Meeting some of the delightful students at Guangzhou Foreign Language School

Meeting Students in Guangzhou Foreign Language School

Meeting Students in Guangzhou Foreign Language School

More details of our trip to Hong Kong and China will follow soon.


Half Term Creative Workshop “The Hero’s Journey”

    Prep4’s Half Term Creative Workshop
 “The Hero’s Journey”
Facing challenges, building confidence

200px-ALBW_Link_Drawing                                                                                                                           October 29th and 30th, 10.00 to 4.30 at The Old Rectory Folkington

Using drama, story making and creative arts, a unique opportunity for 11 to 13 year olds to learn performance and communication skills, build confidence, develop innovative thinking and have lots of fun!

Prep4’s Workshop is designed for students at any level of ability to work on a project using drama and presentation techniques, combined with creative arts to produce a performance. Students will also learn how to apply the “journey principle” to their own lives.                                                                                    

For details tel 01323 483367 or email

A week of learning, laughter and fun with Prep4’s Twelfth Night workshop


The final scene

The final scene

Who says children can't have great fun performing Shakepeare?

Who says children can’t have great fun performing Shakepeare?

Someone asked me last week what I was doing loading armfuls of costume into the car. “It’s for a week’s Shakespeare workshop for children”, I answered. “Shakespeare…… for kids? I bet they don’t think much of that!” Sadly many people have similar negative reactions, left over I suspect from unimaginative teaching of Shakespeare at school.The children who worked with us for a week won’t ever feel like this. When they look back at what was for many of them their first experience of performing Shakespeare, (and also the first time for some of them performing in front of an audience), they will remember a fantastic sun-soaked week full of drama, action, fun and laughter, culminating in a performance in the beautiful floodlit garden of The Old Rectory. They all went home after a great week with a real sense of achievement, the achievement of having delivered – in five days – a very polished performance of Twelfth Night to family and friends.audience
Halfway through the workshop week Victoria and I were asked if we were confident they would really know all those lines by the end of the week. “Of course!” we answered, “They know it’s expected of them”. “But how can you be sure?” Of course we could not be 100% sure, but the time and effort that went into the structure and planning of the week meant that barring unexpected events we were pretty confident.
The planning starts with the script. Pippa had the task of finalising the text during the pre-performance week. We always have to wait until the last minute, as we never know our final cast number until a few days before we start. Pippa’s one hour version of Twelfth Night included all the main elements of the plot in the bards’ original language (no modernising here!) and provided the requisite number of parts of appropriate length for all participants.
Pippa takes some time off from filming  to work on Twelth Night

Pippa takes some time off from filming to work on Twelth Night

Victoria at the same time has to oversee logistics, catering, hospitality and plan for the invasion of The Old Rectory by the young Shakespearians. Break times and meal times have to be well planned as this part of the week is a great opportunity to socialise and to meet new friends – which we believe is as important as the practical drama, movement and voice work. LUNCH ED
The key element of a successful week is attention to detail. We started with Pippa outlining the plot (only one student already knew the story), explaining to the cast that they were going to spend the week telling a tale of mistaken identities, comedic buffoonery and romance, all spoken in Shakespearean tongue. Pippa’s casting plan gave every student a chance to read for a variety of parts. By the end of the first lunchtime the show was cast. Monday afternoon gave us a chance to try out the various areas in which we would stage the action with a run (stagger) through in the garden of the Old Rectory.
On Tuesday with the help of (another) Victoria, our assistant stage manager, we split into groups and had a lively day of sectional rehearsals followed by a run through, giving us an opportunity to see how the show was taking shape. (Well!)
On Wednesday we had a great day with visiting humourist, writer and comedy expert Lee Cornes. Lee worked with the group developing characterisation, movement and comedic timing.
Comedy expert Lee Cornes joins the group

Comedy expert Lee Cornes joins the group

On Thursday for our first dress rehearsal we were joined by Jane Benians who provided invaluable assistance in all areas especially costume and dance. The show was very nearly ready.
By Friday afternoon it was all systems go. A very lively final dress rehearsal and time for some fun and a barbeque supper before the evening performance.
As the cast took their bows, an enthusiastic member of our audience said what a great theatrical experience for the students, something they will remember for many years. Yes it was, but we know it was more that. Our aim is to provide a great ‘life experience’. Prep4 is not a drama school and our workshop week is designed to give the participants much more than just drama training. Our aim for the week is that as well as developing new drama and communication skills, we are building confidence, developing social and problem solving skills, and and creating a sense of self worth alongside respect and consideration for others. Quite an outcome for a week at the Old Rectory.
Enjoying Sally's pre-show barbeque!

Enjoying Sally’s pre-show barbeque!

