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Nursery Screening


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Hello,

 

I work in a private school and management would like to establish a Nursery class for 4 or 4 and a 1/2 year olds. Entrance to the school is by a screening test which is suitable for 4 and a half year olds as they are tested in January before the August they start. Does anyone know of a suitable screening or entry assessment test/procedure for three year olds?

Thanks!

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Hi AliMac,

Thank you for making your first post xD

 

I've never come across the idea of screening such young children, and it seems to me that this would be going against all that the EYFS stands for. What sort of screening does your school do for the 4 and 4.5 year olds? I'm curious yet horrified at the same time :o

 

However, I haven't worked in a school such as yours and am unaware of the reasons for screening the children at this age. What sorts of things does your school want to know about each individual child? Would observing the child in their home environment, discussing with parents, childminders and previous settings give you the information your school requires? Do you believe a test of some sort is appropriate for a three old or could the information be gained through better means?

 

This is a really new subject for me, and I'd like to find out more.....do get back to us, Ali :(

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Thanks for replying so quickly! :o

 

I'm most definitly not in favour of testing if it can be avoided, but the way the school works means that we have 100s of applicants for a few places and once they are in, they are in from Nursery up to the end of secondary and so the school needs to try and find a way to take in the 'cream of the crop' rather than first come, first served.

 

At the moment we do a few simple tests which involve activities such as completing some sequences, identifying which piece of a jigsaw should be put in to finish it and some two and three step instructions to see if they can follow it. It's done in a very relaxed way (as relaxed as a test can be!) and we try and set it up as a game as far as possible.

 

It is a bit controversial so I'm hoping that someone out there knows of an alternative to selecting which children should and shouldn't get a place. It would be great to visit them at home, but there are just too many applicants for us to be able to do that.

 

All ideas are welcome!

Ali

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Hi and firstly a very warm welcome to the forum from me too :o

 

I'm sorry I didn't reply when I first read your message but I was so 'shocked' to hear of screening/testing such young children I want to take time to think before I responded.

 

I really think that any form of testing is 'fundamentally floored' with such young children as there is no guaranteed they will be themselves in new surroundings with strange adults. I work in a preschool in the PVI sector and last week one of the mums told me her daughter would be in late as she had her three year old check with the health visitor - mum and I agreed that there were no concerns, this child has been with us for over a year and is a bright, articulate three year old and very capable in a variety of areas. When Mum brought her daughter in I asked how it went and she said 'terrible, the health visitor has arranged to come again next month'. It transpired the child decided to be shy and cling to mum, refused to participate in anything, didn't answer any questions etc etc!!

 

I appreciate that what you do is done in a relaxed atmosphere but nonetheless I think it is a real shame that a child will/will not get a place based on how they perform on one particular day.

 

Ten years ago I worked in a nursery class of an independant school and like you were flooded with applicants and the criteria for admission was siblings of children already higher up the school followed by age. I don't know if this is still the case but the siblings issue was almost irrelevant as we had parents putting children's names down when they were born and in some cases before birth!!!

 

 

I am sorry but I don't understand why there is a need to take in the 'cream of the crop' and with an emphasis on inclusion and diversity I think the school could be on sticky ground almost heading towards 'discrimination' I don't see the problem with first come first served.

 

I think the fairest way is a waiting list - parents apply come and visit and add the child's name and once places are taken then sorry but that's it we are full.

 

If there are so many applicants maybe the school might consider expanding - that's what happened in the school I worked in - they doubled the size of the nursery class.

 

I agree it's a controversial issue and not sure I have an alternative but then I am not a fan of 'choosing' who will or will not attend - if we have a parent apply for a place for their child and we have a space then its theirs irrespective of the child's capabilities.

 

I will be following this thread with interest and hope someone may come along with constructive advice

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Welcome AliMac, tests for 3 year old children, as you say the subject is controversial and I'm afraid I have no answers for you, but one area I would be worried about in all this is - what your school cannot control - whilst you feel you can offer a relaxed atmosphere in which the children can mix and be observed and tested, if you have parents desperate to get their child in, you cannot prevent parents "hot housing" their child to get them prepared for your tests.

