Information on the Harrow Test: Autumn 2019

The Harrow Test is the pre-test for entry to Harrow School, taken by the majority of boys between mid-September and mid-October of Year 7. Boys are offered conditional places based on successful Common Entrance exams taken in the summer term of Year 8. The Harrow Test takes place at the school; for parents and teachers who decide to attend, they will be invited on a tour of the school and a visit to a Boarding House. 

At Oppidan, we specialise in preparing boys for the Harrow Test; that preparation is based on a measured approach to helping boys remain engaged about the process, without putting undue pressure or concern on that application. A less is more approach is considered the mark of an appropriate guide of preparation, especially with the interview. Preparation for the academic elements of the test include familiarisation with the types of questions likely to be answered, and confidence to be able to tackle those problems head on. 

The Harrow Test is composed of the following elements: 

English and Maths Tests (1 hour) 

These tests are taken on a computer and take an hour to finish. It comprises five section: for the English, vocabulary, grammar and comprehension, and for a boy's numerical ability, mental arithmetic and problem solving. The test is timed and each section has a separate time allowance such that a boy has to use the time allocated for each specific section.

English Writing (20 minutes) 

This is a straightforward assignment used very generally to check a boy's literary and writing ability. The school are looking for clear, accurate English - it is not an area to get overly fussed or concerned about. 

Visual Processing Speed Test

This is a short test assessing a boy’s ability to process visual information.

Two Interviews

One interview will be with a House Master and the other will be with a senior member of the Harrow teaching staff.  The aim of the interviews is to give a boy a chance to develop on his breadth of academics and an opportunity for candidates to showcase their interest in learning. A willingness to engage is the priority; senior schools are looking for a “zest for learning” and whether you are timid or confident, the point is to paint detail on your life, to outline your interests in a variety of subjects, and to show a willingness to engage in debate and give their opinion. Senior schools are not keen on boys who have been rehearsed or who have memorised template answers.

At Oppidan, we work on the basis that coaching children into reciting rehearsed template answers to questions is detrimental to their chances of a successful application. A relaxed approach in this area is vital to a proficient and rewarding interview experience. Interviews will involve poetry analysis, debates, thunks and picture analysis too all within the context of critical thinking.

Examples of Interview Questions:

  • Why do you want to come to this school?

  • What interests do you have outside of school?

  • What is your favourite subject?

  • Why do you like a particular subject?

  • What makes a good teacher?

  • Which books have you read recently?

  • How would your friends describe you?

  • What has been interesting you in the news recently?

Harrow Test Results

By the end of the first week of December of Year 7, an applicant is put on one of the lists below and is notified accordingly. Roughly 180 offers are given out for 160 places and some boys (about 30-40) are placed on a waiting list (no batting order.) An offer of a guaranteed place is contingent on an average of at least 65% overall at Common Entrance and a minimum of 60% across both English and Maths papers. 

The Game Plan For Clearing: A-Levels 2019

If you opened your A-Level results today and the grades looking back at you weren’t what you’d hoped for or expected, there will no doubt be a wave of emotions and thoughts hitting you. 

The outcome of many things will often reflect the effort one puts in, but other times there will be a mismatch of input and results. Whether this means that you’ve missed out on a University place, or simply didn’t achieve a grade you felt you worked for, it will hurt. 

In the aftermath there can and will be many questions asked, and much soul-searching done but this is a waste of energy. You now have 2 choices. You can dwell on what didn’t happen or use these results as a springboard for the next step. 

Here are the 3 things you need to remember:

1. Practice resilience

Your results didn’t go to plan but the world is going to keep turning and you will have many fantastic adventures and meet brilliant people irrespective of the university or course you do or don’t do! Trust us on this one. This period of change is one that you can grow from and must try to pick yourself up before your emotions manage you. You have the capacity to adapt and be successful! It’s time to start solving the next step. 

2. Think about what you desire to learn. 

Ask yourself what you enjoy and what you look forward to studying. Did you perform better in a subject than expected? This will help make navigating clearing easier. We don’t recommend wild swings to subjects you’ve never studied i.e. applying for Mandarin and Accounting if your UCAS was five applications to study Medieval History. Your passions and interests likely haven’t changed overnight, so stay true to yourself! Thinking about your long term aspirations can help here. What subjects of study will help you get to that place? Many graduate-entry jobs will be happy to accept any degree subject as long as it has been completed to a high standard. So send yourself in the direction of study that you will truly be engaged with for the next 3 years. 

