What Tests Will My Child Have to Take?
The school system in England includes junior, middle and high school. Exams are intermediate links…
The school system in England includes junior, middle and high school. Exams are intermediate links…
It is better to transfer your child to another class at the beginning of the…
This article is a practice-oriented guide for subject teachers and class teachers who have come…
Welcome to our online portal that was designed to inform patients about the peculiarities of UK education.
Each year, more and more parents decide to send their child abroad to study in UK school because the UK education system is considered one of the best in the world. It combines excellent academic background, personality development and research skills. We will tell you what constitutes a UK education and how to get it.
At one point, each parent has to solve a difficult issue – how to choose a school for your child?
US schools are very different, they have a different approach to the educational process, different goals and objectives, different principles, a different atmosphere, and so on. Likewise, parents have very different needs, preferences and expectations. Not everyone wants to send their children to the most academically strong school with the highest exam scores and the highest admission rates to prestigious universities. For some, it is important that the child has more free time for classes outside of school, someone is afraid of unnecessary stress and pressure, someone wants their child to spend more time outdoors, and so on.
Therefore, the concept of “good school” is much vaguer here, individually colored and ambiguous. On the one hand, this complicates the task, like any situation of free choice, but on the other hand, it makes it possible to find an option that suits your child.
Below we will talk about the main types of UK schools, how the system works as a whole. We will talk in detail about the principles of choosing a school, about preparation, exams, admission requirements, what to prepare for and what to expect.
Parents often wonder – how to assess the capabilities of my child? What do you need to demonstrate in exams? Are only brilliant children accepted in top UK schools?
Experience shows that top schools are not at all for brilliant but for intelligent, trained and interested kids.
If good education is valued in your family, if the child is comprehensively developed, curious, reads a lot, loves to study and is ready to withstand the load, then you should not be scared, but try to prepare him or her for entering a top UK school.
Schools can be divided into two main types – private and public. Only 7% of school-age children study in private schools and 40%-73% of Oxbridge students go there from private schools.
Of course, private school is not the only way to get a good education and achieve success in life. But statistics are stubborn things and should be taken into account.
Although not all private schools provide a strong academic education and can boast of high results in final exams and admission of their graduates to Oxbridge. There are many private schools with completely different goals and objectives and with completely different outcomes. While there are very strong public schools that will give odds to many private ones.
If we assess, first of all, the level of academic preparation and the composition of children, then we can distinguish two main types of public schools – selective and non-selective. Simply put, those who are enrolled according to the results of exams, and those where exams do not need to be taken.
Traditionally, selective schools are called grammar schools, and non-selective are called comprehensive schools.
You do not need to pass entrance exams to enter these schools. Each school has its own catchment area (the area from which children are admitted to the school) and in order to have a chance to get to this school, you need to live in this catchment area. At the beginning of the school year, when the child is in 6th grade, you need to fill out an application on the website of your municipality (council), indicate the schools you want in descending order of attractiveness and wait for March 1 – National Offer Day, when there is a “distribution of places in schools” countrywide. Your child’s success in primary school is not considered in the allocation of places and only administrative factors are taken into account – the number of places in the school, the number of applications submitted, and the proximity of your home to the school.
Comprehensive schools are of course also very different. It all depends on the district, the principal, the composition of the teachers and various other factors, but in general, the average results of comprehensive schools are lower than at grammar schools.
To enter grammar schools, you need to pass entrance exams, the so-called 11+, and pass the competition. Traditionally such schools have no binding to the catchment area, and no one will check where you live. We will talk in detail below about exams, how to prepare for them and what to expect.
The advantages of grammar schools are a stronger program, higher requirements, a better teaching staff, more opportunities for in-depth study of a number of subjects, a large set of foreign languages, compulsory study of Latin, a better quality of scientific laboratories and, of course, a stronger student body.
Some strong comprehensive schools recruit a certain number of students based on exam results. Often these are academic exams in English and Mathematics, which are conducted on the same principle as in grammar schools. Sometimes these are exams in music or other subjects. There may be no catchment area for children applying for exam results, or it may be much wider than for the main stream.
Admission conditions can vary greatly, and all the details must be clarified directly with each school. Usually, all the information is present on the school’s site.
Often in such schools, children selected on the basis of examinations are engaged in a special program in some subjects or attend additional classes.
It is very important to avoid one common misconception here: if I pay money, I am guaranteed to get the product I want. Moreover, there are actually two misconceptions in this installation:
In short, private schools in England vary by the target audience, the approach to education and the atmosphere at school.
