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Warwick Prep School, Warwick

Muddy says: A vibrant, high-achieving and inclusive leading independent day school with a purposeful vibe, for boys aged 3 - 7 and girls aged 3 - 11, on the spacious 50-acre Warwick School campus.

WHAT? WHERE?

This very popular and frequently over-subscribed independent Prep with fantastic ISI reports (excellent across the board) is set in a modern purpose-built red-brick building located on the Myton Road campus it shares with Warwick School. A new bigger reception area is currently being remodelled as part of the super-exciting Project One Campus development.

This September all-girls senior school, King’s High, is moving onto the same campus into a new build, with work fully complete by 2020. The fabulous new school – I’ve seen the plans – has been sympathetically designed within an enhanced pedestrian-friendly campus, linked green spaces and courtyards, and new playground areas, including a new Mud Kitchen for messy play.

Warwick Prep will also benefit from a new state-of-the-art high-tech Music School, practice rooms and performance spaces shared with King’s High. Older girls at the Prep are super-excited about the move telling the Head they’ll never have to leave the campus until they’re 18!

It’s fairly big with 500 children on roll, going up to 520 in September with a maximum class size of 20 children in Pre-Prep classes and currently 20-25 in the Prep department. Higher up the school in Year 5 and 6, classes are smaller, around 17 – 20.  Founded on Christian principles, the school welcomes pupils of “all faiths and none” embracing diversity and equal opportunities for all.

FACILITIES

Plenty to recommend it. Headline facilities include a colourful art-filled purpose-built nursery with multiple learning spaces and a secure garden with new outdoor play areas planned. There’s a very proactive PTA – currently fundraising for the new play area. Specialist classrooms include two science laboratory classrooms, a spacious Art Studio/D&T workshop and air-conditioned IT suite.

The school library was extended over the summer and there’s a large buzzy, sociable dining hall with well-equipped school kitchens. Sports facilities include a full-size indoor hall and a hall/gym, where pupils were having a Yoga class during my school tour.

The grounds are a big wow – large and lovely, with acres of playing fields on their doorstep, Astro turf for games, a 25m indoor swimming pool, a five minutes’ walk away – children can go swimming every year until Year 6 – The Bridge House Theatre for staging school productions as well as seeing touring shows and stunning Warwick Hall, a huge £10 million regional concert hall.

ACADEMIC RESULTS

Excellent. Boys progress to Warwick Junior School in Year 3; while girls move up to the selective girls’ senior, King’s High, Warwick in Year 7.

A big USP is that staff here are very good at getting to know the individual child and letting them know the sky is the limit. Pupils are encouraged to Aspire, Achieve, Enjoy, and to be the best that they can be. They’re given lots of creative opportunities to find their hidden talents, developing a wonderful confidence and a strong sense of who they are – what the head calls “their steely core”. Thus, allowing pupils to become confident decision-makers at senior school.

A broad and stimulating curriculum sees pupils from Year 3 to Year 6 studying History, Geography, R.E., French. Computing, Art, Design Technology, PE, Games. Swimming and PSHE, in addition to English, Maths and Science. Pupils in Year 3 and 4 enjoy curriculum swimming lessons and drama each for half of the year; while Year 5 girls are taught Reasoning in preparation for entrance exams. Feedback from King’s is that the level of girls’ science work is excellent.

High quality and varied creative artwork across the school years is particularly striking. The specialist Head of Art moderates A level and GCSE exams is often inspired by work she sees. Every project is different – she has amazing ideas across seven groups of children. There’s also an Artist-in-Residence every year. The school has a raft of Specialist subject teachers and shares Artistic Director of Music and Director of Sport with King’s High. There are lots of creative ways supporting the children’s learning and collaboration with Warwick Junior School.  On the day I visited Year 6 boys from Warwick Junior School were reading their own Mr Men stories to children in Year 2. How to Train Your Dragon author Cressida Cowell and War Horse creator Michael Morpurgo talked to girls and boys across the Foundation last term.

The school has busy purposeful atmosphere, with Fair Rules Jigsaw pieces dotted around the building, and staff are very consistent on behaviour. But you can see fun and enjoyment are important too. For Comic Relief the children are writing their own jokes to form Warwick Prep’s own Joke Book. All classrooms have an interactive white board and tech is used appropriately, the Head did say it’s not ‘the be all and end all’.

WHAT ELSE?

Music is a big deal. Warwick Prep has an orchestra and three choirs: Squirrels (in Year 2), Junior Choir (Years 3 and 4) and Senior Choir (Years 5 and 6).  Pupils can learn any instrument they fancy learning and in Year 2 every pupil learns to play a string instrument. An excellent joint Creative Arts programme with King’s High includes lots of joint music recitals where they can share performances with parents. The Upper School girls and boys at Warwick Junior School get to work together in debating competitions and on curriculum workshops.

Activities outside of the classroom change termly and range from Harp Club to Handbells; Maypole Dancing to Mini Morris dancing, Story Club, Sewing and Code Club. Hockey, Netball, Gymnastics, Cross Country Running, Ballet and Rugby tots are just a few of the sporting activities. There’s an annual Year 6 production in June – last year it was Annie. Famous alumni include Game of Thrones actress Sophie Turner (Sansa Stark).

Recent educational day trips have included: Warwick Arts Centre, Compton Verney, the National Space Centre, Leicester, Warwick Castle, the British Motor Museum and Thinktank Science Museum, Birmingham. All older girls are encouraged on three residential trips including a Naturesbase Camp in Wales, a chateau in Northern France and Cranedale Centre in North Yorkshire, a scientific fieldstudies base.

