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Former Director of Admissions, Edrys Barkham, looks at why we are introducing pre-testing as part of our admissions process.
Can you tell all you need to know about a child’s academic potential at the age of 11? At Bryanston we don’t think you can. We think that many children are still developing in years 6, 7 and 8, when many senior schools undertake pre-testing, and by allowing them longer to mature and getting to know them as they develop, we can admit children who are likely to thrive at Bryanston and will bring to the school a breadth of skills that reach beyond the classroom.
So, why are we introducing pre-testing? In an increasingly uncertain world, we hope that the introduction of the ISEB Common Pre-test for children starting year 7 in September 2017 will remove a family’s anxiety about where their child might go to senior school, by giving a better indication of the suitability of Bryanston for their child earlier in the admissions process than we have hitherto been able.
The ISEB pre-test is age standardised, which means that a child who is young for their year is not disadvantaged and the questions are adaptive so that the answer to one question will determine the level of difficulty of the next question. This means that the tests should allow each child to feel that they have achieved.
However, we recognise that this standardised test evaluates a child’s performance on one particular day and does not take into account any other factors, and therefore the result of the pre-test is not the only criterion that will determine the offer of a place. For children who don’t perform at their best on the day of the pre-test, we will continue to talk to their current school and keep their name on the development list. It is important to us that we continue to admit children with a broad range of talents and interests into the school and we know that some children’s academic development is later than others. We will not want to lose a great sportsperson, musician, actor or artist because they get a low score on the day. We rely on the professional opinion of the heads of prep schools and other junior schools, most of whom know us well, through pupils they have previously sent to Bryanston, and they know their own pupils very well. We trust that they have a good sense of whether each individual child will thrive with us.
We therefore still firmly believe that children should be selected through a holistic overview of each individual and the result of the pre-test will form just a part of that picture. It is an additional strand, rather than a decider, but one we hope will provide reassurance for many families. Our new approach, which combines the pre-test with meeting the child on several occasions and an ongoing dialogue with their junior school, will give every child a genuine opportunity to reveal their potential.