When a parent chooses a private preparatory school, a huge factor is what they expect to happen to their child at age 11 or 13 when they will need to enter senior school. There are many possibilities, including:
- Transfer into a good private senior school
- Transition from the prep school into the senior section of the same school – assuming it is an all through school educating till age 18
- Transfer to a state school, if there are good state schools available.
We do not advise on state schools and will therefore confine our remarks to the first two categories. In many parts of the UK, particularly around London, there is huge competition to secure places at popular (high achieving) private senior schools. It can be so difficult that some senior schools accept less than 20% of candidates.
The alternative way is to enrol your child into a really good “all through” school. Such schools never guarantee to accept a child into their senior section, but it’s highly unusual for a child to not be offered a place. However, you should be aware that, if you are trying to “keep your options open”, by simultaneously seeking a transfer into a selective senior school at 11 or 13, such all through schools are not necessarily very good at “prepping” your child for those external exams, because they have a vested interest in keeping the child in the same school.
Now to the subject of choosing a prep school, where you also have a target for them to win admission to an elite senior school, many of which would start at age 13. The really popular elite public schools are often single sex, such as Eton, Winchester, Westminster, Tonbridge, Harrow, Wycombe Abbey and Cheltenham Ladies, all of which are regularly in the top 10 of our league tables. Furthermore, most of their pupils attend on a full boarding basis. There is a real art to winning a place at such schools and therefore you need to select your prep school very carefully. Ideally you need to select a prep school whose leaver destinations have a significant number of leavers going to your target senior school. It helps if those numbers also include details of successes with scholarships or exhibitions. If you are considering an elite senior boarding school, it probably helps to choose a prep boarding school which specialises in getting children into your target senior. If you need help to identify such preps, then simply phone us for advice on +44 (0) 1622 813870.
Not everyone wants to send their child to a prep boarding school. So is it a good strategy to select a day prep and then hire tutors to prepare your child for entry tests? Every senior school will tell you not to tutor your child for its entry tests, but when 90% of parents are hiring tutors, it is difficult not to do likewise, or your child will be severely disadvantaged. If you choose your prep school carefully, then they should be capable of prepping your child adequately, but if you feel you still need extra help, contact us and we will find you a tutor, well-practised in your target school’s admissions.See our page on Tutoring for more information.
Many of the elite schools with age 13 entry will require children to take a pre-test at age 10 – so you need to ensure you find a prep school that is familiar with these processes. Most senior schools will take applications 1 year in advance of joining, but the elite public schools need anything from 3 to 5 years’ advance registration. The most common route into the senior schools is via the Common Entrance exam which your chosen prep will oranise on your behalf.
We trust these explanations tell you why you need to be thinking about senior schools at the same time as choosing a prep. Let us guide you through the maze of options. Call us on +44 (0) 1622 813870.