In our last blog post we discussed what to look for when choosing the right primary school for your child. Today we will be discussing the next steps; the range of things you will need to know for your child’s primary school interviews. We know that interviews may not always be what you describe as ‘fun’, but they do not have to be traumatic either! Here we have picked 5 key things to help you out on your journey.
1. Be prepared
Parents often ask us how much their child should know. Our answer is: they would have to have a basic knowledge of things like the name of daily items, transportation and special events. Basic mathematics would also be beneficial, including things like the name of shapes, counting and simple addition. Another important skill your child needs to know is how to hold a pen properly and write their name as this can display their gross motor skills.
During the interview, most schools will use games or basic play to help assess the child. When talking about this point, parents will usually stop us to ask if they need to buy more games to prepare for the interview. We personally don’t feel that this is always necessary, as there are a lot of things you can do at home already. For instance, games as simple as role play are very useful in encouraging speech. Alternatively, using blocks or puzzles laying around at home can help to practice their problem-solving skills. Board games can help them practice following rules or working with others.
One important thing to note, however, is to refrain from teaching your child new skills during the run up to the big day. It takes your child time to learn something new and pressuring them into this can make them feel that interviews are stressful things they need to avoid! As educators, we would not wish to see these stressful feelings in the interview room as we can usually spot this right away. Remember that the last few weeks prior to an interview should be a time of revision, not a period of learning. Make revision through games an enjoyable part of your daily routine instead as children learn best when they are having fun.
2. Building confidence
Contrary to belief, answers are not always the most important things in interviews. What interviewers are looking for is confidence in your child. Part of that is so they can see whether your child is able to separate themselves from you and settle well into the school. Your child will need to be able to calm themselves down when they are anxious, which is why the parents often sit in the lounge while the child gets interviewed separately. This is something that you would need to work with them on at an early stage as it is a process that would be too late to start two weeks before the interview.
At Mulberry House, children are always asked to say goodbye to their parents before going into class which helps to build that confidence. We also encourage them to make eye contact and smile when they introduce themselves, which are things that would demonstrate confidence to an interviewer too. If they believe in themselves, the interviewer will see that and be more likely to believe in them. As parents, we should be role-modelling that; making eye contact when talking with children, giving them the full attention they deserve and smiling when engaging with them. This will positively reinforce confidence on a daily basis.
Encourage your child to use the magic words ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ every day so that when they are in the interview, they are using these too. Interviewers would not want to see them fiddling with their hands or hair. Teaching your child to sit up straight and telling them to look the interviewer in the eye when speaking to them can help to prevent those anxious nerves. We know nowadays the world is moving so fast that even speech becomes very short and brisk in daily conversations, but make sure when you are talking to your child, you are using full sentences with those magic words so they understand how things are done.
4. Following instructions
This is an important part of the process; for your child to be cooperative and always listening to instructions. The interviewers have no way to assess your child’s ability if he/she/they do not follow what they are told to do, so you can practice games with them like Simon says, red light, green light, follow the leader. If your child misses what the teacher has asked, it is okay also for them to ask the teacher to repeat the question. Teachers will not be upset, and more likely be impressed that they took the initiative.
5. Dress appropriately
Finally, the key here is to make it look as though you put some thought into your appearance because that shows the interviewer that you are taking it seriously. That is not to say you have to wear a ballgown/wedding suit! Don’t overdress, wear something you feel comfortable in so long as it looks like you are respecting the situation. As for your child; you want to make sure the clothing is simple enough that they can dress themselves. This will show a great level of independence and interviewers might even test this by asking children to take their shoes off.
See below our full video on the topic: