Family Hub 19 April 2000


Moving from a State School to an Independent School can be fraught with worry and uncertainty for many parents and their children. David Goodhew, Head of Latymer Upper School in Hammersmith, offers an insider’s guide to leaving one world behind, and finding another.

What do parents and children from the state sector need to know before they start thinking about moving into the independent sector?

Unlike applying to a state school, which is done through a centralised system via the local authority, parents need to apply directly to the schools they are interested in. It’s a good idea to visit the school’s open day, which for 11+ entry will typically happen early in your child’s Year 6.

What costs should parents be aware of?

All fees (e.g., tuition, registration, lunches) will be set out on the school’s website. Many schools offer generous fee-assistance, either in the form of merit-based scholarships or means-tested bursaries. Last year, the independent sector as a whole provided £938m in fee-assistance benefitting 35% of all pupils. At Latymer, for example, one in five children attends thanks to a bursary, with the majority on free places. So, our advice is, if you’re interested in going to the school, ask. Don’t let fears about the fees hold you back as there is a lot of financial help available.

The National Curriculum and Prep school curricula are quite different. With exams like CE, will my child be disadvantaged because of this?

No, not all prep schools follow a CE curriculum anyway and CE is now aligned with the national curriculum too. The best thing to do is contact the school you’re considering for advice. Practice papers and the specification for CE are available online at and schools are interested in the whole child – their abilities, their interests, the way they think and their personality. If your child can demonstrate that they are a good fit for the school and have potential, that is more important than the curriculum they have studied.

Do parents need to give their children additional tutoring?

No, unless there is a good reason, such as your primary school has advised additional support. It can be an additional cost that perhaps isn’t required, and you shouldn’t feel as if this is a route you have to take to get into the independent sector.

What if a state school doesn’t know anything about applying to an independent school?

Contact the admissions department of your chosen independent school for help and advice – they should be only too happy to help! The Good Schools Guide is also an excellent resource.

Are some independent schools more realistic for state-school educated children to gain entry to than others?

Whether an application is realistic or too ambitious is all about the child, not the school they come from. Successful applications tend to follow the advice from your primary school about the kind of school that would be right for your child, their understanding of your child’s potential and areas of strengths and these are the things you could look for in finding the right school for your child.

Does a child need to be especially gifted in a particular area to be considered?

No. The independent sector is very diverse and there is no “type”. The most important thing is to find the right school for your child, rather than the other way round.

David Goodhew is Head of Latymer Upper School, a co-educational public school in Hammersmith, London and a member of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference.

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