UK independent schools tend to have defined entry points and clear processes from registration to assessment and interview.
The main entry points for independent secondary schools are:
- 11+: Your child will start Year 7 at their new school.
- 13+: Your child will start Year 9 at their new school.
- 16+: Your child will start Year 12 at their new school.
These points all have different entry processes, which tend to start a couple of years (at least) before your child will start at the school. Some schools will also offer 14+ entry, but most independent schools have their largest intake in either Year 7 or Year 9.
What are Occasional Places?
Occasional Places are what many schools refer to as the places that might arise due to students leaving schools, thus creating an available space within a year group. Some schools will hold waiting lists for such places.
Why Might Families Need to Look for Occasional Places?
Whilst the processes for the standard entry points are clearly defined, there are inevitably moments in many families’ lives which lead them to searching for independent school places once standard registration deadlines have already passed.
Some of the most frequent reasons for this are listed below:
- Relocations: Within the UK and from Overseas
- Unforeseen issues: Wide-ranging, but some frequently noted reasons are: problems with bullying; dislike of boarding or single sex/co-ed; health issues requiring specialist support; behavioural concerns; and need for more provision of SEN.
- Absence from School: Reintegration into school after a prolonged absence due to health or behavioural problems.
- School (un)suitability: The realisation that the initial school the child has been signed up for is not appropriate to their needs – this might be academically (too academic/not academic enough), relating to extra-curricular provision or specific requirements in terms of pastoral care.
When Might Occasional Places Typically Arise?
Most schools require a term's notice if a student has decided to leave, thus the period between January and Easter tends to be the prime time. Of course, children may have to leave school for many different reasons and often notice is not given, therefore, it is always worth being in touch with schools so that they can contact you should a vacancy arise.
It is worth noting that finding spaces in Year 11 (halfway through GCSEs) and Year 13 (half way through IB/A levels) is highly unlikely, and in these instances families should also consider colleges that offer 1-year A level/GCSE courses.
How competitive are Occasional Places?
Due to their unpredictable nature, it is impossible to say whether places will or will not be available. Many of the more competitive schools see very little movement in their student body year on year, and therefore are less likely to see spaces. That being said, it is always worth trying as you never know – essentially, looking for places outside of the regular entry processes can be rather a patience game as the closer you get to the academic year starting the more likely the school might end up with an unfilled place.
Key points when looking for Occasional Places:
- Communication: Contact school Admissions departments to see whether there are any spaces available and to get a sense of whether they might be able to consider your son or daughter (they might want to see school reports; Ukiset tests; references etc.)
- Preparation: When you are applying for an occasional place schools will usually set a bespoke exam. Having a good sense of what these exams will entail is going to be crucial to ensure that your son or daughter can complete any assessments confidently and to the best of their ability.
- Registration: Some schools offer Occasional Place waiting list forms on their websites, in these instances completing the forms and providing any additional information is key. For other schools, establishing a dialogue and keeping an email trail is going to be fundamental.
- Resilience: Regardless of your child’s academic prowess, there is no guarantee that Occasional Places will come available. To search for spaces families will need to be consistently contacting schools for updates – as such, resilience is key.
How Keystone can help
Keystone’s advisory team are experienced in providing school-specific support in preparation for school selection and entry. If you are looking for an Occasional Place, or simply want to find out whether it’s an appropriate option, our advisors are always happy to set up a call to discuss how we might be able to help.
- Schools Selection Advice: We can guide families on which schools they should consider for Occasional Places, and have experience in knowing which schools are likely to be more flexible when it comes to taking students on later in their standard processes, or at irregular entry points.
- Tutoring: Our tutors are experienced in preparing children for school assessments and will be able to prepare students for school specific examinations.
- Interview Preparation: If a student is being assessed for a place this is likely to be followed by an interview. Keystone can provide targeted mock interviews to ensure that the child is fully prepared for meeting their prospective school.