3. Set yourself a game plan 

As Baz Lurhmann wisely wrote ‘Don't worry about the future; or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubblegum’. 

Your results will not stop the world from turning (even if it feels like they will do now - we promise!), use them to motivate yourself. Make a list of your passions and long term goals, shortlist areas of interest, give UCAS a call or check out their website, also give universities you applied to a call and see if there are places on similar courses or one that you applied to previously but didn’t accept an offer to. 

Remember as part of your game plan to be kind to yourself. There are so many options available beyond immediate entry to university - a gap year can offer unique work experience opportunities, or time to study and retake exams if you feel that you want to. Keep dialogue open and the right decision will come your way. 

Get in touch if you think you would benefit from the guidance of an Oppidan mentor.

Oppidan Partner with Forte Village

Oppidan is thrilled to announce its latest partnership with luxury Sardinian resort, Forte Village.

Winner of ‘World’s Leading Resort’ by World Travel Awards for the past 20 years, Forte Village joins a growing list of Oppidan Overseas venues. To learn more about Forte Village please click here.

Oppidan will be running a series of ad hoc workshops and educational activities, designed to engage children with great content such as business pitching, debate groups, quizzes, memory challenges, creative writing events and more, taking place around the resort.

Oppidan mentors also offer one-on-one support to children of all ages outside of the workshops. These sessions are charged as an extra through the resort.

Henry & Tom will be heading out to Forte Village on the 24th August 2019 for a week. Please do get in touch for further information regarding the partnership.

Oppidan Forge Partnership With Soneva

Oppidan is delighted to announce a new partnership with luxury resort Soneva Fushi.

Soneva was founded by Sonu & Eva Shivdasani in 1995. They fell in love with the Maldives and have created a series of luxury paradise resorts. You can find out more about Soneva here.

We are delighted that Soneva is part of our Oppidan Overseas partners. Oppidan will be running a series of mentoring and revision workshops for children on the island.

Oppidan is first heading out to Soneva to run workshops over the October Half-Term; do feel free to get in touch if you would like more information on the partnership together.

Oppidan at Masterpiece 2019

Oppidan was delighted to be the Principle Education partner of Masterpiece Art Fair. 

In The New York Times (26 June), Ginanne Brownell Mitic highlighted the commitment to education made by the Director of the Fair, Mr. Hewat-Jabor;

“Education is incredibly important and part of the ethos of our fair,” Mr. Hewat-Jaboor said. “We have a sort of duty to do this, apart from the fact that this is tremendous fun and tremendously exciting to see people of any age group, particularly young ones, get thrilled and interested in something they may not have looked at before.”

Curating a day of discovery for Families Day (middle Sunday of the fair), Oppidan at Masterpiece provided the opportunity for children of all ages to be exposed to and interact with accessible art history. The day was facilitated by specialists from Oppidan, each of whom is an expert in each form and period of art we explored!

Curating the content and seeing the children enjoy the workshops were highlights for the Oppidan team. Every element of the workshops were designed to facilitate both factual and conceptual learning whilst fostering creative skills at the same time. When a child is engaged in a kinaesthetic activity such as making clay pots with a specific style or reason in mind, greater care is seen to be taken with the process. This was especially true in the making of replica Japanese Kintsugi pots as an example, with each child leaving the day with their own golden pot.

Throughout the day, hundreds of  unique Masterpieces were created; some in the style of ancient Greek art, others abstract mimicking Kandinsky’s Concentric Circles, Dali’s collages, or self-portraiture. Tidal waves of creativity were flowing. It was our privilege to be in a space of exploratory learning.

As principle education partner at Masterpiece, Oppidan was equally delighted to have been part of the Royal Bank of Canada’s mentoring Thursday with the Prince’s Trust. As part of this, the Oppidan art history expert mentors gave tours of the fair to young people on the Prince’s Trust programme. It was our great privilege again, to be able to share our passion and knowledge about the arts and the work on show.

