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when choosing a prep school what aspects should I care most?

(31 Posts)
school89 Tue 12-May-15 22:46:30

Dear mums,

want some opinion form you please.

I am choosing a pre-prep school for my son and wondering what aspects should I look into when comapre the schools?

I am thinking of:

co-edu or boys only? does it matter?
leavers destination?
size of the school?
class size?
religious? (I am not catholic or christian, is it ok for my son to go to religious school)

anything else i should care?

please help here. its really difficult time for me to make decision.

thansk a lot!

MMmomKK Tue 12-May-15 23:08:59

I think people may choose on different criteria. For us - we started by identifying the acceptable distance we were willing to travel with a 4yo. That gave us a list of possible schools.

Within those we were looking for best academics (measured by the leavers destinations). We then visited a short list of schools and tried to get a "feel" of the schools - the head, the facilities, how the kids seemed. We also talked to friends with kids in the schools.

For us it ended up a single sex school, because mixed schools in our area don't have great results. Also, because it fit our child best.

AtomicDog Tue 12-May-15 23:10:46

Depends entirely on your child, and the schools you can get him into.

Artistic Tue 12-May-15 23:24:25

Future destinations

Sports/music/extra curricular activities on offer

Fees (compared to other similar schools) and what it includes

Study the rate of increase in fees in recent years (we dropped a school when we realised they did a 5% increase each year & told us it would continue in the visible future!)

School transport (this was a deal breaker for us)

Feedback from parents who've used the school

From experience I can say that it's quite difficult to compare schools from the outside - as they all aspire to do the same 'great' things. If you were to use 2 schools you'd be able to describe & compare them in a more real manner with facts & experiences. Go with gut feel, affordability & other practical data for now.

Artistic Tue 12-May-15 23:25:04

Future destinations

Sports/music/extra curricular activities on offer

Fees (compared to other similar schools) and what it includes

Study the rate of increase in fees in recent years (we dropped a school when we realised they did a 5% increase each year & told us it would continue in the visible future!)

School transport (this was a deal breaker for us)

Feedback from parents who've used the school

From experience I can say that it's quite difficult to compare schools from the outside - as they all aspire to do the same 'great' things. If you were to use 2 schools you'd be able to describe & compare them in a more real manner with facts & experiences. Go with gut feel, affordability & other practical data for now.

Artistic Tue 12-May-15 23:25:30

Future destinations

Sports/music/extra curricular activities on offer

Fees (compared to other similar schools) and what it includes

Study the rate of increase in fees in recent years (we dropped a school when we realised they did a 5% increase each year & told us it would continue in the visible future!)

School transport (this was a deal breaker for us)

Feedback from parents who've used the school

From experience I can say that it's quite difficult to compare schools from the outside - as they all aspire to do the same 'great' things. If you were to use 2 schools you'd be able to describe & compare them in a more real manner with facts & experiences. Go with gut feel, affordability & other practical data for now.

Artistic Tue 12-May-15 23:26:05

Sorry, don't know why my message has come up 3 times?!

Artistic Tue 12-May-15 23:26:08

Sorry, don't know why my message has come up 3 times?!

mrbrowncanmoo Tue 12-May-15 23:26:11

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

mrbrowncanmoo Tue 12-May-15 23:28:11

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Millymollymama Wed 13-May-15 16:17:42

I tend to agree with most of the above when we looked but I am not a fan of very small class sizes because the pool of possible friends becomes too small. I would also check the financial viability of the school if it looks too small.

Destinations are key regarding the ethos of the school. Are they true prep schools that are preparing for CE at 13+ or are they attempting to be grammar school feeders at 11+. There can be quite a big difference in how these schools operate and who goes to them. So knowing what you want for the future is important. If you want Harrow or Eton, you need to make a choice that prepares for that possibility. These schools are likely to select out later on but will they actually tell you that?

People in country areas travel miles to attend the best schools. London schools are easier to reach. Large fee increases are the norm. Schools never stick to the published rate of inflation because you are always paying for improvements, eg theatre, new pool, sports facilities etc. Prep schools like to keep up with the Jones's on flash facilities! I found it easy to compare schools near me because only one sent children to the best independent senior schools. Some of the others were good schools but parents were not looking for senior boarding schools so their emphasis was different. I would say think about what your long term goal is and plan accordingly . You can, of course, move at 7 if you need to.

AnotherNewt Wed 13-May-15 16:23:48

You look for exactly the same things a you would when choosing any type of school.

Curriculum, ethos, atmosphere.

No league tables, so leavers' destinations are a proxy for that. What subjects, do they set/stream, do they have specialist teachers and when?

Do the children seem happy? What are they like as they move around the school between lessons?

What co-curricular activities are on offer? Which are separately billed?

What is the school run really like? (think, wet Monday peak time)

school89 Wed 13-May-15 20:11:08

Thanks I am wondering is single sex school good for kids? My friend said some of his classmates in high school were from boys school then when they see the girls they were like wolves seeing sheep. Might be exaggerated

school89 Wed 13-May-15 20:12:55

Thanks Artistic. Yes I need to follow my gut feeling then.

school89 Wed 13-May-15 20:17:38

Thanks mrbrowncanmoo.

