Testing Times: is the 8+ a second chance for 7+ hopefuls? Judith Aitken from Wicked Smart Exam Resources Shares her Valuable Insights

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Families with children who have unfortunately not been successful with 7+ entrance testing, may often find themselves being offered the advice:

‘Don’t worry, there’s always the 8+ exam.’

The question is however, is the 8+ exam the answer for those who struggled with the 7+? Is the 8+ any easier? What will be assessed? Read on as we guide you through the similarities and differences between the two.


Both the 7+ and 8+ exams require children to sit an English and Maths paper.  Similarly, children will be assessed on their ability to work independently, how they cope in new social situations and how they respond to staff members.

Reasoning papers are not often seen in 7+ exams but can feature quite heavily in the 8+, in which results are weighted according to the child’s age.

Both the 7+ and 8+ exams will also welcome children who have been successful in the academic tasks to attend an interview with the headteacher. While prospective 7+ students are expected to display impeccable manners and confidence when answering questions, 8+ students should be prepared to answer questions more fully and perhaps even ask their own questions to find out more about the school.


The 8+ exam is no less challenging than the 7+. In fact, the 8+ is sometimes considered to be more intensive due to the fact that children are assessed on the entirety of the Year 3 curriculum.

In the story writing element of the exam, schools are looking for children who are able to write at length and use a range of vocabulary. Similes, alliteration, onomatopoeia and dialogue are all excellent evidence of a sophisticated writer. Of course, schools are also making sure that children are confident with the basics such as punctuation and spelling.  For exam revision, be sure to access the Key Stage 2 English word lists for Years 3 and 4. These can be found on the National Curriculum website here.

The 8+ Maths paper puts more emphasis on problem solving skills, and often children will be required to complete multi-step word problems. Children should also have a firm knowledge and understanding of all multiplication facts.

Below we compare the content of the 7+ and 8+ Maths papers:

Numbers and the number system

7 Plus (7+)

Count on and back in 2s, 3s etc – 10. Recognise 2 digit multiples of 2,5 and 10

8 Plus (8+)

Count on and back in tens and hundreds. Recognise 3 digit multiples of 2,5 and 10.

Place value and ordering

7 Plus (7+)

Read and write three digit numbers in figures and words.

8 Plus (8+)

Read and write four digit numbers in figures and words

Estimating and rounding

7 Plus (7+)

Round two digit numbers to the nearest 10.

8 Plus (8+)

Round two digit numbers to the nearest 100.


7 Plus (7+)

Recognise halves and quarters.

8 Plus (8+)

Recognise halves, thirds, quarters, fifths, sixths and tenths.

Mental arithmetic

7 Plus (7+)

Add three single digit numbers. Add and subtract 20. Multiplication questions (2,5 and 10 times tables)

8 Plus (8+)

Add three or four single digit numbers mentally, or three or four two digit numbers. Add and subtract to 30. Multiplication questions (2-10 times tables)

Where can we find opportunities at 8+?

Whilst not all schools offer a formal route to entry at 8+, some of the top prep schools in London offer entry at this age, allowing your child an additional year of learning the basics in English and Maths before applying their knowledge in an exam setting. Those that do offer entry at 8+ in London include:

·       St Paul’s Juniors https://www.stpaulsschool.org.uk/st-pauls-juniors

·       Westminster Under https://www.westminsterunder.org.uk

·       King’s College School https://www.kcs.org.uk/junior-school/

·       Dulwich College Junior School https://www.dulwich.org.uk

·       Wetherby Prep School https://www.wetherbyprep.co.uk

·       Sussex House https://www.sussexhouseschool.co.uk/

·       Eaton House The Manor (Prep) https://www.eatonhouseschools.com/

·       The Garden House School https://www.gardenhouseschool.co.uk

·       The Harrodian Prep http://www.harrodian.com/prep

It’s worth bearing in mind that if you are re-locating and looking to join a prep school beyond the initial year of entry you will be looking for an ‘occasional’ place for instance at 8+, which may be available even if it is not a standard entry point. Like any other non-standard entry point this will usually involve testing to ensure your child can take their place happily in the year group.

In our view

For parents of children who are perhaps summer born, or who simply aren’t yet ready for the demands of the 7+ exam, the 8+ exam can be a fantastic option. What the 8+ exam isn’t however, is an easier version of the 7+ exam. If your child struggled with the 7+, it is highly likely that they will also find the 8+ a real challenge.

Both exams are designed for children who are already achieving results well above the national average and who are showing signs of real potential both academically and socially.

Tips to help you prepare

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Although challenging, we believe that the best way to prepare your child for these rigorous exams is a ‘little and often’ approach. At such a young age, children will not respond well to hours of relentless tuition. Instead, we suggest introducing more challenging novels, writing a daily diary and playing quick fire maths games online to encourage quick recall of maths facts. Some tuition may be necessary if there are genuine gaps in knowledge, but otherwise we think that a happy, relaxed child is the most likely to succeed! 

The Wicked Smart website has more detailed information, and free downloads such as the very first 7plus curriculum, which you can download here.


An opportunity for a re-think?

Here at School Hunters we’d suggest carefully thinking about whether 8+ entrance testing is the right route for your child if they haven’t been successful at 7+. There may be reasons why it is, but equally, we’d suggest a pause to consider whether there might be other opportunities at different schools which may be more in step with your child.

Let us know whether this is something we can help with – just get in touch, claire@schoolhunters.co.uk or jessica@schoolhunters.co.uk.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Help! How to sort the sheep from the goats in the hunt for a dyslexia-friendly school

Image credit: Unsplash. 

Image credit: Unsplash. 

Last week we received a familiar call from a family who had just received a dyslexia diagnosis for their daughter, at the age of thirteen. It's never an easy moment for any child and their family but I wonder if it's perhaps even more of a shock at this later age, rather than the earliest possible around 7 years, given that thoughts of a learning difference had been considered and dismissed several times. A complex mix of feelings abound. 

What now?

With so much to think about and with GCSEs looming, there was no time to lose in thinking - what now? Together with the parents we helped them to come up with a check list of things to look for, or seek out in a frank and speedy conversation with their current Head and pertinent questions for the Heads of a carefully curated short-list of alternative schools by way of comparison. 

We thought it might be useful to share our bare minimum check-list:

  • Class teachers - we make this our no1 point because for all of the importance of leadership on this and the quality of the SENCo etc, the majority of teaching will be delivered by class teachers - what will be the commitment/ability  of each and every class teacher to tailoring a lesson to your child's particular needs? Difficult to assess entirely of course and hard for a Head to make promises on, but look for excellent communication between the SEN team and the classroom, specific training of class teachers as a bare minimum. We would take a tour and put class teachers on the spot by asking how they would support your child. 
  • Head of Learning Support/SEN team - look for passion, qualifications, and influence within the school. The potentially brilliant, if relegated to a cupboard as far from the Head's office as possible, may indicate this is not the school you are looking for. 
  • How much SEN support per week? This will sort the sheep from the goats. Some of the most academic senior schools in London have none at all. Then, what type and what duration. Your child may well need more than 'study skills'. 
  • The Head, as ever, will be instrumental if you are going to make the huge step of switching schools and perhaps area too. Quite simply, how nuanced is the Head's understanding of your child's needs and where does meeting those needs fit within his/her ambitions for the school. 
  • Flexibility - this might mean flexibility with the curriculum; flexibility with homework demands; individually tailored choice of exam boards for dyslexics. You name it, we like to see as much detailed thought and willingness to adapt as possible. 
  • Culture - is it as cool, amongst pupils, to go to a Learning Support lesson as football practice, or will they feel uncomfortable if they are the only child in the classroom using a lap-top. We have encountered each culture repeatedly. So, it's a matter of finding out which one exists at each school. 
  • Class sizes - yes, smaller is often better if you are looking for more individual support and differentiation, but some of the schools who meet everything on this list may teach in tiny classes where there would then be much that was lost from group learning and socialising. 
  • Technology - supporting SEN within the classroom can often be greatly assisted by the use of new technologies. A progressive attitude to incorporating and using is essential. 

We hope that this might give anyone in a similar situation, somewhere to start. If you'd like to engage us in helping you to think through a dilemma with a new diagnosis or help you to draw up a short-list of schools with which to compare your current school, then do get in touch. 




In celebration of Bonfire Night - we ponder 'sparkle', the magic ingredient when looking for the school that feels like 'the one'!

Image credit: Unsplash

Image credit: Unsplash

On the sparkliest weekend of the year ...

We ponder sparkle in relation to the schools we visit. Some schools sparkle in their own right, it might be the glitter of sun on ancient polished floors, or dazzlingly lush acres, the light reflected from the architect-designed glassy planes of the newly unveiled music practice hall. Or, more likely for us, the passionate sixth former who talks of transformative volunteering experiences, or the pride of a year four pupil explaining their work to us, the co-operation between children in year one activities, or the rapport between a teacher and her class. Definitely memorable and sparkling and yet, we demand more! 

Sparkling Heads

Then there are the Heads who sparkle and yes we do rather demand a Head that wows and enthuses, and utterly convinces us of their passion for education and their ability to lead in any of the schools that we seek out or recommend. But again, this isn't enough... 

The little bit of magic, the wow factor...

We know from visiting schools with our own child, or with clients' children in mind that the most special moment of all, is when there is a moment of connection between our most cherished wish for this child, and the school that might just be able to make that wish come true - sometimes this reveals itself in listening to a Head, more often in when the Head really listens to us talk about this child and responds in a way that suggests real understanding.

Very often pupils supply the sparkling wow moment - if they are allowed to speak about their experiences and are not coached on simply marketing the school. A fresh, first-hand experience that promises just what you are looking for is the Open Day memory that lingers beyond the whizz bangs. We think it might be these moments which deliver the 'we just knew it was the one' moments for prospective parents.

But, how to find the sparkle?

Sometimes a school is right for so many reasons which have to be listened to - geographically, economically, academically but on first visit it fails to live up to your hopes. It may not be the right school. But, we'd recommend a second visit - do things differently. Ask for an interview with the Head, so that you can talk about your child's particular needs and circumstance and take another tour with pupils if possible. The second time, you will be more finely tuned in terms of what you want to know.... and who knows... the sparkle might be there after all!

If you'd like to engage us to help you fast-track your way through the UK's most sparkling schools, do get in touch. Claire@schoolhunters.co.uk

Thinking single sex schools - hurry, these are the hot tickets of the autumn

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St Paul’s Girls' School, London:

Saturday 7th October 2017, 9.00am

Tuesday 31st October 2017, 5.00pm

North London Collegiate School, London:

Taster mornings instead. Register interest for 2018 entry now. Date tbc

Wycombe Abbey, Buckinghamshire:

Saturday 14th October 2017, 9.45am - waiting list only

Saturday 17th March 2018, 9.45am

Guildford High School for Girls: Tuesday 10th October 2017, 10.00am

Tuesday 17th October 2017, 10.00am

Wednesday 22nd November 2017, 10.00am

Thursday 7th Decemembe 2017, 10.00am

James Allen’s Girls’ School, London:

Saturday 7th October 2017, 10.00am

Thursday 19th October 2017, 10.30am

The Haberdashers’ Aske’s School for Girls, Hertfordshire:

Saturday 7th October 2017, 2.00pm

Godolphin & Latymer, London:

Tuesday 10th October 2017, 4.45pm

City of London Girls’ School:

Wednesday 4th October 2017, 9.00am

Tuesday 10th October 2017, 9.00am

St Albans High School for Girls, Hertfordshire:

Saturday 7th October 2017, 9.30am

Notting Hill and Ealing High School, London:

Wednesday 18th October 2017, 4.30pm (parents + daughters)

Monday 9th October 2017, 9.30am (parents only)

Thursday 9th November 2017, 9.30am (parents only)

St Mary’s School Ascot, Surrey:

Saturday 18th November 2017

Channing School, London

Wednesday 8th November 2017, 9.15am

Friday 17th November 2017, 9.15am

St Catherine’s, Bramley, Surrey:

Wednesday 4th October 2017, 9.15am

Thursday 9th November 2017, 9.15am

St Swithun’s School, Winchester:

Wednesday 8th November 2017, 1.45pm

South Hampstead High School, London:

Tuesday 31st October 2017, 9.00am

Thursday 16th November 2017, 9.00am

other dates fully booked at time of writing

The Abbey School, Berkshire:

Friday 13th October 2017, 9.00am

Wimbledon High School, London:

Wednesday 18th October 2017, 9.30am

Book fast, this is an additional date due to high demand

Putney High School, London:

Saturday 14th October 2017, 9.45am, 10.45am

Monday 16th October 2017, 2.15pm

Tuesday 17th October 2017, 8.45am

Wednesday 18th October 2017, 8.45am

Lady Eleanor Holles School, London:

Remaining dates not fully booked at time of writing -

Monday 6th November 2017

Wednesday 22nd November 2017


Westminster School, London*:

Tours for 13+ are in the Spring and Summer terms of year 5. Contact registrar

Haberdashers’ Aske’s Boys’ School, Hertfordshire:

Book a tour instead during term time. Contact the Admissions Office

St Paul’s School, London:

Open days for 2018 entry are now fully booked, but contact the admissions office for further info.

Royal Grammar School, Guildford:

Saturday 7th October 2017, 10.00am

Tonbridge School, Kent:

The next open day is in the Spring term of 2018

Whitgift School, Croydon:

Tuesday 10th October 2017, 4.00pm

Harrow, Middlesex:

Saturday 2nd December 2017, 9.00am

book now for year 9 entry for pupils year 4 and above

Dulwich College, London:

Saturday 7th October 2017, 9.30am

plus tours throughout the year

King's College, Wimbledon*:

Tuesday 10th October 2017, 6.00pm

St Albans School, Hertfordshire*:

Book now for WAITING LIST only places

Trinity School, Croydon*:

Saturday 7th October 2017, 9.00am

Reed’s School, Cobham*:

Saturday 11th November 2017, 10.00am

*= co-ed sixth form

First steps – open days in the shires for pre-prep and beyond

First steps - which schools are on your horizon? (Photo by  Max Goncharov  on  Unsplash

First steps - which schools are on your horizon? (Photo by Max Goncharov on Unsplash

Barely have we got the sand out of our toes and stashed the crabbing nets for another year than it’s open season again.  A couple of Super Saturdays are fast approaching and, as you’ll see from the rush of dates we’ve listed below, there is no way that you’ll be able to look at all the schools that you might want to consider.

Our recommendation is that it’s never too soon to look around, just to get a sense of how schools differ and what you like.  When you’re choosing nurseries and pre-preps with bumps, babes-in-arms and tiny toddlers, you cannot possibly be expected to know whether you’ve got a budding Bill Gates or a mini Miriam Margolyes on your hip, but you can get a feel for the school, see if the pupils are the kinds of children you’d like to have home for tea, and eyeball fellow prospective parents.  The sooner you look, the less pressure you will feel and the more time you have to look round again or to look elsewhere.

We’ve picked out early-years schools (some of which are a one-stop solution going right through to 18) in Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire and Oxfordshire.  Some open days are walk-in events and others require registration – please check school websites for details.

Open days before half term


Gateway School, Great Missenden (Co-ed 2 to 12)
Friday 29th September 2017, 9.15 am – 10.30 am & Saturday 30th September 2017, 9.30 am – 11.30 am

Ashfold School, Dorton (Co-ed, 3 to 13)
Saturday 7th October 2017, 10am to 12pm

St Teresa's School, Princes Risborough (Co-ed 3 to 11)
Saturday 7th October 2017, 10am to 12pm

Swanbourne House School, Milton Keynes (Co-ed 2 to 13)
Saturday 14th October 2017, 10am to 12pm


Kingshott School, Hitchin (Co-ed 3 to 13)
Saturday 23rd September 2017, 10am to 12pm

Lochinver House School, Potters Bar (Boys 4 to 13)
Saturday 23rd September 2017, from 10am

Sherrardswood School, Welwyn (Co-ed 2 to 18)
Saturday 23rd September 2017

Heath Mount School, Hertford (Co-ed 3 to 13)
Saturday 30th September 2017, from 9.30am

St Albans High School for Girls, St Albans (Girls 4 to 18)
Saturday 30th September 2017, 9.30am to 12pm

Duncombe School, Hertford (Co-ed 2 to 11)
Thursday 5th October 2017

St Hilda's School, Harpenden (Girls 3 to 11)
Thursday 5th October 2017 & Saturday 4th November 2017

Aldwickbury School, Harpenden (Boys 4 to 13)
Friday 6th October 2017

St Columba's College, St Albans (Boys 4 to 18)
Saturday 7th October 2017, 9.30am to 12.30pm


Chandlings, Oxford (Co-ed 2 to 11)
Thursday 21st September 2017, 9-11am

Dragon School, Oxford (Co-ed 3 to 13)
Saturday 23rd September 2017 (day pupils) & Saturday 14th October 2017 - (boarding places)

The Manor Preparatory School, Abingdon (Co-ed 2 to 11)
Saturday 23rd September 2017, 10am to 12.30pm

Cokethorpe School, Witney (Co-ed 4 to 18)
Saturday 23rd September 2017, 9.30am to 12pm

Oxford High School, Oxford (Girls 3 to 18)
Wednesday 27th September 2017, 9.30-11am

Christ Church Cathedral School, Oxford (Boys 2 to 13)
Friday 29th September 2017 10.15-11.30am

Our Lady's Abingdon, Abingdon (Co-ed 3 to 18)
Saturday 30 September 2017, 10am to 12.30pm

Rye St Antony School, Oxford (Girls 3 to 19)
Saturday 30 September 2017, 10am to 12.30pm

Abingdon Preparatory School (Formerly Josca's), Abingdon (Boys 4 to 13)
Saturday 7th October 2017, 10am to 12pm

Headington Preparatory School, Oxford (Girls 3 to 11)
Saturday 7th October 2017, 10am to 12pm

New College School, Oxford (Boys 4 to 13)
Saturday 14th October 2017, 10am to 12pm

Ofsted and a million silent children - thoughts from left field

Image credit: Unsplash

Image credit: Unsplash

A school to call my own

If I were Christian or Muslim or Jewish, if I were black or Asian, LGBT or disabled, or if I were a traveller, I would be protected under the law.  No-one could legally discriminate against me and though, sadly, they would, I would have some redress under the law.  But I am part of a silent minority.  I am left handed.

“So?” you say, and by that I know that you are right handed.

When I was a child, my teacher noted my ability to cut out shapes with greater dexterity than my classmates.  The lesson was paused and the class stood by to observe my enviable pint-sized skill.  My classmates returned to their desks and raised their scissors ready to employ their new-found understanding of the complexities of cutting out and …

… my teacher learned she had a lefty in the class.  

Now I’m not living my life entirely as though I just picked up the scissors in my right hand, but I am most certainly living in a right-handed world.

Some aspects of being left handed have improved enormously over the past two decades: from kettles to telephones, cordless equipment has simplified left-handed life.  While other technology has come into being still without consideration for the left-handed – computer keyboards, some smartphones, self-service checkouts.  I remain loyal to the bank that has cheque books equally accessible to all customers - no special request required.

Spotting a left-hander in a classroom, I have flashbacks of smudged work and agonising scissors moulded for right hands.  So I looked it up; how has education changed for the left-hander?  Well, there’s been an extensive survey by Left Handed Children and the range of specialist products improves all the time (I even spotted a section devoted to left-handers in my local Staples recently), and there was an education conference back in 2010, but there is still nothing built into the education to support left-handed children.  I have never seen “support for left-handers” on a school website.

There is no specific guidance or training for teachers taking the PGCE.  They are not even made aware of products such as pencils with a left grip or left-handed rulers – “one of the pots has some left-handed scissors” is about as good as you get!  So teachers, even the very best ones who have noticed and equipped their classrooms with left-handed scissors, still have no intellectual tools with which to manage the problems faced by this small but significant group of pupils. 

There is evidence that left-handed pupils can write so much more slowly than others that they are mistaken for pupils with learning difficulties.  But think about it, for every pen stroke you make pulling a pen gently along the page, we are driving the nib along the page.  We are the snow ploughs, not the skiers. And, possibly as a result of this, we earn less than right-handers over our lifetimes.

It’s not to say that we don’t do well in the end.  Indeed, we are thought, as a group, to be good at “thinking outside the box” and to be creative, and if you want to be president of the US (most recently Bush, Clinton and Obama) or a great artist (think Michelangelo, Rembrandt and Picasso) it seems your odds are greatly increased if you are left handed, but the early days can be hard.  

So how about a school to call our own?  Is it not time for us to have left-handed primary schools?

One in ten pupils is left handed.  What if one in ten primary schools were left handed?  The schools would be open to pupils of other denominations (right-handers and the ambidextrous), just as church-affiliated primaries are open to pupils of all religions, but the assumption would be that pupils are left handed and the teaching and equipment would reflect it. 

Meanwhile, we would like to see Ofsted and ISI consider left-handers in their reports beyond a nod to "the use of left-handed tools”.  Left-handed pens and rulers are great, but we also need to learn how to use right-handed equipment and for our peers and teachers to be more tolerant.  We don't need to be taught to use left-handed equipment, as one teacher put it to me, any more than right-handers need to be taught to use right-handed tools.  What a left-handed child needs is a teacher that notices where they are struggling, a teacher who has a mental inventory of available equipment, and a teacher who understands how a right-brained child might be thinking.  Surely a million primary pupils merit at least a bullet point in the Ofsted inspection manual?

Are your children left handed?  Is their education tailored to their needs?  Let us know what you think.


Sun, Sea and Stripes - time for a short break

Image credit: Unsplash

Image credit: Unsplash

So, another school year has drawn to an end and we're heading off for a brief lie down. We'll be back in September refreshed and ready for what promises to be an exciting year. We're looking forward to visiting even more schools across London, Kent, the Home Counties and Oxfordshire and (fanfare!) will have news of a NEW School Hunters outpost.... 

Thank you to all of our clients this year. We're thinking of you as so many of you settle into your new locations this summer ready for starting new schools in September. 

If you have an urgent request over August, don't hesitate to get in touch, we'll be within reach and able to get the ball rolling. And, we're looking forward to checking in with schools on Twitter on GCSE and A Level results days. 

Happy holidays. 

Claire & Jessica

Lessons from across The Pond - what could we learn from Junior High?

Conversation turns to education quite often in our house, and on 4th July, Independence Day in the US, it turned unsurprisingly to American education.

Having listened just a couple of weeks before to a talk by Sarah Jayne Blakemore, an expert on the adolescent brain and Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London, we were again struck by the fact that Junior High – that place we could never quite identify in Saturday morning television shows – is a brilliant idea.

Grades 6 to 8 (11 to 13 years old) have a school of their own. They’ve outgrown the primary years and are ready for bigger things: a larger school, more subjects and more sports, but most have not yet hit puberty and many are not ready for the cut and thrust of a large senior school.  More importantly, they are undergoing enormous physical, psychological and intellectual changes and the type of school you think will be right for your 11 year old may well be quite different for the one you’d choose at 14.

Of course the independent sector in the UK used to recognise this, to some extent.  Girls would move school at 11 or 12, but boys – generally thought to mature later – would be at a prep school for an extra two or three years.  But with the move towards co-education, this has changed significantly.

Now, we wonder, is everyone losing out?  According to Professor Blakemore, girls and boys are both at a unique phase in their development for the early adolescent years (11-13).  So neither boys nor girls really benefit from being either left behind or pushed forward at 11 years old.  They deserve to be treated uniquely, not tacked on to anyone else’s educational needs.

  • Early adolescence is a time of change and reinvention for children – does changing schools at 14 allow them to present their new selves to friends and teachers?
  • Five years is a long time in the life of a child.  Many pupils are unsurprisingly itching to change schools after that time – is sixth form a good time for that to happen or would the break better be made earlier?
  • In schools that pre-select at 11 for entry at 13, are they really selecting the right child for the school? 

The American system suddenly looks rather appealing to us – giving each phase of a child’s development its time and space and educating them according to that phase.  Is it time to stop fiddling with our exams and start restructuring our schools?

4th of July heralds the very end of school term for many... something of a hiatus for everyone, but if you find that the down-time ushers in thoughts of what next? Talk to us. It's business as usual until the end of July! 

School for start-ups - meet the Oxford High students running a company, launching a product (oh, and studying for A Levels)

Kate Whittington , HR Director for Oxford High's Young Enterprise company, Quartz, shares her experiences with us and explains why Young Enterprise and their product Domi-Know is such a bright idea. 

What is Young Enterprise?

Young Enterprise state that they are ‘the UK’s leading charity that empowers young people to harness their personal and business skills’, and I think everyone in  my company would agree.

Young Enterprise programmes are run throughout the UK in many different schools. We took part in the Company Programme (for ages 15-19), which is a year-long process, but there are also shorter workshops and programmes aimed at children as young as 11.

Young Enterprise runs nationwide competitions, which are an opportunity both to compete and to learn from other companies. We have progressed through the City and County rounds, and will compete in the Regional Finals in mid-June.

Last year’s UK winners were Enlighten Hope, from St. Patrick’s College in Dungannon, Northern Ireland, with a set of storybooks which help children and parents to ‘cope in a hopeful way with their child undergoing chemotherapy of radiotherapy’. Previous winning schools have included St Helen’s (London), Southborough High School (South-West London), Tiffin Girls’ School (Kingston, London), St Paul’s School (West London) and Balcarras School (Gloucestershire).

What transferrable skills have we gained?

Whether it’s developing simple skills such as writing minutes or crafting professional emails, or understanding shares, pitching and cash flow, there’s no-one who hasn’t discovered something new.

We’ve learnt how to write company reports and financial statements, how to present to CEOs and halls full of people, and most importantly, how to effectively work in a large team.

A shared passion for our product and a drive to get as far as we can have been the most important tools we could have asked for.

Young Enterprise alumni are twice as likely to start up their own company compared to their peers, and the experience has certainly had a similar effect on many of us. A lot of us had never considered entrepreneurship as a career option before, but it’s now an area which a lot of company members are really interested in.

Seeing the difficulties and the rewards of starting up your own business has inspired us to consider entrepreneurship as an exciting potential career, and several of us are talking about continuing with our product after the official year is through.                

Who are we? Our company and product

We formed our company, Quartz, last September, and are based at Oxford High School. There are sixteen of us (aged between 16-17), with two Managing Directors taking the lead in our weekly meetings. We’ve all adopted different roles, from Company Secretary to Marketing Director, and they’ve each turned out to be of equal importance.

It’s certainly been a learning curve, with a few moments of low morale when we were rejected by companies, and many moments of stress as we hurried to meet deadlines.

Our product is a language-learning game called ‘Domi-Know’, which aims to teach children between the ages of 5-11 basic vocabulary in four different languages. The game is based on dominoes, with players matching foreign language words with corresponding pictures.

Domi-Know takes a wooden 3D cuboid format, an aspect which makes the game more interesting for children to play, and coincidentally should enhance cognitive skills in later life.

We’re hugely excited to now be selling Domi-Know (retail price £25) whilst negotiating deals with manufacturers at home and abroad.

You can buy the game by emailing quartz.oxford@gmail.com.


Good Luck to Quartz, at the regional finals, from Jessica and Claire at School Hunters, we will be rooting for you!

How to pass with flying colours as a parent whilst getting through the 'pass' or 'fail' talk of the 11+

It is possible to get through 11+ time with flying colours  - in every sense!  (image credit: Unsplash)

It is possible to get through 11+ time with flying colours  - in every sense!  (image credit: Unsplash)

Can you pass or fail a test that does not have a pass mark?

Imagine if you were to walk out of your driving test and not be told if you’d passed or failed, but that you’d be told later.  At the end of the day, the top 100 of people who took the test would be awarded a driving licence.  If one person from the top 100 left the UK without collecting her licence, and the 101st person were therefore awarded a licence, would that final person have “passed” or “failed”?

This is how the the 11+ works! So, when we heard Nick Robinson talking about 'pass' and 'fail this week, as we all do, I started to think about the pressure of grammar school testing and what we as parents can do to relieve it... 

How do you talk to your child about the 11+ test?

  • Always ensure your child knows that the grammar school is just one of a few options you are considering. 
  • Make sure you and your child are sure about which non-grammar schools will also be on your list of preferences when choices are made (the time between results and preferences is often just a matter of days, often over the half-term break, so plan ahead).
  • Discuss honestly the pros and cons of different types of education. If your child is currently a “big fish in a small pond” as one of the brighter children in the class, then how will he or she adjust to being in a bigger pond full of bigger fish?
  • Talk about life plans with your child.  If all your child has ever wanted to do is join the army or be a farmer, then perhaps a school with more practical leanings would suit better, regardless of 11+ success?
  • Talk about what you will do if you find that despite winning a place at the grammar school it doesn't turn out to be the right school. It might be comforting for them to know, this is your only endeavour. 
  • Discuss with child whether he or she will be happy in a single-sex grammar school (if that’s your local option) and if the commute is bearable (for many, the local grammar school is much further away than the local secondary school) and take seriously their concerns.

Parent checklist

  1. Make sure you look at other schools too, ensuring it’s clear that they are viable options. 
  2. Ask all the questions at each school that you’d ask if that were the only option available to you.
  3. You might even consider not viewing the grammar school with your child, depending on whether you think seeing the school will add pressure or incentive.
  4. Talk openly and regularly about the pros and cons of all the schools that are options, trying to be as balanced as you can.
  5. Think about whether you really think tutoring is necessary.  A few practice papers will give your child a good feel for the kinds of questions that might come up and if he or she is being intensively prepped through the 11+ the grammar school might not be the right school after all.
  6. If you’re looking at independent schools as an alternative try not to add any pressure on your child by talking about the financial advantages!  
  7. If you have more than one child, remember that how you’re presenting schools will affect other siblings too – small people have big ears so choose your words carefully.
  8. Not all grammar schools are single-sex, but many are.  If you don’t think your child will suit the environment, then think again about the choice of school.

What do you think might be helpful? Join in the debate @schoolhuntersuk - see you there!


11+ reasons to register now for the grammar school 11+

Time to take the plunge and register for the 11+ grammar school test (image credit: Unsplash)

Time to take the plunge and register for the 11+ grammar school test (image credit: Unsplash)

The 11+ tests for coveted grammar school places take place in early September and in most counties, now is the time to be registering to take the test.

Why register for the 11+?

  • Why not?  It’s free.
  • Most counties with grammar schools educate between 10 and 20 per cent of pupils in grammar school – it’s not quite as selective as you might think. 
  • Despite the pressure to tutor, it might well be far better not to  – the schools have been working hard to make their tests more “tutor-proof”. 
  • Don’t worry if you think either your child’s maths or English isn’t good enough to get to grammar school.  The papers are weighted with the aim of admitting the best overall applicants, not the specialists.
  • If your child is relatively young (i.e. was born late in the school year and may still only be 9 years old as you make this decision) then her/his results will be weighted to counteract that relative disadvantage – don’t underestimate your child!
  • Grammar schools are determined to make themselves more accessible to children in care and to those eligible for the Pupil Premium, and in some areas, those children are now offered places based on scores substantially lower than those of other pupils.
  • Taking the test keeps your options open – if your child takes the test and wins a place, you can still choose another school, but at least you had the choice.
  • The 11+ test is a valuable experience, like going for auditions.  Your child can take the test for the experience and not even open the envelope of results.
  • You may be able to apply to a grammar school even if you don’t live in a grammar school county – check the admission criteria for nearby schools.
  • Don’t be daunted – your child may still seem very young in Year 5, but children flourish when they find themselves at the top of the school and you are making a decision for Year 7 and beyond.  Think big.
  • If you’re thinking of applying to a private school, see this as a chance to experience an examination before the test for the school you want.
  • Undecided. Always good to have options. Register now, decide later. 

For most counties, registration for the grammar school tests closes in July – later applications are considered for places only after on-time applicants are offered places, so it’s wise to register on time.

It takes just five minutes to apply – it could be the most productive five minutes of your child’s life so far!


Digital detox - a parental challenge too far?

old phones.jpg

I’m counting down to my digital detox.  I’m not taking it well.

It seemed like a great idea when my pint-sized School Hunter told us.  I had no problem telling her she could break her Snapchat line and her Duolingo record.  It was just a day, I said. If you miss the first train and we have to wait, it’s not the end of the world, I said.  Of course you can do 24 hours, I said.

Will you join me? she said.

Of course, I said.

It’s a brilliant idea.  Don’t tell your children you “can’t do maths”.  Children who see their parents playing music are more likely to play too.  Children are more likely to continue with sport into adulthood if their parents did.  We are not a digital family but my daughter still perceives me as being on my phone all the time.  It doesn’t matter that often as not I’m arranging piano lessons or adding milk to the shopping list – in her eyes, my phone never leaves me.

Am I deluding myself?  Our music is still on CDs.  We have no television.  No phones until they leave primary school.  We sit down to eat as a family – no phones.  I can spend the evening with friends without recourse to my phone to show a photo, check a fact or respond to a text.  I’m sure I’m not addicted.

It’s tomorrow, she said.


But tomorrow I have to tweet about school dates.

Tomorrow I have a blog to post.

How will I fix up my meetings without email?

How will I wake up to do the school run?

And I don’t use a shopping list any more.  Marmalade is getting low or someone just finished the cream and it’s straight to the Tesco app.  I don’t want to find a pen and paper. 

And I’m off to a school reunion in London.  How will I book my tickets?  How will I plan my route?  How will I find my way?  How will I call my friend to say I’m running late?  How will I exchange details with old friends?  How will I take photos? 

My life is on my calendar… my family’s lives too.  It’s all on my calendar, in my phone.  Who will remind my parents they have a dentist appointment?  How will I track dementia dad when he gets lost again?  How will I know if school plans change or be able to give my ETA?  How will I know if my train’s delayed?  How will I book the pint-sized challenger into her regatta before the deadline?

Does it count if I put my tweets into Buffer and let them go out tomorrow?  Does it count if I “look but don’t touch”?  Can I see messages ping in as long as I don’t reply?  Am I already finding ways to cheat?

I’ve had a brilliant idea – how about Daddy does it with you instead?  He’s not going to London tomorrow.

He won’t, she said glumly.  He’s worse than you. 

No way, he told me.  Why would I do that?

Now I have a real dilemma.  Being able to beat a spouse at any competition, even a digital detox one, is tantalising.  But when the spouse isn’t playing the game it’s a double whammy – no-one to compete with and that sense of why should I do it if he doesn’t?    And I once did a 30-year digital detox – am I the one that has to prove anything?

The hours are counting down.  I remain undecided.

Singing for your supper

There is still one fantastic way to get a first-class education for very reasonable fees… if you can sing.  While most school scholarships nowadays are nominal, choral scholarships are usually still very generous and can be further supplemented by bursaries from either the school or, in many cases, The Choir Schools Association.  Most schools hold auditions year round, but contact the schools directly for details.

Choral scholarships for prep schools inside the M25

City of London School (boys)
107 Queen Victoria Street, London EC4V 3AL

Choristers of the Chapel Royal and The Temple Church are traditionally educated from the age of 10 at City of London School.  While it is necessary for choristers to meet the usual academic entry requirements for the school, being a chorister surely must help your chances of landing a place and the discount on the fees is not to be sniffed at.  See choirs below for further details.

Chapel Royal Choristers (boys)
Hampton Court Palace KT8 9AU

The Chapel Royal has no school, but the boys receive a free and outstanding musical education and traditionally enter City of London Boys School on a choral scholarship in Year 6.  The Chapel Royal operates a local outreach programme with the express intention of offering this outstanding opportunity to any local boy with the right voice.

Admission: Boys aged 7 to 9 can register for the open day on Saturday 23rd September 2017 and can then apply for audition.  Voice trials are held each October.  Six places are available annually. Boys initially remain at their current school and sing with the choir until the age of 13 or until their voice changes.

Money matters: There are no fees.  Boys receive a small weekly payment, music lessons are funded by a non-means tested bursary, further means tested support is available and parents are provided with a car park pass for the choir schedule.  If the boys go on to study at City of London School then they are awarded a choral scholarship to the tune of 30% of the fees from the time they become full choristers.

Destinations: Boys usually attend City of London School on a choral scholarship.


Dulwich Prep (boys)
42 Alleyn Park, London SE21 7AA

The College Chapel Choir sings choral services in the Chapel of the Foundation, Christ’s Chapel of God’s Gift, in Dulwich Village.  The financial benefits are small when compared with the choir schools, but nonetheless free tuition is not to be sniffed at.

Money: Choral Probationerships receive vocal tuition.  Auditions are held in June.

Admissions: Dulwich Prep has various entry points from 3+.  Choral scholarships are available from 8+.

Destinations: Most boys expect to go on to Dulwich College.


The London Oratory (boys)
The London Oratory School, Seagrave Road, London SW6 1RX

A state school offering choral places.  Choristers sing at The Oratory, Brompton (Roman Catholic).  Choristers are selected by voice trial at 7+ and are all day pupils.

Money: Not applicable at this outstanding state school.

Destinations: Most pupils stay on to the senior school.

Admission: Ten choral places a year, priority given to Catholic applicants.


Reigate St Mary’s Preparatory and Choir School (co-ed)
Chart Lane, Reigate, Surrey RH2 7RN

The choristers of Reigate St Mary’s (Church of England), technically outside the M25 but close enough, are recruited from Years 4 to 6 of Reigate St Mary’s Preparatory and Choir School.  From September 2017, for the first time, girls will be invited to join the choir.  All choristers are day pupils.  There are 16 choral scholarships at any one time.

