Many schools are now testing at a younger age. Rose de Pass shares her preparation tips for the 4+
With a degree in Early Years education, experience teaching in a top London nursery and nannying for several families, I have seen every side of the story when it comes to assessments. Additionally, as the head of tuition for Quintessentially Education, I’m often asked for tutors to prepare for the 4+ assessments. But with the right nursery choice, the learning environment will be stimulating enough that any extra tuition should not be necessary.
I would never encourage families to seek additional support at this stage. Should they ask for it, I would direct them to their child’s teacher first. I don’t believe tuition is altogether unnecessary – not least because I would be out of a job! – but the concept of children’s love for learning being fortified by extra tuition at nursery-age is questionable.
While you are never too young to learn, too much didactic instruction at such a young age is likely to dull their natural curiosity. However, Early Years-trained tutors can provide stimulation and a structured environment for children going through transition periods (moving from abroad, for example) or provide sensitive English language support – ensuring non-native speakers feel confident at assessment days.
The advice I give is almost patronisingly obvious: children at this age need to sleep, to eat supper at the table, to be read to by their parents and to play with other children – not everything they experience needs to be educational. In the majority of cases, any minor gaps tend to close up by the end of reception.
These 4+ assessments may seem a terrifying and insurmountable prospect, but take comfort in the fact that assessors are looking for children who will flourish at their schools. When that letter eventually comes, try to be philosophical about it: if your child does not get in, then it is probably not the right school for them.
In light of the looming assessments, here are my top tips for parents:
• Stop stressing – relaxed parents equal a relaxed child.
• Don’t tell your child about the assessments weeks before. Make it into a spontaneous adventure.
• Manners maketh man – make sure those Ps and Qs are rolling off your child’s tongue (and yours, too!).
• Distraction – ensure mummy’s handbag is full of entertainments should you have to wait around.
• Make sure your child has eaten before the assessment.
• If you have your heart set on a school, make this clear to the headteacher.