Expert advice on the admissions process for some of London's best independent schools.
How do you get into the best independent schools at 11 plus?
What is an Independent School / Private School / Public School?
Confusingly, independent schools go by a variety of names. Historically they were called public schools. In the United States this refers to state schools whereas in the UK this means private schools. Now many schools prefer the term private schools to public schools. Or they are called independent schools because they are not controlled by the local authority. As an added level of confusion, free schools and academies are also not controlled by the local authority and so have many of the abilities to set their own agenda as well. In summary, the terms “independent schools”, “private schools” and “public schools” are relatively interchangeable and refer to those schools from whom fees need to be paid by parents. We have detailed guides on admissions for the following schools:
The fees do range significantly but fees of around £6,000 per term for day schools and double that for boarding are not that uncommon. Many parents may recall the old Assisted Places Scheme which made such schools attainable for those from more modest backgrounds. However, with the demise of these scheme from the late 1990s (the final children finished on it around 7 / 8 years later), schools have had to resort to their own bursaries. In some cases these bursary programmes are considerable and many schools will offer partial bursaries to parents earning up to around £100,000. They are able to do this because the British education system is an exportable commodity.
Many schools actively recruit Chinese or Russian students and then use the money from those parents to subsidise British parents through the bursary system. Schools often operate an effective maximum cap on overseas students in order to preserve a sense that it is a British school, rather than a school with an expat feel to it.
Entry points for Private Schools
The main entry point for most schools is the 11 Plus. However, boarding schools often operate a significant entry points at 13+. Many schools also operate an entry at 7+.
However, the 7 Plus entry does not always guarantee entry to the senior school. Schools operate three different systems. Schools like Sydenham High operate a policy that being in the Prep School affords no advantage in the 11+. JAGS state that all children will be entered for the exam but the children will get unconditional offers before taking the exam – thereby turning the exam into a scholarship exam. Dulwich College have children move directly into the senior school at 11 if they have already previously passed their 7+.
Most schools maintain that they set their own exams so that they can pick children who best fit the ethos of the schools. However, these tests are generally adapted from one of two testing companies. However, this process was stymied by the Covid-19 pandemic which forced many schools to adopt standardised online testing. We expect the schools to revert to their traditional approach of exams which are apparently unique but actually based on a spine from one of the major providers. Normally the assessments include:
The entrance exam is the most important exam your child will take before their GCSEs. Unlike with GCSEs there are no re-sits. Sitting the exam is not a question of a few weekends preparation. Most successful candidates have had a 12 month campaign, complete with: