Ben Thomas – Headmaster of Thomas’ School, Battersea
To watch this talk in full please follow this link.
The independent school entrance examination process can seem particularly confusing and daunting. The independent school sector is “independent” by its very nature and, because of the fact, that there is no centralised system for the process.
At Thomas’ School they stress three main things; first of all it is important to “be kind”. Secondly they like to have a broad curriculum including subject like Art, Drama, Music and Sport. Finally, they stress a particular set of values; nurturing kindness and courtesy, honestly, respect, independence, confidence, leadership, humility and being “givers, not takers”.
The purpose of the talk is to focus on the entrance process into independent schools for children aged 11-13 years old. He’s believes that the independent sector can become fragmented, adding further confusion for parents.
The Independent Schools Examination Board (ISEB) produces a set of published syllabi and two sets of entrance examinations each year (one for children at the age of 11, the other for 13). Any school that then wants to, can opt in for their pupils to sit the ISEB exams as their entrance exams. These exams are also known as Common Entrance Exams, however other schools can, and often do, set their own examination papers.
When your child is in Year 3 (7 or 8 years old), it is an appropriate time to start thinking about senior school entry. Some things to think about are; day school or boarding school? As they will provide quite different experiences for you child. Co-educational or single sex schools? For parents who have more than one child, are looking for one school that is going to be right for all of them or do you want the right school for each of them. In his twenty years’ experience of being a Headmaster, Mr. Thomas firmly believed that each child should be treated as an individual and it is important to find the right school for each child. However as a parent, his children do all go to the same school.
When your child is in Year 4 (8, turning 9 year old), start researching schools and possibly think about registering. As a parent, if you focus on the brand of a particular school, and force your child through the process of getting them into a school with a big name reputation when perhaps they haven’t got the aptitude to keep up with the school standards, they may come out of senior school low in confidence and feeling worthless. As a parent you should try to aim of the middle of the academic range. If you are at a junior school that is familiar with the process they should be able to advise you on what is best for your child.
Scholarships and Bursaries
Scholarships can be offered to students who possess exceptional talent or ability in a particular subject or field. For example, exceptional talent in music, art, sports or drama. The standards for scholarships are usually very high, for example a scholarship for music may only go to children who are already at Grade 6 level in two instruments, by the time they are 11 year olds. Sports scholarships may only be offered to students who are already playing at county or national level at the age of 13. If you truly believe your child to be exceptional in one of these areas, it is worth enquiring about scholarships that may be available.
Bursaries however do not require you to have exceptional talents. A lot of independent schools can provide bursaries for anyone who comes to the school provided they meet the school’s normal admissions criteria. Roughly £300 million worth in bursaries are given out in the independent school sector every year. Most schools are trying hard to find the most appropriate candidates for bursaries.