Danes Hill School in Surrey is widely recognised as one of the leading co-educational day preparatory schools in the country. Situated in 55 acres of landscaped ground in the village of Oxshott, Danes Hill provides boys and girls aged 3 to 13 with a broad and balanced curriculum. In recent years, Danes Hill has become one of the last remaining 13+ co-educational prep schools in Surrey. This unique educational environment gives boys and girls a chance to develop academically and socially before embarking on their Senior School journey. James Harvey, Head of Upper School shares his thoughts on the benefits of a prep school education for Year 7 rather than joining a senior school.
So, put simply, why is this an important option for parents to consider?
I strongly believe in the need to allow children time to grow up and develop before they are faced with the challenges of a Senior School environment.
Can two years really make a difference?
Time is the greatest gift we can provide our children. By allowing children two more years to develop socially and academically before joining their Senior School, our pupils will have had the chance to try new interests and develop lifelong skills in the relative safety and comfort of a prep school. Giving pupils the confidence to take risks and not be afraid to make mistakes, in a nurturing environment, will ensure they have developed and practised the social skills they require for Senior School and the world beyond.
What can a prep school offer in Years 7 and 8 that a senior school cant?
A prep school offers children a unique opportunity to become leaders at such a young age. Pupils are taught leadership skills and are then given the opportunity to practise these skills as they are rewarded with Positions of Responsibility that enable them to act as role models to younger pupils. To watch the positive impact our Year 7 and 8s have on our younger pupils is visible proof of the benefits of a 13+ education.
An exciting and rigorous prep school curriculum through Academic Scholarships or Common Entrance also allows the pupils to develop their revision and exam technique to achieve results that boost confidence whilst preparing for the future challenges they will face at GCSE and A Level.
In recent years you have had up to 15 new children join Danes Hill in Year 7, you must be doing something right?
Our pastoral system is one of the school’s greatest strengths. The school is broken down into small sections (Lower, Middle and Upper School) allowing focus on individual pupils and their needs. Within the Upper School, we are split into year groups (Year 6, 7 and 8) which are overseen by sensational Heads of Year, then within each year group the children are divided again into tutor groups of approximately 10 children. Each tutor group is led by one of a team of outstanding Tutors who specialise in pastoral care and the PSHEE curriculum. Children spend at least 20 minutes a day with their Tutor and tutees. Pupils are all encouraged to communicate their needs, worries and emotions to any member of staff they feel comfortable with. Our pastoral team and system are exceptionally well supported by our DSL and Academic Head (Pastoral).
I guess the proof is in the results you have had over 260 senior school scholarships and exhibitions awarded to your pupils in the last five years.
Yes, one moment that always sticks in my mind is the Year 8 results day. Whether it be celebrating the results from Academic Scholarships, Common Entrance or any other curriculum followed by our Senior Pupils, the sense of pride, comradery, relief and gratitude creates a magical atmosphere where pupils and teachers come together to celebrate the progress made by children that have matured into young men and women ready for the challenges of their Senior School. In my opinion, no other moment better showcases the result of a Danes Hill education. Effort, excellence, emotion and empowerment all in one place!
You have a lot to celebrate, James. Could you possibly pick one proudest moment?
I am fortunate that my proudest moment comes about every year – I visit our past pupils at their Senior Schools each year. Seeing first-hand how well they have settled into their new environment gives me huge pride in the work we do to prepare our pupils and support them in gaining a place at the right senior school for them.