“Prep Schools” seem to be a peculiarly British invention. The clue is in the name, preparatory schools are there to prepare pupils for entry into many of the UK’s top public schools.
According to the IAPS (Incorporated Association of Preparatory Schools) there are over 600 schools in the UK that fall into this category, educating children from the age of 8 to 13 (Yr 4 – Yr 8). What each school offers varies enormously some are single sex, others are co-ed, some have senior schools attached, others have pre preps and some are stand-alone schools.
Many are day schools but others offer full or weekly boarding, some have less than 100 pupils and others have nearer to 400 but, for all their differences they have one main focus – to give a child the best possible start on their educational journey.
So what is the role of a Prep School?
A Prep school is there to prepare its pupils for entry into any number of different senior schools in different parts of the country, this is normally through Common Entrance, a centrally set exam that is marked by individual senior schools.
Prep schools are good at identifying and preparing their pupils for scholarships across a wide range of disciplines, academic, sporting, art, drama and music too.
Prep schools are there to advise parents on the ‘next move’ to senior schools. It gives parents a chance to delay the choice of a senior school and to know that the choices they make for their child will be guided by experts.
Prep school Heads have a wealth of knowledge about various senior schools. They understand about how each school has a different ethos and expectations and which schools will bring out the best in certain children.
Prep schools are fully versed in which schools pre-test pupils and the different transition times for different types of schools, there is no chance of missing out on a place because of a missed deadline.
Most Prep schools offer flexibility on boarding and day options giving families the chance to start as a day pupil and move into boarding as the child grows up so they can be familiar with being away from home before making the leap to senior school.
Prep schools tend to be quite small and have a family feel to them, this cosy and familiar environment means children are known individually and can be encouraged to achieve their best.
By being a big fish in a small pond, children have a chance to take part in everything, which is a good preparation for the greater competition there will inevitably be at ‘big school’.
Prep schools provide a unique environment to preserve childhood and to instill the essentials of an all round education before the onset of adolescence.