Despite the fact that a year of study at a private high school in England costs an average of 15 to 30 thousand pounds, not all schools position themselves as “schools for the rich.” There are those who prioritize the intelligence, creativity, dedication and commitment of the child. Such schools are interested in talented children and are ready to provide some of them with significant discounts on education. But we will talk about this in detail a little later. And there are schools that aim at raising healthy, physically well-developed children who know how to behave in society, who have already prepared the ground for the further existence of several generations of ancestors. Graduates of such schools usually do not go to Oxbridge because everything is fine with them.
Despite the fact that a year of study at a private high school in England costs an average of 15 to 30 thousand pounds, not all schools position themselves as “schools for the rich.” There are those who prioritize the intelligence, creativity, dedication and commitment of the child.
So, if strong academic preparation, high exam results and admission to a top university are important for you, do not rush to flatter yourself with a prestigious entourage, well-mannered students, an old building and the number 1597 next to a beautiful school emblem. It doesn’t mean anything yet.
Private schools do not have a catchment area, most of them admit students based on the results of entrance exams, but the level of complexity can vary greatly. In addition to exams, private schools practice interviews with applicants, as well as sometimes with their parents. Private schools have nothing to do with the municipality, they need to apply directly, and you will also receive exam results and an offer of a place directly from the school.
If you decide that your child needs an academically strong school, then it makes sense to start the selection process, proceeding according to the following scheme:
Moving from the first point to the fifth, you will gradually select only a few schools of interest to you.
Below is a little more detail about the five stages of selection.
It is difficult to imagine a more adequate first step in the process of choosing a strong school. One way or another, the exam results demonstrate the academic level of graduates, their competitiveness and prospects for admission to leading universities.
By examining the rankings, you will see that the difference in performance between the top 20 schools is very small. Just a few percent. And these few percent can change the place of the school in the ranking from year to year – this year the school is in third place, and last year it was in ninth. In most cases, this does not mean that the school is getting better or worse.
Schools can really seriously “rise” or “fall”, but to determine this, you need to look at the ratings not for a year or two, but for 5-10 years.
This may be due to a change in director, teaching staff, funding sources and other factors.
It makes sense to look exactly at the tables with the A-level results since GSCE is much easier to pass, the absolute results there are always much higher, and it is more difficult to isolate the leading academic schools from this list.
It is also very important to understand that the difference of a few percent in the exam results and, accordingly, the place in the rating is not determined by everyone. The school may be located a little lower, but it may be the best for you.
Best Primary School in UK:
Of course, the ratings cover the entire territory of the United Kingdom, and you live in a very specific place and are unlikely to be ready to move to another city or another county for the sake of school. Although some families do just that. But let’s not go to the extreme and take it for granted that you are looking for a school within transport accessibility from your home. And, of course, if you decide to go to public schools, then you need to look at their catchment area.
Let’s say a few words about “transport accessibility”. Most of us are used to walking to school. Ten minutes. Or three. In England, especially in London, this is not entirely true. It’s okay to get to high school for an hour. That is, it is tiring, and you have to get up early, but you should not hope that the desired school will be within walking distance of you.
In addition to the direct place in the ratings and exam results, it is important to look at two more statistical indicators:
This is indicated not in the ratings but on the websites of your pre-selected schools. All top schools publish this information and it is extremely important.
For example, if you see that at a school from the top twenty children massively pass the design exam and then go to universities for specialties related to art, and your child is interested in chemistry, then most likely he/she doesn’t need to go to this school.
English private schools, with rare exceptions, do not position themselves as specializing in any particular discipline. There is no system of mathematical or language schools. Almos any school will tell you that all subjects are strong, that all children have ample opportunities to reveal their abilities. This is often the case. However, there are schools with strong art departments, and there are schools with strong science or classical languages and literature.
Of course, open house days are an obvious and wonderful tool to actively use. They are run by both private and public schools. You will be able to hear the principal’s speech about the mission of the school, its policy, values, methodology, principles, results and prospects. The personality of the principal determines a lot in the school, so it is worth listening and watching carefully. You will also be given a guided tour of the school with students as guides. Try to actively ask the children if they like school and what they think of it. This can be very helpful. Talk to teachers. Prepare in advance a list of questions of interest to you. Try to use your visit time efficiently, but remember that the open house is the picture that they want to show you, and make your own conclusions.
The main thing is to remember that it is not parents who have to learn at school, but children. And it is the children who should like the school.
And, of course, you need to go to open days with your children. This seems obvious, but you will be surprised to find that sometimes parents come alone, leaving their children at home. It is difficult to understand the logic of these people. Of course, parents can advise, give arguments, pay attention to something, but listening to the opinion of children when choosing a school is a necessary condition for their further successful study.
Collecting information from real people is extremely important. These are not formal data presented in the ratings or on the school’s website, but personal opinion and personal experience, which is extremely valuable. However, do not forget that the opinions of parents are subjective and that their views, their goals and objectives may differ from yours.
The first thing to do is make a list of your own expectations for the school. What is important to you and what do you want to get. Go to school, talk to parents and read reviews.
When talking with other parents about schools, it is not enough to hear from them: “This is a great school! We are very happy! ” It is worth clarifying what exactly they are happy with. For example, in response to your clarifying question, a parent may happily say: “No homework, children play a lot of outdoor sports, travel, sing in the choir…” And your child is academically gifted and, in fact, you would like him or her to go to Oxbridge and get an education for a subsequent career.
Good sites with school reviews and other useful information:
Parents often have a question: when to start preparing a child for exams? And is it necessary to do this at all, or is it enough just to master the elementary school curriculum well? Unfortunately, t\this is not enough and you will have to prepare. Good grades in primary school are not always an indicator of a child’s readiness for admission. It very much depends on the school and the level of its requirements.
It makes sense to first look at the samples of entrance exams on the websites of your chosen schools. If the school does not post them, look at the websites of schools of similar levels. This may be sufficient for an initial understanding of the requirements.
The exams are held in two subjects – English and Mathematics. This is standard.
Usually, both exams take place on the same day with a lunch break. But it happens that there are two rounds, and applicants are admitted to the second only according to the results of the first round. Both tours usually include both English and Maths. About an hour is given for each item. It can sometimes be 30-45 minutes. You need to check all details with the schools of your choice.
In public schools, examinations are usualy conducted on the basis of verbal reasoning (“English”) and non-verbal reasoning (mathematics). Each examination sheet contains about 100 questions with a preset choice of answers. In order to score a large number of points, you need to work very quickly, read the assignments carefully, be fluent in elementary mathematics, have a very good vocabulary, thoroughly know grammar and write correctly. Also, in non-verbal reasoning, the general level of intelligence, logical thinking, the ability to highlight the main thing is checked.
These websites are very popular for preparation:
They contain both preparation materials and sample exam papers and small ten-minute tests for daily practice.
In addition, mock exams are often run by independent companies or grammar schools themselves. These events are easily tracked by Google.
If the school organizes two examination rounds, then usually the first is a set typical for public schools – verbal reasoning and non-verbal reasoning, and the second is offered like exams in private schools. Let’s move on to them.
Everything is different here. Sometimes tasks on verbal reasoning and non-verbal reasoning are included in entrance examinations, but more often exams are held in a different format. At the same time, the subjects remain the same – English and mathematics, and exams are also held on the same day with a lunch break.
Everything is quite traditional. You can prepare yourself, but it is very laborious and responsible. Or you can go to one of the many training centers (tuition center) and study there in a group. You can find a private tutor for individual or group lessons. The choice is yours. Specific attendances and passwords need to be clarified locally and in connection with the specific schools selected.
An indispensable element of successful exam preparation is the completion of the exam papers of the past years, which were offered in the schools of your choice – past papers. You need to start with a leisurely analysis of all tasks and dividing them into types. Further, it makes sense to find similar tasks in various sources and train their implementation, and only then proceed to the execution of past papers for a while.
An indispensable element of successful exam preparation is the completion of the exam papers of the past years, which were offered in the schools of your choice – past papers.
Schools usually post only one version of the past paper on their website. The child needs to solve about 20 of them for each school. Getting them is not a trivial task. Good target tutors have them. If you plan to prepare the child yourself, look for parents through your friends whose children are already studying at the school you have chosen.
So, you have compiled a list of schools you are interested in, studied their requirements and are actively preparing your child for exams. Now let’s discuss the admission.
Public selective schools require a two-step application.
The first step is to inform the school about your desire to take part in the Test Entry Form. Forms are posted on school websites. Applications generally start after Easter and continue through the summer term of the year.
Here you need to remember that there are schools (grammar schools) that set absolutely no restrictions on the area of child’s residence (no catchment area), there are those that accept only part of the children, according to the results of exams, and the place of residence does not matter for them. But there are those that take into account both exam results and place of residence. And all this must be clarified even before applying.
The second step is to apply for a place in the desired schools in your municipality. This is done on your local site in the fall a year before high school starts, which means your child is in sixth grade at that time. Typically, the deadline for accepting applications is October 31st.
The application indicates the schools you would like to go to, starting with the most desirable and then descending. The order is really taken into account and matters, that is, the very coveted school must be indicated first.
The exams usually take place in September.
Officially, a place in a state selective school is allocated by the municipality, but only at the request of the school, which bases its decision on the results of examinations. Usually, the school checks the examination papers and then sends a letter to applicants either with an unequivocal refusal or with a hint of a good chance of being accepted. You will finally know the decision on March 1, the day known as National Offer Day.
Keep in mind that if you are not happy with the exam results and think there has been a mistake and your child deserves a better grade, you have the right to file an appeal, which must be reviewed and decided upon. The school usually places all the details about the rules for filing appeals on its website.
