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☰ To Prep, or not to Prep: That is the Question

Head's Blog

To Prep, or not to Prep: That is the Question

Posted on October 09 2018

I recently met up with some friends of mine visiting the UK for a short while, before returning to what they refer to as their new home, Australia. I have to admit, I was quite envious talking with them about the weather and outdoor benefits that the entire family enjoys on the other side of the world, particularly as it was a cold damp Manchester evening and myself and my wife had just had the usual ‘Do we put the heating on yet?’ debate.

However, for all the joyous experiences my friends were happy to boast about, there was one thing that they missed from the UK - schools. Not that schools in Australia are not any good, or that their children were not enjoying themselves, it was just that they felt the education experienced before the move was so much better within the UK. That was when the conversation turned to them questioning me, rather than me questioning them.

You see, my friends were considering paying for an independent school on their return to Australia, but wanted some advice. ‘What exactly is a Prep School?’ one of them asked me. And so, I was able to talk about the UK, and particularly Trafford, Prep Schools with them and the many benefits that they provide for pupils. Traditionally, a Prep School prepares pupils for an examination, the 11+ or common entrance for entry into various senior schools, most notably grammar schools.

At Forest Park, our record with these entrance examinations is outstanding, never achieving fewer than 70% passing for a grammar school, with last year 90% achieving that accolade. However, we are a school with more about us than just passing exams. We prepare children for the next phase of their education and life itself. It would diminish a child’s opportunities if we were to educate them purely for a single set of examinations, meaning they are not adequately prepared or suited to the school that they transition to. At Forest Park, we find the school that best suits the needs of the child, rather than try to make the child fit into a particular school.

The advent of the National Curriculum, especially the revised version, has been to raise standards in state-maintained primary schools. Rather like the 11+, end of school academic examinations (Year 6 SATs) can be an end in themselves and dominate the life of a school, therefore falling into a much-narrowed curriculum and over emphasis on such tests. Ofsted inspections and league tables of state maintained schools leads to a higher level of focus upon these tests. My experience of working within the state sector saw this type of teaching slowly increase year on year, which was to the detriment of the pupils’ progression and development. It was one of the reasons why I left the state sector for an independent school.

At Forest Park, we pursue our own agendas and have greater autonomy to tailor what we teach to meet the individual needs of our pupils. There are two fundamental reasons why we can achieve this; firstly, Forest Park benefits from smaller classes, so across the school, the level of staffing affords a range of opportunities that cannot be sustained in a primary school. Secondly, ethos and aspiration. Forest Park isn’t tied to a narrow set of outcomes so we can create a broad and enriching curriculum alongside a timetable and range of opportunities which reaches out to every child in the entire school. No one is left out or left behind, therefore, every child achieves.

Many parents, particularly within Trafford, will be discerning about local schools and the conundrum between a good Primary School and a good Prep School is tricky. The early years of the life of any child are so formative. The investment in a Prep School is often rewarded in the broader development of the child and provides greater confidence in their ability to create better opportunities in their next school. A Prep School like ours supports children in the development of their character to enrich their lives now and in the future, developing resilience, curiosity, kindness, respect and the full range of aspects which improves us as human beings.

At Forest Park, we nurture, we excel and we aspire!

Nick Tucker

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