Prep School Virtual Open Morning Q&A

On Saturday, 13th March we welcomed parents from across the region, the country and even overseas to our Prep School Virtual Open Morning.

Thank you again to all of those who attended. If you missed the event, we invite you to watch the recording of the session below. We have also provided a summary of the live Q&A session asked during this event.

If you would like to request more information or want to find out more, please contact our Prep School Admissions Secretaries on prepschool@yarmschool.org. You can also explore our Virtual 360 Tour, arrange a personal tour of the Prep School or pre-register for our next open morning on Saturday, 8th May.

General

How do you differ from other independent schools in the area?

We have a rich and dynamic curriculum for our Nursery, Pre-Prep and Prep School which benefits from specialist facilities and teachers that enhance the learning experience. We also recognise that every child is unique and acknowledge their different interests, backgrounds and ways of learning in our provision learning opportunities.

One of our many strengths is the extra-curricular programme that helps pupils develop their passions and talents, as well as building valuable life skills. We deliver activities lessons throughout the school day, within the timetable which we believe further enhances the personal development of our pupils and creates a vibrant learning culture. On Mondays the children enjoy a bespoke carousel of activities, such as mindfulness, chess, enterprise studies, debating, advanced coding and much more, and on Wednesdays we allow the pupils to choose an activity from across the spectrum of music, sport, art and cultural pursuits.

Another benefit of a Yarm School education is the vast array of trips and excursions on offer. Trips run right the way through the School from Nursery to Year 6 and usually, all of the children will enjoy at least one trip a term. Pupils go on their first residential visit in Year 3 and each year from then until Year 6. From York and Northumberland, to London and France, the adventures abound at Yarm Preparatory School!

We also have a full programme of sporting opportunities from Year 3 onwards and every child is given the chance to compete for their school, regardless of their ability.

The Preparatory School provides outstanding facilities for an all-round education. There are specialist suites for information technology, science, design technology, art and music. The floodlit multi-use all-weather games area provides a first-rate sports facility for P.E and fixtures. A new adventure trail offers educational opportunities through a specifically designed programme of lessons and activities. We also have a modern school hall which provides a flexible space for P.E, assemblies and school productions. Explore more in our virtual tour.

Do you offer a coach service?

Yes, we have twelve different coach routes which pupils can access from Year 3 onwards.

What are your class sizes?

In Nursery we have an excellent adult:child ratio of 1:8 which exceeds the statutory requirement of 1:13.

In Pre-Prep and Prep, our class sizes are typically between 17 and 18. As children move through the Prep School classes typically get a little larger, however we do have a limit of 22 children per class. If a class starts to move towards 20, we have the flexibility in terms of our facilities and resources to look to split the classes.

We have dedicated Teaching Assistants who work with our full-time Teachers in Pre-Prep and Prep, as well as Curriculum Teachers in the Prep School who work within a variety of classes.

Our superb ratios of children to support staff and teachers allows us to pick up on individual needs and encourage and nurture the best in every boy and girl.

Do you cater to food allergies and different dietary requirements?

We have a wonderful in-house catering team who make delicious, varied meals for the children and staff each day. We work with families to understand every child’s dietary needs and whether they have any allergies or intolerances or any requirements based on religious beliefs. We ensure that pupils are safe at all times and catered for with tasty, healthy, varied meals.

What is the process for the entry assessment?

There is no formal assessment for children joining Nursery. We do encourage parents to visit us so we can get to know them and their child and watch their little boy or girl interact and play with the other children.

We would invite families looking to start their Yarm School journey in Pre-Prep to visit our environment and meet our key members of staff, including Pre-Prep Co-ordinator Joanne Speight. We use this time to get to know the parents and the child to establish whether we are the right fit for the family. These taster days or mornings will be tailored to each child and will involve activities or lessons we know they have a specific interest in. During the day we will informally assess them based on key learning milestones for their age group, such as colours, letters or numbers. We will also speak to parents about the child’s progress and experience in their previous setting.

When assessing children for our Prep School (Years 3 – 6) our priority is to get a greater understanding of their prior learning and progress, however once again we strive to make this as informal and welcoming as possible. Children will be invited to join us for a taster day which they will spend with a class and they will also complete their assessments. Our assessments are completed online and cover English and Maths, with an additional non-verbal reasoning paper as well.

