Entrance Test Season

Since the beginning of December I have had the pleasure of conducting family interviews with those prospective parents and girls who would like to join St Martha’s in September 2015. Since the start of term it has also been a delight to interview those girls who have applied for one of the various scholarships that we offer here at St Martha’s.

This year we moved our Entrance Test date to the first day of the term for staff which tends to be an INSET day for all other schools. This move has been gratefully received by parents as well as primary and prep schools as it means the girls are not missing any school. Owing to additional interest this year we have though had to put on an additional test date in the second week of term because of increased interest in our great school.

Looking at the test results it is clear to me that the academic profile of the girls who are applying to St Martha’s is on the increase every year but what is also clear to me at interview are the number of girls who are tutored for the tests and even prepped for the interview.

When parents ask me for sample test papers I say that we do not publish them. I am aware of other schools who do this and who charge handsomely for the privilege but I do believe that entrance tests should be an accurate representation of the ability of the girl at the time rather than a reflection of what has been crammed over the Christmas break!

I believe that potential is just as important as attainment at this early stage in the girls educational career. A lot can happen between Year 7 and Upper 6th when they leave and I genuinely believe that schools like St Martha’s provide opportunities for girls to develop at a pace that is right for them whilst at the same time ensuring they are challenged in every aspect of life within school.

Having worked in a variety of schools in my career I have witnessed pupils struggle from the start of Year 7 despite having outstanding entrance test scores and what is the reason for this? They have been thoroughly tutored to pass the entrance test but then cannot cope when they start senior school and are left to their own devices.

I interviewed a girl recently who was sitting the entrance tests for 8 schools this month! In effect that will mean she will spend very little time in her own school for the month of January. I recognise that parents do have a lot of choice when it comes to senior schools, particularly in North London and Hertfordshire but I also think that parents know which school might be right for their daughter. Some require a large, academically selective school as they are independent learners already and will thrive in that environment. Others require a smaller nurturing environment where academic standards are not compromised but where an individualised approach to learning is advocated rather than a one size fits all.

As a parent myself I know both my daughters well. I how what motivates them and in what environment they learn best and I am sure all parents are the same. If our children are happy, feel safe and comfortable they will thrive – it is our job as parents to guide them in this process and the first step on this experience is selecting the right school for them. Ignoring what others say, looking beyond the drive and the buildings and thinking would my child be happy at this school?


Matthew Burke

Headmaster, St Martha’s School

28/01/2015 Comments (0)