Money: School fees are £4,780 per term and choral scholarships are £333 per term (Probationers) and £533 per term (Choristers).

Destinations: Most pupils go on to Reigate Grammar School.

Admissions: Entrance to the Choir, normally from the age of 8, is by initial voice trial followed by a probationary period. Choral scholarships are offered by the Godfrey Searle Choir Trust.


St Paul’s Cathedral School (co-ed school, all choristers are boys)
New Change, London EC4M 9AD

The choristers of St Paul's Cathedral (Church of England) participate in magnificent events at the cathedral, often in front of royalty and television cameras, as well as benefitting from an outstanding education.  The school is a day school with a two-form entry (approx 36 pupils), but the choristers (approx. 6 per year) all board. 

Money: If successful, a chorister’s tuition fee (£4,737 per term) and music lessons are paid for by cathedral and parents are asked to contribute only the boarding fee, which is currently £2,685.67 per term. Further assistance is available to low-income families.

Destinations: Pupils leave to an impressive array of senior schools. 

Admissions: The next school open day is on Thursday 1st June 2017 at 2.00 pm.  Auditions by appointment, but the next annual Chorister Experience Afternoon is on Tuesday 10th October 2017.


The Temple Church (boys)
1 Inner Temple Lane, Temple, London EC4Y 7AF

Choristers of Temple Church attend any school, but with a substantial scholarship to cover fees.  They meet after school for rehearsals and lessons.

Money: Boys are given individual singing and musicianship lesson, as well as being taught music theory and performance in small groups.

Once on contract as a full chorister, boys receive an academic scholarship to the value of two-thirds of the fees of the City of London School for Boys (£5,577). Although most boys attend the City of London School, the scholarship can be used at any school of the parents’ choosing, subject to selection by the chosen school.

Admission: Prospective choristers are invited to contact the Director of Music throughout the year – auditions (from six and a half years) are informal with emphasis on potential.  Successful applicants join the choir as pre-probationers and probationers, while they learn to be choristers. 


Westminster Abbey Choir School (boys)
Dean’s Yard, London SW1P 3NY

Choristers of Westminster Abbey (Church of England) are guaranteed an unrivalled education and extraordinary opportunity to be present at some of the most important events of their generation.  The school is tiny with just 6-8 boys in a class, with most boys entering the school in Year 4.

Money: All choristers board and fees are a very reasonable £8,240 per annum (2016 figures), including tuition on piano and one other instrument, but further bursaries are available if needed. 

Destinations: Boys go on to top senior schools, often with music scholarships.

Admission: Trials are held throughout the year but there is ‘Chorister Experience’ day for 7-8 year olds on Saturday 20th May.


Westminster Cathedral Choir School (boys)
Ambrosden Avenue, London SW1P 1QH

Choristers sing at Westminster Cathedral and must be Roman Catholic.  There are about six choral places offered a year and choristers enter the school in Year 4 with trials held throughout the year.

Money: All choristers board for a very reasonable £3,094/term. 

Destinations: Pupils leave at 13+ to top senior schools, often with music scholarships.

Admission: The school says there are “about three serious applicants for every place” – competitive, but not impossible.

Other choir schools in the South East are

  • King’s Rochester Preparatory School, Rochester
  • St. Cedd's School, Chelmsford
  • St George’s School, Windsor Castle
  • Lanesborough School, Guildford
  • St Edmund’s Junior School, Canterbury
  • The Prebendal School, Chichester
  • The Pilgrim’s School, Winchester
  • New College School, Oxford
  • Christ Church Cathedral School, Oxford
  • Magdalen College School, Oxford
  • King’s Ely Junior, Ely
  • St John’s College School, Cambridge
  • King’s College School, Cambridge
  • The Portsmouth Grammar School

Hunting for a school with sleep-overs? Maybe flexi-boarding is the answer.

Happiness is a sleepover with friends every school night (image credit: Unsplash)

Happiness is a sleepover with friends every school night (image credit: Unsplash)

When my parents were packed off to boarding school at seven years old, they were not seen again until the half term holiday and communication was by weekly letter, always checked by a teacher to ensure there was no mention of homesickness, bad food or anything to raise questions at home. Whilst we've seen one or two boarding school bedrooms in need of a make-over, even today, many more are modern, light filled sleep over heaven, with on tap fruit, pets, friends, and laundry facilities, with school sports activities a walk away into the evening. 

If you have dismissed boarding schools as being not for you, we wonder whether you might be tempted with the idea of flexi-boarding, increasingly on the menu at a number of schools?

Great for dual working parents without the flexibility to be involved in pick-ups and those wanting to offer their children some of the freedoms of acres of space when they need to be within sight of the City, it seems like a great way of accommodating modern life for both parents and children. Pupils can stay for as little as a night a week on a regular basis, or can stay on an ad hoc basis when parents are travelling.  This mix-and-match approach to boarding has also helped to blur the lines between day and boarding divide and friendships therefore flourish.

Open-day season

Here a few of the boarding preps within an hour of Heathrow and with open days this term (in date order to help you to plan):

Summer Fields School, Oxford (boys):
Saturday 29th April 2017 – more places opening for September 2018 

Ludgrove School, Wokingham (boys):
Saturday 6th May 2017, 2.30pm

LVS Ascot, Berkshire (co-ed, boarding from age 7):
Tuesday 9th May 2017

St Andrew’s School, Pangbourne (co-ed):
Friday 11th May 2017

Beachborough School, Brackley (co-ed):
Friday 12th May 2017, 9.30am 

Moulsford Prep School, Wallingford (boys):
Friday 12th May 2017, 10am or 1pm

Brockhurst and Marlston House Schools, Newbury –(sister schools, single sex, boarding from age 9)
Saturday 13th May 2017, 10:30am

Cothill House, Abingdon (boys):
Saturday 13th May 2017, from 10am  

Dragon School, Oxford (co-ed):
Saturday, 13th May 2017

Elstree School, Reading (boys):
Saturday 13th May 2017, 10am

Godstowe School, High Wycombe (girls):
Saturday 13th May 2017, 10am

Lambrook School, Ascot (co-ed):
Saturday, 13th May 2017, 9.30am

Papplewick School, Ascot (boys):
Saturday 13th May 2017, 9am 

Winchester House School, Brackley (co-ed):
Saturday 13th May 2017, 10.30am

Rye St Antony, Oxford (girls):
Saturday 20th May 2017, 10am

Caldicott Preparatory School, Buckinghamshire (boys):
Saturday 10th June 2017, 10am

Christ Church Cathedral School, Oxford (boys):
To be announced – contact the registrar.

The following schools do not have an open day this term, but are within an hour of Heathrow.  Tours can be arranged through the registrar. 

Eagle House School, Sandhurst (co-ed in the grounds of Wellington College) 

The Oratory Preparatory School, Reading (co-ed, boarding from year 6)

St George’s School, Windsor (co-ed)

Sunningdale School, Berkshire (boys)

What to do when you can't have first choice

Getting the best out of your chocolate box when your favourite's gone (Photo credit: Unsplash)

Getting the best out of your chocolate box when your favourite's gone (Photo credit: Unsplash)

Resistance may be futile, but persistence can pay off: is there anything to be done to gain the 2017 state school place you hoped for?

For first time parents, not being offered your first choice of school place can feel like a personal failure – it’s hard to remember that you were not choosing a school after all, but stating a preference. In London, one third of secondary school pupils were not offered their first choice of school.

