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View from the Top: Ted Lougher on reducing the burden of the school admissions process

For our latest View from the Top, Ted Lougher, the head of King’s College Junior School, explains how his school is shaking up its admissions process to avoid raising – and then crushing – the hopes of prospective pupils’ for whom the school is not the right setting.

As I write, many London day schools are in the grip of admissions fever. In early October, many aspiring pupils filled our site at King’s College Junior School and tackled written assessments in English, maths, listening and reasoning. For the first time, these assessments took place before half-term, a move that drew attention from prospective parents and feeder heads. Conducting our enrolment process earlier in the year could be seen to be making life harder for our applicants, who have only just settled in their new school years, but in fact, our rationale has the candidates’ interests firmly at heart.

We place a great deal of emphasis on the wellbeing of our current pupils, looking to ensure that no school mechanism puts them inadvertently under duress. I have been very keen to afford the same consideration to our prospective pupils, seeking ways to reduce the burden of their selection and minimise distress for unsuccessful candidates. One such way has been to split the process into two stages. Previously, every applicant undertook assessments, interviews and activities (where candidates are put in groups of roughly twelve and tackle a short series of lessons and tasks). Each year, we have had candidates who impressed us greatly at interview and activity, but whose assessment results demonstrated that King’s was not a good fit for them at that time.

By bringing our assessments forward, we have time to study the data and stand down applicants who would not yet be able to thrive in this environment. Whilst this will inevitably be disappointing for some, it is much kinder than asking those same applicants to come to the school on three separate occasions, raising their adrenaline and expectations each time and causing their familiarity with the school, the teachers and potential future classmates to grow, only for them to face a negative outcome down the line.

With this new system, we know that the pupils who returned shortly after half-term for activities and interviews had demonstrated their potential to keep pace with our curriculum, which has allowed us to put greater focus on their soft skills, their interpersonal capabilities and their individual passions and curiosities. I am confident that this has sharpened our ability to select cohorts of new pupils who are richly deserving, without unduly raising the hopes of those for whom this is not yet the right setting.