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We listened to an exciting and challenging science lesson. When asked to describe their teacher, pupils said, ‘distinctive, epic, fun, super, funny and heroic.’ They were still yelling out adjectives as we left the room. Art teacher wearing spectacularly bright trousers; ‘I love getting messy in art,’ said one enthusiastic painter with rainbow coloured hands and face. Weekends are action packed and hugely enjoyed. ‘He doesn’t want to come home,’ one parent told us.  ‘Boarding is just the greatest fun!’ children said to us over and over again....

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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

What the parents say...

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What The Good Schools Guide says

Headmaster

Since September 2012, Mr Peter Phillips. Head of Cundall Manor in Yorkshire for 13 years; built up school from around 80 to some 400 pupils. Started as a surveyor before seeing the light and becoming an English teacher. Head of English at Yardley Court and Dulwich College then director of studies at Cargilfield in Edinburgh.

A tall man, by any standards, he does not belong to the pinstriped, lapel-tugging, bullfrog school of heads. He is a thinker, a man of intelligence and vision, of great kindness, strong-minded and determined, and not easily swayed. Above all, he is dedicated to the welfare of the pupils. He does not like being pushed about by autocracy, but will listen for hours to children’s worries and concerns. Some parents have complained that he is something of a recluse, that he doesn’t come out to see them. The pupils we met – and they were marvellously forthcoming and natural – said how much they like him because he takes such a keen interest in them, makes a fuss of them when they are sent by their teachers to show him a good piece of work, and so obviously cares about them.

Though he denies being a Luddite, he knows nothing of computers and announced early on in his time at S Anselm’s that he did not do emails but was always willing to talk. All emails go through his wife, Sarah, who has a delightfully zany sense of humour and helps look after the girls in the evening. He teaches 18 lessons a week and referees some matches. Pupils enjoy his lessons and he enjoys the contact.

He has encouraged some of the older staff to leave, causing some disquiet among a few parents and indignation from those staff. The overall feeling amongst the parents we talked to was a sadness that even teachers have to move on, but an acceptance of the inevitability. This has not been a St Bartholomew's Day Massacre of the not-so-innocent over-50s: he has displayed considerable wisdom in retaining some of the finest teachers on merit, reputation and – importantly - a willingness to accept his enlarged expectations. One experienced teacher said that due to the new demands of helping at weekends she now knew the pupils better.

Perhaps most exciting has been the arrival of a cohort of young, lively, talented and dedicated staff. Many of them followed Mr Phillips, along with children and families, from Cundal Manor. Their arrival caused much excitement among the parents and children, and they are a most delightful and engaging group. Parents queued up to tell us of the new buzz in the school, the energy and drive, the sense of purpose and fun, the fresh air. Even we could feel it. When we wandered out during break and saw the running, the chasing, the laughter, the sense of timeless delight, it felt as if we had taken a detour with Thomas Traherne: ‘Boys and girls tumbling in the street, and playing, were moving jewels. I knew not that they were born or should die; but all things abided eternally as they were in their proper places.'

Mr Phillips has given up the rather grand and slightly intimidating study of his predecessors, and now inhabits a smaller but delightful room overlooking the beautiful gardens. As the visitor glances around he sees a rugby ball in the (unlit) fireplace, a set of bagpipes on a table, a model steam train made by one of the science masters (an inspirational teacher whose lesson we had observed earlier), and a pile of papers. No badges or hints of office, no pomposity or sense of importance. The same is true of the website. Search as you may, you will not find one of those proprietorial messages from a head looking like a stockbroker or as if they were fresh from a stylish garden party, urging you with false modesty and marketing acumen to come and visit. With a dash of daring, S Anselm’s has done away with all mentions of the head and doesn’t have a prospectus. ‘The school belongs to, and exists for, the children.’ You’ll only find the head’s name on the copy of the recent inspection report, and pretty good it was. He doesn’t do swank nor is he interested in suits and tailors. He greeted us in bright, pinky-red trousers and sweater.

Entrance

Mostly into the nursery and pre-prep, which is superbly run with first class teaching, according to happy parents. The overall head of the pre-prep is ‘wonderful’ and children in the prep look back with fondness and an early whiff of nostalgia. But anyone may apply at any stage if there is room. One parent told us with huge appreciation of how her son, joining as a boarder a little later than the main group when the family moved up from London, had been welcomed with kindness and consideration by boys and housemaster, and had settled in very quickly.

