Tips from a prep school Head: how to choose the right school for your child
- Credit: Archant
Amanda Childs, Head of Ipswich Prep School, shares her insight on prep schools to help you make an informed decision about your child’s education.
Q: How do I choose the best school for my child?
A: It’s important to be broad-minded, consider all options and decide on the school that is ultimately the best place for your child.
As the passionate Head of a prep school, I can think of so many reasons a prep education may be favourable.
Prep schools offer children many opportunities to develop, not just academically, but as well-rounded individuals. Children are equipped with the integral life skills they need to go onto secondary school - and eventually the workplace - confidently.
Although perhaps a ‘bolt-on’ at some schools, co-curricular is embedded in the curriculum at Ipswich Prep. Here, children benefit from an incredibly broad curriculum, where the core subjects are just as important as art, sports, music and languages, for example. We build in time to develop pupils’ imagination, teamwork and creative thinking – vital skills for the workplace of the future.
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Most prep schools will have a robust pastoral care unit. Largely due to small class sizes, every child is seen as an individual and encouraged to be themselves.
Parents and carers are thoroughly involved in school life, with teachers communicating with them regularly to ensure they’re happy and kept up to date.
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When it comes to fees, opportunities for bursaries and scholarships are available to pupils aged eleven and above at Ipswich School, but there are other ways to make it easier. Quite a few of our parents have support from grandparents, for example.
Q: What should I ask at a school tour or open day?
A: Listen to the Head and ask yourself if they sound passionate about the school. They’re going to be steering the ship, so if you don’t buy into them, you’ll always be unsure if this is the best school for your child. Ask questions that will help you further understand the values and goals of the school. If these don’t match up with those within your family, this could also cause problems later down the line.
Talk to as many staff members as possible to find out if they’re happy in their job as this can affect the overall feel of a school. If staff are kept at arm’s length, think ‘why is this?’
It’s imperative to query pastoral care as well – children need to be happy to learn most effectively. Ask about bullying specifically; how do they deal with this? Schools should be able to support children to resolve problems in a mature way. You may even want to question how they manage fussy eaters. Good schools will nurture children and help them expand their palate without making this into a drama for the child.
Do ask questions about the usual child-to-staff ratio; is it what you expect – if not does everything outweigh this negative? Remember, very small class sizes can also be a negative in pastoral situations, so you need a balance. If the class sizes are bigger, what does the school do to mitigate this?
There are no right or wrong questions to ask at an open day – you should ask about what’s most important to you and your child.
Q: Are school visits important?
A: Absolutely – it’s always best to visit a school you’re considering before making your final decision. We held a virtual event this year, where I introduced the school and we held a Q&A with parents and other staff members. You can still view this on our Virtual Open Morning page. We also have an interactive map with various videos to give you a virtual tour of the school.
It’s great to get an initial look, but if you’re interested, we would recommend you contact us to arrange a private visit to the school. Of course, safety measures will be in place, but for those who are particularly concerned, we can offer private virtual tours too.
Find the school at 3 Ivry Street, Ipswich, Suffolk, IP1 3QW