What to expect for the pre-prep school assessment

19 Aug

Newcomers to London find out about the famous assessment soon after their babies are born and people start telling them that they should now start thinking about schools! A few pre-prep schools are non-selective (notably Pembridge Hall, Wetherby, Hill House School, and the Eaton House Schools), but many very popular schools do run assessments in order to narrow down the registration list of one to two hundred candidates to the twenty to fourty children chosen for the Reception class. So if you want your child to get into Glendower Prep, Thomas’s, Garden House or the Knightsbridge School, for example, prepare yourself to bring your 3-4 year old in for an assessment by the future school.

Assessments for Reception entry are very different from assessments at the 7+ or the 11+ level, where children are tested on their school knowledge. At this young age, schools mainly look for social skills that suggest the child will fit into the school community. They will be looking for children who share and will socialise in a small group. They will probably read a story to check if your child can sit and listen, and they will ask questions on the story they have read. So you see that mostly, the assessment is about behaviour – taking turns to answer questions, sharing at play, and listening.

Additional tasks carried out individually might be:

– Recognising and writing of your child’s name
– Correct scissor use
– Recognise numbers to 10 and/or  count to 10

The Glendower Prep School has a good overview of their assessment on their website: “Prospective pupils are invited to attend in groups of 6 or 7 for about 40 minutes to be observed interacting by three or four adults… The skills being sought are mainly social maturity and readiness to learn in a group situation. Cooperation, flexibility, a “can do” approach and facility with the English language are all highly regarded. We are also looking for numeracy skills, letter recognition and a basic ability to follow instructions.”

How do you prepare for Assessment then? There is nothing really to prepare for the day as such, what is required is really to make sure your child picks up these social skills in the first years of his life. If you read bedtime stories and encourage storytelling and communication at home, those tasks during assessment should present no problem. All good nurseries would also teach children about sharing toys and being polite to other children and adults, so there is nothing really to worry about.

It is important that your child is relaxed on the day and expects the assessment to be a playsession to make friends and explore, as that way the school will be able to observe his skills in action. I have heard of several cases of children being so intimidated or confused that they refused to speak to the teachers or other children on the day, and none of these children were offered places at those schools. At that age, it is still quite common for children to go silent when strangers ask them questions, so it will be useful to work on that if you think this could happen to your little one.

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