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S. Anselms School
  • S. Anselm's School
    Stanedge Road
    Bakewell
    Derbyshire
    DE45 1DP
  • Head: Lisa Donnelly
  • T 01629 812734
  • F 01629 814742
  • E [email protected]
  • W www.sanselms.co.uk
  • An independent school for boys and girls aged from 2 to 16.
  • Boarding: Yes
  • Local authority: Derbyshire
  • Pupils: 260
  • Religion: Christian Inter-denominational
  • Fees: Day £10,950 - £20,700; Boarding £26,100 pa
  • Open days: Prospective parents are encouraged to visit on a normal working day.
  • Review: View The Good Schools Guide Review
  • ISI report: View the ISI report

What says..

Setting off a high-altitude balloon and tracking it from the comfort of a classroom is nothing new, but this is the kind of school that literally goes the extra mile, or hundred. S Anselmians think nothing of jumping in a minibus and driving four hours to Norfolk on an epic balloon chase. There’s no holding back: ‘We wipe the floor with other schools, despite our small size,’ say PE staff. Pupils compete nationally in swimming and netball and have had an unbeaten season in rugby...

Read review »

What the school says...

S. Anselm's is one of the country's leading prep schools. We provide a happy and thriving environment where children are encouraged to give their best and to flourish amidst traditional values.

We prepare children for their journey through life, equipping our boys and girls with the wisdom and skills to succeed. We look to do so in a fun and engaging way, whilst encouraging good manners and humanity. The safe, homely and family environment in stunning Derbyshire countryside lends itself to superb opportunities for the strong boarding community. They delight in the strength and breadth of the activities programme, whilst being supported emotionally and academically by the school's dedicated pastoral team. Despite having no academic entry requirements, at 13 more than half our pupils win a scholarship which is a tribute to the quality of the teaching at the school and the small average class sizes. We would love to meet you and encourage you to come and see us in action. ...Read more

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Sports

Equestrian centre or equestrian team - school has own equestrian centre or an equestrian team.

What The Good Schools Guide says

Acting head

Lisa Donnelly, deputy head and head of pre-prep, is holding the fort as acting head after the abrupt departure of Peter Phillips.

Frank Thompson will take over from January 2020. Previously head at Stoke College. Other posts include deputy head at Mount St Mary’s, head at Kilgraston and director of admissions at Ampleforth College.

Academic matters

Setting off a high-altitude balloon and tracking it from the comfort of a classroom is nothing new, but this is the kind of school that literally goes the extra mile, or hundred. S Anselmians think nothing of jumping in a minibus and driving four hours to Norfolk on an epic balloon chase while tracking the progress on laptops. Project based learning was introduced in collaboration with a Danish school and Harvard University several years ago and staff are now starting to see it embed. Software is up to date, think 3D printers, trials of VR, and their Lego Innovative Centre which showcases 3D inspired chess sets. When Griselda, a forest monster, terrorised the local woodland, pupils were so engrossed in using adjectives that they wanted to work through the dinner bell.

Projects have ranged from the prerequisite Roman V’s Celt battle (two-day stopover and an actual catapult: no cardboard boxes here); giant plastic turtles, an ethical nod to the modern-day plastic problem; Tudor houses set on fire to allow pupils to experience the Great Fire of London (some cried); lessons in surgery with an actual pig’s lung and a digestive system made out of Lego. The list is endless… anything goes in the name of learning. We tried to ignore the proudly displayed newspaper reports lacking in the fundamentals, with spelling mistakes in headlines, and pupils grappling with knives in cooking without basic chopping techniques. On the plus side pupils were self-reflective, one reasoning that she needed to take more risks in her work, another learning collaboration as part of a group.

College students - the 13-16 year olds - happily enthuse that there are ‘loads of opportunities and good trips.’ When we visited many were away: residential in Oxford, history trip in Hull, others at the Birmingham Symphony Hall. Those left behind were on task and mature. Small class size and mentorships help. Kinder class were head down and learning in a French lesson. Derwent completed group programming work showing the maturity of undergrads. Maths students were genuinely enthusiastic about their double lesson last thing on a Friday. Parents remark that it is ‘a truly wonderful school’ and that ‘My boys look forward to going every morning and come home full of stories of what they have done that day.’ First GCSE results in 2018 saw 21 per cent A*-A/9-7 grades.

