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What says..

A broad range of ability was evident in the class assembly in which some pupils were able to recite large tracts of memorised text beautifully, while others were reading their one line from a prompt. However all are rewarded for their effort, enthusiasm and interest with celebration certificates each week. Frequent fundraising extravaganzas are organised by the parents and wholehearted support of the governors means this is likely to continue to grow and be a great feature of the school. DT feels vibrant and ambitious, the room filled with little wooden robots...

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What the school says...

We provide a happy, nurturing environment for children of all abilities. Results are excellent, and children leave us with a set of core values that will remain with them always. Early registration is advised for Reception. Occasional places are available in other year groups.

We have a means tested bursary to a child whose parents would not otherwise be able to afford independent education. ...Read more

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What The Good Schools Guide says

Headmaster

Since 2016, Ben Freeman BEd (design technology) PG Dip (educational leadership) (late 40s). Still very much ‘the new kid on the block’ (his own words), Mr Ben, as he is known here, is not just new to Finton House but new to Wandsworth and the buzzing metropolis of London. Previously head of Windermere Prep for eight years, a school that had already munched its way through two heads in quick succession before he arrived, he was brought in to rescue the situation having been teaching at Malsis Prep school in North Yorkshire (which no longer exists).

The fresh air of the English countryside runs through Ben Freeman’s veins. Born and brought up in the Wirral, he was educated at Rossall School and then the University of West of England, Bristol. He cut his teeth teaching in a secondary state school in Bristol but was lured to Malsis to set up its DT department. By the time he left he was deputy head. Married to Sarah, who is training to be a teacher and ran the outdoor education at Windermere. She has three grown up children. The landscape of Ben Freeman’s life so far has been one of natural beauty – sea, hills, lakes: it’s no wonder that one of his passions is the outdoors. Walking and sailing as well as skiing are his means of relaxation and he is keen to instil in his pupils a love for everything outdoorsy. He regards his two main focuses here to be developing the technology so that the teachers are using cutting edge digital platforms in the class room, and making sure the children live a healthy life, a combination of plenty of exercise, practising mindfulness and well-being, eating healthily and limiting screen time.

Most parents are pleased with a more down to earth approach he brings to the school. ‘He looks the children in the eye when he greets them in the morning,’ said one mother, ‘rather than looking over the top of their heads at the parents.’ Some find him inscrutable. A troubleshooter in the past, there seems to be quite a bit for him to get on top of here too. A tricky period when the school lacked a proper head, issues with SEN provision, a lack of balance between boys and girls and the usual challenges of a very competitive field for the 11 plus transfer. Some parents suspect that he is out of his depth but he comes across as genuine and concerned to do the right thing for pupils and parents.

Entrance

Names down at birth if you want to be sure of a place. First come, first served, though siblings continue to be given preference. Even numbers of places offered to boys and girls (between 25 and 30 places for each in reception). Tours on request: those on a waiting list are offered week day open mornings, parents with a definite place are shown round individually and meet the head.

Occasional places do come up further up the school, especially in years 3 and 4 when some pupils move here from the state sector. A child attends the school for a taster morning and informal assessments.

Each year the school says it welcomes two or three children with special needs; they have to apply along with everyone else and places are offered on a first come, first served basis. When a child with SEN receives an offer, then the parents meet with the SENCo and head of special needs to ensure his/her needs can be met before the place is confirmed. Some state funding for children with an EHCP.

Exit

Most leave at 11, though some boys still leave at 7 or 8 (occasionally to KCS but more often to board). At 11 they go to a range of south London schools, with Emmanuel, Wimbledon High, Alleyn’s, JAGS, Whitgift and Woldingham currently the most popular destinations. One or two choose to board at, eg Benenden or Heathfield; some of those needing to bridge the gap before boarding at 13 go to Northcote Lodge (for boys), Broomwood Hall (for girls) or boarding preps. A handful of scholarships (12 in 2019), several academic as well as art, music, sports and design technology. School prides itself on advising parents carefully so as to limit the number of applications to three schools only. ‘The senior schools know the applications are genuine and our success rate is high,’ affirms the head of academics.

