Choice: too much usually proves to be problematic, and when it comes to choosing a school endless lists and league tables can be overwhelming and befuddling. So, to help narrow things down, here’s some inside information on a few of the Prep Schools that you might be looking at.
If you’re concerned about the stress of examinations taking their toll on your children, then Bute House may be the school for you as there’s no setting, streaming, or exams until 11+. And when Bute House girls do sit entrance exams they do terribly well, with around a third going on to St Paul’s Girls School. They are also renowned for sweeping up plenty of medals at the Primary Maths Challenge. Languages are a great strength at the school, with French and Spanish taught from year 1 and when it comes to extra curricular activities, the choice is fantastic; martial arts anyone? To get in there’s a ballot at 4+, so you need to register and hope for the best! But there are around 40 places at 7+, so there’s always a second shot.
Colet Court has a fearsome academic reputation and deservedly so. As the feeder school, 87 of last year’s leavers went to St Paul’s, 15 with scholarships. Perhaps all of the fresh air from the vast playing fields is working its magic – alongside the top notch teaching of course – and with the river a mere hop and a skip away, boys can row, row, row their boats (not so gently) down the stream.
With both boys and girls doing ballet, your little ones will be super-elegant and poised. Plus all those pliés will strengthen their limbs for the school ski trips and walking around Rome and Pompeii too. If they aren’t busy singing in one of the three school choirs, they’ll be kept busy learning Mandarin and French. A truly international approach to education!
Girls & boys
If the gorgeous turquoise blazers aren’t enough to sell this super duper school then perhaps the half day on Fridays will do the trick…
Garden House also offers the best of single sex and co-education as boys and girls are mainly taught separately but do some activities together, known as the diamond model. Leavers go on to an array of terrific day and boarding schools and will be superbly well-rounded after taking part in clubs ranging from cookery to yoga, arts and crafts to Mandarin, and aptly, gardening.
Slap bang in the middle of South Kensington, Glendower has a reputation for being an academic hothouse but also offering great pastoral care, which is certainly an appealing duo. As well as uniforms in a delightful shade of purple and scrumptious school dinners, headmistress Sarah Knollys is extremely well liked and proudly says that Glendower produces ‘confident, articulate young girls, keen to do their best at all times’. Sounds good to us.
Situated on the edge of Wandsworth Common, Northcote Lodge is perfect for sporty boys. It is also ideal for parents who are fed up with washing grass-stained kit as the boys’ games uniform is washed on site, hurrah! ‘Home’-work also doesn’t ever make it home as it is all done at school. The boys will inevitably get peckish taking bagpipe, woodwork and shooting lessons, so it’s jolly good that jam sandwiches are served at break for re-fuelling and helping them to prepare for their journey onwards to boarding schools including Radley, Wellington, and Tonbridge.
The endearing motto ‘Whether you are big or small, we all belong to Pembridge Hall’ goes with the school’s friendly, neighbourhood vibe. The new Head used to be deputy at Wetherby Prep and is responsible for its increasing appeal. Budding prima donnas receive tuition for the LAMDA drama exams and there are great academic successes as well, with many of the four hundred pupils moving on to some of the best boarding schools in the country.
Located in a gorgeous house in Cadogan Square, Sussex House is extremely popular, and it’s no surprise why. It was also last year’s Tatler School of the Year. Headmaster, Nicholas Kaye has been at the helm for 20 years and teaches all the boys creative writing himself, which probably plays no small part in why so many end up going on to top boarding schools. The school is small – only 180 pupils – and has particularly strong art, drama, cricket and fencing. The specialist teachers also make Sussex House an exceptional place for your little gents.
Westminster Under is rarely beaten academically. It is arguably the crème de la crème if you are looking for a place to send your bright spark. They will also be very likely to move on to Westminster itself (80% of boys from ‘WU’ do). The location is cracking: on the corner of the marvelously peaceful Vincent Square, but also only a stone’s throw from Victoria.