THERE ARE A RANGE OF PRE-PREP OPTIONS TO CHOOSE FROM EXPLAINS Sebastian Hepher, HEADMASTER OF EATON SQUARE SCHOOL
The debate over whether our children should follow an independent preparatory education or go to the local primary school is nothing new. It will, no doubt continue for as long as there are the two options available.
What is less discussed, however, is whether to send your children to a standalone pre-pep after their nursery years, or wait until they are eight years old before joining the prep system or choose a pre-pep that is affiliated to a prep school, where the transition is regarded as more “seamless”.
WHAT IS A PRE-PREP SCHOOL?
Pre -preps traditionally begin in Reception at four years old, and usually run until the end of Year Three when they all leave to join the next stage: prep school. However, advent of the Seven Plus in recent years has shortened the pre-prep experience for some still even further. In pre-prep, pupils often follow an accelerated curriculum where they are put through their paces earlier. At the end of the process all the pupils must move on, either to a new school or to Year Four in the same institution.
Here lies the quandary. Should parents look to a stand alone pre-pep for their child or one that is part of a prep school, which runs until the pupils are 11(mainly for girls) or 13 years old?
TAKE TIME TO UNDERSTAND YOUR CHILD TO FIND WHICH STYLE OF PRE-PREP WILL SUIT
WHAT SUITS YOUR CHILD?
There are many factors to consider. Not all pupils are suited to a pre-pep system that relies on exam- based exit when the children are eight. Many are, quite simply, not ready yet. The pace of curriculum and expectation is inappropriate for some and may leave a child with dented confidence and loss of self- belief, with parents frantically searching for a place in late January. These impressions are often indelibly etched into the pupil’s psyche, which is a high price to pay if there are alternatives. And yet, it must be acknowledged, the more mature and able pupils thrive and feed off the advanced programme of study and they, therefore gain entry into highly academic schools. For these boys and girls the experience is invaluable.
A pre-prep that is part of a larger school, however, offers something very different. The curriculum tends to move at a rate that neatly ties into that of the senior school, and therefore is usually more steadily paced with the end goal much further away. The principal benefit of this system is that all pupils can move through the ranks as their ability dictates. Where there is also a nursery in a school, the advantages of a longer association with the same institution allows for the needs of the individual to be met.
A UNIQUE EXPERIENCE
A pre-pep, irrespective of which is chosen, provides a unique experience, which should bring much to each pupil. However, parents need to take the time to understand their children and assess which style of pre-pep will suit them. They should not be swayed by name of pedigree, but rather influenced by a child’s needs, information provided by the current nursery and, of course, their own impressions. When a measured decision is reached, a successful, happy pre-pep experience will follow.