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The best age to start senior school

Scott Carnochan, Headmaster of Casterton, Sedbergh Preparatory School discusses the advantages of starting senior education in year 9 instead of year 7.

For many parents of children in state education, one of the most daunting times for both parent and child is the transition from primary to secondary school. With some children barely 11 years old when they start year 7, parents are often left wondering if their child is ready, mature enough or emotionally ready to switch from the nuturing education of primary school, mixing with 4-11 year olds, to mixing with around 8 times the number of students age ranging from 11-18 years old.

Yet a family who chooses an independent education for their child can rest safe in the knowledge that the transition from prep school to senior school follows an established path. Usually the first year of entry to senior school is Year 9, at the age of 13. The only decision needed is which school.

However, not all prep schools finish at age 13 – some are 11+, following the state sector pattern, where children move to senior school at age 11. The dilemma of when to move your son or daughter can be unsettling and unnerving for all involved, and at such a crucial time in a child’s development, investing in stability and a nurturing environment is becoming increasingly popular.
Scott Carnochan, Headmaster of Casterton, Sedbergh Preparatory School, near Kirkby Lonsdale, believes that the opportunity to delay moving to senior school until your son or daughter is 13 guarantees two more years of childhood.

“From personal experience of my own schooling, I know that at the age of 11, it can be daunting to be thrown into an 11 to 18 school environment, particularly as a boarder, mixing with teenagers and young adults. If you’re 11 and surrounded by 18 year olds, you are forced to change your behavior to fall in to line with their expectations. In contrast to this, when our boys and girls leave us at the end of Year 8, aged 13, I feel that they are both physically and emotionally better equipped for a senior school environment.”

“I have no doubt that a 13+ preparatory school education prolongs childhood, whilst developing crucial leadership skills and encouraging young people to take greater responsibility for themselves. This is crucial at an age where children may start to experience feelings of self-consciousness, we are able to help them overcome this in a community which they are familiar with and, importantly, feel safe and secure in; somewhere they know they can try new things without fear of failing. What we witness is a clear development in these children’s confidence and self-esteem. This two-year period is a gift of two more years in a more nurturing, gentle and caring environment.”


In October, Casterton, Sedbergh Preparatory School was listed by the Good Schools Guide and featured in The Telegraph as one of the Top 10 best value boarding prep schools in the UK, highlighting its exceptional facilities and pastoral care and the stunning rural location which allows a wide range of extra-curricular activities ranging from horse riding to bush craft. The school offers academic, musical and sporting scholarships for pupils aged 11 and above.

To arrange a visit or to find out more, contact the school on 015242 79200.



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