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17 January 2023

Head of Prep's Blog: 'Flourish in a Small School'

Head of Preps Blog: Flourish in Small School

As our Spring Term begins we have welcomed new starters into our Early Years to begin their educational journey. Indeed every set of parents who I have taken on a tour of our school this academic year have subsequently sent their children to St. Francis’ Prep. So many comment on the lovely ‘feel’ of the school, even when there are no children to be seen! It is clear the small but homely atmosphere is something parents recognise as appealing. As Head of Prep my weekly newsletter to parents consists of endless photographs of the children in various engaging activities across the curriculum.

One of the main reasons parents choose independent education, and St. Francis’ Prep specifically, is the small class sizes, and this clearly has a multitude of benefits, which is evidenced in research stating that “children in small classes perform significantly better than pupils in regular sized classes.”

Now in my fifth term as Head at St. Francis’ Prep the feedback from parents who have joined us recently expresses how their children have been able to both have, and find, their voice and flourish in our nurturing setting, whilst also being supported and challenged. It is clear increased individual attention gives children more opportunities to participate and have increased feedback, resulting in enhanced learning and better results. This though still requires proactive and dynamic staff who really get to know everything about each individual, drilling down to their specific needs and learning styles, which helps us build outstanding relationships and learning opportunities for all children. So whilst the small classes are clearly beneficial, it is what we do with them that is the most important factor.

Our staff ensure that no one is allowed to ‘coast’, and for those times when a child has a misconception, this can be immediately picked up and dealt with. However, when teaching in bigger classes, through no fault of the teacher, sometimes misconceptions or children not giving their ‘all’ may not be picked up until the end of a lesson when going through books – often meaning that this becomes time ‘wasted’. Our children are under constant ‘scrutiny’ in a positive way, ensuring they remain on task and have appropriate support and challenge.

Individual attention also enables the children to be more confident, inquisitive and helps them to feel that they can discuss sensitive matters with their teacher. It aids team spirit, and the children’s support and respect for each other. I often see them helping a friend and showing a true understanding of someone’s individuality and their specific needs. It allows children’s confidence to flourish in many ways, including working towards their transition into our Senior School ensuring they are fully prepared for the challenges of secondary education. What's more, the children have developed the confidence to be heard and seen amongst their peers. Small class sizes have also been found to have a positive impact on behaviour: a fact we would certainly agree with.

At St. Francis’ Prep, we are small enough so all children and staff know each other. As a result, all children learn to interact and communicate with different age groups, giving them another essential life skill. Younger children are inspired by the older children, whereas the older children learn how to care and be responsible for younger children.

St. Francis’ is one big family, with individual attention at the core of the College as well as us valuing every child and their unique personalities.

 

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