How can I get my child into one of the partially selective schools, like Watford Grammar or Parmiter’s?

'Partially selective' schools select some of their places by aptitude or ability, usually through tests. The schools say that you don’t need to hire a tutor to get a place, but up to 50% of the kids taking the tests will have had tutoring.

Sometimes we're asked what the grammar schools are like in Herts. That's an easy one, because there aren't any. Despite the fact that a couple of schools even have 'Grammar School' in their name, they're technically not. Grammar schools select all of their paces by ability or aptitude. In Herts, there are many schools, named below, select a portion of their intake by setting entrance exams, usually for academic or music ability. The remainder of places are offered via the usual criteria, such as siblings and distance (read the rules of each school carefully, in full, on their websites).

Places at these schools are like gold dust to the average parent who wants the best for their child. The schools typically represent an excellent alternative to the independent sector and in certain cases, their results are even better. As a result, the competition for places is intense. Many of them have a reputation that stretches across the county and therefore clever children tend to come from far and wide to take the tests.

You need to register (usually in May and June) to sit the entrance exams before you can apply for these schools under their selective criteria. The exams for many schools take place in September and then you'll get the test results in October. You now find out your child's score before you submit your school application form – allowing you to make sensible choices based on their test results. Do not - we repeat, do not - apply for four partially selective schools, under academic/aptitude criteria, no matter how smart your child is. Include one 'safe bet' in your preferences (such as a local comprehensive that you stand a good chance of getting into). Otherwise you could be buying our appeals' guide before you know it...

Testing times: Most kids get nervous when it comes to taking exams such as the assessments for the selective schools. We’ve asked Sofia Carlson, the Director of Tutoring at Bright Young Things, for her top tips…

What are the big mistakes that children makes when they're taking exams?
A common mistake is not reading the question properly! This often results in mistakes that could have easily been avoided. Another problem can be running out of time due to spending too long on difficult questions. We always encourage children to move on if they get stuck. They can always come back to it at the end of the exam, if there is time.

Have you got any top tips for beating exam nerves? (Apparently some children get so nervous that they actually throw up in the tests for the selective exams).
Exam nerves are completely natural. However sometimes the effects can debilitate their efforts. Something for parents to bear in mind is to not put too much pressure on their child. Try and make the learning process as fun as possible and reassure your child that it does not matter if he/she does not do as well as hoped, so long as they try their best.
Get a good night's sleep before the exam, and then on the day try and avoid last-minute cramming. Eat a healthy breakfast to balance blood sugar levels and listen to some calming music before going in to take the exam. Try and go in feeling confident and know that you will do your best.

What's the best way to revise for an exam?
Some students like to revise with music or TV noise on in the background while other children need a quiet environment to be able to concentrate. Generally speaking it is important to eliminate distractions and allocate yourself or your child a calm and peaceful area for revision. Revising for an hour at a time and having regular breaks is usually a good strategy. Studies have shown that trying to memorise information by just looking at it will have limited effect on learning. Instead you need to make the information stick by writing your own notes, practicing model answers and working through past paper questions.

Tell me more about your new exam centre…
Soon anyone who would like to take an exam as an independent candidate will be able to do so with us. We are initially going through the registration process for written exams in the core subjects Maths, English and Science at GCSE and A level, but hope to extend this to other subjects and levels in the future. Our exam centre will benefit independent candidates who need to take exams outside a regular school environment. Typically this will include students who are home schooled, mature students who are returning to education or students who want to take an exam early. We will hold all exams on our tuition centre premises on Ridgmont Road in St Albans. For more information please click here.

Top of the class – the hottest secondary schools in Herts that select by ability or aptitude

1. Hockerill Anglo-European College, Bishop's Stortford (11.382 applications for every day place)

2. Parmiter's School, Garston (7.175 apps per place)

3. Rickmansworth School, Rickmansworth (5.979 apps per place)

4. Queens' School, Bushey (5.355 apps per place)

5. Bushey Meads School, Bushey (5.212 apps per place)

6. Watford Grammar School for Boys, Watford (5.074 apps per place)

7.The Broxbourne School, Broxbourne (4.922 apps per place)

8. Watford Grammar School for Girls, Watford (4.917 apps per place)

9. Dame Alice Owen's School, Potters Bar (4.545 apps per place)

10. St Clement Danes School, Chorleywood (4.413 apps per place)

11. Leventhorpe, Sawbridgeworth (4.311 apps per place)

12. The Chancellor's School, Hatfield (3.672 apps per place)

13. The John Warner School, Hoddesdon (3.481 apps per place)

14. Bishop's Stortford High School, Bishop's Stortford (Boys) (3.374 apps per place)

15. Goffs School, Cheshunt (3.305 apps per place)

16. The Hertfordshire & Essex High School and Science College (Girls) Bishop's Stortford (2.806 apps per place)

This is based on the number of applicants per place on allocation day in 2014 – data from Hertfordshire County Council. More info on how these schools allocate places is shown below.

So you want to get into one of these schools? Here are some hot tips from other parents:

  • Take the pressure off by billing the tests as a bit of fun - as a challenge and a long shot. Kids can find the process so stressful that there are often incidents of vomiting in the exam hall and lots of tears.

  • Reassure your child that the other schools on your list are also excellent. If they don't get in, they will not have 'failed', it's just not the right school for their talents.

  • Do practice test papers available on the internet.

  • Maximise your chances – if you're not sure whether or not to enter your child for, say, the music or academic tests, then stick them into both.

  • On the way to the exams, listen to their favourite music – no last minute cribbing in the car is going to help!

Quick question: My kid's smart. Will she pass the tests to get into one of the super seven schools in the South West Herts Consortium?

Read our advice in the Q&A section, or ask us your own question about partially selective schools in Hertfordshire.

South West Herts Schools Consortium

Seven partially selective schools – the super seven – have joined together to form the South West Herts Schools Consortium. The schools are named below. These schools use a common set of tests for their admissions, and six of them share common music testing arrangements. Your child will only needs to sit one set of exams to apply for any of these schools. The schools collaborate for the tests, but each of the schools is its own admissions authority, applying different criteria independently - and the cut off score at each school could be slightly different. The schools will not know which other schools you named when you apply to them via Hertfordshire County Council, or whether you ranked them 1st, 2nd, 3rd or 4th. The schools coordinate with Herts CC and neighbouring councils to ensure that each child is only offered a single place on allocation day.

There are two exam papers: mathematics and verbal reasoning. Tests take place on the same day at all the consortium schools. Age standardisation is applied to the results of each test, so that younger children born at the end of the academic year are given a very slight boost to make up for the fact that they've been around for less time.

The super seven –the schools in the SW Herts Schools Consortium

The Consortium consists of seven schools that use a common set of tests for admissions. Six of the schools also share common music testing arrangements. The schools are:

1. Bushey Meads School (mixed-sex):
10% of places selected on ability in technology, the rest are banded, 170 places in Year 7.

2. Parmiter’s School (mixed-sex):
25% academic, 10% music, 186 places in Year 7.

3. Queens’ School (mixed-sex):
35% academic, 5% music, 5% sport, 262 places in Year 7.

4. Rickmansworth School (mixed-sex):
25% academic, 10% music, 185 places in Year 7.

5. St Clement Danes School (mixed-sex):
10% academic, 10% music.

6. Watford Grammar School for Boys:
25% academic, 10% music.

7. Watford Grammar School for Girls:
25% academic, 10% music.

Some of the best schools in Herts are just for boys - or just for girls. Are you worried about sending your child to a single-sex school?
This is one mum’s story...

"I was really concerned that my son wouldn't fit into an all boys' school - several of his friends are girls, he doesn't like football much, and I thought it might be a bit macho and alienating. However my worries vanished in the first half term. He was more of a lad than I gave him credit for and thrives on challenge and competition - so much so, that he's now one of the best in the year at Maths (he was on the bottom table throughout primary school). The style of teaching suits him - across the board, he knows where he is, and what he has to do to achieve the next level. He has an online homework tracker to help him stay organised. Plus he's motivated by the trips and paint-balling for good conduct and attendance. The headteacher really knows how to get the best out of boys. I'd totally recommend single-sex schools now.”

The sensational selection - nine other schools in Hertfordshire that select some of their places by ability/aptitude

Listed alphabetically

1. Bishop's Stortford High School (boys, girls admitted to the 6th form):
5% of places selected for sporting aptitude, 5% for musical aptitude, 155 places in Year 7.

2. Broxbourne (mixed-sex): 10% of places (20) for languages aptitude.

3. Chancellors School (mixed-sex): 10% music, 180 places in Year 7.

4. Dame Alice Owen’s School (mixed-sex):
32.5% academic, 5% music.

5. Goffs School (mixed-sex):
10% linguistic aptitude, 210 places in Year 7.

6. Hertfordshire and Essex High School (girls, boys admitted to the 6th form):
5% sporting aptitude, 5% music, 160 places in Year 7.

7. Hockerill Anglo-European College (mixed-sex):
7 places for linguistic aptitude, 3 places for musical aptitude and 2 places for aptitude in both subjects, 120 places in Year 7 (68 day places and 52 boarding places).

8. John Warner School (mixed-sex):
10% of places selected for aptitude in technology, 91 places in Year 7.

9. Leventhorpe (mixed-sex):
Up to 10% of places for musical aptitude.

Quick question: How can I work out my Rule 4 school (nearest school) for mixed-sex secondary schools that follow the Council's rules?

Oh 'Rule 4' is a tricky little devil. Lots of schools are excluded from this, including schools that select places by academic ability. Read the lowdown in the Q&A section.

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