David Price, Headmaster at The Mall School, on the move to 11+

In April 2017, I announced to parents at The Mall School that we were going to phase out Years 7 and 8 and that after 2020 all boys in the school would leave the school at the end of Year 6. It was a bold move, given our record of success in preparing boys for their Common Entrance exams and securing 13+ places for them at the top London boys’ day schools. However, we felt that it was the right move to enable us to maintain our strong record of success in securing senior school places for our pupils. The offers that our first cohort of 11+ leavers received in March 2019 proved that we were right to question the relevance of 13+ provision in London prep schools.

The decision to move to an 11+ exit came after we commissioned several pieces of research using independent consultants including interviews with the Heads of the senior schools our boys traditionally went to at 13+ about the future of Common Entrance and transfer at 11+. This revealed that senior schools were experiencing an increase in demand for 11+ places, driven mainly by parents’ preferences. In response, the supply of 11+ places had increased, with a corresponding decrease in the number of 13+ places, most notably at King’s College School, Wimbledon with the opening of their new Lower School in 2016. It was our view that this trend would only continue and over time most senior day schools will move towards 11+ as their main point of entry. With 11+ offers this year from St Paul’s Juniors, Westminster Under and King’s College, we are confident that our brightest boys can still go on to all the schools they used to join at 13+.

In recent years, I had begun to feel there were increasingly limited 13+ options for the boys in our school who were not suited to the highly academic senior schools. We are not a selective school for boys joining us in Reception and moving to 11+ has meant they have a wider number of schools to choose from.

We have had to make minor adjustments to our curriculum to prepare the boys for 11+, with more focus on verbal and non-verbal reasoning and we have introduced personal development sessions to help the boys manage the demands of the 11+ process. There is still plenty of focus on sport, music and the arts.

There has been much in the media about the future of independent schools, and prep schools in particular. Schools must adapt to meet the demands of their markets, while maintaining the best interests of their pupils. Our bold move has certainly paid off. 

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