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What is the difference between a prep school and a state primary?

Unlike primary schools, prep schools are designed to help pupils prepare for entrance exams. Primary schools often choose not to help pupils to prepare for entrance exams. This may be because their pupils are unlikely to apply to schools which set entrance exams, or because they want to keep an even playing field. 

Of course, the main difference between prep schools and state primaries is that prep schools charge fees.

The cohort of pupils in a prep school is likely to include pupils from a smaller variety of backgrounds. This is because traditionally, parents only send their children to a prep school if they attended one themselves. Other parents might not consider it, either because they don’t know they exist or because of the large fees that accompany sending the child there.

The amount of extra-curricular activities offered at prep schools is often much larger than at state primaries. This is because they have more money to be able to provide activities. Examples of these activities include:

  • Music lessons
  • Sports sessions 
  • Languages

The variety of instruments taught or sports offered tend to be much larger in a prep school.

Children at prep schools are often given more opportunities for residential trips and trips abroad than those in primary schools. This helps build a child's cultural capital (understanding and knowledge of their surroundings).

Another option to consider is boarding school, generally available for children between the ages of 8 -13. This offers the same benefits as a prep school, but the pupil stays at the school overnight through term time.

Overall, it can be argued that prep schools offer pupils a more well-rounded education as they are able to provide more extra-curricular activities. Prep schools can also increase a pupils chance of gaining a place at an elite secondary school given the emphasis placed on preparing pupils for entrance examinations.

In determining whether a prep or primary school is more appropriate for your child, you will need to bear in mind the cost, the extra-curricular activities that are offered at the school, and the atmosphere of the schools when you visit them. Every child is different, as is every school. It is important you consider which school is the right fit for your child.

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