Choosing a school: a headteacher’s guide to independent schools

PUBLISHED: 10:59 06 October 2020 | UPDATED: 10:59 06 October 2020

Take tours of the school, request prospectuses and speak to teachers to get the information you need. Picture: St. Francis' College

Take tours of the school, request prospectuses and speak to teachers to get the information you need. Picture: St. Francis' College

Archant

Colin Mannall, head of St. Francis’ College Prep school in Letchworth, offers advice to parents choosing which school is right for their daughter.

An independent school can offer a rich curriculum and introduce your child to new experiences. Picture: St. Francis' CollegeAn independent school can offer a rich curriculum and introduce your child to new experiences. Picture: St. Francis' College

Q: What advice do you have for parents trying to choose a school?

A: Find a prep school that prioritises both academic achievement and pastoral care. A focus on both will help your child develop as a well-rounded individual.

Attend open events and take tours of the schools – bring your child along to see how they react. Speak to teachers, ask questions, and request prospectuses to get all the information you need.

Girls between three and 18 years old can apply to join. Picture: St. Francis' CollegeGirls between three and 18 years old can apply to join. Picture: St. Francis' College

Q: How can I give my child the best start to their education?

A: An independent school can offer a rich, vast curriculum and introduce your child to new experiences.

Specialist Dance, Drama, French, Music and PE teachers visit our kindergarten to run sessions with the children. From Year 4, pupils have the chance to learn Latin.

We encourage all students to make use of our Theatre and take part in plays. Drama can help develop their social skills and confidence.

St. Francis' College is an independent day and boarding school in Letchworth Garden City. Picture: St. Francis' CollegeSt. Francis' College is an independent day and boarding school in Letchworth Garden City. Picture: St. Francis' College

We also have an indoor heated pool where students receive weekly swimming lessons. They use our sports field and tennis courts to practise sports and take part in regional competitions. We teach the girls the importance of eating well and exercising regularly to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Prep school students also have access to our Senior School facilities, including the science and computer laboratories, allowing them to experiment and learn vital IT skills.

Q: How I can ensure my child will get the attention and help they need?

A: Our smaller class sizes allow us to spend more time with each child. Teachers learn what motivates them and tailor their learning to help them reach their full potential. We work closely with parents to involve them in their child’s education.

Q: Is it important for a school to have a varied extra-curricular programme?

A: Absolutely. I’m proud of the after-school activities that we offer at St. Francis’ College. Clubs can be vital for developing your child’s social and creative thinking skills. Clubs held at the school can make it easy for busy families to manage their weekly routine.

Q: St. Francis’ College is also a Senior School and Sixth Form. What are the benefits to children attending the same school for the entirety of their education?

A: Students form lifelong friendships and the school becomes a second home. The impressive GCSE and A-Level results achieved by our long-standing pupils is partly testament to this stability.

Being an all-girls school, we find our students are less distracted and benefit from having others around them they can relate to and empathise with. Students mature into confident, cultured, and respectful young women who believe they can achieve anything they put their mind to.

Q: How has life at the school changed during the pandemic?

A: Social distancing is in place, and we’ve divided the girls into year group and key stage bubbles.

One of our parents kindly supplied a high-tech temperature scanner and we’re taking pupils’ temperatures daily before they enter the school.

We’ve also staggered drop off and pick-up times and encourage parents to remain outside when collecting their children.

If another lockdown is imposed, we are fully prepared to switch to online teaching to make sure students can continue their learning journey.

Q: How can people apply?

A: St. Francis’ College is an independent boarding and day school in the heart of Letchworth Garden City. Girls from between the ages of three to 18 can apply to join.

Families can book an individual tour of the school. Our admissions staff are on hand to answer any questions you may have.

We also have Open Days scheduled for Spring 2021.

Visit st-francis.herts.sch.uk for more information or to begin your application.

Call 01462 670511 or email admissions@st-francis.herts.sch.uk.


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