The 4+ assessments for most schools have just passed and it has been a gruelling time for many families. I am grateful to one of our readers from North London who wrote the below article to share her advice for how to prepare for 4+ assessments at London schools:
“Finding the right school for your child in London is not an easy task. After all the research and school visits, you will have to deal with the admissions process which gets tricky, time consuming and stressful at times. And after you managed to put your child’s name on the list on time, got an invitation for the assessment and filled in all the required documents, there is still the question of how you should prepare your child for the important day. Or should you be preparing him/her at all?
When you go on a school visit and talk to the Headmistress/Headmaster or Admissions team they all will tell you not to be afraid of the assessment day. The story usually is that the admissions team will be looking for children who would benefit from the school the most and there is nothing parents can do to influence their opinion. Parents are often advised to treat the assessments as play dates and aren’t recommended to do any preparation at all.
And yet, nursery and playground gossips are full of stories of 3 and 4 year old children being tutored for the private schools assessments. There are admissions consultants who are ready to prepare your kids for the big day and charge over £50 per hour. While this may seem extreme, there are many things that you could do in a less invasive manner to prepare your kids for the assessments:
- treat the assessment as a play date, but at the same time explain your child that it is very important that she/he behaves
- most assessments are behind closed doors and children will be asked to separate from their parents. Prepare your child for that. Most children who went to a nursery or have been in other types of day care will not have a problem with that by the age of 4
- basic manners are important. Make sure your child says “thank you”, “sorry”, “please” etc.
- in most assessments kids are monitored in groups. It is important that your child is sociable. Make sure you do lots of play dates and explain your child how he or she should treat other kids
- the more academic schools will be testing numeracy and literacy. For the 4+ assessment your child should know how to write her/his name and recognise numbers 1-10. Prepare your child for that (this varies from school to school and also across London – it seems that North London schools tend to focus more on formal learning than other schools in London)
- other skills commonly tested are: drawing, puzzles, dressing up independently. Children are sometimes read a story and asked to discuss it afterwards. You can practice all that at home
And on the day of the assessment, remember:
- dress your child in comfortable clothing
- try not to be anxious, your anxiety will be passed on to your child
- give your child a snack and encourage him/her to use the loo before the assessment
- you are likely to be waiting for several minutes for the assessment to start, make sure to distract your child with his/hers favorite activity (the waiting room is likely to be filled with books and/or toys)
- if you think your child will not be happy to separate from you, consider asking someone else (nanny, grandmother) to accompany him/her. Although bear in mind, some school offer opportunities to talk to existing parents or staff while you wait for your child to come back
Another thing that might help is getting your children to attend as many assessments as possible. While different schools assess children in different ways, there is still much they have in-common. And children do get used to the “let’s go for a play date to this new and exciting school” routine and are much more less anxious if they have done it several times before. And if we are talking about pure mathematics here, in some popular areas, there are 10 kids per one place in a private school. The more schools you apply to, the bigger your chances are.”
You can also check our previous article on what to expect for 4+ assessments.