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Any senior schools which registering from birth means entry is easier?

(38 Posts)
Sofa123 Sat 19-Nov-16 12:31:34

Hi all,

My DS is 10 months old which I know sounds ridiculous to be thinking of senior schools, but having struggled to find nursery places by not looking until he was 4 months I've decided it's better to be earlier rather than late.

We are focussing on the independent sector and are based in South East London, but for senior school would consider boarding which increases the area that we can consider.

I recently found out that Radley College (just south of Oxford) uses 2 general entry points for 13+, one of which is called the Radley List - which you can sign up your son from birth up to the age of 4 and is an easier route (lower CE requirements) into the school.

My question is, are there any other good independent schools (principally at the senior school level, but lower levels is also interesting) that operate on a similar basis, i.e. if you register earlier/from birth its easier to get in.

Thanks very much for your help,


EleanorRigby123 Sat 19-Nov-16 15:58:31

If you have an averagely intelligent, sociable child and you can afford to pay it is very easy to get places at "good" independent boarding schools. If prices continue to rise as they have done over the past decade it will be even easier by the time your DC is 11/13.
There is really no point in registering at birth as you have no idea how your child will turn out and what you will be looking for later in life. Radley may look great now but if your DS turns out to be highly intelligent, sensitive, musical and hates sport you may find that many other schools are a better fit.
CE is not difficult - and I suspect it will have gone by the time your DS goes to secondary school.

Couchpotato3 Sat 19-Nov-16 16:01:34

Independent schools are generally struggling for numbers, so you are unlikely to have a problem securing a place for your child when the time comes.

AnotherNewt Sat 19-Nov-16 16:04:06

Radley is the only one what springs to mind.

Though of course that assumes no change in procedures in the next decade, and that it's a schools that is suitable for your DS's abilities, interests and personality (you won't be able to decide that for about a decade either).

Trend has been towards selection from pretests taken at 11ish, and anyone registering in time for those is on a pretty much equal footing. I don't see that changing, tbh.

meditrina Sat 19-Nov-16 16:05:40

"Independent schools are generally struggling for numbers"

Variable. In London and SE it is definitely not true. Nor is it an issue for the 'big name' schools anywhere.

SuperSange Sat 19-Nov-16 16:07:00

St Swithuns in Winchester takes quite a few registrations from birth. It's s really good school.

AnotherNewt Sat 19-Nov-16 16:59:00

Most of them (perhaps even all) will take registrations from birth. But that's not the same as giving an advantage in the actual selection procedure idc to make it easier (as OP asks)

If it was tie-break between a few borderline candidates, then date of registration might be taken as a proxy for level of interest in the school and be a factor in that candidate's favour.

happygardening Sat 19-Nov-16 17:48:36

Anothernewt you have to be a minimum of 8 yrs old to register for Winchester.
OP some very selective may accept registration from birth but your DC's chance of being offered a place depends on their showing in pre tests which are in most cases is sat yr 6.
I personally don't think there's any real advantage of registering your child at birth, you would probably have to register him for at least three if not more because you don't know what future school will be suitable, if you want coed or SS (if you have another child and it's a DD you might change you're views on this), where you will be living or how much money you'll have to spend on fees as said above boarding fees in particular are likely to significantly more than they are now. So it just seems like a waste of money to me. Schools like Eton are currently accepting registration up until a boy in 10 years and 6 months.
SuperSange the OP has a DS St Swithuns is girls only.

Sofa123 Sat 19-Nov-16 19:34:05

Hi everyone,

Thanks very much for your thoughts and input.

Fully appreciate that it's very hard to predict how DS will turn out academically, in his interests or personality.

Ideally we would like him to go to one of the top London day schools (which are fiercely competitive). This is more about establishing some fall back/insurance policies if he isn't quite at Westminster/St. Paul's level (or potentially at Dulwich College/Alleyns level).

Boarding isn't our first choice - but as I've recently found out South East London (we live around Blackheath) doesn't have a huge range of top quality day schools within easy commute, so need to think a little more broadly.

When I spoke to Radley admissions they alluded to the fact that there was at least one other school with a similar approach, but my googling has drawn a blank.

Anothernewt - thank you that's exactly what we are looking, for an easier route in based on very early registration.

We will definitely evaluate much more throughly closer to the point of entry based on my son vs the guess work I'm employing presently.

Thank you SuperSange - unfortunately we have a son, so that counts St. Swithuns out.

EleanorRigby and Happygardening - thanks for your thoughts, we only have one child at the moment, but do plan a second. I don't have strong thoughts on single sex vs co-ed and by that stage may well have moved house - but I would prefer to stay in the area and put down roots if possible. The thought would be to apply to a few now (if there is an advantage) and more when our DS's needs/interests are clearer around 9-11 years old.

