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Thursday, 19 August 2010

A Level Results Day - 2010

Congratulations to all those celebrating their results today. For the 28th year in a row, results were the best ever. It was also the first year that the A* grade became available.

Results Facts - 2010

- This year has been the most competitive year with a 10% rise in applications.
- 27% of entries were at A* or A
- Around 180,000 students were without a place at a university
- There are fewer "clearing" places available than ever
- 8% of grades were awarded the coveted top A* grade
- Girls (once again) beat boys
- The overall pass rate (grades at A* - E) was at 97.5%

How did the top UK Schools perform?

This is surprisingly difficult to answer as many of the top private schools now choose to keep away from releasing their results data. Eventually, most will release basic data such as the percentage achieving A + B grades. This will probably take weeks and I will give you an update when this happens.

However some have released figures in a matter of hours. So far I could only find Tonbridge School, their results can be found here.

GCSE results next week!

Sunday, 1 August 2010

It really doesn't matter...

...what school you go to, what grade you got, who you are, where you're from, how rich/poor you are. It really doesn't matter.

Recently, I became worried that my blog was becoming too focused in "elite" schools in the UK and although it was completely unintentional, I made it seem that if you don't go to one of these schools, it made you somehow of an outcast.

This is all completely wrong.

In my view, it really doesn't matter at all! If you, your son/daughter doesn't go to one of these schools, does it make him/her anymore different than his/her counterparts? nope!

Everyone has their own destiny and at the end of the day, do what makes you happy. Life is so short, sometimes we forget to be happy.

Every school, no matter how famous or not it is, is still a school. We must remember that not everyone gets to enjoy the fruits of an education. The bare fact that we can get an education makes us lucky.

Good. I just wanted to get that out of the way. It was bugging me all day.


Saturday, 24 July 2010

Too Poor for Posh School - Documentary (Peter Beckwith Harrow Scholarship)

Please note: This documentary is only currently available to be watched in the UK or via a UK IP address at Channel 4.

On this post, I will be discussing the Channel 4 (UK) documentary titled "Too Poor for Post School". This documentary follows boys who hope to win a all paid (worth £200,000) "Peter Beckwith" scholarship to Harrow. This documentary follows boys at home discussing their future and then the assessment day at Harrow School.

With such a big scholarship at stake Harrow makes sure nothing is missed in assessing the boys. Every year they get many applicants after which only 5 to 10 of whom are invited (after a detailed reference is taken) to come to assessment day. Only 2 or 3 scholarships are offered each year. These boys are (usually) extremely talented and have qualities that any school would love to accept. However they cannot afford to pay the hefty school fees set by the UK's most famous schools. Their only alternative is to either win the scholarship or go to a state funded school.

Assessment includes:

Maths Test
Sport Test
Science Test
Headmaster's Interview
English Test

So, it's a pretty hard day for the 10 or 11 year olds.

After all the results are in, shortlisted candidates are telephoned informing them of the good/bad news.

In my opinion, if your son is talented in any way, it is worth applying. These tests aren't tests that you can prepare for, there is no curriculum, no set texts, no topic list. Some papers may even try to teach your son one or two things in the exam itself!

Harrow Peter Beckwith Scholarship: link1 link2

If you are interested in applying to other public schools with the similar scholarships, here are the links:

Eton College: The King's Scholarship offers pupils from any households anything from 10% to 100% off the school fees depending on the family's financial circumstances. New Foundation Scholarships are available to those educated in the UK state sector for years 6, 7 and 8 up to age 13. It is aimed at boys who would not be able to prepare for the King's Scholarship exam and those who cannot afford the fees.

Tonbridge School: Similarly, the standard academic scholarship offers anything from 10% to 100% off the school fees depending on the financial position of the boy's family. The Foundation Award aims to provide access to a Tonbridge education for boys who are not in a position to sit the typical range of Scholarship or Common Entrance papers in Year 8. Must be attending a state school.

Westminster School: 11+ bursary is available to boys who is attending a state funded school. 13+ bursary is available in the form of a Queen's Scholarship or a standard bursary. For 16+ girls and boys can apply for a bursary. link

King's School Canterbury: The academic scholarship can be a full 100% scholarship if the financial means of the parents are needed.

St Paul's School: 13+ academic scholarship can be increased to a full 100% scholarship. A means-tested bursary can also be offered to normal students.

These scholarships are just a few to mention, I fully support what public schools are doing by offering places to pupils from less privileged background.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

UK Student Visa - Tier 4 PBS - Advice

Please note: The rules and process of the UK immigration system is continuously changing and this advice may not be valid in the future if/when the rules change again.

**This post only applies to non-EU (excl. Switzerland) students wanting to apply/extend their student visas**

Disclaimer: The UK immigration system is a very complicated process and if you need help, please go to an OSIC registered adviser and please do not rely on my post.

This is my second post on the topic of student visas for non-EU students. This time, I would like to focus on what to do when things go wrong.

This can go wrong surprisingly easily. When I mean "go wrong", I mean being refused a visa and/or told to leave the country. You might think "this will never happen to me" but it does happen and much more frequently to unsuspecting students who are careless in their application.

