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All pupils consistently achieve entry into the secondary school of their first choice (with several offers under their belt). Generally, the tone and register in the school is one of bursting, bubbling happiness. Dazzling wall displays suggest it is a crucible for creativity. Behaviour seems exemplary; pupils stand when an adult enters the room, the teachers shake each pupil’s hand at the end of each day. (These children will not be looking at their feet, mumbling, if a secondary school interviewer wishes to converse)...

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What The Good Schools Guide says

Headteacher

Since 2014, Helen Rigby BEd NPQH, previously of Offley Infant School. Has a natural empathy with parents whose children attend her small but perfectly formed co-educational, non-selective prep school. And so she should, having started out as one. It fact, so impressed was she as a parent with this warm and welcoming school that she made a successful application to join the teaching staff in 2001.

Fast forward several years and she’s headteacher. It is seemingly impossible for parents to describe her or her school without using words like nurturing or caring because that’s what this little school – which the head says (and with good cause) punches well above its weight - is all about. That and really top notch academic achievement which means all pupils consistently achieve entry into the secondary school of their first choice (with several offers under their belt).

Yet while the academic bar is set high, what Helen Rigby most wants for her pupils is for them simply to have a go, keep persevering. An approach which she hopes will imbue them with the spirit of the Olympians (a theme picked up in a recent school play). A keen horse riding fan, she cheered loudly when, during the 2016 London Olympics, veteran rider Nick Skelton finally achieved individual gold in his seventh Olympics. It’s that spirit of determination she wants to foster in her pupils. Always try, never give up, you will succeed.

Entrance

Most children join the kindergarten at 3; the rest enter the school between 3-5 with a taster day and an informal assessment with literacy and numeracy.

Exit

Parents tend to choose small preps to give their children options at 11. Here, they sit exams for all the usual suspects: Cheadle Hulme, Manchester High School for Girls, Withington Girls, Stockport Grammar, Alderley Edge Girls, Kings’ Macclesfield. Two academic scholarships in 2018.

Our view

The school used to be girls-only; boys joined the kindergarten in 2013. Currently, every year up to and including year 4 is mixed and broadly 50:50 between genders. Both infant and junior years have a teaching assistant assigned so individual attention is available at every age level. Class sizes around 15.

The school boasts excellent facilities: up-to-date IT room, art room (and specialist art teacher), music room, science lab (age-appropriate). A lovely junior library, along with a sports hall (secured via inspired fundraising) and a small playing field with long jump pit, big enough for a decent game of rounders and infant sports day. It also has some imaginative play areas with Astroturf and an outdoor ‘learning environment’ worthy of the National Trust. Head is keen that children learn to manage risks in safe spaces.

Small classes mean individual attention; as one parent put it, every task and challenge is tailored to a child’s individual needs. Along with the core subjects, languages, computer work and science are integrated at a basic level from day one in infants. French for the infants, Spanish for the juniors. A broad curriculum really matters to the head; while she appreciates year 6 exams are crucial, she also considers arts, science and sport to be essential for development. At junior level, there is a shift in emphasis to specialist science, maths and English, along with verbal and non-verbal reasoning. Collaboration across the curriculum means a particular reading book, for example, might also be picked up in drama or art. The latter, a recent initiative - the Power of Reading - is an open sesame for minds.

About five per cent of pupils are on the SEN register but a larger number receive extra support to ensure they are on target to reach high academic goals (often booster activities in English or maths with a teaching assistant). One parent said her child had been performing below the expected level at a state primary but following a move to WPS is now above expectations. Pupils who want to leap ahead are likewise stretched. A parent whose child happened to have an EHC plan spoke glowingly about this (he had a reading ability well beyond his years), and about his increased confidence (he was encouraged to take lead roles in school plays). One parent, however, struck a note of caution, saying she thought that whilst children who were struggling or excelling fared incredibly well in the school, those in the middle of the class were overlooked.

