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Science is taught in a charming old lab, where one could believe Faraday actually worked, and a sparkling new lab about to have its wrapper removed; we found a science teacher already in residence, thrilled by the pristine equipment. ‘Good shows’, to which we want to add the word ‘jolly’, are for excellent work. A smiley face outside the head’s office shows the times when she is free for visits to share them. Sport is ‘highly competitive,’ say parents, with boys battling it out...

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What The Good Schools Guide says

Head

Since September 2016, Mrs Sarah Segrave (40s), who has a BA in education and history from Durham and an MA from the Institute of Education, and was previously head of the girls' school. She joined the Eaton House schools in 1993 as one of the founding teachers. She taught history, Latin and was housemistress at the prep, became head of the pre-prep then in 2010 head of the girls’ school. It was difficult to leave the girls behind, but feeling that she ‘lived and breathed Eaton House’ and wanting someone who knew the schools to take on the role of prep head she stepped forward. The new role also combining the position of director of education for all four schools on the site was the final draw. She aims to move forward but hold onto the traditions of the school.

Married to Nick, with two children at the school, she lives in Earlsfield. Far from travelling in with her husband who looks after IT for the group of schools, she’s more likely to have left the house at 5am. Parents describe her as ‘professional yet very approachable’ with which we concur, and hearing of her exceptionally long days, dedicated and extremely hard-working too. A parent observed, ‘she’s introduced a lot of positive changes’.

Pre-prep head since September 2017 is Nicola Borthwick, previously deputy head of the girls’ school.

Nursery head since 2005, Mrs Roosha Sue.

Entrance

In the words of the head, ‘entrance has sky-rocketed’ and entry is now three forms throughout. Entrance to the pre-prep at 3+ is non-selective; simply register for a place as early as possible. Boys migrate from the pre-prep more or less automatically via continual assessment, although if the head feels the school isn’t right for a boy families would be advised and this is the case for one or two each year. Entry at 8+ and 11+ into the prep is selective via testing in maths, English and verbal reasoning and by interview. External entrants should register no later than the autumn prior to entrance. There are three applicants for every place at 8+. Boys enter from both local state and independent schools.

Exit

A list of exit destinations to be very proud of: a couple to Westminster, King’s College School Wimbledon, Eton, Harrow and a whole handful to Tonbridge in 2017. Single boys off to St Paul’s, Emanuel, Brighton College and Kingston Grammar, two academic scholarships to Dulwich College and one to Whitgift. Over the past seven years boys have headed to a list of 35 different schools, the most popular being Eton, Dulwich College, Harrow and Charterhouse, most at 13+, but an increasing few at 11+.

Our view

About a third of the staff have been at the prep for over 10 years. The head describes them as the school’s ‘best asset and biggest strength, very passionate about what they do with incredibly high standards’. Parents tell us: ‘very good teachers, inspiring yet demanding’; ‘teachers ensure the subjects/topics are fully understood, taking extra time where necessary’; and ‘great cohesion between subjects in the curriculum’, citing a combined geography and art project involving a trip to the British Museum and a week’s work about James and the Giant Peach involving art, reading, writing, sport and drama. There is an emphasis on boys as readers, supported by excellent reading lists and a rather old fashioned library which is soon to be refreshed.

In the first two years boys are taught by their class teacher; subsequently all subjects are taught by specialists and there is setting for English and maths. Reasoning in addition to the usual curriculum including Latin and French.

Prep class sizes average 16, maximum 18; hence some of the classrooms up under the roof are small rather than spacious. Boys were diligently working with the breeze wafting in from the common in every class we saw. Our guide was so enthusiastic that a Latin class was unmissable; he raced us up three flights of stairs moments before our departure. Science is taught in a charming old lab, where one could believe Faraday actually worked, and a sparkling new lab about to have its wrapper removed; we found a science teacher already in residence, thrilled by the pristine equipment. There is also a new DT lab complete with three 3D printers and a laser cutter. The art studio has the most stunning view of London’s skyline towards the Thames, perhaps inspiring a wonderful scale paper model of London landmarks, our favourite a beautiful Greenwich Observatory.

This is a school with excellent academic outcomes, very good value added, ambitious parents and consequently a school of ‘really high expectations’. The head has ensured that targets are set clearly and there is greater transparency, so that children and parents know how they are doing across all subjects. ‘Good shows’, to which we want to add the word ‘jolly’, are for excellent work. A smiley face outside the head’s office shows the times when she is free for visits to share them. Exam weeks are dotted with sport. Parents speak of boys taking it in their stride and that ‘homework is manageable,’ particularly lower down the school. There are currently 16 children with SEN, mostly mild dyslexia and dyspraxia, for which they receive up to two one-to-one periods of support a week.