Let's look at the case of my friend from Hong Kong, let's call him F. F is a full time student in the UK, his visa was almost expiring so he applied for an extension whilst in the UK. F filled out everything, F remembered to include his CAS (Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies) which was implemented recently. F also remembered to include bank statements showing F had funds and of course, photos. F also went all the way to Croydon to submit his biometric details. A couple of weeks later, F's application came back with his passport and a letter explaining that his application had been refused. This was because F had provided the "wrong" photos. By now his original visa had expired but the UKBA told F that he can re-apply in the UK. So F got the "correct" photos and he sent the application back with all the documents including his bank statements.

What F didn't realise was that F was making a "fresh" application by re-applying. A couple of weeks later F's application came back (once again) with a letter explaining that F's application had been refused. This was because F had provided bank statements that were out of date. The bank statements may have been valid when he applied the first time but it was now out of date as he was making a new application when he re-applied. This time F did not get back the passport, the immigration officials kept it. He was not given a right of appeal or admin review as F had re-applied when his original visa expired making it an "out of time" application. F was told he had no right to live in the UK and was an illegal immigrant, he had to leave immediately. But F did not have his passport. F had to buy flight tickets and then F had to call the UKBA to prove he had a ticket and his passport was released. F eventually got his visa back home.

All because of "wrong" photos. Find out the UKBA's photo requirements here

This can not only happen due to wrong photos but also due to wrong bank statements. This case also emphasises the importance of making an application BEFORE your visa expires as this will get you the right of appeal or admin review.

There is also a little known application called Long Residence Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR). ILR is basically a permanent residence visa a bit like the Green Card. You normally get ILR through family or work but you can also get it just for living in the UK for 10 years (or 14 years if you are an illegal) This is continuous residence and should not include gaps created by making an application when your original visa has expired. Find out more here.

**UPDATE IMPORTANT** : If you are looking to do some part-time jobs whilst studying in the UK please read.

As an adult student under Tier 4 (General), you are allowed to:

  • do part-time work during term time;
  • do full-time work during vacations;
  • do a work placement as part of your course;
  • work as a postgraduate doctor or dentist on a recognised Foundation Programme; and
  • work as a student union sabbatical officer for up to two years.

For more information about work placements, see the Your course of study page.

The maximum amount of part-time work you can do during term time is:

  • 20 hours per week if you are studying a course at or above UK degree level or a foundation degree course, and/or if you made your application to study under Tier 4 (General) on or before 2 March 2010; or
  • 10 hours per week if you are studying a course that is below UK degree level and is not a foundation degree course, and you made your application to study under Tier 4 (General) on or after 3 March 2010.

The work you do must not fill a full-time permanent vacancy (other than on a recognised Foundation Programme), and you must not be self-employed, employed as a doctor in training (except on a recognised Foundation Programme) or as a professional sportsperson (including coach) or entertainer.

You can work full-time during vacation periods, within the above limits. If you have completed your course and you make an application to remain in the UK under the points-based system before your existing permission to stay expires, you can work full-time (within the above limits) until your application is decided.

As for your family and dependents, if your course is 12 months or more, they will be allowed to work.


The new government has announced new measures, however they have not yet been implemented. Ideas include a compulsory Private medical insurance for students to prevent them from using the National Health Service and a "deposit" which involves a student depositing a sum of money to the government and the student gets the money back when he/she leaves the UK. You now need to know English to study English as a Foreign Language and when you arrive the immigration officials will make sure you know how to speak it!


As you can see, this is a continuously revolving system and it seems the only way this is going is to limit the number of non-EU students as much as possible.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Your Comments...

are very much appreciated and welcomed but if you are looking to advertise your site or business through my blog, then you are not welcome.

This is why all comments will have to moderated before appearing on this blog.

So, by all means please leave your genuine comments and I will clear them through in no more than 12 hours.

Thank you to all my regular readers!

Monday, 28 June 2010

Public School Interview - Tips!

It is nowadays very common for any candidate for a public school such as eton college, Harrow, Westminster, Tonbridge to undergo an interview. This is mainly due to the fact that it is hard for schools to differentiate between candidates who have such similar academic backgrounds.

I have narrowed down the typical questions a candidate may be asked at an interview and also HOW to answer it, bearing in mind that this is for the 13+ entry. One should NEVER memorise any question answers and this can be seen by any experienced interviewer.

  • Why do you want to come to XXXX school?
This is a very common question and yet many candidates still manage to answer it poorly. The standard "textbook" answer for this question would be along the lines of ...

"This school is one of the best in the country and I would like to attend it. My parents want me to go to Oxbridge and they think xxxx will let me do so."...

Now, there is nothing wrong with this answer but the problem is, it is the answer that the interviewer expects. It doesn't leave a vivid memory of the candidate to the interviewer. Also a candidate should never bring in their parents in a question like this. Saying that your parents want you to go to Oxbridge may be true but it implies that you are applying to that school not because you want to but because your parents wants you to.

"This school is strong academically but also it is just as strong in non-academic areas. It is a truly international school where I believe I can meet other students from all walks of life. I am particularly interested in the Combined Cadet Force and the school's impressive orchestra. I believe I can make a positive contribution to the school's academic and non-academic life.