The school is more than happy to accept children with special needs. This is backed up by a strong learning support department with dedicated spaces, three specialist teachers including speech, language and communication therapists and dyslexia experts, one-to-ones, group work and EAL support, as well as plentiful resources for specific needs such as specialised laptops. Additional charge for learning support lessons.

Games, options, the arts

No shying away from competition here: it’s embraced at all levels, with the key being inclusion. Children are divided into A, B and C teams with the As naturally playing more fixtures. ‘We wipe the floor with other schools, despite our small size,’ say PE staff. Pupils compete nationally in swimming and netball and have had an unbeaten season in rugby. The large range of sports from shooting to steeplechase, cricket for both girls and boys to the usual netball, hockey and tennis mean that players achieve at all levels including regional and county. Parents said the Astroturf pitch was ‘a real bonus and all the children (and mums) are enjoying the hockey tuition’ with families being invited in for weekly coaching. Smallish swimming pool.

Music is equally strong, boasting 15 peripatetic teachers and 15 ensembles: everything from rock bands to modern music and chapel choirs. The proof of pudding is in the listening - mesmerising sounds of music flood through open windows, showcasing the ability and dedication of pupils. The Hargreaves Hall auditorium offers a great performing space for all ages, with modern repertoires ranging from Fight Club monologues to full on productions of Around the World in 80 Days and Fantastic Mr Fox.

Art rooms are a hive of activity and include a ceramics studio plus specialist teacher, with textiles offered as a separate subject. When we visited, a local exhibition of art produced by the prep included hand crafted toys, product launches, metaphorical poems sewn and draped on a mannequin’s skirt, the Cabinet of Curiosities containing ceramic fantasy creatures and even a bird’s skull which the pre-prep discovered and donated. The whole exhibition – a work of art in itself.

After-school activities cover every taste. The rule is, if there isn’t an activity with your name on, then there soon will be. Not a space is left unused here, with the gardens being the next big project – pupils have already started crafting grand designs.

Boarders

‘We have a pillow fight every Wednesday morning, so they can get it out of their system,’ boasts the housemaster. Under his charming guise, the pupils gush boarding accolades with superlatives galore. There are no boarding facilities for college students (years 9 to 11). A few year 6-8 boarders are international pupils; in some cases, families have moved nearby so they can send siblings as day pupils.

One parent told us they live only four miles away, yet their son has chosen to board. Who can blame him when weekend activities range from watching live ice hockey matches and paintballing to water parks? Lots of staff are on site: no one wants to miss out on the fun. Older pupils earn the privilege to wonder down to Bakewell and spend a pound. ‘It’s a wonder what they come back with,’ chuckles the housemaster.

Junior dorms have been spruced up with bright, but slightly garish and stereotypical wallpaper: flowers in the girls' dorm, and a world map (head's request) in the boys'. We did wonder why the girls only got daisies. Senior dorms are slightly worn looking, if not dull, and could do with a lick of paint. Bathroom facilities are modern and clean. None of which matters, really, because S Anselm’s boarders are too busy making the most of their time, with prep, music, supper, sports, swimming and the Lego Innovative Studio to fit in; we are not even sure the TVs in the common rooms are used.

Background and atmosphere

The successful pre-prep and prep school expanded to open the college in 2015. There was a slight nervousness, but the college students are well supported in small groups, if they can tear themselves away from the packed schedule of scuba diving and hosted dinners to ‘keep them busy in those teenage years’.

Locality - in the awe-inspiring Peak District - is massively important: ‘It’s everything about us and shapes us as a school'. Simple things like using Derbyshire oatcakes in their pancake day races, and studying iconic Derbytonians. Since most children live in the locality, it is easy for the school to integrate naturally into local life and a create a sense of community. Local state schools are invited periodically for sporting events, computer programming and science workshops.

There is so much going on here that it’s not a case of ticking boxes, but more what boxes can we come up with next to tick off. Staff are positively buzzing with enthusiasm.

