June 11, 2024

By Ed Balfour, Head

How do parents most effectively plan their investment in independent education so that they can maximise educational dividends for their children? Do they invest early in preparatory education (3-13 years) or perhaps invest later in preparation for GCSE and A-level?

Whether you are resident in the UK or overseas, my advice is to invest in UK independent boarding education as early as you possibly can. This has been my message as an IAPS prep school headmaster for years. The reason? Because, excellent preparatory schools provide formative (and often transformative) education in which your child can forge the blueprint for future educational success.

‘Preparatory’ is an adjective. It describes the act of ‘preparation’. As parent, we want to make our children ‘future-proof’ and never has it been more important to provide children with an excellent preparatory foundation. Your child will most likely live to be more than 100 years of age. They will live in a highly connected global community and be subject to rapidly accelerating social and technological change. They will be surrounded by more data than any previous generation but will be more reliant than ever on the skills needed to convert it into knowledge.

Learn How To Learn

Preparatory schools believe passionately in providing children with the space to be able to ‘learn how to learn’. They teach children to lead confident and independent lives, equipping them with both the skills and knowledge that they need to succeed in their future lives. They inspire creativity and academic risk-taking, adventure and higher-order thinking.

Great prep schools recognise that each individual child develops at a different pace. Highly qualified and experienced teachers in smaller classes are experts at coaching each child, discovering their talents and putting sticking plasters on weaknesses.

Modern and progressive prep schools are future-focused; they understand that the old models of academically ‘pushing’ children rarely work and that only by providing children with an attractive space into which they will naturally want to move will they discover true scholarship. These schools encourage children to recognise that academic independence is a natural part of life’s discovery; that it can be pleasurable and rewarding. It is a ‘drawing out’ of learning (the true etymology of the word education). These schools coach children, gliding alongside them to help them to develop an independent work ethic and an academic confidence which allows them to explore, create and aspire to excellence.

Harnessing Creativity And Curiosity

Preparatory schools forge character in young children, encouraging them to lead lives in which it is cool to participate, in which children learn to be adaptable, robust and agile. They harness children’s inborn creativity and curiosity, teaching them to be mindful, healthy and effective citizens of tomorrow. They lift children from the monotony of Minecraft and inspire them to celebrate higher-order thinking in themselves and in others. They teach children to revel in their own physical achievements and to respect the sanctity of their bodies. They inspire in them a love of the spoken and the written word and make foreign languages familiar to them. They inspire them to be stirred by aesthetic beauty and to shudder at iniquity in the world. They illuminate truth in children and nurture in them an acceptance and tolerance of other cultures and traditions. In other words, they help children to establish their own blueprint for future success.

Excellent prep schools are people places; they are happy, balanced, productive, creative and fun, which is the environment that all parents want for their children. They recognise that if you provide a child with the opportunity to grow and develop in a happy, balanced, productive, creative and fun environment, it will help them to lead their own happy, balanced, productive, creative and fun lives.

Future World Citizens

Prep schools are busy places which teach children to lead their own busy and stimulating lives. They teach children robustness, stamina and resilience so that they can enjoy challenge and adventure and manage change with ease and agility.

As their circles of attention widen through the junior years and middle school years, prep schools teach children to take responsibility, for themselves and for others. Increasingly, they will naturally look beyond their preparatory school to senior schools and to communities across the UK and across the world. They will learn to be future world citizens and learn their place in the world.

In my experience, when the hormones start coursing through adolescent veins, the preparatory school blueprint helps UK and overseas children to adapt to senior school life. Indeed, I have seen at first hand the benefits of two or three years in a top UK preparatory school for British and overseas pupils. Preparatory education is where education really happens.

Finally, we might not know the exact nature of the challenges that will face our children as they make their way through to the end of an ever-changing 21st century into a presumably even faster-changing 22nd century, but we can help them to prepare the blueprint for success.