Thanks again everyone, if anyone else has any particular schools that have an advantageous early registration approach, please do chime in!


AnotherNewt Sat 19-Nov-16 21:41:31

Have you got a prep school plan sorted out?

That might be a little more urgent, unless you are confident of a place at a state primary you believe will suit well.

happygardening Sat 19-Nov-16 22:47:19

OP my DS2 was offered a place at St Paul's despite registering very late and being a rank outsider.
Anothernewt is right make finding yourself a good prep school a priority rather than a senior school, your priority should one with a good track record of regularly sending pupils to the senior schools on your long list. When your DS is older the head of this prep will advise you at to which school(s) would be appropriate to register him for.

Sofa123 Sun 20-Nov-16 09:41:14

Hi AnotherNewt and Happygardening,

Pre-prep and Prep plan isn't fully formulated and I'm presently researching at all levels simultaneously, but overall plan in reverse order would be:

Senior school:
- Ideally - St. Paul's / Westminster
- Decent day options - Alleyns / Dulwich College
- Top boarding options - the usual culprits - Eton, Harrow, Tonbridge
- Alternative's - Radley College and others once I've researched more

Preference is for day - the reason we added boarding to the list is principally how few top quality senior schools there are in SE London (but I am also tempted by the chance for DS to have more time in the day to pursue studies and co-circular activities vs sat bored in a car)

- Ideally - St. Paul's Junior / Westminster Under
- Other options: continuing with schools from pre-prep level - needs more research for this stage

Pre-prep (and possibly carrying through) - presently just local schools:
- Dulwich Prep - ok history of moving pupils at 13+ into top schools (last 4 years show between 8% and 20% going to Westminster, St. Pauls, City of London, King College Wimbledon, Eton - wildly varying year to year)
- Alleyns - vast majority of pupils carry on into senior school
- Blackheath Prep - ends at 11, so presents it's own set of problems (and I've yet to visit)
- Dulwich Junior/Ducks - very strong feeder into Dulwich College - which I think is a good senior school option but would prefer not to have other options closed off

The major question/problem I have is the lack of good pre-prep schools that finish at age 7 in my part of South East London, so it's unclear if the above schools would prepare DS fully for an attempt at entry into WU or SPJ preferring him to stay as long as possible.

Of course one option is to move, but having only just bought this house a year ago and working in Canary Wharf, I'm loath to do so just now. However if my DS did get into WU or SPJ then I would probably contemplate it rather than face a tricky commute (albeit my spouse works in Victoria so close to WU).

Again I do realise this seems ridiculous for a 10 month old, but best to be prepared if he academically excels (or not) by mapping out the major alternative paths.

If you have any thoughts to offer on my predicament they would be much appreciated.

Thanks once again for your help,


EleanorRigby123 Sun 20-Nov-16 10:32:14

Have you ruled out Eltham College and Colfe's both of which are academically selective and easily accessible from Blackheath? They are not as selective as St Paul's and Westminster but will have top sets with very bright boys likely to go on to Oxbridge if that is your aim. And if your DS is not super bright he might well be happier there.
There is also St Dunstan's where the same applies.

AnotherNewt Sun 20-Nov-16 11:05:28

Thus may not come out in the way I mean it, which is kindly.

You're going about this the wrong way round.

Finding a good nursery/pre-prep/prep is what matters right now
Because getting registrations in is important when the start point is only 3 years away, and unless there is a 3+ or 4+ assessment, it may be first come first served, in which case you may be too late for the popular schools already.

Have you actually visited the candidate schools for prep/senior? Because it sounds to me as if you've got a bit hung up on bragging rights of the name and less idea of the differences between the schools.

Setting aside the name/reputation, what is it that you think makes up a good education? What would you want to see a school provide? Including things things like on-site playing fields v urban site, nature of co-curricular programme, presence of girls.

And you may well find that actually you don't know yet.

Which means you need to keep options open, which is why getting the right pre-prep/prep now (assuming you've already decided private all the way) is what matters. The best foundation is somewhere inclusive, which has a range of leavers destinations - certainly at 7+ and probably at 11/13+ - so that however your DC turns out (and children change a lot in those years) they will be competent and supportive, and provide the right advice on 'where next' based on actual recent experience.

