Mind the gap

Posted on 21st May 2024 in Prep Schools Guide

Suzannah Cryer, Head of Highfield and Brookham School, explains why joining a prep school in Year 7 could be the perfect fit for your child.

Fill the space at a country Prep School

London parents know all too well the huge burden that is securing a place at a top Senior School. Social pressure, admissions deadlines and piles of school prospectuses not to mention the anxiety around pre-tests and interviews can be overwhelming. It is a demanding and time-pressured situation often without the option of being able to stop and consider if the conveyer belt your child is on is best for them. And breathe. We want to reassure parents there is choice out there and these looming deadlines are not the be all and end all. The option of a Prep School for Years 7 and 8 is appealing to more parents as they search for the right option, not the right now.

Parents choose a Prep School at Year 7 for a multitude of reasons. In recent years, at Highfield and Brookham, especially post-pandemic, we have seen three shared motivations amongst the London parents who are looking to bridge the gap between primary and secondary education.

On top of the world

Parents who have already secured their child’s Senior School place look to Prep Schools to enrich their children’s lives for two years in a comparatively safe space to their current school. From age 11 to 13 boys and girls go through a vast amount of changes: socially, hormonally and emotionally. To experience these changes in the secure environment at the top of a Prep School without the influence of much older peers is invaluable. We help prolong childhood, it’s such a cherished time, so why rush it?

Children who have chosen the boarding route benefit hugely from boarding at a Prep School first. Being the big kid in the boarding house helps with the transition of staying away from home and allows children to get used to the routine and demands of boarding with peers their own age.

Joining Highfield and Brookham in its penultimate year has the additional benefit of gaining roles of responsibility almost immediately rather than potentially waiting for them in the latter years at a Senior School. Our Year 8 pupils wear their badges with pride: Peer Listener, School Councillor and Head of School. The sense of leadership and responsibility leaves them feeling on top of the world or at very least on top of their world at Highfield and Brookham.

Fill the curriculum void

Moving straight from Year 6 to senior school results in bouncing from one set of exams to the next. Pre-tests will barely be behind you before GCSEs appear on the horizon. Parents choose Years 7 and 8 at Prep School to give their children something different from an exam-based curriculum.

At Highfield and Brookham we have moved away from the restrictive nature of the Common Entrance syllabus and are packing the children’s last two years with an enviable education. Filling the void with a rich and dynamic programme. Our bespoke curriculum for Year 7 and 8 is centred on the four Cs: communication, critical-thinking, collaboration and creativity. These essential skills will equip your children for Senior School but more importantly life beyond formal education. We will teach your children to adapt for the future world we can’t yet envisage.

Grab a second chance

Year 6 runs high on emotions while children wait to hear from their chosen Senior Schools. Most of the time the prevailing emotion is joy. However, for a handful of children they hear the heart-breaking news that they have missed out on their first choice, or even second choice school. At this point parents look towards Prep Schools who are extremely experienced in helping children in Year 7 secure a Senior School place. These may be children who have not been successful in their pre-tests or been advised to re-sit them in Year 7.

Children move on from Highfield and Brookham to approximately 30 different Senior Schools and our Head, Suzannah Cryer, has a personal relationship with all of them. She is remarkable at getting to know every child’s unique personalities and what school might best suit them. She is also exceptional at showing this to the Senior Schools so they too can see why this child is a perfect match for them. So just because one door has closed at the end of Year 6 does not mean another door cannot open just one year later. Or indeed, sometimes the very same door!

On average ten new children are welcomed into Year 7 at Highfield and Brookham each academic year, around a sixth of the year group. These children experience a Prep School education for a magical couple of years before successfully moving on to one of their chosen Senior Schools. Among the top destinations are Marlborough College, Canford School, Cranleigh School, Wellington College, Eton College, Bryanston School and Winchester College.

So why wait on the platform for the delayed train to Senior School? Leap off the platform and into the first-class carriage to arrive at a Prep School bang on time.

Mind the gap. What gap?

This article appears in the 2024 edition of John Catt's Preparatory Schools, which you can view here: