It is fair to say that most UK Boarding Schools set minimum academic standards for entry. In other words, prospective pupils must normally achieve a minimum score in admissions tests to be considered for a place. There are some exceptions to this, and a small number of schools offer places on the basis of previous school reports and an interview.
At the entry level to senior school – at age 11 or 13 - this will typically be via either the Common Entrance Exam or several test papers set by the school itself. They will certainly contain English and Maths plus probably Non Verbal Reasoning. At age 13 there may be additional tests such as Science or Modern Languages.
Schools set their own pass marks which could start at 40% but get as high as 80% for the elite public schools. It is not unheard of for the top schools to be rejecting 75% of applicants. Additionally a few public schools require you to apply 3 years in advance and they pre-test children as a first step.
Such selection does permit these schools to keep their academic standards high. Parents may complain they are cherry picking the best pupils, but being realistic there is no point in striving to put an average ability child into an academic hothouse, where they will undoubtedly become unhappy.
It is our role to find schools to which a child is suited and will be happy. We do know the schools which have more flexible entry procedures, yet still do well in exam results. Additionally we also know the schools which don’t set test papers but go on previous school reports plus an interview. There is no official definition of the term “wide ability school” but in the private school sector it’s fair to assume it means schools which are much less selective in entry requirements. Of course it is perfectly possible that some of their children achieve just as high exam successes as those in selective schools.
We do receive a lot of requests from parents with children with Special Educational Needs, who would prefer the child to be in a mainstream school. So it becomes essential to find wide ability schools which also have real learning support. Additionally it becomes just as important for the school to be offering suitable curriculums after age 16 such as BTECs with vocational themes.
At older age entry for 16+, schools tend to be more selective. The top quartile schools nearly all aim for a minimum of 5 x A grades in GCSEs. One of the highest ranking schools looks for a minimum of 8 x A* grades. Even wider ability schools will insist on 5 x B grades. It’s possible for us to get entry on some lower grades, depending on the subjects required. Nobody should attempt Maths, Science or Modern Language A levels unless they have achieved at least a B grade at GCSE or an equivalent standard. We offer bespoke assessments to check the level your child has reached in key subjects. Please ask us for details.
As a general rule it is easier to find vacancies in a wide ability school, because the selective schools fill up first. This also means that the closer you apply to an entry date, the more likely you will find the top schools are full. However, we are in constant contact with schools and try to keep up to date with late vacancies.
18th August 2017
17th August 2017
16th August 2017