The head is currently rethinking the scholarship programme, for which boys are selected in year 7 and commences in year 8. We got the sense that conversations about destination schools with parents were tackled with diplomacy and frankness in equal measures to ensure everyone has a realistic choice without underselling themselves. Parents given insight but their choices are supported: such those who decide they would prefer their child to attend an ultra-academic school where a child will be in the bottom 10 per cent versus another school where he might gain an academic scholarship.

There is one hour of ICT a week, boys use Learn Pads and there are banks in classrooms as well as an ICT room. The head is looking at the most engaging and productive teaching methods to get the boys from A to B. She challenges her staff, saying: ‘Has your lesson made a difference to a child today?’ and continues to teach herself to see the children from different angles.

Sport is ‘highly competitive,’ say parents, with boys battling it out. Football, rugby and cricket are their major sports and hockey, cross-country, swimming, karate, tennis and athletics are minor sports, but more than one parent told us they’d like to see more fixtures, national tournaments and tours. The U12 footballers came fourth in English Schools FA Cup and there have been sports scholarships to Dulwich College, Bedales, Radley and Whitgift.

Two music lessons per week and weekly drama – two major productions per year. Some 70 per cent play instruments, beginners to grade 5. Staff get involved in the Battle of the Bands. ‘The boys are encouraged to join the vocal ensemble and the choir,’ said a parent.

There is an early morning room from 8.00am and a supervised homework class until 5.00pm without charges. In addition there are a great number of clubs that run before school, during the school day and after school such as DT, chess, running and Spanish.

The Eaton House group of schools, first founded in 1897 on Sloane Street, also includes schools in Belgravia and south Kensington. This is a large operation now, but the division into four schools with autonomous heads means that the staff know children really well.

We are used to the maze-like experience of schools that have adapted old buildings to suit over many years, but this school nonetheless could confuse a Minotaur. The children giggle sweetly at our disorientation and trip adeptly from one part of the school to the next.

Behind the period façade, the elegant Georgian house dating back to 1792 facing the green of Clapham Common and housing the boys' school has classrooms often high up in the rafters, lots of lino – more practical and less elegant than it appears, and behind this a functional quadrangle of classrooms forming the pre-prep. Then there's the new-build delights – the new science lab and two bright modern dining halls complete with eco-friendly exterior ‘living wall’ in the style of the new girls’ prep building. At the time of our visit the builders had been in situ for a whole 10 years. The children have, of course, weathered it stoically, but everyone is looking forward to the scaffolding coming down and the playgrounds being reinstated.

The pre-prep classrooms are in a block formation, large and bright off wide lino-floored corridors, rather standard issue after one has seen the new buildings: boys must have a sense of graduating when they attain the staircases, views and quirks of the prep school classrooms. But we found the nursery teachers enjoying their very spacious purpose built classrooms with in-and-out spaces close to the dining hall.

One of the louder and more exuberant of schools we have visited at the start of the day and in the playgrounds: ‘friendly and happy,’ offered a parent commenting on the atmosphere. A pupil summed it up as a school: ‘where teachers are encouraging and the children are kind’.

Revisiting pastoral care has been very high on the head’s agenda – ‘if children aren’t happy they won’t flourish.’ She wanted to rethink what she saw as a bit of a feeling that ‘boys will be boys being acceptable’. The school rules have been rewritten collaboratively with pupils; they previously made no mention of bullying. Assemblies are an important place for discussing PSHE-like topics, so now there are junior and senior assemblies pitched to the different age groups, a recent one tackling the topic of stress. Boys are asked if they know whom to go to for help and encouraged to talk to whomever they feel the most comfortable with at any time. Boys have also been introduced to the idea that this is a ‘telling’ school and talked about whistleblowing in society. A mother told us: ‘The head of pastoral care is really wonderful’.

Parents from all walks of life, many dual nationalities - German, French, Spanish, American families and almost 40 children from overseas. Parents describe each other as ‘relaxed, friendly, sociable and down-to-earth’. A mix of working and non-working mothers who make newcomers welcome.

No bursaries, but the school has been very supportive of families who have found themselves in financial difficulties during their prep career.

Special Education Needs

LE (Learning Enrichment) is provided to a small number of pupils who require it in warm and inviting rooms. The team are experienced and will always do their best to ensure that any pupils on their list are well supported. 10-09

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

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