Where do parents drop-off and pick-up their children?

At the moment, we use the Senior School car park and ask parents to walk their children to the School from there. Members of staff will be on-hand at the traffic lights on The Spital to ensure the safety of pupils crossing the road.

We are in the process of building a car park which will give direct access to the Nursery, Pre-Prep and Prep schools and expect this to be completed by October.

Transitions

Is progression through the School (Nursery to Pre-Prep, to Prep, to the Senior School) guaranteed?

We expect all pupils to make progress right through the School, from Nursery into Pre-Prep and Pre-Prep into Prep. It is also not uncommon for 100% of our Year 6 pupils to be accepted into Yarm Senior School.

We work hard to build strong partnerships with parents so we can ensure from the get-go that our learning environment is right for their child and that progress throughout the School will be made.

How do you manage the transition into Nursery?

The transition into Nursery is extremely important and we manage it based on the individual needs of each child.

We will communicate with staff at previous settings, such as a childminder or nursery, to ensure we understand the needs and progress of every child joining us. For some boys and girls, this will be the first time that they’ll be away from their family and so we do offer taster sessions which allow parents and children to visit the Nursery, explore the facilities and meet the staff.

We work closely with each family to ensure a smooth, comfortable and happy transition for everyone involved. For some, this will be gradual change and may start with an hour one day, two hours the next etc. until the child is settled into our environment.

How do you support the transition process for pupils joining the School?

We see a number of families joining us at different points throughout the Prep School years and are accustomed to welcoming pupils from different schools and different countries and making them feel a part of the Yarm School community from the get-go. What’s more, our teachers are used to adapting the work accordingly to support pupils through their transition.

We hold an induction day in the middle of June and invite all new pupils into the School to meet their new classes and teachers, and explore the facilities and their new learning environment. This day is largely off time-table and includes many collaborative exercises and activities that promote teamwork and build connections. If a child is not able to attend the event, we will ask them to come in for a transition day prior to their start. Ultimately, we strive to make every child excited for their next adventure with us here at Yarm.

A significant part of the transition process into the Pre-Prep is discovering the particular interests of each child and finding ways we can incorporate this into lessons and activities to ensure they feel confident and comfortable within their surroundings.

Our pastoral care programme supports the physical and emotional welfare of your child to ensure their safety and happiness whilst allowing us as teachers to manage their involvement and integration in School. We instil a strong sense of community throughout the School through daily assemblies, our School House structure, Form Teachers, our School values and more. We also offer a buddy system for new pupils which helps them build friendships from day one.

We value our relationships with all of the parents/guardians here at the School and this communication and dialogue is critical in making sure children settle in and enjoy a smooth transition into life at Yarm. Our team, both Senior Leaders and Form Teachers, are in regular contact with our families to discuss the progress and happiness of all of our new pupils.

How do you support the transition from Pre-Prep to Prep?

Children in Nursery right-through to Year 2 are used to going up to the Prep site for their PE lessons which helps to establish a familiarity and comfortability with the Prep School from a young age. Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 also enjoy their lunches and their lunch play time at the Prep School so that when it comes to the transition into Year 3, their move is as seamless as possible.

We also hold transition days for our Year 2s which include activity days with the Year 3 pupils, joining the Prep School for special assemblies and watching the Year 3s perform plays. We also invite parents to tour the Prep School during the summer term so that everyone feels acquainted with the environment.

From an academic and pastoral perspective, we ensure our Year 2 and Year 3 teachers complete a thorough handover for each child.

How do you support the transition from Prep to Senior?

The transition process into Yarm Senior School starts at the beginning of Year 6, if not before. Pupils visit the Senior School during what we call ‘transition days’ where they take part in a variety of activities across different lessons, explore the grounds and become more familiar with some of the teachers. Parents will also meet the Headmaster of the Senior School, Dr Huw Williams, who will discuss in more detail what life at the Senior School is all about.

In Year 6, children will benefit from two activities sessions run by Senior School teachers, again helping to build strong pupil-teacher relationships.

There are also regular meetings between the Prep and Senior School pastoral teams to support the transition and identify any children who may need extra support during this process.

What is the % of pupils accepted into the Senior School?

It is not uncommon for 100% of our Year 6 pupils to be accepted into Yarm Senior School. We work hard with our Senior School colleagues, including the Headmaster, Dr Williams to ensure as many of our Prep School pupils as possible transition to the Senior School.