Pastoral care, well-being and discipline

There is the S Anselm’s way based on common sense, sensible skirt lengths, no make-up, ensuring children remain children. We listened to the excited chattering of pupils and sampled Friday’s fish in the cosy, sociable dining hall. Pupils went out of their way to help visitors and took delight in clearing away our things. Parents are confident their offspring are eating well, remarking, ‘The boys tell me how good the school lunches are and my eldest loves the full English on a Saturday morning.’

Pupils are, on the whole, dressed smartly. The house system, based on four national heroes - Pitts, Churchill, Nelson and Wellington - is used at every opportunity to provide competition amongst pupils and staff of all ages, with the later exchanging friendly banter about a recent quiz night.

Staff are not afraid to address any issues head on – whether it’s lesson time or not - with one teacher taking a pupil aside for a heart to heart when we were there. The on-site nurse personifies caring, showing a sprinkling of humour whilst looking after a senior pupil complete with sick bowl. Who wouldn’t want this lady on hand in their hour of need?

Pupils and parents

Pre-prep pupils showed great honesty with their opinions: ‘It’s too easy, I did fractions last year, and I have to do them again this year.’ Another, exasperated, ‘We have to work until 5pm’. They don’t. Pre-prep finishes at 3.20pm, with after-school clubs available. We found pupils enthusiastic and on task in class, barely glancing up. They were polite, courteous and relaxed. The Guide was not immune to the inevitable plethora of prepped answers by the older students, but found genuineness when probing. ‘Good sport, no pressure.’ ‘Lots of opportunities and mix of everything.’ ‘Feels like a family’ and ‘really family-friendly environment.’

Staff use online learning journals in early years and reception to record pupils' progress for parents. While all agree it provides great communication, it ironically leaves staff with little to say on parents' evenings. Some can also get carried away with recording, as one teacher openly admitted she had conducted 38 observations on one child in nine weeks because ‘they were achieving so many amazing things’ and she just wanted to ‘capture them for the parents.’

Lots on offer for parents, from quiz and curry nights to pet shows and the weekly Sunday supper where families can enjoy a delicious roast with all the trimmings.

Entrance

Most pupils join the non-selective nursery or pre-prep; prep school entry subject to an interview with the head and report from their previous school. New entrants to the college have an assessment and interview with the head and head of college. When one recent recruit instinctively opened the door for us, the deputy mused that students soon slot into the S Anselm's way of life.

Exit

Between a half and two-thirds move elsewhere at 13 - with some returning after experiencing new pastures. Phillips has a relaxed attitude to pupils exiting at 13+ – pleased when they gain their scholarships. It shows – all scholarship boards, from academic to sport and music, are up to date, and exit destinations include Shrewsbury, Oundle, Stowe, Winchester and Eton. First year 11 leavers to Birkdale, St Mary’s Chesterfield, Oakham, Buxton College and a mixture of local sixth forms. The college is looking to expand into the centre of Bakewell, and it is likely to continue to grow.

Money matters

Academic, music, art and sports scholarships at 7+ and 13+. Some means-tested bursaries.

Our view

S Anselm’s tries to keep it real, true to the motto: Esse Quam Videri…to be and not to seem to be. The school embraces its Derbyshire roots, preparing students for modern life with traditional values. Individuality is key, and pupils leave with their characters intact, nurtured rather than remodelled. A juxtaposition of old and new, with a dash of good nature, humour and honesty that just seems to work.

Independent schools frequently offer IGCSEs or other qualifications alongside or as an alternative to GCSE. The DfE does not record performance data for these exams so independent school GCSE data is frequently misleading; parents should check the results with the schools.

Special Education Needs

S. Anselm's is a mainstream school and as such we welcome pupils with a broad cross section of ability. Gifted children are stretched and those with specific learning difficulties have access to dedicated one-to-one specialist teaching. All children are fully integrated into every aspect of life at the school. 09-09

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder Y
Aspergers Y
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders Y
CReSTeD registered for Dyslexia
Dyscalculia Y
Dysgraphia
Dyslexia Y
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
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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