The school assessment

It might only feel like yesterday that the Little Boy was born, but here in Dubai children can start school at three – providing they pass ‘The Assessment’, in which your kid is expected to perform tricks like a monkey. Except it would probably be easier taking a monkey along than a stroppy three year old.

“We should have got his hair cut,” lamented DH, as I tried to comb LB’s overgrown mop into a tidy style on the morning of his first assessment last week. “And done more prep. A captain I flew with told me they’d done loads of prep with their son.”

“It’s ok,” I retorted. “He’s great with colours – and he knows all our names. Watch,” I said, running through our family names, only hitting a problem when it came to my name. “Cath-wynn,” he replied. Erm, close (she’s our nanny) but no!

“He can hold a pen – and count in no particular order,” I ventured, grasping at straws at this point.

Bittersweet: It's hard to believe that in the autumn I'll have two boys at school!
This assessment – for a nearby school so popular it has a 10-year waiting list – was the easy one out of the two schools we’re applying to because we didn’t have to be there. A teacher came to LB’s nursery and ‘observed him’. All we had to do was get him there by 8 in the morning and keep our fingers crossed that he didn’t bite anyone in front of her.

I knew all along that today’s assessment for his older brother’s school would be harder, for several reasons. It was at 7.45am, we had to go with him, and every time we take him to BB’s school, it’s to ride bikes in the kindergarten play area, not be asked questions by a complete stranger with a clip board in a room full of kids he doesn’t know.

As I filled in a form about LB’s behaviour, routine, strengths and weaknesses, I was acutely aware I’d come across as a complete liar. “He enjoys playing with children,” I put, as LB – who’d just thrown the predicted tantrum over not being allowed to go to the school play area with his brother – clung to me for dear life.

“He’ll play independently,” I wrote, while DH tried to prize him off me, with no luck.

“And his love of Lego suggests a future Norman Foster … That is, if the accuracy he displays when throwing things at his brother’s head doesn’t lead him to play sport competitively,” I toyed with the idea of putting.

With ALL the other kids playing happily, DH and I tried using bribery, coercion and even logic to get him to participate, until finally a teacher came over and asked if he was part of the assessment. “YES … It might not look like it, but yes!” I fumed in my head… “Certainly not here, Mrs Clip Board, at this ungodly hour for the fun of it.”

If it sounds like I was getting stressed, I was.

From this point, it actually got a bit better. He ran through the colours, mumbled a few words, and drew a train. He flunked the numbers and refused to jump when asked (“That’s just silly,” I could tell he was thinking), but it was enough.

They emailed later to say that – pending receipt of his birth certificate, passport, visa, his fourth-cousin-once-removed’s passport, nursery reports from birth, finger print, iris scan and 20 passport photos – Monkey Boy was in.

In return, a G&T at the door would have helped. A lot.

11 thoughts on “The school assessment

  1. What exactly are they looking for in those assessments? Do you know anyone who’s not gotten in? As a teacher, I’m just wondering what they’re assessing for and why. I mean, I could see them using the data for planning purposes (“Well, looks like everyone in this year’s 3-yo class knows their numbers, so we can start off with multiplication” or “Everyone’s weak on the letters M-Z. We have our work cut out for us.”) but do they ever really assess kids and then say, “sorry, (s)he just can’t cut it” ?
    So glad it went well for you and LB, and hope you were able to get to that G&T!

    • I think they’re definitely looking out for any major developmental delays – but they’re also assessing the standard of English. If the child is from a family where English isn’t the first language, they’ll do extra tuition – and it’s amazing how fast kids who don’t speak English pick it up when they’re immersed in an English-speaking classroom (3 months I reckon!). School waiting lists can be a problem in Dubai – I’m not sure if anyone doesn’t get in following an assessment (I think they’ll sometimes say they’ll reassess in April if the child doesn’t seem ready) – before, we’ve got oldest son ‘in on the waiting list’! They always say ‘not to worry’ about the assessment and that ‘they’re just watching them interact’ but when your kid starts stealing toys and elbowing other kids out the way, that’s a little worrying in itself, lol! I hope it’s all going well with the little ‘uns at your work!

  2. That assessment is just ridiculous! I remember Joli answered wrong on all questions but she managed to write her name (to my big surprise) and wouldn’t even bother with the colours. Yes, they should have a bar service at the end, or hand out crayons and a huge drink at the same time. Cu Thursday! xx

  3. I recall a very similar occasion back in London trying to get Littleboy 1 down for a snooty prep school (just in case we didn’t move to the US). I remember filling in the form with the exact same thoughts, and the day itself was ridiculous. I am so glad that where we live now there isn’t anything like that, although I am filled with dread that we will have to face these things once again in London.

    • There are so many things about the US that you really miss once you’ve left (I’d really miss school buses in the UK too!)..I guess you’ll have to apply to some London schools before moving back. What a pain. I’ll keep everything crossed that it’s not problematic. We MUST skype sometime soon -I’ve got so many questions I want to ask you – how you feel about moving back? BritMums in June?

  4. M says:

    Oh… This is great… So like our assessment… Although Oli wouldn’t even partake in writing his name! Or doing colors… Or numbers! And I don’t think picture drawing was on the cards either…. X

  5. Andrea says:

    Oh so true!!!! I love love reading your blogs!!! How come things at home are so simple? You live in an area, that’s the school you go to! Simple life….ahhh…

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