Perfect Prep – 5 things to look for when choosing a first school
Time to choose that all important first school already? Gulp! Muddy called in a local Head of Prep for some helpful hints on things to ask and consider.
There’s no doubt about it, your child’s first steps into school will be emotional. But what looks like a great choice in principle might, in reality, not end up being the right one for your family.
Need a little steer? Here’s Sheina Wright, Head of Prep at Embley, near Romsey, with some top tips.
Sheina, it’s over to you…
Tip one: Listen to your instincts
Choosing a school for your child can feel quite overwhelming. It can be the first decision you make where other adults not only have an impact on your child but begin to shape the person they become. With this in mind, instinct is really important. In the same way you get ‘that feeling’ when you are buying a house the same is to be said when choosing a school.
Get a feel for the buzz it has. Are the children happy and engaged? Do the classrooms feel purposeful – whether that’s quiet and calm or bouncy and exciting. What are the adults like? Do they create a happy buzz. Talk to the Head about the school’s central philosophies and plans for the future. Does this align with your belief in the type of education you want for your child?
Tip two: Making sure wellbeing is a priority
Pastoral care, the provision a school makes to ensure the physical and emotional welfare of pupils, should be outstanding – so it’s important to ask about this. Children thrive in a happy environment where they forge firm friendships and teachers should know their children well.
Tip three: What does the curriculum cover?
A really good Prep should offer quality provision, breadth and choice. First and foremost, core English, Maths and Science teaching should prioritise progress, acquisition of skills and the building of sequenced knowledge over time. The rest of the curriculum beyond the core should include a rich and varied co-curricular program.
On the daily timetable, a Prep curriculum should set your child up for their own future, not just follow the standard traditional curriculum.
Does Science go beyond the day to day and include ecology and natural sciences? Is there provision which equips your child with technological knowledge and a grasp of computer science? Is the art curriculum deep rooted in the exploration and modelling of artists and their styles as well as use of tools? Does the school teach design and technology and value STEM?
Tip Four: Consider the co-curricular offer too
A co-curricular program is vital to your child’s early education. This is the opportunity for your child to try new things, to grasp opportunity, to take risks, develop confidence and sharpen their skills and talents. The impact of this element of Prep education should not be underestimated. When children develop confidence in these areas it will encourage them to take that confidence and passion into the classroom.
Development of confidence and character are a big part of a Prep Education and your child’s personal development. Find out all about the co-curricular offer. Is there variety? Are sport, creativity and academic clubs valued? Is there choice for younger children too?
Tip Five: Family matters
Think about your family and logistics. Are you looking for a school which will suit more than one of your children? Do consider the geography of your decision. Is there additional transport provision for your area such as school minibuses which will help you as a family to co-ordinate work and school. Does the length of the school day and extra provision work for your timings?
Ultimately, we all want to prioritise our children’s happiness and give them the space and opportunity to develop their full potential. A good school will share that goal.