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What says..

Rarely do you find such strong pride and affection for a school. ‘Come in here and you’ll never want to leave,’ the head of the pre-prep assures us, and indeed, barely anyone does. Most pupils stay the course to the end of year eight, there’s a very even blend of men and women on the staff and turnover is low. Parent communication consistently wins five-star ratings, and we lost count of the number of staff mentioned in dispatches. A particular jewel in Spratton’s crown is its learning…

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What the school says...

Shortlisted for ‘Independent Pre-Prep School of the Year 2019’*, Spratton Hall is an exceptional co-educational, day school. Nestled in over 50 acres of rolling Northamptonshire countryside, its first rate facilities cover an extensive range of curricular and extracurricular activities including IT, languages, sport, drama, music and dance.

Pupils are supported at every stage of their educational and personal development, ensuring that they not only go on to achieve high levels of academic success but also become confident, courteous and collaborative individuals.

Open mornings in May and October give parents and potential pupils an opportunity to explore the school for themselves. However, parents are welcome to visit any time and can contact the Registrar, Mrs Sarah Church ([email protected]) who can provide them with further information and a prospectus. Meanwhile the Headmaster, Mr Simon Clarke, is always happy to chat with prospective parents, often over tea and cake.

Visit our website to find out more and begin your child’s educational journey with Spratton Hall.

*2019 Independent School of the Year Awards.
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What The Good Schools Guide says

Head master

Simon Clarke (40s),who has been here as a boy (and yes, head boy), parent, deputy and headmaster (since 2014); can safely be said to have Spratton running through his veins. A much-enjoyed pre-university year as a ‘gapper’ sowed the idea of a teaching career, pursued properly on completing his English degree at Surrey, and always in the prep school sector. Having stepped into his predecessor’s shoes at rather short notice, one can imagine the governors were delighted to have him in the wings: he exudes quiet authority and kindness.

Though he doesn’t currently teach ('I miss it hugely’), his wife Danny does (English, maths and geography). They live on site and two of their three children have been through the school, and the third is in year 7. He is that classic head who knows every child by name, and we were able to witness first-hand his love of drama in one of his popular and often theatrical assemblies (‘a favourite time of day for our child - he’s very funny’, according to one parent).

Always present at each end of the day and at matches, whatever the weather, he’s extremely well-regarded by parents, who variously describe him as ‘very approachable and down to earth,’ ‘a good leader,’ ‘just incredible’.

Entrance

The majority join at reception, which is non-selective. The school’s emphasis on pastoral care and getting to know each pupil’s family background is evident in the impressive programme for the new entry involving three ‘story time’ visits (while parents mingle over coffee) and another to a teddy bear’s picnic. The school also invites nursery school key workers to further increase their knowledge of new pupils, and allow them to see former pupils in their new school. 

Children joining in year 1 or 2 will come for a full or half day in which they’ll be observed and assessed informally. Anyone joining after that will take tests in reading, writing, spelling, maths and non-verbal reasoning. 'We are not selective but do want to check children won’t struggle here,’ says the head.

Exit

Extremely strong links here to Rugby and Oakham (these two often take over half the leavers between them), with Oundle, Uppingham and Wellingborough also regular destinations. Others to Kimbolton, Stowe, King Henry VIII, Northampton Girls’ and Bloxham. Though the top set is not branded a scholarship set, Spratton pupils scoop impressive numbers of them, both academic, sporting and musical, the name of each child who wins one celebrated on honours boards in the drawing room.

With such established ties with local secondaries which do not require the ISEB pre-test, there are not timetabled VR and NVR preparation classes for pupils in year 5, sometimes an issue for a small minority of parents whose children cast the net wider and need to sit it. ‘It’s a bit comfy slippers with regards secondary school choices,’ says one, though in the next breath insisting they would never have sent their children anywhere else: ‘They’ve been so happy there.'

Our view

Described both by staff and parents as a ‘proper family school’, many teachers’ own children attend and a good number of parents are former pupils themselves. ‘The PTA ran a murder mystery with members of staff playing the various characters - what good eggs to do that in their own time on a Friday night,’ one mother declared.

The parent body is strong and sociable, comprising families from local villages and others from Northampton, Leicester and even Milton Keynes — ‘Fewer farmers and more flash cars,’ than in the past, suggests one parent. Helpfully for families from less immediate environs, children may now stay until 6pm (5.20pm for the pre-prep) with no extra charge for wraparound care.

