As we head towards Christmas, independent senior schools across the country are preparing for the entrance and scholarship examinations season in January.
Here at Wellingborough School, we are in our second year of welcoming Year 7 into the Senior School; last January over 100 pupils from various primary settings joined us on site to sit aptitude tests and scholarship papers but as with many events, things will be a little different this year.
Year 7 at Wellingborough constitutes the first year of Senior School. Key Stage 3 (Years 7 to 9) has been referred to as the ‘lost years’ in educational terms and it does seem to be the case nationally that pupils moving to large secondary environments from smaller primaries can lose ground. This is not, however, the case at Wellingborough. With Heads of Year and year group bases for Years 7 and 8 and then the house system from Year 9, Wellingborough combines the best of both worlds; small enough to care about pupils as individuals and big enough to offer a plethora of opportunities as well as a strong pastoral and welfare framework.
Wellingborough pupils are taught individual disciplines across the curriculum by specialist teachers with an in-depth knowledge of the journey from the beginning of Year 7 to GCSE, A level and beyond. There is no treading water – a clear overview from Heads of Department directs each element of the curriculum towards embedding the skills and knowledge that underpin success in the GCSE years. Because of a clear trajectory to the highest level of study in each subject and equal priority given to timetabling Year 7, 8 and 9 classes (unlike many schools where Key Stage 3 is often seen as the lowest priority within the timetable) the opportunity to make excellent progress and to study challenging material is open to all Wellingborough pupils.
Homework, assessment, monitoring and reporting are focused on improving learning with attainment graded in line with national standards for clarity. Settling into Senior School and becoming accustomed to the routines and structures, teachers and academic subjects well before choices are made for GCSEs is an enormous advantage that limits any drop in attainment or slowing of progress in these years. With smaller classes and a wider range of options than many schools in the area, pupils make excellent progress here, with the average pupil achieving over a grade higher per GCSE than would be expected given their starting point.
Integrating pupils into the Senior environment from the beginning of Year 7 means that progress is monitored, and support or additional challenge can be provided from an early stage to see them through to public examinations. Pupils who would benefit from extra support can access group learning development lessons embedded within the curriculum and delivered by the same team both inside and outside of lessons, in line with examination access arrangements so that pupils needing support can become accustomed to these ways of working and make the most of them by the time they reach GCSE. Pupils are also able to exercise an increasing degree of choice in their studies; beginning with a choice of French or Spanish in Year 7 and further language options in Year 8. Year 9 pupils will choose from a set of mini options, allowing them to deepen their understanding in chosen areas whilst maintaining a broad and balanced curriculum before formally starting GCSEs in Year 10.
Wellingborough School’s highly successful online provision with a mixture of live group lessons, assemblies and tutor meetings and one-to-one sessions with assignments submitted and returned electronically over the first lockdown generated numerous enquiries for immediate or rapid entry in 2020. The entrance procedure for in-year applicants was modified for the first time to include online testing taken by pupils in the comfort of their own home with parental supervision. Building upon this effective model, Wellingborough took the decision in October 2020 to take our entrance procedures fully online for January 2021 to provide certainty and reassurance for pupils and their parents.
Entrance packs will be provided to registered families and pupils are to complete a range of computer-adaptive aptitude tests in addition to online mathematics testing and a written English paper over the weekend of January 30/31. Places in Year 7 in September 2021 and scholarships will be determined on the basis of these results. Pupils with a range of prior attainment are considered and, space permitting, we will offer places to any pupil whom we believe would benefit from the academic rigour and wider co-curricular programme offered at Wellingborough. Although most year groups in the Senior School are at or close to capacity, there are a small number of places available in other senior year groups and entrance testing can be arranged for older pupils.
To find out more about entrance examinations visit www.wellingboroughschool.org/entrance-exams