British boarding schools are widely recognised throughout the world as centres of excellence and the demand for the better known schools exceeds the number of spaces, sometimes to the extent of only 10% to 20% of applicants being offered a place.
If you are aiming for one of the top schools in our league tables, then you may have to apply several years in advance of entry.
You often hear comments such as "I must put my child’s name down for a top school within a week of his/her birth." In fact this is rarely the case. It does apply to a small number of prep/pre-prep schools in Central London, which are heavily over-subscribed and operate a strict “first come first served” policy. However this does NOT apply to all London schools and many have more flexible entry procedures which we can advise you on. In any case, these are rarely boarding schools and indeed they may not even be "top feeder schools" for elite senior boarding schools. Some senior schools will not accept a formal application until your child is 9 or 10. However if you are aiming for an elite boarding school entry at age 13, you should ideally be mapping out your strategy between the ages of 7 to 9, or even earlier Indeed for most of our clients we start by identifying the target senior schools and then work backwards to place your child in the right prep school.
Let’s start by discussing elite boys boarding schools like Winchester or Eton, which both commence at age 13 and require pre testing between ages 10 to 11. If it is possible we would strongly advise choosing a boarding prep school from age 7-8 which feeds your target senior school. When you discover that some of these schools get 10 or more pupils each year into specified elite boarding schools, you begin to realise just how good they are. Be under no illusions how hard your child will have to work to be prepared for the Common Entrance exam. Some of these schools are boarding only and when parents have requested to have their child attend only on a day basis, they are told that age 9 children will be totally immersed in school work / activities up to 9 pm in the evening, which is really too late for a 9 year old to go home every day of the week. We do have parent clients who are not prepared to accept such an intensive regime for such young children, especially sending them away to the UK from their own country.
Of course, it is possible to keep your children in their home country and school till age 13 and we can arrange extra tuition and interview prepping, but we are merely pointing out the disadvantage in a highly competitive situation where children have been specifically coached for elite school entry.
Only a small number of parents are aiming for schools like Winchester and Eton. Other school admissions can be much easier BUT we still come back to the need to plan ahead. The transition into senior school is generally either at 11 or 13 by means of competitive testing. If your child is effectively B grade or less, then it’s worth thinking of aiming for an "all through" school which takes children from age 7 or younger right through 18. Entry at age 7 is invariably a lot more flexible than 13. These all through schools invariably say that children will be reassessed for transition to their senior school at age 11 or 13, but the blunt fact is that the vast majority of the existing children are passed straight into the senior school, unless there have been serious problems such as misbehaviour or lack of effort.
A strategy with an all through school combining prep and senior boarding can also be advantageous on cost, because school fees are often held down until age 13.
If you need a feeder prep for an elite senior school or an all-through, speak to one of our expert advisers.
It is often the case that children need to change school at 16 because of a change of curriculum or subject or would simply benefit from a change in environment. Many private schools offer a huge range of subjects, but may not have the specialty subject (s) required. We can usually find a suitable senior school or sixth form college to satisfy needs. Often it does not take too much advance notice, but parents need to remember they must give a full term’s notice to leave to avoid a large penalty payment. Remember also that tests for 6th form admission often take place 8 to 11 months ahead of entry. Most of the highest ranking senior schools require registration a year or more in advance for 16+ entry.
Planning to save for school fees needs to take place as far in advance as possible. Click here to go to our dedicated School Fees Planning pages.
19th November 2018
15th November 2018
14th November 2018