happygardening Sun 20-Nov-16 12:13:45

If you live in Blackheath then Dulwich Prep is you obvious choice I believe it's independent of Dulwich College. And goes to 13. It's inevitable that most preps boarding or day will send a lot to their local school especially day schools, let face it if families live in Dulwich and you like Dulwich College and your DS has friends at/going to Dulwich College many would say why schlep across London to SPS (I definitely wouldn't want to schlep across London to Barnes from Blackheath by the way, my DH commented to SPS from West London and he hated the journey). My DS's prep which at the time was mainly fully boarding sent lots to Kings Canterbury (double anywhere else) because it was the nearest full boarding school and suited parents but it still sent children to plenty of other.
Secondly many top boardng schools are as hard to get into as the top day schools you've listed.
Thirdly 10 months old is really far to early to have your sights set on SPS etc, they take super bright motivated boys and you cannot tell what your DS will be like now, chill out, you don't need to be prepared at the moment as I said we registered DS2 for SPS right at the last minute and Winchester when he 9 and he got places at both. As I aid above find a good prep that sends to a broad cross section of schools including SPS etc and see what sort of child 7-8 years down the road and listen to the advice of your head. You just don't know how you will feel in 7-8 years time, I was very anti boarding up until yr 2 but my DS wanted to board so I went along with it. We had very much set our hearts on SPS (because I like It's ethos) but as time went by and my DS matured I felt it wasn't the right place for him and chose WInchester instead as I felt it's ethos would actually work better for him as an individual

ReallyTired Sun 20-Nov-16 12:21:47

Schools can change so much in ten years. It seems nuts to think about secondary schools. Surely it's better to see what kind of young man your child turns into. It's not just a question of academic, but interest and temperament. There is no way of knowing whether your child is an introvert or an extrovert at ten months. Will he have a passion for music or art or sport?

I think that finding a good prep school should be your first plan. The headteacher of the prep school will advise which secondary is best for him.

LIZS Sun 20-Nov-16 20:46:23

In se London don't rule out Whitgift and Trinity in Croydon. Plenty journey down by tram , bus or train.

Needmoresleep Mon 21-Nov-16 14:29:46


At each stage it is about the right school for the child. And children can be very different, quiet, confident, arty, sporty, very bright, dyslexic or whatever.

The most important thing is that they should never feel they are not good enough, simply because of who they are. This is a two decade long journey, where, assuming the aim is to produce a confident and capable adult, the aim is for the child to develop emotional intelligence, self-esteem, resilience and life long interests and friendships, along with academic achievements.

The right school and a supportive environment should do this. A "top" school coupled with a demanding home environment, may not.

My younger child has just left school. Both ended up happy and comfortable at Westminster, one at 13 and one at 16. However the first was very slow at reading, and in no way would have been capable of 7+, and the second only came into her own at about 15, and was told before 11+ that schools like Emanuel would be too much of a stretch.

They did not need to go to Westminster, and would have thrived elsewhere. I am glad we never had a specific destination in mind and let things evolve step by step. You honestly don't know whether SPS will be the right choice at 13 or whether your son's eyes will light up when looking round Shiplake. Yes DC did fine in the London day school system, but they don't all. DD says if she had her time again she would want to go to Gordonstoun. And indeed someone, who knows her and the school well, says it would have suited her.

That said by many accounts Radley is a nice school, and could be a good option if he is not a natural for the super selectives, and wants to board.

Michaelahpurple Mon 21-Nov-16 19:56:19

Radley is the only one you have needed to sign up for young. It event hey are in the process of moving away from that system. Not something you need to think about otherwise.

Sofa123 Tue 22-Nov-16 00:28:46

Thank you everyone for your thoughts

EleanorRigby – we visited Colfes and didn’t really love it. St Dunstan’s is on my list to investigate, but my wife doesn’t love the location. I haven’t looked up Eltham College but will do now, thank you for the steer.

AnotherNewt – Fully appreciate how ridiculous it sounds to be looking up senior schools now, it’s at effort to get some semblance of control in the complex London education market. But rest assured we are looking into all levels of schooling.

My son is already part time in Zoom Nursery in Eltham, which we are very happy with, but probably will move him to Zoom Blackheath for logistical reasons in a year’s time or so.

We are thinking about independent sector throughout, as mentioned for pre-prep our short-list presently is Dulwich Prep, Alleyns and Blackheath Prep. With the Dulwich Prep our current favourite, but we have yet to visit Blackheath Prep (scheduled for January).

All three have assessments so no need to register early. We will also probably add DUCKS/Dulwich Junior to that list (DUCKS is first come first serve, Dulwich Junior has an assessment).

We’ve only visited Dulwich College at the senior school level; we weren’t able to make SPS, Westminster, Tonbridge etc. this year, but would hope to see them in coming years and build a better understanding of their points of differentiation.

Obviously we don’t have any insight to DS’s academic potential yet, but I want him to have as good a crack as possible of the likes of Westminster/St. Pauls, preferably via their under schools (given how many places they take up in their upper schools). Hence the issue around having no strong pre-prep’s finishing at age7/8 in this area (that I’m aware of) and wondering whether Dulwich Prep would really support boys applying to leave part-way through rather than going on to 13.

