Pre-Prep schools are independent schools educating children until Year 2 (age 7), before they move up to the affiliated prep school in Year 3. Pre-preps offer a smaller, nurturing environment for young learners to thrive. The differences between pre-prep schools and primary schools are very significant, and explored below if you are deciding between the two.
Size and quality of facilities
As Pre-Prep schools are affiliated with Prep schools, this enables sharing the school’s facilities and often involves sharing part of the campus. This gives the younger children access to wonderful facilities and a chance to become familiar with the larger school, so that when it is time to move up, the environment is one which is already known to them.
At Millfield Pre-Prep, we are lucky to share the beautiful 200 acre Somerset campus with Millfield Prep, meaning that the children can use world-class facilities such has the 25 metre swimming pool (where they have swimming lessons every week), sports hall, riding school, pottery workshop, tennis courts, music recital hall, putting green, golf course, and adventure playground, without having to leave the safety and familiarity of the campus.
Specialist staff from both Millfield Prep and Millfield, in fields such as Languages, Music and Sport visit to give the Pre-Prep children classes every week, extending and enriching their learning.
Pathway through school from 2-18
A huge benefit of independent schools which have a Pre-Prep, Prep School and Senior School is that the children experience a consistency in their education from the very beginning.
At Millfield, the transition points between stages of the school are smooth and robust, with the children enjoying visits to their new classrooms and being visited by their new class teachers. Pre-Prep children even go up to Millfield to learn from the subject specialist Senior School teachers, creating a sense of community through the whole school from the youngest child to the oldest.
Children who have lessons with the Learning Development Centre particularly benefit from this consistency. LDC teachers regularly come into the Pre-Prep classrooms to support phonics and numeracy, learn about the children, and give one-to-one lessons based on the children’s needs. This results in children who feel confident in their learning, as teachers have identified how to support them and their learning style from an early age. The children have a self-belief and an understanding that there are many different ways to learn. Because of the seamless transition between Pre-Prep and Prep, their new teachers are fully informed about their strengths and learning style, enabling them to continue their education in the same manner.
Millfield Pre-Prep Year 2 class teacher Amy Denbee says, “Having taught in both state schools and internationally, I have to say that the transition from Millfield Pre-Prep to the Prep School is really exceptional. I think that is based upon both the Year 3 staff being able to come into the Year 2 classroom from as early as Christmas time, so that the children can get to know them, but also the transition days throughout the summer term.”
Outdoor Education and Forest School
Pre-Prep schools tend to have a focus on outdoor education, and at Millfield Pre-Prep we have a specialist Forest School and amazing outdoor areas, allowing children to take their learning outside the classroom.
We are so lucky to be situated in 200 acres of land, just beneath the iconic Glastonbury Tor, with orchards of fruit trees, and a wonderful Forest School supported by the forest school specialists within our teaching staff.
“It’s not bad weather, it’s bad clothing!” says Head of Pre-Prep Mike Jory. “We make sure the children dress for the weather and learn in the great outdoors as often as possible. The children love getting outside all year round”.
The Pre-Prep children can be found daily putting on their wellies and coats and heading to the woods to make pizzas or bread rolls in the outdoor oven, toast marshmallows over the campfire, build shelters, saw wood or collect blackberries to make jam to take home!
Child Led Learning
Independent schools have a great amount of flexibility in their curriculums because they do not have to follow the national curriculum.
At Millfield Pre-Prep, the Pre-School and Reception classes follow the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) curriculum. Learning is led by the children’s interests, which is then woven into the curriculum, covering science, maths and literacy. You can read more about the EYFS and how the children learn in our blog post here.
“The learning is truly immersive and gives the children something that really cannot be replicated by watching a screen”, says Year 2 teacher Amy Denbee, “We want to give them a love of learning, instead of just learning for a test”.
Years 1 and 2 in Key Stage 1 follow the International Primary Curriculum, which is the same curriculum used throughout Millfield Prep. Teachers use the children’s interests to follow the curriculum, with the topics being influenced by the children, making every year exciting and new for both the pupils and teachers!
Topics are enhanced by visitors coming into the school and classes taking trips out, creating a depth and real-life application to their learning. We are lucky to have minibuses to enable us to take learning out into the world, with trips to local sites such as Weston-super-Mare to study the sand sculptures, Barbers Dairy to learn all about how cheese is made and local art exhibitions.
“Our aim is not just to academically educate the children, but also to develop their social, spiritual and emotional development, to create lifelong learners, with independence and a knowledge that they have skills and talents that they can use”, says Head of Pre-Prep Mike Jory.
Wrap Around Care
Wrap around care is a vital resource for busy families, allowing children to stay at school for longer, take part in clubs and activities and eat some of their meals at school.
For us, the day starts with an Early Bird Club at 8.00am with a range of fun activities before school begins for the day. From 3.15pm onwards, the children have a choice of 20 co-curricular clubs to take part in, from trampolining, horse riding and rugby to design technology, dance and golf. Following this, there is a Late Club provision and a Supper Club, with final pick up at 6.00pm.
Connection with families
At Millfield Pre-Prep, we highly value the connection between the school and the children’s families. The relationship with families begins before they start at the school. Teachers interact with parents every day at drop off and pick up, and children love to show their parents around their classrooms and tell them about what they have been learning.
Parents come in around once a month to share their children’s learning and experience the buzz of the school. Throughout the year, families are invited to attend productions and performances such as Nativity, Easter services, Mother’s and Father’s Day services and museum afternoons.
Teachers also use the MarvellousMe app, which allows them to send photos, videos and notes about what their children have been doing that day directly to parents.
According to the Headmasters’ and Headmistress’ Conference, an organisation representing over 300 independent schools in the UK and internationally, 100% of HMC independent schools are partnered with local state schools and their local community.
At Millfield Pre-Prep, every year group takes part in fundraising throughout the school year. Fundraising activities are linked with the children’s learning in the curriculum and the pupils love to come up with their own fundraising ideas. After meeting a representative from Guide Dogs, for example, the Year 2 class decided to bake their own dog biscuits to sell, to raise money for the charity.
The school also takes part in national and international events, such as Children in Need Day and Odd Socks Day. The children have classes and assemblies aimed at helping them to understand what they are doing on these days and the importance of doing it.
School Chaplain Reverend Kitto works across Millfield Prep and Pre-Prep, with her chaplaincy wellbeing dog Sir Nigel, and regularly leads services, such as Remembrance Day and Christingle, and assemblies on special occasions such as Children’s Mental Health Week.
Find out more about Millfield Pre-Prep and the value of pre-prep education in our podcast here.