 

Slightly off subject, but I am in Kent and we still have 11+ (which is now taken in September, so some children in fact will only be 10) and what we find is some parents put a lot of pressure on children to pass this test and employ tutors, and practice test papers etc., and not only do children have to pass their 11+, but some grammar schools only take those children scoring 95-100% in the test, so parents/children stress even more about this.

 

Parents go to extraordinary lengths with their children for what they feel "will be good for them in the long run". Whether it is the right thing to do or not with your 3 year olds within your school's system, I would worry that the children could be prepared in the wrong way.

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I agree that children, especially ones this young, will never be that relaxed and parents will try and prepare them. I see it all the time :o

 

The system used to be on first come first served basis but as mentioned, parents would put their names down for a place before their child was even born and then new families to the area would be very upset as they had no way of getting their child into the school. In addition, sibling priority limited the diversity of families that come into the school and so although a consideration, it is not one of the priorities as siblings can join at a later stage as the class sizes increase each year through the school.

 

Management have considered increasing the size of our nursery intake but even if they do, the upper management still want an entrance test in order to have some sort of selection process. I'm not at all in favour of selection like this myself, so I'm trying to find something for the pupils to do that will be as stress free as possible but still satisfy parents and upper management that we are running some sort of selection process. It's a hard one! xD

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Hi there,

 

This is indeed a very thorny issue. It appears that management want to make decisions about whom they can prevent attending, rather than the other way around. In other words, they would prefer to have children who will not reflect badly on the school. Who can blame them, it is a business after all! Ultimately, in the selection game judgements have to be made and they will always be subjective. It is sad to have to make such judgements on these very young children and further stress out their poor parents.

 

Perhaps the fairest way would be to run a sort of lottery. Give each applicant a number, set a closing date and if you have thirty vacancies, draw out thirty tickets on that date! The waiting list could be drawn up with the remaining names. :o

 

I will watch with interest to see what transpires. Good luck!

 

Lesley

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This is such an interesting thread....thanks for starting it, Ali. :o

 

You seem very sensitive to the issues involved with screening such young children, yet I appreciate that if you are required to do it, you have no choice! I wonder if we can come up with something here on the forum? What kinds of things could Ali look for to

 

a) not put the children and parents under excessive pressure

b- give her management team what they need?

 

I think what I'd like to know about a child mainly lies with the PSED(dispositions and attitudes), CLL (communication), KUW (exploration and investigation) and CD (developing imagination). Anyone agree/disagree? Maybe if we have some headings, we can come up with some criteria.

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Helen,

 

That sounds exactly what I need! Thanks for suggesting it. It would be great if everyone could help me come up with something that would meet the management needs while not stressing out the children and their parents.

 

I wondered whether bringing children into the Nursery in groups and observing them playing together would be a starting point? If we could come up with some activities which children of this age would usually engage in and that would tell me as much as is possible in what will always be a snapshot of that child on that particular day.

 

Ali

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I can see that you are in a difficult position Ali, but am depressed to read about screening on an ability basis - its bad enough at 11 but at 3?!!!

 

I wonder if your Management Team think the NHS should screen patients and only treat the healthiest ones.....

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I can see that you are in a difficult position Ali, but am depressed to read about screening on an ability basis - its bad enough at 11 but at 3?!!!

 

I wonder if your Management Team think the NHS should screen patients and only treat the healthiest ones.....

 

.

 

 

me too - and really shouldn't those children who aren't doing so well in their early years be given the opportunity to shine in your wonderful setting.

I'm afraid I can't think of anything constructive to add as I feel this appraoch is wrong, wrong, wrong. Another question - Where does the child with learning difficulties or disability fit into your school, if they are screened out at 3, how sad for the all the other children attending that they will miss out on an opportunity to learn that not everybody is the same and has the same learning needs

Edited by Guest
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Whilst I don't agree with the system, I'd still like to help you, Ali, and find a way of assessing the children in a way that is manageable for you :o

How about listing a few questions that you can bear in mind when they visit? You could invite groups of prospective children and their families in and make observations whilst they're there? Pretty difficult to record these observations though, as the parents will be looking over your shoulder, won't they?!

 

here are a few that I've used in the past:

 

1) How does the child demonstrate his/her preferences and interests?

