Step Up To Prep
Step Up to Prep – The Benefits of a Single-Sex Education
Huw May of Eaton House Belgravia explains the benefits of opting for a single-sex Prep school education.
Single sex or co-ed? This is one of the most important decisions when choosing a prep school for your child. Contrary to the opinion of some critics, single-sex schools tend to break down, rather than reinforce, stereotypes, since boys no longer feel the pressure to take on what are traditionally perceived as ‘masculine’ subjects or activities.
It is easy to say that this is nature over nurture, but we recommend that, if you’re looking for a boys’ school, you opt for one that favours active learning, as it engages the boys and helps them to fulfil their maximum potential.
Here is just a selection of things parents should bear in mind when choosing a school for their child.
Support the culture
The culture of a school is something that you ‘feel’ when you walk into it. For starters, ask yourself if it feels traditional or modern, go-ahead or technologically lacking, cold or warm and stuffy. Are the class sizes small enough for your son to get the attention he deserves?
Try to discern if there is something unique and even visionary about the school spirit. If not, it’s just not good enough.
Assess the front desk staff, the form teachers, house masters and mistresses, sports teachers, even the caterers, never forgetting that an army marches on its stomach!
Look at the pupils as they go about their business and see if they seem relaxed and happy. Talk to other parents. See if there is a culture of events beyond the classroom, which could include talks or even charity balls for parents.
All of these elements collectively elevate a school into a community.
Then turn your attention to the Head. If you cannot imagine chatting to him or her informally, that is a red flag. Will your son be encouraged, championed and – this is crucial – noticed?
Ask yourself what your son needs in a pastoral sense and whether that is provided. Is the Head a good leader? Does he or she inspire teachers to do more every day to make the boys happier, kinder and more open to learning? Are they experienced enough to deal with a quirky boy or one who needs a bit of extra support? Do they have a firm grip on the whole school, ensuring that pupils have a mutual respect for fellow pupils and teachers?
Insist on flexibility
The London school system can be pressurising for boys, with examinations at 7+, 8+ and 11+ for the top schools and, controversially, selective entrance at age four for some schools.
At Eaton House Belgravia, we feel that any form of preselection at 4+ can never predict the real patterning of examination results, and we firmly maintain that children blossom at different rates educationally.
Some boys are better off sitting 11+ examinations, while others hit the ground running and are exam-ready at age seven or eight.
This is one of the reasons why we opened our prep school in September 2017. Last year, 40 per cent of Eaton House Belgravia Pre-Prep students secured offers to Westminster and St Paul’s at 7+ and 8+, as well as to many other fine schools.
Other boys, however, take a little longer to mature. The outcome in terms of senior school choice is often the same at 7+ and 11+, and the wellbeing of the child should be the determining factor. Individual learning plans help to focus choices and timings.
My advice to parents is to look at the flexibility of entrance options for any school. There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach. For those who join us at eight, there is an entry test that takes account of potential, previous academic training, whether the candidate is English or has relocated from abroad, and other factors.
It is an entirely friendly process, and if we can bring candidates up to speed through entry, we will do so.
Evaluate the added value
Boys have to pass their exams, but they have to have fun and develop interests outside the core curriculum too.
Drama, music, art, trips and clubs are vital, and it’s important to assess the quality of
extracurricular activities at a particular school and how often they change; after all, boys need variety.
Take a leap of faith
Take a leap of faith. At the end of the day, it is the relationship between you, your son and the prep school that matters most of all.
This article was first published in Little London magazine, spring 2019, www.littlelondonmagazine.co.uk