How to choose a Primary or Prep School
Early Year’s education builds a vital foundation for a child’s future success, both inside and outside of school. At St Clare’s School, Bridgend County’s only independent school for children aged 2 1/2 – 18 years, our pupils learn the skills of reading, writing and maths, as well as how to explore, socialise, be creative and gain an understanding about the world around them.
With the COVID-19 pandemic significantly impacting the progress of our youngest children (Read the Juniper Education Report Feb 2021 here), choosing the right school for your child has never been more important. So, what should parents be thinking about or looking into during these unusual times to ensure they have the best start?
Mrs Layland, our Head of Prep, has a few top tips to help make a hard decision a little easier.
Do Your Research
Looking for the right school can be overwhelming from website searching, listening to other parents, reading inspection reports and looking at academic results. Whereas no school should be judged entirely on their results, it is a great place to start to see the academic achievement of the children, especially if a school publishes their results in comparison to National Averages. Here are St Clare’s School’s results.
Have a look also at a school’s Aims and Ethos before getting in touch with the school. Does it match what you hope for your child? When contacting the school, listen to answers carefully to see if it matches what they write on their website; click here to read St Clare’s School’s mission and vision statements.
At St Clare’s School, our vibrant community, with its smaller class sizes and excellent teaching, encourages each child to develop a love of learning, achieve their full potential and nurtures their wellbeing. A combination of our broad and rich curriculum, excellence in Digital Literacy and online education, comprehensive enrichment programme and specialist teaching, ensures our provision builds a strong foundation for your child’s Senior School years.
One of our Prep School parents commented, “The school culture is very warm, polite and welcoming. Pupils appear to have a great deal of respect for each other and their teachers. All members of staff are valued – irrespective of role or responsibility. I feel confident that when I drop my son to school he will be safe, learn and adhere to good values, and will enjoy his time at school.”
How has the School Managed Lockdown Learning and How Will They Catch Up?
How a school transitioned to remote learning can tell a lot about the school’s vision and ability to adapt to changing circumstances. Look also at the provision that was offered to support the children’s wellbeing and enrichment activities provided beyond the curriculum.
At St Clare’s School, all pupils in Year 3 to Year 13 received their own HP ProBook X360 laptop for schoolwork. This created a seamless transition for pupils during all circumstances.
At St Clare’s School, lockdown did not slow down pupil progress in their learning. We did not see it as a barrier but as an opportunity to be creative with our teaching. From day one, we embraced the digital world of teaching and ensured that our pupils followed the full curriculum, including specialist lessons in Science, Art, PE, Spanish, and Music, as well as Mathematics and English. Pupils were also invited to participate in online enrichment activities and enter School, local and National competitions to deepen their understanding of a subject.
One of our Prep School parents commented, “The school goes above and beyond to provide an excellent school experience for its pupils, especially over the last 12 months.”
On our return to school, individual assessments and personalised learning plans ensure that our pupils still achieve their full potential, and meet or exceed age related progress, skills and expectations.
The wellbeing of our pupils and families is a top priority at St Clare’s School as a happy child is a motivated and successful learner. During lockdown, pupils started each day with a relaxed and informal form time with their friends and teacher and were also invited for weekly well-being check-ins. Parents’ evenings were run virtually.
Another of our Prep School parents commented: “Commitment to optimising teaching provision. Never missed a beat sums it up.”
Meet the Headteacher and the Head of Prep
A good Headteacher will see meeting with parents as a vital part of the decision-making process and will meet with every parent and pupil. They will be able to communicate the vision and fundamental principles of their school and love to celebrate the school’s achievements.
At St Clare’s School, all parents are offered the opportunity to virtually meet with the Headteacher, Mrs Hier, prior to accepting a place at the School. Our Head of Prep, Mrs Layland, is also available to meet virtually or socially distanced for face-to-face questions.
One of our Prep School parents commented, “The leadership is excellent. All are very warm and accessible.”
How do they Deliver the Curriculum?
In Reception classes, children are involved in developing the themes and subjects for their curriculum through our child-led approach. As children learn about subjects they are genuinely interested in, they are more engaged and retain their learning. This style of teaching also creates confidence in children and a genuine love of learning.
When children move from Reception into Year 1, they are confident learners who are well equipped to start the Prep School curriculum of length and breadth, with a continued emphasis on creativity, questioning and independent thinking.
Do they offer “Specialist Teaching”?