This answer is clearly much better. This candidate is able to talk not only about the academic side but also the extracurricular side of the school. This helps to show that the candidate is a well rounded person. The candidate also talks about the school's CCF and it's orchestra, this candidate has clearly done some research into the school and the interviewer will be impressed.

  • What do you think is a disadvantage of boarding?
Another common question. Of course "boarding" can be changed to "living at home" etc.

"The student may become homesick whilst boarding and he may not enjoy boarding. However I believe because the teachers are very nice, no one will become homesick"

Again, this is a perfectly valid answer to say but it lacks originality. Also one should never "suck up" to the school by complimenting the school's teachers etc. This is because it makes the candidate look desperate and that will get you nowhere.

"By boarding, a pupil can develop a obscured image of the real world where everything is perfect and everything is done for you by others. In the real world a person must be able to fend for himself. By boarding, a pupil may become disillusioned and when he leaves his school and face the real world, he can be shocked. However, I believe xxxx school will prepare me fully for life after school"

This answer is clearly more developed and focused. Notice that the candidate hasn't mentioned about getting homesick, although it may be an issue, it is something that lots of other candidate will mention. Also notice the "however", being too negative can be bad, so make sure you balance up your answers by adding something positive but not overdoing to make it look as if you are "sucking up" to the school.

  • What do you do in your free time? Do you read books? Tell me about it.
This question about free time is almost always going to come up. The school want to make sure that pupils coming into their school will not just sit in front of their computers or studying all the time. The question about books, is a way of seeing what type of books a candidate reads and whether he is able to understand it fully.

"In my free time, I like to play snooker, watch movies and read books. (Interviewer: What books do you read?) I like to read Harry Potter. It uses words very well to describe the scenes vividly"

Ok, this is probably one of the worst answers ever but surprisingly, candidates do answer like this. When they ask you about "free time" they don't want to hear about snooker or movies (unless you've got a serious interest in it) but more on the lines of books and sports. This candidate talks about Harry Potter, one of the most read books in history, it is also very easy to read. This doesn't do well to convince the interviewer that you are well developed reading books.

"In my free time, I love to play the violin and play golf. However most of all, I love to read! At home I have a huge collection of Roald Dahl and Sherlock Holmes books. My favourite of all is xxxx by xxxx because I love the fact that Holmes is able to use even the smallest clues to find the culprit. I hope xxxx school will be able to allow me to become sensitive to the smallest of details just like Holmes"

Can you notice what this candidate has done? It is very crafty and clever. He mentions all the relevant "hobbies" such as sports and music and books. He has chosen a book that is believed to be challenging for a 11/12 year old to read and yet he is able to "see" the message of the book and relate to his life. very impressive.

Final thoughts

Of course, these questions are not the conclusive list of questions and the interviewer (quite rightly so) can throw in an unexpected question. The skill is to see beyond the question and answer it so that the interviewer cannot ask any follow up questions. Every question is designed not only to see what kind of person you are but also the thought processes. For example if someone asks you how many schools there are in the world, they are not expecting a number as such but just the process in which you come up with an answer. ie, there are xxxx children in the world so, assuming each school can take in xxxx children, there are xxx schools. can you see?

Always shake the interviewers hand at the start and beginning even though he/she may not offer you to and if they try to make you say something negative about yourself, turn it into a positive. eg, Do you play cricket? Rather than just saying no, you could answer, "I have not had the opportunity to try it out so if I come to XXXX school I would most definitely like to try it out." See, much better!

Sunday, 23 May 2010

The link between British Prime Ministers and Public Schools

It's no denying that there is a clear link between Public Schools like Eton and Harrow producing Prime Ministers regularly.

Let's have some stats:

Eton College - 19 Prime Ministers incl. David Cameron
Harrow School - 8 Prime Ministers
Westminster School - 2 Prime Ministers not incl. Nick Clegg

just to name a few.

From 1964 to 1997, all Prime Ministers had been educated at an independent school. This figure rises even more when we look at the Conservative Party. Almost a half of Conservative Party MPs in Parliament attended a Private School and 21 MPs attended Eton College.

I'm making Eton College look like some Prime Minister and MP making factory but may MPs and David Cameron himself are quite coy about it all. The fact that they went to a £28,500 per year school isn't the most election winning point, is it?

However the question is, does this have any real impact on UK Politics and why do Public and Private schools produce so many politicians?

To answer this question, we must look at the type of pupils that would attend a public school. To get into a public school you would have to be reasonably clever and we would also assume that they are from a wealthy family who probably encouraged their child to put education as a priority. This with high quality education and subsequent degree level education does make them a clever person.

Politics is a demanding job and requires someone with relatively high level of education. Unfortunately many poorer families do not see education as a priority and this perhaps explains why such a high proportion of politicians are from a private school.

Does this have any real impact on UK politics? To some extent, yes, they do. On one side of the argument, we could say that being a highly educated person from a respected background, one is quite qualified to do the job but on the other does this mean poorer, less educated people are under represented in parliament?

What do you think?
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