‘Preparatory’ is an adjective. It describes the act of ‘preparation’. In partnership with loving, caring families, excellent preparatory schools can have a profound effect on your child’s development. They prepare your child to recognise that a love of life and a love of learning are one and the same thing, and that both, if done right, are as broad as they are deep.
Excellent prep schools do this, but it is only truly independent stand-alone prep schools, with no senior schools attached to them, which have the freedom truly to prepare your child to wonder, to seek a rounded fulfilment in their lives and to contribute to the flourishing of humanity.
Your child will no doubt live to be 100 years old, and the world will change immeasurably in this time. So how do you ensure that your child is adaptable, robust and agile enough to thrive for so long and in the face of so much change? It is the frightening question on any parent’s mind. How do we harness our child’s inborn creativity and hunger for knowledge and teach them to question and celebrate higher-order thinking? How do we teach our children to recognise and respect the sanctity of their own bodies and to experience the thrill of physical achievement? How do we encourage them to be stirred by aesthetic beauty and to shudder at iniquity in the world? How do we illuminate truth in our children and teach them an acceptance and tolerance of other cultures and traditions in our new and suddenly global community? How do we open doors for our children and give them the tools by which they can be a part of the design of their own blueprint? How do we inspire in them a love of the spoken and the written word and make foreign languages familiar to them?
As a father, I want a school for my children which will inspire them to take themselves seriously, as well as to see that the world is also full of delight and laughter. I want them to learn to celebrate their successes and to be supported by those traditional educational models which supported me in my formative years. I want a school in which teachers will talk to my child as if they are older than they are, who buoy them up with the right kind of confidence, but who will also tell them the truth about failure. I want for my child a school where teachers innately understand life’s natural balance in all things and who encourage my child to participate and to take calculated risks in as many different activities as they can lay their hands on, with the aim of sowing seeds for a future life of breadth and fulfilment.
I want to witness the joy on my children’s faces as they discover new talents in sport, music, drama and outdoor education. Even better, I want my child’s school to teach them to develop true scholarship, to inspire in them a voracious appetite for big ideas and then to articulate them confidently, with joy, passion, conviction and excitement in front of others.
As a parent, I want to catch my breath many years after my children have left preparatory education in the realisation that the prep school years were my children’s most formative ones and that my child’s prep school still has a profoundly powerful influence on the ways that they see opportunities and joy all around them. I want to recognise the origins of this curious, disciplined and self-aware adult.
These are not easy things to discover as a parent looking at schools for their children and require careful questioning on a school visit. Have the confidence to delve and ask the questions which really count.