Samantha Greenwood, Deputy Head of Pangbourne College, considers why so many parents opt for an independent school for their child’s senior years

Each year, around half of Year 7 pupils join Pangbourne College from state primary schools. So why do so many parents choose a fee-paying school for their child’s senior education? To begin with, there are many practical benefits for busy working families used to juggling school runs with mealtimes before ferrying their child to after-school lessons or clubs. Independent schools generally offer a longer day filled with the full range of co-curricular activities, alongside academic learning. Boarding schools with day pupils offer even longer days – with the option of having all meals provided, plus the opportunity to stay overnight on an occasional basis.

It’s generally acknowledged that independents can offer a far greater range of non-academic activities. At Pangbourne there are countless opportunities to try things such as rowing, horse riding, clay pigeon shooting and yoga, to name just a few. There are also organised visits to interesting places – from London’s V&A Museum to the Nabugabo Learning Centre in Uganda. 

“There are practical benefits for busy families – independent schools such as Pangbourne College offer a longer day filled with co-curricular activities”

If a child has a particular interest in, say, sport, music, drama or art it can be challenging for state schools to find the resources to nurture their enthusiasm – often placing the onus on parents to help their child pursue their passion. Independent schools are likely to have specialist teachers and facilities that ensure that children can both discover and develop their talents.

Most importantly for some parents, an independent education can lead to better academic results. Class sizes are usually much smaller, which means that teachers can spend more time with individual pupils. Children who have the potential to achieve top grades are more likely to receive the stretch they need. Conversely, for students who find that academic achievement does not come so easily, an independent school is likely to identify where they would benefit from support and also have the resources to help them achieve their full potential.

"There are practical benefits for busy families – independent schools offer a longer day filled with co-curricular activities"
At Pangbourne College nearly half of Year 7 joiners come from state primary schools, some perhaps attracted by the longer school days and mix of activities

Thinking beyond school

With a combination of academic results and opportunities to pursue lots of different interests, independently educated children are also encouraged to develop ‘soft skills’, including confidence, resilience, adaptability, teamwork and leadership. These skills put them in good stead for life after school. There’s usually a strong alumni network to call upon for support and guidance on career choices and next steps. These networks and connections can be invaluable in providing inspiration and helping to choose and build a career path.

Another key benefit is the strong social ties that are built up over the five to seven years that a child is at an independent senior school. These are valued by parents and teachers alike and enrich the whole school and wider community. At Pangbourne, our parents’ association organises a number of social events such as dog walks, an annual ball and the Christmas Market. Our boarding house structure offers many more opportunities for families to come together at dinners, barbecues and at our College Sundays.

At the end of the day, an independent education is a significant investment in a child’s future. The key is to consider all the elements important to you and find the school which is the right fit for your child and for your family life. If you find a school which offers all these benefits, it will be a very good investment indeed.

Pangbourne College

Further reading: Channing School on why we should celebrate outcomes