I was so happy to be the media partner at the incredible Tatler Schools Live event yesterday, where I was blown away by the keynote speakers. The day was jam-packed and full of interesting talks, from how to choose the best education for your child, single sex versus co-ed debates to understanding senior schools, boarding versus day, and so much more. If you’re thinking about private education for your children, this is a must go-to event, which should now be running annually. I was running the Tatler instagram account for the day, so I was popping in and out of the scheduled talks, but I managed to catch many of the discussions, and wanted to share a few of my notes. There are some fab downloads too, check out this educational-planner, and guide to year-groups.
The Application Process
Many heads from top English schools spoke on the subject, and one of the questions put to them was ‘are you judging the parents, or the children at entry level, especially when you’re talking about 3 year olds?’
Most of the heads agreed that they will never accept an applicant if the parent doesn’t come in and see the school. They want to know that the parents are serious about the chosen school, and would ideally like to meet both parents. They suggested finding out about any tours that might be happening and pop along. They hate you using their school as a platform and almost always want you to stay the full duration. Their pet hates are when a parent becomes obsessed with a single issue, things like ‘are the school meals organic?’.
Prep and Pre-Prep Schools
The majority of the head teachers also agreed that if you start at reception you should stay through until 11 or 13+. There’s much less pressure that way. If you put them through pre-prep, they’re doing exactly that, preparing them for prep school, which can’t be much fun for the child.
Mary Nightingale the famous ITN newsreader put the heads through their paces with some great questions. One of which was ‘as a parent, what’s the one question you should ask ahead of making your decision about a school?’ One head suggested asking about the school’s recruitment policy, and the processes involving in the hiring of staff. Interestingly, he reported that parents rarely did this, which is surprising, given that the teaching staff are undoubtedly one of the most important elements of the school.
Another said ‘observe; when touring with the head, watch how they are with the pupils, is there a relationship between the headmistress or headmaster and the pupils?’ another suggested speaking to the children already at the school, to not be afraid to ask questions and make sure you don’t leave without getting answers to even the slightly niggling question you may have. One important one I thought of, was ‘what support is available to take us as a family through the next stage of education?’.
There was a very informative talk about rural education, and what country prep schools offer. They ask for a show of hands of how many people were thinking about country preps and I was really surprised to see so many. Phil Ward from Thomas’s Clapham, talked about the differences in curriculum, experiences and exit points for both 11 and 13+, and although extremely interesting, my short hand wasn’t quick enough.
Another interesting talk by psychotherapist Dr Stephen Adams-Langley from charity Place 2B, discussed the importance of emotional support for young minds. This is an area I’m particularly interested in as are our many of our readers. In the world we live in, it’s hard not to let our stress have a knock-on effect on the children, and in particular I find the London school system to be hugely competitive and very much a pressured environment for children from an early age.
Dr Stephen Adams-Langley advised parents to pay attention to each child, and to be aware of the signs. I was very sad to hear that he sees children as young as 5 years old depressed and unhappy with life. Although it’s hard, I think it’s important to try and be as relaxed as possible around the children, because inevitably our stress has an impact on them. I decided there and then to remember what Ariana Huffington said in her book thrive ‘Focus on our children and don’t use your phones in front of them’.
I know this will be music to my children’s ears!