St Catherine's Prep School
St Catherine's Preparatory School is a happy school with high expectations. We are fortunate to be located in the beautiful village of Bramley, near Guildford. The School is academically selective, providing a range of outstanding opportunities both in and out of the classroom.
We encourage a love of learning in an environment where the art of creative thinking is taught, along with self-reliance. Supported by strong Christian values girls acquire self-respect, and show courtesy and consideration for others. The girls are fully prepared to move on to their senior schools, including St Catherine's. Their education is an important partnership between home and school, with shared aims and aspirations.
Gendered Beliefs about Intelligence
Recent research undertaken at University of Illinois argues that six year old girls already have gendered beliefs about intelligence.
“There are lots of people at the place where I work, but there is one person who is really special. This person is really, really smart,” said Lin Bian. “This person figures out how to do things quickly and comes up with answers much faster and better than anyone else. This person is really, really smart.”
Bian, a psychologist at the University of Illinois, read this story out to 240 children, aged 5 to 7. She then showed them pictures of four adults—two men and two women—and asked them to guess which was the protagonist of the story. She also gave them two further tests: one in which they had to guess which adult in a pair was really, really smart,’ and another where they had to match attributes such as ‘smart’ or ‘nice’ to pictures of unfamiliar men and women.
The results were stark. Among the 5-year-olds, both boys and girls associated brilliance with their own gender. But among those aged 6 or 7, only the boys still held to that view. At an age when girls tend to outperform boys at school, and when children in general show large positive biases towards their own in-groups, the girls became less likely than boys to attribute brilliance to their own gender. Bian also found that the older girls were less interested in games that were meant for ‘really, smart’ children.
Research such as this is a further call to arms for educators of young girls and boys. It is also another reminder of the essential work we do here at St Catherine’s and indeed in other girls’ schools to ensure girls and young women are given strong female role models to follow and to emulate. I recommend http://www.amightygirl.com as an excellent resource listing books, toys and films suitable for ‘smart, confident and courageous girls’ and urge us all to work together on this to ensure that St Catherine’s girls have a sense that there is nothing that they cannot go on to achieve.
How to help your child with their homework?
Many teachers would say the answer to parents as to how to help with homework is, 'simply don't.' Homework is designed for your child to practise and consolidate what they have learnt at school independently in order to embed their learning. Or it may be 'prep' which should be preparation for their next step of learning in class. The important thing to remember, and the source of frustration for parents is that you were not in the lesson and won't be in the next class. Hence, it is impossible to know what your child is meant to be consolidating or what they are preparing for. Things often get 'lost in translation,' between school and home and then the anxiety can kick in.
It is right to help enable your child with their homework. This does not mean completing it for them or correcting every mistake before they present it to their teacher. Some tips that might help:
Try to see homework as your child's chance to share with you what they have learnt or experienced at school.
Avoid using this as an opportunity to share with them how you learnt at school or how well or badly you did at similar tasks. This will merely confuse and distract your child and give them yet another set of expectations and methods to remember.
Establish a routine that works for your family. Home, snack, homework, chill, family supper, bed...might work or your child might need to relax before homework or do it as soon as they get home. This is for you to decide but stick to what works.
For children who can be disorganised or struggle due to dyslexia, help with practicalities. Have an identical pencil case for home and one that remains at school. Then there can be no anxiety over forgotten kit or writing with a pen that isn't as comfortable or having left a bit of kit in their desk at school.
Here at St Catherine's we encourage the use of iPads an organisational tool as well as for the apps available. If your child uses an iPad at school, remember that they can take a photo of their homework written on the board or examples shared by the teacher. Nothing makes a child more anxious than having written their homework in a planner but then not being able to read it back or remember quite what it was meant to say.
If homework becomes a real struggle, consider leaving your child at school to complete it in a supervised homework club. This leaves work at school and means that home can be for relaxing and play. Completing homework with a friend or neighbour can also be helpful as again it means there is a set time and place for it and a bit of support in working alongside a peer.
Keep calm and communicate any concerns to your child's teacher their next morning.
What does a successful Prep School look like?
Sitting enjoying a Sunday lunch with friends last weekend, we mulled over the Sunday papers together. A group of nearly 40 somethings: friends from school days and mostly alumnae from a girls’ academic school. You can imagine the tone of the conversation – feisty debate and comments flinging back and forth! It was only a matter of time before the Times Top 100 Prep School list was presented to me with much questioning as to why St Catherine’s, along with so many other top Prep Schools didn’t feature…. at all. With one friend in marketing and two with three year old daughters, it was hardly surprising that the conversation became quite intense.
I appreciate the feel good factor of seeing the name of your child’s school listed and hence I felt that it might be useful for you to hear why St Catherine’s and the excellent schools which educate your sons are not present. The list, and others like them, is compiled using national Key Stage tests at 11 – SATS. Such tests enable a school to measure themselves against national norms which can, of course, be useful. However, the tests themselves are limiting. In order to achieve an excellent rank order, SATs have to remain the focus of the staff and pupils until the end of the summer term in Year 6. I believe passionately in a broad education at this age and stage and would not be prepared to forfeit that to follow the SATS programme.
Girls here broadly follow the National Curriculum; they are also introduced to Common Entrance and Scholarship papers in LIII which are very different in focus and stretch. We aim to have completed the Year 6 (LIII) curriculum by January and then use the last six months of the girls’ time in the Prep School to enrich their learning and ensure that they leave us very well-prepared for their senior school. This means an introduction to Year 7 materials, the chance to oversee and assist younger pupils, taking part in LIII production, sports day and opportunities to reflect and mark the end of the first stage of their education in a fitting way. There would be a very different focus were SATS tests taking place during the summer term.
Since half term we have sat and watched fifty eight routines including every child aged 7-11 at the House Gym and St Catherine’s Day meant a day off timetable to pause and reflect on the ethos and values we share as a school. Budding scientists represented the school at a national science quiz; chess players took on opponents and built their ability to strategise; LIII charity monitors helped load on Christmas boxes destined for children in need via Operation Christmas Child; the iPioneers presented a memo app to the Senior Management Team; School Council members debated traffic and road safety issues. The Pre-Prep have learnt ….songs, lines and movement around a stage which is of professional standard ahead of their Nativity. This has all happened amidst challenging lessons, timed assignments for girls in LIII and preparations for the Christmas service. This is what a great Prep School should be striving to achieve. It enables each pupil to be challenged and to have their efforts recognised. It is truly difficult to ‘measure’ and yet its worth is so tangible and significant.