How to prepare your child for an online interview

For some parents across the country, the start of a new year coincides with entrance exams for independent schools.  Most common entry points are at 7+, 11+, 13+ and sixth form, with 11+ being the busiest exam period for schools as it is a natural entry point for secondary education.

Any parent that has had to run the gauntlet of home tutoring, exam prepping and (virtual) school touring will know that sitting the exams is only half the battle.  Passing tests doesn’t necessary equate to a place at your child’s chosen school, as successful candidates are often invited to interview so that the school’s leadership team and teachers can get a better understanding as to whether their school is a good fit for your child.

With the current lockdown having shut all schools to most pupils, the interview process has added another layer of complexity with everything going online.  So, we thought we would provide you with a few tips on how best to prepare your child for an interview.

Why do schools interview?

You may wonder why schools have an interview stage if they are academically selective. Surely the best marked papers should equal a place on the register? For some schools who are indeed academically rigorous, the performance in the exams is a main factor when offering places, but for a lot of schools, senior leadership teams want to create a well-rounded and balanced school community, and that doesn’t always consist of only A** students.

Schools want to ensure that the environment they work hard to build is the best possible place for any incoming student and the best way to gauge this is via an interview.  Most schools will tell you that there is nothing to prepare and for your child to expect an ‘informal chat’, however a little preparation goes a long way, particularly for children aged 11 or younger to whom a room full of grown-ups can be quite an intimidating experience.

What will the questions be like?

Most schools will ask questions along the lines of:

  • Why do you wish to come to this school?
  • What is your current school like?
  • What hobbies do you have?
  • What do you think about current events that are occurring?

Interviewers aren’t looking for overly in-depth answers, but they are looking for more than one word or one sentence.  A level of engagement and interest in learning and subject matters helps the staff understand whether their style of teaching will suit your son or daughter.

So how can you best prep?

  • Have conversations at home. Encourage your child to ask you about current events and respond with thoughts of their own.
  • Make a list of their hobbies and achievements. Where have they had to dig deep to see results?
  • What milestones are they aiming for with their current goals?
  • Ask them questions where they have to think about their day or thought process – eg: if you had a whole day to yourself to anything you wanted, anywhere in the world; what would you do and who would you do it with?
  • Ask them what they like and dislike about their current school (don’t spend too long on the dislike – it may be that the playground seems small now they are the oldest students, or the puddings aren’t as good as they used to be) and what they would really like to see at their next school.
  • Go over the prospective schools website and prospectus with your child and make note of interesting information about the school and the subjects that interest your son or daughter.

With the advent of online learning for the majority of the country, children are becoming used to seeing their teachers and schools online, but that doesn’t necessarily make it easier when meeting strangers online.  Make sure you reassure your child that the people they are going to meet just want to get to know how amazing they are and understand that this is a very different way from the norm.  Ensure that you have all the right software, and that it is up to date, so that you don’t have any technical issues. 

Wear comfortable clothing,  but don’t look too comfy – eg wear a smart top instead of a hoodie, and make sure hair is smart, teeth are brushed and your child has had a calm start to the day to be as relaxed as they can be.

Unless otherwise stated, the interview process is one between your child and the school only, so no matter how tempting it may be to sit in the room out of sight of the camera, it can be distracting to your child and can deter from their performance.  Leave the room and trust that the process is in place to make sure that the future school for your child suits both parties.

And remember, there are always options for your child moving forward.  If they don’t get into one particular school, there will be another that greets them with open arms.  Whatever the future holds, it will be positive as long as you remain positive and supportive.

Good luck!

Your Employee Wellbeing works with businesses to support the wellbeing of their employees. Focusing on dealing with life’s challenges we are here to help your employees

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