Up to age 7 entry procedures are usually quite gentle. Children are often invited to attend a half day of classes, while staff observe how they interact with the teachers and other children. Between 7 and 11 specialist SEN preparatory schools will adopt a similar process, taking into account the child’s ed psych report and/or EHCP from the Local Education Authority. Many of the SEN schools will conduct their own SEN assessment on the child.
After age 7 the majority of UK private mainstream schools will require your child to pass entrance tests as well as be interviewed in order to be considered for admission. As a generalisation these tests would be used by selective schools, which are in the top 75% of the league tables which we publish on our site, www.best-schools.co.uk . In the bottom quartile, there are a few non-selective schools which might consider admission on the basis of references from the previous school and recent school reports plus in some cases an interview, either in person or via Skype.
For entry at ages 11 and 13, senior mainstream schools commonly use the Common Entrance Test set by the ISEB (https://www.iseb.co.uk/). For 11+ entry children sit tests in Maths, English and Science in the November or January of Year 6. For 13+ entry the Common Entrance tests are taken in January of Year 8 in schools outside the UK or in May at UK prep schools. Children sit exams in all the main curriculum subjects, and the tests are marked by the target senior school. Each senior school sets its own pass mark. – the more selective (academically) the higher the required score. A large number of senior schools now pre-test children in Year 6 (age 10) and offer conditional places which are confirmed after the Common Entrance exam results are known. Not all schools use Common Entrance. Some set their own admissions tests but the standard expected will generally be the same or higher.
Plainly some SEN children are going to find these admissions tests very stretching. A school may be prepared to give an SEN Child extra time when sitting their tests. If an SEN child still cannot pass the minimum entry grades, it is worth considering either a less academic school or a specialist SEN school.
At age 16 entry there are different requirements. Most schools will require a minimum of 6 grade Bs at GCSE (or the equivalent)– and some will insist on As in the subjects to be taken at A level. On top of this some schools will set tests in the subjects to be taken in the sixth form, and this includes the IB Diploma Programme.
It is common practice for parents to hire tutors to give extra tuition for these admissions tests, but we cannot help feeling this is wrong for SEN children as they need to be in a school which caters for their pace and style of learning.