Even so, a recent inspection report asserted that 'children’s achievements and progress exceed age-related expectations in all areas of learning'. The same report also alluded to imaginative learning: Welly Wednesdays, where children did mini-beast hunts and Thinking Thursdays for problem solving.

Head asserts that children in year 6 take exams in their stride. Yet while one parent said that year 6 pupils were incredibly confident, another said she had expected the children in year 6 to be in a ‘better place’ and felt it was all a bit stressful for them.

Generally, though, the tone and register in the school is one of bursting, bubbling happiness. Dazzling wall displays suggest it is a crucible for creativity. The entire school is crammed with wonderful art displays: Egyptian masks, self-portraits ( by year group showing evolution in maturity) and impressive pieces ‘in the style of’ an artist, such as Henry Moore. Unsurprisingly, in a recent ISA Art Competition, the school scooped six first prizes. (On the flip side, one parent thought there was too much art. You say Tomaito, I say Tomarto.)

The school has choirs, junior and chamber orchestras. A large proportion of pupils also takes individual lessons at an extra cost. In the Alderley Edge Music Festival, the school recently won first prize for both the chamber choir and year 2-3 choir. All pupils are encouraged to enter and thrive on the buzz, parents say.

All children take the ESB (Communication with Drama) Awards where distinctions are vacuumed up. Parents felt this was terrific for confidence. In addition, school productions are bold and imaginative – they recently staged Go for Gold, the history of the Olympics, starting with Zeus.

All the usual sports – football, hockey, athletics, netball, cross-country, badminton - are played locally and nationally. There are also offbeat extras, like judo and fencing. When bigger playing fields are required, they jump on the WPS minibus to a local sports club. One parent said the sports teacher was quick to identify potential talent; her daughter had done so well at cross-country she was now a member of Stockport Harriers. Another parent felt the school was not as well equipped sports-wise for boys as it might be. A sentiment echoed by others. Here, perhaps, the school is transitioning.

Heaps of extracurricular trips: infant favourites like farms; juniors to more cerebral or outdoorsy destinations like York or the coast. Lots of wonderful clubs like mad science and book clubs.

Behaviour seems exemplary; pupils stand when an adult enters the room, the teachers shake each pupil’s hand at the end of each day. (These children will not be looking at their feet, mumbling, if a secondary school interviewer wishes to converse.) School rules consist of lovely directions to be kind, give a helpful hand. A merit and courtesy system is applied which is celebrated weekly in assemblies. Children love it. Well, who wouldn’t – fame for being the best version of yourself. A winner.

A team ethos is encouraged via the house system and its various charming competitions (never underestimate the power of a conker on a string to galvanize) and charitable initiatives organised by the school council. Each child in year 6 is an ‘ambassador’ for a discrete area, such as learning or sport, with a ‘job description’. A nice touch to prepare them for that giant lunar step to secondary education.

Though small and cosy, this school is no bubble: interactive assemblies cover important issues like festivals across faiths and crucially, with iPads more ubiquitous than colouring books, internet safety.

The school, established in 1909, moved to these premises in 1912. Buildings cluster round the play area and banks of windows and skylights give it a real sense of lightness and zip. Rooms are large and colourful, evidencing projects simmering away, an explosion of nascent knowledge. From around 11am each day, the smell of cooking permeates from the school kitchen. All children have to eat school meals – it looked good and healthy nosh to us (it also clocks in as an extra payment per term).

Communication with parents is via three parents’ evenings per year, reports and regular emails. Parents are local (Hale, Prestbury, Wilmslow, Alderley Edge), professional – grounded – many of whom had to do the maths before committing to school fees. The size of the school necessarily lends it a familial feel. The parents’ committee seems something of a tour de force.

We agree with the headteacher: this terrific little school does indeed punch above its weight. You remember the Andrew Murray fist punch? The victorious, happy air punch when he knows he’s done well? Well, it’s that.

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