Preparatory school admissions

How to prepare for Preparatory school admissions

Stephen Spriggs
March 13th 2020

For some new parents, those first few months involve bonding with your baby, adjusting to a new routine and... registering with schools and nurseries. It might seem excessive, but bagging a place in the right school, whether it’s independent or a good state, is so competitive that you can never start too early. So, if you want to be ready for Preparatory school admissions, here’s what you need to do.

Independent Preparatory education, from age 4 - 11 or 13,  is a major financial investment; so choosing the right school for your child is crucial. Most preparatory schools now start at age 4, in the pre-preparatory school and entrance is often into Reception year. For those looking at entrance at the traditional age of 8 to preparatory schools, there may well be entrance assessments.  If your child is already in the pre-preparatory part of a school, they should be able to carry on to age 11 or 13 with no additional entrance requirements. Some preps are feeders into oversubscribed senior schools, and having your child in the junior or prep school is often helpful with the senior school entrance.

Make a shortlist

Once you know where you are going to be living and what sort of school you want - day or boarding - make a shortlist. Start with a longer list of schools, but ideally after visits you should get your list down to a maximum of five.  Always have more than one in case you aren’t successful with your first choice. Research schools locally or ones that fit your criteria but our advice would always be to go and visit them.

You should visit each school 

It’s crucial to go and visit preparatory schools. You can only really get a feel for a school if you go there, speak to pupils, teachers and the head, have a look at the classrooms and the opportunities for play, sport and other facilities and activities. Ask lots of questions and make sure you see everything that interests you. You wouldn’t, after all, buy a house without visiting it first, so why would you throw thousands of pounds at a school without having a good look at what it has to offer? Be honest with yourself. You might have your heart set on the school that other parents are falling over themselves to get into, but if, after visiting, you don’t feel it’s suited to your child, don’t be afraid to pass it over for somewhere else.

Making applications

Application deadlines differ as do the preparatory school admissions processes, and each registration will carry a fee. As a general rule, registrations should be made at least two years in advance for schools, with the central London pre-prep and prep schools needing as early registration as possible. Outside London and in more rural areas, registration is more relaxed.  Some will have entrance requirements, although not all of these are academic-based and will instead consider your child’s communication and language skills as well as their confidence. Depending on age of entrance, but generally from age 8, schools will want to see evidence of English and Maths ability. 

Be wary of putting pressure on children over entrance assessments. Children develop at different stages, so don’t compare your child to another. Attending nursery, either for half or a full day, enables children to integrate, mix and share and it also helps with speech and confidence. If your child has English as a second language, a full day of nursery will improve their language skills and prepare them for school. Nurseries often feed into different pre-preparatory and preparatory schools, so your child’s nursery may well be able to advise on the best school for them and what will be expected in the admissions process.  If you live in an area where children are assessed at age 4 for school entrance, check what the process requires.  It is only in very oversubscribed areas that preparatory school admissions will be this demanding. Small children should not be exposed to any stress in finding the right school, or have pressure put on them. They should be as excited at starting their education as you are.

If you have any questions regarding any of the above or would like to chat in more detail about preparing for Preparatory school admissions, get in touch with William Clarence today.

preparatory school admissions