Lead image: Oakfield Preparatory School
In an emergency situation, such as the recent Covid-19 lockdown, independent schools should respond with clarity, creativity and positivity.
Moyra Thompson, headteacher at Oakfield Preparatory School in Dulwich, south east London, believes her independent school’s very individual approach to education allowed them to do just that.
‘We are a co-ed prep school, for children aged two to 11, and we are a very diverse community,’ she explains.
‘We are a mixed ability school, with a large number of international families – I always say we are representative of London and of life!
‘Oakfield’s primary schooling is about the individual child and helping them to be the very best they can be.’
Focusing on building character at primary school sets children up for life and was invaluable preparation for the pandemic.
‘At Oakfield we do not just teach them what to learn but also how to learn; we help them develop the character skills and traits they are going to need in the workplace,” she says.
‘We emphasise independence, resilience and global citizenship – we feel it’s important our children are prepared for life as global citizens.
‘The recent situation has vindicated this. When our children returned to school, we realised just how resilient and adaptable they were – we saw their strength of character in abundance.’
Focusing on creativity
Creativity is also vital to a prep school’s success during challenging times.
‘We are a very creative place. We like to be exciting and fun and think creatively about what we do – and our parents are on board with that,’ Mrs Thompson explains.
‘Parent partnership is important to us and being involved in what happens here is a real labour of love for them.
‘Together, we all had a very positive, ‘can do’ attitude to the lockdown.’
Flexibility and communication
The school, part of Education Development Trust, made immediate provision for the children of keyworkers, then focused on delivering the curriculum, via the parent and pupil portal and Teams.
‘But it was also about giving flexibility to families and communicating with them,” she insists.
‘We wrote calm, detailed and measured letters, setting out what we were doing and discussing how parents could work with us. The messages were clear and comprehensive.’
After half-term, Oakfield brought the first year groups back; by the summer, all children had returned for some teaching.
‘Our experience has certainly opened up possibilities to using our IT in more creative and flexible ways,’ she agrees.
‘We are now going to provide all of our children in Key Stage 2 with laptops.’
The primary school is ready for September and will press on with plans to refurbish specialist teaching areas and introduce new resources.
‘We learned to trust our children and to have confidence in them,’ she adds.
‘Now our aim is to continue to find opportunities to help them grow as global citizens.’
To find out more about admissions, see oakfield.dulwich.sch.uk or call 0208 670 4206