Shakespeare Workshop off to a great start

Enjoying Sally's lunch

Enjoying Sally’s lunch

Working on Twelth Night characters

Working on Twelth Night characters

Even a rather wet start yesterday did not stifle the enthusiasm of the workshop participants. Prep4’s Summer Shakespeare Workshop is in full swing with lots of great drama work and fun fuelled by Victoria and Sally’s great home cooking.

Personal statements: make them unique

The Summer SMART Programme

The Summer SMART Programme

“Sorry I’m late” said Tom, “I overslept this morning and missed the bus.”

It was the second day of my visit to Tom’s school, where I was teaching a workshop to help students prepare their Personal Statements for university applications. Tom had been one of the more chatty participants, but today he looked a little bleary eyed. I suspect that there has been rather a lot of partying since the exams finished last week and although not all schools have broken up, the summer celebrations have already begun. The talk is of beach parties, shopping trips and visits to Wimbledon. I don’t begrudge it. These young people deserve to celebrate – most of them have worked really hard.

However, although I want them to take a well earned rest, it is also important that they start thinking about the next stage too. Some of my students have only one or two years left at school and will soon be applying for university or internships. They should use the summer holidays wisely and spend some of it doing activities which will broaden their academic or employment opportunities.

In the autumn my colleague Graham Lee and I will begin the process of looking though piles of personal statements as preparation for our mock interview programme. Many of these documents appear to be quite similar, with candidates citing the same books, the same sort of experiences and the same achievements. We always advise students to try and make their PS or CV “unique”. By all means mention the school trip or Duke of Edinburgh Award, but try to also include things which will make the application stand out.

I interviewed a college registrar recently who told me that he is far more impressed when students appear to have read beyond the syllabus or have arranged experiences for themselves, rather than relying on school or parents to provide the opportunities.
“It demonstrates that they have a genuine interest in their subject and wider education. Anyone can sign up for a school trip, but it takes a pro-active person to do something different from the crowd.”

Students often tell me that they cannot afford to do exciting things, but sometimes the opportunities can be close to home. They may need to think creatively. For example, I know a boy who wanted to read geography at university. He got a summer job at the local fruit farm, serving in the shop. While he was there he was able to examine at first hand how the farmer had diversified into tourism and how land use in the area had changed – this proved to be useful for his A level studies. He also became friendly with the fruit pickers – many of whom were a similar age and from Eastern Europe – and he spoke to them at length about migration and job opportunities. He wrote an article about this for a national magazine, comparing their prospects with his own.

“So what are you going to do this summer Tom?” I asked as my workshop session was drawing to a close.
“I’m volunteering at a night hostel” he replied. “I want to be a social worker, so I figured it would be good experience. And..” he smiled, “I’m not one for early mornings!”

Victoria presents her book to Lancing College

Victoria presents a copy of her book to  Chairman of Governors at Lancing College, Dr Harry Brunjes

Victoria presents a copy of her book to Chairman of Governors at Lancing College, Dr Harry Brunjes

Victoria met the Chairman of Governors at Lancing College, Dr Harry Brunjes, to present him with a copy of her latest book Boarding Schools: All you need to know. Prep4 joined forces with Jennifer Ma from Arch Education in Hong Kong to produce the book, which was published last month by John Catt Educational. Staff and students at Lancing College were very helpful during their extensive period of research, answering all sorts of questions about boarding and related issues. Dr Brunjes filled us in on some of the latest developments at the school, including the appointment of Mr Dominic Oliver as new Headmaster. We look forward to meeting him in due course!


Please book early as places are limited

Please book early as places are limited

The Spotlight is on You at Ipswich School

Some of the

Some of the Life Skills students enjoying the workshop

Graham and Victoria enjoyed two terrific days at Ipswich School delivering “The Spotlight is on You” the Prep4 interview skills and goal setting workshop, as part of the Ipswich School’s excellent “Life Skills” programme.

Victoria met with Head, Mr Nicholas Weaver, to discuss future collaboration, including her next book, and we look forward to building the relationship with him and Head of Sixth Form, Mr Louis d’Arcy.

Graham and Victoria visit Earlscliffe College in Folkstone

Graham and Victoria received a very warm welcome from Headmaster Mr Tim Fish when they visited Earlscliffe College in Folkestone to present Mr Fish with a copy of Victoria’s book “Boarding Schools: all you need to know”. Graham and Victoria delivered Prep4′s sixth form workshop, “The Spotlight is on You” to a large and very enthusiastic group of Earlscliffe pupils and enjoyed a tour of this impressive school.

"Victoria and Graham present Mr Tim Fish with a copy of Victoria's new book"

“Victoria and Graham present Mr Tim Fish with a copy of Victoria’s new book”