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Canford School: 13 plus entry guide

By Atom | Apr 13, 2023, 9:44 AM

Canford School 13 plus entry guide

Are you considering Canford School for your child? We've collated everything you need to know about applying for a place in Year 9. Find out key dates, discover what's covered on the entrance exam, and get tips and resources to help your child prepare.

About Canford School

Canford School is a private co-educational boarding school for 13–18-year-olds. Set in 300 acres of parkland near the market town of Wimborne Minster in Dorset, it combines an idyllic rural campus (ranked among the 'top ten most beautiful' by the Daily Telegraph) with first-class modern facilities, dynamic teaching and global thinking.

Beyond academic excellence, a Canford education is based around developing enquiring minds, encouraging debate and provoking creative thought. It was awarded Public School of the Year 2019 by Tatler, Boarding School of the Year 2018 by Independent School Parent magazine and was a finalist in the Senior School of the Year category in the 2020 TES Awards.

As a full boarding community, Canford does not offer flexi boarding options, but pupils can spend some Saturday nights at home if they want to. With a packed enrichment programme including film nights, beach trips and bake offs – alongside full use of the boat club, indoor 25m pool, gym, dance studio and nine-hole golf course – it's perhaps unsurprising that 80% of boarders choose to stay on any given weekend.

Key info

  • School type: private boarding, mixed 13–18

  • Address: Wimborne, BH21 3AD

  • Headteacher: Ben Vessey

  • Number of pupils: 650

  • National league table rank (Sunday Times Parent Power): 76

  • A level results: 92% A*–B

  • GCSE results: 79.6% 9–7

13+ admissions

  • Admissions contact: [email protected]

  • 13+ registration opens: open now

  • 13+ registration closes: end of Year 5

  • Assessment date: autumn and spring term of Year 6

  • Assessment type: ISEB Common Pre-Test, school report, assessment day

  • Open days: April and October – book here

Canford School fees and financial assistance

The current fees for Canford School are £14,049 per term for boarders and £10,695 per term for day pupils. Lunch, textbooks, exam fees, house parties and all compulsory trips are included.

Extra fees averaging £250 per term are charged for things like careers courses, optional trips, non-standard art materials and stationery. If you would like your child to have music lessons or private tuition this comes to about £300 per term.

There is a non-refundable fee of £200 when you first register with the school. For UK residents, a confirmation deposit of £1,250 is payable when you accept a school place for your child. This is refundable on your final bill but non-refundable if your child does not take up the place. A full term's fees are required as a deposit for non-UK residents.

Canford School scholarships

Canford awards scholarships worth between 5% and 20% of the school fees. Scholarships at Canford encourage excellence in a range of fields:

  • Academic scholarships: 10–15 awards are available. High performing candidates don't have to take the Common Entrance exam.

  • Music scholarships: 4–6 awards are available, offering free tuition on two instruments.

  • Art, drama and design technology scholarships: 1–2 awards are available in each category.

  • Sports scholarships: 10–12 awards are available.

Scholarship candidates must all qualify academically for entry into Canford either via the Academic Scholarship, the Common Entrance exam, or Canford's own entrance tests (for those at schools not offering Common Entrance).

Canford School bursaries

Scholarships can be enhanced by a means-tested bursary if parents can demonstrate that they would not otherwise be able to send their child to the school. A scholarship and bursary combined can be worth up to 100% of school fees, depending on the financial circumstances of the family.

As well as regular bursaries, the Donald Dean Memorial Scholarship is available to one local day pupil per year, worth up to 120% of fees. Applicants need to fulfil the normal academic entry requirements and show 'talent in any particular area along with a positive and purposeful attitude'.

There is a 10% discount available for boarding pupils from current serving Armed Forces families.

Learn more about Canford School scholarships and financial options here.

