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While state schools are prohibited from interviewing any but potential sixth form (or boarding) students, the interview is an integral part of nearly every private school admissions process, and tends to send the applicant’s parents, rather than the actual applicant, into a spin. Parents feel considerably more responsible for their child’s social presentation than for his or her ability to do long division or conjugate French verbs. And, while a school may breezily describe the interview as ‘just a chance to get to know the child better’, this hardly quells fears about sending young Daniel or Daniella into the lion’s den. 英国是不允许公立学校面试高中或者寄宿学生的,但面试又是几乎每所英国私立学校招生流程中不可或缺的一部分,而且有开始邀请家长参加面谈的趋势。这让家长比实际申请人更觉压力山大。相比辅导孩子做复杂除法运算和法语动词搭配,家长有更多责任提升孩子的社交表达能力。虽然学校可能将面试轻描淡写地描述为“只是为了更好地了解孩子”,但这丝毫不能降低家长如同将年幼的丹尼尔或丹尼琳娜送到狮子笼里般的恐惧。

The London prep or senior day school interview is perhaps the most straightforward. Over-subscribed at every point, the selective urban independent tends to concentrate on the academic. The majority usually only meet the child after a written exam (generally used as a first edit), and the interview itself will probably contain a significant component of maths, comprehension or reasoning. The aim here is to probe intellectual strengths and weaknesses in order to select from the central bulk of candidates or to pick scholarship material. Finding out a little about a child’s character is only of secondary importance. 伦敦预备小学或走读中学的面试或许最直截了当。由于每个入学年龄段的注册都是人满为患,市内私校的选拔倾向于专注学术成绩。大多数私校通常仅面试通过第一轮笔试的孩子,而面试本身的重要组成部分还是包含数学、阅读理解和逻辑推理题目。这样做的目的是为了探测孩子智商高低,以便从一大堆申请人中选拔优才或者奖学金得主。这时,发掘孩子个性特点就变得次要了。

Even the most academic schools, however, are not necessarily just looking for those guaranteed to deliver a stream of A*s. Some use interviews as an opportunity to create as balanced a community as possible: 一些学术顶尖私校甚至已经不满足于仅仅搜寻确保能得A*的申请人,他们利用面试机会创建尽可能平衡的社区。

‘I didn’t want all extroverts or all eggheads,’ said one ex-junior school head. ‘Most children who sat our exam scored between 40 and 65 per cent in the written paper, so I was looking for an individual spark. At the age of 7, particularly, the interview is a crucial counterbalance to the exam. Those born between September and December always scored higher marks in the written paper. At interview we would go back to the list and bring in some younger children.’ “我不想要全部是外向型或者全部是书呆子的申请人。” 一位前私立小学校长说, “大多数参加我们考试的孩子,笔试成绩在40%到65%之间。我寻找能让人眼前一亮的孩子,特别是7+选拔,面试是和笔试互相平衡的关键环节。 9月至12月间出生的孩子在笔试中总是得分较高,面试时,我们会回到名单上,邀请一些月龄小的孩子。”

Parents relax 为家长解压

Concerned parents often do their best to control the outcome of the interview, but professional preparation is seen as a waste of time, both by those who interview and by teachers. ‘I always tell parents if they’re paying to coach 3-year-olds, they might as well burn £20 notes,’ says Jo Newman, headmistress of North London Collegiate Junior School, who has the daunting task of selecting 40 4-year-olds from 200 applicants in a two-tier interview. ‘The only useful preparation is to talk to them, play with them and read them stories.’ 担忧的家长经常会竭力控制面试结果,但看起来专业备考对于面试双方都是浪费时间。“我总是告诫家长,付费训练3岁小娃基本就是烧钱。”北伦敦女校(North London Collegiate)小学校长Jo Newman说,她负责通过两轮面试从200名申请人中选拔40 4岁女生。“唯一有用的准备就是家长平时多和孩子交谈、游戏和讲故事。”

Further up the system, the advice is equally non-prescriptive. The head of a west London pre-prep does her best to relax the 7-year-olds she sends to prep school interviews by providing them with as much factual information as she can beforehand. ‘I try to prepare them for what they’ll find. I usually describe the head — because I’m a smallish woman they might expect all heads to be like me — and I’ll tell them what the school looks like. Beyond that I just say, “Look them in the eye, answer carefully and be honest.” Children sell themselves.’ 深入看面试体系,所有建议都是非处方类的。西伦敦预备幼儿园校长送7岁孩子去预备小学面试之前,提供尽可能多的事实资料让孩子们放松。“我试着为他们准备将会遇到的情形。我通常会描述面试校长的样子,由于我自己是小个子女士,孩子们可能会期望所有校长都长得像我一样。我还会告诉他们去面试的学校的样子。除此之外,我只是说,‘注视他们的眼睛,仔细诚实地回答问题’。”孩子们要主动展示自己。

Some pre-preps and prep schools provide mock interviews, some will carefully guide children on what books or hobbies that might show to best advantage, but most interviewers say they always know when a child has been coached, and honesty - at least in theory - is the quality they’re looking for. ‘I tell children,’ says one private tutor who prepares children for 11 plus, ‘to say what’s in their heart, not what their teacher told them to say.’  有的预备幼儿园和预备小学为孩子准备模拟面试,有的则细心指导孩子们阅读推荐书籍和培养具备优势的兴趣爱好。然而大多数面试官坦白说,至少理论上他们总能辨认出辅导过的孩子和他们真正寻求的品质。“我告诉孩子们,” 一位为孩子备考11+的私教老师说,“按他们心中所想,而不是按老师教的去说。”

