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How to choose your first school in the country

Considering your first country pre-prep or prep school does not necessarily need to be such a daunting prospect but what is the best way to plan your journey and how easy is it to jump in late in the day?

 Arabella Davies, Education Consultant and Founder of Their Best Years shares some valuable tips on important considerations in order to kick start this important process.

Location – For most families living in the country your own car will become your method of transport (some schools do operate buses). Therefore remaining in close proximity to your children’s school is extremely important. I advise no more than a 20-minute drive if possible. This is critical if your children are of different ages because pick-up times can vary considerably.

Registration Deadlines – Most of the independent options outside of London will happily take your registration at any point and it will depend on spaces. Reception being the most key entry point can get oversubscribed initially and so I advise early registration if possible.

Visiting the School – Look for a head and teachers who appear passionate about their children. It’s not so much about mind-blowing facilities (although many country prep schools will boast some pretty outstanding ones) but more how the school feels as a whole and how they incorporate all the necessary sport and co-curricular activities.

Saturday School – Many country schools introduce “Saturdays” further up the school. That 6 day week does not suit every family and so ensure you know in advance whether your child will be required to attend on a Saturday at some point in years to come.

Senior School Options – Does your chosen school go all the way through or will they need to leave at 11 or 13 to go onto a senior school and if this is the case, which senior schools do they feed into and are these schools the type you are ultimately aiming for.

The Assessment Process – Most country pre-prep and prep schools have a relatively flexible admissions process and they are really looking to see if you as a family as well as your child are the right fit for their culture and ethos. Very few country schools have a rigid process prior to entry in Reception. However, for entry points further up the school your child may be assessed to ensure they are the right academic level for that existing year group.

Latecomers – Due to the pandemic, many families are escaping to the country often leaving their school choices until the last minute. Fear not, for although you may have to bounce onto a waitlist initially these shift considerably in the run up to the beginning of term. However, keep a look out for particular entry points that are more over-subscribed and be prepared that while one or two of your children might be offered a place late in the day there is a chance that one may have to temporarily attend an alternative school until a place arises. In this instance, do not shy away from your local state primary option which more often than not can be a very good choice particularly for those early years.

The menu of great pre-prep and prep schools on offer to you is plentiful, and so don’t hesitate to get in touch if any of you feel that a more in-depth insight into each of your choices might be useful as well as information on the registration & admissions process in its entirety. Do contact arabella@theirbestyears.com

Keep an eye out on How to choose your first school in the London.

(Photo credit: Dawmouse Montessori Nursery)


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