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What says..

Happy, nurturing school with a family feel. Whilst in the past, it wasn’t considered highly academic, current head has brought in greater academic rigour, whilst maintaining an ethos of inclusivity so that those of all abilities shine. There’s a refreshing emphasis on displaying children’s artwork and there are practical touches like the fridge (albeit hidden behind tasteful built-in cupboards) by the front door so pupils can collect anything they’ve made in cookery lessons on their way home. Forest school means you’ll often see pupils taking classes outside...

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What the school says...

For over a century Beachborough has provided a dynamic environment in which children can develop a real love of learning. The schools idyllic 30 acre grounds give children space and freedom to grow into confident individuals, who are prepared for senior school and life beyond.

Academic excellence is rewarded at Beachborough and our inclusive approach ensures children of all abilities are inspired and challenged. The childrens horizons are further broadened by an extensive range of musical, artistic, dramatic and sporting activities.

With our traditional moral values, excellent pastoral care and outstanding academic and sporting achievements, Beachborough enables all children to flourish.
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What the parents say...

Both my children went to Beachborough prep school and they were very happy there. They found the atmosphere positive and vibrant and the academic standards high. Boarders are well cared for and enjoy a quasi-family environment with a lot of social events. Classes are small and children get lots of individual attention and coaching if they need it. Parents are encouraged to take a close interest in their child's progress even on a week by week basis. Bright children get stretched appropriately and mine luckily both won scholarships when they left. They also made lasting friendships. The school grounds are lovely and the playing fields are very extensive.

Commented on 18th Dec 2012

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What The Good Schools Guide says

Headmaster

Since 2013, Mr Jeremy Banks BA MA (40s), previously deputy head for seven years. Prior to Beachborough, he taught at Dulwich Prep London, where he was director of studies and housemaster. His own mother was a headteacher, and having realised relatively young that he too had a way with children, he subsequently did a degree in education studies and geography at Warwick University and a masters in educational leadership (distinction) at Buckingham. A very visible presence throughout the school, he is smiley, energetic and enthusiastic.

Married to Sophie, who is head of Beachborough's junior department, The Boardman. Also a Warwick graduate (education studies and music) and considered a strong female role model in the school. They have three daughters, all at the school.

Entrance

Main entry (non-selective) in September, but can and will take from any time, with the school having grown by 100 pupils since the start of the recession. An informal ‘taster’ day, with teacher-led assessments, gives the school some idea of a child’s strengths and weaknesses. Every year group has two or three classes with a maximum of 18 per class (three sets for English, French, maths and science from year 3 upwards). Some financial assistance is available for parents in difficulty via means-tested bursary provision.

Exit

Around half of year 8s leave with scholarships and all reach the pass rate for their chosen schools, the most popular of which are nearby Stowe and Bloxham, with others including Oxford High, Akeley Wood, Warwick, Oundle, Millfield and Headington. A few leave at 11 for schools like Royal Latin, nearby grammar.

Our view

Set in an impressive rambling country mansion, once owned by MP Sir Samuel Scott, the school has a good range of modern blocks surrounding it, the newest of which is a huge sports hall that many senior schools would be proud of. Others include a very good sized school theatre, science block that usually has Bunsen burners in full swing, and a smart Boardroom Building, where children from nursery up to year 4 are based. There’s also staff digs, where many of the 40-strong teaching staff live, including head, two deputies and the head of boarding. All the classrooms are light, airy and inviting. The school hasn’t always been based here, however, having originally been founded in Folkestone in 1910, after which it moved to Ewell, Purley and then Stockbridge, finally settling three miles from Brackley in 1942.

The fact that the children use the same school entrance as visitors says it all – this school is all about inclusivity. So whilst the reception areas still have the typical ‘smart hotel’ look of many rural private schools, there’s a refreshing emphasis on displaying children’s artwork and there are practical touches like the fridge (albeit hidden behind tasteful built-in cupboards) by the front door so pupils can collect anything they’ve made in cookery lessons on their way home.

Total of 30 acres of lush countryside for pupils to enjoy – and they really do. We happened to visit on a sunny April day and at break-time, children were running and jumping all over the front lawn, but on rainy days they simply don boiler suits and wellies. School has its own farm and sells its own sausages, and there are plenty of dedicated gardens dotted around, including the nursery sound garden and early years vegetable garden. Forest school means you’ll often see pupils taking classes outside, and when we visited there was even a replica of a trench in one field. This formed part of the school’s ‘enrichment week’, where the timetable is regularly collapsed so that teachers can focus all subjects on a single topic, in this case World War I.

‘Enrichment week’ and a few other examples aside, lessons up to year 6 are based on the national curriculum. In addition to core subjects of English, maths and science, all children learn history, geography, French (from age of 5), Latin, religious studies, art, DT, music, computing, drama, PE and games. Years 7 and 8 geared towards CE and scholarship exams. Subject specialists teach children from year 5 upwards. Average class sizes of 14 to 18.