For children joining us in Year 5 or 6, we would talk very closely with the family about the Senior School assessments and also run our own tests before offering a place here at Yarm Prep. We are able to look at how a child has performed in our own assessments and understand how this will translate to the Senior School suitability.

Nursery

When can children join Nursery?

Children can start Nursery the term they turn 3. For instance, if a child turns 3 in November, they can start in September whilst children who turn 3 in February will be invited to join us from January.

How long is the Nursery School day?

The Nursery School day starts at 8:45am and finishes at 3:15pm, however wrap-around care is available from 7:45am until 6:00pm each day. Our morning sessions run from 8:30am to 11:30am and our afternoon sessions are 12:15pm to 3:15pm.

Are the children supervised on the stairs in Nursery?

The children only use the staircase to go up into their dining room for lunch and are supervised at all times. There are also gates at the bottom and top of the stairs which are locked throughout the day and can only be opened by a member of staff.

Pastoral

Are the children supervised on the stairs in Nursery?

This is something we are hugely passionate about and mindful of both pastorally and academically. Diversity, inclusion and equality are at the heart of our School Values and we focus on these topics with the children throughout their time here so naturally, all three are weaved into everyday life at Yarm.

In the classroom, diversity is very much a part of our curriculum and we encourage the children to discuss and celebrate their differences with one another and with the wider community. We use a range of diverse and inclusive texts in English and regularly review and update all areas of the curriculum to ensure it is as diverse and inclusive as possible.

We celebrate diversity outside of the classroom as well, such as holding events for World Religion Week and invite a variety of speakers to come and talk to the children about various topics related to this theme.

How do you manage bullying and what is your bullying policy?

Bullying is something every school has had to deal with and manage at some point and we take it extremely seriously. As children develop they are learning about themselves, discovering boundaries, understanding what’s right and wrong and trying to understand how to manage their emotions and their friendships. Sometimes it goes wrong and we understand that.

We build a strong sense of community and belonging and encourage all children to be kind and compassionate. When things do go wrong we are very robust in dealing with it and believe communication, with the pupils and their parents, is key. We want pupils to learn from their mistakes and will help them learn from and empathise with the people they may have upset.

Our pastoral team supports anyone who is struggling in any sort of way and we educate the pupils on our bullying policy in form time, assemblies and more so that they have a clear understanding of what bullying behaviour is.

In the end, we have a disciplinary system in place to enforce the rules and we use that when it is needed. We make sure parents and families are involved so that everyone, pupils and parents, can understand what has happened as well as why certain decisions have been made in line with the School rules, and that really is a partnership.

Our anti-bullying policy is available here.

What wrap-around care is available?

We provide wrap-around care to families throughout the day from 7:45am (early school care) to 6:00pm (after school care). During after school care, children are provided with a snack and are encouraged to make a start on any homework they have been given that week. Alternatively, there is a broad range of after-school activities for the children to take part in.

There is a small fee for our after-school provision.

Do you offer care during school holidays?

We do offer a Holiday School which is open to children of all ages and is run by members of our team. Our Holiday School runs for one week during our October half term, one week at the start of our Christmas break, one week during our Easter break and three weeks early on in our summer term. During this time pupils are given the chance to take part in a number of exciting activities at local sites.

Do you have SEN support in school, particularly with regards to high functioning Autism?

We have a structure in place to identify and support pupils who need additional assistance in their learning.

As we track pupil progress throughout school we can quickly recognise if a child needs additional support and address it early. This will typically begin with classroom based support from one of our excellent Learning Support Teachers. However, children with a specific need will work with our Learning Support Co-ordiantor as well as a specialist teacher to obtain the support required.

Communication is key during this process and we will always open dialogues with families to ensure we are doing what is best for each individual child.

We have had children with high functioning Autism attend Yarm Prep School in the past and would be able to put structures in place to support the specific needs of a child with high functioning Autism. As part of the admissions process we would invite you to discuss the needs of your child further, so we could understand the individual support required for them.

Our staff also regularly undergo training on how to support children with Autism and children with Dyslexia. This is overseen by our Learning Support Co-ordiantor who is also responsible for monitoring pupil progress with Form Tutors.

Curriculum

Are pupils taught in sets based on their ability?

