The advantages of restructuring a Prep School - Hurstpierpoint College

The advantages of restructuring a Prep School

Adolescence can be a very tricky time in youngsters’ lives. It is a time of huge physical, mental, emotional and social change, which brings tremendous opportunities as well as vulnerabilities. The peak time for these changes tends to be during Years 7 and 8 and therefore the Senior Management Team at Hurst College has taken the decision to restructure the Prep School to specifically support pupils aged 11-13.  


Some of the issues will be well known to parents with children of this age or they may remember what it was like themselves. Children of this age might:   

  • Show more concern about body image and clothes 
  • Focus on themselves: going back and forth between high expectations and lack of confidence 
  • Experience mood swings and may be rude or short tempered 
  • Be more influenced by peer groups or social media 
  • Express less affection towards parents  
  • Feel stress from more challenging school work 
  • Develop mental health issues 

I have three children aged 10, 12 and 13, so I am acutely aware of the realities of the ‘white waters of adolescence’ from a parental as well as a teacher’s perspective. It was a long time ago, but I can also just about remember what it was like to go through as a child. 


This is the time when individuals start to develop their adult personalities and behaviours and so it is essential they receive help and guidance through this period. Of course, that’s not always easy as they often want to do things their own way or deliberately ignore adult advice. In my experience, it is best to allow them to create a positive vision of themselves as an adult and link actions and decisions they make now in the context of that vision. This means they will see the behaviours parents expect of them from the perspective that is in their best interests. We want them to reach a point where they instinctively make good decisions.   

Exciting time

From an educational standpoint this is also a very exciting time as children are more able to articulate ideas and emotions as well as a greater ability for complex thought. Challenging them while maintaining a supportive environment can lead to great things. Children of this age do become more self-conscious so fear of failure can be an issue but if the culture in the classroom is right you can combine the natural enthusiasm and creativeness of a young child with the intellectual capabilities of an adult. It is also worth noting that with GCSEs a few years away you don’t have that pressure of teaching for the test but can instead focus on fundamental skills and habits while fostering genuine intellectual curiosity. From a personal perspective I have always found this a hugely enjoyable age to teach.  

Senior Prep School

At Hurst, our Year 7 and 8 pupils form the Senior Prep School. From an academic perspective they are taught predominantly by Senior School teachers through a curriculum that leads seamlessly into GCSEs. They are senior school age, and we want them to have an ambitious vision of themselves in the future and be keen to embrace added responsibility and expectation. At the same time, rather than being at the bottom of the Senior School, they are at the top of the Prep School and linked with the Junior Prep School (primary years). This provides an opportunity to take on positions of responsibility and be role models for the younger children.

Pastoral perspective

Developing an awareness of others’ needs and having a sense of duty to serve the wider community is very important. Similarly, the slightly smaller environment and being around younger pupils is particularly useful from a pastoral perspective as the children grapple with the changes in themselves and the world around them. By the time they finish Year 8 they should have an incredibly good idea of the direction in which they want their lives to go, as well as the skills, self-knowledge, and maturity to make that happen.  

Better than the past

It has never been easy and modern technology has certainly brought added complications but at the same time the support and education children receive now is far better than it used to be. They are also more self-aware and articulate when it comes to discussing the issues they face. This means the days of pretending they are just slightly larger versions of their younger selves, to be treated in the same way, is no longer appropriate. Instead, we need to recognise them for who they are and be prepared to work with them because soon they will be adults and we will be relying on them to lead us.  

Ian Pattison, Head of Senior Prep, Hurst College


Learn more about Hurst’s Senior Prep School

Read Hurst Prep School’s ISI Inspection report – and excellent grade was awarded in every category