Mark Maclaine describes the admission process for one of the country’s most competitive independent boy’s schools, St. Paul’s.
About St Paul’s School
St Paul’s is an independent school for boys in London. It is one of the top private schools in the country, and almost a third of their students go on to study at Oxbridge and over 85% achieve A-level grades of A and A*. The superb facilities, great location and excellent teaching means there is little wonder why parents want to send their sons there.
Needless to say, the bar is set very high for admissions. Many parents who are set on sending their sons to St Paul’s choose to send them to Colet Court, the preparatory school based on the same site. Colet Court entrance is at 7, 8 and 11. About half of the 170 pupils entering at 13+ will have followed this route so it’s worth considering if you are starting early.
Visit the Colet Court website for more information. If you decide you'd like help with admissions to Colet Court, our 7+ admission tutors and 11 plus tutors are highly experienced and are able to help.
13+ Admissions Procedure
Registration - Students are expected to register their interest in St Paul’s four years prior to entering, paying a registration fee of £175 (as of 2016). I’ve heard of students registering later than this, but it’s worth calling the school (020 8748 9162) to check what their status is for your year.
School Report - Three years before entry, St Paul’s will contact your son’s school for a report "covering academic strengths, interests and character" and then he will be expected to sit the ISEB’s Common Entrance online pre-test. St Paul’s will register him for this and let you know what to do.
Interview - During the 11+ year students are called to attend an interview. This is meant to take about 20 minutes, during which boys are expected to answer questions from a range of topics with a focus on English and Maths.
Your son’s preparatory school will have informed St Paul’s on how your son is performing academically, so the main aim of the interview is for them to get to know him a little better.
In 2013 St Paul’s decided to ask students to arrive 20 minutes early and sit a written exam, answering questions in English and Maths as a "means of informing the interview process." Preparatory school headmasters were assured that these questions were no different to those already asked in the interview, so require no extra preparation.
How to Prepare
What does this mean in practical terms? Although this interview is not something you should be preparing for directly there are a number of things that can help:
Get to Know the School – A tip for parents: avoid bombarding St. Paul's School with calls and emails, but do get to know the school and the relevant persons to speak to.
Genuine Interest in the School - Visit the school’s website with your son and have a look at the facilities. Discuss with your son the kinds of things he might enjoy doing there. A genuine interest and enthusiasm for a school is something that is hard to fake, so let him work out why he might want to go there. His enthusiasm will be something they are looking for during the interview.
Explain the Process – Talk your son through the process. If he understands the admission process, it will seem less mysterious and daunting, and it will be less likely to worry him.
Practice Papers - Boys should have a high level of competency in the standard ISEB English and Maths 11+ exams. Past papers can be ordered (at a not-so-reasonable cost) from Galore Publishing.
Interests Outside the Classroom - Boys should be willing to enter into discussions about their extra curricular activities. St Paul’s School is known for its sports, but is keen for boys to have interests in all areas, for example music, drama and art.
Prepare Questions - Many students are asked if there is anything else they want to know during the interview. It’s useful for them to have a couple of questions prepared, as this can show a genuine interest in the school.
School Report – Another tip for parents: your son’s school report is important, keep in good communication with your son’s current school and talk to his teachers regularly.
It should be noted that I had a very able student who interviewed for St. Paul’s School last year, initially stating that it was his first choice, only to find the new interview process so off-putting that he chose to withdraw his application. He said, "I was locked in a cupboard to answer some questions I didn’t know I would have to do." He was accepted to the even more academic Westminster School, where he felt the "people were a lot nicer."
I have to say that the experience, and possible exaggeration, of one student shouldn't deter parents. But it may be useful to let your son know exactly what is going to happen on the day, and since this can vary, the school seems very happy to explain the process to parents if you call the admissions department. At the same time, if a student gets a bad feeling for a school, you should listen to them. After all, they are the ones who will actually attend the school.
If students perform well during the interview they will be offered a conditional place. Your son’s school will be expected to send reports to St. Paul’s School, and provided there is no dramatic slip in performance he will sit the standard ISEB 13+ exams. Again, past papers are available from Galore Publishing.
It should be noted that students are expected to sit the highest level exams, for example Level 3 in Maths and Level 2 in the Sciences. The school will give you a rough guideline of what they are expecting: a general rule is that getting above 65% in each is a good idea. However, St. Paul’s have been known to make exceptions if a student were to slip in one subject (other than English, Maths and Science) but this seems to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.
16+ Sixth Form Admissions
Admissions for Sixth Form is far more straightforward. There are usually around 20 places available each year, so competition is very high. Students are expected to register a year before entry and the cut-off date is usually around mid to late September.
Boys are expected to submit a handwritten letter with his application form. This letter should include reasons on why he wants to come to St. Paul’s, what his extra-curricular activities are and a 250-word piece describing a subject he has recently found engaging.
Boys are then invited to sit formal examinations in the subjects they are expecting to sit at A-level. These are similar to GCSE, but may include some tougher questions. The best preparation would be to practice questions that are termed “A* level” and often appear at the end of GCSE papers.
Interviews are then conducted in all the subjects that the student wants to study, and if they want to board there is a Housemaster’s interview. Again, these are mainly just to get to know the student.
Conditional offers are then made to boys, subject to them achieving the GCSE grades required by the school. Although exceptions are made, I would expect students should be expecting to get A’s and A*’s in those subjects.
Address: Lonsdale Road, London, SW13 9JT
Telephone Number: 020 8748 9162
Type: Day and Boarding (Independent Boys)
Fees: £19,674 (day pupils) £29,466 (boarding)
Current Head: Mark Bailey
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