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Very active parents association – ‘40 donations for the bake sale the other day’, said a member – with an impressive participation rate considering that many, if not most, families have two working parents. The school adventure service challenge is ‘like a mini Duke of Edinburgh… we do camping, rowing, bird watching, cooking and it’s lots of fun,’ say pupils. Years 4 and 5 were excited about the annual trip to France where they visit a chocolate factory in Boulogne (they like this better than the…

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What the school says...

In 2017 the School received its best ever set of 11+ results to top independent and Grammar schools including City of London Boys & Girls Schools, Forest, Chigwell and Bancroft's. 18 Scholarships, including Music, were offered to the 19 Year 6 pupils.
In the same year the School was adjudged fully compliant in the ISI Regulatory Compliance Inspection with no recommendations for improvement. Three successive parental questionnaires and the ISI questionnaire show that parents are extremely happy with how the school is led and managed and like recent innovations which include improvements to Music, Drama, Languages and ICT, a broadening of the leadership structure as well as focus in preparing their children for life as well as those exams. ...Read more

What the parents say...

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What The Good Schools Guide says

Head

Since 2013, Mr Christopher Curl MA BEd TEFL, studied English and drama at Exeter. Taught in a mixture of prep and senior schools, including his own, King's Canterbury. Has been boarding housemaster, head of English and drama and in charge of co-curricular activities. Third headship – chose this school because of its size, family atmosphere and autonomy. Active and involved governors – including some of the original founding family - give him scope to shape the school. They also give lots of practical support, from HR to decorating. ‘On some other boards you see some three times a year for large lunches and no one knows who they are,’ says the head.

He aims to 'make learning more interesting’ while ‘trying not to fiddle with everything’, especially since the school already has an outstanding report. Parents think he strikes a good balance, especially in the difficult role of following 'a much-loved, very long-standing incumbent’. One said, ‘He is doing a great job of listening to parents and making positive changes.’ Parents describe him as a ‘very visible’, ‘open, approachable’, and a ‘supremely capable steward’ who ‘genuinely cares about the school’.

He is hands on, helping with drama and musical productions, at the gate before and after school, and teaching. Every Monday he starts with year 6 and works his way down to the nursery, teaching the older ones current affairs and conducting story time sessions with younger pupils. He likes to avoid being ‘this remote head who sits in an office’.

Head also provides weekly lunch time cover for his secretary, so he 'gets to see the front of the organisation, what she is dealing with, what’s happening, who comes in, what people are saying’. He thinks that ‘if as a head you stop doing the kinds of things other members of staff are asked to do, you become out of touch’.

Leaving in 2018.

Entrance

Most come in at nursery and go though to year 6. There is a low-key family interview with the head. Places higher up subject to a family interview and in-class assessment. Pupils come from various nurseries in the local area, from Canary Wharf and Stratford out to Epping, Woodford Green, Romford and Loughton, and beyond.

Exit

Bancroft's, Chigwell and Forest most popular local destinations, alongside City of London schools and St Edmund's Ware. Record results in 2017 with 18 scholarships (most to Bancroft's and Forest). Others to local grammar schools Woodford County High and Ilford County High.

Our view

Small size and family atmosphere mean pupils settle in quickly. ‘You don’t have to be scared to talk to a year 6 because everyone knows each other,’ a pupil said. One parent said that during her son’s first year at the school he has 'waved to and greeted any older pupil we met in the street. And the bigger kids have invariably waved back.’

The main school is set in a 1930s Victorian house and was managed by the same family for 50 years. Its small, quaint classrooms are close together and the corridors are dainty, but it is an intimate rather than cramped feel. The nursery and reception are housed in a separate, purpose-built building overlooking a small playground, with the hall and a multi-purpose library room on the other side of the playground. Beyond that is a covered sensory garden, designed and constructed by an architect governor. The children grow plants here, and experiment with different climates and seasons. There is a huge blackboard where they chalk to their heart’s content and above it a huge, colourful mural painted by year 6s.

The governors, as mentioned, are very much involved in everyday school life, often to be seen popping in and out. They helped to extend the hall to create more storage space, they have helped decorate the staff room and to build the new canopied decking area outside the nursery so pupils can enjoy year round outdoor play free of leaves and rain. ‘They are very sensitive to the needs of the staff and children,’ said the head.

Single form entry, with class sizes of roughly 24 in the infants and 18 in the juniors, and plenty of classroom assistants. ‘It is mixed ability here,’ says the head. ‘What is exciting is seeing children who didn’t come in as high fliers leave having made massive progress.’ Most extra support for those with learning difficulties is provided in class, with a part-time specialist available as required.

French from nursery, optional German and Spanish, year 6s learn Latin and also embark on self-directed projects. Lots of investment in IT. We saw year 5s listening to a live commentary on an Arsenal v Southampton match and learning how to extract key information from a database to write up their news reports.

The school adventure service challenge is ‘like a mini Duke of Edinburgh… we do camping, rowing, bird watching, cooking and it’s lots of fun,’ say pupils. Years 4 and 5 were excited about the annual trip to France where they visit a chocolate factory in Boulogne (they like this better than the snail farm). Whilst in France they spend time with penfriends and complete a shopping task in French, although some confess they have found ways around this: ‘Luckily the lady that was serving us knew English’. Year 5 has a history trip to York and year 6 an end of year trip to Shropshire.

Before and after-school clubs include the usual range of sports plus country and maypole dancing, scooter club, creative writing, art club and knitting. Popular sports are football and netball, and considering how small the school is, they do well: ‘Once we played in a tournament and there were two Snaresbrook teams in the football play-off and they ended up playing each other,’ a pupil said with pride. There are no fields here so pupils take a minibus to Redbridge Sports Centre and Ashton playing fields.

One parent commented: ‘I feel the school works hard to optimise the use of space available.’ At breaktimes a daily games timetable saves the tiny playground from being dominated by football (football still an option at lunchtime when playtimes are staggered) and the children can try out a different game each day. ‘Our new games teacher came up with the idea,’ said a pupil. It was inspired by Olympics sports such as handball, dodgeball and basketball. Most of the children take part and girls and boys play together. Other activities are on offer, too – they can read, do art, play table tennis. The head says: ‘In my last school we had acres and acres of green grass and the children didn’t use it as well. Here they are much more appreciative, and the lack of space can be an advantage rather than a disadvantage.’

When we visited, years 1 and 2 were in the hall preparing for a dress rehearsal of Rise and Shine. ‘All have a part to play in the production,’ said their teacher. The school tries to offer a taste of a wide range of drama and music, and each class gets a chance to perform. ‘Lots of parents come to see the productions whether they have children in that year group or not.’ Around 20 per cent of children learn to play the recorder, violin or flute.

House system gives everyone a chance to shine in different areas. ‘Browns usually win on sports day, blues dominate swimming, yellows are good at choir singing and pancake races,' a pupil told us, 'so we each have our fair share of glory’. The many charitable and fundraising activities include readathons, movie nights to raise funds for Redbridge Night Shelter, sports events for the NSPCC and Great Ormond Street and harvest collections for the British Red Cross. Year 4 girls created a magazine, 'packed with quizzes, gossip and pictures. They made £61 by selling it to everyone’.

Pupils help inside school too. A year 6 pupil said of the nursery: ‘We come in our free time and help the children and teachers with projects. It’s also fun for us as this was our room when we were in the nursery.’ It invokes a sense of service: ‘This morning I was holding the door for a parent and I heard one of the year 4s say, “Dad, when I’m in year 6 I will be able to hold the door, I will say good morning to everyone”.’

Support is good, say parents, with teachers always willing to discuss and address problems. Plenty of incentives and rewards for doing well, including Good Marks assemblies and commendation awards. The merit board includes an award to teachers for ‘making a good start on the return after holidays’.

A new system of online live reports, with up-to-date comments from teachers that parents can access at any time, has replaced yearly written reports. The plan is to produce a detailed picture of how each child learns and how they are progressing.

Very active parents' association – ‘40 donations for the bake sale the other day’, said a member – with an impressive participation rate considering that many, if not most, families have two working parents. Hotly-contested annual pancake race involves children, staff and parents. After examining video evidence following one race, the head sent out an urgent email saying parents had in fact lost and parents retorted: ‘Mr Curl, wait till next year.’

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