This is an age-old question. With many London-based Prep Schools and primary schools ending in Year 6 and independent senior schools starting in Year 9, parents face the challenge of where to place their child for those intermediary two years.
In this article, we explore the advantages of having your child attend a Prep school that finishes at Year 8 before sending them to senior school.
A strong foundation for senior school life
As the eponymous name suggests, prep schools prepare pupils for senior school life in all respects, from learning and independent study, to boarding school life. Preserving the pupil’s childhood until they reach their teens is an essential aspect of a prep school education and at Millfield Prep, we are passionate that children should remain in a nurturing environment until the end of Year 8. As experts for teaching up to age 13, Year 7 and 8 children are their teacher and coaches’ main priority, with their focus on ensuring the pupils move up to the senior school of their choosing. Development of study skills both communally and independently are established within the children from a young age with prep introduced in the evenings. Pupils in Years 7 and 8 are bedded into the multifaceted aspect of senior school through the introduction of various responsibilities, being called upon to give prospective families tours and mentoring younger years, to having more freedom to manage their time, learning and hobbies.
Allowing our children to stay young longer
For many young children, transitioning to a secondary school aged 11 is one of the most daunting events they’ll face. By educating our children in Prep schools until they’re 13, we allow them to stay that bit younger for longer and secure without the influence of other teenagers. There is a big difference in size, development, knowledge, confidence and maturity between 11 and 13 year olds. It is also the start of developing into a teenager and all that brings. At Millfield Prep, children who remain with us until the end of Year 8 benefit from experiencing a big campus but within a smaller school setting as well as teachers who are specialised in dealing with this age group. This gradual step allows our pupils to familiarise themselves with the expectation of senior school life, the busyness that comes with being a student at a senior school in Year 9 and introduces them to leadership opportunities by being role models to the school. The transition is made even smoother by the pupils learning a curriculum that seamlessly runs into Year 9. Keeping them younger for longer removes any unnecessary jumps in environment, curriculum and expectation.
Experiencing boarding life
Some children are natural boarders and others may think they could never live away from home. By starting them young with boarding anytime between the age of 7 and 13, boarders are gently eased into new routine and surroundings in smaller boarding houses than that of a senior school. At Millfield Prep, children are cared for and nurtured in a more child friendly environment before they become more independent at senior school with increased responsibilities and surrounded by older students. Children are able to fully immerse themselves in the boarding programme, are fully prepared and know what to expect before becoming a boarder in Year 9.
A relaxed enrolment to senior schools
Independent establishments that have both a prep and senior school work closely across both schools to ensure a seamless transition from Year 8 to Year 9. Last year, 97% of Millfield Prep pupils moved up to the Senior school. With no pressure on sitting entry exams and being under the same school umbrella, each child’s academic and pastoral needs are passed on instantaneously, allowing pupils to immerse themselves in enjoying and getting used to a new school. They will also have met many senior school teachers and staff through whole school activities and events. Having spent two years preparing for this step up, Year 9 life can start in a less daunting manner than taking the known leap from primary or a London prep school to secondary school after Year 6. Year 9 students very quickly prepare to start their GCSE courses in Year 10, excited for the new challenge.
Recognising potential, passion and talent
Before being thrown into a new school and having to build relationships with new class teachers, peers, and coaches, being educated at a Prep school up to age 13 allows teachers and coaches to recognise and nurture talent. Some children know from a very young age where their passion lies and here at Millfield Prep, we support them to achieve their goals be it through one-to-one coaching sessions, entry into competitions or independent study. However, we understand that some children arrive at school not knowing what they want to do in the future. We use the last two years of Prep school to dig deep into the children’s passions and encourage them to explore the multitude of opportunities on offer to them so that, going into Year 9, they have a clearer understanding of what they want to focus on at senior school. By recognising talent from an early age, we can tailor the pupils’ co-curricular programme to suit their preferred activities and introduce them to key staff at senior school which will excite them before starting their next school journey.
Educating children at prep schools until Year 8 is a fantastic way to develop the pupils’ understanding of responsibility, independence and for them to explore their passion before pursing their interests at senior school. By giving them an extra two years, our children can stay younger for longer whilst gently preparing and easing them into a senior school environment.
To find out more about life at Millfield Prep School, sign up to our next Millfield Prep Live! Open Event from Saturday 1 May – 8 May here.