BOOK REVIEW You want to send your child to a UK independent school. Where do you go for the best advice?

I was recently sent a copy of Independent School Entrance by Victoria Barker, the latest in the series of ‘Parent Brief’ books published by Gresham Books, and I was impressed. The author – who has two children of her own, one of whom has passed through the UK independent school system and the other of whom is still working her way through it – was inspired to write the book because of her own experience: when she relocated from Australia 8 years ago, she found the system complex and in parts hard to grasp; in learning – the hard way – to navigate through the processes associated with applying to independent schools, she has gathered a wealth of information which she is now able to share, for the distinct benefit of prospective parents.

Down-to-earth advice for parents lies at the heart of the book, and this is probably what makes it so distinctive and such an appealing read. Heads of schools will, too, find themselves nodding in agreement with the very straightforward approach that the book adopts to preparing children for interview, for instance – ‘give your child control’, ‘encourage your child to think critically’, ‘keep anxieties to yourself’, and – crucially – ‘just be there’. Eternal truths such as these sit alongside very up-to-date information about the range of examinations and the availability of bursaries and scholarships, together with a range of well-tested and recommended resources.


As Clarissa Farr, High Mistress of St Paul’s Girls’ School, comments in her introduction, this is a “practical, no-nonsense guide”. It is eminently readable, and manages to be both highly informative and immensely reassuring to parents, leaving practically no angle of the application process untouched. From insights into costs and what to expect in applying, to balanced commentary on tutoring and how to work out what kind of school will suit your child, this is a book which has been cleverly put together – with, as a pleasant bonus, some stunning and uplifting photography – to demystify the independent schools’ sector and to encourage parents to think seriously about how to apply successfully for a place for their child at one of the many hundreds of great independent schools for which the UK is renowned. It is little surprise, therefore, that it is fully endorsed by the Good Schools Guide.

If you are a parent who is considering applying for a place in the independent sector, this book will hold your hand. Well worth a read.

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