​Forward thinking or left behind?  The relevance of Prep Schools in the modern world

Recently crowned Tatler’s Prep School Of the Year, S. Anselm’s School, based in Derbyshire, has been educating children since 1888.  Here, our Head, Lisa Donnelly, discusses the benefits of a Prep School education.

Is a Prep School a beautiful, gleaming steam engine?  Once best of its kind but now left behind by a fast-moving world?  It is true that if you stand still in this life, you move backwards, but it is also true that in our rapidly changing world we have learnt that certain principles will always hold in educating children well.


Children best flourish:

  • in a happy, safe environment where they are known and personally well-regarded;
  • by having a deep and diverse body of knowledge, upon which wisdom and flexible thinking can be securely built;
  • and by having plenty of good, old-fashioned fun, to feel happy, motivated and engaged.


These principles have not changed, but they have become harder to find.

Mrs Lisa Donnelly, Head

In some ways, the trends in society, reflected in the education system, have moved away from these three principles.  The frenetic pressures of always on, always accessible, always rushing, modern life are not helpful for young children.  It is certainly true we must prepare them for the pace and uncertainty they will face in adult life, but this is not done through immersing them in the full pressures of the adult world too soon.


As young tender plants need a greenhouse, to establish firm roots before being planted out to grow into strong shrubs, so children need protection and nurture in their early years.


Every parent knows that from the moment their child is born they become increasingly independent of us.  It is our job as parents to ensure that when our children reach adulthood, they are fully capable of standing on their own two feet.  The art of parenthood, and of education, is to develop independence in the child at the right speed whilst ensuring they know they are always loved and secure.


At S. Anselm’s we are unusual in educating children to aged 13, Year 8, before sending them on to schools both national and local.


Every child is different and at S. Anselm’s every child is treated as an individual. Each pupil’s learning and progress is carefully nurtured through to the age of 13.  We educate children through the modernised Common Entrance curriculum – the best Key Stage 3 pathway there is.  Both broad and deep, the knowledge each child acquires by the end of Year 8 is significantly ahead of where children would normally be.  Indeed, they are then essentially GCSE ready.



By remaining in the Prep School environment to 13, children have a clear academic focus leading up to Year 8 and an environment in which they can develop confidently as young leaders, being role models for the younger children rather than the youngest in a much older and larger environment.  The Year 8 transition fits well with the natural maturation of children.


We have a strong curriculum, small class sizes, passionate teachers and fantastic facilities; All these make S. Anselm’s uniquely effective but the magic ingredient is the ethos.  The children of S. Anselm’s are highly motivated to participate, to cooperate and to learn.  Staff know them well and know how to encourage each personality to achieve more.  With the help of pupil guides, they help every new child to quickly settle in and to absorb that same ethos.

The broad, active and creative curriculum makes every school day varied and fun. We play far more music, and we play far more sport, than most schools. Through pupil-led assemblies, debates, drama productions, science and technology, children also investigate and perform more, developing their confidence and their cooperation and communication skills.


Every week we celebrate effort and excellence through our house system and through commendations.  Doing well, and being proud of it, is the norm at S. Anselm’s. So too are kindness and good manners.


We believe children here are happy, successful and on a journey to becoming capable, independent adults ready to contribute positively to the world.  A Year 8 Anselmian is a well-educated young person, with excellent social skills and a confidence in themselves developed through years of nurture, success and increasing responsibilities.


Come and visit us and see if your child too would flourish at S. Anselm’s.


Let your child travel on the high-speed train to the future, to a destination they will be empowered to choose for themselves.

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S. Anselm's puts its commitment to the safeguarding and protection of the children in our care at the heart of everything we do