Oppidan is committed to supporting creative opportunities and learning experiences for all children.


To read the New York Times article (26 June 2019) by Ginanne Brownell Mitic, click here.

Oppidan Mentoring | The Peligoni Club

Oppidan at The Peligoni Club

Walter and Henry were thrilled to be back at The Peligoni Club this May half-term, running their revision study clubs and group workshops.

Our fourth year at the club, this week brought record numbers to the sessions; contending with the temptations to bask in the Ionian sea, catch a windsurf or kayak around the island, the children provided the proof that beaches and books really can go hand in hand on holiday.

For the children who hadn’t come before, a degree of cynicism ushered in their arrival: “it’s my holiday mum, revision is so boring!” Thus, we set the challenge – to stay for an hour and then let them leave if they so wish, their passport made. Fortunately, few crowns of convoy were handed out and we were delighted to work with such a troupe of eager learners.

We had 7-year-old Millie who delighted us with her readiness to write stories with Henry. Tom and Harry battled hard for the Dragons’ Den Business Prize only to be outdone by Jack and Oli’s masterful presentation – ice creams and honour, the prize for the victors.

A swathe of GCSE students would take on their revision together, levels of collaboration rarely seen before under the awning of the olive trees, whilst the younger children battled with Walter’s tennis-court maths, Henry’s poetry-skills workshop and endless science experiments and history tests.

This week in 2019 however brought, crucially, an extra dimension to the table. As important as helping children revise, we wanted to create a space at the club for children to be able to share together any issues and worries they felt they had. Talking through the same concerns and dealing with together the same problems teenagers face, we hope the sessions provided a leveller, a moment of reflection and a heartbeat of happiness with the realisation that the cool girl worries about the same thing that I do.

We look forward to returning in July.

Walter & Henry

What is a mentor?

For me, a mentor is someone who helps you discover passion for learning: in school and out of it. By delving into what we’re excited about, by exploring our desires and by helping us gain confidence in our ability, a mentor can really help someone to excel and progress.

If I was asked who my mentor at school was, my biology teacher for both lower and upper sixth form (year 12 and 13) springs to mind. He helped me further my passion for science and discover a real enjoyment of the work we studied. We were encouraged to devise our own experiments and think outside of the rigid box of the syllabus, whilst also engaging in educational games which he had devised. This really helped me to feel inspired in the subject, and also motivated me to complete tasks which were required by my curriculum as I knew I could accomplish something. He helped me discover confidence in myself and instilled in me a great desire to succeed. 

I owe a lot to my mentor, and I have really taken his support and guidance with me throughout life: in education and outside of it.

Written by Santino Coduri-Fulford, Oppidan Mentor

Past-Paperless Mentoring

For many of us a paperless world is in sight. I’m not talking about preserving forests, not directly anyway. We all agree that is important. I’m referring to exam papers (of which there are many). I’d argue that all of us who have anything to do with Oppidan are interested in lessons being about learning, not solely about past exam papers. 

As teachers and mentors, we’re all aware of the duty we have towards young people and families to help them achieve their ambitions. Exams often open the door to these ambitions. So how do we do this without draining the life out of learning? How to keep young people eager upright, rather than stooping ashen-faced under stacks of papers? 

It’s been a real joy to arrive at mentoring sessions this year with a bag full of books, articles and links to Ted Talks. A lesson involved examining a range of different History texts (think The Story of Art vs extracts from The Magna Carta) and trying to come closer to answering the question: ‘What is History?’ From here we built-up to thinking about different types of history and the questions of why and how History is re-written. We incorporated examples from the course taught at school and my mentee was surprised to realise how much he knew. Only afterwards did we look at the exam question which asked whether or not it is a problem that History is constantly being rewritten. 

This all had me thinking that perhaps we need to learn more freely first to equip young people to tackle exam questions later. 

Written by Digby Don, Oppidan Mentor

To view Digby’s mentoring profile click here.

MUSTIQUE | Notes from a Small Island

Oppidan Education was delighted to be invited by The Mustique Company to spend a fortnight on the island over the April holidays, providing revision study clubs and group workshops as well as private one-to-one sessions to the families and their children. 

