How to Choose the Best Senior School for your Child
Following this year's record-breaking results, Headmistress Mrs Botting reflects on how to choose the right school for each child.
Now that all of our Year 6 results are in and offers have been accepted, I thought that it would be helpful to explain why Greenfield pupils are so successful in this process. Before I do so, we should celebrate the outstanding achievements of the current Year 6. They achieved a 91% pass rate at 26 different schools and were awarded 27 scholarships and exhibitions and 2 awards; these were for Academia, Sport, Art, Design and Technology, Music and Drama. This is a significant achievement for a school that is proudly academically non-selective.
If I had my way there would not be entrance tests at all, but, unfortunately, there are and so we need to ensure that all of the children are as prepared as possible, in as gentle a way as possible.
The Road to Success
The journey to senior school starts from the minute a pupil joins us. At Greenfield, we encourage independence of thought, an inquiring mind and resilience; skills that these children need, as well as thorough subject knowledge, to cope with the examination experience and achieve their potential on the day.
At the moment, there is still quite a variety of styles of exams out there, from the more traditional written papers to online assessments. As the children tend to sit for two or three schools, there is a chance that they will experience more than one style of exam and schools have a habit of changing their methods of assessing with very little notice.
To ensure that the children are fully prepared, we finish teaching the vast majority of the curriculum in Mathematics and English towards the end of Year 5. This enables the teachers to gently introduce the different style of questions before the children have to face a whole exam paper.
During the summer holiday at the end of Year 5, the children are given a pack of practice papers as well as access to online platforms to keep the grey cells working and for the teachers to ascertain any areas of weakness when they return in September. Between the start of Year 6 and the first exams taking place from mid-November, the children hone their exam technique and have plenty of opportunity to practise the types of paper that their choice of school will be issuing.
One of the most important questions that I get asked by parents is, ‘How do I know which schools to apply to for my child?’
The Selection Process
In the Spring Term of Year 5, I meet with all of their parents alongside Ms Griffiths, Head of Upper School. This follows a meeting that Ms Griffiths has had with the Head of Mathematics, Head of English, department Heads and SENCO where every child’s progress, learning profile and ability are discussed in detail. All of the staff have significant experience in the examination and scholarship processes and are able to predict what level each child will be working at when the exams commence 6 months’ later.
During my meeting with the parents, I recommend a selection of schools that I think would be a good match for their child. The relationship that I have with the Senior School Heads is very important and we work closely to make sure that every Greenfield pupil is going to the best Senior School for them. I take passions, talents and personality into consideration and I always recommend what I believe to be the right school, not necessarily the most prestigious.
Choosing the right school for a child is incredibly important, especially for those who may have some additional challenges relating to their learning profile. For some, examinations are not going to be an appropriate route and therefore academically non-selective independent schools without a traditional ‘exam’ are the best option. It is also essential that the schools considered for these children can provide the support and understanding required for them to continue to thrive.
Some children, however, thrive on the competition provided by the most academically rigorous schools, and we work closely with these children to ensure they are extended in lessons and prepared for the sorts of questioning they might encounter at interview and entry assessments.
The vast majority of the parents take my advice and choose to apply to a selection of the schools which I have recommended. When this happens, the children have a more positive exam experience. Very occasionally, parents want to sit for a school that I have not recommended and, sadly, this often ends in disappointment.
Making the Right Decision
There is no doubt that, in this area, earning places at senior schools is becoming increasingly competitive. Schools which used to take pupils of all abilities are now becoming more selective due to demand; more and more children are coming out of London to take places in the Surrey schools to avoid the hothouse and pressures of applying to the highly competitive London schools. This is making the process more challenging for Surrey families and so listening to the advice and recommendations of Prep School Heads is more important than ever. The senior team at Greenfield work hard to maintain excellent relationships with all of the schools to which we feed and keep abreast of any changes within these schools.
Year on year, Greenfield has achieved an excellent number of scholarships, exhibitions and awards. Our Heads of Department contact parents when they feel that a child has the potential for an award and prepares the pupil for the scholarship assessment. These discussions tend to take place toward the end of Middle School/beginning of Upper School. However, it is important to mention that, due to the current financial pressures on schools, the number of scholarships that schools will be offering is very likely to reduce quite considerably over the coming years. We will continue to work with the senior schools to ensure that we have a clear understanding of their requirements and expectations for scholarship candidates.
Senior School Fairs at Greenfield
And finally, even though the senior school meetings with parents are scheduled for the Spring Term of Year 5, I am always happy to give some initial thoughts about pupils before then if parents want to start looking sooner. I highly recommend parents of children in current Years 3 and 4 (Years 4 and 5 2023/24) join us for our next Senior School Fair on Tuesday 19th September 2023, as this is an excellent opportunity to get an initial impression of a large number of schools.
Greenfield is here to support the whole family at every part of this exciting journey.
It is good to have an end to journey towards, but it is the journey that matters in the end.’ - Ernest Hemingway
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