Don’t kid yourself, there’s no magic formula to getting into NSB

STAYING on the subject of Northampton School for Boys, I’ve had calls from friends recently, asking me: “How did you get yours in?”

Well, if you’ve followed these ramblings over recent years, you’ll know that I didn’t.

Yes, Jed and Dougie are now both NSB pupils, but I certainly didn’t ‘get them in.’

And if you are helping your Year Six son choose a school for next September, there’s nothing you can do to ‘get them in’ either, other than fill in the forms and hope for the best. So don’t hold your breath.

There’s no ‘points criterion’ like there was in the past. You have to take them to do a ‘banding’ test on a Saturday morning, and might take the technology and music exams which share a handful places among genius kids. Other than that, the school insists its selection is random.

The number of available places – once you’ve taken out those with siblings already there, those with statements of special needs and the aforementioned geniuses – is probably less than 100.

Yet there will be over 700 applicants for those places from across the county and beyond as there’s no catchment area, which may explain the huge amount of pupils who seem to come not from Northampton, but from wealthy villages.

When our first-born Jed applied three years ago, he didn’t get in. We appealed, he still didn’t get in. He went to another school, which he quite enjoyed, but stubbornly stayed on the NSB waiting list, even though we were told it was highly unlikely a place would come up.

A year later, second son Dougie, keen to stay with his friends from primary school, also applied for NSB as his first choice. And he DID get in.

Things were a little awkward at home between brothers, mostly over the vastly differing sporting opportunities at their respective schools.

Then a week before the start of the 2011 summer holidays, we had a letter, saying a place had come up at NSB, and would Jed still like it?

I won’t bore you with further repetition, but he took the place, and started this term in Year 9, two years after his peers.

A note of caution to prospective parents: If your son hates sport, it might not be an ideal first-choice school. (Just ask any pupils about the ‘levels run.’) Discipline is strict, expectations are high, and curiously for a school with no selection, you can really feel like a pauper when you see the rows of Range Rovers and Mercs doing the school run.

There’s no doubt it’s a good school, but try not to let yourself become blinkered – there are other good schools out there too.

 

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