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But on a positive note, human nature has a delightful habit of seeing the upside of things unlikely to work out.Says Liz Leonard of the school where her son name-dropped Justin Bieber as his ideal dinner party guest: ‘I don’t want him to go there anyway.‘By the time he told me he’d answered [teenage pop star] Justin Bieber and someone who plays for Arsenal, I’d given up hope.I’d given him three practice interviews myself, but you can’t prepare for everything.’The tortuous process kicks off with registration, for which private schools collect an average fee of about £100.
‘They won’t tell you to do it; they’ll say: “Have you considered a coach? For the prep school, this is naked self-interest, as it makes their exit lists (where pupils are going next) look better, at no cost to them.Between now and the first week of March, there will be much dodging and much gloating at the school gates.The great 11-plus showdown is entering its denouement.She recalls her ten-year-old daughter’s experience at the hands of ‘two men in tweedy jackets acting like they were in Dead Poets’ Society, with their feet up on the desk’, asking her whether she would rather live on a hill or in a valley, then staring out of the window while she struggled to reply.Schools would counter that in an age of coaching, only a really left-field question can discover a child’s true self. ‘My son Alex was asked which three people he’d have at his fantasy dinner party,’ says Liz Leonard, a Wandsworth mother.
‘They always ask that when the parents are out of earshot.’ This is where those niche interests come into their own.