Expert advice on entry to some of the most competitive senior schools in the UK.

11 Plus Tutor | School Entrance Specialist | Mentor Education

Expert advice on 11 plus entry to different schools in the UK.

Read our in depth guides to schools admissions at 11 Plus.

Grammar Schools

Independent Schools

Wandsworth Test

The UK Schools environment is confusing for outsiders. Even within the UK, different areas operate in radically different environments. Firstly, some definitions:

Grammar Schools

There are 163 grammar schools left in Britain. Admissions to these schools are a blend of tests administered at a local authority level and tests administered by one or perhaps two schools. Some of these are one stage processes such as the Kent or Essex grammars; some are two stage processes such as the Kingston and Sutton grammars. Admission to these schools is intensively competitive and the majority are disappointed. The schools will maintain that tutoring is unnecessary and to be discouraged. Ignore this. These are tests which can be tutored and for which most successful pupils will have been intensively prepared.

State Selective Schools

Some local authorities have a particular focus on avoiding a post code lottery. In order to achieve this they will operate an authority wide admission process. They then admit a set number of students into each school from each academic cohort. So they will typically admit 20% from the top performers, 20% from the next tier, etc. Now this system is supplemented by a desire towards specialisation. Schools may choose to have additional cohorts for pupils with special aptitude in a particular subject area when that subject fits with the ethos of the school.

Group Of excited School Students Wearing Uniform Running Out Of School Buildings Towards Camera

Confusingly, this aptitude element is sometimes around academic attainment – which can make schools seem rather like grammar schools. An example of these are Graveney School in Wandsworth and Greenshaw High test in Sutton. For example, in Wandsworth children will sit a test called the Wandsworth Test. This sees all state school pupils take a test to see which academic bands that they are in. However, Graveney school also take the top 70 pupils from Wandsworth into their Fast Stream in addition to the standard bandings. Greenshaw has a similar policy and reserves 60 places for pupils who do well in the Sutton Selective Eligibility Test.

Independent Schools

These represent fee paying schools. Many of these are among the oldest schools, indeed the oldest institutions in Britain. The King’s School in Canterbury, for example, was founded in 597 AD. (As an aside we have an excellent admission’s track record here). They are often called Public schools which can cause confusion. Public schools in Britain means private schools. By contrast, public schools in American English means what we would call state schools. Truly an example of two countries divided by a common language. The primary entry is usually at age 11. But there are often entries at 4 plus, 7 plus, 13 plus (especially for boarding schools) and sixth form. These schools often have intensely competitive entrance tests.

State Comprehensive schools

These include free schools, academy, high schools, comprehensive, PRU schools. The free schools are a recent innovation which allowed schools to be set up by companies or parents much more easily than in the past. Academies represent an attempt to set schools free of local authority control and give them much more freedom to set their own agendas and control their own finances.

The Choice of School matters

All schools are not the same. There are huge variations in performance between different schools at A Level even among schools which are relatively comparable in catchment area and type.

As an illustration, in south London there are a set of schools which girls might consider as a reasonable choice of schools: JAGS, Alleyn’s, Emanuel, Sydenham High, and Streatham & Clapham High. The schools are all within five miles of one another. Girls would likely know children at all the other schools and often siblings are split across the different schools. Essentially they are pulling on the same population. All schools have strong ethos, excellent facilities and an academic selection process.

However, the A Level results for these schools are dramatically different. Firstly, this is a reminder of the UCAS points scoring for an A Level.

  • 56 = A*
  • 48 = A
  • 40 = B
  • 32 = C

For each school this was the average points achieved in 2019 and what was the average A Level that it represented:

  • JAGS – 49.14; AAA
  • Alleyn’s – 47.88; AAA
  • Sydenham High – 46.53; AAB
  • Emanuel – 44.49; ABB
  • Streatham & Clapham – 41; BBB

This is quite a spread of results which have a dramatic impact on a child chances. Now, to be clear, these are all excellent schools. There are children from all the schools who will achieve 3 A*/A and go to the finest universities in the land. However, it is undeniable that the chances of doing so from some are greater than that from others.

Two girls celebrating exam results in school corridor

Part of this is clearly down to the value add of the school themselves. However, parents and schools locally have a good idea what the better schools are from an academic selection and self select at the application stage and are more likely to accept an offer from a better regarded school. As a result, the schools which obtain better A levels are able to be more selective – and so the cycle continues.

(We have exceptional track record of getting children into all these mentioned schools with many scholarship offers.)

This South London day / co-ed mini case study can be repeated across other school clusters – whether the Kent grammars, the Sutton selective schools, the north London independents, or more. Ultimately, it shows that performance in the entrance exam can have a material impact on the school options; that has a material impact on average A-Level scores; that these have a serious impact on life options.

Choosing the right Schools

In short, you get one chance to get it right. This is why so many parents take a holistic approach to the entrance exams. This is a 12 month journey which encompasses an Academic Assessment, dedicated tutoring, exam preparation and holiday courses.

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