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Canford School term dates

The term dates at Canford School for 2023–24 are:

Christmas term 2023

Term starts:

  • Shells (Year 9): boarders and day pupils on Tuesday 5th September

  • Fourth and Fifth Form: boarders return on Wednesday 6th September, day pupils on Thursday 7th September

  • Lower Sixth: all return on Wednesday 6th September

  • Upper Sixth: boarders return on Tuesday 5th September, day pupils on Wednesday 6th September

Fixed exeat:

  • 2pm Friday 29th September to 9.30pm Sunday 1st October

  • 2pm Friday 24th November to 9.30pm Sunday 26th November

Half term:

  • 2pm Friday 20th October to 9.30pm Sunday 5th November

Term ends:

  • 2pm Friday 15th December

Easter term 2024

Term starts:

  • 7pm Tuesday 9th January

Fixed exeat:

  • 2pm Friday 26th January to 9.30pm Sunday 28th January

  • 2pm Friday 8th March to 9.30pm Sunday 10th March

Half term:

  • 2pm Friday 9th February to 9.30pm Sunday 10th March

Term ends:

  • 2pm Friday 22nd March

Summer term 2024

Term starts:

  • 7pm Monday 15th April

Fixed exeat:

  • 2pm Friday 3rd May to 9.30pm Monday 6th May

Half term:

  • 2pm Friday 24th May to 9.30pm Sunday 2nd June

Term ends:

  • Shells to Lower Sixth: 4pm Thursday 27th June

  • Upper Sixth: 4pm Friday 28th June

Canford School admissions process

1. Register and visit

Parents are encouraged to visit at an early stage and register with the school as soon as possible. Open days are held in April and October each year.

After visiting, you'll need to complete the registration form and pay the non-refundable fee of £200 to secure your child a place on the admissions list, known as the 'Headmaster's List'. Once your child is registered, the school will prompt you at each further stage.

The school recommends that you register before the end of Year 5. You and your child will then be invited to an 'explore day' at the start of Year 6, which includes fun activities for children as well as a parents' information session. The explore day is not part of the assessment process but is a good opportunity for you and your child to get a feel for the school and meet other prospective families.

2. Pre-assessment

  • Stage 1: prep schools will arrange for children to sit the ISEB Common Pre-Test at their school. If your child doesn't attend a prep school, they can sit the test at Canford. You'll need to register directly with ISEB – the school will remind you when to do this.

  • Stage 2: children who meet the required standard in Stage 1 will be invited to attend a Headmaster's List Day at Canford. This consists of a mixture of activities, tests, and informal interviews.

There are three possible outcomes of the pre-assessment:

  • An unconditional place for a few of the very strongest applicants.

  • A conditional place subject to passing Common Entrance or the Canford Entrance Test in Year 8.

  • A waiting list place with the chance of a conditional place emerging as time goes on.

To increase flexibility for families, there are four timeline options for pre-assessment. Canford School recommends choosing the earliest option unless there is a particular reason not to do so.

  • Option A: ISEB Common Pre Test in autumn of Year 6; Headmaster's List day in January/February of Year 6; outcome before Easter of Year 6.

  • Option B: ISEB Common Pre Test in summer of Year 6; Headmaster's List day in October of Year 7; outcome in November of Year 7.

  • Option C: ISEB Common Pre Test in autumn of Year 7; Headmaster's List day in January/February of Year 7; outcome in March of Year 7.

  • Option D: ISEB Common Pre Test in spring of Year 7; Headmaster's List day in May of Year 7; outcome in May of Year 7.

You should still get in touch with the school if your child has missed these timelines, as the school can arrange late entrance tests and last minute places can become available.

The ISEB Common Pre-Test

All children applying for 13 plus entry to Canford School take the ISEB Common Pre-Test. This exam is taken on a computer and is completely adaptive, meaning the questions become easier or more challenging depending on how your child is performing. The questions cover four subjects:

  • English: covering comprehension and spelling, punctuation and grammar.

