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MY reception 4+ assessment experience

(44 Posts)
kissafrog Fri 03-Feb-12 00:51:41

I have recently had my daughter entered for 4+ assessment and she did manage to get into her first choice. I am pleased for her as I believe it is the right school for her. However I did not enjoy the whole experience of prep school assessment. In fact I found a lot of the parents extremey annoying at the assessement at one particular school in SW15 (featured recently at sunday times article for being competitive). I hope I am not one of them and it did make me evaluate my choice for going for schools that require assessment. Assessment per se is nothing wrong. You have too many kids and you cannot take everyone so in theory I am okay with that. I also blame myself for being too disorganised and not putting my daughter's name down for the non selective schools (some require you to put the name down straight after birth - how absurb is that?) So in the end I have little choice but to go for selective school.

Going back to my experience....this is a popular school. The minute I walked in with my DD i was shocked at the sheer size and scale of the interview. The whole assessment runs like a military operation with around 60 kids ( 3 long list of 20 names on each) with at least 3 batches overlapping during the one to one an half hour session with many kids and 50 odd parents waiting at the sports hall. It is intimidating and I overheard the following parent was talking to another parent:

conversation one:
parent C: I don't really like this school. it's so cruel to have my daughter being assessed.
parent D: oh isn't it just.
parent C: I got a space for her at Hurlingham and The Study already.
parent D: you mean you got a place already?
parent C: yes and i paid two deposits already. Well I prefer Hurlingham anyway as I have a little boy too so they can go to school together.
parent D: then why are you here if you don't like the school and you think it's cruel
parent C peechless.

conversation two:
parent A: where else have your applied?
parent B: I have applied Putney High, Wimbledon High, Notting Hill and Ealing, South Kensington Falkner House, Kensington Prep, North London Collegiate and Francis Holland (and a few schools I have not heard of....)
parent A: Wow that's a lot of schools where do you live?
Parent B: We are going to live where the school is going to be...
parent A: I wonder what they test 4 year olds?
parent B: Oh I know they test the kids to see if they can write their names, count and .....
parent A: writing their daughter cannot write her name.....oh my god oh my god

by this time II had to move away as it frightened and annoyed me...this last parent had done all the research and coached his DD on everything and he is a MAN!! he blurted out so much knowledge about school assessment he could write a book....I had to confess this is the first time I realise how incredibly unattractive a man becomes when he is so au fait with assessment techniques....and all of a sudden I think my DH is far more attractive as he is totally ignorant of which school is the best.

anyway the point I want to make is there are a lot of aspirational pushy middle class parents who like you and me want the best for their kids. I cannot help but questionning my own motives for applying for this school. Do I just want my DD to go because this school is famous for academic results so I can show off or do I genuinely like this school. I have to be honest after the way I see the assessement being organised which is convenient for the school ie. big operation over a few days and kids in kids out rather than a small cosy environment less intimidating for kids of 4 year old. My answer is NO this is not my ideal school.

I ask myself AM I AS UNATTRACTIVE AS SOME OF THESE OTT PARENTS. god forbid I become like them - wanting to grab as many offers as they can, putting deposits down for more than one school clogging the system so others cannot get the space (this I totally despise as there are people out there who genuinely has no offer or place for their children and therefore it is immoral to hold on to more than one offers.) I was shocked to find out how many people hold onto more than one offers. I was told one parent had paid for five deposits and will decide in the summer. How ridiculous!

I left the assessment with my DD feeling slightly sorry for her as she also did not enjoy the experience (she was yelling and refused to go in so it won't surprise any of you she did not get in to this particular school and I am not sorry one bit) In fact I am rather annoyed with myself for putting her through it and feeling relieved. I thougt to myself I must try hard not to turn into a career mum, a helicopter mum, a mum who is so ambitious for her kid that she loses all sense of commonsense, a mum who tries to relive her childhood through her kid and make her kid achieve everything she did not .....Education is important but it is not just down to the school, how we bring them up, what values we bring them up are just as important. First and foremost I want my DD to be happy. For goodness sake it's only reception class....when was the last time someone asked you where did you go to primary school or worse still reception?

squareegg Fri 03-Feb-12 01:16:51

Heaven forbid a MAN take an interest in his child's school... hmm

All sounds barking to me

horsemadmom Fri 03-Feb-12 12:26:32

I'm so glad that my kids did 4+ at places that did not treat them like cattle! It is a completely mad system and I sympathise with your disillusionment. BTW, NLCS DOES NOT expect them to write their names. I think that dad was trying to psych out the competition which may be how the game is played in his career but he needs a serious attitude adjustment in parenting behaviour!

