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Independent education: the formative years

13th May 2016 | Head's Blog

Independent education: the formative years

With independent school pupils three times more likely to get top grades at A-level than state school pupils, there is little surprise, despite the current economic climate, that numerous parents are continuing to opt to send their children to independent schools. Choosing to send one’s child to an independent school aged 4 or aged 11, however, remains an area for debate. 

Research shows that investment in the earliest years of education has a higher rate of return than any other level of education; it is in the early years that the foundations are laid and, more importantly, attitudes to learning. Instilling positive attitudes to learning in our children is pivotal to their future success.

In 2011, a survey commissioned by the Independent Schools Council found the most common reasons cited by parents who have chosen the independent sector to be; better standards of education; a better start in life; more chances in life; better chances for future careers; better discipline; and higher pupil-teacher ratios.

The benefit of smaller class sizes cannot be underestimated. Small classes coupled with generous pupil staff ratios mean staff can closely monitor each child’s progress and tailor their teaching accordingly. At Wandsworth Prep, our class sizes have been recognised as having considerable impact on not only children’s well-being, confidence and attitudes to learning but also the standards they achieve, giving children the personal attention, encouragement and support they need all serves to maximise their true potential.

Parents who move their child to Wandsworth Prep from the state sector frequently remark upon the comparative speed at which their children progress, not only academically, but socially. Our small and friendly school enables all our staff time to really build strong relationships with each child and their family which, in turn, leads to children feeling safe and secure in our environment. Feeling safe leads to children feeling confident and, feeling confident, leads to children taking greater risks; a mind-set that will, ultimately, impact on success in the workplace.

At Wandsworth Prep, we may have future scientists, artists, sportsmen or linguists in our midst. We see the preparatory years as an opportunity for children to explore their own interests and a time to nurture their individual talent. Our curriculum extends well beyond the classroom and the school day. Our children can learn to code, act, sing, dance and sew; specialist skills that may well see them, one day, become experts in their field.

My experience, both professionally and personally, has been that those children fortunate enough to start their education in an independent school have the advantage of a truly secure base, both emotional and academic, on which to build their future school and working careers. This base is critical.

Bridget Saul - Headteacher