11 Plus Schools

South-West Herts Consortium Grammar Schools: FAQs

We are very grateful to 11+Forum member & Moderator “WP” for the following information about the South-West Herts Consortium Grammar Schools.

What is the SW Herts Consortium?

Seven schools in southwest Hertfordshire use a common set of tests for admissions, and six of them share common music testing arrangements. The schools are:

  • Bushey Meads School: 10% of places selected on ability in technology, the rest are banded. Mixed, 170 places in Year 7, Admissions Information
  • Parmiter’s School: 25% academic, 10% music (Mixed, 186 places in Year 7), Admissions Information
  • Queens’ School: 35% academic, 5% music, 5% sport (Mixed, 262 places in Year 7), Admissions Information
  • Rickmansworth School: 25% academic, 10% music (Mixed 185 places in Year 7), Admissions Information
  • St Clement Danes School: 10% academic, 10% music
  • Watford Grammar School for Boys: 25% academic, 10% music
  • Watford Grammar School for Girls: 25% academic, 10% music

The schools collaborate for the tests only. Each of the schools is their own admissions authority, applying different criteria independently, without knowing where you placed them on the form or which other schools you named. You need to read the criteria for your chosen schools very carefully: they can be found in the Moving On booklet published each year by Hertfordshire County Council. The schools do however coordinate with Herts CC and neighbouring councils to ensure that each child is offered a single place on allocation day.

What is the format of the SW Herts tests?

We can only say what has happened in the past; the schools might change the formats without notice. Beware if they may suggest a particular publisher for practice – this may not mean that the actual tests will be supplied by that publisher. It might be wise to practice a wide variety of types to avoid being taken by surprise. The practice tests they include in the test letter are of little use.

There are two papers, mathematics and verbal reasoning. Both papers have been standard format (i.e. written answers) for as long as anyone can remember, and working was done on the test paper. Children were not permitted to take in scrap paper.

In previous years, the maths has been from GL Assessment (formerly known as NFER Nelson), 50 questions in 50 minutes, and no more challenging than KS2 maths.

For VR, they switched from NFER to Moray House (100 questions in 45 minutes) in 2005 or 2006. Many children reported that the VR was more difficult to complete in time than the Maths. But there is a problem with Moray House papers: there’s a limited number of them, and although the publishers supply them only to schools and local authorities, some copies have leaked. St Michael’s in Barnet had to hurriedly set a second group of tests in 2007 because of allegations that tutors had given the very same papers to their pupils for practice (see this thread in the forum). After similar problems with Moray House papers, Warwickshire have found a new source (see this thread in the forum). The SW Herts consortium might take that as a warning and look for another VR supplier.

Tests take place on the same day at all the consortium schools, with morning and afternoon sessions. Each child is allocated a test centre from the schools they named on their Common Admissions Form. On the test day, the schools take some trouble to make the candidates feel at ease. In the test room there is a short practice before the actual tests. There is a 10 minute break between tests.

What does my child need to score to guarantee a place?

No one knows, though some have shrewd guesses.

Age standardization is applied to the results of each of the tests, and then the standardized results are added. (NFER has a partial account of standardization.) We have some historical information on cutoff points for the various schools (see the Admissions statistics sticky), but there are too many unknowns to relate them to actual test marks.

How do the music tests operate?

Children applying under the music criterion are invited to an aural test at one of the schools they applied to. The test is described in some detail in Parmiter’s admissions arrangements, and appears to be Arnold Bentley’s Measures of Musical Ability test.

Children scoring highly enough in the aural test are invited to individual auditions before a panel drawn from heads of music at the consortium schools. The panel do not know which schools you listed on your preference form, and may not come from schools you listed. You perform a piece of your choice on an instrument of your choice (including voice), and they claim that all instruments are treated equally. The performance is marked under the headings of accuracy, musicality and communication. They often chat with candidates about grades, other instruments and siblings, but it is unknown whether this contributes to the assessment.

Parmiter’s and Queens’ rank by the sum of the scores in the aural test and audition. The others use the audition score only.

What does the Queens’ sport aptitude test involve?

