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Usual range of subjects elsewhere on the timetable; we observed a lively practical science lesson in which pupils spoke confidently about extracting chlorophyll. History is clearly good fun; walls of history room festooned with pictures of students getting into the spirit of ancient times on Celtic Day (ably assisted by those 60 acres). Knights of the Sealed Knot have visited to perform re-enactments of medieval battles. Multiple evening clubs and activities on offer (day pupils can join in) and all staff give up one or two evenings a week to run these. Lots of sporting activities but a couple of unusual options include geo-caching and barbeque club...

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What the school says...

Brockhurst (Boys) and Marlston House (Girls) are twin schools sharing the same estate in Hermitage, near Newbury, Berks. We offer a unique education with the best features of small single-sex classes and shared extra-curricular activities. Specialist and qualified staff promote a family atmosphere and prepare children for entry to leading independent schools. We have outstanding facilities with 12 acres of sports fields, a sports hall, 25m indoor swimming pool, tennis courts and a superb equestrian centre. Our flexible boarding system allows children to board for one or more nights a week and full boarding is now offered. ...Read more

What the parents say...

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What The Good Schools Guide says


Brockhurst head since 2000, Mr David Fleming MA MSc (50s); himself educated at Brockhurst, then Radley College followed by natural sciences at Trinity College, Oxford. A member of the family which owns the school, he projects an air of relaxed authority. Clearly in a very secure position, but doesn’t rest on his laurels. Parents like the fact that they are ‘talking to the decision-maker.’ Aims to ‘preserve schools’ family feel’ whilst maintaining high academic standards and improving existing facilities. Married with two daughters; wife has high flying job outside the school. ‘She’s the clever one!’

Marlston House operates in tandem with Brockhurst and has own head. Appointed 1999, Caroline Riley MA BEd Cert Ed (50s) works alongside Mr Fleming and has free rein to run the girls’ school as she sees fit. Educated at a West Country girls’ school and Southampton University, she is former head of a mixed school in Hazelgrove and has taught in both single sex and mixed schools. Allows headmaster to do most of the talking, but they make a good double act: her contributions are quietly efficient, focused and informed. Teaches RS and history in upper school (headmaster teaches geography). Husband is retired and they have two grown-up children.


Children join Ridge House (pre-prep) following their third birthday. Youngest children get used to school by attending swimming lessons on Wednesday mornings and free toddler and parent sessions. Boys and girls educated together up to the age of 6, after which they join Brockhurst (boys) or Marlston House (girls). Occasional vacancies for older children after age 9; school says, ‘Special help can be given [to boys and girls] to catch up where necessary.’ There is an informal interview and assessment for anyone seeking a scholarship or bursary.


Academic scholarships in 2016 from Downe House, Abingdon, Bradfield and Pangbourne; music awards from Oxford High, Downe House and Pangbourne; drama and sports awards from Pangbourne; and all-rounder from Radley.

Our view

Founded in 1884 in Shropshire as a boys’ prep school, Brockhurst moved to its present home – a mock-Jacobean listed mansion set in 60 acres just outside Newbury – in 1945. Marlston House opened its doors to girls in 1995 and is located in a separate (also listed) building on the same site. Main building boasts imposing façade of deep red brick and stone, with baronial windows, turrets and heavy oak main door opening into wood-panelled passages and spacious Great Hall. Heads gave their interviews in a large room with impressive views over school’s extensive grounds - would make a good backdrop for filming period drama. The rest of the school’s buildings, although modern, sit comfortably alongside older ones and blend in thanks to clever architecture and landscaping.

Two schools join forces to marry the best of co-ed with single-sex education; boys and girls are educated separately between the ages of 6 and 11, only coming together for art, music and drama. Classes merge in the final two years of ‘senior school’, in order to prepare pupils for academic scholarships and common entrance exams on an equal footing. Quirky ‘back-to-front’ year groups mean those leaving reception begin in year 8 and finish in year 1.

Evidence of modern, quality teaching and good effort from pupils - however, some parents say it is patchy. Able children streamed into scholarship sets as soon as they are ready, usually in year 5. Some children 'accelerated' ie moved up a year. Maths tuition caters for a wide range of ability and pupils take common entrance at all three levels. Scholars take level 3 maths in year 7 and then focus on scholarship papers. English teaching excellent; pupils are encouraged to read widely and develop critical skills. CE syllabus completed by year 7 and scholarship set extends pupils’ knowledge in final year. Good provision for languages, especially French, which is taught from age 4. Château Robert near Biarritz is school property and all 11 and 12-year-olds spend two weeks every year studying the language intensively and exploring the area. Latin from year 4 to both CE and scholarship levels; those taking scholarship Latin also learn Greek. Pupils begin German in the last two years and have taster sessions in Russian and Spanish once exams are over.