Traditionally, the Easter holidays have been a time when families stay at home in order to allow their children to revise. Fraught with tension, the holidays become a struggle in which parents and their charges clash and little productive revision is accomplished. 

The aim was therefore simple and was carried out accordingly: for the children, to provide a structured schedule of revision for those with upcoming exams, whether that was the 11+ exams, Common Entrance, GCSEs or A Levels. For the parents, a guilt-free holiday in which the stress of organizing, motivating and coercing was taken out of their hands. 

We were delighted that cumulatively over 250 children joined us for the workshops. The morning sessions focused on the syllabus created by Oppidan Camps, our programme of educational summer camps for children in the UK. Poetry, debating, public speaking and creative writing formed the basis of a curriculum designed to improve a child’s self-belief, confidence and desire to learn, whilst simultaneously ensuring academic improvement and tangible progress. 

In the afternoons, we provided over seventy hours of one-to-one tutorials to the children; there was a real fizz of focus amongst the children who realized the imminent nature of their exams; the work we did was, I believe, hugely productive and allowed the children to then relax in the evenings with a feeling of real achievement gained. 

An enormous thank you to the guests and their children for all the hard work and hospitality shown to us on the island and a special thank you to The Mustique Company and to Roger Pritchard for their kindness and support to Oppidan as we look to a budding partnership and future years together. 

Walter Kerr
Co-Founder & Director

This article is taken from the original article on The Mustique Company’s website.

Meet the Oppidan Team: Alex and Alice

Alex Hogg
Marketing Manager

Who was your mentor growing up? 

I played a lot of sport when I was growing up so there were many coaches that inspired me to be the best I could be, and my parents were also hugely influential. However in terms of a personal mentor; my Grandfather, despite not seeing me regularly, has always been heavily invested in my development as a person and has instilled in me some very important traits from a young age.            

What does mentoring mean to you?

A mentor to me is a role model, someone you respect and look up too, someone you aspire to be like, someone that you can approach with any problem you may have.

What piece of advice would you give to your younger self? 

Work hard at everything you do but don't forget to have fun, you will never have as much freedom as when you are younger so make the most of it! Oh, and learn an instrument - it's really cool when you're older!

Alex was educated at Notre Dame before going on to study Sports Marketing at Leeds Beckett University. He has worked in a number of marketing roles in professional sports clubs in England and Australia.

Alice Evans
Client Manager

Who was your mentor growing up? 

I definitely had more than one mentor growing up and they changed over time. Although I would say my parents have been the two most constant mentors throughout my life, I also have been lucky enough to have made very strong friendships over the years. I often go to my close friends for advice or a second opinion on a certain issue I face, and I am so grateful to know that they will always be willing to help me.

What does mentoring mean to you? 

The role of a mentor is incredibly broad and can cover anything from specific academic support to the building of pro-social skills in an invisible manner. A mentor is not a teacher or tutor, but rather a guiding figure who doesn't necessarily have to know you on an extremely personal level.

What piece of advice would you give to your younger self? 

Ask for more help when I felt I needed it. I definitely was the quiet pupil who didn't ask questions - being vocal in lessons is important (within reason!).

Alice was educated at The Study Wimbledon and Wycombe Abbey, before graduating from the University of St Andrews with a degree in Art History. She then completed a language course in Paris and worked as a private English tutor for children aged between 8 and 13.

The Lost Art of Handwriting in a Digital Age

Go to any lecture theatre in any university across the country and you’ll be greeted to a cacophonous buzz similar to a chorus of cicadas on a summer evening. It is, in fact a chorus of keyboard-tapping students furiously taking notes.

All but gone are the days when one might ask for a pen to make handwritten notes, now that the Cloud stoically guards the memos and musings from lectures, seminars and tutorials. Which seems contradictory, given research shows that those who make handwritten notes more frequently out-perform their keyboard-tapping counterparts.

Handwriting is not so much an art as a skill that engages many of the structures and circuits of the brain. It is of cognitive importance in developing working memory and fine motor skills. Studies have found that handwriting speed has direct positive correlation on selective attention, and therefore the practice of handwriting has far greater implications for the developing brain than a sense of surprise at getting off a thank you letter in time.