In the strongest grammar schools, the competition can be up to 50 people per place.
In private schools, there is no catchment area, and they are completely indifferent to where the child lives. Only you decide how long and difficult it will be for the child to get to school.
Private school applications usually begin in the spring and end in mid or late November of the year before your child enters seventh grade. The exact dates must be checked on the website of each school.
In response to the application received, the school will send you a package of documents and ask you to pay the registration fee. Usually, the amount is around £ 100. This fee is non-refundable and does not count towards subsequent tuition fees. It is simply charged for the administrative costs of organizing and administering the exams.
The package of documents you received may contain application forms for various scholarships and financial assistance – bursary. We will talk about bursary in more detail later.
There are four types of UK scholarships, and not all schools offer all four.
As we said above, the English and Math exams take place on the same day with a lunch break. Sometimes children are also given a short orientation tour of the school.
But in private schools, the matter is not limited to exams. This is only the first stage to go through. This is followed by an interview.
After the examination papers are written, the school informs you of the results for several days (sometimes it takes a week and ten days). Nowadays this is more often done by email, but some schools will send you a letter in the mail the old-fashioned way. It will tell you if your child passed the test or not. If Yes, the child will be invited for an interview.
The interview is usually conducted with two instructors. It can last 20 minutes, half an hour or even 40 minutes. Typically, questions fall into the following categories:
Some private schools invite not only children but also parents for interviews. Not everyone does this, but the practice is quite common. At first glance, it may seem that this is a sign of some potential discrimination against a child, an assessment of his/her results and capabilities in retrospect of the financial and social capabilities of parents. In reality, this is not the case with top schools.
What are the real goals of such interviews?
As a tip, you can offer to behave as naturally as possible. Prepare a list of questions and do not hesitate to ask them.
Some schools in certain areas are organized in consortia. Both public and private schools can do this. In light of the entrance exams, this means that the schools jointly develop common examination tasks and the child who applies to several schools from the consortium takes the exams only once. In this case, the application must be submitted to each school separately. In the case of private schools, the registration fee is also payable to each of the selected schools. At the same time, each school conducts an interview individually.
You can take exams at any of the schools of the consortium.
After the exams, the schools exchange papers and each school grades them individually. Evaluation criteria and passing scores may vary widely from school to school, but this system can reduce the burden on the child by avoiding multiple exams.
Many parents are convinced that private schools are intended only for wealthy people. In fact, this is not entirely true.
This is a discount on the annual school fees. It can vary from 10% to 100% and is calculated depending on the family’s income and expenses. This is financial aid for families who cannot afford to pay in full for their children’s private school tuition.
Not all schools offer bursary financial aid to their students.
However, top academic schools are well aware that capable and motivated children grow up not only in wealthy families and are ready to attract them by providing financial assistance.
When applying for a bursary, you will be asked to indicate not only all your income, which includes salaries, income from renting real estate, and investment dividends, but also all your property – real estate, jewelry, cars, art objects, collections, and so on. Not only income but also expenses are important – mortgage payments, insurance, utility bills, loan payments, payment for the child’s classes in clubs and sections. It also takes into account the size of the family, the number of children and other dependents, such as elderly parents living with you. In short, you will have to give the school all your financial insights.
The scholarships do not depend in any way on the income of the student’s family. A child of millionaires can get an essentially unnecessary discount with the same success as a person who comes from the family of a middle-level manager. A bursary is offered only to those families who objectively experience financial difficulties in paying for tuition.
Each school has a special person, the Bursar, whose responsibilities include the distribution of the budget allocated for bursaries among the applicants. You can always make an appointment with him/her at the stage of choosing a school and discuss school policy in this regard, conditions, requirements, chances.
And then the moment comes when you have to choose the right school for your child. There are a few clarifications to be made here:
When you accept an offer from a private school, you sign a contract with it and are required to make a deposit of tuition fees per term. In the case of providing bursary, the deposit can be significantly less, but it is still there, even if the bursary is 100%. Thus, agreeing to several proposals and then thinking will not work. Unless you’re a multimillionaire, of course.
And now all the proposals are on your table and you need to decide something. It’s not easy to make a decision. One school may offer you a much larger bursary than the others. Another may give you a scholarship…
Here is a life hack for you: you can bargain with private schools. As already mentioned, good schools are interested in strong students as much as students in proposals from good schools. Each applicant usually enters several schools, but can only go to one. The competition for brains between schools is great.
Therefore, if you know that your child is strong, but the school you have chosen made you an offer worse than a less attractive one, do not hesitate, call and talk, make a personal meeting. Schools are ready for this. This does not mean that the school will yield to you and agree to your terms. But it’s worth trying. Good luck!