Usual range of subjects elsewhere on the timetable; we observed a lively practical science lesson in which pupils spoke confidently about extracting chlorophyll. History is clearly good fun; walls of history room festooned with pictures of students getting into the spirit of ancient times on Celtic Day (ably assisted by those 60 acres). Knights of the Sealed Knot have visited to perform re-enactments of medieval battles. Plenty of school trips, eg to Hampton Court. Good ICT facilities and library. Parents praise school communications and particularly news section of website. ‘They get it right 90 per cent of the time.’ Progress reports issued two or three times every half term. ‘Children are treated as individuals, with stars, effort points and lots of praise for good work … the sheer scope of opportunities seem boundless.’ Saturday school from year 2 up, so schools run clubs in the morning for younger siblings.

Learning development centre (LDC) goes well beyond usual remit of dyslexia, eg developing comprehension and study skills and exam revision techniques. LDC helps gifted and talented to extend knowledge, supports EAL students and even adults from the local community with dyslexia. Also helps pre-prep pupils who don’t pick up on phonics first time around. However, not the place for behavioural challenges.

Music is clearly in good health, with around 80 per cent receiving individual tuition on one or more instruments. There are senior and junior orchestras and choirs, plus a chamber choir and string quartet. Swing and R+B bands, guitar, flute and recorder groups provide other opportunities to make music. Class music includes use of composition suite. Heads keen to point out that schools are very flexible and ‘will adjust timetable to suit individual talents such as music.’ Art and DT block ranges over two floors which provide plenty of space for painting, drawing and pottery; not as well-equipped for practical DT as some other preps we’ve seen, although facilities for art and pottery are excellent. Standard of work on display is high and the most talented pupils are coached for art awards. Trips to galleries and museums organised post CE.

Schools’ extensive grounds are a boon to sports staff; all major sports are on offer in addition to minor sports such as golf, judo, shooting and fishing in school’s lake. Soccer, rugby, cross-country running and cricket for boys; hockey, netball, rounders and tennis for girls - all do athletics and swimming in 25m indoor pool and boys can play hockey too. Sport is timetabled every day and there are A, B and C teams for major sports. A big draw for girls is the equestrian centre, where pupils can stable their own pony or learn to ride on schools’ horses. Heads are proud of sporting record of their pupils, which have included winning national judo championships, IAPS swimming gold and athletics at county level. Keen to build more tennis courts; at present there is one indoor and three all-weather courts. Joint drama productions take place in new performing arts centre.

Family ethos encourages good pastoral care; we met a very dedicated housemaster who clearly poured heart and soul into the job. There is zero tolerance for bullying and parents report that issues are sorted immediately. One parent commented, ‘The headmaster took time out from a school inspection [to deal with my concerns].’ All pupils belong to a house and school council meets once a month. Full-time boarding is encouraged, but flexi-boarders must spend a minimum of two nights a week in school. Boys’ dorms are much less pretty than girls’ dorms, as is the norm. Corridors kept tidy and routines well organised. Lots of posters on walls to reinforce anti-bullying ethos; full boarders can have mobile phones and iPads and their use is managed by boarding house staff. Overseas boarders have access to Skype in a specially designated room.

Multiple evening clubs and activities on offer (day pupils can join in) and all staff give up one or two evenings a week to run these. Lots of sporting activities but a couple of unusual options include geo-caching and barbeque club. School fireworks display is an annual highlight. Everyone takes part – children hold torches and process with their parents to the bonfire, which is lit traditionally by the youngest child in the school. Three sittings for lunch ensure that all pupils sit on a ‘family table’ with a member of staff present. Food a bit plain on the day we visited, but not in short supply and plenty of fresh fruit, cheese and other choices for pudding. School runs daily bus services to local towns and there is good after-school care for working families.

Children come from a wide variety of backgrounds, eg South Africa and the US, but are polite, articulate and unassuming without hiding their light under a bushel; they state (honestly) that there is nothing about the schools that they would change. Centenary and Foundation Scholarships are worth up to one third of fees, but headmistress keen to point out that ‘a talented child can come here on a full scholarship.’

Twin schools offer a unique blend of co-ed and single-sex education. Blessed with a rich endowment, they are free to indulge mild idiosyncrasies such as different holiday and half-term dates. Clear moral steer and family values keep students, staff and parents on side. Obviously hard working – the school motto is ‘no reward without effort’ – but a happy place as well.

Special Education Needs

Brockhurst and Marlston House Schools educate children of mixed ability but all are "mainstream" pupils. We have three part time SEN teachers (Dip.SpLD, AMBDA qualified) who assess and work in conjunction with class teachers and the English department to support pupils who are dyslexic or who have learning difficulties. Individual programmes of work are planned according to need and progress is monitored on a weekly basis. Pupils are taught on a one to one basis for two sessions per week depending upon individual need. Senior pupils often benefit from study skills to help basic organisational skills and revision towards Common Entrance and Scholarship work.

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder
Aspergers Syndrome [archived]
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders Y
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders [archived]
CReSTeD registered for Dyslexia Y
Delicate Medical Problems [archived]
English as an additional language (EAL)
Epilepsy [archived]
Has an entry in the Autism Services Directory
Has SEN unit or class Y
HI - Hearing Impairment
Hospital School
Mental health
MLD - Moderate Learning Difficulty
MSI - Multi-Sensory Impairment
Natspec Specialist Colleges
Not Applicable
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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