Many schools class themselves as selective schools, yet in reality, this is to allow them to refuse entry to students who have needs that the school is unlikely to be able to cater for. 'Selective' doesn’t always mean that the school will only accept the brightest 15% of applicants. Highly selective schools will rank order all applicants on the basis of their academic scores and competition for places is high. However, many schools that class themselves as selective have more lenient entry requirements and are much more accessible.
Bright children are taught with a peer group of similarly able children. The pace of lessons is faster, more challenging work is set and the children challenge each other, thus, the results top the league tables. Attending a highly selective Prep school will give students excellent preparation for elite senior schools, including tailored preparation for pre-tests and interviews.
However, the admissions process for highly selective schools is very competitive. If applying for age 7 or above the child will need to take exams in Maths and English, and in some cases in Non-verbal reasoning. These scores are then ranked. Some schools dismiss up to 75% of applicants therefore the children are put under immense pressure and often spend many hours with a tutor in preparation.
Once in the school, the pace and competition continue as students compete for spaces in the top sets or scholarship stream and students are prepared for entry to elite senior schools. Some children thrive on this pressure and enjoy the competitive environment. Other children find the pressure overwhelming, they find themselves at the bottom of the class and their confidence drops as a result.
There are two main arguments against competitive schooling. The first is that it gives children a warped view of society if they only ever mix with similarly able children. The second is that children develop at different ages and whilst a child may seem able beyond their years at age 7, they may plateau age 9 and find themselves out of their depth. Similarly, there are other children that develop later and therefore miss the chance of applying to a top school.
Semi-selective schools also set entrance assessments but their desired pass mark can be much lower. This gives a more mixed environment, where those that are able are still stretched and can compete for a place in a scholarship stream, and those for whom academic scholarship is not suitable may well find scholarship options in other fields such as art or sports. Academic ability is highly valued, but so is talent in wide range of other specialisms. Good semi-selective schools also feature highly in league tables, as they offer very good value added. And, as mentioned earlier, those children that blossom slightly later are still able to go on to elite senior schools.
Non-selective schools are entirely mixed ability. They are still able to challenge the brightest children and gain entry to top schools, yet many will pride themselves on giving children a realistic life experience of working with others of all different abilities. Non-selective schools often have good learning support departments and excellent facilities in the arts and sports. They also accommodate a mixture of learning styles which are less acknowledged in highly selective schools.
If you would like a discussion on choosing the right type of school for your child, please call us on +44 1622 813870 or complete our enquiry form.