My daughter is going for the biggest test of her four-year-old life this month. Or so I’d thought ever since I became a mum. New parents find out about the famous reception assessment soon after their babies are born and people start telling them that they should start thinking about schools right away. But from what I’ve recently learned via info sessions at my daughter’s preschool, assessments are not nearly as scary as I was led to believe. And there’s not much I could have done to prepare her for them.
Many popular private schools run assessments in order to narrow down the registration list of 270+ candidates to the 70-90 places available. They’re looking at your child’s school readiness.
That said, if your child doesn’t get a place it may not be because they’re not ready. Priority places go to those with an older sibling who’s already attending the school, and to Debenture holders. These places account for about 50% of the intake each year, before they’re opened up to the rest of the families.
How Does The Assessment Work?
Preparing for assessments are not meant to put pressure on parents. The items children are assessed on is what your preschool is likely already working with your child on, as well as things you’d know anyway as a parent.
The assessments are spread over 1-2 weeks and are run in daily groups. Primary schools do try to make sure there’s another kid from your child’s preschool in the same group, so there’s at least one familiar face.
Children are assessed on a points-based system. They’ll be divided into smaller groups and will rotate around to various stations. By the end of the assessment, children have been seen by several teachers. This means there are multiple opinions included in the final decision about whether your child is ready. The whole process is quite thorough – – and very fair.
“The reception assessments are not a test.
It’s about school readiness and school maturity.”
There’s no point in telling children that they’re going for a test. Instead, tell your child that they’re going to go to the big school to have some fun, play some games, and do some activities similar to what they do at school now.
The Top Gauge of School Readiness
Although every child needs to be of a certain age prior to starting reception, it’s really about maturity. Every child matures at a different rate and at a different time.
The first point that your child can score is when the teacher says, “Come on children, let’s go.” The school will be looking to see how easily your child can separate from parents and go with the teacher. That maturity, confidence and independence is their very first mark of assessment.
Primary schools try to keep in mind that the assessments are an abnormal place and that children will be out of their comfort zone. You can help your child by telling them”this is what will happen”. If your child hasn’t been to the school before, then maybe take them for a walk around to see the playground or the library. Exploring in advance with your child is a great way to help them be more comfortable on the day of their assessments.
Maturity is a biological process, but you can help build your child’s confidence and resilience.
Areas Of School Readiness Assessment
Through a series of play-based activities and conversations, primary schools will likely be looking to see how your child is developing on a number of levels:
Emotional – Can they separate from the parent or caregiver?
Physical – These are the gross & fine motor skills. Can they catch and throw a ball or stand on one foot? Can they use scissors, pencils and jumbo crayons? Can they cross their midline?
Language – Can they follow simple instructions and put sentences together to be clear? They’ll have lots of chats with the teachers to gauge vocabulary.
Pre-Reading – Can your child name basic numbers and shapes? Can they recognise their own name in writing? Your school MIGHT ask ‘can you write your name?’ but there’s no score applied for this. It’s just done out of interest and to check pencil grip and sequencing rather than the formation of the letters.
Cognitive – Can they build a jigsaw puzzle? It’s not about the number of pieces, but the problem-solving skills of doing the work. Can they complete sequences, and draw a person?
Numeracy – Can they count 5 concrete objects? They don’t even need to recognise numbers beyond 5.
Social – Can they take it in turns, can they play with other children, and can they listen to what other people are saying in the group discussions?
Primary Schools do NOT expect children to be able to read or write letters of the alphabet! Reading is one of the hardest things humans learn how to do. To promote your child’s early literacy, parents are encouraged to read to your child and ask them questions about what has been read. Conversational skills, vocabulary, story-comprehension, print knowledge, and sound awareness are all pre-reading and pre-writing literacy skills that can be helped by you, just through story time at home.
What If Your Child Isn’t Ready?
Reception does have demands on children – physically, socially and emotionally – that preschool doesn’t have. That’s why it’s so important to ensure your child is ready.
If you feel your child needs more time, then have an honest communication with the primary school and nursery school about whether you want to proceed or not. You can always defer the assessment to the following year and keep your child in preschool for another year.
As parents we probably wouldn’t want to hear that our kids are COPING through reception. We want them to THRIVE, even if that means holding them back until the following year.
So this very week, my daughter has two assessments. The following week she visits two more primary schools. My hope is that in the end we will find a school that will work for us all. Somewhere I will be comfortable and welcomed as a parent, and where she will be able to thrive. Stay tuned!
Family Gems would like to thank Priyanka Handa Ram, Founder and Director of Raising Education Within Africa. REWA’s Little Einsteins and Humpty Dumpty are two premier nursery schools in Gaborone. Both schools offered their parents a pre-reception assessment talk, which was the source of the information contained in this story.