The importance of handwriting in a digital cannot be underestimated. Both the act of, the style and skill of writing by hand is depleting in frequency as the interaction with technology in schools increases. The nature of Artificial Intelligence will undoubtedly have an impact on the way that children’s education is shaped but we must continue to be mindful of the development of fine-motor skills and visual-motor performance that are honed as the child learns to hold a pencil, and create meaningful symbols with these tools etc. This is incomparable to the padding of the index finger on a screen, which has already been found to rewire basic cognitive patterns.

Perhaps one of the most important relationships to stem from handwriting is between creativity and deep learning. One must hold information in working memory for seconds longer than when writing - these seconds allow the brain to recount the information and begin to process greater memories. The advent of autocorrect has developed a reflexive laziness in the arena of spelling; it is of no help to a child to learn spellings through click-corrections. Within the context of school entrance exams, I wonder how comfortable children really are when it comes to hand-written tests?

To conclude, handwriting is as important a functional tool and basic skill, as it is an imperative to the foundational development of the human brain. Writing by hand enhances individual creativity, strengthens memory and allows the development of our fine-motor skills essential to the development of our brain.

Olivia Buckland,

Oppidan Education Partnership & Schools Manager

Mindfulness in Education: Oppidan Mentoring

Mindfulness in Education

The Building Block to a Happier Future

We were delighted to welcome Regina Zheng, a certified Mental Health Therapist & healthcare technology startup founder, to present to our mentors the strategies within mindfulness that she has developed as an Oppidan Mentor. The discussion centred on working with students in high-stress and high-pressure environments and we analysed in depth the importance of mindfulness as a concept within education and from there, the best approaches on how to incorporate mindfulness to within current mentoring relationships.

Children are increasingly worried about performance. They are highly aware of targets and ‘hoops’ they are expected to jump through. As educators, it is imperative to be aware and notice how this behaviour is displayed and how it manifests itself.

Regina argued that if students’ emotional needs are not met, then it is difficult for them to learn and to progress. Mindfulness, she says, is a tool that can help students explore both the cause of anxiety and aid in its reduction. Satisfying the need to express and let go of what is felt allows students to refocus and absorb new information better.

Regina’s main argument centred on the idea that society has deviated from the optimal state in which students are able to academically perform at their best. Many students are both over scheduled and over committed. It is important to teach mindfulness because the brain is a muscle that can be trained for optimal performance. However, when we rigorously academically  train it while negating other aspects, results will be lackluster. She quoted Bill Gates who poignantly describes his mindfulness practice as “learning how to pay attention to the thoughts in [his] head, [while establishing enough] distance from them to calm down.”

Scientific research findings support the assertion that mindfulness improves focus, reduces stress and boosts memory retention. Mindfulness is an important skill for mentor-mentee relationships, because it satisfies an emotional need that acts as a building block towards both higher academic performance and general wellness.

As educators at Oppidan, this approach is not simply paying lip service to a trendy new-age approach to pedagogy. This is the anchor for fundamental change and a cause for real development in the happiness and welfare of children.

Extremities At The Extremes: Nat-Geo Explorer @ Oppidan Event

Dr Stephanie Payne

Extremities At The Extremes: The Science Of Temperature

Friday 22nd March 5:30pm Holland Park

Ahead of her next adventure driving the length of Africa, Nat-Geo Explorer Dr Stephanie Payne (Cantab) will be bringing her cutting edge research to life exclusively for Oppidan.

She spent months on Everest, living with Nepali families and Sherpas to understand how the human body adapts and evolves to extreme temperature… she then brought her findings back to Cambridge and worked with International Rowing Squads, taking her research to the next level with a totally different breed of human!

Steph has spoken all over the world, interviewed on every major news channel and publication – bringing some of the world class technology with her for a truly interactive workshop, this is going to be one spine-tinglingly exciting event you do not want to miss!”


An Oppidan Event: Conspiracy Theories in the 20th Century

This article is written by Oskar Schortz, a History Teacher currently at Rugby School, who ran The Conspiracy Theories Event for Oppidan on Friday 8th May.

