The experts at Gabbitas answer all your questions about education

As a parent, have you ever wished you had an agony aunt to answer your burning questions? Well, independent education consultancy Gabbitas can do just that. So Absolutely Education posed four questions to the team. Here are their solutions.

Question: How do we decide whether our child is best suited to a prep school that finishes at Year 6 or Year 8?

Catherine B W

Catherine Kelsey Director of Elite Clients: 

A well-chosen prep school will provide a solid foundation for a child’s academic career. It will play an enormous part in determining the options available to them when it comes to senior school and will prepare them for a smooth transition. If consideration for the prep school is intrinsically linked to the senior school, one must look at the intake ages at the desired senior school. Does the senior school provide entry at age 11, age 13, or both? This is vital not only so there is a smooth flow from prep to senior, but also to avoid a ‘small fish in big pond’ scenario whereby an unprepared 11 year old may be overwhelmed by the additional demands and expectations of their new environment. If the child is assessed as being confident and ready, then a prep school with progression into a senior school at age 11 would make sense. If there is doubt, however, then a two-year gap can be a useful testing period. There is never a ‘one-size fits all’ solution to choosing the best prep school for your child, and that’s what makes my work so interesting. From our experience, the best decision ultimately relies upon an unbiased (and unemotional) perspective on a child’s abilities and needs. Every family has a different set of circumstances and its my job to understand the and advise objectively. Some parents are surprised to hear that their first choice prep school might not be the best place for their child to thrive and prosper, but with hindsight they are always grateful they took good advice.

Question: My daughter’s school friend has told her that she is already being tutored for an entrance exam for our preferred senior school which they will sit in 2021. Is this over the top or are we falling behind?

Kirsty B W

Kirsty Reed Lead Tutor Consultant:

First of all, don’t panic! It’s very easy as a parent to worry about what other families are doing but common sense will tell us that each individual child should be treated as just that. What we would suggest you do is take a look at your child and decide whether there are any areas that a private tutor could help you with. If the entrance exam is written by the school it will normally focus on verbal reasoning, non-verbal reasoning , Maths and/or English. If the school uses the Common Entrance, core subjects are Maths, English and Science. If your child is at a prep school, then the school should have already given your child some coaching. If your child attends a state school then it might be sensible to prepare your child. In either case, use a good tutor agency who can provide an objective assessment test and a mock interview so you can understand where your child is now and recommend a plan of action. And although starting a year in advance seems excessive, it’s never to soon or too late to start: remember, preparation is everything!

Question: There is a lot of talk about gender and diversity at our school gates, in the press and in general. How are schools changing to adapt to this new environment and how can we as parents help?

H S Gabbitasbw

Helen Semple Senior Consultant, Executive Team:

Whilst it is positive that increasingly young people feel comfortable identifying as who they wish to be (straight, homosexual, non-binary, trans, faith, no faith etc), with this comes a responsibility for schools and families to understand what this means for their young people. Written by educators, educational specialists, consultants, diversity practitioners and parents, Inclusion Matters is the first resource of its kind to provide background information on English state and independent schools’ statutory obligations under the Equality Act 2010. It offers practical questions in an easy-to-use checklist format to help empower parents and carers to consider and discuss a school’s commitment to LGBT+ inclusion. More and more young people are rejecting the rigid boundaries that society puts on gender labels. Schools need to catch up in order to provide an environment that young people can thrive in. Encouragingly, steps are slowly being taken; last summer saw the first independent school participating in the Pride March in Brighton, a growing number of schools are embracing the need for inclusion training for staff, and more schools are providing non-gender specific uniforms. But there is still a long way to go. The Inclusion Matters guide is available online at:

Question: A family at my son’s school recently became the guardian family of a nine-year old girl from Thailand. I have a son the same age and am interested to find out more about what it involves, the rewards and how it could affect my son.

Danni B W

Danielle Flood Student Support Services & Guardianship Manager:

International students who study in the UK should have a UK-based Education Guardian appointed by their parents to represent their child and act on the parents’ behalf in the event of an emergency. Some families choose a family friend, but many families now appoint a professional Guardianship Agency to find, check, approve, support and monitor their Guardian Family. Guardian Families come in all shapes but most importantly they will all be caring families who like the idea of supporting an overseas student in the UK. Guardian Families also need to be homeowners and provide a room with some space for clothing and a desk for studying and they will be paid according to the amount of time a student stays with them. Having a younger child should not be a concern as the agency you choose should work hard to ensure you have the right student to fit in with your family. So whether you would prefer a similar aged child so that they can grow up together, or an older child who can act as an elder sibling, it can work to suit you. It is a wonderful experience for UK families to participate in, and to know that you and your family have helped a young person to settle in and make the most out of their UK school experience is a rewarding achievement. Friends are made for life.

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