Best Foot Forward

Places at London’s most prestigious secondary schools are highly sought-after and the admissions process can be a demanding one for children,” explains Eveline Drut, Executive Head and founder of The Eveline Day School. “A concentrated period of exams, interviews and tests, alongside additional tasks for children that are pursuing academic, art, music or sports scholarships, awaits each candidate.” There’s no doubt the process is rigorous, but with the right support and a well-planned approach, children can manage the array of assessments and emerge satisfied – and unscathed.

• The best things pupils can do are work hard in their lessons, understand areas that need attention, and tackle practice questions from past papers
• We expect prospective pupils
to do very little to prepare for interview though do use the school website to come up with a couple of questions. Run through a few simple questions such as
‘Why would you like to come to Emanuel?’ or ‘What are your favourite activities at school?’
• We ask pupils to bring an object of interest with them, and will ask a few scenario-based questions such as, ‘What would you do if you came home to find a penguin?’
• Rest assured character will shine through; staff are very experienced and young people will be put at ease and given time to talk about the things they enjoy
• Candidates forget they can ask for a question to be repeated if they are a bit unsure.Source: Emanuel School

Do your research

The starting point for many parents is understanding how your child will be assessed. Prep schools will be well versed in the requirements of prospective secondary schools, even if they change from year to year. To support your child, try and be on top of this too. As well as having on-going, regular conversations with your child’s current school about what the process
will involve, ask the secondary school you’re interested in how they assess. David Bradbury, Head of Portland Place School, believes parents and students need to know what is expected during the admissions process and should be clear on the format of the tests and the content they will be tested on – after all, different schools have different approaches – so ask questions. “The process should not be there to create barriers and anxiety but to provide an opportunity to learn about a student,” he says.
Emanuel School also prides itself on being open and honest about their admissions processes. There is no mystery, for example, about interviews. “This is a chance for pupils to talk about their interests and ask us about the school,” explains Stuart Turner, Deputy Head. “We ask a few scenario-based questions, such as ‘If you met the prime minister what would you ask him?’ or ‘What would you do if you came home and found a penguin in your front room?’ ’’

Every parent wishes to find the right school for their child, and it is tempting to apply to several ‘just in case’. This may lead to a stressed and jaded applicant who has checked out by the time it comes to sitting assessments for what may be your preferred school.
Apply for a narrower range to cover your aspirational school, your more realistic school and a sensible safety net.
Do your research and try to visit schools prior to applying. Keep an eye out for Open Days, Private Visits, Taster Sessions and Tours. Make a note of the admissions process, entrance tests, key dates and deadlines for each school. Many now have admissions portals where you can log on and review your communications easily.
If you have any questions after checking the website, do contact the Admissions team as they will always be happy to help.Source: James Allen’s Girls’ School (JAGS)

Limit the number

It’s worth saying something about how many admissions tests you put your child through. Be realistic and only apply for those schools where the candidates have a good chance of being offered a place; too many and your child’s wellbeing will suffer. Three is a good number but six is too many. Let your existing school advise on which schools to go for as they know your child well and his or her prospects.

Steady, stress-free preparation

From early on, your prep or primary school will be preparing your child for any English and Maths papers that they might be asked to sit – at the 11+ entry point, tests on these two subjects should align with the national curriculum. “The most important learning content for the children is the English
and Maths curricula taught in school and supported by homework tasks,” explains Olivia Buchanan, Head of Falcons Prep, Richmond.

The lure of world-leading universities means more young people are applying to study Stateside. North America’s more holistic university admissions process, compared with the UK, means British schools must provide personal and bespoke advice to support such ambitions.

Following just three years and 30 offers for our sixth formers to study in America, here are our recommendations: There are over 4,500 higher education institutions, and aside from strong academics, US colleges are looking for applicants with great extra-curricular profiles and insightful personal essays.

Cast a wide net and apply to a range of institutions with a mix of aspirational, target, and safety net choices. Tailor your applications to focus on fit for an increased chance of success
Be nice to your teachers – they’ll be writing your recommendation letters!

Source: Wetherby Senior School

Some schools also teach verbal and non-verbal reasoning in the early years. At The Roche School, admissions test preparation starts in Year 4 and builds gently into Year 5. “By the summer term of Year 5, all children sit interview preparation sessions as well as weekly assessment preparation sessions to give them an understanding of how to work in timed conditions. This continues into the first term of Year 6,” says Ricki Hamilton, Head of Assessment.
Maintaining the standard reached at the end of Year 5 can be hard to do over a long summer break but it’s an important time to maintain learning and consolidate skills. “Summer holidays are long but well deserved. There is a risk that pupils will forget some knowledge acquired if not practised,” says Beth Dinsmore, a Year 5 teacher and Maths Coordinator at Parsons Green Prep. “So it is advised that pupils should complete summer homework set by teachers and listen to their teachers’ advice – it may be to complete an hour of work a day in an area the pupil feels weaker in, for example, completing comprehensions on Atom Learning or using Bond books to practise reasoning.’’

