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PostPosted: Tue Oct 25, 2005 12:43 pm 
Hi, all,

It's decision time, and we still don't know which one of above we should put as 1st choice. My daughter likes Colchester one a little bit more but Chemsford one is more convenient for us. So any thoughts/comments regarding the two schools will be gratefully received.

Another thing I am wondering about is how they will set the pass mark(s). Will they set one mark for all the schools or they set different marks for different schools? Does any one know their cut off marks for the past two or three years, and which one is more difficult to get in? I think the real question I want to ask is - can we put the above two as 1st and 2nd choices? Is there a real chance to get into the 2nd one if the girl failed her 1st preference school by 1 or 2 marks and the pass mark of the 2nd school happens to be slightly lower than the 1st one?

I look forward to hearing from you. Thanks.

PostPosted: Wed Oct 26, 2005 7:29 am 
Both Chelmsford and Colchester and very difficult to get into but generally speaking I would say that out of 4000 or so candidates your daughter will need to achieve a score among the top 500 or so candidates. It does, of course vary slightly from year to year. This may sound easy but believe me it is not. We are talking about 4000 candidates, most of whom have been very well prepared and many of whom have been in private schools and/or had significant tutoring.

However, as far as putting the schools down are concerned, as you probably know, both have a "first choice policy" but I think Chelmsford are slightly more lenient and if, for example, you put Colchester as a first choice, and the cut off for Colchester is slightly highter than Chelmsford but your child is within the cut off mark for Chelmsford, then she would probably get a place but check with the CSSE. They are not always able to help but this information is something they almost certainly will be able to assist with.

Both schools have excellent reputations. I know very little about Colchester. As far as Chelmsford is concerned there are several things I would say about it.

It is a very high pressure environment. I know as many girls who hated it there as loved it (and those who didn't like it were not necessarily the least bright ones). There is considerable pressure to achieve and if your daughter wants to be a nurst and not a doctor or a legal assistant and not a barrister, they will not want to know (as far as I've been told). There are a significant number of privately educated pupils there and some are not too friendly but most of the girls are, apparently, very nice and helpful to one another.

As far as the 11+ is concerned, I believe that a percentage of over 90 in each discipline is likely to ensure admission to either school but 85 is, I believe, generally considered to be a rough guide.

I don't know what ability your daughter has or whether you have seen past papers, etc, but the English is the killer. It is usually way past the skill level of an average 11 year old (again in my opinion) but then they are not looking for the average 11 year old.

If you want to know anything else, please feel free to post your questions.

(by the way), how far do you live from each school?

 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Oct 26, 2005 1:09 pm 
Dear Essex Girl,

Thank you very much for your valuable information.

We live outside Essex at the moment. My husband commutes to London by train every day so life won’t change too much for him however I need to find a new position and our girl will be in a completely new environment.

I was so wanting her to sit the exam before for two reasons:
1. she gets so bored at her current school. The homework is same to everyone and only needs 30~45 minutes to finish for a whole week. She is now less rewarded for her good behaviour and excellent work because everyone is so used to it and she hasn’t improved so much. It’s really hard to improve if you are already on top and no one sets a higher target for you. By the way she is not that type of person who always wants something beyond the target. So the selective grammar school may be right for her as she will be challenged a little bit more.
2. We live in a county where there are only states schools and independent schools. The local school near us is among the best non-selective states schools in the country. So we are happy for her to be there with most of her friends if she fails the exam. We are relatively relaxed about the exam.

But now, as the deadline is approaching, I started to hesitate whether or not to put her through this. I think the main concern is that the sense of failure will damage her confident if she fails. The exam covers so many things that were not covered in their daily school life. I don’t think a child will pass the exam if s/he is unprepared or just did one or two practice papers as suggested by Nfer. Not passing the exam doesn’t necessarily suggest the child is lack of potential or hasn’t worked hard, we all know this at heart, but how to convince the child and make it a positive experience to her, I’m not so sure.

Back to the schools, you said 4000 candidates, is that for the whole Essex or just for the two schools? The Chelmsford will take 120 girls and Colchester will take around 100 girls in 2006. I was told the ratio would be 6 or 7 to 1, pretty scary figures.

Do you have any ideas what practice papers are most close to the test? We used Bond and Nfer (only 4 papers in each subject though). My daughter is doing ok – around 80~85% most of the time. I bought the 2004 and 2005’s papers from CSSE, they are very difficult indeed.

If we do get into one of the schools, how easy it is, you think, for my daughter to make friends at the school? She is easy-going, but will be a stranger to that area.

It’s good we have this website so I can ask questions. No one in my area have this experiences as far as I know.

Thanks again, Essex Girl.

PostPosted: Thu Oct 27, 2005 12:59 pm 
I gather from your e-mail that your intension is to stay where you live if your daughter does not get a place at one of the above schools and your daughter can therefore go to the excellent school which is local to you, or move if your daughter does gain a place. If I am wrong on this, and you are moving into Essex anyway, please let me know and I will recommend what, in my opinion, are the best state comprehensives.

Yes, the 4000 is for all Essex Grammar Schools and those schools in Southend on Sea which have a grammar school stream. However, as you say, the ratio for passing into Chelmsford or Colchester is 1-6/1-7 and, yes, it is scary.

I do not think your daughter will have any difficulty making new friends at one of these schools because, certainly as far as Chelmsford is concerned, there are quite a variety of different personalities. As I said previously, there are a significant number of ex prep school girls there and I am told they can be quite snooty but I think that once they are all in the same uniform and in the same situation things chance.

