We talk to Zoe Dunn, head of University College School Pre-Prep in Hampstead
How long have you been at UCS Pre-Prep?
I became the headmistress in September 2015, when it was known as The Phoenix School. I really enjoy working in such a creative and caring environment; it is a privilege to be a part of a foundation that celebrates diverse learning experiences.
Can you tell us a bit about the school’s history?
UCS was founded in 1830 to promote the Benthamite principles of liberal scholarship and education. That remains the first and over-riding aspiration. Today, intellectual curiosity and independence of mind are developed, self-discovery and self-expression are still fostered, and learning collaboratively is highly valued. UCS Pre-Prep is a small, nurturing school that forms part of the larger University College School Foundation, which educates boys from four to 16 with a co-ed sixth form. We aim to provide our pupils with a happy and enriched learning environment as they begin their school journey.
The school has transitioned from co-educational to an all-boys school, what do you think the main benefits of this change are?
UCS Pre-Prep has embarked on a series of changes, mainly the transition to all boys and a Reception entry point from 2018. This brings with it significant benefits for pupils. Boys-only schools have always been popular and the discourse around single sex education is well documented. One benefit an all-boy environment offers is that of being able to focus solely on how boys learn best and on their interests and curiosities. The children utilise the extensive UCS facilities and sports grounds all throughout the school week, where specialist staff foster and ignite key skills and talents. The school promotes physical education, and pupils benefit from lots of outdoor learning experiences including the school allotment for forest school.
How does UCS make the most of its London location?
Being in London is a huge asset and UCS Pre-Prep exploits this regularly, with visits to museums and galleries, parks and nature reserves, theatres, and historic landmarks and monuments. We liaise with PhD students from London Zoo, local artists and illustrators as well as scientists from across the capital to enrich the opportunities we offer.
What is in the pipeline for the rest of the year?
The summer term is always jam-packed with fun events that celebrate the achievements of our pupils. In addition to sports day, the summer production, and instrumental recitals and concerts, the children will be working collaboratively on a problem-solving day, creating and exploring in the mud kitchen, and engaging in a Young Enterprise project to raise money for their chosen charities.
Over the next few months, a new Creative Arts and Sciences Studio is being developed where the pupils will be able to partake in food technology lessons as well as have access to specialist art, design, and woodwork areas. They will also be able to monitor their seeds grown in the Science Garden. In addition, a research pod is being created for pupils to engage in fact-finding and researching, as well as develop their coding skills. This year also sees the exciting development of a new state of the art sports facility and grounds at the extensive shared fields.