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Oct 16 2018

Impending Changes to 13+ Common Entrance process – What do you need to know

In September 2018, Westminster School and St Paul’s School issued a joint statement that is likely to have a significant impact on the way in which 13+ candidates will be prepared for entry to their senior schools. Find out more ...

Changes to 13+ Common Entrance

In September 2018, Westminster School and St Paul’s School issued a joint statement that is likely to have a significant impact on the way in which 13+ candidates will be prepared for entry to their senior schools. Not only did these two schools announce that offers issued to the strongest candidates in Year 6 after their pre-tests would be unconditional from 2021, but they went further and gave prep schools the opportunity to abandon Common Entrance altogether, on the understanding that the programme of study in Years 7 and 8 would be rigorous and that the pupils continued to follow “outline syllabuses for each subject” as set down by Westminster and St Paul’s.

Unconditional Offers

Tonbridge School started the trend towards unconditional offers after pre-testing in Year 6 some years ago and it is encouraging to see that Wellington College has also announced recently that it too is going down the unconditional route. Before parents start to worry that their children will be having too much fun at school in Years 7 and 8 and not doing enough work, all of the senior schools mentioned emphasise that Common Entrance or an equivalent programme of study will need to be covered in Years 7 and 8.

What’s the reality?

The reality is that many prep schools will probably continue to enter their pupils for Common Entrance in the core subjects of maths, English, science and a modern foreign language. However, a number of 13+ prep schools have opted to develop their own humanities curriculum in Years 7 and 8, providing a more coherent and exciting way of studying history, geography and religious studies. Newton Prep in south London has just introduced this for their Year 7 students and The Hawthorns School in Surrey successfully started their own humanities programme for their senior pupils last year.

Abandoning Common Entrance?

Not all prep schools will be abandoning Common Entrance – far from it. For many schools it is considered to be a challenging course of study, providing the breadth and balance needed to prepare 13-year-old students for life at senior school. However, there will certainly be greater flexibility for the prep schools to adapt their programmes of study in the future.

Time for a change?

The move towards unconditional offers for Year 6 candidates after they have undergone extensive assessments with ISEB pre-tests and senior school interviews is broadly welcomed. We are all concerned about the well-being of our children and these changes to Common Entrance are designed to make the transfer process from prep school to senior school less stressful. The tradition of senior schools failing pupils In June after Common Entrance is an appalling system, leaving families scrabbling around trying to find a suitable school for their 13-year-old at the very last minute. Anything to put a stop to that practice has to be very good news.


Jeremy Edwards

Schools Consultant – Mavor Associates



Jeremy Edwards - Schools ConsultantJeremy is an English graduate from the University of London, where he also studied for a Master’s degree in Educational Management. He has a broad range of experience, with the first half of his career devoted to teaching English in secondary schools. He was Deputy Head of Emanuel School from 1995 – 2000 until he decided to move into the Prep School world. Over the last sixteen years, he has been Headmaster of two leading London Prep Schools: Westminster Under School (2000 – 2010) and Eaton House the Manor (2010 – 2016) where he was also a Director of the Eaton House Group of Schools. His philosophy as a teacher was to encourage his pupils to aim high and, most importantly, to enjoy their school years. As the father of three adult children, two girls and a boy, he understands the educational system from the perspective of a parent as well as a Headmaster.

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