What's the difference between a feeder and non-feeder school in the independent school sector? And how do you choose the right prep school for your child? After all, not all children have the same needs, interests and abilities?
Headmaster Stuart Douch explains Sompting Abbotts is a non-feeder school because he believes no single school will suit all children equally. Instead, his staff take a personal approach to each child, to determine in what senior school environment they'll flourish best.
Parents looking to enrol their children in our historic co-educational preparatory school in West Sussex always ask the inevitable question: “What about senior schools?” When they do, we tell them not to worry. Not because it isn’t an important issue. But when a pupil joins us, we don’t yet know the child. However we will...
We are resolutely independent. We're not a feeder school; nor part of any larger partnership (outside the IAPS and ISC, who accredit us). These days, this independent streak makes us somewhat exceptional.
What do we mean by “independent”? The dictionary definition is “free from outside control”, and “not depending on another.” We fit both definitions.
Like every independent school, we're free to be creative with our curriculum and unfettered by bureaucracy. But our brand of independence also means we march to no-one’s agenda, other than the one that matters. That of our pupils.
As Headmaster, I don’t feel any pressure in helping parents choose a “destination school”. We have strong rapports with many Senior Schools and take an individually tailored approach for every pupil in our care.
Our children go on to a range of leading schools – mostly independent, but also high-performing schools in the state sector. Our Scholarship Honours’ Boards in our high-ceilinged Assembly Room are witness to this.
A family atmosphere
Ours is truly a child-focused approach so you’ll find no hothouse atmosphere here. We nurture every child’s particular talents, and work to get them to where they want to be.
Our family-run school is now in the hands of its third generation. That pedigree means a lot to us. Certainly, some feeder schools also refer to themselves as belonging to a “family” – but for which the word can really be exchanged for “corporation”.
In our case, however, our “family” are real people. They're the owners who open the doors to you, invariably accompanied by the school Labradors! It’s why, too, inside, our school feels like a large family home and it helps makes our community real and accessible.
Not missing out
We do not lose out by being resolutely independent. Our children are valued when they apply via Common Entrance or Common Academic Scholarship, or when incorporated as part of an Arts or Sports Award.
Nor do we lack rigour for being a smaller school. Our dedication to the children is proven not because of the number of buildings we own, or the prestigious size of our sports hall.
It is by virtue of having worked hard over almost a century – since 1921 to be precise – to establish our school’s reputation as a caring place where children are energised to excel and to have the confidence and aspirations to do well in their lives ahead. For me, the fact that we have many children today at our school whose parents – and in some cases grandparents too – are 'Old Abbottonians' because they attended our school, is wonderful proof of the value we bring.
Freedom to choose
Our parents tend to be people with good but not spectacular incomes. Most of them have opted to be less comfortably off for a few years to give their children the best possible start in life. They focus on our core product. That’s top-class rounded education in a beautiful setting of 30 acres of parkland and woods, strong computer literacy and heaps of extra-curricular opportunities.
As a former pupil of the school, I am living proof that this style of education works. It allowed me to develop my own identity and tread my own path in life.
Perhaps there’s scope to suggest a truly independent school fosters a spirit of personal and academic differentiation. I see it as an immense privilege to return to the school and continue our tradition of true independence.