Personality, of course, will always be the most variable aspect of any interview and all interviewers have a personal bias. They may hate boastful children, or those who say their favourite leisure activity is computer games; they may prefer Arsenal fans to Tottenham supporters; but some schools do make a strenuous attempt to counteract the sense of one adult sitting in judgement on one child. City of London School, for example, sees candidates individually before sending them off to a lesson where they can be observed by another teacher as they work in a group. At Rugby, every child is interviewed by at least two people. 当然,个性一直是任何面试中最琢磨不定的方面,所有面试官都有个人偏好。他们可能不喜欢自吹自擂的孩子,或者那些称电脑游戏为最佳休闲活动的孩子;他们可能更爱阿森纳球迷而不是热刺支持者。于是有些学校做了艰巨的尝试,来抵消一对一面试的判断误区。例如,伦敦城市学校 (City of London School)在一对一面试之后,将候选人送入课堂,由另一位老师观察他们在集体中的表现。在拉格比公学(Rugby),每个孩子将至少经过两位老师的面试。

The best interviewers can and do overcome the limitations both of the written examination and of the child. ‘Children, even very shy ones, like to talk about themselves, their friends, their families and their pets. I get them to describe what they did on Sunday, or I turn my back and ask them to describe something in the room. Sometimes I even get a child to sing or dance. I am looking for sparkly eyes and interest. If a child just sits there like a pudding, you usually don’t take them.’ Some schools get over the ‘what to talk about’ dilemma by asking children to bring along a favourite object. Rugby sensibly provides a questionnaire about hobbies and interests to fill in in advance, which not only provides a talking point, but also allows parents to feel they’ve done what they can. If, however, the child pitches up with a copy of Proust or boasts a collection of Roman ceramics, parents shouldn’t be surprised if the interviewer is somewhat sceptical. 最好的面试官能够克服来自笔试和孩子本身的双重局限。“孩子们,即使非常腼腆的孩子,都愿意谈论他们自己、朋友、家庭和宠物。我让他们讲述周日做什么,或者我转过身去要求他们描述屋里的某样东西。有时,我甚至让孩子唱歌或跳舞。我在寻找闪亮的眼睛和兴趣。如果孩子就呆呆地坐在那里,你通常不会选他们的。”有的学校为了打破不知道聊什么的窘境,要求孩子们带一件心爱的物品来面试。通情达理的拉格比公学(Rugby)事先要求申请人填写一份关于兴趣爱好的问卷,这不仅提供了话题,而且还允许父母觉得他们已经做了他们力所能及的事情。 然而,如果孩子举着普鲁斯特的临摹副本,或者自夸收藏了罗马陶瓷,使面试官有所怀疑的话,家长也不应该感到意外。

Most boarding schools feel that the interview can identify serious pastoral concerns. ‘We sometimes discover that a child really doesn’t want to come to boarding school,’ said the registrar of Rugby. ‘The interview is also very helpful in establishing the academic level the prep school is working at. We ask children to bring in their exercise books. Some London prep schools are so geared up at that point that all the child is doing is practice papers. Country prep schools tend to be more relaxed.’  多数寄宿学校认为面试能够辨别出严重的人文关怀问题。“我们有时发现某个孩子其实并不想上寄宿制学校,”拉格比公学的注册官说,“面试也非常有助于了解孩子在预备学校建立的学术水平。我们会让孩子带他们的校内作业来。有些伦敦预备小学热衷于刷题,所以孩子作业显示的全部是练习试卷。乡村预备小学往往比较轻松。”

Although most heads are honest in their report about a child - after all, their reputation depends on it - the interview can also benefit them. ‘Occasionally, a prep-school head knows perfectly well that a child is not suited to our school, but the parents just won’t listen. Coming from us it doesn’t sour the relationship with the school.’ 大多数校长为了自身名誉,如实出具孩子的推荐信。面试也能够证明校长们的诚实。“偶尔有预备小学校长非常清楚该学生并不适合我们学校,但是家长根本不听。从我们角度来说,和学校的关系并不会因为个别案例而削弱。”

Parents in the spotlight 约谈家长

Boarding schools, of course, tend to have another layer to their selection process and interview when they match boys and girls to an appropriate house. Here the parent, even more than the child, can be in the spotlight. Dr Andrew Gailey, now Eton vice provost but formerly housemaster of Manor House, Prince William’s house at Eton, always tries to strike a balance of the sporty and industrious, the musical and the generally decent in his annual selection of 10 boys but, for him, the parental part of the equation plays an even greater role. ‘The boy is going to change, but you have shared management of the child’s adolescence with the parents and you have to have some common bond for that to work.’  当然,寄宿学校将男孩和女孩分别匹配到合适的宿舍时,往往会有另一个层次的筛选流程和面试。这时,家长甚至比孩子更会成为焦点。 安德鲁·加利博士(Dr Andrew Gailey), 现任伊顿公学副教务长,以前是庄园宿舍(威廉王子在伊顿住过的Manor House)的宿监,在每年挑选10名男孩时,总是试图培养孩子们运动和勤奋、音乐和总体举止的平衡。对他来说,在教育的等式中,父母的部分发挥更大的作用。 “男孩会改变,你和父母一起交流分享对孩子青春期的教导,这时你必须和他们达成共识,以便开展工作。”

That’s a common theme for those interviews where parents appear — notably in London pre-preps. Most of the time the school is really interviewing you, and it’s you who need the preparation while your child can happily be him or herself. A balance between steady, respectful (schools are ever keen to avoid the parent from hell) and interesting (but nor do they like dull ones) is best. 家长出现在面试中是普遍现象,尤其是伦敦预备小学。多数时候,学校面试的其实是家长。所以家长才是需要准备的,而孩子可以快乐地做他们自己。家长面谈能达到镇定、尊重和有趣之间的平衡就是最佳效果。


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