NEW INITIATIVES

These include the new Skills for Life programme looking at skills children will need for the future workplace.  Half the jobs our children will do haven’t been created yet, points out the Head. The school’s recruited a team of 10 Digital Leaders from Year 5 and 6 as pupil ambassadors for online safety.

There’s a lovely mix of the traditional and modern, at this forward-thinking Prep. Leadership opportunities have been increased with girls and boys having their own voice within the school on the School Council, Eco Committee and Food Council. The school has a long history of House Competitions with 4 houses named after the families who lived at Warwick Castle – Dudley, Greville, Rich and Beaumont. Girls can be House Captains and Play Leaders. Children embark on charity fundraising through their Houses and work closely with the local Food Bank, raising a sense of social responsibility and the importance of being kind to people.

Last year older girls talked directly to astronauts on the International Space Station as part of a Foundation-wide project. Dedicated staff go above and beyond with new ideas and opportunities, including a Stemillions, a joint STEM club with girls from King’s High where they get to learn about top scientists like Maria Bualat, a Robotics Engineer for NASA Ames Research Centre whose main project is Astrobee, a free flying robot which helps astronauts in the Space Station. Challenges have included coming up with a new robot that could help astronauts on board the ISS. Inspiring stuff! Budding journos also get the chance to edit Warwick Prep’s own lively magazine.

PASTORAL CARE

Strong. The Head manages an Open-Door policy for parents, as she thinks it’s important the school needs to be aware of any worries they may have. There’s a Well-Being counsellor on site. As the Head says life can be ‘bumpy’ and we can’t always be ‘Lawnmower parents’ – one step ahead of our children smoothing their path and making sure nothing gets in the way. There are also Mindfulness and Mind over Matter Yoga clubs.

THE HEAD

A Warwick University Music and Education graduate, Hellen Dodsworth was Deputy and then joint Head at Coten End Primary School in Warwick for 13 years prior to joining the Prep in 2016. Warm, welcoming and super-efficient, she has a lovely rapport with her pupils. This year she’s teaching RE as she feels it’s important to understand the experience the children are having. A mum of two boys, aged nine and 13, who attend Warwick Junior and Warwick School, Hellen lives in the town and thinks it’s a fabulous place to bring up children, with great theatres nearby and lots of green spaces. She tells me they have a number of parents moving out of London to live here.

Enthusiastic, energetic and highly aspirational for her pupils the Head says a school only gets one chance to make it the best experience they can for broadening children’s horizons. So, their aim is to instigate a love of learning in an exciting way. The school has adopted a culture where everyone strives for excellence, but it’s also supportive and responsive. She loves working with children and feels very lucky – she never gets that ‘not wanting to get up in the morning feeling’!

LITTLIES

Little people here can start in Nursery in the September after they turn three. There are 3 Nursery classes and 4 Reception classes, limited to a strict maximum of 20 children, and broadly balanced between boys and girls, so they can be given plenty of one-to-one time, creating independent learners. Demand for places is expected to remain high and early registration is therefore advised. The Acorn Room offers nurture-based activities for younger children who are perhaps finding the transition to full-time education difficult.

WRAP-AROUND CARE

This is available 8am – 5.45pm. After school care is an additional £7.55 per session, with late collection up to 4.25pm, £2.75. Post Club supervision and tea is £3.70. There’s no charge for before school supervision from 8am. Warwick School also runs a selection of holiday activity schemesopen to pupils from the age of 4 to 11 years on the Myton Road campus.

QUIRKS

Warwick Prep is often locally referred to as ‘Squirrels’, as are its pupils – their mascot is Cyril the Squirrel. This is due to the original emblem of school, first introduced in 1944 when the school was founded, of a squirrel gathering acorns from an oak tree: a symbol of a young child gathering knowledge. In 1994 the badge was updated to include a Portcullis, linking the historic castle town of Warwick and the other two schools in the Foundation.  A Ukulele club caught my eye among the list of 45 Co-curricular activities – what a brilliant photo, the girls really look like they’re having fun! Pupils also recently adopted a Seahorse through The Seahorse Trust.

FEES

Fees are good value and in line with other local prep schools – £4,035 for Middle School (Years 3 – 4) and £4,222 for Upper School (Years 5 – 6), inclusive of mid-morning fruit and lunch. After school care, music tuition (from nursery up) and extra-curricular activities are optional extras.

WORD ON THE GROUND

Praise and more praise. Early Years parents really like the detailed daily feedback; while parents higher up the school say how their children’s confidence has grown since they first started and praise the outstanding teaching. Warwick Prep has a well-earned reputation for pastoral care along with its academic and extra-curricular success. Parents and pupils agree it’s rather a special school and a really exciting time.

THE MUDDY VERDICT

Good for: Part of the appeal for girls is knowing they are part of something bigger and they’ll will be progressing to King’s High. It’s hard to know a girl or boy who wouldn’t love it here. It has the acreage and facilities of a top country school. It’s academic but the style of teaching plus the excellent music and sport provision, as well as extra-curricular activities mean the kids have a blast.

Not for: Those who like pomp and grandeur or a rural idyll – no Palladian mansion blocks, or scenic woodland driveways, the entrance is conveniently placed for parents just off the main Banbury Road into Warwick.

Dare to disagree: There’s an Open Morning on Saturday March 16, 9.30am – 12noon with tour guides, a talk by the head and refreshments. See here for booking form: warwickprep

Bridge Field, Banbury Road, Warwick, CV34 6PL, Tel: 01926 491545, warwickprep 

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