In the past, Beachborough wasn’t regarded as very academic. But whilst the previous head referred to it as a ‘gentle’ school, the current head now prefers the description of ‘happy, ambitious and challenging’ – a combination that pupils and parents agree pretty much sum up the changes he’s brought in, ie encouraging a greater academic focus which stretches pupils, although never aggressively. So whilst year 1’s computing lesson might focus on coding and older children can expect lectures from the likes of Professor Matt Jarvis from Oxford University on black holes, you’ll also find display walls throughout the school celebrating the efforts of the less academically inclined.

Good provision for those requiring learning support (dyslexia, dyspraxia), via the learning support department. No charge is made for this - nor, incidentally, for tea and prep time after school; before- and after-school care; or most residential school trips, which include a year 2 trip to Amersham, whilst older year groups go to PGL, HMS Belfast, Spain, Paris and the Lake District. There’s also a focus on gifted and talented via the school’s able child programme. Self-assessment and peer-assessment are priorities and there’s a big push for children (especially the gifted and talented) to be encouraged to allow themselves to take intellectual risks with a view to learning from them, rather than getting stuck in the notion that they must achieve the best marks first time.

Sport is central, with some pupils at regional or national level in sports such as trampolining and cricket. But this isn’t a school where only top athletes are celebrated. Every child is involved in team games and team photos displayed around the school are not just of the A and B teams, but also the Cs, Ds and Es. Moreover, whatever their level of sports prowess, children get to compete against other schools, enjoying match teas and hearing their names read out in assembly. The school regularly puts out four or five sports teams to play against other schools. Girls play football and cricket too, which one parent says reflects ‘how Beachborough isn’t a boys’ prep school with girls, but a proper, genuine co-ed school,’ where incidentally there is pretty much a 50/50 gender split in every year. Swimming club every week at Stowe School’s pool, four miles away, and the newest sport in the school is triathlon, in which 30 children take part every Saturday.

Music is big here, with around two-thirds playing an instrument ranging from piano to bassoon, and all year groups have weekly class music in a charming music department at the top of the school. Year 1s and 2s get to try out the violin, recorder and percussion keyboard for 20 weeks before deciding if they want individual lessons. Two choirs, chamber choir and junior choir, for all year 3 and 4 children. Music tours include places like Bruges.

Weekly drama and art classes for all year groups too. Year 8s perform a Shakespeare play every year, while years 7/8, 5/6 and 3/4 also perform annually, with recent examples including Treasure Island and Pirates of the Caribbean Curry Bean. Years 2 and under do a Christmas play. Art – which is overseen by not just a head of art but professional artist - is imaginatively displayed throughout the school, and other activities include Young Enterprise, golf, Mad Science, tennis, archery, craft clubs and dance.

USPs include no Saturday school and a flexible approach to boarding. This includes up to four nights a week, and nearly half the children aged 7+ stay over at least once a week. This is no sleepover, though, with organised activities for boarders, a clear boarding school culture and all the strict rules you might expect, such as bedtime for oldest pupils at 9.15pm and silent reading before lights out. Dorms, which are located on top floor of main school building and which have girls' rooms on one side and boys' on the other, are well kept, welcoming and cheerful, with stunning wall art (Narnia for girls; war planes for boys). Long-serving school matron is based here. As one pupil, said, ‘Some of us have never boarded and you don’t feel left out because of it.’

Food is popular, with one pudding known as ‘bird seed’ (Rice Krispies coated in custard) easily the best loved course. Children eat calmly at long wooden tables, with teachers sitting at each end, and grace is said before and after each meal.

The code of conduct is clear, including ‘being friendly is easy and it can make the world of difference’ and ‘always do your best, whatever the challenge.’ By and large, the children seem to live by them, with pupils (and indeed parents) saying the school feels like one big family. Bad behaviour taken seriously, with a naughty bench for the younger children (although it’s not called that), but the focus is on prevention. Head says that whilst it’s natural for children to fall out from time to time, they don’t allow this to descend to bullying, which he puts down to an anti-bullying policy, great pastoral care, a focus on rewards for friendly behaviour and the fact that little problems don’t grow due to positive interventions. Parents and pupils agree. Active school council, which had just voted in increased choice in school meals when we visited.

The pupil body is almost exclusively white and, besides the 10-15 per cent Americans, almost all English. But this is unsurprising, given that the majority of children are local, with some coming from Towcester, Bicester, Banbury and Milton Keynes. Parents mainly from farming industries, motor racing employees (Silverstone is round the corner) and hedge-fund managers. Lots of family events, with the Beachborough Association putting on things like murder mystery evenings, coffee stops, quiz nights and an annual camp-out on the front lawn, for which tents were starting to appear when we visited.

This is a happy, nurturing school, set in beautiful surroundings that are truly utilised, and run by a dynamic husband and wife team. We found the children to be confident, polite and animated and completely lacking in arrogance. ‘I’ve done things I’d never have thought of – like archery,’ said one pupil. ‘I love the fact that we’re always celebrating people. I’ve learned that everyone is good at something,’ said another.

Parents talk about the ‘special atmosphere’ and ‘emphasis on inclusivity’, as well as the ‘individual attention that each child gets.’ ‘This place is a hidden jewel,’ says one parent. ‘The children are encouraged in whatever direction they want to go and the staff have a way of getting the best out of them.’

Special Education Needs

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