School feels monumental for your first child, you look so carefully.  At nursery you were seeking out love and care and home-from-home and the educational element was perhaps more incidental.  In planning primary school you have weighed up the pros and cons of proximity to home, Ofsted ratings (how does a ‘good’ from 2015 compare with an ‘outstanding’ from 2007), maybe you dared a foray onto your local Mumsnet page and a few carefully planned strolls past the school gate at pickup time.  In some cases you may not have even felt completely confident about your choices, but the failure to get your first choice of school is inevitably a shock, a body-blow after all of the careful sugar-free, organic, baby-signing and music classes.  For those seeking places for second or third children, the blow can be just as great, though based on a little more knowledge and a lot more logistical necessity.

So what now? 

Your options from here out will depend hugely on where you live and your budget (is private education an alternative, even until the next academic stage?) but, wherever you are and whatever the alternatives you are able to consider, your child is of course going to be all right. Children will survive going to the “wrong” school, leaving their friends, and – should you go on to appeal and win – changing schools after the beginning of the school year too. So, getting used to the new turn of events may be all you want or need to do.

But, there is an alternative:

  • In most London boroughs/areas you will automatically be on the waiting list for your first choice of school (or any higher up your list than your allocated school) but do check this is the case, sometimes if applying out of borough you'll need to put yourself on the list.
  • Did you miss anything in your initial application – a new free school or a better school in a neighbouring authority that you could also get on the waiting list for?
  • Review the appeals procedure for your first choice of school. It’s very unlikely that you will be successful unless you happen to hit the criteria for appeal and are extremely determined to pursue it, but it can be done. The key is to start early and do your homework.
  • Find out which schools still have places and scrutinise them - any improved performances revealed in new inspections - and visit if you can.
  • You'll need to consider how late in the day you'd be prepared to make a switch - after you've bought the school uniform, for instance? Places do come available even as late as during the first few weeks of September.
  • Think it’s too late to consider private education for 2017 – no, not necessarily, talk to us now!

In our experience, there is actually quite a lot of movement in the first years of school.  Parents are typically at a point in their careers where moves are inevitable, siblings are moved to be with other siblings or strategically positioned for transfer to secondary school, families move to larger homes or to the countryside or win places at the schools they originally wanted and fall out of a love with a school that suits you perfectly.

And in addition to the movement of pupils making spaces available, schools change too.  Changes of leadership can transform a school in just a couple of years and the Ofsted ratings you relied upon can prove to be hopelessly out of date – a school put in ‘special measures’ last year could be ‘outstanding’ next.  You could find yourself at the most desirable school in the neighbourhood.  A mediocre infant school may merge with, and be transformed by an outstanding middle school and an academy chain merging primaries and secondaries can bring managerial economies that boost classroom funding.

For some, there is the independent option, a huge financial commitment, about both affordability and whether your education pot is best spent early or saved for later years, or later children, but the choices are both varied and exciting and well worth consideration. For the motivated and determined, you might give the school you’ve been allocated a chance and if it doesn’t work out, vote with your feet.

It’s a stressful time. Do get in touch if you’d like to discuss how we can help you find a way through.

He For She - we pause for thought on the question of a male Head at a girls' school

Image credit: Unsplash

Image credit: Unsplash

“Rubbish.  There should be a woman to look up to.  There are lots of inspiring women out there.” This was the verdict of my ten year old daughter when asked what she thought of the news that a leading girls’ school is to have a man at the helm once its current headmistress departs. To my amazement, her father felt the same way.

My usually strident elder daughter disagreed.  Her opinion, expressed with a teen shrug, was “What’s the problem if he’s the best person for the job?  Is he clever?” 

I was thrilled because I agree.  When Felicity Lusk moved from Oxford High School for Girls to become the first female head of a boys’ public school, comedian David Mitchell wrote in the Guardian, “There are bound to have been gifted male candidates, and the governors would have had a quieter life if they’d appointed one of them, so I’m forced to the conclusion that Lusk was picked because they thought she was the best person for the job and institutional sexism be damned.”

And when a girls’ school is ready to have a male headmaster perhaps it's much the same.  It is a sign of confidence that a girls’ school does not think it needs a female figurehead to show what women can be in the world – a man will do just as well, as long as he believes in, inspires and supports his pupils’ potential.

What might be the advantages of a male Head?  Is the role model parents want for their daughters “you can fight any battle you want” or "you can be anything"?  Perhaps someone who has possibly never faced so many "-isms" (as long has he truly understands the reality of the challenges of gender equality) could have a tip or two up his sleeve for succeeding beyond it. 

Men willing to invest their professional lives in girls

Just as women such as Helen Pike at all-boys Magdalen College School and Susan Faulkner at Bolton School Junior Boys’ School feel able to say that they are the right person at the right time, so Paul Burke of NYC's all-girls Nightingale-Bamford School is confident about the role he can play in a girls’ school, stating on the National Coalition of Girls’ Schools website that “girls need to know there are men, as well as women, who are so invested in their success they are willing to dedicate their professional lives to them.”

And what do all these teachers have in common?  It is a far stronger thread than simply gender.  They believe in single-sex education.

If you're looking for a girls' school for your daughter, whether prep, primary, senior, or sixth form, we can help. Simply contact us below. 

More girls' schools with male heads: 

Streatham & Clapham High School (GDST), London  -  both the senior and junior schools currently have male heads

Holy Cross School, New Malden, Surrey - a mainstream state senior school

Pembridge Hall School, Notting Hill, London - a prep school

St Margaret’s School, Hampstead, London -  an independent school for girls aged 4 to 16 years

St Michael’s Catholic Grammar, Finchley, London - a state senior school (with boys in the sixth form)



Welcome to London's most 'outstanding' neighbourhoods - our 2017 snapshot of Ofsted's finest primary schools

PNG without CR school hunters outstanding primary schools map.png

How to read the map

The number inside each circle indicates the percentage of 'outstanding' primary schools in that borough, as a percentage of total mainstream primary schools. The sizes of the circles give an approximate sense of how these compare (with the exception of the City of London, see below).

The churches give an indication of the percentage of these 'outstanding' schools that are faith schools: so for instance 50 per cent of the 'outstanding' primaries in Wandsworth are faith schools, whereas in Havering they comprise only 10 per cent of 'outstanding' primaries. Despite the symbol, these faiths are all and any. 

And, removal vans at the ready, what does it tell us?

·         The London borough of Kensington & Chelsea, including Holland Park and Notting Hill, tops the charts this year for the number of ‘outstanding’ state primaries – 14 out of 28 – of these, 50 per cent are faith schools.

·         Meanwhile Barking & Dagenham in the north and Bexley in the south offer the fewest ‘outstanding’ schools. Large primaries, 120 places in a year, are common in Barking & Dagenham and improvement is stagnating. Of Bexley’s 70 primaries a mere 6 are rated ‘outstanding’.

·         57 per cent of the ‘outstanding’ primaries in Hammersmith & Fulham are faith schools: the highest in any London borough. It’s also useful to practise a faith in Camden, Wandsworth and Westminster.

·         Where good primaries are thin on the ground, such as Bromley, catchments are tiny with 7 or more applications for every place the norm. By comparison, although fewer in number, the excellent C. of E. and Catholic schools are far less over-subscribed.

·         100 per cent of schools may be ‘outstanding' in The City of London. However, this represents a single ‘outstanding’ primary – a church school requiring attendance fortnightly for two years prior to admission.

·         No faith and no desire to find one? Redbridge has the smallest number of faith schools amongst the ‘outstanding’s: just the one.

·         Many ‘outstanding’ schools are small (those established 'village' schools with an in-take of 30 may find it less challenging to hit the grade than the 4 classes per year new primary academies) so one needs to be mindful that a borough offering 50 per cent of schools as 'outstanding'   does not mean that 50 per cent of school places allocated will be in ‘outstanding’ schools.

