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Navigating the UK’s School Admissions: A Look at Different Entries

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This article provides detailed information about various entry points at independent and state schools in the UK. First, let’s understand the key differences between independent and state-funded schools.


Independent schools: Key details


Independent schools, also known as private schools, charge fees that can vary depending on the quality of the all-round experience they provide. These fees cover most aspects of the learning experience and, in some cases, boarding too. Co-curricular trips, uniforms and transport are typically additional costs that need to be considered. Many of the UK’s independent schools offer cutting-edge facilities, such as swimming pools, learning labs and equestrian facilities.


For example, Eton College, one of the priciest private boys’ schools in the UK, has annual boarding fees of around £49,998. Cheltenham Ladies’ College, a girls’ school, has annual boarding fees of around £45,150, while Brighton School, a co-educational establishment, charges around £49,770 per annum for a full boarding place. Day places at all independent schools are less costly.


State-funded schools: An overview


State-funded schools in the UK do not charge fees. Primary state schools educate children aged 4-11, starting with Reception, and secondary schools admit pupils from age eleven. There are various types of state schools, including:


  • Community schools: These are run by the local council, which employs the staff and sets the admissions criteria.
  • Foundation and voluntary schools: These have more independence from the local council and have their own admissions criteria. They can sometimes be supported by representatives from religious groups.
  • Academies: These are independently managed but state-funded, with considerable freedom in operations and curriculum. 
  • Grammar schools: These can be run by the local authority, a foundation body or an academy trust. They select students based on performance in the 11+ exam. [1]


The following sections will explore the specifics of each entry point at both independent and state schools.


Understanding the Age-Specific Entry Points


At primary level, schools can include the following entry points:


⦿ Reception Entry (4+) – Pupils are typically four years old when they start Reception.

⦿ Year 1 Entry (5+) – Pupils are typically five years old when they start Year 1. Usually, 5+ is considered a non-standard entry point.

⦿ Year 2 Entry (6+) – Pupils are typically six years old when they start Year 2. Usually, 6+ is considered a non-standard entry point.

⦿ Year 3 Entry (7+) – Pupils are typically seven years old when they start Year 3. This can be a standard entry point for independent schools, as it is the start of Junior School.

⦿ Year 4 Entry (8+) – Pupils are typically eight years old when they start Year 4. This can be a standard entry point for independent schools, as it is traditionally the start of Prep School.

⦿ Year 5 Entry (9+) – Pupils are typically nine years old when they start Year 5. Usually, 9+ is considered a non-standard entry point.

⦿ Year 6 Entry (10+) – Pupils are typically ten years old when they start Year 6. Usually, 10+ is considered a non-standard entry point.


At secondary level, schools include the following entry points:


⦿ Year 7 Entry (11+) – Pupils are typically eleven years old when they start Year 7. This is the most common entry point for both independent and grammar schools.

⦿ Year 8 Entry (12+) – Pupils are typically twelve years old when they start Year 8. Generally, 12+ is considered a non-standard entry point.

⦿ Year 9 Entry (13+) – Pupils are typically thirteen years old when they start Year 9. This can be a standard entry point for independent schools, as traditionally it is when pupils move from Prep School to Senior School.

⦿ Year 10 Entry (14+) – Pupils are typically fourteen years old when they start Year 10. Generally, 14+ is considered a non-standard entry point.

⦿ Year 11 Entry (15+) – Pupils are typically fifteen years old when they start Year 11. Generally, 15+ is considered a non-standard entry point.

⦿ Year 12 Entry (16+) – Pupils are typically sixteen years old when they start Year 12. 16+ is also known as Sixth Form entry.


How can Exam Papers Plus help?


For the above entry points, our examination experts have produced relevant preparation resources in the form of:



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Our practice tests in particular have been meticulously designed to replicate the style, timings and format of the entrance examinations for a broad variety of entry points. Most of them come with detailed video solutions, offering insights into the methodology and reasoning behind correct answers.


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5+ Practice Tests with Answers


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13+ Practice Tests with Answers


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Top EPP Tips to Prepare for Competitive Exams


Here at Exam Papers Plus, we advise that preparations for challenging entrance exams commence well in advance of the exam date to avoid cramming and to ensure a thorough coverage of the relevant material. To best assist your child, you should allow ample time for revision and addressing any challenging areas. Furthermore, we recommend that you utilise the following practices for optimal results:


Consistent Practice


In the lead-up to the competitive exam, you should ensure your child completes practice tests regularly to build familiarity and confidence. We advise employing a gradual approach, starting with easier questions and progressively moving towards more challenging ones.


Simulate Real Exam Conditions


Becoming familiar with the timings of the assessment can significantly improve your child’s exam performance. Therefore, they should take our practice tests under timed conditions to simulate the real exam environment. This will help improve time management skills and reduce their pre-exam anxiety.


Prioritise Well-being


We strongly encourage parents to make sure that their child’s preparation time is balanced with relaxation and recreational activities to maintain their mental and physical well-being. Adequate sleep and healthy nutritional habits play a pivotal role in a successful exam performance.


Keep Communication Open


We also recommend that parents opt for open communication with their child about their progress, struggles and nerves in the lead-up to the exam. We always advise parents to provide encouragement and celebrate achievements, no matter how small.


Remember, the goal is to provide support and create a positive and encouraging environment that facilitates learning and helps your child to perform their best in their exams. The journey should be as rewarding as the destination, fostering a love for learning and building your child’s resilience and confidence.

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