2) How does the child demonstrate independence (a tricky one I know because they will be in an unfamiliar environment, but chatting to parents would give you further information)

3) How does the child communicate with others?

4) Does the child flit from activity to activity, or can s/he concentrate for a length of time?

5) How does the child explore the environment? How interested is s/he? (another tricky one, because I've just done the rounds of 6th form colleges with my 15 year old son, and he looked totally bored the whole time, but when we got home, he was really enthusiastic!) Chatting to parents about what the child is interested in, and where s/he likes to go, will help here, too.

6)Is the child showing any creative tendencies? An interest in art and craft materials you have put out? Role play or small world play? Does s/he show any examples of make-believe? Ask parents again for more information.

 

I'm not sure at all how you might "score" this and therefore make a judgement on who gets a place and who doesn't.....I really am out of my depth with that one!

 

Also not sure if I've helped at all......I just empathize with your difficult position xD

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  • 2 weeks later...

Helen,

 

Thanks for your suggestions and for your empathy. I'm now looking at your suggestions and we are trying as a team to come up with some questions for the parents, some activities which will hopefully engage children so that we can observe them at play and the local educational psycologist is seeing if there are any non-verbal reasoning tests that we could use. I'll let you know how we get on.

 

Thanks for all your help with what is a horrible situation to be in.

Ali

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If the parents are paying for their child's education here (I'm assuming they are!) - that's the first selection criteria anyway so it's not going to be equal access to the setting!!! It's just the way it is and bravo to Helen for such empathy and clarity.

 

 

Cx

Edited by catma
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I have just picked up on this thread and have to say I completely misunderstood to begin with, thinking it was about baseline assessment. In my defence it has been a stressful couple of weeks! :o

 

It seems to me that making children pass through a set of hoops in order to get a place is not a practice I would enjoy taking part in but I think AliMac is to be congratulated on trying to find ways of complying with a management directive in ways that are more child friendly than the process would suggest.

 

Ultimately when we work for other people we have to accept that there will be times when we disagree with their approaches, and if we want to stay employed within that setting we will end up doing things we find difficult to support. I'll be interested to hear what you decide to do AliMac - you have my sympathies!

 

Maz

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What an interesting thread... firstly I must own up, I often read but do not often reply and/or post...many excuses which I will not bore you with.

 

However, at the day nursery I work in I had one of those wonderful moments yesterday, which I hope in sharing will highlight the difficulty of testing/assessing a child at such a young age, during just one/two visits.

 

In my setting we have a boy aged 3.1, he plays with the trains and track most of the time, joining in with other areas if his trains join in too, he also likes to play outside a lot. He communicates using 2 and 3 word sentences and has difficulty in pronouncing some letters. Yesterday i was cleaning and reorganising shelves and had typed labels (without pictures) to put on containers. This little boy sat down beside me, showed me his "blue train", "fast train", he then pointed to the labelled word train on the floor saying "that one", i asked what one, he said "that one train". I muddled the words up and again he picked out the word 'train' and then 'car', he then went back to the train track.

 

I would imagine that this little boy would not be selected if he were to apply, he was comfortable with me, he was not under pressure. I know this child, I am confident for many other reasons that he will 'fly high' and be a high achiever...what a talent would have been missed if he were to apply and his present interest in trians and track prevented him from appearing as "an all rounder".

 

On a more constructive note, how about providing video recorders to the childs current settings and/or parents and getting them to record their children over a period of time - that way you would get a better (fairer) picture of the child in familiar, comfortable situations. Might originally be expensive to action, but worthwhile and would pay off in the long run.

 

For the sake of the children, I hope you find an appropriate solution - good luck.

 

Sam

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It's just the fundamental difference between paying for your child's education or not isn't it. How many parents suddenly profess religion to get into a school or move house to be in a catchment area. That doesn't make it fair or equal either. If a private school is popular and the parent's are paying they are going to want "academic" rigour whatever age their children are. That's what they are paying for after all. So the school is going to be selective - they can because they make their own rules regarding who gets in though the doors. It's not about child development, it's about picking who gets to have a place.

 

Now in the good ol' state sector we have to abide by the rules of taking all comers. Whilst we have a two tier system of education then it'll always be the same.

Cx

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