Our view

Tucked into a corner of a warren of narrow Wandsworth residential side streets, which, at 8.30 in the morning teem with 4x4 SUVs negotiating their right of way, Finton House is a cosy, intimate and smart little school. The playground is a sea of navy cord (girls in wide culottes, boys in cute shorts or long trousers), and blue and white crest emblazoned blazers. Overwhelmingly white middle class, ‘Wasp like,’ said one parent, this has long been the first choice of school for the established well-heeled English resident of Wandsworth. Traditional families that tended to move to the country after their decade in the smoke, and for whom the grinding competitiveness of the 11+ was never much of an issue, gave their children a nurturing, but solid foundation here. The school, which is non-selective, was regarded as unpressured and positively inclusive. There is a history of accepting children with a wide range of special educational needs: historically there has been a child in each class in every year with an EHCP.

The character of the school is changing, however. Fewer families move to the country, more stay for the duration and will be negotiating the 11+ to one of the London secondaries. Always diverse in terms of ability, the school is becoming slightly more diverse socially, though the number of international families is still surprisingly few compared to other schools in the area. It is more common now for both parents to work (though one mother we spoke to remarked that there were very few nannies in the playground), and boys are more likely to stay until year 6 (although there were only five in the top year when we visited). School is actively working to keep the boys. One parent commented on the importance of inclusivity academically as this goes some way to making the school feel diverse. As the academics become more streamlined the school is starting to feel more homogenous. A dedicated parent body, with a system of class reps as well as committees for major events (helps to reduce cliquishness, we were told).

Many of the teachers (of whom the majority are women) have been here for well over a decade. Longevity of staff is seen as a strength by some, a weakness by others who regard some old timers as complacent and out of touch. A broad range of ability was evident in the class assembly in which some pupils were able to recite large tracts of memorised text beautifully, while others were reading their one line from a prompt. However all are rewarded for their effort, enthusiasm and interest with celebration certificates each week. Lots of singing - ‘everyone sings at Finton’ - whether it be the song for the celebration book – ‘for working hard and being kind you have exercised your mind!’ or singing Happy Birthday! to a classmate and the plethora of songs during assemblies.

Broad curriculum all the way through to year 6. Specialist DT (from year 1), art, music and computing teachers all the way through. Sport is taught by trained PE teachers from reception. Drama included as part of the curriculum and taught by class teachers and the English department. Seventy per cent of pupils play at least one instrument. Class music lesson and a recorder lesson from year 3. Plenty of groups and ensembles – everyone can have a go.

The ethos of being supportive and inclusive of children with special educational needs continues, though a number of parents feel this has been heavily diluted. The school has traditionally had a good relationship with Wandsworth council and will support a family trying to obtain an EHCP. Mixed reports about how the funding is managed, dissatisfaction in some quarters, primarily centred on poor communication. The deputy head oversees two SENCos, one of whom is responsible for learning support, the other for SEN. They are supported by five part-time specialist teaching assistants and in addition there is an occupational therapist and a speech and language therapist. Each class has a teaching assistant assigned to it, and a child with greater needs may have someone else in addition to this. Occupational therapy room complete with gym mats, beanbags and climbing ladders. Most classrooms have an amplification system so that all pupils can hear. Just under 40 per cent of children in each year group receive some form of additional support.

Three classes per year of about 20 between reception and year 4. Historically the numbers have dropped considerably in years 5 and 6 – fewer than 20 in each class, though numbers not as low in the final year now as they used to be. Occasional places at the top of the school unfortunately cannot be filled as the numbers are capped owing to planning restrictions. Homework can be pretty intense, especially if your child struggles academically. One parent talked about the pressure of homework as early as year 1.