‘When fairytales do come true’

Conspiracy theories are supposed to be a thing of the past. They are theories and opinions from the fringes of society that explain big historical events in colourful and inventive ways. The Moon Landing was fake, the world is flat, aliens have landed, the lizards have taken over – surely we can’t be duped into these whacky theories in the 21st century?! 

Well in recent years, conspiracy theories have been found to be on the up. Fuelled by a wide range of dubious news sites online, and creative uses of photoshop and video editing, the internet has provided a new home for like-minded groups.

By looking back into history, the presence of conspiracy theories should not surprise us. Conspiracy theories have been around as long as people have been recording decisions and events. And what’s even more worrying when we look at history – many conspiracy theories have actually worked!

Looking at the big three totalitarian dictatorships of the 20th century of Russia, Germany and China – the leadership of all three were able to take absolute power through the use of some rather suspect political theories. Russians were convinced that a ‘Mad Monk’ called Rasputin was taking over Russia from inside Tsar Nicholas II’s court; Germans believed Nazi ideas about being ‘stabbed in the back’ by Jews, Communists and politicians; and Chinese fear was fuelled by rumours of both an internal takeover of the country as well as dangerous foreign influences.

 Interestingly all three dictators (Hitler, Stalin and Mao) not only used conspiracy theories to great effect to achieve power but continued to spread them once their power was firmly established – as a way to help cement their strong positions.

This all seems far off from conspiracy theories that appear in popular culture nowadays, but a series of more sinister theories have been circling in the aftermath of the Brexit and Trump votes. Almost half (47%) of Trump votes believe global warming is a hoax, and according to a 2018 Cambridge university study, 60% of Britons believe in at least one conspiracy theory. This spells danger for democracy across the world because if a ruler can achieve power through the spreading of lies – doesn’t this make the whole voting process irrelevant?

From whacky explanations to meticulously described motives and connections – conspiracy theories have the power to enchant and entertain. But one thing is for sure, they aren’t going away anytime soon…

The Oppidan Young Leaders Programme

The Young Leaders Programme: Work placements on camps and in our offices for Oppidan Mentees.

Making our students part of our future.

Tilly Cripwell: Oppidan’s First Young Leader

February 2019

Having spent most of my time at previous work experiences with nothing to do (but being too scared to question this) coming to work with Oppidan was refreshingly satisfying. I feel like I have come away with a huge deal more insight into the working world than I would normally expect from a week’s work experience.

I found that I did not once get bored, due to the variety in my week, and the amount of thought put into the tasks I was given. Each day, I was taken to the lobby to talk with a different member of the business about their role.

 After this, they would give me a task related to their role in the company. For example, Alex, the Marketing Manager, had me create a campaign for the Oppidan Camps, which represented an example of what would usually be sent to clients who had previously sent their children to an Oppidan Camp.

 Flick, the business’ Events Manager, had me research some journalists the company could contact in order to gain publicity for the various Oppidan events. Aside from these tasks, I also got the chance to sit in on interviews with potential mentors and camp leaders, witness brainstorming sessions and company meetings, and present my ideas to some of the Oppidan employees.

The overarching project for my week was the introduction of the Young Leaders Programme. Being 17 years old myself, the project was very relevant, therefore I found it easy and interesting coming up with ideas for this, and thinking of certain concepts the programme should entail. I was given the task of thinking of ideas for this new programme, and organising them into a formulated presentation. Parts of my presentation included brainstorming the value of this programme, how to market it, what its purposes would be, the target audience and the finances. On my last day with Oppidan, I presented my ideas to Walter, and he gave me constructive praise and criticism on the format of my presentation, the ideas I proposed and how the business may go on to use my proposal.

 I have found this week invaluable regarding the running of a business, how the working world works (especially within the education sector) and the individual values of each job role in a business. My learning about the company has been optimised by means of my always being busy and being taught new things. It was also very useful to be able to experience the office dynamics and formalities, as they are great examples of those current in the working world today, and those I may experience when I enter the working world.

Tilly Cripwell

Friday February 22nd 2019

The Changing Nature of Senior-School Interviews

“Interviews are now conversations, not interrogations.”


Oppidan’s work in schools in February included about 700 one-on-one interviews. That’s roughly the same number of interviews Eton carries out each year.