No, our forms are mixed ability however teachers do differentiate the work for each pupil based on their abilities to ensure every child is stretched and challenged to be the best they can be. We believe in collaborative learning and the importance of pupils learning and helping their peers, and putting pupils in mixed ability classes promotes this. As an academically selective school our ability range is not as broad as it may be in a non-selective school, however, there may be some pupils that need some additional support and we have structures in place to identify and help these pupils.

As children move into Year 6 and in preparation for the transition to Senior School, we separate classes in Maths according to ability. This allows us to recognise and support pupils who may need extra support.

Do you offer swimming lessons?

Our Year 3 children enjoy swimming lessons as part of their activities sessions and will do so at a local swimming bath. We do have children who swim competitively for local clubs and our PE Department endeavours to support these children by entering swimming teams into local competitions where possible.

What sporting activities are available at Yarm Prep School?

We firmly believe that sport teaches children a variety of life lessons and skills that will help them both in their education and in their life beyond school. Within their timetable, pupils are introduced to sports like hockey, netball, rounders, cricket, short tennis, football, cross-country and athletics. Additionally, our extensive activities and clubs programme opens the door to an array of different sporting activities such as parkour, mixed rugby, climbing, kickboxing, ultimate frisbee and karate. There really is something for everyone. Read more about sport at Yarm Prep School.

What performance opportunities are on offer?

There are a number of opportunities for the children to take to the stage and perform to their peers and to the wider community, whether that’s in dance, music or drama – and this starts from a young age. In Nursery to Year 2, children perform to their parents at Christmas, Easter and at the end of the academic year, and we build on that as children move into the Prep School.

The Prep Schools puts on year group productions, there are a range of informal and formal concerts and a number of opportunities to work with the Senior School in various dance productions.

Pupils are encouraged to get involved in drama whether it is within our English lessons, class assemblies or productions as we believe it helps develop and improve important life skills like communication, problem-solving, negotiation and creative thinking.

Music is constantly developing and evolving here at Yarm School, however our policy of ‘music for all’ remains the same and all children are encouraged to become the best musician they can be. An EYFS specialist teaches music to our Nursery and Reception pupils, whilst pupils in Year 1 – Year 6 benefit from further specialist teaching from Mr Gooding, an experienced and talented musician, pianist and vocalist. We strive to instil a real passion for music and singing within all of our pupils and hope to introduce the children to a range of instruments and styles. Alongside the timetabled music lessons, pupils are invited to perform in front of the school on a number of occasions and can opt to further their learning, passion and talent with the variety of extra-curricular activities available to them.

How is STEM encouraged?

STEM, or STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) is very much a core focus for the whole school. As well as inviting inspiring speakers into school to talk to the children about specific topics which have included bridges and wildlife in the past, we have a number of skilled teachers who share their passions in the various clubs we run within the timetable and after school as well as running whole school STEAM projects.

Which languages are taught?

French is taught as part of the curriculum from Nursery all the way through to Year 6. Between Nursery – Year 4 pupils focus primarily on their oral French skills and are introduced to written skills from Year 4 onwards.

We are eager to expose the children to a breadth of languages which is why we give pupils the opportunity to learn additional languages like German and Italian in their activity sessions (Year 3-6). We have a great team of languages teachers, including one of the Senior School teachers from the Modern Foreign Languages Department.

Teacher – Parent Relationships

How frequent is the communication between parents and teachers? And if the parent has a concern or query, how do we flag this with the School?

It is incredibly important to us to build and maintain excellent communication with all of our parents and we strive to share information in an open, honest and timely fashion. Our doors are always open and parents are able to see teachers at the beginning and end of each school day and are also provided with contact information for relevant members of staff. Pupils also have learning journals and Prep diaries which enable communication between home and school. Our formal reports are distributed on a termly basis and are followed up with a parent consultation to discuss them further.

As well as sharing updates on your child’s progress and development, we invite all of our parents to celebrate the amazing goings-on at Yarm Prep School. We have a weekly newsletter and social media accounts which share important information and updates about the School.

Do you host any family events?

Yes, we hold regular events which allow our families to meet and mix with one another. Parents are invited and encouraged to watch sports fixtures, performances, sports days, class assemblies, and more.

We also have a vibrant parent committee who host a number of incredible social events such as balls, summer fairs and quizzes.

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