A healthy bursary fund set up in memory of much loved former head, Sally Walker, offers bursaries (four on 100 per cent, but there are 80 and 70 per cent bursaries too) for children arriving in years 2 and 3 (often from the state sector). School carefully manages their exit at secondary to enable the experience the child has benefitted from at Finton House to continue. Frequent fundraising extravaganzas are organised by the parents and wholehearted support of the governors means this is likely to continue to grow and be a great feature of the school. Nor do you 'have to be destitute’ to apply for a bursary, says Mr Ben. Question mark as to how the bursary fund is going to be used with the decline in spaces in years 2 and 3.

The school is blessed with a spacious playground, complete with climbing frames, Astroturf, and Wendy houses. A separate, modern wing for reception, the Emma Thornton building, houses DT, cooking, science, music and learning support. Light and airy – even in the basement. DT feels vibrant and ambitious, the room filled with little wooden robots (a whole school project) when we visited as well as teaspoons fashioned into characters. Materials used are mainly wood and textiles; year 6 were making go-carts. Lovely smells of old fashioned carpentry workshops, and tools like saws, drills and glue guns adorn the place.

Wonderful art room at the top of the school in the eaves. Parents we spoke to praised the inspirational art teacher and we witnessed her in action – the children completely absorbed in colourful Indian art forms and the use of glitter. The year 6 project was concerned with drawing and printing bugs. Lovely circular seat where children can be invited to read, draw or just rest, as a reward. Busy library overflowing with books and children reading them when we visited (it didn’t seem staged). iPad and laptop stations on each floor are used discriminatingly in the class room.

A flagpole flies the flag of the house with the most house points that week. There are inter-house competitions in cricket, football, netball and rugby as well as hockey, rounders and swimming. Sport takes place at Trinity fields and Tooting hard courts. Cupboards displaying a plethora of silverware, cups and shields line the basement. The music department is carpeted and warm (a good place to retreat to practise); lots of percussion instruments and, on our tour, singing filled the space. The five boys in year 6 (when we visited) double up with year 5 boys for team sports.

Lots of positions of responsibility for children at the top of the school. The head boy and head girl have to make speeches in front of the school, prefects regularly meet Mr Ben and are in charge of house points and there are several house captains as well as games captains and one swimming captain. Subject monitors – those who show a passion or talent for a particular subject - as well as three library monitors. Children remark on how much Mr Ben gets involved - whether it be cheering teams on at the swimming gala, greeting them in the playground, or commending them on individual pieces of work. Parents delighted with the prize day he introduced at the end of the academic year.

An excellent foundation for the all rounder but, despite the cosy size, don’t expect it to be as ‘fluffy round the edges’ as it used to be.

Special Education Needs

Finton House was founded on two principles. Firstly, we believe that young children should not have the pressures of a competitive entry system. Secondly, the environment should be inclusive with all children having the same opportunities. We wish children to accept and learn from each other. Classes are made up of children of a wide range of abilities and some of these have special educational needs. Finton House enables all children to share in the whole curriculum and to have equal access to a wide range of learning resources, which are used to enhance their successes and progress. The Special Needs Co-ordinator (SENCo) has responsibility for all pupils with special needs, and those with learning difficulties. The department also has a team of peripatetic teachers; four part-time learning support teachers, a part time speech and language therapist and a part time occupational therapist.

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder Y
Aspergers Y
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders Y
CReSTeD registered for Dyslexia
Dyscalculia Y
Dysgraphia
Dyslexia Y
Dyspraxia Y
English as an additional language (EAL)
Genetic
Has an entry in the Autism Services Directory
Has SEN unit or class
HI - Hearing Impairment Y
Hospital School
Mental health
MLD - Moderate Learning Difficulty
MSI - Multi-Sensory Impairment
Natspec Specialist Colleges
OTH - Other Difficulty/Disability
Other SpLD - Specific Learning Difficulty Y
PD - Physical Disability
PMLD - Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulty
SEMH - Social, Emotional and Mental Health
SLCN - Speech, Language and Communication Y
SLD - Severe Learning Difficulty
Special facilities for Visually Impaired
SpLD - Specific Learning Difficulty Y
VI - Visual Impairment

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