Bu Christine Edmundson, Headmistress of Palmers Green High School and Governor of Keble Preparatory School for Boys
Everyone is a unique individual with their own skills and talents. When selecting schools for nursery, primary, secondary or sixth form education it is especially important to remember this. What suits one person or set of circumstances may not be appropriate for another and whilst ‘getting it right’ can result in happiness and fulfilment, the consequences of ‘getting it wrong’ can be devastating.
Research indicates that girls and boys perform better academically within a single sex classroom, but as one London headmaster once said, ‘Girls can be a civilising influence upon boys’. The question is, ‘When is the mixed learning environment best for your child?’ At secondary level, a mixed classroom during the teenage years can be a distraction for some. In the primary phase girls are often ready to learn at an earlier stage whilst boys enjoy physical, more active learning.
Some pupils thrive in a large environment with access to many different teachers whereas others will fare better in more intimate settings where they quickly become known as individuals. Smaller classes allow greater interaction with teachers – and a higher number of teacher-marked written assignments. With an examinations system based upon the quality of written responses, pupils who have more practice in this area may have a distinct advantage.
Being able to participate and excel in extra curricular activities, including music, drama and sport can transform a pupil’s school experience. Whilst a large school may have four netball teams with 120 in a year group, this only gives access to 23% of the year group. In a smaller school, like ours with 30 pupils per year, there may only be two teams, but with 14 netballers that gives access to nearly 50% of the year group. Similar opportunities are found elsewhere, and there can only be one leading lady or man in a school production.
Pupils cite school trips among their best memories of school. One of the advantages of a small school is that whole year groups can be taken on trips – including residential ones, which are opportunities often reserved for GCSE or A Level students. Palmers Green High School’s Year 8 Geography and Science field trip to Somerset is an excellent educational experience for all pupils.
Matching values is important too, and for PGHS the ethos of our school is central. Long-standing traditions and expectations of hard work plus high standards of discipline result in polite, happy and confident pupils, who are not arrogant.
When you visit ask yourself whether the pupils you meet act in a way you would like your son or daughter to behave in a few years time. Remember that what is best for one person is not necessarily best for another. Everyone is a unique individual with their own skills and talents, and a good school will nurture these.
Palmers Green High School for Girls
Tel 020 8886 1135 www.pghs.co.uk
Celebrating 110 years (1905 – 2015)