Differentiating between that number of candidates, we have learnt, rests upon the very smallest of margins. More on that, later.

 The interviews that boys take aged 10 or 11 have, at Eton for example, historically been run by teachers; academically focused, they challenged boys to think rationally and to reason logically. The interviewer would look for specificity on the subjects a boy liked, detail on what a boy had so far achieved, and context to what they wanted to achieve on arrival. Ultimately, to quote an Eton schoolmaster, they were looking for “a fizz for learning.”

 Questions involved Current Affairs:

         “What has recently interested you in the news?”

Question involvedBooks:

         “Do you prefer non-fiction or fiction?”

Questions involved Academic Rigour:

         “What would happen if clouds didn’t exist?”

 Given the noted increase in anxiety (in both parents and children) caused by over preparation for the interviews, I believe a shift in philosophy has started to take place within the interview process for senior-school places.

For a start, housemasters alone now run the Eton interviews. Less geared towards proving what you know academically, the interviews now focus on the contributing factor you will be to your house. What can you offer away from the classroom and why is the boarding element so much an attraction to you?

 Questions might involve Family Life:

         “What do you think of your role as the youngest in the family?”

Questions might involve Extracurricular Activities:

         “What would you do on a free Sunday at home?”

This softer approach to interviews has universal appeal. Interviews for Winchester College, for example, really focus on getting to know the candidate: boys are asked to analyse poems (The Castle by Edwin Muir) and paintings (Van Gogh’s Chair), real care is taken to get to know the child’s family too (parents sit in for some of the session) and the interviews are long enough to allow a boy the time to warm up and to express himself.

At Wellington College, the process is even more participatory. From drama workshops (acting out improvised Blitz evacuees) to team-building workshops involving bamboo sticks, group maths problems to Dr Hook’s Theory of the Elastic Band, the children are assessed by both teachers and by current students. The day is, I believe, a mark of how school assessments can be positive experiences for young people.

These examples of progressive interviews do not standalone. The Consortium Group of Girls’ Schools in London have changed their assessment process to include a longer, more varied interview process, whilst up and down the country, senior schools that interview for places are appeasing the need to over prepare by a stronger focus on school reports.

Which perhaps seems contradictory given the large volume of work Oppidan does on preparing children for senior schools.

 The effect of Oppidan’s interview sessions work though, both in and outside of school, is seen in the focus we put on engaging a child to feel enthused about the process – in giving a child the confidence to say what they want and what they feel and in the familiarity of talking to somebody they don’t know. By combining the changing nature of these interviews with the softer, more rounded approach we take on preparation, the interview process can finally be something for children to look forward to.

To the acknowledgement of schools and the benefit of both children and parents alike, interviews are now conversations, not interrogations.

Walter Kerr



The Magic Formula for Moulding Champions

“You can take direct credit in the correction of his perception about what he is capable of academically. This will be life-changing for him.”


Described by The Telegraph as “the man with the magic formula for moulding champions” and a winning coach of a Wimbledon Tennis Grand-Slam, Richard de Souza – the inspiration behind the D7 philosophy we use in our mentoring - kicked off Oppidan’s mentoring workshops this January with two lively discussions on how best we can incorporate the D7 into our one-on-one teaching.

Using the same methods we implement in our teaching, Richard has quite the track record. He coached Jonny Marry to Wimbledon Champion in 2012 , took the former British No.2 Anne Keothavong to the brink against Venus Williams and is currently working with Evan Hoyt.

The importance of technical skills is obvious in many professions, sports or hobbies. You simply need to be able to hit a forehand to be good at tennis, formulate clarity in a meeting to be good at business, or know why a metaphor doesn’t use like or as to be a competent English writer. The importance of technical teaching should not be dismissed; after all, the grasp of technical subject matter is often attributed to the rate of progress that students see in improved scores through lessons or exams.

 What is often missed out, however, whether in the sphere of business, sport or in our case, teaching, is the mental capabilities surrounding how children learn and how they feel mentally about their education.

Unless there is a desire to learn, progress can never be fulfilled. Unless a degree of focus is apparent, a game plan showing how a child is going to improve is clear, or resilience is taught to help foster a growth mindset, then you can do all the technical teaching you want, all the percentages and the similes you can muster, but there will simply be no long-term improvement made at all.

