Positive tales in challenging times: helping pandemic-proof schools’ admissions testing

Sponsored: Dr Helen Wood, head of school partnerships at Password English Language Testing, talks to schools continuing to process applications

The education sector has perpetually been in the news over recent months, with the ongoing disruption and distress caused by the coronavirus leading to a stream of negative headlines. Yet my conversations with admissions and marketing colleagues in our partner schools have remained remarkably upbeat.

They have continued to attract parents and their children, generated and processed applications, and kept enrolment buoyant at their respective schools – in the UK and across the globe.

So, what do these Password partner schools have in common (apart from their amazingly resilient staff) that has supported their ongoing success?

For starters, while teachers, pupils and parents grappled with the sudden technological shift in the teaching and learning environment, these admissions staff were already confident in their user-friendly and efficient online admissions assessment processes. Culford School first adopted Password Pupil tests in September 2019 and are delighted with the impact the move has had.

“Password Pupil testing is our ‘new normal’ – we would never go back,” declared Maura Power, the school’s international registrar, during one of our recent phone catch ups. “It transformed our international admissions processes, making them simpler and speedier, despite the problems thrown up by Covid-19.”

Helen Lock, director of admissions at North London Collegiate School Jeju expressed similar enthusiasm: “Having worked with Password in the past for university admissions, I was delighted to discover they also provided tools to assess school-aged children. The system is easy to use – for students taking the test and for the school reviewing the results – and results are received quickly.”

Importantly, our Password partners also feel they have an academically robust assessment tool at their fingertips as they adroitly navigate the ‘new normal’ of virtual admissions.

“When the pandemic hit, swiftly shifting to ‘at home’ online testing of our prospective international pupils was easy. We were safe in the knowledge that Password’s huge databank of test questions meant our assessments remained reliable,” said Vera Ixer, director of external relations at Clayesmore School.

Longstanding user of Password Pupil tests, Matt Norbury, academic director of international programmes at King’s Ely, agreed with this evaluation. “The content is rigorous, valid and randomly generated and managing the system has proved simple with excellent customer support from the Password team.”

This means while the pandemic creates an ever-fluctuating operational environment, hard-pressed academic staff required to deliver a potentially complicated hybrid of online and face-to-face lessons can focus on just that, leaving the task of setting and marking entrance assessments capably assumed elsewhere.

Last, but by no means least, none of our partner schools were flummoxed by the sudden disappearance of key activities and dates from their marketing and admissions calendar. I spent the early weeks of lockdown training our partner schools how to remotely invigilate test-takers using third-party software such as Zoom and Teams. I also found myself acquiring tips to share.

NCLS Jeju, for example, undertook an entire assessment day using individual Google Meet sessions set up at 15-minute intervals. Their senior staff interviewed pupils before handing screen control over to a support team who followed up with sequential test sessions invigilated across multiple screens. It seems this flexible thinking abounds in the schools which are effectively adapting to these extraordinary times.

“We’d recently started working with Password to test our international applicants, so when lockdown began and the need for online entrance tests more generally became apparent, we had no doubt it could provide us with reliable and trustworthy tests across all year groups,” said Laura Trainer, admissions manager at Ipswich School.

Learning many of our quick-thinking partner schools are utilising Pupil Maths with both prospective international and domestic pupils has stimulated a new development: a test of UK pupils’ English literacy and language skills is now in hand. Its addition to the Pupil suite of tests will cement Password’s place as the one-stop platform for schools’ admissions testing. Watch this space!


To find out more about Password Pupil tests, email Dr Helen Wood at helen.wood@englishlanguagetesting.co.uk

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