A candid view on the 4+ admissions process, selective entrance exams and the rules of registration

“So which school are you thinking about?…” the friendly woman chirped at me. “Sorry?” I quipped back in disbelief. I felt my cheeks tingle and a shiver prickle my spine. I looked down at my beautiful, tiny, 8 week old baby. It hurt even thinking he would soon grow too big for me to cradle; let alone think of him going to school! I was still in a lovely new-born daze; swirls of intense love, pride and tiredness constantly circulated my body.

I had decided to try out a local mummy and baby meeting that morning and whilst I had pre-empted the friendly conversation and free digestives I was totally unprepared for questions about schooling. I assumed talk would focus on the basics like winding and sleep deprivation, I certainly wasn’t prepared for actual thinking. I wanted to remain here, in the present, clutching my new baby, not thinking about the future and waving him off at the school gates.

I concluded (in my head of course) that this woman must be mad. So I stared back at her blankly, creating an unavoidable awkward moment until another woman leant in and said, “I have just registered for XX”. I was astounded by the normality in her tone. She was cradling an even smaller bundle than me and already she had his future years mapped out. Was she mad too? What group was this again? Had I got the wrong day? Or was this normal?

As the two ladies chatted on I listen intently. Questions and comments flew back and forth as they expertly debated the pros and cons of the local schools. Which catchment are you in? Have you put his name down for the prep school? You’ll have to go to church every week if you choose St Mary’s…Are you prepping her for the 4+? It was an eye opener to say the least.

We were in the privileged position to be able to afford independent education, but the demands and challenges of selecting a school or indeed the selection process hadn’t even occurred to me. How do I select the right school for my child? I don’t even know his character yet! How does an assessment of a 3 or 4 year old work?


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