mon 08-Aug-16 21:38:03

DD starts at Newstead in September. She was starting from a excellent base and we didn't have an external tutor but did do preparation, practice and familiarisation from the start of y5. Yes DD was at an independent school but not one that supported eleven plus tests. We did a couple of mock tests with a provider to identify areas of weakness and also experience exam conditions. I know some parents who had fairly bright girls but chose not to sit the tests for the superselectives as they worried the environment might be too pressured so anyone who does sit thinks they are in with a good chance and the school is a good fit rather than 'just give it a go'. In our area although there are lots of sitters they will also often be sitting for other grammars such as Bexley and Kent but as they only need one place the number taking the test doesn't directly correlate to direct demand.

It wasn't a game but nor was it a stress pot of a time as we didn't treat the objective of grammar as the be-all. DD also wanted to do it, she identified with the girls at the school and really wanted to go.

If you do go down this path be prepared to be vilified for even considering a grammar school.

likestoplan Mon 08-Aug-16 21:38:57

My stepbrother is looking into Tiffin Girls.

Over 12 applicants per place?! That's insane.

If you assume that most people wouldn't bother applying without preparing their children just a little bit, then it seems logical that to get in they'd have to boot camp the kids...

likestoplan Mon 08-Aug-16 21:41:15

SAHDthatsall above mesg was for you; not sure how to tag replys on this forum.

fryingtoday Mon 08-Aug-16 21:51:04

Why is he looking at at tiffin? It is very academic - if his kids are academic then go for it. But don't tutor them to get them in if they're not as it would not be a great fit and they'd struggle to keep up. Like all schools, need to ensure the ethos fits the child - which can vary greatly even within the same family.

SAHDthatsall Mon 08-Aug-16 22:08:19

Where does he live to look at Tiffin and the north London schools also?

MarshHarriet Mon 08-Aug-16 23:29:49

"I expect that the answer is depressing, especially for the bright kids with loads of potential but fuck all support. So sad that those places go to average kids who been tutored to the max."

Your first point - you are probably right. It does take at least pro-active interest to support a child to prepare and take grammar exams , do the applications etc, so unsupported kids do miss out.

However, since super-selectives admit on a competitive score rather than al set pass mark, it is unlikely that 'average' kids get in on the basis of tutoring because tutored bright kids will go to the head of the list. Plenty of 'normally bright' kids seem to get in.

I would be interested to know whether the preparation or tutoring in itself helps mould an intake of kids who are inherently happier to do extra work. My DS is late summer born and getting him to do the 'occasional Bond paper' that some say was all they did or needed would have been a battle of wills, bribery, manipulation and misery. (Though he is a good student now).

I am HappyCompMom. There are great comps with 12 applicants for every place, too, but then each person applies to more than one school.

likestoplan Mon 08-Aug-16 23:30:12

@SAHDTHATSALL im interested in all of them. The whole concept of these Super Grammar's is crazy imo.

@fryingtoday the point is that all these super Grammars are Academic, but in order to get in the requirements are so high that even Genius level kids would need tutoring.

Thats the thing about these schools - you need to expend significant resources to get in.

SaturdaySurprise Tue 09-Aug-16 00:05:46

Most people apply for more than one school and some apply for private schools too. A child can only go to one school so a there is a lot of movement on waiting lists and the odds are actually a lot better than 1 in 12 if a child is bright enough.

If you're aiming for one of the Sutton boys' grammars, there's something like a 1/4 chance of getting a place at one of them. c. 2,500 take the first test and there are about 470 places with some children really intending to go private or who live too far away and are just doing the tests for practice/a back up plan.

I have a son at Wilson's School and my younger one starts there next month. There are 3 boys' grammars in LB of Sutton, plus some boys will also apply for Tiffin or Kent schools (depending on where they live). They may also go for the Whitgift Schools or Kings College School. The very brightest boys will pass everything and get their first choice. They won't take up other potential places, which will go to lower scoring boys.

Yes, the children do extra work at home or go to tutors to prepare for the exams, but they don't need to go to "boot camp" if they're bright. The odds aren't all that bad and it's worth having a go, if you and the child are prepared to do extra work.

tiggytape Tue 09-Aug-16 10:26:36

There are lots of children going for the exams and realistically many more are of selective ability than can be offered a place. The exams are a direct competition after all - there are only a finite number of places in total and they go to the highest scorers on the day.