Early Years teachers are wonderful at bringing learning to life but imagine if your child had specialist teachers in PE, Music, Ballet, Spanish and LAMDA from their first day. This specialist teaching accelerates learning and enables children to exceed in their Early Learning Goals. At St Clare’s School, all pupils in Reception have access to specialist subjects in a wide range of areas so they can explore all their talents and connect with the global and creative world around them.
Is Outdoor Learning Important?
Outdoor learning is vital for children to both encourage an active lifestyle and to develop their communication and problem-solving skills. It enables them to make sense of the world and develop an understanding of how things work. Ask how much time your child will get to explore the outdoor world? What do they learn?
At St Clare’s School not only do all Prep School children enjoy time to play outside in our eleven acres of magnificent grounds, but children also enjoy outdoor learning using natural resources to supplement learning in Mathematics, Science or English. So, whatever the weather, our children can be found outside jumping, skipping, digging for minibeasts, building dens, making music, reading or sitting and listening to stories!
Does the School Inspire a Love of Reading?
Reading is a vital part of the foundation of learning and a main enabler to a successful education. Reading underpins every subject and successful learners will be excited to read. They will want to share stories, poems and rhymes, creating a rich language base and developing their communication skills.
At St Clare’s School our small class sizes allow us to spend quality time with every child daily, listening to them read and encouraging them to explore different texts and develop comprehension skills. This time allows us to develop a deeper understanding of their individual needs so we can support and stretch each individual learner. Our successful reading programme has meant that by the end of Year 6, many children have a reading of 14 years.
Does the School Provide Clubs and Wraparound Care to Fit Your Family’s Needs?
Whilst not the be-all and end-all, for many parents who commute or work long hours, early drop-off and After School Club is a vital part of the package. Look at what a school offers and the flexibility of the offering. Ask what they will be doing during that time? Are there any extra-curricular clubs after school where they can develop new skills, explore and socialise?
At St Clare’s School, the school day extends well beyond the first and last lessons of the day with early drop-off offered from 8:00am and After School Club until 5:30 pm. You can find children happily playing indoor or outdoor games, drawing and chatting with friends or doing their homework. Afternoon snacks are provided at After School Club to help our busy working parents. There is also a range of free extra-curricular clubs that run until 4:00 or 4:15pm.
Does the School Promote Healthy Eating?
School meals have been in the media spotlight over the last few years, so make sure that your schools have a holistic view of healthy eating and talk to the children openly about the importance of making healthy choices, encouraging the confidence to try new things and develop excellent table manners.
At St Clare’s School we are lucky to have Thomas Franks as our in-house caterers. They pride themselves on freshly cooked, nutritious food, procured from local suppliers. We offer a variety of meat and vegetarian options for lunch, with fruit, yogurt, or low sugar cakes for dessert.
Can you see yourself as part of the community?
A big part of school life is about making friends – for your child and yourself. Do you see your family as part of the community? Does the school encourage parental involvement? What opportunities are there for you to get involved in the school?
At St Clare’s School, our small close-knit inclusive community ensures that all our pupils and parents feel welcome. Parents are invited into the School to see their children’s work at Parents’ Evenings and to learn more about how they can support their child’s learning journey during parent engagement evenings and parents’ evenings. Parents are also invited to attend sports days, productions, concerts or to talk to the children about their lives.
Lockdown may have made holding events more challenging however, we have embraced the digital world and it has not stopped these events from happening with Christmas concerts and parents evenings all taking place virtually.
The right Early Years education allows the building of a bright future for your child. Lockdown or no lockdown this education should still be of high quality, seamless into a digital world and most important of all it should allow your child to continue in their development.
We regularly hold open days and taster sessions (subject to current guidance) so if you would like to learn more about our Reception Early Years provision, please register your interest by completing our online form here or call our Admissions Registrar, Holly Fowlkes, on 01656 78966.
If you would like to tour our Reception and Prep School, please register your interest by clicking here and our Admissions Registrar, Holly Fowlkes, will contact you to arrange an appointment for a socially distanced private tour out-of hours. Alternatively, you can call 01656 789966. (Please note that private tours are subject to government guidance).
We are holding a Virtual Open Morning for parents on Friday 16 April at 9:15am for parents who are interested in all areas of our school: Nursery, Prep and our top-performing Senior School and Sixth Form. Please book your place by clicking here and our Admissions Registrar, Holly Fowlkes, will contact you and send you the Teams meeting link.
We are also holding a Virtual Information Session on Thursday 22 April at 3:45pm specifically for parents who would like to discover more about our Reception class. To find out more and book your space, please call us on 01656 789966.
Read more about our Prep School click here.