stillfeel18inside Fri 03-Feb-12 12:43:15

OP your post made me laugh so much - know exactly what you mean about those London mummies (even though i am one...) Just done 11+ with DS2 and it's not so different - I've had to move to a different table in my gym because the women at the next table have started rabbitting on about getting into this school and that school and will grade 6 on the cello be enough to get the music scholarship and what precocious remark their son made in his interview - all very exhausting in the end. The problem is that the entrance process intensifies the competitive feelings that are always there to a fever pitch. Having done the more academic hard to get into schools for DS1 and the less selective schools for DS2 (who is good at maths but whose english wouldn't have got him into a really academic school), I have to say the whole process has been so much nicer this time around and the parents have been nicer too, to be honest. So maybe going on that I'd choose a less selective school with a nicer ethos for your daughter

arghmyear Fri 03-Feb-12 12:52:02

I don't live in an area where schools are like this. I had never even heard of this 4+ assessment. However, I do have some sympathy with the parents you are describing. They are trying to get the best education for their kids and it sounds like a minefield!

tvfriend Fri 03-Feb-12 12:54:51

DD dis the assessment at (I presume) the same school last year OP. I also came out a bit upset that I had put her through it all- although after a shaky start she did quite enjoy it. I have friends with children in reception there now and I am really pleased she isn't there (although most parents are very happy with it-in a slightly smug way...).

PollyParanoia Fri 03-Feb-12 13:02:42

If it's any consolation, you have written brilliantly and wittily about the experience. I found having a pre-reception child so hard as it seemed everybody else had got some memo at birth about education that hadn't reached me. I was really blessed in having a ds who spoke really late and so I felt that assessments were out of the question for us. I went round our local state and lo, it was bloody brilliant and he's there joined by two younger ones now and I feel so happy that we've ended up doing the right thing for them almost by accident. If I'd had my last born first (v precocious) I'm sure I'd have opted for private schools in the belief that only they would be able to stretch her - this is also soooo wrong.

kissafrog Fri 03-Feb-12 18:10:59

thank you for all your lovely feedback. I feel great after writing it. It is a lesson also for myself to not get sucked into competition!

Bonsoir Fri 03-Feb-12 18:28:00

There is nothing wrong with competition - if you don't compete in life you won't get nice things as nobody is going to come along and hand them to you on a plate!

I greatly admire parents who fight tooth and nail for the best education for their children.

kissafrog Fri 03-Feb-12 20:33:44

Bonsoir you have missed my point completely. 4 year old competition is nothing to be proud of. I have admiration for parents who care about the world at large and education for all NOT just their own kids! Competition is one thing but ambitious for kids of 4 is other. Parents are not fighting tooth and nail for a good education they ate just PAYING a lot of money. Not really competition it's more a lottery. If you believe your kids get in because he/she wins you belong to the group of parents B. The world has enough opportunities for all. We should encouragevour children to compete with themselves to do their best they can not to grab just because you think it's a dog eat dog world. I am afraid I don't agree with you. There is nothing wrong with the school or competition but way some parents behave competitively should do a raincheck!

itsonlyyearfour Fri 03-Feb-12 20:54:17

I agree. I have often read on here "my four year old is on free readers and feels far superior to her peers" type of threads and I find them frankly shocking. I find it terrible that people honestly believe that a 4 year old can be intellectually superior to another. It's bonkers.

Any child development expert will confirm that at 4 it is mostly about development and some children are more mature than others in the same way as teeth fall earlier or limbs grow faster. It is absurd to select children at that age on the basis of "intellect"...

Schools should not put children through this, I blame the schools more than the parents to be honest.

seeker Fri 03-Feb-12 20:57:33

Or you could just send them to your local school...........

Elibean Fri 03-Feb-12 23:37:52

Precisely why both my dds are at their local, lovely, state primary.

And I do not expect anything to be handed to them on a plate - I just want to protect them from warped values and inappropriate stress (at the age of 4 or, for that matter, 7).

Its a shame, because I do think some of the schools are probably fine once in - I just disagree wholeheartedly with the selection process.

Good for you for re-evaluaing, OP, and good luck finding the right place for yourself and your dd.

