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PostPosted: Sun Feb 21, 2016 10:55 am 
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Joined: Tue Jan 26, 2016 9:40 pm
Posts: 29
I thought it might be good to have a thread on what we all learnt and tips for others who will be undertaking it all next year. We were lucky to survive it with offers to all our schools, I say lucky because looking back we were ill prepared. This forum helped lots.

1. Have a good idea of where your child is academically. My child attends a large state school where the 3 form entry includes a high vol of high attainders. So we had a good idea that they were able, being top table, given extension work, level 5a at mid year 5, etc. If you are not sure speak to the teacher and ask for their opinion. Look critically and dispassionately at their strengths and weaknesses. Show the teacher the past papers from the schools you are applying to and check the subjects have been covered and where your child should focus.

2. Don't underestimate the competition. I was a bit shocked at how many were applying (650+ for 50-60 places at each school- of course they over offer by 2:1; it's even worse odds in central London schools). Also, the majority of applicants are high calibre with supportive parents/family behind them. Lots are coming from preps and are tutored to the tests from early on.

3. Don't leave tutoring / practice too late. We did on balance, didn't start any prep until 2 months prior to the tests and just 1 piece of practice at home plus an hour with a tutor per week. It was enough but I didn't feel as confident once we heard about others who had been practising for over a year, and coming to the tests having been through the London grammar tests too. I know one bright pupil who likely failed as they had no preparation at all, and plenty less bright who passed with lots of practice work. So I don't believe the schools who say the tests are tutor proof. If you decide to use a tutor find one who is familiar with the schools you are applying to. They have waiting lists so find them early (another mistake we made).

4. Visit the schools. I can't emphasise this enough, I was shocked to hear so many hadn't even visited before putting the children through tests. Take a tour on a normal working day, the open days don't give you a proper feel for the place.

5. Talk to your children about current affairs, encourage them to discuss their views, make sure they read. Have some interest on the outside of school- it doesn't have to be dozens of interests- my child doesn't have anything unusual but does have some normal interests / activities which they can talk about with enthusiasm.

6. Don't coach them with what to say, I'm sure the schools can sniff out those coached for the interview. I cringed at some of the preparation some DC were having outside the interview room. Just go through what sort of things might come up and have your tutor or a friend do a dry run. Let your child say what they think.

7. If they go to state school make sure they wear their uniform. If they go to prep take off all those badges- it's so try hard and show off. This is just my opinion.

8. Stay outwardly calm- don't put pressure on your child or pass on your neuroses. Stay away from the hysterical group at the school gates.

9. Have a back up plan. Our state options were applied for and we did tours there too. Unless you are prepared to home educate or move you should have a back up options that you are prepared to go with.

10. Travel should be a factor, unless you are prepared to move house. Don't underestimate the impact of living a long way from a school.


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 21, 2016 1:15 pm 
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Joined: Fri Jan 25, 2013 10:09 am
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Thank you OldBean for the good advice. The competition for these schools seems to be getting stiffer and stiffer each year. Well done to your child - they obviously did well without loads of prep and maybe, just maybe, that is what these schools are looking for?


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 21, 2016 1:55 pm 
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Joined: Wed Sep 05, 2012 6:08 pm
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Oldbean, your advice is sound. I am glad your Dc did well.

I have been emphasising some of these for a while now- number 2 especially: Don't underestimate the competition - especially in English. I think it's easier to know a child 's ability in Maths; that would be reflected in the number of questions correct, but English is more variable as there are layers of meaning. I know one girl who joined Year 7 at an independent school with A Level A grade standard English; this is a rarity, I know, but anyone else who was counting on a scholarship that year would have been out of luck. As you said - don't underestimate the competition.

We read so many posts from parents who can't believe that their DC has not been accepted to X school/ is on the waiting list for Y school - how can this possibly have happened?/ was scoring the highest in the class but was not accepted/ got in but can't take the place as no scholarship was offered and so on.
I have always advised parents not count on the scholarship; my view is if you need the scholarship in order to be able to attend, you have to accept that you can't afford to go.

