the school year approaches, our educational consultant Charlotte Faber, former
headmistress of Garden House Upper Girls'
School, shares her thoughts on the next steps for picking the right school
and preparing for assessments. While situations have changed in light of
COVID-19, Charlotte assures parents that there are still plenty of ways to
prepare their child for the school of their choice.
Now that a term of online learning has finished, you may finally find yourself with a small amount of headspace to think about what you might have been devoting your attention to in the last term: your child’s next school. If you have a child due to take 7+, 8+ or 11+ exams in the next academic year, this would have been the time to be having conversations with your current school about suitable options. Ordinarily, I’d have been advising parents in year 5, for example, to spend this term looking at schools for their child, and in the case of boarding schools for year 7, or even for 13+, registering by the end of this term.
As a former Headmistress at a London prep school for girls, I have plenty of experience advising parents on the processes and time frames for moving on. I am also, proudly, part of Ivy Education, and currently support families with this important part of their child’s journey too. While not all schools are physically open at the moment, there are still things to be considering, both in terms of the schools and applications themselves, and also in relation to how you can be using this time to prepare your child for upcoming assessments.
Let’s talk first about preparation. I spoke about this in my previous Insight, and will reiterate much of the same advice here. Firstly, don’t panic. You may be worried that your child is going to be at a severe disadvantage by nature of not being at school and getting the ‘exam runup’ that they might usually be getting in this important term before assessments in December or January. However, remember, you are not alone. This has happened to all children, of all age groups, in both the independent and the state sector. What we do know is that schools will be sympathetic to this, and their expectations will be different at assessment level. Reassure yourself with this: your children will interview spectacularly well, and ‘your lockdown experience’ will undoubtedly form part of the interview process next year.
I would advise parents to use this time to your advantage – you have time (in theory!) to be focusing on exam preparation and on Verbal and Non Verbal Reasoning too, with a mixture of online and paper resources. We can help to suggest and refine these specifically for your child if you need ideas. As well as all the standard online resources available, Ivy Education are also running bespoke online exam courses and an Exam Prep Camp over the summer.
I spoke in my previous insight about reading too; encourage your child to read as much as possible over the holidays. Also, use this time to nail the times tables, using baking, games, whatever you have to hand. There are so many interactive ways to learn times tables, just Google! Your child’s ‘soft’ skills will most likely have come on enormously in this time, and this is something parents don’t realise schools are evaluating on assessment days.
I think it is also worth considering tutoring in some form if you feel your child needs some extra input at this time. Ivy Education have been delivering virtual tuition successfully for years now, and are well placed to help, with their professional, highly educated and teacher-qualified tutors. Group programmes, such as the Adventurous Education Exam Prep Camp together with Sharky & George in August, can also help to give children some social interaction with peers, and add some of the social development they will be missing by not being at school.
School Entrance Procedures
To the second part of this insight: school entrance procedures and how they might have been affected by Covid-19. The obvious point here is that schools are not physically open, and have not permitted visits from March, or earlier for international parents. This would usually be a time to go and visit schools, to make your short list for entrance exams in December/January, whether currently in Year 1, 2 or 5. Some schools have very effectively moved their open mornings online, and created a virtual tour and open day scenario. Attend these anyway, as they are good interaction with the school, and show you are keen. Additionally, schools will more than make up for these events next term, and will most likely put extra open events on, within the social distancing guidelines.
Applications for most day schools, whether at 7+, 8+ or 11+ would not ordinarily close until November, so you have plenty of time still. Boarding schools would usually close their registration for 11+ or 13+ towards the end of summer term but things have changed. If you have not yet been able to see these schools, I would advise contacting them online (all registrars are working, even if remotely) and having a chat. They may be willing to offer an extension to the registration cut off, or may be able to offer 1:1 tours at some stage. They will need to fill their places for next year, so will be willing to assist in any way they can. Registrars are friendly beings, you just need to ask. I do not believe there is any reason Covid-19 should affect your decision to send your child to a boarding school in September 2021 or beyond. Schools are busy putting risk assessments and health and safety measures in place to assist with social distancing and ensuring the children are kept safe.
For international parents, the situation is a little more complex. It is likely the pandemic will affect many international parents’ decisions to send their children to British boarding schools, and as yet, we must wait to see how this plays out. If you need further advice on how best to tackle this question, it is probably worth having a conversation about your child and your specific chosen schools, rather than me speculating on examples here.
Choosing your child’s next school can be a daunting business, but there is plenty of good advice available and we are here to guide you through the process. Every situation is different, and bespoke guidance is the most helpful, such as that available from the professionals at Ivy Education.
If you have any further questions about choosing a school, or want to speak with Charlotte or anyone else from our team about any aspect of your child’s education, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us today. Thanks for reading!