Deciding on the next chapter of your child’s educational journey can feel somewhat overwhelming; it seems that, just as they feel settled in their Prep school, it is time to be thinking of the next stage. To add greater complexity, there are numerous options available: single sex, co-ed, boarding, day school, flexi boarding, big, small, close to home, far away; the list could go on.
At Lambrook, we will guide each family through this process, helping to ensure that we find the right school for each child. We have a wide range of schools which we feed, and it is important to remember that what may be right for one child is not necessarily the correct fit for another. Consequently, it is vital that the school admissions process remains a genuine one if a child is going to find the best fit for them; children should not be shoehorned into a school which does not suit their individual needs.
At Lambrook, we meet with parents in the initial stages of the process to discuss the various types of school and what may best suit their child. These conversations with Lambrook staff are the best way to try and ensure that you have considered the many variables, and whilst we will always be sensitive to parent thoughts and aspirations, we will ensure that we are honest with the guidance that is given. Selecting a strong shortlist of schools is best achieved as a collaborative effort between staff, parents and, of course, the children.
Once you have a shortlist, do book onto Open Days and visit these schools. By meeting pupils and listening to the Head, you will get a good feel for a school and whether or not you can see your child flourishing there. Do ask the pupils whom you meet questions about every day school life; they are more than likely, going to be honest with you! Current parents of a senior school are also an excellent source of knowledge, but do make sure you ultimately form an independent judgment.
We recommend that parents visit schools without their children, at least initially. When looking around, ask yourself, ‘Will my child be able to excel in the environment?’, ‘Are there interesting things to be involved in?’, ‘Are there things that my child likes here?’ In this process, try to avoid creating a hierarchy of schools with a ‘first choice’ and other ‘back up’ options. This can create pressure on a child who may not be offered a place at the school at the top of their pile. Try to keep your options broad; after all, all the schools that you will be considering should be excellent in their own right.
If you are considering boarding, then do visit a Boarding House during your school visit, to obtain a feel for boarding school life. If your child is offered a place at that school, then the Housemaster or Housemistress will be the first point of contact for them, and it is crucial that you feel this relationship is right. Consider how boarding is structured; is it vertical, with a cluster of children from each year group in a house or do they pool certain year groups together? If your child has never boarded before, then it might be worth booking some nights at Lambrook to get used to the boarding experience and being away from home.
It is not uncommon to register your child at multiple schools. Whilst too many registrations can create confusion, having more than one option is very wise in what continues to be a very competitive market. The initial pressure of multiple registrations is not so acutely felt, thanks to the commonality of the ISEB Pre-Tests, which means that the results from one assessment can often be accessed and shared with numerous schools.
The rigour of Pre-Tests and interviews can feel rather daunting, but this is not a true reflection of the process as a collective. There are many components to securing a place at a Senior School. Some are formal, like Pre-Tests and interviews, but there are also other key areas which play just as significant part in the process. The Prep-School / Senior School relationship is critical when we are communicating directly with schools about an individual child. At Lambrook we enjoy a fantastic relationship with our Senior Schools where our thoughts and recommendations are perceived as having great legitimacy.
We integrate the more mechanical aspects at Lambrook into the School timetable from Year 5 along with interview preparation with senior staff members. General support sessions and practice tests are also weaved into the normal school routine so that our children feel familiar and at ease with what may otherwise be a fairly alien process.
Senior Schools are keen to see a pupil who has a passion or an interest in something on their own steam; an interviewer would much rather have an insightful conversation about a book that a pupil has chosen to read, than one which they have read as part of the school curriculum. We encourage children to be engaging and to get involved; we remind them that whilst it is important to be ‘interesting’, it is equally as important to be ‘interested’.
We hope that the legacy of a child’s time at Lambrook is something which will stay with them for a very long time. Our breadth of opportunity, in both the academics and the wider more holistic offerings of the school, is the foundation to ensuring your child has the prerequisite interests and qualities to find success and happiness in whichever direction they head.
Daniel Cox, Deputy Headmaster
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