The assessment process for a school place can be a nerve-wracking time, for parents and children alike! It’s natural to worry – it may be the first time your child has been separated from you, and in the past competition for places at the UAE’s best schools has been very high. However, in recent years, the educational landscape has evolved. According to the KHDA, 18 new private schools will have opened by the start of the 2016 academic year, offering up to 63,000 places in Dubai alone for prospective students.
‘While some of the UAE’s older and more established schools are still very over-subscribed, today’s parents have a great deal more choice when it comes to finding the perfect school to suit their child,’ says Clive Pierrepont, Director of Communications at Taaleem. ‘Many new schools will still have seats available – parents no longer have to feel like they’re settling for ‘second best’ when there are spaces at newer institutions which offer a top quality education and truly international outlook to their students.’
So, whether you’re about to find a first-time school place, or are looking to change schools, here’s what you need to know.
Do the groundwork
It really does pay to do your research when you apply, especially as schools charge a non-refundable admissions fee to process applications. Is it a brand new school, or a mature school that’s already established? Does the school have expansion plans to admit more students, and, if new, is it part of a well-reputed group with a clear educational ethos?
If your child has any specific learning needs, check whether the school is selective or operates an inclusive policy, and whether it has any provisions in place for children who need extra help, such as learning English as a second language. Choosing the right curriculum is also important – life in Dubai is often transient, so choosing a curriculum that matches or complements the one in your home country means that your child can make a smoother transition should you return.
[Related: FS1 assessment: Are you prepared?]
Understand the process
The assessment process itself will vary from school to school – however, most schools will have a dedicated admissions manager whose job it is to guide you through the process.
‘They should be happy to assist you with any of your concerns, so don’t hesitate to approach them,’ says Dawn Rennie, Director of Development and Admissions, Dubai British School Jumeirah Park.
For the youngest students applying for a first-time place, many schools operate play-based assessments on a one-to-one basis. At this age, the assessment is usually more general and looks at social skills and interaction. Parents are often invited along so they can be nearby their child to alleviate any separation anxiety. For older children, assessments tend to be tailored to their age group, and often involve the head of year. These will often focus on literacy, mathematics and key elements of the curriculum.
‘Today’s schools are much more aware of the ‘parent journey’ and strive to make the assessment experience a positive one for both students and their families,’ says Pierrepont. Schools aren’t looking to catch your child out during the assessment, rather they want to see whether your son or daughter will be a good fit within their particular community. The assessment is only part of the process: schools will also take into account any previous reports, if applicable, to get a more rounded idea of your child’s learning potential.
‘Do try to relax,’ advises Rennie. ‘It may be easier said than done, but children will pick up on your nerves and it is important to avoid any further stress.’
Reassure your child that they have done their best, no matter how you think they may have fared.