Australia: What Sydney private schools seek in scholarship candidates - - PressFrom - Australia
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Australia What Sydney private schools seek in scholarship candidates

23:00  11 october  2019
23:00  11 october  2019 Source:   smh.com.au

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a couple of people that are standing in the grass: Redlands Sydney scholarship student Chloe Church with deputy principal Sarah McGarry.© Supplied Redlands Sydney scholarship student Chloe Church with deputy principal Sarah McGarry. There is fierce competition for scholarship entry to private schools, with pressure on primary school-age children to ace an academic test, then if selected undertake an interview.

Children who succeed in the academic round for high school entry, most of whom are aged 10-12, are winnowed by each school to a handful of candidates.

Be it academic, music, all-rounder or specialist entry, it can be daunting for children to front a room of strangers and talk about themselves.

“I was definitely a little nervous and had butterflies,” says Chloe Church, recalling her scholarship interview, undertaken in primary school. “That’s a normal part of any performance. I just needed to train my butterflies to fly in formation.”

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a woman smiling for the camera: Roseville College principal Deb Magill.© Supplied Roseville College principal Deb Magill. Chloe won an all-rounder scholarship to Redlands in Sydney's Cremorne. Fast forward six years and Chloe, now a co-school captain, remembers feeling warmly received by the panel. Chloe prepared for the session, asking people likely interview questions.

“I got answers like, ‘They will ask you what you think your strengths and weaknesses are, why do you want to come to this school? What do you do outside school?' " she says.

She was caught off-guard when interviewers asked her what she did to relax and how she dealt with stress.

“In hindsight, these questions make sense, I just wasn’t as prepared for them,” she says. “I had a strategy in place during my interview and that was to elaborate and answer more than just the question asked. The interviewers are not searching for answers, they are trying to get to know you.”

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Redlands Deputy Principal Sarah McGarry says she interviews short-listed scholarship candidates as part of a panel that usually includes the principal and another teacher. Chloe had the right idea about the panel’s purpose, McGarry says.

“The interview is about getting to know the student, their strengths and their passions, rather than being yet another test,” she says.

Questions explore what a student enjoys learning, academic and extra-curricular activities, and areas where they like being challenged or might need additional support, she says. Parents are asked questions as part of the interview – but the panel is experienced with calming them, too.

“We haven’t ever asked parents to leave the room,” McGarry says. “But we value the student’s voice highly, meaning it is important that we have the opportunity to hear directly from them as much as possible.”

Redlands’ senior secondary fees are $34,600 a year. The school’s academic, all-rounder, music and ballet scholarships can be full-fee or part-fee and are means-tested.

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McGarry says her focus at interview is to work out whether a student and their family have a "fit" with the school. “We are also interested in their social and emotional learning skills and their participation in their community.”

The candidate video

At Roseville College in Sydney’s north, interviews are undertaken by either the principal or a senior college executive. However, that’s not unique to scholarship candidates, says principal Deb Magill. All new students are interviewed, together with their parent or guardian, before they start.

a man wearing a suit and tie standing in front of a brick wall: Trinity Grammar School scholarship student Elliott Earnshaw.© Supplied Trinity Grammar School scholarship student Elliott Earnshaw.

Magill says scholarship recipients include “hard-working students who may otherwise not have the opportunity to study at the college,” where senior secondary fees are $28,480 a year. Roseville offers foundation, academic, music and all-rounder scholarships and this year applicants were asked to include a video submission.

Video is a less stressful way for candidates to engage, but doesn’t replace the interview, Magill says.“Despite the formality of the interview process, we look for candidates who engage openly in the interview and genuinely value what a Roseville education represents,” she says. “We are looking for each girl, simply, to be herself.”

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‘Like a job interview'

At Trinity Grammar School in the city’s inner west, registrar James Leckie says a scholarship interview may be conducted ‘‘in much the same way as a job interview’’.

“We want to see how students represent themselves and we want them to be confident enough to let us know why they’d be an asset to our school,” he says.

Leckie and the master of the middle school meet year 7 scholarship candidates and their parents. With senior fees clocking in at $34,770, there’s hot competition for the academic and music scholarships and for all-rounder scholarships on offer in year 7 and year 10.

Year 12 student Elliott Earnshaw, awarded an all-rounder scholarship in year 10, admits he was nervous at his interview, where he and his parents met with the registrar, head of senior school and master of sport.

The questions focused on his achievements and what he wanted to do in future. He practiced being interviewed, and says he had to learn to pause and wait for a question to be complete before he answered.

“In my experience, the panel is more about giving you an opportunity to show yourself rather than trying to ‘test’ you,” he says.

His advice for others? “Don’t try to be something you’re not and don’t exaggerate the truth as they will be looking for someone with integrity and honesty.“Be familiar with the school ... and have some questions of your own prepared for the interviewers.”

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Choose a school

Trinity is wary of families who "school shop" by having a student sit a scholarship test for entry to each of several schools, says Leckie. “Boys should demonstrate a sincere interest in attending Trinity Grammar School specifically,” he says.

Many Sydney independent schools share that view, discouraging parents from having children "try out" for scholarship entry to different schools.

Dozens of schools take part in annual ACER "cooperative" academic scholarship testing, set to take place on February 29 for year 7 entry in 2021, for which parents nominate a preferred order of schools. However, the "cooperative" schools will each have information about a parent’s application and preference order.

Many other schools set their own test dates. A child could sit test after test for much of the rest of this year. And while most parents might accept a school’s offer right away, some will seek to negotiate better terms.

Redlands’ senior secondary fees are $34,600 a year. The school’s academic, all-rounder, music and ballet scholarships can be full-fee or part-fee and are means-tested.

Sarah McGarry says her focus at interview is to work out whether a student and their family have a "fit" with the school. “We are also interested in their social and emotional learning skills and their participation in their community.”

Chloe Church recommends high-achievers who get to the interview stage should come with a few questions of their own. “In some ways, it is your opportunity to interview the school too, to be sure it’s the right fit for both sides,” she says.

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Her advice to candidates called for an interview is the message she would give her younger self. “Despite the slight cheesiness, if I could talk to my 12-year-old self I’d say, ‘You’ve got this, smile and just be yourself’.”

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