Alex McCullough, the Headmaster of Perrott Hill Prep, explains why he thinks the school’s size is one of the key secrets of its success

Our Somerset school has won multiple awards over the past few years, including Pre-Prep of the Year in 2019 and the BSA Supporting Junior Boarders Award in 2020. There’s no denying that the last 24 months have been tough on the whole independent sector, with travel restrictions, lockdowns and the low-level threat of (whisper it) remote learning creating an unprecedented level of uncertainty among parents. At Perrott Hill, we’ve emerged with an even greater belief in the power and strength of small schools.

Small schools enable a family atmosphere where every staff member knows every child and every child benefits from subject-specialist teaching. For instance, our Director of Sport teaches from Nursery to Year 8, as does our Director of Music, Head of Art and Head of French. Such connections in small schools extend across the whole staff team and school community. Here, Mr White in maintenance runs a carpentry club; parents and former parents run activities such as pinhole photography and textiles. Socially, children know one another and make friendships across year groups.

“A smaller size gives senior pupils the chance to take on positions of responsibility and this in turn develops their character and social confidence”

One thing about such connections is the impact on all concerned. One former pupil summed up what this means: “I spent my activities sessions volunteering in Pre-Prep, reading to the children and helping with playtime. It was a formative experience and one which improved my patience and communication skills. It also made me realise the experience of being looked after by your peers is precious”.

Perrott Hill School on the benefits of a smaller prep school
Smaller schools are well placed to help children find their passions and then pursue them

Smaller schools can often take a more tailored approach to a child’s education, and this is a key strength in giving children the encouragement to find their passions at an early age –whether that’s on the sports field, in the classroom or in the creative arts. Sometimes, there can be changes made to assist with this. We recently added a bagpipes teacher to our peripatetic staff after a request from a pupil in Year 6 – a few years back the same thing happened with the harp.

If a spark is ignited in a child, there is the flexibility to nurture and encourage this – whether it’s in STEM clubs, book clubs or athletic development. The success of this ‘something for everyone’ approach can be seen as children progress. Our scholarships in recent years include an all-rounder award to Radley, a rugby scholarship to Millfield, an academic scholarship to Canford and art scholarships to Harrow, Marlborough and Sherborne.

A smaller size allows senior pupils the chance to take on positions of responsibility and this in turn develops their character and social confidence. As well as the obvious Head Boy, Head Girl and Prefect, there are other roles: Head Chorister, Head of Ceramics, captains of sport, Captain of the Tinker Lab, heads of houses, boarding prefects. The list goes on. Small can be mighty, especially if you believe, as we do, that it means scope for every child to shine within the range of responsibilities on offer. It is incredibly rewarding to see pupils at age 12 or 13 step up – especially those who might be forgotten or overlooked in a larger school.

Perrott Hill Prep

Further reading: York House Prep on the importance of childhood adventure