The general consensus is that a child does need to be naturally very bright to pass the exams but in addition some preparation is the norm due to the competitive nature of the tests. Average kids tutored to the max won't get in. Unfortunately, it isn't likely that a child with lots of potential but no support will either.
Support doesn't have to involve several years of using professional tutors (although some people do choose to do that) but it does mean most candidates undertake specific preparation no matter how clever they are because of the competitive nature of the tests. This is especially since the exams are held at the start of Year 6 but will cover some Year 6 work, because they are time sensitive with a lot of work to complete accurately and under pressure and because the difference between passing with a place and passing without one will come down to just a few marks either way.

MarshHarriet Tue 09-Aug-16 10:42:59

"there's something like a 1/4 chance of getting a place at one of them."

But it isn't a straight lottery. For some children there will be a very high chance of getting in because of their ability to reach the highest scores even leaving room for a few marks lost to mistakes or time mismanagement, and some applicants have a very slight hope indeed because their marks are closer to the basic 'pass' mark.

The odds on getting in are not how many people apply, but how far up the ability / exam passing scale your child is. There could be 17,000 candidates of lower ability, so a huge ratio of 'failure' to success, but if your child has a higher ability than 16,700 of them, then your chances are very good!

Look at the numbers who apply for a true lottery place, like Kingsdale!

TheAlchemist101 Tue 09-Aug-16 10:50:53

interestingly DS2's friend sat the QE Barnet GS exam, passed it but didn't get a place in March and was 26th on the waiting list. In May he got a place so not as selective as at first thought.

amidawish Tue 09-Aug-16 10:52:12

"don't bother tutoring your kid for tiffin" "if he's bright he'll get in"

that is the funniest thing i've heard on mn for AGES.

Needmoresleep Tue 09-Aug-16 11:36:38

There were plenty of bright kids at my daughter's private secondary who failed to gain places at Tiffin.

Three things really:

1. You need to be familiar with content. Preparation is essential.
2. You need to be bright enough to understand and answeer the questions. This cannot be tutored for.
3. You need to be fast. A child who can answer just a couple more questions in the available time will get the place. Given most kids sitting will be "top table" and given the level of competition, the ability to work at speed is crucial, and practice helps.

My daughter is bright but dyslexic, and tends to underperform at aptitude tests because she is so slow. She was 800th on the wait list for Tiffin even though now her predicted A level results are far better than the Tiffin average. As always a test is a test of what is being tested, and is only a rough proxy for "intelligence" or potential. Tutoring will help.

Brightnorthernlights Tue 09-Aug-16 20:53:02

My son decided to sit for our local super selective (QE boys) as he liked the uniform (hmm), liked it at the open day and wanted to give it a go.

We did some past paper type question for both English & Maths in the few months leading up to the exam. He is bright but We never thought for one minute he would be offered a place and We would have been quite happy for him to follow his sister to our local comprehensive.

He did very well in the exam and has been there two years. I think you will get parents who target these type of schools and make it their mission to get their child in, however, many of DS's friends are very much like him, they were prepared for the exam, they are bright but were not coached for an extensive period for the exam.

My son has always maintained that 2 things gave him an edge. Firstly he was a very keen chess player throughout primary school, played in many school/countywide competition. He says the exam was not just a matter of application, but speed also and that the skills he learnt during his primary chess years, played a big part in his success in the QE exam. Also, he has always been able to deal with pressure, a sort of 'water off a ducks back' character. He always said he never really felt any pressure or nerves during the exam, as it wasn't the be all of his life at the time! Certainly food for thought.

I can only really talk with any knowledge about this school. Certainly the statistics look scary, several thousand boys sitting for 180 places. However, a LOT of boys that sit, do it as a 'free mock' for private school or other state grammar schools. Most years the 180 places tend to be filled by the top 300. If you take away the boys that sit the exam but have no intention of taking up a place and then take into account that many boys with high marks will probably be offered places at other schools, the statistics probably become more like a 1 in 3 or 4 chance.

Brightnorthernlights Tue 09-Aug-16 21:00:57

And as further food for thought, I haven't come across one boy in his friendship group who has come from a Prep school. They all come from North London/Herts state Primary schools.

mellicauli Tue 09-Aug-16 21:27:32

If there was a test at school and you thought out of 10 bright kids your child had a good chance of coming top or near top for both maths and English , then you have a decent chance at a super selective.

You have to tutor because the tests cover Level 6 maths but kids only learn that in year 6, after the tests have completed. (Actually I didn't bother for maths and my son got quite a mediocre mark for maths. he got a great mark for English even though he isn't so fantastic at it, so
who knows?). Lots of people do their own tutoring. The 11+ forum is very helpful.

