PREP schools should adopt the Government's literacy and numeracy strategies or they might lose their lead over state schools, heads have been warned.
Leading figures in the Incorporated Association of Preparatory Schools are urging members to send off for the "lunch boxes" of teaching materials for the numeracy and literacy hours, which the Government has agreed to make available free to independent schools, and to introduce that style of direct, whole-class, interactive teaching to raise standards in their schools.
David Hanson, director of education at the association, showed prep school heads a video of the lively start to a numeracy session at their annual conference in Eastbourne last week and challenged them: "Are you absolutely content that what your staff are doing is better than this?
"There's no doubt this is going to raise standards in the state sector," he added. "That's the competition, and we've got to stay ahead of the game."
His wife Angela, who is a literacy consultant with Warwickshire County Council, stressed the high standard children could achieve by following the literacy strategy. It could take a child to level 6 by the end of Year 6, she said.
"It's a gross misconception that the literacy and numeracy hours are for low-achieving pupils," Mr Hanson told The TES.
"Their principles are based on high-quality teaching and learning and apply to all schools. They're a solid platform for specialists to build on and for non-specialists to use."
He said there was a danger that specialist teachers (who teach pupils from nine onwards in prep schools) might feel they had nothing to learn from the strategies. But any professional who failed to take account of the materials was "foolish". Prep school teachers who felt they already used the direct, whole-class teaching methods central to the literacy and numeracy hours should look at the teaching packs for new ideas.
Figures released last week showed that at least 93 per cent of the prep school pupils taking key stage 2 tests reached level 4, and half reached the level expected of 14-year-olds (level 5), compared with about one quarter nationally.
Mr Hanson pointed out that the real marker of excellence for the biddable pupils in prep schools was not the number
getting level 4 but those getting level 5.