What does the future hold for prep school education?

Posted on 20th Jun 2023 in School News, Prep Schools Guide

Ipswich Prep School staff share their thoughts on what lies ahead.

Looking to make a decision for the next seven or so years of your child’s schooling and weighing up the pros and cons of opting for the independent sector? Ipswich Prep Head, Claire Jackson, believes that challenge and character development are key elements that underpin an outstanding prep education.

A strong academic education is at the heart of every good school and at Ipswich Prep we provide a broad and challenging curriculum to nurture ‘all rounders’.

Nothing stays the same in education, change is the one constant, and ‘if it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you’. This means that we are constantly evolving our curriculum to ensure that parents continue to get the very best value. The only thing that should limit the education at Ipswich Prep is our children’s passion and potential: their passion for learning and interests whether that be coding in Year 2 to Engineering and Global Citizenship in Year 5 in our core curriculum, or ballet, trombone, skiing, and Fives in our extensive co-curricular programme. I am so excited about developing children’s life skills to ensure that they are problem solvers, creative thinkers, communicators, collaborators, independent thinkers, and emotionally resilient young people, who maintain their curiosity and ability to experience awe and wonder.

Rachel Bryanton, Director of Studies, explains how this translates to the classroom.

Lessons are designed to be fun, purposeful, and interesting, encouraging children to ask questions and develop a curiosity about the world in which they live. Cross-curricular links enable children to spot patterns and apply skills they have learnt to different subjects. We place significant importance on developing thinking skills; lessons are planned to facilitate this, using high order questioning to encourage children to look at things from different angles in order to solve problems in different ways. Within all subjects, the curriculum should aim to challenge children, encouraging them to move beyond their comfort zone in a safe and reassuring environment. Scaffolding and support mechanisms ensure that all children experience success and develop confidence and self-belief. 

Claire Jackson sees the increasing value society is placing on Early Childhood development as a further opportunity.

Literacy and numeracy and exceptional teaching in Reception has a long-term impact. The early years of a child’s education are crucial to setting up children for the best success, both in terms of their future academic attainment and their life chances.

Annabelle Ryan, Head of Lower Prep, says that this is all about teaching children to be the best humans they can be.

Outstanding Early Years education is about helping our little ones to make friends, share, become independent, celebrate others’ achievements, work in a group, and take turns. Our classes are small, but not too small – the children have a choice of friends, they will find connections with others and meet friends with different personalities. We have a high adult:child ratio meaning that all children can get involved in everything.

Kate Frankland, Admissions Manager, says that parents too have become more aware of the benefits of an earlier independent education.

Due in part to the after effects of covid we are seeing the “state till eight” ideology being replaced with a stronger appreciation of starting independent education early. There is some fascinating research just published, into the impact of Early Years teaching on Reception aged children and their earning potential in later life. The demographics are changing too. Post covid we saw a shift in urban to rural relocations, which Suffolk very much benefited from, and this trend looks set to continue. With this, of course, brings diversity and Ipswich Prep has an ethnically diverse and inclusive community.

Lucy Southgate, Deputy Head, explains that wellbeing will be a continued focus in the years ahead.

In our ever-changing world we need to keep up to speed with the demands that our young people face in their lives. Ensuring that we have happy children in school is essential to creating the best learning opportunities for them. Demands of the online world are ever increasing so it is imperative that we continue to educate our pupils about staying safe online. We are also focussing on fostering a greater level of independence and critical thinking in our teaching and co-curricular activities to shape our pupils into fantastic problem solvers and resilient individuals.

This article appears in the 2023 edition of John Catt's Preparatory Schools, which you can view here: