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Academic rigour is balanced by an equally strong offering in arts and sport. But parents must be as committed as their sons. ‘It’s not a drop-off-and-get-on-with-it kind of school – you’re expected to be at all the matches, attend the events and talk to the school at length about the next school.' Manners noteworthy, with no boy getting away with slacking, slouching or scruffiness. Pastorally outstanding, say parents, with one boy telling us...

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What the school says...

Established in 1865, Shrewsbury House School is one of England’s oldest boys’ Preparatory Schools. The School provides an exceptional level of preparation for boys to move on to their Senior School and their future lives. High academic standards and a broad curriculum combine with extensive after-school clubs and activities to offer enviable opportunities for new experiences. Inclusivity is central to the School’s ethos and all boys regularly will take on new challenges to extend them beyond their previous encounters. Every boy will perform in his annual Year Group Concert and Play. Every boy has the opportunity to represent the School in the three main competitive sports of football, rugby and cricket. Opportunities are wide and frequent for the boys to represent the School in a broad range of Inter-Prep and national academic, sport, public speaking, debating and cultural events. Day and residential trips are arranged to support the curriculum, but also to add to new challenges and experiences, including overseas academic, cultural and sporting trips and tours. Effort and attainment are celebrated, encouraging an individual boy to be himself, to develop his own character and spirit, but to also be a true team player. At Shrewsbury House, everybody is somebody. ...Read more

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What The Good Schools Guide says


Since April 2021, Joanna Hubbard, previously head of the Rowans in Wimbledon, part of the Shrewsbury House School Trust. She has 30 years’ experience in education, spanning independent senior, prep and prep-prep schools in both the UK and abroad. Is also an experienced ISI inspector and governor of a local prep. Educated at Lady Eleanor Holles, degree from University of London, postgrad qualification in SEN and MA in education. Is a former professional sports coach too, having led teams to international competitions.


At 7, there are 62 places available, with around four applications for each one. Currently receiving requests to register children at birth. Most come from pre-preps, including its own Shrewsbury House Pre-Prep and the Rowans Pre-Prep (now part of the Shrewsbury House Trust), Wimbledon Common Prep, Park Hill, Lion House School and the Merlin. Around 10 per cent (down from 25 per cent a few years ago) come from the state system. Used to be a very local school, but catchment area has doubled in recent years, with 70 per cent of pupils now bussed in from over five miles away – many from Putney and Fulham.

‘We say to parents that if you think this is the sort of culture you’d like for your son, and we think he will be able to thrive here and access the curriculum and wider opportunities, then it’s almost certainly the right school.’ But you won’t get away completely scot-free on the assessment front – while registration is on a first-come, first-served basis, all offers are conditional and dependent on a one-day test (‘to check our culture really is right,’ insists school) in the autumn before anticipated entry. Those who apply too late for a conditional place are put on the waiting list and may be moved onto the ‘head's list’ (about eight places are kept back for this) for an assessment, but again it doesn’t guarantee a place. The school should be your first choice (current school heads are consulted). Occasional places available higher up the school.


Very few leave at 11; most stay until 13, when they progress to some 15 senior schools, including King’s College School (Wimbledon), St Paul’s, St John’s (Leatherhead), Westminster, Hampton School, Epsom College, Wellington, Charterhouse, Tonbridge and the Royal Grammar School (Guildford). A few go to Eton and Harrow.

School tracks boys after they leave – ‘we want to know exactly what happens to them, even where they go to university, and what they study, as well as what clubs and societies they join, as it tells us a huge amount about the notion of engagement,’ says school.

Our view

Located on a quiet road in an upmarket residential area of Surbiton, the school is one of the UK’s oldest preps, having celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2015. Based around a Victorian house, but with additional purpose-built classrooms and impressive facilities all on a six-acre site (including a huge all-weather pitch and a further seven acres at Almshouse Lane), they’ve recently had the green light for a further £15m of building works to include new dining hall and performance centre, among other things.

It’s all home to a first-class prep, where academic rigour is balanced by an equally strong offering in arts and sport. But parents must be as committed as their sons. ‘It’s not a drop-off-and-get-on-with-it kind of school – you’re expected to be at all the matches, attend the events and talk to the school at length about the next school, as well as encouraging your son to take up every possible opportunity and work extremely hard,’ one parent told us. Add to the academic and extensive extracurricular offering a packed sporting programme, rehearsals, performances, charity initiatives, competitions and trips and you’ll get the picture – these are busy boys and devoted parents.

Intellectually, boys need to be above average to cope here, despite the school taking a range of abilities, say parents. Homework is 30 minutes to one hour plus per night, right from the beginning. But – surprisingly, perhaps – the boys take it all in their stride.

A broad-based, eclectic curriculum is delivered by a talented teaching team. We saw plenty of lively lessons in practice, albeit a few yawns too. A French lesson, taught by a native speaker, with boys vying for an opportunity to speak, is typical. Similarly, lots of fun and experiments in science. Some great subject-specific classrooms, including one of the best history rooms we’ve seen – a modern museum with the teacher’s own collection of helmets and weapons secured to the wall. Library also impressive – welcoming and cosy, with over 6,000 books, and lots of magazines and newspapers on display. ‘We love it,’ our guide said, telling us all about the reading buddy scheme.

Average class size is around 16, with an eight-to-one pupil-teacher ratio overall, with classes getting smaller as boys move up the school and into sets (setting in English and maths from year 4, French from year 5). Streaming from year 6, with up to a third of boys showing the most aptitude studying the same syllabus but at a faster pace (and setting still in place for the remaining two-thirds). Scholarship streaming from year 7, which can include the additional language of ancient Greek. Everyone studies Latin from year 5.

Less than 10 per cent of boys have a learning difficulty, with classroom-based help the only provision on offer. ‘If a boy needs help outside the classroom, this isn’t the school for them as we don’t want them to miss out on the broader curriculum,’ says school.

The school has an outstanding local reputation for sport – for many parents, this is their deciding factor. Main sports are football, rugby, cricket and hockey, with other activities including basketball, tennis, shooting, rowing (for the senior boys) and chess. And while many of the boys participate at regional or national level, the school gives equal weight to ‘not quite there yet’, with boys regularly changing teams during their time here. ‘Everyone gets top-notch coaching – with friendships formed across every team,’ said one parent. This, coupled with the huge pride the boys have in representing their school, undoubtedly gives them the edge – they have a 70 per cent win rate across the board.

Music another stand-out subject, with the majority of boys taking instrumental or singing lessons, and there are 25 different musical groups (many open to all), with jazz and brass band especially popular. As with sport, ‘boys are encouraged to beat out eight bars on the drum even if they’ve only had three lessons,’ said one parent. Meanwhile, an annual summer soirée gives the top performers a chance to shine. Light-filled art studio is a hub of creativity, as is DT, with both regularly used in a cross-curricular way rather than mere add-ons. Drama not as good as it could be, say parents, but with a performing arts centre in the pipeline, there is optimism. LAMDA on offer and all boys do English Speaking Board exams. All the extracurricular you could shake a stick at – including rifle-shooting, judo, fencing, modelmaking (Spitfires) and Nerf wars and (most popular of all) cookery. Post-common entrance exams, boys also have a go at sewing, ironing and first aid.

Not exactly strict, but clear expectations around behaviour - pupils write the school’s code of conduct. Kindness features at the top, which boys told us ‘keeps bullying to a minimum’ (and is dealt with ‘that very day’ when it does happen, say pupils). Manners noteworthy, with no boy getting away with slacking, slouching or scruffiness. Pastorally outstanding, say parents, with one boy telling us, ‘I’ve lived in three different countries and this is the school I settled in quickest – by a long shot.’ Diversity is celebrated, say pupils – ‘we are like one big family, really.’

Money matters

Some bursaries available.

The last word

A high achieving, purposeful all-round school, which is more inclusive than a first glance might suggest. A prep, in the truest sense of the word, where boys thrive by being a big fish in a small pond. But it’s not for the faint-hearted.

Special Education Needs

Aims:to identify where a pupil has a special need; to recommend to parents what action should be taken (including, where appropriate, assessment by an educational psychologist); to assist with carrying out recommendations, either made by ourselves or by an educational psychologist. Admissions: A boy who has a learning difficulty is not refused entry because of that learning difficulty, provided it is felt he can cope with the demands of our curriculum, the pace, the additional pressure that children with learning problems will inevitably have - including from the demands of the curriculum and from the extra tuition (remedial) which they will be likely to require - and that parents understand both that the assistance we can give in school is limited and that there will be considerable onus on them to be supportive of their son but not to be over-protective. Identifying that there may be a learning problem: Every teacher knows it is his/her responsibility to notice if a boy is showing any of the signs which might be attributable to a learning problem. This must be reported to the SEN co-ordinator. Initial Action: An analysis will be carried out involving all appropriate teachers. Findings/concerns are relayed to parents. If staff in the School have the expertise to deal with the problem, this will be done either in class - where allowances will be made, but not to the extent that these are detrimental to other boys in the class - or in short supplementary sessions. Where it is felt that a boy may have a specific learning problem, it will be suggested to parents that an assessment is made by an educational psychologist (a list of educational psychologists is provided by the School) Continuing Action: The teaching staff do their utmost to carry out recommendations made by an educational psychologist. For instance, laptops may be used; assistance can be given in helping a boy to organise himself; where a boy is placed in the class can be changed and so on. The school discourages boys with specific learning difficulties missing any school activity to have extra tuition in the belief that such boys cannot afford to miss the academic work and need the non academic sessions and breaks. Parents are therefore asked to arrange extra tuition out of school time.

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders Y
CReSTeD registered for Dyslexia
English as an additional language (EAL)
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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