Why we're so proud to be a prep school
It’s an educational debate that has raged for generations – and it’s one that shows no signs of dying down anytime soon.
The big question is, and seemingly always will be, whether there is more value in a preparatory education or learning at an all-through school.
For anyone unfamiliar with the workings of independent schools, a typical preparatory school quite literally prepares its children for entry into private secondary schools aged 13, while all-through schools teach children in one place up to the age of 16 or 18 before they move onto higher education.
So which approach is preferred? And which is more effective? Well, the answer to those burning question is that it’s purely subjective, that parents and prospective parents will ponder myriad factors before deciding on the immediate future of their children where their schooling is concerned.
Opportunities to grow both academically and personally, curricular and extra-curricular facilities, class sizes, reputation of the school, pastoral care and quality of teaching are naturally among the many and varied considerations when choosing a school.
Here at Highfield and Brookham Schools, which offers nursery, pre-prep and prep schooling in glorious grounds of 175 acres close to the rural borders of Hampshire, Surrey and West Sussex, the answer is clear-cut – but don’t just take our schools’ word for it.
Currently teaching, encouraging, supporting and moulding the next generation of society from the ages of two to 13, we recently undertook a parent research project to gauge opinion on various aspects of school life, one of which was whether the schools should extend education provision to older school years beyond its Year 8 cohort.
The answer was a resounding ‘no’, that Highfield and Brookham, the only truly independent, co-educational day and boarding school for miles around, and one which also has a healthy but workable number of international pupils, should retain its current status, something which has made it such an attractive proposition for parents and scholars all over the world.
Many parents cited a need for a change of school in the early teenage years to help prepare the children for life, adding that children can become much less motivated and lose their desire to learn and develop if they stay in one place for too long, whereas a move to a senior school at the age of 13 brings with it a new set of challenges and engages pupils further.
Another popular line firmly backing our approach in terms of age provision was that “children can continue to be children for longer” without the pressures and influences associated with rubbing shoulders with much older children on a daily basis.
And flexibility was another big factor for parents, many of whom pointed out that a school chosen for a four-year-old may not be suitable for them by the time they reach 13, while a potential loss of “uniqueness” and a potential dilution of diversity and skilled teaching also featured strongly.
Mr Evitt, who regularly sees his charges move on to prestigious senior schools such as Eton, Harrow, Marlborough and Wellington, said:
The topic of preparatory schools versus all-through schools will always be well debated and people will always have differing opinions based on their wants and needs, but here at Highfield and Brookham we like to think that we offer a progressive and balanced education to our children, be it academically, on the sports field, or as the citizens of tomorrow. We help them to grow and they help us to grow, giving so much back throughout their time here
And he added: “A word that is often used to describe us is unique, and we feel that offering a first-class education to a slightly smaller set of year groups is part of our uniqueness, and I’m delighted that our educational and pastoral provision is recognised and supported by so many of our parents.”