It is a battery of tests based on Eurofit: sit-ups, 8 minute endurance run, shuttle run between two lines, sit and reach, standing broad jump, plate tapping, balance test. The school has a detailed description

What does the Bushey Meads technology aptitude test involve?

Bushey Meads allocate 17 places according to technology aptitude tests. BMS said that 150 children sat the test in 2007 and 194 in 2008. Over the past 2 years the majority of the successful applicants have come from bands A and B with a few from band C.

A member reports: The tests were multiple choice and there were 2 papers each about 50 questions in 25 minutes. I think my son said the first was split into smaller timed sections but the second was 25 minutes straight through.

They were described by the school as non-verbal reasoning but much to our surprise only a few of the sample questions were like the Bond/NFER practise papers. The remaining questions were more to do with spatial awareness and unlike anything I could find in the short time we had to practise, though some Athey NVR standard format papers (not multiple choice) contain some jigsaw type puzzles which could be useful. Example questions given by BMS at the open event were:

  1. wallpaper – you are shown a picture of piece of wallpaper with a repeating pattern and part of the wallpaper is blank. You have to choose what pattern would be in the blank part.
  2. folded paper – imagine you fold a piece of paper 4 times and punch a hole in a certain place. What would the opened out piece of paper look like?

All in all I don’t think it was the type of paper you could practise for and improve marks.

Will the sibling criterion be abolished?

Any aspect of schools’ admissions arrangements may be objected to in any year, leading to a ruling by the Schools Adjudicator. However it now seems that sibling criteria are no more vulnerable than other aspects of the arrangements.

It was originally mooted that schools selecting more than 10% of their intake would be forbidden from giving priority to siblings, but the February 2007 Code said only that they “should ensure that their admission arrangements as a whole do not exclude families living nearer the school.” (section 2.21) The March 2009 version of the Code lacks the former language critical of sibling criteria at partially selective schools. It says only that sibling criteria at all schools must “not unfairly disadvantage other families.” (section 2.24)

The cross-sibling criterion between the Watford Grammar Schools was not recognized by the 2007 Code, and was struck down by an adjudicator in September 2008 for 3 intakes. The 2009 revised Code does recognize such criteria (section 2.22), but the schools do not believe this overrides the adjudicator’s ruling.

When will we get the results?

From 2012 due to the New Admissions Code you will be the results of the test will be issued by post before the Common Application Form closing date. The allocations day is 1st March 2013.
If you’ve applied from another local authority, you’ll need to check their procedures. Some do not show allocations online until the next day.

The allocations emails and letters contain only the name of your allocated school. The county also offers an online audit report that shows your distance from each of the schools you ranked but no more, because these schools handle their own admissions. If you want to know more, you need to apply to each school in writing for an admissions audit report.

What can I do if I don’t get the school I wanted?

If you applied in Herts and did not get your top-ranked school, your allocation letter will include a leaflet Secondary – What Can You Do Now? setting out your options. Basically, you must accept the school offered unless you have an alternative arranged, but this doesn’t stop you going on waiting lists (called Continuing Interest or CI lists) and/or appealing. You may feel that nothing could be worse than the school you’ve been offered, but consider: you could end up at the start of term with no school at all, or a place at an even less popular school on the other side of the county. There’s no evidence that refusing a place will improve your chances at an appeal.

Academies, voluntary aided and foundation schools organize their own CI lists and appeals.

If you applied in Herts, you will be automatically added to the continuing interest list of any school you ranked higher. You can apply to the council to change your preferences in March. Your position on the list should be determined by the over-subscription criteria used in the school’s original allocation. Note that there was a change in 2009: if you are offered a place from a CI list, your original offer will be automatically withdrawn. So if you no longer want a school you originally ranked higher, you must tell the council. In recent years there has been substantial movement on the CI lists of all of these schools.

You can appeal to any school that has rejected you, i.e. that you ranked higher than the one you were allocated. The county publishes an Annual Statistical Report on appeals: these schools are on pages 11 and 12. In recent years, the consortium schools have had very few successful appeals, mostly maladministration (now extremely rare) or very unusual circumstances. Appealing is also stressful, but at least it doesn’t harm your chances on the CI list. For more advice, see the Appeals forum and its FAQ (though much of that deals with qualification appeals, which are not relevant in Herts).