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Choosing a secondary school and other questions(11 Posts)
I’m completely new to the process so any advice will be gratefully received.
We’re just starting to look at secondary options for our DD. Probably independent over state atm, but after reading some threads here, am I correct to only now realise we should apply to more than 1 school?!
Which is fine, except there aren’t that many realistic choices! We’ll probably apply for the state schools as well, in that case.
But what’s a reasonable commute to school - I was considering an option about a 40 min drive away, but have ruled it out as there’s need to be time for relaxing and still homework at the end of the day.
Also how long to spend on homework each night in Year 7? She’s currently at a school (aged 9) that doesn’t “do” homework - which I was initially fine with, but she’s going have a big shock in a couple of years!
I would say the independent application process varies significantly between areas. Where I live, we have only one private school and one public school. The private school is pretty much-if you have the money and you are average ability or above, you’re in.
In other places, especially larger cities, there is significant competition for places.
You should absolutely look at state schools. Especially if you are willing to move house.
Definitely apply to state even if looking at private, you never know what might change so the place is there as backup if you have a change of circumstance or no private place.
Think what is important to you and why:
- sports / music / drama etc
- extra curricular
- range of GCSE options
- pastoral care
- 'quality of life' (eg commute, level of h/w, location of friends)
- size of class, behaviour, social mix, mixed or single sex
- SEN support
- hothouse / more relaxed ethos
Thanks for your replies, it’s so helpful! We live in South West London so a few options, but definitely after a more relaxed ethos with smaller classes which is rarer.
Quality of life is important so I guess that rules out any super long commutes!
I don't understand when you say there aren't many choices in sw London - there are loads for private and state. 40 mins drive (assuming you mean car not school bus) is a long commute. Even many of the Surrey schools that would be an option aren't that far away.
You should look at the threads on here as the offers have just come out in the last few weeks for secondary schools in SW London. There are loads of choices as their are loads of kids!
Your current school should be helping with this surely?
@Celeriacacaca I mean realistic options, as in not super academic, reasonable drive or school bus option (for private) and there are a couple of state options, only one of which do we fall well within the catchment area, on the outer cusp of the other (which seems marginally better)
As I said I’m very new/ just starting to look at options now. I’m going to a few open days over the next few weeks so hope to have a better view by then.
Having been through this process recently myself although in a different area, here are a few of my thoughts:
- Definitely apply for a state school place and one that you are in catchment for as well as the "on the cusp" one. Absolutely no question about this. It is your "banker" option no matter what else happens with your private applications.
- If you're at a state primary, start considering tutors and don't delay in starting with them.
- If tutors aren't an option right now, start doing the 11+ practice books (available online) as soon as possible. There are practice books appropriate to most years, don't leave it until Year 5 to start.
- Have a look if there are past papers on the website of the schools you are interested in. Not all examine the same. There's usually Maths, English and Verbal Reasoning but some also test for non-verbal reasoning and some include a written composition question (such as writing a story, a leaflet).
- Visit all the schools you are interested in including the state options. Do not overlook the state options.
Bear in mind that for any decent selective school there will likely be far more candidates than there are places. Sometimes it's 500 candidates for 100 places, sometimes it's over a thousand candidates for 200 places. (depends on the school). Some of these candidates will come from private preps who have prepared their students for these exams from a young age and some of those prep kids also have tutors, on top of being at prep school. Simply having the money to pay for independent school fees, the inclination to go there and a reasonably bright kid is no guarantee of a place at a good selective school, if it ever was. Those good schools are a buyer's market not a chooser's market no matter how special and welcome they make you feel on open days or how easily you can afford them, unless your DC is hands down extremely bright and is able to prove that in an exam condition. You might be very grateful for that state school place you applied for.
- Make sure hobbies are up to scratch. Try and have a more academic hobby such as astronomy or geology in there as well alongside the basics like swimming, piano and drama etc.
- If you get though the exams and are invited for interview, brush up on typical interview questions and their quality answers and ensure the positive points about the individual school are spoken about during the interview.
Hope this helps.
Make sure hobbies are up to scratch? Jeez my dc just did hobbies cos they liked them! I'm glad we're poor and they just went to the local state school. Seriously, on what planet and why are we making sure an 11yo has the right kind of hobbies?
Op I don't know sw London but my understanding from other threads is that there are lots of good state secondary options.
I think a short commute is great but up to 30-45 mins by public transport is totally fine. Where I live (small city) that would open up at least five good schools (tho you wouldn't necessarily get into them all) so I am sure there must be more, closer, in London.
clary not saying it's right or wrong. Just that it's how it is for many oversubscribed independent schools for those who are interested in going to them. They have to whittle down somehow from many intelligent suitable candidates who would all likely fit the bill but there aren't all places for.
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