I’m somewhat surprised by the recent articles that indicate the ever-decreasing importance of the Common Entrance exam in deciding where a child will go on to secondary school. These articles imply we will no longer need prep schools at all and that their main benefit to children is to prepare them for their final year examinations – an unjust conclusion in my view.

Here are 10 reasons why I feel we should celebrate the amazing job prep schools do in delivering so much more than just results in Common Entrance exams:

  1. Teaching children how to learn effectively is the bread and butter of a prep school education. Study skills, independent learning, working to deadlines, working under time-pressure, recalling key facts and theories, all make for a solid grounding of both knowledge and skills, to facilitate and develop a passion for more in-depth learning and knowledge at an older age.
  2. Small class sizes in tandem with setting and streaming in many subjects offer the opportunity to stretch those who are capable, whilst offering additional support to those who find certain subjects trickier.
  3. Prep schools identify and celebrate talents in all areas, not just academic results at CE. Looking up the long list of scholarships secured at many prep schools each year in art, drama, D.T, sport and music shows this in abundance.
  4. Prep school focus on reading, vocabulary, grammar and comprehension builds a solid base for success across the whole curriculum later. Not to mention the well-being factor that comes from the ability to relax with a good book.
  5. Prep schools are not just about the exam results of leavers – they build confidence in children by offering a huge range of opportunities outside the classroom, for example on the sports field, drama productions, music concerts and outdoorsy expeditions. They are all about learning crucial life skills such as teamwork, leadership and empathy, through a broad co-curricular programme.
  6. With the exponential increase in senior schools requiring a pre-test process for entry, taken at around age 11, prep schools familiarize children and their parents with these ever-changing expectations. The children almost don’t notice, as it’s within a familiar, nurturing, positive environment. Parents have a reassuring expert to hand-hold both them and their child through what can be a confusing process with every school seeming to have different timings and entry criteria.
  7. With the alternative perhaps being an extension of the pressurized culture surrounding the after school tutoring market, I can’t see how anyone could feel getting rid of prep schools is better for a child’s mental health. No one likes taking exams. However, a well-prepared child, where preparations take place over time within an all-round curriculum, can without doubt approach any tests in a more confident and hence less anxious way.
  8. Children at prep schools can be children for longer, within a school environment solely set up for them.
  9. Prep school children interview well as they have so much to say. They undertake positions of responsibility at a young age, compared with senior schools that start at age 11 and the expectations are high for their contribution within the school community.
  10. We live in a Global world and understanding the culture and customs of those who live overseas will become an ever-important life skill to learn. Prep schools provide an important transitional role for children who are seeking to come into the UK education system from schools overseas. Whether expats who have been working abroad for a time or international families seeking to secure a world-renowned British education for their child, the role played by prep schools in a successful, supportive transition is crucial.