If you want your kids to take it easy, a super selective may not be the school for you. It is a good environment for children who thrive on competition.

I did say to my son I didn't expect him to pass as hardly anyone got in but if you didn't take part in a competition you can't expect to win. And if you are going to enter a competition you might as well try your best.

We only did an hour a week tutoring , a few bond books and a couple of mock tests over a long period. It doesn't need The other boys there now can't believe we did so little but it did the trick. Not many are from prep school though.

sydenhamhiller Tue 09-Aug-16 22:59:02

DS has just finished y6 at a super selective. (St Olaves in Orpington.)

He was at a good SE state primary that actively discouraged going anywhere but the local boys/ girls state comp - which are both very good. So no prep at school, and we did about an hour a week at home throughout Y5, mainly maths because the Maths test covered mean/ median/ mode, for example which DS did not cover until after the entrance exam.

I had to avoid the elevenplusforum because of all the tales of studying 2 hours a day over the summer holidays etc - DS did about 2 x 1 hour maths papers, and 2 x 1 hour English comprehension papers in the entire 6 weeks. But I kept telling him that it didn't matter if he did not pass, and I thought that if we spent all summer holidays prepping, this was the wrong message...

His 'writing' was his weak point, but I could not get him to practice that as he hated it so much! (The irony is, he is really good at English and won the class prize Spring term.)

I think my point is:
- I was quite stressed, as DS wanted it so badly, and so I wanted it for him. He had quite a bit of low level bullying from the other kids Y4-6 in his SE London primary for being a dork, nerd, geek, and 'posh' (I'm from the North of England and have flat vowels, not a bit posh!), so really wanted him to be somewhere where he could enjoy his interest in academic things. But we only ever did about an hour a week's practice, and we always played up the very good local schools, and the fact that you just try your best, and see what happens. He is quite an anxious child, but was very chilled, and he commented on boys bursting into tears in the exam hall on the day of the tests, and I was sooooo glad he didn't feel like that.

- we didn't do any work at all the week before the tests (he sat for 3 grammars)

- I was very struck by the HT at St O saying at one open day 'it is not enough to be on the top table, you need to be top boy on the top table'. I did not want to put DS through it if we were deluded, so I did really try and ascertain if he was 'grammar' material.

- there is a view that grammars are full of prep kids. In DS's class, I know there are a couple of privats school kids, but one is from an RC state primary, one was home-schooled, one from an inner city state CoE primary. And they are holding their own.

Hope that helps?

PettsWoodParadise Wed 10-Aug-16 00:01:32

Newstead don't have a maths test so no need to practice maths beyond the curriculum. St Olaves however yes, maths beyond the classroom is needed.

SanityClause Wed 10-Aug-16 00:12:48

DD1 went to one of the schools you mention.

We didn't pay for tutoring, but did some books at home.

She completed her GCSEs and is now at a 6th form, elsewhere. (She could have stayed, but chose to leave.)

I am somewhat ambivalent about her time there. Would I be as enthusiastic for her to go, knowing what I know about actually being a student at the school? Gaaaah! I'm not sure. There were certainly some very good opportunities, but also some quite considerable downsides.

In particular, the pastoral care should have been a hell of a lot better, considering the mental health issues that tend to go hand in hand with selective schools for girls.

BoboEK Wed 10-Aug-16 08:00:41

We also did minimal practice with our DS before he sat both the bexley and kent tests as we and he felt it's worth trying just for the choice (We certainly could not afford tutors so just used the books). He did not feel the pressure on the days of both tests as he knew that not passing was not that important as he had some really good local choices but it was more important to try and give it your best shot. He passed both but due to our location we were not offered any grammar on allocation day (Got offered the excellent kingsdale) but we're on the waiting lists. Got a offer after March and then let him decide as we always wanted him to have the choice and he decided on dartford. If your DS / DD I'd a little bright then I would certainly go for it but do stress the point it's not the end of the world, just try your best as that's all you can do.

PettsWoodParadise Wed 10-Aug-16 08:23:11

It is easier in most instances to get into the grammars that just need a pass than a score but as pointed out above other criteria may apply like distance making it pointless to sit if you can't get in even if you pass. So on some ways they are harder depending on your location. I suppose that is just one reason the superselectives have such a high number sitting as most other criteria like distance are removed or are at the least like Newstead have generous catchments and by default people will sit for the test even if the journey is nightmarish. DDs grammar school is on our doorstep and actually our closest secondary school but on the elevenplusforum every year you see parents asking how to get to a school which means three hours travelling a day which IMO is just plain bonkers.

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