Regardless of whether he’s at the level of academic performance to challenge for the aforementioned schools or the leading boarding options, it’s comforting to know which schools are potential options at other levels of selectivity.

I’m not particularly brand conscious in terms of schools, but having worked with the alumni of most of these schools, and seen their dominance in the well-known consultancy I previously worked for (which has become more pronounced over the past 20 years) and of course looking at their Oxbridge placement rates – I naturally am drawn to them.

In terms of what I care about in education:
-Strong academic record (preferably without going too far into hot-housing and also an education that gives children a love of learning/ability of independent thought)
-Not too strong a focus on sport, but prefer at least some space to run around in
-Nicely balanced co-curricular (albeit with plenty of debating, DoE and music)
-Not too concerned about single sex vs co-ed and urban vs rural

Happygardening – You’re right Dulwich Prep is separate from Dulwich College but around 40% of boys go on to there, it has a good blend of top London day schools but the numbers going each year vary enormously and as mentioned above I’m not sure if they will support boys sitting 7+/8+ exams. But we really enjoyed the open day and so it’s still our present top pick.

Logitically it would be very tricky to commute from our present location to St. Pauls so we would probably move; Westminster is more doable given my wife works in Victoria, but again we would consider moving.

My questions really centred on 2 points:
-Are there are good pre-preps in South East London that prepare chidren for 7+/8+ that we’ve missed?
-Are there other senior schools which there is an easier route in if your register early enough, such as Radley College? (which is really another way of saying cheeky routes into solid schools if DS isn’t super academic)

Fully take your point on the top boarding schools being similar in competitiveness to the day schools – my 2nd question was more on the next tier down or two.

Hopefully I’ve been able to clarify that I’m not solely focusing on the most famous and selective of schools, but I’m trying to do as holistic a review of viable options for each stage of education and levels of selectivity.

Like you I do very much like the ethos of St. Paul’s as expressed by the High Master in a recent talk I attended, but naturally would choose the school that best fits the child.

Reallytired – take your point that schools can change a lot over a decade, this is more an exercise in shortlisting than anything else, we would definitely review the schools closely to the time.

Lizs – I really liked Whifgift and the teachers I met from there, but logistically I think it will be too challenging from where we are based and probably wouldn’t justify relocating vs sending DS to Dulwich College or another nearby school (haven’t researched Trinity but would imagine something similar).

Needmoresleep – Thanks for your insights, I definitely don’t intend to be pressuring parent or have a goal to obsess over during the coming decade, but do want to be prepared regardless of DS’s ability level with the best viable options

Michaelahpurple – that’s what research is throwing up at the minute, thanks for confirming

Kind regards,


Enidblyton1 Tue 22-Nov-16 01:05:31

What if your DS turns out to be very sporty? It may not be high up your list, but then again the school place isn't for you.

That sounds a bit blunt - I probably could have worded it better! But I would definitely focus on the right nursery/pre prep for now and see how your DS develops.

PhilODox Tue 22-Nov-16 01:25:35

Where do boys go before Colet Court? (Well, St Paul's Juniors as it has become now)

IminaPickle Tue 22-Nov-16 01:42:15

I really hope you're travelling for work and formulating these ridiculous plans over a lonely hotel meal somewhere because this is obsessive.
Enjoy him now; by all means ensure he's in a prep and pre prep that doesn't preclude any of that aspirational shopping list, but focus on him and his needs and developing the child and man he could be not what you want sad angry

fleurdelacourt Tue 22-Nov-16 09:36:50

Am local to the area you're talking about. none of the preps you're talking about will prepare for the 7/8+ - except DUCKS which finishes at that age.

Eltham College doesn't even start until Y3 so not sure that's what you need right now? Boys who go there at 7 generally stay through the senior school.

Any of the preps in Blackheath only go to 11 - Heath House seems to get good results so might be worth considering as well as BP? neither would support a move at 7 though so you'd need to do work outside the school?

Dulwich prep is independent of DC - but that's quite a commute for a v young child? They wouldn't actively support a move at 7 or 8.

If you're after the 13+ CE route into senior schools, have you looked at Bickley Park? It's a traditional boys pre-prep/prep which goes to 13 and has a good strike rate for schools like DC/Sevenoaks/Tonbridge.

Don't rule out the schools that go to 11 though - if Westminster is your aim then both the Blackheath schools do get candidates in there. Similarly both can also feed a boys boarding prep at 11 ahead of a Public boarding school at 13.

fleurdelacourt Tue 22-Nov-16 09:42:22

just wanted to add - if you are sold on Alleyns, then the best route in is through the junior school - there are a few different entry points - and once they're in they're in and transfer to the senior school is automatic. Competition at 11 is harsh - and at 13 there are only a handful of places on offer.

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