There is a school of thought which says that grammar schools are the bastion of the middle and upper classes and I think this is true. Therefore, what you will definitely find at any grammar school is that a large number of pupils have parents with money. When I say money I am talking about big bucks as opposed to being comfortably off. However, there are always a few "have nots" so whichever category you are in, there is no reason why your daughter should feel left out from the crowd.

In my experience, the grammar schools are challenging but not encouraging. They tend to expect children to encourage themselves. There is very little in the way of prizes or awards, etc, for those who score less than A*s in all subjects but if it is challenge your daughter requires then they are undoubtedly the most suitable schools.

One thing to remember is that schools are only as good as their intake. T the results in the league tables of both Chelmsford and Colchester are highly impressive but as they cream off the very best 11+ candidates, then you should expect no other results.

For the sake of good measure, I will tell you that I think the best grammar school of all the Essex grammars is Southend High School for Girls. SHSG as it is fondly known is a very friendly school, where, whilst girls are challenged, they are allowed to be "who they are".

You probably know that neither Chelmsford or Colchester have a catchment area and so you have as much chance of getting in if you live in Chelmsford/Colchester or Edinburgh. SHSG does have a catchment areas (as does Westcliff High School for Girls, also in Southend). They both offer 150 places annually and 115 of these, at each school, is reserved for "in catchment students" who sit and pass the 11+. The remaining places are then offered to students from anywhere outside the catchment area who has requested a place at the school, according to the "order of merit" on the 11+. (This means that you still have a chance of a place at these schools, no matter where you put them on your list of choices).

There is very little difference when all is said and done between the levels of performance at Chelmsford/Colchester and the levels of performance at Southend (or Westcliff for that matter). When you realise how small the difference is, and you take into account the fact that Chelmsford/Colchester take from the top 500 or so and that the Southend schools take from around the top 900 outside catchment and 1500 inside catchment (approximate figures only) you have to agree that the quality of teaching, etc, at the Southend schools must be excellent.

One more thing to say about Southend High is that the headship has recently been taken over by an ex deputy head of KEGS (Chelmsford boys grammar) and he is making very challenging changes to the curriculum. The new year 7 intake study both French and German (and a small amount of Latin) and will all be studying for three separate sciences at GCSE (as opposed to the double science award). SHSG is a language college and studying one language to GCSE is therefore still compulsary.

Again, any further questions, feel free to ask.

Best wishes

PostPosted: Thu Oct 27, 2005 5:04 pm 
Sorry, forgot to say that NFR write the VR tests for all Essex schools but they do not mark them. Date of birth is not taken into account at all in Essex.
The maths and English are written by the head teacher of one of the selectives.

Best practice NFR and Bond but anything to build up speed is good.

 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Oct 31, 2005 11:50 am 
Just to point out. Neither Chelmsford or Colchester have a first prority preference any more.. This is the second year where no schools in Essex are allowed to do this. You submit your choice of schools to the local LEA. None of the schools will know which order you have put them in.


PostPosted: Wed Nov 02, 2005 8:36 pm 
Essex Girl wrote:
Date of birth is not taken into account at all in Essex.

Essex Girl: You seem to know what you're talking about. Your useful posts are the most enlightening info I've seen for Chelmsford County. How can they get away with not taking age into account? Why are we even bothering when our daughter was born in the third week of August? Is this absolutely certain they don't consider age? :evil:

 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Nov 02, 2005 9:30 pm 
I also can confirm that age is not taken into account in Essex. Why should it be? All our children started school at the same time, they've all had the same amount of education. T my son's school they are put into sets or groups for some subjects. It's certainly not the older children in the top set and the younger children in the bottom set.

 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Nov 03, 2005 12:41 am 
Essex Mum wrote:
I also can confirm that age is not taken into account in Essex. Why should it be? All our children started school at the same time, they've all had the same amount of education. T my son's school they are put into sets or groups for some subjects. It's certainly not the older children in the top set and the younger children in the bottom set.

But they haven't all had the same amount of education - that's the whole point. My daughter's school still did May intakes when she started so she missed out on eight months in reception and only had one term before starting year 1. A gross misjudgement on our part for choosing the school (which also refuses to assist with 11+ tests) but they were the school rules at the time.

PostPosted: Thu Nov 03, 2005 10:26 am 
Apparently, at some point in the past the CSSE did some "research" which suggested that age did not matter when it came to the marking of verbal reasoning papers.

However, the Foundation for Educational Research always take age into consideration when marking their own tests and IQ (which, afterall is supposed to be partially assessed by the VR test, is always age related).
I do not know why the Consortium for Selective Schools in Essex disagreee with the primary education research body in the UK but there you go!!...

The situation regarding not taking age into account when marking the VR applies to the Essex 11+ and is the decision of the Consortium for Selective Schools (ie, it is not just one or two schools).

As you rightly say, not all children start school at the same time and, at the end of the day, if we were all to start preparing children for the 11+ on their 10th birthday then some would have had more preparation than others by the time they sit the exam.

Yes, you could have a situation where a child was 11 years old on September 1st, taking the exam whilst sitting next to a child who had attained the age of 10 on August 31st so that they were virtually one year apart in age.

Child development is a very complex issue and all children reach milestones at different ages but there is no way that I can see (and the NFER and a couple of child phycologists I have spoken to agree!!) that this scenario is not unfair.

Any further queries, please feel free to ask.

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