Buckhurst Hill’s Loyola Preparatory School head Kirsty Anthony on first hand experiences, offering opportunities and single sex teaching benefits
Could you offer us a potted history of Loyola Preparatory School…
Loyola is a Catholic independent school for boys aged three to 11 years, which has been based in Palmerston Road, Buckhurst Hill since 1950. Our characteristics and ethos are linked to the basis of Ignatian education with values such as authenticity, integrity, courage, love, forgiveness, hope, healing, service and justice. We welcome families from all faiths who are sympathetic to our ethos and values.
Today, what does the school offer?
We teach and support our pupils to become responsible citizens in a multicultural world and an asset to any community. Through the broad curriculum at Loyola, we aim to discover the talents of our pupils – academic, athletic and artistic – and build on these talents with values of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law. Our teaching is carried out by a committed and caring team of staff to a very high standard and we are the only school in the area to offer specialist education for boys from the age of three.
You have your own history with the school pre-headship – your sons went to the school?
I have three sons who attended Loyola from the age of three-years-old. This gave me an insight into the school as a parent and what a nurturing environment it is. All of my children left Loyola being confident in themselves and upholding the school values; particularly respect and the ability to support one another when needed. These values are still with them today.
How did that eventually lead you to taking over as head and how long ago was that?
Having worked in the state sector for many years and having children in the independent sector I could easily see the advantages for children and teachers working in the private sector. This included smaller classes, a full time teaching assistant, specialist teachers and an increased flexibility with the curriculum content. I joined Loyola in September 2014, in time to see two of my sons in their last years at primary school. I was deputy headteacher and taught in Year 2 until an opportunity arose for me to continue the good work in a place I love. I became headmistress in September 2018.
What do you love most about your job?
I love the fact that no day is the same and the boys and staff always want to include you in their experiences. The relationships you build with the families who attend Loyola are extremely special. As we are a one form entry school, we all know each other and as a headmistress, to be able to be there at each step of the learning journey from three to 11 years is an honour and a privilege. I am always extremely proud of how much our pupils achieve and grow.
What curriculum do you follow at Loyola?
The national curriculum forms the basis for our teaching, but we have the flexibility to extend this and in ways that we feel will inspire and motivate learning. With this in mind, we look at how the application of practical experiences such as experimenting with centrifugal force, using code or creating a replica human digestive system can reinforce concepts covered in the classroom. Preparation for the 11+ examinations also forms part of our curriculum as boys gain an understanding of the exam process in a non-threatening/pressurised manner. Ensuring that boys understand ways to keep themselves healthy and mentally well is a priority and for pupils to be able to ask for help when needed.
Can you describe a typical classroom scene?
Our classes are spacious and light giving children the room to work either individually, in pairs or collaboratively in groups depending on the lesson. Our classrooms are welcoming and show that we value one another’s work through our displays. Specialist rooms are dedicated to subjects such as art, science or computing and all classes have a main teacher plus a full time teaching assistant who encourages the boys to be forward thinking in their approach to lessons.
What opportunities do you offer outside of the classroom?
We offer a wide range of extra-curricular activities including chess, choir, lego, CAFOD prayer group and sports clubs including training squads for teams. Our wrap around care (7.15am–6.15pm) is very popular and runs alongside Soccer School and Get Creative, which we extend into the holidays too. Some of our clubs act as stepping stones for playing at county or academy level too. The playground is important to our boys and with playleaders supporting younger boys, Eco and School Council engineering school initiatives and the PTA supporting us, we can move forward to create new experiences for our pupils such as the installation of new equipment such as an adventure play ship for the boys.
What do you see as the benefits of a boys’ only prep school?
Building boys’ resilience, teamwork and leadership skills is essential, as is teaching them how to communicate effectively with people from all walks of life and to respect inclusiveness. We find that building solid and collaborative relationships with our students is essential to their success.
A single-sex school allows boys to explore all subjects and activities some of which they may never have considered at a co-ed school. Here, boys are expected to fill all the roles within the school, from class responsibilities, buddies, mentors and play leaders to actors and artists. There is no room for gender stereotypes in our all-boys’ school. All subjects are made available to students, without fear of judgment from their peers. A boys’ school develops uniqueness and individuality.
We are approaching the end of the school year. What have been the highlights for you?
This has been the first full academic year after the pandemic. This has subsequently led to so many highlights from the Nativity and carol concerts, the residential and day trips, families fully involved within the school building once more, Christmas fetes, having lunch with your son to sports day with the whole school cheering each other on: 2021–2022 has been about the Loyola family being back together again.