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When we speak to parents about their reason for taking the 7 plus exam, they invariably say they hope to avoid the stress of 11+ by gaining their child entrance to the junior department of their favourite secondary school. This is a good plan in many ways, but parents should understand that the odds are not necessarily any more favourable for their child at 7+. There may be just as many candidates at this stage. Furthermore, parents will be preparing a much younger, less mature, and less consistent child, a 6-year-old, instead of a 10-year-old. It is also be a gamble to select a school for a child of six, which will still suit at 15 and 18.
Advantages of moving your child at age 7
The main advantage to prep school entrance is chance to get them into the long-term school of your choice as early as possible. In many fiercely competitive London day schools, there will be 1,500 candidates for 150 places at 11+, with nearly all the applicants bright, tutored, and well-practised. This is a very stressful situation and difficult odds.
If your child is doing well at junior school, they are given an automatic place into the associated senior school. Note that they may still need to sit the entrance exam. However, if the school do not believe they are suitable candidates, you will likely be told the year before. This gives you lots of time to make alternative arrangements, but is also rare and often related to the development of additional needs that were unknown upon entry.
When your child does move up to the senior school, it can be an smoother transition as they are already familiar with the grounds and teaching staff. They are also likely to move up with a ready made friendship group.
Finally, even if a child does not win a place at 7, parents are still in a really strong position. There are more chances between ages 8 and 11, and parents will have already worked hard to get their child to a high academic standard.
Disadvantages of moving your child at age 7
Predicting the future
It is obviously very difficult to predict your child’s educational future. When they are 6 years old it is hard to know what kind of environment they will enjoy in sixth form.
There are big choices to be made:
Private versus state
Single-sex versus co-ed
Day versus boarding.
Through necessity, these choices are brought forward. It can be difficult to predict the right environment for a child who will change. You may not know whether your child will need a senior school with a chess club or a netball court. There is also more risk of broader family changes, a decision to move out, move house or even another sibling. This could all mean that the senior school originally envisaged ends up irrelevant or superseded.
Many junior schools associated with big senior schools only really prepare their cohort for their own entrance exams. A child wishing to go elsewhere will likely be unprepared for the wider 11+ standard.
Training 6-year-olds for a formal exam
The prep school educational journey is in some ways more difficult than the senior school journey. Children at this age lack the maturity of an 11 year old. It is here that parents must observe their children carefully. Be honest and realistic about whether your child is academically ready.
It is very early on to have a clear sense of their attitudes to learning and you may not have picked up on any anxiety or sensitivities. You may find that they have changed a lot in Infant School or pre-prep and your thoughts around their personality and capability need to be refreshed and updated. Children that were total refuseniks in their toddler years may have become much more cooperative as they matured. Equally, children may develop anxieties and sensitivities as they grow older and start to be tested and assessed at school.
Therefore, it is wise to consider if the pressure of the entrance exam is a fair one to place on your child. Some questions to consider would be does your child:
Worry about failing or not doing well?
Become anxious about school tests?
Enjoy and thrive in competitive arenas such as their hobbies, or do they shy away from competition?
To what extent do they do things they don’t want to, to try and please you?
Another disadvantage of a prep school entrance campaign is the inevitable strain it places on family life. The process is undoubtedly demanding and difficult.
If your family values are strongly linked to relaxation and quality family time, you should consider whether it will be worth it to sacrifice weekends and holidays. Will you, as parents, find this so negative that your child will pick up on this? Equally, if you are all crazy about archery or line dancing, are you ready to sacrifice time spent on a family passion to ensure the required work is done?
If you go away a lot or have caring responsibilities, this needs to be taken into account, in terms of how and when you will get the required work done.
Most families will seek support to help their child gain a selective place at a prep school. Our specialist tutors have track records at the most popular schools and know exactly the right approach for each exam. For our younger pupils, we pick particularly warm and friendly tutors. Most are also qualified primary school teachers. We can also advise on resources and practice papers. Please do get in touch with us for more advice.
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