·         Some boroughs are more turbulent than others: with primaries seeming to rise and fall with the tide. Many schools that reach ‘outstanding’ status will remain that way indefinitely, becoming local magnets that will safely see a widely distributed family of four through the gates. In other boroughs, schools seem less able to sustain consistently high standards. Most improved boroughs for primary schools in the past three years are: Hounslow, Bexley, Waltham Forest and Croydon.

·         A new ‘outstanding’ rating can create a stampede: one Croydon primary recently saw applications increase by 60 per cent in two years.

·         Is Lambeth the new ‘nappy valley’?  The borough which includes Kennington, Herne Hill, eastern Clapham, Balham, Streatham and West Norwood has risen to the challenge of its rising population and contains state primary gems, such as those in the Gypsy Hill Federation. Applications are polarised around ‘outstanding’ primaries and the commute to school for the successful could be no more than a 300m scoot. 

·         If this picture feels ‘squeezed’ it is. However, new openings have been all the rage on the primary landscape in the past couple of years most of which will not be faith schools: for pioneers there are free schools of all shapes and persuasions; new primary ventures from successful secondaries creating all-through schools, or long-term ‘outstanding’ Heads given the go-ahead to replicate their success elsewhere.

Whether you plan to hunt for a state or independent school for your child, whether you're re-locating to London, have some flexibility to switch sides of the river or need to stay put, we're here to help with the search and the process to secure a place in the best possible school. We love to listen, have data at our finger-tips,  an awareness of all of the crucial dates and hoops to be jumped through and a firm belief that it's NEVER TOO EARLY to start planning. 


Data extracted on 5th January 2017. Source: Department of Education.


It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Image credit: Unsplash

Image credit: Unsplash

The Christmas trees are up - even the 25 foot one as wide as our dining table is long we indulge in just because we moved to the country (Jessica) - the gingerbread cats are made (Claire) and soon the pint sized School Hunters will be home full time for a few weeks. So whilst, school is out, we wish you the happiest of holidays and Christmases and will be taking a short break. 

We will back in the New Year, open for business and raring to go with new commissions on Wednesday 4th of January 2017. 

Until then

Claire & Jessica

How would you spend £5550 per pupil per year - we ponder the 10,000 independent school places proposal?

quetions HMC 10,000 school places proposal

Never shy to put our hands up in class...

...today's proposals by the Independent Schools Council (ISC) gave us, and the government, some food for thought. 

From Eton’s foundation to “to provide free education to 70 poor boys” to Lawrence Sheriff, purveyor of spices to Queen Elizabeth I (Lord Sainsbury, please note) opening “a Free Grammar School for the boys of Rugby and Brownsover”, there has always been a strong connection between independent schools and the education of the poor. 

But somewhere along the way, the government undertook the education of the nation and the private schools became just that, private. Their charitable status however, and the tax benefits that go alongside this bring their broader responsibilities into focus. 

The first of the ISC’s three proposals today is pretty simple.  The government spends £5550 per pupil on education and if that money goes directly to the school where the child is being educated (a bit like the Free School Meals funding) then they, the independent schools, would be happy to educate many more children from low-income families who would not have to pay fees which in normal circumstances cost parents anywhere from £10,000 to £30,000+ per year. 

We’re interested in the idea, but we have a few questions:

What is the impact on the state sector of losing £55m from its budget?

That sounds like a lot of money to us.  But let’s look at it the other way.  If all of those families currently educating their children privately suddenly decided to avail themselves of the state sector, the cost to the state would be almost £3 billion.  It’s certainly in the state’s interest to work with the private sector, not against it.

What is the impact on the state sector of losing 10,000 pupils from its roll-call?

According to the headlines, we face a shortfall of primary school places over the next four years.  Money is one problem, but physical places are another. The ISC’s proposition might be considered by some as a bit of a lifeline.

Where are the places to be offered?

Independent secondary schools have been offering places to low-income pupils since their inception, but what of primary education?  We’d like to see places offered to pupils early in their education when smaller class sizes and more tailored education can ensure pupils are prepared to make the best of their secondary education, wherever that may be.

How will low-income pupils learn about this option?

Today is a fantastic headline grabbing start, which we applaud. We hope that parents may put the scheme on their radars, even at this potential stage. From visiting independent schools quietly expanding their bursary provision already, we feel communication about these opportunities should not be so "hush, hush" or equality of opportunity is lost again...it becomes confined to those who are in a position to hear about such things. If we had not been persistently researching and visiting schools as consultants, we would not have known about opportunities under our own noses. 

Who will be offered places?

At present, understandably, independent schools’ want to make sure those in receipt of bursary places are “worthy” of the bursary.  It’s a great deal of money!  Bursaries are not scholarships, but they are the golden ticket and much sought after.  It won’t benefit pupil or school for less academic pupils to be awarded unconditional places in highly academic schools, but will this allow schools to cherry pick from the state sector? 

What will happen to low-income SEN pupils?

This is something we feel passionately about. Children who have great potential, who would benefit from the specialist teaching, excellent SEN support and smaller class sizes that can often be found more plentifully in the private sector, will often not perform well in entrance testing, despite having much to offer. 

And what of the squeezed middle?

Scholarships at most schools are now nominal so for some it feels that independent education is increasingly accessible only to the poor or the wealthy.  We see court cases on the horizon from parents for whom private education is currently out of reach, but would be accessible with an annual top up of £5550. 

The rights and wrongs of this are to debate elsewhere, but politically this may be too much of a hot potato for any government.

We hope you enjoy our musings on the blog, but if you'd like to join in the conversation DAILY, you'll find us over @schoolhuntersuk. We look forward to seeing you there. 

Is the ICS proposal just a chance for the independent sector to cherry pick pupils?

The 7 traits of an A*student - it's not all about natural ability

What makes the difference when it comes to getting A*? 

Friday saw the publication of a hotly anticipated research project, 3 years in the making, which set out to distil which factors can be isolated from the way that the best independent schools teach that contribute to an able child attaining the best possible grades, i.e. an A or A*.  What makes the difference?

It’s fair to say that the project seems to have taken the ‘highly able’ as the starting point, but it is evident that there is a great deal that needs to come together to take even the able to the pinnacle of the A*.

The aim of the research was to plough the findings back into state school practices. The lead state school was Christ the King Sixth Form College and some of the partner schools involved included Eton College, St Paul’s Boys’ School and North London Collegiate School.

The whole report makes very interesting reading – plenty to consolidate what one might look for when hunting for a school to support an academic child – but here we’ve summarised what we thought was of most immediate use for parents – which is, what is it that will particularly help your bright child get an A* - these are things that of course are going to be assisted by the right school, but many of them are more an attitude to studying or way of working that the determined and resourceful at any school could aim for? Here they are. 

The 7 approaches to learning and character traits that help students achieve their A*/A potential

  1. An exceptionally strong work ethic coupled with a commitment to developing a sound understanding of taught and independently learnt subject knowledge
  2. Investing the time to ‘keep up’ and achieve clarity of understanding of lessons taught in class
  3. Determination to succeed when faced with learning challenges
  4. Willingness to take risks, despite fear of failure. Willingness to learn from mistakes.
  5. High intrinsic motivation: engage all of the time, whatever the task and enjoy learning for its own sake.
  6. Intellectual curiosity: keenness to know irrespective of whether the exam requires it, proactively asking questions, willingness to apply knowledge flexibly
  7. Taking ownership of learning, developing independent study habits and admitting confusions, misunderstandings.

Extracted from “What Makes the Difference” © 2016 Christ the King Sixth Form College

To join in the conversation on the educational hot topics of the day do join us @schoolhuntersuk, we'd love to see you there.