And a back-up plan is essential. On occasion we read of a desperate poster whose DC has not got into the school of choice yet alternative provision has not been made. It is very sad when that happens.

And as for travel! Every year there are posts along the lines of 'DC has got into Z school - anyone know how to get there from A Town?' We just roll our eyes and think 'Here we go again !'

Thanks again for a lovely, helpful post.


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 21, 2016 3:02 pm 
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Aah, thanks both. I think I just came to it rather naive. Don't think I had any appreciation of the numbers applying, nor that so many of those applicants would be of high calibre and in many cases much more 'prepped/practised' to the tests than my child was. I would be very surprised if any of the handful of academic (not bursary) applications go to anyone who hasn't been tutored a fair bit.

I know it's a bit of a numbers game and I get that many apply far and wide, however those applying without visiting or considering things like journeys really bug me. I know of quite a few disappointed children who would have loved to have places so it's annoying when people don't seriously think about their applications.


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 22, 2016 8:25 am 
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Joined: Wed Jul 18, 2012 8:59 am
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Location: N London
Old Bean you are not alone, I felt like that too! The beauty of the independent school application process is that they are able to carefully consider the school reference, and also meet the child. Phew. It saves those of us who were perhaps not up to speed with the amount of preparation some people are doing. It also means you can be confident that your DC will cope at the school you send them to. Let us know which school you choose!


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 25, 2016 11:40 am 
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I agree with most of what OldBean says. Our DS too is at a state school, we prepared him ourselves for about half a year and he got offers (one with a 45% scholarship) from both schools. He didn't wear his uniform during exams or interviews though, and I can't see why this would have made a difference, since they know from which school you are anyway? Just make sure they look smart and clean... Could be different at other schools of course (DS sat Forest and Bancroft's).

We didn't get much input or support from his primary teachers, when we asked them in year 5 if they thought he would stand a chance at the 11+ they said something like 'Well he's above average... Don't know really...'. So if your primary school is not encouraging you, this absolutely doesn't have to mean that your child doesn't stand a chance!


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 25, 2016 12:12 pm 
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If you are looking at private schools, visit early (eg year 3 or 4), and go back. If they ask for your contact details, give them. Some schools, not all, do take note of whether parents have visited, to assess whether they are genuinely interested in the school. Do take the time to do a daytime visit if possible, not just the open day. Do assume that the parents are being judged too. Parents who have taken time to consider and can show why X school is their preferred option for their child will be preferred over parents who haven't bothered to visit.

Whilst Oldbean may dislike the prep school badges, they can and do provide a conversation opening at interviews, so if you have them, then you wear them (especially as your fellow prep school peers will be doing so).


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 25, 2016 6:11 pm 
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Joined: Tue Jan 26, 2016 9:40 pm
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Ladymuck wrote:
If you are looking at private schools, visit early (eg year 3 or 4), and go back. If they ask for your contact details, give them. Some schools, not all, do take note of whether parents have visited, to assess whether they are genuinely interested in the school. Do take the time to do a daytime visit if possible, not just the open day. Do assume that the parents are being judged too. Parents who have taken time to consider and can show why X school is their preferred option for their child will be preferred over parents who haven't bothered to visit.

Whilst Oldbean may dislike the prep school badges, they can and do provide a conversation opening at interviews, so if you have them, then you wear them (especially as your fellow prep school peers will be doing so).


Sorry the badge thing was a bit tongue in cheek. Some of them did resemble pearly kings and queens though <runs away>


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 25, 2016 7:47 pm 
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:lol: Old Bean - behave!


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 25, 2016 11:03 pm 
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It's not a problem Oldbean. Some prep schools don't award colours until the end of year 6, so they won't be sporting all the badges, but those schools are well known on the circuit. For the rest it is a rite of passage. It is a bit like military medals. On one hand, why on earth should you get a medal just because you've been sent somewhere for your job. But for those who know them, they are essentially your CV on your chest, so someone knowledgable knows a lot about your background without you having to say anything, and it often may be the medals which are missing that say the most about you.


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