We are in west London not sure if you know any good school for my DS. I admit it's too late to get any good school now. Might just find any school still available then maybe move to a good private school then.

IWishIWishedLess Wed 13-May-15 20:36:33

I think single sex is fine for children, right up to the end of secondary school. I live in a city with about 25 secondary schools are only 3 are co-ed, and all the kids seem to be able to interact normally with each other! I went to a single sex school year 1-13 and it didn't seem to do me any harm (in fact, academically, I think it was a great help).

It is quite late for admission now but there's still a chance. Do you have a list of schools in your region? Try londonpreprep or the good schools guide. You can always move at 7+ or 8+ so don't worry if you get your second choice pre-prep or a good state school instead. And then put your DS's name down now for the schools you want at year 3 or year 4.

mrbrowncanmoo Wed 13-May-15 21:19:07

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

school89 Thu 14-May-15 11:10:28

Sorry should have given more info.

We are based around Ealing.

My son is 4 now so need to go to reception. We didn't get any state school. So I only started looking into private last month and some good schools are full already.

IWishIWishedLess Fri 15-May-15 23:28:37

I just realised I didn't even answer your questions:

co-edu or boys only? does it matter? Not at pre-prep, in my opinion. I think it can matter from 11/12/13+ but depends on the child for which is better

leavers destination? Very important. Are you looking at comp, grammar, normal independent or public for 7+/8+/11+/13+

size of the school? Can be important. Too small can mean financial instability, too big and your child is just a number.

class size? No bigger than 20 is my preference, no smaller than 8

religious? It's fine for your child to attend a religious school if you're happy with it, but you must accept the school and not openly complain about religious aspects.

I'm not familiar with school around Ealing but do register for wait lists and apply to all the ones you like. You can move school later on (if a space comes up you can even move after a couple of terms).

Good luck in your search!

MakeItACider Sat 16-May-15 06:58:16

We went co-ed, I think for primary school this is quite important.

I was looking for a yr 3 intake, so I had a better idea of my sons quirks. I needed a school that was nurturing, but still had good academics. I chose a non selective one, but their results are on par with selective schools when looking at leaver's destinations. I feel that is because they know how to get the best out of the children.

Ours has small class sizes, but because they have 2 classes per year they mix them up frequently for the different subjects, so DS has a larger pool of boys for friendship.

I also chose one that had a boarding element - including occasional boarding, but wasn't predominantly a boarding school as I didn't want DS to board while young, but wanted him to have the opportunity to try it out on an occasional basis so that we would have a proper idea of whether a boarding school would be suitable as a senior school.

Fridayschild Sat 16-May-15 07:05:44

When you look at the leaver destinations, check what proportion go to boarding school, regardless of whether you have that in mind for your child. DC2 is at a school where quite a lot of the children go on to board, but personally I do not want to send my children to boarding school. It gives me a small pool of other people at the school to compare notes with, means I have to remind the head that we are not interested in all the fabulous schools he thinks my child would love, and means my child will not move to the next school with more than one of his classmates, if any.

Zodlebud Sat 16-May-15 11:04:32

All of the above are great points but honestly the only one that's REALLY important is your gut reaction - does it feel right? I have two friends who were wowed by the sales pitch at a school, the impressive destinations of leavers and academics. They have since moved their children to my daughter's prep and said they didn't know why they didn't just follow their gut reaction from the start.

MakeItACider Sat 16-May-15 14:29:44

So true Zodlebud - I felt so happy looking around the school I chose for my DSs. I knew it was the right one.

Millymollymama Sat 16-May-15 19:07:00

Where I live there are only two prep schools that prepare for 13 plus. One is a boys' school and the other is a girls' school. Nearly everyone from these schools goes boarding at 13 and a handful leave at 11 for the grammar schools. There is only one senior day school for girls near me and one co-ed much further North in the county - 13 plus. Therefore gut reaction is a bit of a problem if you want Harrow or Eton or Oundle or Rugby at 13 because you have no choice of prep school. Where my DD started at independent school, only 2 boys remained in year 6 and they could not field any sports teams at all. The year before that year 6 was 4 children. It was healthy up to 7, but after that class sizes were far too small. 8 is too small as the children could be very bright or SEN and end up having no-one to work with. Is sport important because tiny schools just cannot provide this in a competitive way?

inthename Sun 17-May-15 22:45:56

Check leavers destinations carefully and don't be fooled by the number of scholarships to senior schools, these often equate to a handful of children being offered numerous scholarships rather than an even spread across a year group.

If you are on a bursary or scholarship at a prep school check that by the time they are advising you on senior schools that they actually know that your preferences offer the level of funding you need without expecting you to jump through impossible hoops.

Check the heads track record for getting children into the preferred schools, heads relationships with other schools are key and if you have a lazy head who doesn't have proper connections with senior schools the CE process and moving on becomes a complete nightmare.

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