It’s why children who seem to be making progress in tutoring sessions in fact quite often do badly in exams. Parent’s cognitive dissonance suggests that “they just always do badly in exams” as if it’s black and white and can’t be changed. The reality is that there has been no or little focus on the mental capabilities they have, and under pressurised scenarios, the technical teaching goes out the window and they fall down – time and time again.

The D7 is the formula to structure sessions and contextualise feedback to children; it creates an awareness of the extent of a child’s capabilities and makes sure that when the mentor is not in the room, the child has the tools to go about improving on his or her own. It fuels independence, a stronger sense of identity and an ownership to their learning. The system provides an opportunity for students to discuss their thoughts and feelings with regards to their education. This opportunity encourages involvement and allows mental clarity to form a clear game plan to help improve. Starting with a desire statement  - a clear admission of what you want to achieve – it visualises the aim of the mentoring sessions, clarifies the child and the mentor’s intentions and crucially allows the child to take ownership of the sessions.

The Oppidan Mentor combines both the horse and the cart. Once the mental qualities are in place, the technical teaching will then flourish.

Marina Oswald: Oppidan Client Manager

Meet the Oppidan Team: Olivia, Felicity and Marina

Aligning ourselves with the US’ Mentoring Month, alongside our own campaign ‘We All Need A Mentor’ we wanted to introduce you to the Oppidan Team, asking them about their own mentoring experiences. This week, meet the Managers:

Olivia Buckland
Partnership Manager

Who was your mentor growing up? 

Aside from my parents, my rowing coach. I grew up on the water. He taught me not to be afraid of making mistakes, nor to beat myself up when trials, tests, or races didn’t go the way I’d hoped. I learnt that being part of a supportive team was better than existing in a fractured boat with people who didn’t care about the others on the same journey.                

What does mentoring mean to you?

Having someone on your team who is invested in your whole person, not a single goal. Comparison is the thief of joy - and sometimes you need a co-navigator to help steer the path that one can lose sight of in times of stress or disappointment. A mentor means you’re not singularly invested in your goals. 

What piece of advice would you give to your younger self? 

Enjoy learning - it’ll make school, tests, and life so much easier. Try this approach and be amazed. Your recall will be better if you put less pressure on yourself to perform for other people’s expectations. 

Olivia graduated from Cambridge University (English & Education) in 2018 and joined Oppidan in December. Olivia is Oppidan’s Partnership Manager and in charge of school and commercial partners.

Felicity McDonald
Events Manager

Who was your mentor growing up? 

My mentors came in the form of my performing arts teachers. Whether this was my dance teacher, singing coach or drama teachers, they guided me through some of the complexities of growing up as a teenage girl. I look back now and am truly grateful for the support they offered me throughout those years. 

What does mentoring mean to you? 

It was never formalised for me in a sense that I had an out-and-out mentor; some of the best mentoring I think can comes from friends. Mentoring, for me, is about having someone beside you who is not judgemental and helps your learn and grow. This comes in all shapes and sizes. 

What piece of advice would you give to your younger self? 

Live in the moment, worry less about self-image and enjoy your childhood (you only get one!)

Felicity was educated at Mayfield Girls School before studying Sociology at Bristol University. She has previously worked in Event and Marketing capacities in the financial industry.

Marina Oswald
Client Manager

Who was your mentor growing up?

I was lucky enough to have a number of mentors who supported me in different ways as I was growing up; godparents, family members, teachers. I still consider many of these people to be my mentors to this day, I am constantly inspired by them, they continue to help and support me to grow and reach my goals.

What does mentoring mean to you?

The role of a mentor is versatile and ever changing. To me mentoring means growth, ambition and support.

What piece of advice would you give to your younger self?

On occasion I have been told a question I have asked is not relevant or 'silly', and unfortunately I allowed this to put a stop to my interest in a subject and feel as though it wasn't worth speaking up. One of the most important pieces of advice I would give to myself is - cultivate your curiosity and never stop asking questions.

Marina was educated at Moor Park and then Stowe School. She had worked in Public Relations for four years, focusing on the lifestyle and hospitality sectors before joining Oppidan Education.