A thought provoking and entertaining game sometimes played in the classroom and often on Bushcraft evenings around the campfire. Would you rather be a big fish in a small pond or a small fish in a big pond? A simplistic question but one that does demand some serious consideration.
We can use this analogy to consider the benefits of staying on at Hatherop in Prep 7 and 8. As a teacher who predominately teaches these two important years, I can unequivocally say that in my opinion, Prep 7 and 8 are the years where a child develops in mind, spirit and confidence and the benefits of remaining in the Prep school system through to the end of Prep 8 are many and varied.
To find out from the children themselves, I recently reached out to ex-pupils and canvassed their opinion.
‘Year 7 and 8 provided me with the foundations needed to adapt quickly and easily to a large boarding house at senior school. Flexi-boarding really helped me to settle into this new environment, and I would definitely recommend it to all pupils considering it!’ Libby Haddock
‘The help I received from teachers at HCS in my final 2 years was at a great personal level, with both my academic work and my welfare, as they had already known me for so long. This was so helpful as they knew exactly how to help me succeed and I believe that this really helped me to achieve such high grades in my exams!’ Anna Mostyn
‘Years 7 and 8 function like a sixth form but within a prep school. Added responsibility, privileges and a stretching curriculum give you the chance to grow in a familiar environment. Key benefits I would cite: the intensity of Common Entrance is ideal preparation for future national exams; leadership roles nurture your confidence at a crucial age; the trips, plays, events and day to day of the common room made for one the happiest periods of my life.’ Jamie Leach
‘I’d say probably the biggest thing is although senior school was still a major step up, it certainly helped to have the last couple of years at Hatherop behind me where I had extra responsibility. Prep 7 and 8 really helped build a base level of confidence and self-belief so it wasn’t completely overwhelming when I didn’t get nearly as much attention at Abingdon! So, I think a confidence boost and being made to feel important was probably the biggest thing for me.’ Toby Jupp
I took the 11+ in Year 6 and received offers from a number of local grammar schools. But I stayed on at Hatherop, where we felt that I would do better as a result of the academic and extracurricular opportunities offered at the time…. finishing Year 8 – sitting in the marquee on Speech Day, having compassed the full sweep of a Hatherop education – was one of my proudest achievements at the time. Alongside all the other benefits of staying on at Hatherop (many of which will naturally differ from child to child) I remember vividly the satisfaction I took from the sense of closure, completion and comprehensiveness that I felt in those final weeks. Max Thomas
One of the strongest reasons for remaining it can be said, is in how seamlessly our Prep 8 children transfer into their new senior schools. I have always believed that one of the defining qualities a Hatheropian leaves with, is an amazing work ethic; developed over the course of the years but honed in the final two.
The social skills developed in Prep 7 and 8 should not be understated. At a time when children are under more pressure than ever before to aspire to what social media platforms throw at them, entering adolescence in the smaller and more secure environment of a Prep school, where they are the role models, and not 16 – 18-year-olds, should not be overlooked.
It has always impressed me how Year 8 pupils still care and interact with all the years, from Nursery to their peers, around the school and during breaktimes. I think a proportion of this empathy is lost when they are thrust into the bottom year of a large senior school. They miss the opportunity to lead, to put forward school changing ideas and to just be unashamedly 12!
I have not paid credence the extensive range of extra-curricular activities that present themselves to Prep 7 and 8; the Cumulus trips where they are given amazing opportunities to lead, leadership roles across the school which are so crucial to developing their self-belief and self-worth, representing their school across the range of sports all add to the experiences gained in the final two years. These should not be underestimated.
So; would you rather…?
Some of my favourites to keep you thinking:
Would you rather talk like Yoda or breathe like Darth Vadar for the rest of your life?
Would you rather wear a clown wig or clown shoes for the rest of your life?
Would you rather give up social media or eat the same dinner for the rest of your life?
Would you rather be the richest person in the world or the smartest person in the world?