Preparing for School Admissions

May 2016 Emma Swanson

At this time of year, parents seeking tutors to help their children to prepare for the looming school entrance exams approach Front Row Education. Anxiety levels begin to rise as parents worry that their children will never be ready for the challenges ahead. At Front Row Education we recognise how stressful this time can be for pupils and parents, particularly in areas of England where competition for top schools is fierce!

We believe strongly in the importance of selecting the ‘right’ school for your child. By making the correct choice at the beginning of this process and identifying the school where your child will thrive, steps to success are much easier. Not only will the Admissions team readily warm to your child as a student who will do well there, it also means your child will be enthused by the prospect of studying there which will come over clearly in interviews. Whilst every parent will aspire for the very best for their child, it is imperative that we look to see where your child will be happiest and where they will achieve their full potential.

Steps to success:

  • Set realistic targets with your child. Identify areas of weakness in each subject, setting small but focused steps to ensure measurable and clear progress. Asking your child to ‘get better at Maths’ will seem daunting to any child whereas a target focusing on ‘ knowing the difference between types of angles’ or ‘recognising equivalent fractions’ is small enough to be achievable.
  • Pacing efforts during the lead up to exam time will prevent ‘burn out’ and allow children to peak at the correct time. Schedule focused study times but also factor in good blocks of rest and play. The education system can place enormous strain on young children and it is vital to ensure that this pressure is balanced with opportunities to play and relax, especially over the exciting festive period.
  • Whilst you may have your heart set on seeing your child accepted to a particular school, try to refrain from verbalizing this too strongly in front of your child. Your own anxiety can rub off on your child and quickly prove an unmanageable burden for them.
  • It can be easy to lose sight of the concept of ‘trying ones best’ so ensure you always reward effort rather than pure attainment. Expressing frustration is easy for us all, but do avoid this wherever possible!
  • Although schools vary in the entrance assessments, most will focus on English, Mathematics, Verbal and Non-verbal reasoning. With this in mind, ensure that your child focuses proportionally on their weakest subjects, although bear in mind that the ability to demonstrate a good command of English and Mathematics will always been viewed as important by any school. English assessments will invariably include both a comprehension and a written task. Try to encourage your child to practice writing for a range of purposes, making each task meaningful rather than purely an exercise to improve.
  • Although ‘teaching to the test’ is a poor concept to live by, it is important that children are familiar with the format of the test that they are about to sit so that they are not overwhelmed and are able to perform at their best. Sample tests in all subjects are readily available and it really is worthwhile providing your child with a couple of opportunities to experience a timed assessment.
  • Most schools will require some form of interview; some asking children to sit very formal interviews whilst others do this more casually during school visits. This element allows the school to get to know the children as individuals and gauge whether they will benefit from the education that is on offer. Registrars and Senior Teachers are keen to stress that they are rarely impressed by overly prepared answers to interview questions so do avoid prepping children to offer staged responses. Instead, children who have interesting topics to discuss whether they are well travelled, passionate about their hobby or particularly aware of current affairs will impress.

Prep Schools work hard with their pupils to do exactly what their name suggests….. to ‘prepare’ children for their senior schools. Do trust your child’s school to know what they are doing and to ensure that your child is ready for this next step. Whilst many parents will want to help their children with some tutoring in weaker areas, do proceed with some degree of caution and remember that entrance to a school that requires excessive tutoring support is unlikely to be the right school for your child in the long term. Preparing as far in advance as possible is the key; employing a tutor to visit weekly during the year before exams is generally a more successful approach than an intensive pre- exam panic!

Front Row Education are always happy to speak to parents who wish to consider school options for their children. We are well placed to advise families on school selection as well as the navigation of the complex entry systems. We work closely with our Tutors to provide a comprehensive educational support service, helping children to be ready for their next steps in their schooling.