  • Maths: questions cover the Key Stage 2 national curriculum taught up to the end of Year 5. The main topics are number, measurement, data, algebra and geometry.

  • Verbal reasoning: tests logic and problem-solving with written information.

  • Non-verbal reasoning: tests your child’s ability to understand and analyse visual information.

How is the ISEB Common Pre-Test marked?

Each child will be given a Standardised Age Score (SAS), which is calculated based on the number of correct and incorrect answers, the level of difficulty in each question and their date of birth in years and months (to prevent younger children from being disadvantaged). Your child's ISEB Common Pre-Test score will be sent directly to Canford School and any other schools you are applying to which use the ISEB.

As a guide, competitive selective schools like Canford will generally require candidates to reach an ISEB Common Pre-Test score of 120 or more.

Atom Learning

Guide to the ISEB

Read our comprehensive guide to the ISEB Common Pre-Test and get advice to help your child prepare.

Learn more
ISEB test on Atom Nucleus

3. Common Entrance or Canford Entrance Tests

If your child received a conditional offer following the Headmaster's List Day, they will be invited to sit the Common Entrance Test while they are in Year 8. This is similar to the ISEB Common Pre-Test but based on the Key Stage 3 curriculum.

Canford School has its own entrance tests for late applicants and children who are not otherwise taking the Common Entrance exam.

There is also an EAL (English as an Additional Language) test for children who do not have English as their first language.

4. Canford School scholarship assessments

Scholarship and bursary applications take place while your child is in Year 8.

  • October of Year 8: information published on the school website and shared by the admissions team.

  • January of Year 8: scholarship and bursary application closing dates. Music scholarship exams take place.

  • February of Year 8: Sport scholarship assessments take place. Music and sports rseults are notifiied. Art, drama and design technology scholarships take place.

  • March of Year 8: Scholarships take place. Scholarship and bursary results are notified.

How to prepare for entry to Canford School

Entry to Year 9 (13+) is significantly competitive, particularly for children seeking scholarships. Here are our top tips on how to best prepare your child for the selection process in Year 6.

Preparation is key: familiarisation with the question formats and known styles ahead of the exam is essential. Access to quality, unlimited practice material for the ISEB Common Pre-Test ensures confidence when tackling the exam.

Achieve mastery quickly: the ISEB Common Pre-Test assesses a huge amount of content. Atom's adaptive algorithm creates your child's personalised learning journey specific to your target schools, with over 90,000 expert, teacher-created resources to support your child to fully master each topic.

Access to instant support: learners need clarification to address any misconceptions and become truly secure in their understanding of a topic. Access to videos, help sheets and engaging examples for each question builds confidence and competence in all areas covered in the exam.

Engage with their progress: celebrate their improvements in their areas of challenge together! An accurate, ongoing assessment of your child’s strengths and development areas is instrumental for preparing efficiently. Atom's Parent Portal gives you data-driven insights into your child’s areas of strength and development.

All-in-one exam prep platform

Wondering how to make sure your child learns all the exam content, stays on track with their progress, and gets help when they're stuck? Online learning is a particularly efficient, cost-effective (and fun) way to do this!

Atom Nucleus is the award-winning school exam prep platform that gives your child everything they need to prepare for entry to the UK's leading schools.

Children work independently through over 90,000 interactive practice questions in English, maths, verbal and non-verbal reasoning. Teacher-created helpsheets and videos help them discover new concepts and consolidate their learning.

Atom's algorithm keeps children on their ideal learning path, tailored to their unique learning style and pace to keep them challenged and motivated.

ISEB mock tests

With Atom Nucleus you'll unlock online mock tests tailored to the ISEB Common Pre-Test, so your child will go into the exam knowing exactly what to expect.

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Prepare for Canford School the smart way

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Personalised support for you

We understand how important this next step is for them, and for you. Please don't hesitate to get in touch with any questions you may have about applying to Canford School or other selective schools.

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