How an independent school education builds confidence and improves emotional wellbeing

Schoolgirl looking through microscope at St Francis College, Hertfordshire

St. Francis' College provides a learning environment where students can build confidence in the abilities, and are celebrated for their achievements. - Credit: St. Francis' College

A supportive learning environment is essential for the development of young pupils, who strive to achieve academically and pursue their passions. 

St. Francis' College, located in Hertfordshire, provides students of all ages a truly all-round, modern education that seeks to furnish them with the skills needed for their future. We speak to James Nichols, deputy head at St. Francis' College, who explains the benefits of an independent school for female students. 

1) Nurtured from prep to senior school 

Schoolgirls eating lunch and laughing at St Francis College, Letchworth Garden City

From Prep school to Sixth Form, pupils form bonds with fellow students and teachers that boosts their wellbeing and benefits their education immensely. - Credit: St. Francis' College

From an early age, students receive a specialised education that eases them into school life and equips them for the years ahead. As they develop personal interests and hone their abilities, the insight and understanding granted to the staff becomes crucial in identifying the best teaching methods for the student. 

“Gaining an in-depth knowledge of all the students from a young age, and continuing this throughout their GCSEs and A Levels, enables the staff body to identify the personal requirements of each child and tailor their learning accordingly,” says James. 

“Students also have the opportunity to interact with fellow pupils of varying ages, which is quite unique even amongst independent schools. For example, our Future Ready Days programme encourages students from Year 3 up to Year 13 to work together on a range of products that are being manufactured to solve the problems of the 2030s. This level of collaboration is a major boost to their growth and sense of achievement.” 

2) Smaller classes and expert teachers 

Learning in a small, close-knit environment is a wonderful boost to a student’s wellbeing and confidence. Whether it’s actively engaging with teachers and fellow pupils in lessons, or taking the step to join an extra-curricular activity, independent schools foster an atmosphere of trust between teachers and pupils by keeping lesson sizes compact. 

James explains: “Coupled with our outstanding teachers who have taught their subjects for many years, we have a proven track record of achieving excellent academic results.  

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“Every student in Year 13 received an offer for their first-choice university this summer, with nearly a quarter accepted to Oxford and Cambridge, so we can demonstrate that this approach brings positive results.” 

3) Heightened pastoral care 

The school years are a deeply formative period, and transitioning from Prep to Senior school can be challenging for every young student. Dealing with the increased responsibility and important decision-making within a highly supportive, familiar school environment is hugely beneficial to the wellbeing of students.  

James adds: “From the Prep school all the way to Sixth Form, we have a Head of Year for each year group, as well as form tutors providing day-to-day pastoral care. For every vital step along the way, we offer specific guidance regarding GCSE selections, A Level choices and post-school options regarding higher education and careers. 

“The continuity of form tutors and subject teachers helps us to uphold a real community spirit within the school, we take the wellbeing of students very seriously. Alongside the dedication of regular staff, we do have a school nurse and councillor on hand to discuss any difficulties that students of all ages may be experiencing.” 

A teacher helps schoolgirls with work at St. Francis' College, Hertfordshire

The level of support and pastoral care provided at St. Francis' contributes greatly to the rich extra-curricular life at the school, as well as the stellar academic results. - Credit: St. Francis' College

4) An all-round education 

Whilst stellar exam results are a big benefit to studying at an independent school, the opportunities available to develop personal and soft skills in a range of disciplines is another huge advantage. As students get older and more experienced, they can become prefects of a specific subject, join the Student Council and take on the role of Form Captain.  

Teaching leadership skills throughout the year groups makes a big impact on confidence and engagement. James comments: “Pupils are encouraged to make their mark in a variety of extra-curricular ways.  

“Whether it’s taking part in unique lunchtime clubs such as the TedTalk club to improve public speaking, or becoming an Eco-Rep to tackle issues surrounding climate change, our students become role models to each other and develop their skills in a safe, nurturing school environment.” 

St. Francis' College is hosting autumn Open Days on October 16 and 21, 2021. To learn more, visit st-francis.herts.sch.uk or call 01462 670511.

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