WHAT ARE SELECTIVE SCHOOLS LOOKING FOR? 7+, 11+, 13+, 16+
... Nope, not a maths reasoning test – though for many parents, it is possibly worse. These are the typical admissions ages for the UK’s selective schools – a veritable minefield of processes and requirements that need to be negotiated in order for your children to get into the school of your choice. It would be impossible to cover all the nuances of each schools’ admissions process, but the typical elements are: The “pre-test” – typically a proprietary or online ISEB (Independent Schools Examination Board) test sat at your child’s current school – accompanied by a reference letter from your child’s head teacher. If all goes well, then your child, and possibly you, the parents, will be asked to attend an interview and activities day with various staff members at the school. A thumbs up from them, and all that is required is for your child to achieve the appropriate pass rates in subsequent exams (most often Common Entrance). A golden ticket to a world-class education awaits. Simple. Well, sort of…. The problem, of course, is that the top schools are doing too good a job. Aided by favourable demographics and a geographically wider selection policy, they can afford to be even more selective than they have been in the past. The academic requirements they seek are, for various reasons, now achieved by so many that they no longer filter as they once did. Schools are looking for ways to see past all the polish of tutoring and understand the child’s genuine potential to fit in and thrive. In many ways, it is hugely refreshing that there is some pushback against all this teaching to “the test”. The best schools have worked out that, as the robots continue their inexorable rise, shortterm memory will be a less valuable skill for our children’s generation to succeed in life.
by HUGO SHEPHARD
Schools are looking for ways to see past all the polish of tutoring and understand the child’s genuine potential to fit in and thrive. Multiple intelligences across the spectrum, from physical to emotional, is what they are looking for. Critical, independent thinkers who can lead, but also step back and be team players. Students with creativity, enterprise, ambition, resilience and confidence, to name but a few characteristics, are being sought. Schools are also looking for enthusiasts with growth mind-sets; well-rounded, interesting, curious and passionate students. Schools are under ever increasing scrutiny to justify their fees. They realise they need to be producing graduates who can make recognisable contributions to the wider world. They do, of course, develop these qualities as part of the curriculum, but they are also acutely aware that if a student has those qualities when they arrive, they have a better base on which to build. As such their interviews and assessment days are designed specifically to unearth these characteristics. So, whilst academic grades remain a vital component in the admissions process, there is an ever-increasing requirement to ensure your child has these qualities. They can be developed in the home, at your child’s existing school and, increasingly, through specialist supplementary courses and camps. The good news is that investment into developing these qualities has the benefit helping your child conquer the admissions maze. It also gives them the best chance of prospering and enjoying their time at school. These are also qualities that, once developed, will never be wasted.
Now, more than ever, the top selective schools are looking for specific qualities that will enable the children to take advantage of the incredible opportunities on offer.
What does this all mean? Well, the head’s letter, along with the interviews and assessment day in particular, are an increasingly important part of the admissions process. Now, more than ever, the top selective schools are looking for specific qualities that will enable the children to take advantage of the incredible opportunities on offer. The new breed of heads and their visions are championed by the likes of Simon Henderson at Eton and Julian Thomas at Wellington College, both of whom, in recent press articles, have highlighted the necessity for skills and aptitudes beyond the pure acquisition of academic grades.
Hugo Shephard, Founder of Role Models, runs Confidence & Resilience and Enterprise & Creativity Courses for 8-12 year olds in the school holidays. www.rolemodels.me
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