QTPie Sat 04-Feb-12 04:22:09

Makes me glad that I live outside of London... Just signed up my son, was 21 months at the time, to join a brilliantly academic public school at pre-school (just after his 3rd birthday). No assessment at all (just a deposit to pay). I think that it will suit him very well. If it doesn't, then there are other options.


Dozer Sat 04-Feb-12 08:49:16

"Parents are not fighting tooth and nail for a good education they are just paying a lot of money"

Think your point is that they're not just paying money, there is further selection too.

"I have admiration for parents who care about the world at large and education for all NOT just their own kids"

Do you mean people who choose state schools? (so presumably not yourself). Or people who are educators / donate money to education charities here or abroad?

asiatic Sat 04-Feb-12 09:45:12

ITSONLYYEARFOUR "I find it terrible that people honestly believe that a 4 year old can be intellectually superior to another"

I gather from this post that you are a caring involved parent, and everyone you associate with is too.

If a child has not been lovingly nurtured, then by this age, the damage is permenant. If they haven't been taught morals they will NEVER develop an inherent sense of right and wrong. If they have not had stability they will be permenantly attachment disordered, and this as a result of too many nannies, as well as too many foster carers! What I am saying is it is just as likely in rich families as in families with ss involvement. If children are being raised in families where they are spoken to and read to, this shows in their social skills and vocabulary. I am not talking about naughtiness, whuich is normal and natural, I am talking about the children who have not experienced that conversation is about two people taking it in turns to make a contribution!

They are not assessing the children as such, they are assessing the parenting. Do these children show evidence that they have supportive,involved parents who will nurture them through their school years? no four year olds are NOT just at different stages of development. It is almost impossible for a lone 4 year old to get adopted in this country because it is recognised that harm done by then cannot be undone. The structure of the brain is established.

Secondary to that is intellectual potential, and to some extent biddale personality. So those turned down, it is not because of judgement of neglect, it is also because, as far as can be judged, the face didn't fit, on a personal level.

You would be shocked at how many very rich children are severly emotionally neglected

Denj33 Sat 04-Feb-12 09:59:08

I didn't even know there was a 4 yr old assessment, ive fit to be honest, the way you described it sounds awful.
My 3 DC went to local state primary and aged 11 the older 2 did 11+
DS got accepted to QE boys and DD to DAO. The 11+ process was bad enough but I have to be honest with myself, if I had know about the 4+ exam I may have considered it. It just seems such a shame to put such young kids against each other like this. Maybe it's more about the parents.....?

gladders Sat 04-Feb-12 11:06:52

am confused. you dislike the process. you dislike the other parents (especially the fathers). you conclude that it's only primary school after all.

and yet, you open your post by boasting that your dd got into your no 1 choice of selective school.

you are a helicopter parent who's very much part of the system - whether you like it or not.

booboobeedoo Sat 04-Feb-12 11:24:37

This is not my experience of 4+ assessment in this area (small groups of 5, no overlap, cheerful children who think they are going for a play). I think the vast vast majority of the parents are like you, detachedly bemused by the experience, but going through it all anyway in a, if you can't beat em join em type way. Everyone ends up happy where they are and it all works out on the end. Don't sweat the small talk either, it's just people rubbing along with it all!

wordfactory Sat 04-Feb-12 16:37:14

I do question what on earth these schools think they're actually achieving. How can these supposed assessments test anything in a three year old? What can it tell them about the likely intelligence, teachability of the ten year old they will become?

DC's prep school simply asked them to name a few colours, sit and listen to a story and play with some blocks. If they'd have asked them to write their names or indeed anyhting else the school would have been sorely disappointed.

And this is a prep school with absurdly high results. The DC leave to attend the most selective secondary schools in the country. The scholarship board is astonishing.

seeker Sat 04-Feb-12 20:12:11

It's not the kids they are asssesing, it's the parents.

wordfactory Sun 05-Feb-12 18:12:54

But what will that tell them seeker?

Surely they can't tell much from me sitting outside a classroom for an hour sipping coffee? DH didn't even go as he was abroad with work.

asiatic Sun 05-Feb-12 18:44:01

word factory, have a look at my earlier post, this tells you some of what is being lokked for.

wordfactory Sun 05-Feb-12 18:46:41

But how can they tell that I'm interested and engaged?

asiatic Sun 05-Feb-12 18:54:19

Well, they can't for sure, but they can tell if you are definatly not!

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