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Knightsbridge School visit

13 Sep

Knightsbridge school is a very popular school, but they offer any interested parent an appointment to visit the school at one of their show-arounds within a couple of weeks or so. When I went to visit the school, there was a group of about eight parents, at least half of them internationals. We were greeted by the founder and head of the school, Magoo Giles, who took the time to share his vision of the school and his values. He struck me as a very competent and enthusiastic man who is really in charge and passionate about bringing the best out of every child.

A lot of what he said resonated with me. He said he doesn’t want parents to just hand their child over to the school and say “now educate this child” but wants to form a team with the parents dedicated to working together in making the child into a phenomenal, well-rounded, happy individual. He is a strong advocate of constant communication and said if there is ever a problem he just wants parents or staff to talk to him immediately and sort it out together, rather than letting any form of resentment build up. I also liked his commitment to a very happy and caring environment. He is a firm believer that teachers should never need to shout, as shouting is a sign of loss of control, that if you have authority and are respected you should not get into a situation where you need to resort to shouting.

Walking around the school and visiting the classrooms, I could certainly feel the commitment to happiness and fun were not just empty words. You could even call the environment slightly informal – for example, in one science less we observed, children were allowed to stand or sit on tables while listening and didn’t have to sit still on their chairs. They were even allowed to drink juice and eat fruits at one time. It was very unusual for me to see and certainly not how my school used to be, but it seemed to work brilliantly. The children were happy and cheerful, listening attentively, very engaged, and when I heard the teacher say “I need a volunteer to…” five hand went up before she even completed her sentence. You could really feel that head, teachers, pupils and parents form a team and a community and that, in my opinion, is worth a lot.

Another fantastic aspect is the healthy food. Meat and milk are organic and food is very fresh, with lots of vegetables, dessert is usually yoghurt with fresh fruit or honey and as snacks children have fresh fruit and short bread with juice and water. We visited the cafeteria during lunchtime and it smelt and looked very good, and I can tell you this is very rare, even in top independent schools.

We also learnt more about the curriculum – children start learning French and an additional language (with a choice of Italian, Spanish, Greek and Mandarin) in Reception class already. As to extracurriculars, they can start Ballet and Karate in Reception, and then have a wide choice from Year 1 onwards, including Fencing, Chess, cooking, Football, Dance and more.

I was surprised how large the school is – they actually admit four classes of 18 children per class each year, so despite having a lot of registrations, it might be that it is not as impossible to get a place as I expected it to be. I also found out more about their exit results. As it was only founded in 2005, they have just had their first girls take the 11+ exams, and are going to have their first group of boys sit the 13+ this year. They are very flexible about parents who want their child to move at the 7+ stage already and do support children sitting the 7+ at other prep schools, even if it means they lose their brightest children to Colet Court or Bute House. It was another clear indicator that the school really cares about the best for their children, rather than worrying about their statistics.

Overall, I was very impressed by Knightsbridge School. It looks like a very happy and enriching place, and also an extremely well managed school with all staff committed to making it a great school. I am sure this school is going to do great over the coming years, and even though I thought I was done with registering my daughter, I couldn’t help myself and decided to register her with Knightsbridge School as well.

If you want to read more about Knightsbridge School, read the profile on the SCHOOLS page.

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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