Prep School Virtual Open Morning Q&A

On Saturday, 26th September we hosted a Virtual Open Morning for Yarm Preparatory School, including a Q&A style session with Headmaster, Bill Sawyer and other key members of the Prep Management Team.

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.

Below is a summary of our answers to all of the questions asked during this event, as well as the questions asked in our June Virtual Open Morning.

If you would like to request more information or want to find out more, please don’t hesitate to contact our Prep School Admissions Secretaries on You can also explore our Virtual 360 Tour or arrange a visit to the Prep School.

How do you plan to conduct Yarm Preparatory School in the COVID-19 era?

This is naturally an area for parental concern and one we have taken incredibly seriously to ensure all of the children and staff are safe at Yarm Prep School.

We continue to follow a hierarchy of controls as guided by the Government. This includes encouraging all pupils, parents and staff to follow isolation and testing guidelines, increasing personal hygiene across the school with hand washing and hand sanitising stations as well as informational posters, promoting good respiratory hygiene by having more tissues available around the school and ensuring bins are emptied and cleaned more regularly, and increasing the cleaning routine around the school.

We are also making sure all doors are propped open to reduce the amount of contact with handles and surfaces, our rooms will benefit from consistent ventilation, we have placed antibacterial wipes around the school so surfaces can be cleaned often, and children are given individual equipment to use each day or equipment is disinfected after use to minimise cross contamination. We are extremely fortunate to have a range of dedicated teams, including our Estates Department and our Cleaning Department, who are committed to implementing our enhanced cleaning operation and ensuring the School site is a safe place to be.

Another key control is the reorganisation to the pupils’ school day; the school has been divided into learning zones and pupils and teachers stay within their zone all day, also following a one-way system. We have organised staggered drop-off and pick-up times as well as staggered break and lunch times to ensure pupils only mix with those in their learning zone. In the Prep School each year group has been divided into three classes, whilst our Pre-Prep year groups have been divided into two. Our small class sizes and generous grounds coupled with learning zones and staggered break times and lunches have supported us in keeping our year group bubbles socially distanced at all times.

All of our pupils have been back in School since September and are throwing themselves into everything on offer, really demonstrating their love for learning and eagerness to try new things. We are thrilled that we have been able to give pupils the opportunity to come back into School and enjoy safe contact with their teachers and peers and are extremely proud of how our pupils have adapted and responded to the new measures in place.

We understand this is an unsettling time for parents and pupils and have created an area on our site with helpful information and resources relating to emotional health and well-being.

How did/will you support pupils in remote learning?

We have established a full remote learning programme which ensures pupils can continue to learn and progress if we have to go back into lockdown or should a pupil need to self isolate. We will use Google Classrooms to provide learning provisions and personal feedback across all subjects, whilst utilising live video and teacher video sessions to help deliver the curriculum.

Are all years required to take entrance assessments?

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.

Please download our Information for Parents booklet for more information on our admissions process.

How do you support pupils to settle into Pre-Prep?

A significant part of the process 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 Pre-Prep Co-ordinator Joanne Speight is 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 other schools to Yarm Prep?

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 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.

Are the children streamed according to ability in Maths and English?

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.

Are there extra lessons available to children who have just moved to the country to improve their English level?

We have robust tracking and monitoring processes in place to assess the progress of each child here at Yarm. If at any point we feel a child may need extra support, we have a structure in place to help bridge the gap in their learning. Initially this will be in-class support with the Form Teacher or Teaching Assistant. We have qualified Teaching Assistants all the way through Pre-Prep as well as two Teaching and Curriculum Assistants in the Prep School who offer assistance in class alongside the Form Teacher. We also have further members of staff who can offer extra sessions both 1-2-1 and in small groups in English and Maths.

For children joining us from outside of Britain and when English is not the child’s first language, we offer additional support within the classroom to help with the development of vocabulary as well as their social interaction skills.

During this process, dialogue between us and parents/guardians is critical to ensure we help the child make the best progress possible.

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.

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.

Do you offer speech and drama lessons?

A specialist speech and drama teacher comes into school two or three days a week. You can also request individual lessons for your child which would take place within the timetable. 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. Learn more about Drama at Yarm Prep School.

Have music lessons changed in recent years?

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. Discover more about music at Yarm Prep School.

When do the children participate in individual instrumental lessons? Is this during lesson time?

We have a whole host of skilled peripatetic teachers who teach in both the Prep School and the Senior School and they offer lessons to the pupils on a 1-2-1 basis. We rotate the children throughout the day so some lessons will take place before school for example and others will take place during a lesson. However, the rotational systems means pupils will never miss part of the same lesson each week.

How does your after school care work? Has this changed in light of COVID-19?

Both our morning and after school care is running to 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 (3.30pm – 6.00pm), children are provided with a snack and are encouraged to make a start on any homework they have been given that week.
Children in Pre-Prep onwards are invited to take part in a range of after school activities, ranging from STEM and digital leaders to table tennis and kickboxing.

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

Do you offer holiday clubs during term breaks?

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, 1 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, such as surfing at Saltburn.

What is the teacher-pupil ration like in Pre-Prep?

In Nursery we have an excellent adult:child ratio of 1:8 which exceeds the statutory requirement of 1:13. This enables us to create a wonderful home away from home environment where our children are truly given the opportunity to foster a lifelong love of learning. The statutory requirement for Reception classes increases to 1:30, however we keep our class sizes small at just under 20 pupils per class alongside a full-time Teacher and Teaching Assistant.

How do you communicate with parents?

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. 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 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.

How do you support the transition from Prep to Senior School and are there any guarantees?

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. Some of the Senior School teachers also deliver specialist sessions to our Year 6 pupils alongside our own staff. Hear what some of our Year 6 pupils had to say in this video.

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 exam.

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. 

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