Pilgrims’ head of Pre-Prep Debbie Ross knows a lot about boys. She doesn’t mind getting muddy either, which is really important for someone who actively encourages them to get outside whatever the weather.
“One of the attractions of coming to Pilgrims’ is that Forest School plays a big part in Pre-Prep,” she says. “Not only does outdoor learning give a voice to children who particularly thrive in that environment; it also allows boys to burn off steam. Every class in Pre-Prep goes outside every day, and in Reception we have fluid play, so the door to the Reception play area, which has its own mud kitchen, is always open.”
In the purpose-built department, wellies and waterproofs are a must. Outside space is generous, with a designated garden, large playing fields and a chunk of the dean’s garden perfect for exploration and football, and the river within easy reach.
Every boy in Pre-Prep has wellies and waterproof trousers as part of his school uniform: muddy knees are expected here. And with no girls to worry about, being a boy is refreshingly free of comparisons too.
“Girls in the early years tend to be stronger communicators than boys,” Debbie says. “It’s very difficult to write a complex sentence if you can’t articulate one verbally. Our boys are encouraged to talk. And we provide lots of opportunities to listen to them – whether that is in group discussion or individually.”
Classes in Pre-Prep are intentionally small. “Right from the start our boys benefit from individualised learning,” Debbie says. “And because we prepare them so well for prep school and know them so well they’re not required to sit the Pilgrims’ entry test.”
The curriculum has a strong academic core, with maths and English lessons taking place during the early part of the day. Many lessons in Pre-Prep are cross-curricular, so studying transport, space, castles or Africa may draw on elements of science, English, history and geography, for example. “We also bring in specialists for music, French, swimming and sport,” Debbie says. “Instilling an appreciation of music and choral singing early on inevitably leads to many boys taking up instruments at Prep level. Singing is cool at Pilgrims’ and certainly not ‘just for girls’.”
After-school clubs include gymnastics, junk modelling, sewing and Lego-building. Pilgrims’ boys are busy boys who achieve academically. But they’re kind boys too. The Pre-Prep Golden Rules celebrate kindness as much as hard work in the classroom. They’re a list of do’s rather than don’t’s. “We give our boys lots and lots of opportunity for praise and rewards,” Debbie says. “Everyone thrives on that.”
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