School assessments in Dubai's Ambareen Musa on why families should not be worried about assessments


School assessments should not to be dreaded, but rather looked upon as a way for teachers to see your child's abilities. We talk to Ambareen Musa from for some top assessment tips, advice for parents and ways to prepare your little ones for what lies ahead.

As parents, we know there are two ways the assessment can go. They’re either going to trot off, clutching the hand of their potential teacher, without so much as a backward glance.

Or, they’re going to refuse to leave your side. You’ll then spend the next hour with them clamped to your leg, sitting through the ‘test’ furiously cajoling and exclaiming to anyone who’ll listen that ‘he’s just not normally like this! ’

Parental stress and how to cope with it
Whatever you might be feeling, try not to show it to the kids. Stop forcing them to ‘perform.’ Ambareen says, ‘Schools are generally looking for developmental milestones, communication and motor skills.’

So you explaining to anyone that’ll listen that they play grade six clarinet and speak three languages isn’t going to help. Keep cool and wait outside.

Stop directing the show
If you do decide to sit in, settle down. Seriously, stop directing the show, you aren’t Spielberg and it’s not your movie. Let them be themselves so the assessor can clearly see how they interact with other kids and adults.

What do examiners consider?
It’s not worth trying to pull the wool over their eyes, you’ll only end up looking silly. If you’ve already been for medical or social assessments or suspect anything, tell them, teachers work with kids every day and spot issues immediately. The good news is, however, that they do take into account the child’s age, previous experience and are practised at looking for age-related skills.

English is important but not essential
If it’s an English school you’re after, but you’re a non-native speaking family, relax. While some schools expect a basic understanding, others require only that the child can speak well in their mother tongue and they do the rest.

And remember…
If you don’t make it into the school you planned, it’s not the end of the world. It could very well have nothing to do with the assessment and everything to do with there being no spots available.

Ambareen's Top Tips

• Keep calm and let your kids be themselves in the assessment

• Prepare them prior by just telling them what is going to happen and why they are going for the assessment without making a big deal out of it

• Talk positively about becoming a big boy/girl and going to the big school

• If your child is sick and not feeling too well, don't force it, just let the school know and many of the schools will accommodate

• Don't panic if they cry and do not want to go with the teachers. It's absolutely normal. They are only two or three years old

What schools look for

Jumeirah Primary School
JPS invites around ten kids at a time to a casual play session to observe their behavioural and social skills. They say they have no expectations and the sessions are informal. Should a kid not decide on an activity, then relax; staff will help. JPS maintains, though, that during the session, the kids are left to make their own decisions.
Jumeirah Primary School, Al Safa, (04 394 3500).

Assessments are held in the FS1 classroom and usually last 30 to 45 minutes. They invite five or six kids per session and create a warm play setting to observe various age appropriate developmental milestones. Parents shouldn’t worry about children’s ages as Repton knows the child’s date of birth and takes it into consideration when assessing a child.
Nad Al Sheba, (04 426 9393).

Star International School, Mirdif
At Star, they watch the children play, monitoring communication and language. Staff are particularly interested in concentration and considerate play, good self-esteem and how they react to role play activities. Star also checks fine and gross motor skills, independence from mum and confidence to choose an activity.
Star International School Mirdif, (04 288 4644).

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