What is a Prep School?

Date Posted: 26th July

Categories: Prep School

Increasingly parents are making the choice to send their children to independent Prep Schools so that their children can benefit from small class sizes and enhanced facilities and increased learning opportunities. As there is a termly cost to being in a Prep School, parents often make other financial sacrifices in order to make this commitment. Here we’re looking more closely at what a UK Prep School offers and what makes them different to state Primary Schools.

What is a Prep School?

A Prep School are usually for pupils aged 7/8 (Year 3) through to age 13 (Year 8), though some Prep Schools finish at age 11 (Year 6). Prior to prep school, pupils may attend a Pre-Prep from the ages of 3 to 7 years old (Reception to Year 2).


Wycliffe Pre Prep Students

What Makes a Prep School Different to State Schools?

Class Size

Prep Schools have small class sizes (usually no more than 18) and this allows for a more individualised education and means pupils’ academic abilities can be stretched and challenged. Teachers get to know their pupils very well, understanding what encourages them and the individual pupil’s style of learning. There is also more focused time for the children to interact with each other in a supported environment, increasing peer to peer learning.

Enhanced Curriculum

Prep Schools can offer a wider curriculum with opportunities to engage in a plentiful range of extra-curricular activities too. Prep Schools often have more extensive on-site facilities so they can provide their pupils with more opportunities for sports, music and languages.

Furthermore, as Prep Schools have greater flexibility in their curriculum, pupils often have more opportunities to learn outside of the classroom via trips and experience the world. Residential trips and opportunities to go abroad are far more commonplace.


Some Prep Schools offer boarding means the children live on-site during term-time in a bespoke boarding house with their fellow pupils of the same or similar age, usually boarding is from Year 3 or age 7 upwards.


Prep Schools are independent and so not funded by the Government like state schools. So all Prep Schools will charge fees but the amount they charge varies around the country and from school to school.

What is The Curriculum at Prep Schools?

Prep Schools are independent so they do not necessarily have to follow the National Curriculum. However most of them do and then enhance their teaching with enrichment topics. This independence means they can adapt their educational offering to each pupil and deliver a much more tailored curriculum. The wealth of sports and arts and variety of activities such as Courtroom Drama or Robotics and Coding is an additional benefit of being in a Prep School.

Many Prep Schools are members of the Independent Association of Prep Schools, and membership requires schools to follow strict criteria for delivering a broad curriculum. Children at Prep School will have specialist teachers in almost all subjects. They benefit from an individualised and expert approach to each subject you usually only see at secondary school level and higher.

prep school offering pastoral care

What Are the Entry Requirements for Prep School?

Wycliffe is a non-selective Prep School, and here, children sit a CAT Test (Cognitive Ability Test), which is used to assess these 4 areas: verbal reasoning, non-verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning and spatial reasoning.  Children do not need to revise for a CAT test as they measure a child’s developed abilities. They can be effective at providing additional insights into a child’s learning and help schools provide the necessary learning support and environment.

Benefits of a Prep School

Pupils who attend Prep School enjoy an education that offers huge choice and opportunities which help develop their confidence and sets them up perfectly for the next stage of their education. The benefits of attending a prep school include:

Opportunities for learning and facilities

Prep Schools benefit from enhanced opportunities include the small class sizes; unusual subjects, such as Mandarin; breadth of sport; many activities and exceptional on-site facilities; – including onsite swimming pool, fully equipped music and science departments, and extensive playing fields.

Specialist teachers

For most children in primary school, up to the age of 11, they have a single teacher responsible for all their learning. This teacher is often a generalist and will have trained in the whole KS1/KS2 curriculum. In many Prep Schools, pupils can benefit from subject-specialist teachers, particularly in Science, Drama, Music, Sport and Art. Each subject teacher has professional training in their chosen field and can help support pupils of all abilities to reach their potential in their given area.

Smaller classes

Smaller classes give all children the chance to be heard and experience learning in a way that suits their needs. With a smaller class size, teachers can personalise each pupil’s learning experience and support them in achieving the best possible results.

Opportunity to discover new skills and passions

The best independent Prep Schools enrich each pupil’s education with access to a far-reaching and varied schedule of extra-curricular activities. Pupils have the chance to develop individual skills and passions as well as build their social education, develop strong bonds and friendships and benefit from a more rounded educational experience. While teaching and learning are a core part of prep school, the best schools will ensure a child’s unique talents and passions are nurtured too.

Explore Wycliffe Prep School in Gloucestershire

Wycliffe Prep School is an independent Prep School set in 52 acres of private land in the Gloucestershire Cotswolds countryside. We have both day and boarding pupils, a high pupil-to-teacher ratio and a thriving and busy school community. Discover everything Wycliffe Prep School has to offer here.

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