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Moving from a State Primary to Private Secondary School

By: Sarah Knowles BA, MA - Updated: 3 Feb 2024 | comments*Discuss
Private Secondary State Primary School

Applying to a private secondary school from a state primary can be a challenge, but it's certainly not beyond the realm of possibility. In fact, many pupils have made the leap, often without too much difficulty.

Many private schools are selective, basing their admissions criteria on highly competitive standards. Others, however, are non-selective academically, making it easier to gain a place.

If you choose an academically selective private secondary school, there are tried-and-tested ways to ensure that your child gets the place he or she wants. It's no good leaving it all up to chance; the key is early preparation.

Remember, your child will be competing against children who have been in the private system practically since birth. They – and their parents – already know which hoops to jump through. It's up to you to find out what they are, and to prepare your child to glide through them as smoothly as possible.

Admissions Criteria

Most private schools base their admissions criteria on a combination of an entrance exam and an interview, and often this interview includes the parents as well.

With this in mind, the selection criteria is usually academic – and financial – although some schools may select a student based on musical other promise or sporting aptitude.

Most schools will use the Common Entrance Examination to determine who is selected, with some students who score very highly given scholarships to generally raise the academic standing of the school.

Preparing your child to pass the exam is perhaps the most important thing that you as a parent can do. And making those marks does not, in most cases, depend entirely on your child's innate intelligence (see "Get an exam strategy tutor..." below). So start early to guarantee the best results!

Top Tips

Here are some tips to help your child get into the school they want:

  • Do your research. Decide on a school that is right for your child, and one that he or she has a reasonable chance of actually getting into. Don't put your child up for a specialist music school of they have never played an instrument in their life; don't apply to an incredibly academic school if they aren't up to it.
  • Get a tutor early on. Children who attend a private primary school often have the benefit of having years of smaller class sizes and more personalised attention. It's no wonder they often come out of primary school with more knowledge than their state-school counterparts. It might be worth investing in a weekly tutor (just one hour a week) when your child is in Year Four to even up the playing field a bit.
  • Get an exam strategy tutor six months before your child takes the Common Entrance Examination. Even if your child is a Brain of Britain and doesn't need a regular tutor, it's worth investing in this type of tutor, if only for just a few sessions. The tutor is there to teach your child how to pass exams, including knowing exam strategy basics.
  • Talk to other parents at the schools you are interested in. If you have narrowed down a few schools you like, ask the other parents about the admissions process, including exams and interviews. Knowing what a particular school is looking for in a potential student is worth its weight in gold.
  • Get some interview coaching – for you and your child. Professional coaches can give you a couple of sessions, if only to make you - and your child - feel more comfortable on interview day.
Moving to a private secondary school and leaving the state system behind can be an exciting yet fraught time, and you want to make sure you cross all your t's and dot all your i's well in advance of actual application day.

You have no doubt spent a lot of time looking into the schools you want, and you need now to spend even more time preparing your child to get accepted. Start early, and be optimistic – there are lots of great schools out there, and they would be lucky to have a child such as yours as a student!

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Heya. In order to decide meet with the school head teacher. Create a list of good options. Make some brief summary notes in addition here. Interview the staff and pupils about the school in question. Talk with some of the mothers and fathers of current pupils who attend the school. Good luck. You can do this. At least try to visit two or three different schools that are also located in the area too. Be cool and smart at the same time when requesting further information. Discuss pupil exam results in advance. Never be shy to ask. Collect all of the required details. That is important. Don’t forget pupil homework either. Take a good close look at the formal inspection report in any case. Get a hold of any newsletters and brochures that provide more information. Do your own online research first of all. Inquire about school life and the policies too. Look around the entire place and consider your own child. Trust your unpaid gut feeling. Dig deep. Use your brief summary notes to help to guide you to make a decision either way. Find out what you can. Try to take your time. Know what the facts are.
Miss - 3-Feb-24 @ 11:44 PM
Need to find a school that my daughter, who isn'tclever andsandwich is good and she can get into
Bitch face - 24-Aug-17 @ 7:28 PM
My son is thirteen and at mainstream school with a resauce base he spends 60% in mainstream and 40% in resauce base my son has a statement of autism spectrum disorder and attention deficit hyperactive disorder my son has been bullied from day one and now I am trying to get him moved to a special needs school l am finding the whole thing very differcultand very long can anyone give any advice thanks
yaz - 10-Nov-16 @ 8:38 PM
this is an outstanding opportunity
Fanzi - 15-Nov-15 @ 10:37 AM
I am 16year old boy am looking forward to join this am talented and gifted of football With great displine
Zimulano - 6-Aug-15 @ 1:30 PM
@Jess - I've included a link to the Good Schools Guide that should help you with finding information on bursaries. link here.
GetTheRightSchool - 5-Dec-14 @ 10:10 AM
I have a Ten year old currently attending a very small state Primary school I moved him to this school because of its roll number as he has difficulty working within a large class structure. Since going to this school he has progressed very well. He is a bright boy who excels well in Science and Maths. I would like him to go into the private sector where he will continue to benefit from small classes, I'm not in a financial position to pay for his education so am looking for advice and help to apply for a Bursary /scholarship to enable me to givehim the best shot at getting the best education I can, any help or advise would be appreciated. regards Jess.
Jess - 4-Dec-14 @ 1:20 PM
I am 12 years old in grade 7 at Escombe primary. I am a grade A student and am very intelligent. My dream was to go to Eden which is a private school and it was my first creche but my mother had to take me out because of financial constraints. I like the school because of its discipline and I am who I am today because of their foundation. Financially my mother cannot afford as she is very sick and currently unemployed but whoever can help me will not be disappoiinted. I've been to Amsterdam and Turkey representing South Africaleading a group from young girls network on financial literacy and handled the debate very well. Please help me I'm desperate
Sims - 2-May-14 @ 1:50 PM
ABIYE - 5-Sep-13 @ 6:41 AM
i need help. i have 9 children five girls and four boys.Allthe was in schools. But now. i am not albe to pay they school fee,some of they are primary school and secondary school.now i not money to pay for their school fee, so i am looking for some one who can help them to go back to school.iam a DRIVER i can not albe to for them all, i am from SOUTH SUDAN the new nation which have be in war for 21years, ours children didnot have bett peac to live or to go school,
nil - 17-Sep-12 @ 3:54 PM
Hi, thanks for your article!You said that applying to private secondary school from a state primary is "a challenge" but "not beyond the realm of possibility."I take this to mean that it is more difficult to take this route than to go to a private primary school.I'm wondering, besides having to take on extra tutoring and prepping, does this have to do with biased admission criteria between private vs state primaries?That is, will my child be more unlikely to get in simply because he comes from a state primary, even if he has the same test scores as another child from a private (non-feeder, since feeders undeniably do have an advantage).I ask this because I am contemplating between sending my child to a private primary school or a state primary rated outstanding by Ofsted, and has very high exam results, with extra tutoring to get them into a private secondary.I want my child to experience state school, but I'm wondering if the latter choice would just be putting my child at a disadvantage.Please advise!
anxiousmum - 29-Aug-12 @ 9:01 PM
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