Customisable educational care – a new concept in schooling

Posted on 6th Dec 2018 in School News, Which School?, Extended care

Su Smith, Director of Admissions at St. Helen’s College Prep, thinks a new blueprint for educational care may be needed...

More and more, parents ask us from their very first visit about extended care options. While their son or daughter is a babe in arms, they are keen to ensure that he or she will be not just educated by their school during traditional school hours, but cared for at a high level and with real integrity and intent during extended hours. Parents want to offer their children every opportunity to take part in the myriad of extra-curricular clubs, activities and sports now available and to ensure that homework is completed on time and to a good standard. However, today’s savvy parents also want to avoid the terrible trio of traps of modern parenting: helicopter-parenting, over-scheduling children to the extent that dinner becomes a packed tea in the car between activities, and reducing parents’ time with their children to stressful, snatched time rather than pre-planned quality time to share values, conversation and love away from the pressures of modern life.

However, modern parents don’t necessarily want to pack their son or daughter off to board. Most prospective parents we meet are both working professionals who love their children dearly and want to spend as much time with them as they can; with busy working lives, they recognise their family’s limitations and, as seasoned consumers, they are grateful to hear that we offer a customisable educational ‘product’ that works for them.

Here at St. Helen’s College we offer a totally flexible package which could perhaps be seen as ‘boarding without the boarding’. We have Breakfast Club from 7.30 each morning, extended care until 6pm each evening and care available also from 7.30am to 6pm throughout the school holidays, with the exception of bank holidays and a short break at Christmas. So we really do offer marvellous hours of care for busy working parents. But what is really special is that, while some other schools offer after school clubs either off site or on site but run by external companies, all of this care is provided here, at school, by the St. Helen’s College staff. This means that the school’s core values and expectations run through everything the children do, in both work and play, whether they are in a classroom of their immediate peers or taking part in after school club or holiday camps.

The core St. Helen’s College values are family values: love, harmony and growth. We believe that children learn best when they feel loved, secure and happy. We want children to feel this way when they are eating breakfast, when they are in lessons (whether indoors or enjoying outdoor learning in our beautiful homely grounds), and after school either while taking part in exciting activities or enjoying ‘down-time’ with friends.

At our after school club, children may choose to play freely indoors or outdoors or to take part in adult-led activities. Older children have supervised prep where they can complete their homework, and (after a full two or three course hot lunch service) a light, healthy tea is served to all. This means that when busy parents pick their children up at the end of the day, each family really can have some quality time together talking about their days, eating, reading, watching TV or Facetiming friends and family abroad without the stresses of homework, playdates or endless ferrying to after school activities.

Indeed, St. Helen’s College offers a quite remarkable co-curricular programme of 70+ clubs ‘in house’, including yoga, taekwondo, arts, crafts, drama, golf, rugby, musical ensembles, choirs and so much more. So parents do not need to source clubs and activities outside of school; they do not need to ‘keep up with the Joneses’, driving children from drama schools to language classes to football coaching. High quality provision in so many areas is available on the school site or nearby, run by school staff, and children can have a go at many things without any associated stress for parents. Parents and pupils make their selections from a co-curricular programme each term, knowing that all those providing clubs/education/care have gone through full school vetting checks and that the school ‘quality assures’ the provision it offers in all areas. In this way, pupils can discover and develop talents and interests during their extended hours, in familiar, friendly surroundings and without the need to drive from place to place polluting the environment!

The children’s personal development, academic and co-curricular interests and talents are at the heart of everything the school does. Staff and children embody family values and the school really does provide a ‘home from home’ for the children. A unique and very special relationship of trust exists between school and home. Parents are grateful for the help the school gives them, and enjoy knowing that their children are safe, well-educated and exposed to the widest possible range of challenging and enjoyable activities. They also express thanks that, through extended care and co-curricular opportunities, children are able to develop friendships with other pupils from across the school and not just their own year group – which all adds to the happy, family atmosphere of the school. Inspectors called St. Helen’s College a ‘haven of harmony’ and there is no doubt that the ‘family care’ aspect plays a big role in the harmonious atmosphere around the school.

Perhaps this really is a blueprint for the future: a prep school where before and after school care and year-round holiday care provision is quality-assured, fully flexible and available to all on a ‘when needed’ basis without the high cost of boarding.