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Guide to partially selective & bilateral schools

By Atom | Jun 20, 2023, 4:03 PM

Guide to partially selective and bilateral schools

If you're beginning to think about your child's secondary education, you may have learnt about comprehensive, grammar, and independent schools. Partially selective and bilateral schools are not as common and can be more challenging to understand!

In this guide, we'll help you:

  • Learn about the difference between partially selective and bilateral schools

  • Discover which schools in the UK are partially selective or bilateral

  • Understand the application process for selective schools

What is a partially selective school?

A partially selective school selects a certain number of children for entry based on a particular ability or aptitude. For example, it may reserve 25% of Year 7 places for children who can demonstrate excellence in sports or 15% for children who show strong academic potential. Children studying on a partially selective place may have access to extra resources and opportunities to support their talent – such as lectures, workshops and tuition.

To be offered a selective place, children will need to achieve the qualifying standard in an aptitude test – for example, an exam, sports assessment, or musical audition. Children applying for general ability places usually take the 11 plus exam or a similar test.

Partially selective schools are state-funded schools, so they're free to attend.

Which schools in the UK are partially selective?

There are no partially selective schools in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland. There are 31 partially selective schools in England:

  • The Kings School, Peterborough (mixed). 12 places are allocated on overall academic ability (assessed through English, maths and verbal reasoning) and 3 places are allocated on musical ability (assessed through an instrumental/voice audition and various aural tests).

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What is a bilateral school?

A bilateral school teaches students on two 'streams' – one which follows a grammar (selective) education, and the other which is non-selective. Children applying for a place on the selective stream must achieve the qualifying standard in the 11 plus exam.

Bilateral schools are usually competing with neighbouring grammar schools (which are fully selective), so they are often undersubscribed. If not all of the selective places are filled, the school is required to fill the remaining places with non-selective applicants.

Like partially selective schools, bilateral schools are funded by the government, so you do not need to pay for your child to attend.

Which schools in the UK are bilateral?

There are bilateral schools in the following counties:

  • Reading Girls' School, Reading (girls only). 42 places are reserved for girls who perform well on the CEM Select exam (English, maths and reasoning),

How to apply to partially-selective and bilateral schools

The admissions process for bilateral and partially selective schools is similar to most grammar schools in the UK.

Learn more: guide to grammar schools

1. Register for the assessment

If you would like your child to be considered for a place on the selective stream at a bilateral school, or for a selective place at a partially selective school, they will need to take an entrance exam or subject assessment to demonstrate their ability.

Check your target school's website for details about the exam and to find out how to apply. If your target school is a member of a consortium (e.g. the South West Herts Consortium), you can apply directly through the consortium website. Schools not linked to a consortium usually have their own registration process or application portal.

Children who are looked after or previously looked after, or eligible for the pupil premium, may be prioritised for places under the school's admission criteria. If your child falls into one of these categories, you may need to complete a supplementary information form (SIF) to indicate this. Check your target school's admissions policy to see if this applies.

2. Apply for a school place

The school will let you know whether your child has been successful in the assessment – usually in mid-October in Year 6. If they have achieved the pass mark or met a particular qualifying standard, they will then be eligible for a selective place.

You can then name the school as one of your preferred choices on your common application form. This needs to be submitted to your local authority by the 31st October when your child is in Year 6.

Before listing the school as a preference on your form, we recommend checking the admissions policy first. If the school is oversubscribed for selective places, certain groups of children will be prioritised within that criteria. Priority groups usually include looked after and previously looked after children, children eligible for the pupil premium, and children who live within a particular catchment area or distance from the school.

Support for entry to selective schools

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Atom Home is the award-winning online 11 plus practice platform that gives your child everything they need to prepare for selective school exams.

Children work independently through over 90,000 interactive practice questions in English, maths and 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.

11 plus practice papers

Atom Home gives children access to online 11 plus practice papers. Our online tests are designed to mirror the format and style of real 11 plus tests in your area, so your child will go into the exam knowing exactly what to expect.

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