Jonnie Besley, headmaster of Abberley Hall School, says a holistic approach to education is what makes prep schools like Abberley Hall special.

I was delighted when we recently won the Tatler award for ‘Best Prep School’ and this has led me to reflect on what it is that makes prep schools like ours such wonderful places for children to learn and to grow up in and what it is that enables the vast majority of our pupils to become so happy, accomplished and confident. The key to success, I believe, is our holistic approach to education.

Academic life is central, obviously, and good schools seek always to innovate and move forwards. At Abberley we have introduced individual iPads for our senior pupils for use alongside high-resolution screens in the classrooms. This technology has opened a new world of opportunities. The focus for good prep schools is increasingly on developing skills for life and encouraging creativity, problem solving and collaboration rather than just the acquisition of knowledge.

Abberley Hall School

However, for most parents considering a school like ours, excellent academic provision and outstanding pastoral care are ‘taken as read’. It is the breadth of education beyond the classroom that appeals to so many. Sport remains a key part of our offering as it teaches pupils the value of committing to a team, to be gracious in defeat as well as in victory and the need to practise and persevere in order to enjoy success. Music, drama and public speaking are given high status and children have opportunities to enjoy art and time in the workshop as well as activities such as bushcraft, fishing, chicken keeping, gardening. Children are able to discover their passions and their strengths and the confidence this brings spills over into all areas of their lives. Boarding is another important part of what is offered by many great prep schools who provide a home-from-home for pupils and staff often live on the school site with their own families. Through boarding, young children become more independent and learn to be part of a community of people who consider the needs of others alongside their own.

Our pupils are bombarded with messages through the media, celebrity culture and time spent online. It is easy to see how a child’s moral compass can become confused and so the best prep schools focus on the shaping of character. We have placed a set of core values known as ‘The Abberley Spirt’ at the heart of all that we do and these values, Integrity, Kindness, Collaboration, Courage, Adventure, Ambition and Respect, provide a common reference point for our community. They are woven through the fabric of our school, they are modelled by our staff and they inform the decisions that we make.

A truly holistic education requires each child to be known and cherished for who they are and it is only possible thanks to the dedication of remarkable staff who ‘go the extra mile’ to ensure that every child
succeeds. In schools like ours, teachers may see a child in the classroom, on the stage, on the sports pitch and in the boarding house all on the same day and so they develop the true understanding of a
child needed to help them reveal and then unlock their full potential.

It is thanks to this holistic approach to education that children emerge from the best prep schools not only with impressive exam results but as rounded individuals who are confident, kind, interesting and ready to go on and thrive at their senior schools and beyond.

See Abberley Hall’s online listing here.