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Senior school entry – how things have changed

For years and years, the process of a child’s transition from prep school to public school was that parents chose a public school, son/daughter took Common Entrance at the end of prep school and then, should they pass, they were in. However, over recent years, this traditional process has been challenged and changed by both prep and public schools. And then COVID forced many public schools to change it completely. Yet, many parents still think that the process for getting their son/daughter into public school is the same as it was when they were at school.

Over the last decade or so, more and more prep schools have been seeing Common Entrance as an outdated, irrelevant and punitive form of assessment, and have been replacing it with more holistic, process-focused and less pressurised programmes of assessment (such as the PSB). Significantly, many public schools are also ambivalent about it, or have dropped it altogether as an entrance exam. Then, COVID forced them to select pupils via online assessments and virtual interviews only. Since then, many schools have not gone back to offering test and interview to all applicants but are now using a hybrid system of an online ‘pre-test’ assessment to filter applicants first and then references, assessments and a face-to-face interview on an assessment day to then select their future pupils. And they are doing all this earlier.

The ‘pre-test’ is an online, adaptive test which assesses your child’s cognitive abilities and potential, and is taken in the Autumn or Spring term of Year 6 or 7 when he/she is aged 10 or 11. This is therefore now the point at which schools start filtering applicants. Score well enough in this and your child is invited to the second stage: the interview/assessment day. Thus, the online ‘pre-test’ is now the gatekeeper for many schools and has become the most crucial part of the entry process.

Thus, with fewer and fewer public schools using CE alone as an entrance test, children no longer have until they take Common Entrance aged 11 or 13 to get into a senior school. Senior schools are starting the process when children are in Year 6 (aged 10), and they are using a range of assessments to choose prospective pupils on their holistic profile, not just their academic one.

Therefore, parents should start discussions about future schools with us when their child is in Year 4 or Year 5 at the latest to find the right mix of schools and then to prepare them in time for their assessments.

How can our education consultants help with your future school decisions and applications?

Over the years, our team of experienced education consultants have supported 100’s of families with making the important future school decision? Once the right schools are shortlisted, we have a range of education consultancy services to support you and your child. Find out how we can help you with your Future Schools decision, contact us today.

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