Rarely do you find such strong pride and affection for a school. ‘Come in here and you’ll never want to leave,’ the head of the pre-prep assures us, and indeed, barely anyone does. Most pupils stay the course to the end of year eight, there’s a very even blend of men and women on the staff and turnover is low.

The school’s established focus on IT reaped dividends through lockdown, and indeed Chromebooks are now issued to every child from year five. Computing is woven into the learning programme from reception.

But the hi-tech is well balanced with the traditional: another recent innovation has been to extend the school day by 10 minutes to allow a universal reading period (in which pupils and teachers all sit quietly with a book) for a time after lunch.

This most attractive 50-acre site (the views from the terraced pitches are phenomenal) is forever evolving, most recently with a charming forest school, new cricket nets (the girls play hardball here as well as the boys, perhaps influenced by a cricket-loving headmaster), and a fabulous new changing room block, the Underwood.

Aided by such extensive sports facilities (including a floodlit hockey AstroTurf, a 400m running track and four Astro cricket pitches — though there’s no swimming pool yet) the school gives a very good account of itself in sports championships and IAPS finals, particularly in hockey, netball, cross-country running and cricket. Spratton Hall, in fact, makes Britain’s top 50 in The Cricketer Schools Guide 2020 for the game. All children are able to play in teams and away matches, and Spratton is regularly in the ribbons in inter-school equestrian events, driven mainly by interested horsey parents (there are no on-site equestrian facilities).

Parent communication consistently wins five-star ratings, and we lost count of the number of staff mentioned in dispatches. Certainly we witnessed teachers immersed in their pupils’ work, on the floor, roving amongst desks, ensuring total engagement (the Skittles to reward high-scorers in a quiz on the war of the roses were a particular hit).

Various buildings accommodating different year groups sit around the Georgian main building with the pre-prep at the heart, and there’s a very handsome theatre for a school of just 350 pupils in the Hunter Hall.

Streaming starts from year 3 in English and maths, and in the final two years children are also streamed for science. There are usually three classes per year group, their size between 16 and 20 — this is now the cap, which resolved brief parental concerns that some year group classes were becoming a little big.

Reception pupils have three music lessons a week, some 300 private instrumental lessons a week are taken, and year 3s receive a whole term of group violin lessons through Northampton’s Music and Performing Arts Trust, NMPAT. Visiting specialist teachers lead a host of music groups including a junior wind band, concert band, string orchestra, jazz band, guitar and flute ensembles and a school pop group. There are also three choirs, and Christmas and summer concerts for parents are supplemented with informal ones each term, sometimes in the local church.

With a former drama teacher at the helm, Spratton tackles drama with similar zeal, with annual whole-school productions and others for combined year groups. Drama is one of the many after school clubs offered, alongside such staples as sewing, cooking, gymnastics and ICT, and newer ones such as Mandarin.

But a particular jewel in Spratton’s crown is its learning support provision — ‘a good reason to join the school for some parents,’ according to the head, with two permanent and two part time staff working with the LS department head. It serves both children who may have a diagnosable condition and those who just need help with their study skills through a combination of one to one sessions and group sessions. 'We’ll help about 30 per cent of the school at some point, but a lot of it is building confidence with handwriting, revision techniques, organisation and being more independent,’ says the LS head.

No charge is made for any support provided in school, and any child with a more complex issue will be ‘signposted’ to an external specialist. Parents attest to this department going ‘completely above and beyond', while also being honest and open about what they can and can’t do for a child.

Two recent new pastoral innovations are the Girls on Board programme to help girls work through friendship issues, and ‘Tootoot’ app in the prep through which children can send an anonymous message online to a staff member. Often the child will later decide to share their identity, ‘but it helps if a child is nervous about saying something face to face,’ explains Simon Clarke. ‘It has been very well received and extremely useful.'

A well-established house system allows pupils to win house points for anything from sport to the bake off contest, with the current leading house’s colours hoisted from the flagpole besides the handsome wicker sculpture of a stag that greets you on arrival, the school’s motif.

Spratton has plans for future development (having just managed to buy some old stables besides the main building) and doesn’t intend to rest on its laurels.

Money matters

There are a limited number of 50 per cent bursaries, available only in the prep, not pre-prep.

The last word

‘We looked at a number of schools in the area but Spratton stood out by a mile,’ attests one parent, and the support and affection for this school and its ‘happy, engaged, polite' and successful pupils is palpable. A properly rural prep school, founded in 1951, with a very even boy/ girl balance, low pupil turnover and a strong sense of family, it meets its head’s claim of being ‘a genuinely all-round school’, with particular emphasis on the pastoral. We left feeling uplifted and energised — absolutely one to visit.

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