Having said that, it’s important to keep the balance; you don’t want them to burnout or lose motivation before the exam season has even begun, which is a very real risk. “Make sure they keep on top of their Maths and English work and let them develop their interests outside of the classroom – we are very keen to speak to interesting boys who have a range of talents and interests beyond the scope of their school’s curriculum,” explains William Forse, Assistant Head (Admissions and Marketing), King’s College School Wimbledon.

Henrietta Kiezun, Registrar at JAGS Senior, adds: “Generally reading is a very good preparation – book worms are usually well placed in entrance assessments.”
Moreover, think about your child’s wellbeing during this preparation time. Tash Roisin, founder of Teatime Tutors, knows this only too well from her 14 years of tutoring in people’s homes. “When I went to people’s homes, their children were tired, hungry and un-focused on further learning after a long day at school. “We do it differently and all parents will need to do is collect their child after the tutoring session, give them a hug, a bath and put them in bed, knowing that they’ve had dinner and quality 11+ tuition or homework support with a qualified teacher.”

Educating future generations extends to ensuring that our pupils are in tune with their wider social responsibilities, developing a social conscience beyond their school years.

Communities are built on respect and at the heart of all we do is a respect for those around us, near and far, as well as our physical environment.
We recognise the common purpose that we have towards ensuring that the community to which we belong embraces its social responsibility towards the world we inhabit.

We firmly believe in supporting pupils with their charitable endeavours, in productive and conscientious ways, that together can benefit us all as a global community, be that: tackling racial injustice, protesting against gender inequality, campaigning for period poverty, fundraising to fix the digital divide or simply writing a letter to a local care home resident. Every action that is for something positive is important, no matter how big or small.

Source: Sydenham High School GDST

What to know about interviews

Over-preparing your child for an interview will be clearly obvious to anyone assessing them. Instead, you want to provide them with the opportunities to discover what it is they do enjoy and encourage them in their development – this gives them confidence which then carries across in the interview. “They can show their true personality when talking about what it is that they love doing or are interested in,” explains JAGS’ Henrietta Kiezun.
Suzie Longstaff, incoming head at London Park School, agrees: “Remember that ‘interested is interesting’. Being able to communicate a spirit of curiosity and an interest not only in the school you are applying to, but also in the world around, is a great place to start. We are as interested to hear girls chat confidently about a favourite pet, or a rain-soaked camping holiday, as about an impressive list of hobbies and achievements. We want to find out how they think rather than simply what they know.” In the run up to the interview, try to keep them relaxed and chat through a few simple questions with a parent or older sibling.
“Run through a few short and sensible questions like ‘Why would you like to come here?’ or ‘What are your favourite activities at school’? or ‘Tell me about your favourite book or film’,” suggests Emanuel’s Stuart Turner. You can keep it even more casual if needed by having discussions on the way to and from school or at the dinner table.
“Read the paper and have a conversation on a topic,” says The Roche’s Ricki Hamilton. “Ask family members who they don’t see regularly to have a phone call/Zoom with them as a mock interview.”

• Be realistic about your child’s academic potential – only consider schools where they will thrive
• Be mindful of and adapt to their varying moods and stress levels
• Keep things in perspective and don’t let it consume your household
• Try not to compare with sibling or peer group achievements as this is demotivating
• Reassure your child that you
are proud of them whatever the outcome
• If extra work is having a negative impact on your relationship with your child, consider a tutor
• Allow plenty of time to prepare for the exams – keep at a steady (not frantic!) pace
• Encourage ‘ownership’ and agree a realistic timetable with plenty of downtime
• Organise practice papers with progression only when targets are achieved, taking time to mark them to acknowledge effort and progress
• Identify silly mistakes versus knowledge gaps
• Read How to pass the 11 Plus, a helpful parent guide to making informed decisions to benefit
your child
• Book an Academic Assessment to identify areas that require focus
• Consider an 11+ Course which can be a dynamic and sociable learning environment.Source: Mentor Education

It may be that parents are concerned the interviewer will not grasp who your child really is, especially if they are nervous. But rest assured that personalities will and do shine through during interviews. “Our staff are very experienced at working with ten and 11-year-olds; we are able to put young people at ease and give them time and space to talk about the things they enjoy talking about,” concludes Stuart Turner. And if you can put your child at ease from preparation stage through to interview, it shouldn’t be as stressful a process as so many of us fear. The main message is to let the school do their part with teaching, while you encourage reading and discussion at home so your child can relax and be his or herself. As Oscar Wilde famously said, “Everyone else is already taken.”


Founder of Mentor Education Mary Lonsdale has recently released a guide to the 11 plus. Mary’s book,
‘How to pass the 11 Plus’ is helping parents navigate their way through the often complicated process.
The book covers everything from making the right choice of school for your child, to how to start effective and stress-free preparation. All of Mentor’s 40 years of helping children successfully pass their entrance exams are in this book, making it invaluable to parents.

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