South West Consortium Schools: Entry tests

Attaining a place in a South West Consortium school can be a challenge. These schools places are hotly contested with many of the schools having more than five applicants for each place in year 7. Each school sets its own criteria for entry, which includes priority for those with siblings in the school or postcode. In some cases, the majority of places are allocated using distance from the school, which is great if you live nearby, but can mean that the chances of your child being awarded a place are very low. Thus, there are an increasing number of parents trying to secure places through selection by ability or aptitude.

Ability places

All schools except for Bushey Meads allocate places based on ability using the Academic Test. The proportion of the intake allocated in this way varies from school to school, with Queens’ being the most at 35%. Note that all prospective pupils for Queens’ school need to take the Ability Test, even if not applying under that criterion. At Bushey Meads, all prospective pupils must also take the Academic Test but there isn’t a particular mark required to achieve a place as they use a banding approach. This means that they divide the marks into four groups and take an equal proportion from each group.

The academic test requires prospective pupils to take a Mathematics and a Verbal Reasoning test.

Music places

All schools except for Bushey Meads allocated some places on musical aptitude. Queens’ school allocates 5% of places using the Music Test when oversubscribed so it can be assumed that this is going to be the case next year. For the remaining schools, 10% of places are allocated.

The Music Test tests ability to understand pitch, melody, rhythm and texture. There are different musical notes, chords or passages played and prospective pupils will need to answers questions relating to each of these characteristics. From their responses, it is possible to identify strength in their ability to hear, analyse and make sense of musical tones and relationships.

The Music Test is really a screening process designed to identify prospective pupils who will be moved onto the second phase of selection, which is an individual audition. During the audition they will be required to perform a single piece using either an instrument or their voice. This piece can be chosen freely by the prospective pupil but must be no longer than three minutes long.

Technology places

Only Bushey Meads uses the Technological Aptitude Test to allocate places in year 7, with 10% of its places being decided in this way. The test contains questions on non-verbal reasoning, which focus on patterns and relations between shapes and symbols.

PE places

Only Queens’ school uses the PE Aptitude Test to allocate places in year 7, with 5% of each new intake being decided by this criterion. There are a lot of applicants for this small number of places each year and guidance from the school suggests that those outside of their priority postcodes are less likely to be successful using this route. Those who do register and take the PE Aptitude Test should expect to attend the school to go through a series of physical tests designed to highlight potential through core movement skills.

If your child has their heart set on attending one of the South West Consortium schools then you need to maximise your chance of gaining that place. If your child plays an instrument or is technologically talented then it would be sensible to consider if they might do well enough to be awarded a place using this route. Equally, sporting skills may provide a route into Queens’ school or technological potential a route into Bushey Meads. Given that so many other parents will be trying to gain places at these schools, it makes sense to maximise your chances by trying every avenue.

Use the comments box below if you have any questions at all about using these routes to secure a place for your child in a South West Consortium school, or to find out more about how you can improve your chances with academic preparation.