Education Blog

Question: Should I pay for prep school or tutoring?


The Telegraph,  11 February 2016 – Read the article in full here.

Vivienne Durham: Prep schools are expert in preparing children for common entrance exams

This is a tricky question and one that we get asked all the time. There is no easy – or right – answer. This decision should be guided by the personalities of your children and financial planning for your family. In a nutshell, my advice would be to make the best decision for you and your family at each stage of each child’s education.

There are many superlative maintained (state) primary schools, in which the quality of teaching and learning is outstanding. You can often sense the atmosphere of great schools – regardless of sector – the moment you walk through the door.

However, it can be hard to get a place in the very best state primary schools, some of which require residency within a localised catchment area or adherence to faith-based selection criteria.

Independent prep schools provide a happy, academically stimulating and creative learning environment and many of those outside London have exceptional space and facilities for sport and extra-curricular activities.

There are many superlative maintained (state) primary schools, in which the quality of teaching and learning is outstanding – but it can be hard to get a place.

Independent prep schools can offer many educational advantages. The curriculum is often taught by subject specialists and teacher: pupil ratios tend to be significantly lower than in the state sector, enabling greater individual attention for every child.

Most prep schools are expert in preparing children for the common entrance examinations at 11-plus or 13-plus, which are required by many (but not all) independent senior schools.

The curriculum in primary schools is not designed to offer support or practice for these examinations and specialist advice should be sought several years prior to the chosen age of Common Entrance.

Above all, it is always worth contacting the bursary department of your preferred independent school to discuss your family’s financial context. School fees make a huge dent in the annual budget of most families who choose independent education so don’t be afraid to be honest about your concerns.

Bursars understand financial realities and most will be willing to offer advice, wherever possible. Have the confidence to make contact. Many independent schools offer bursaries (which are based on financial criteria) as well as scholarships (which are awarded for outstanding achievement by a student).

Vivienne Durham, schools advisory director at Enjoy Education and former head at Francis Holland School, Regent’s Park

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