Exit

The school has an excellent reputation for scholarships, achieved through excellent free-range teaching rather than force-feeding. Parents talk of the way teachers assess their pupils realistically and sensitively. A few parents, of course, have unrealistic demands and expectations, but the head is good at nudging them towards greater reality, even though that doesn’t always endear him. Public school heads said they appreciate the lively, inquisitive approach of Anselmians, their willingness to get stuck in and their articulate courtesy and friendliness. Varying numbers to Eton, Harrow, Shrewsbury, Oundle, Fettes, Uppingham, Winchester, Downe House, Repton and Malvern.

School has expanded to secondary level: S Anselm's College (day only) opened with year 9 in September 2015 on the same site.

Our view

The school has been through a turbulent period over the last five years. Numbers dropped, and morale amongst many parents and staff dipped, and they told us that a few years ago they were very worried. With the arrival of fresh blood and new energies, numbers and morale are looking up, with a doubling of intake into reception and increased numbers in the main school.

Mr Phillips has restructured the timetable in the junior prep. English and maths is the staple diet in the morning, ‘when the children are at their most alert’, with other subjects in the afternoon. We listened to an exciting and challenging science lesson. When asked to describe their teacher, pupils said, ‘distinctive, epic, fun, super, funny and heroic.’ They were still yelling out adjectives as we left the room. Art teacher wearing spectacularly bright trousers; ‘I love getting messy in art,’ said one enthusiastic painter with rainbow coloured hands and face. Excellent artwork everywhere, not just in the large-windowed studio. We saw groups of young Romans planning a three course dinner which included stuffed doormice. They were off to Chester soon to explore all things Roman there. ‘Don’t mess with this man,’ said our guides as we entered the classroom of a gentle-looking man. ‘He teaches karate.’ A woman was teaching the value of a sensible diet in a brilliant lesson incorporating geography, chemistry, history, common sense and health.

Another of the head’s ideas is for the whole school to share a topic and approach it from all angles. When we visited it was lighthouses, so there were pictures of lighthouses everywhere, calculations of light travelling, weather maps etc. Teachers described the excitement of approaching a topic right across the school from the youngest to the oldest, the way that seems to unite the pupils in a common aim, enabling them to share and exchange knowledge. A visit to a Northumberland lighthouse involved camping: the buzz, the fun and the almost unnoticed accumulation of knowledge.

Saturday mornings are voluntary up to year 6, but the take-up is enthusiastic. There is the excitement of starting to learn Spanish, and Latin and Greek are, in the words of one distinguished exponent, ‘full on’.

Terrific facilities include a well-designed music block where we watched children rehearsing for an arts evening. About 90 per cent of them learn an instrument. The wonderful sports hall is, perhaps, even slightly improved following the recent fire during the winter holidays. The library is being extended and improved, a proud 10 year old librarian told us. Now there are plans for a real farm with real animals and the real hard work that goes with it, and a domestic science building.

Boarding facilities are excellent and improving all the time. In fact, under the new ‘amazing and seriously mad’ master in charge of boarding, according to parents and children, it is becoming ever more popular. Weekends are action packed and hugely enjoyed. ‘He doesn’t want to come home,’ one parent told us, and talking of home, not long ago a group went up to Sheffield to help with the Archer Project. On that occasion it took the form of sleeping on cardboard on the streets in the rain with some young homeless people and some hardy members of staff. A thought-provoking experience. ‘Boarding is just the greatest fun!’ children said to us over and over again.

These feelings of excitement, pleasure and happiness seem to permeate right through the school – including the gardeners and maintenance staff and the charming and friendly cooks. (We had the most delicious lunch of roast pork and all the trimmings.) All of them are, of course, vitally important contributors to the overall happiness and smooth running of the school.

No doubt the excellent food contributes to the success of S Anselm’s sport, which is taken seriously and played with zest and skill. County players abound in all areas, and there is huge excitement, though not at the expense of academic work. Or so they say.

S Anselm’s celebrated its 125th anniversary with an elegantly produced book, with a forward signed by The Duchess of Devonshire. In it the writer comments on the founder’s choice of motto : ‘Esse Quam Videri……to be and not to seem to be’. It’s a wonderful motto extolling the virtues of honesty and, to use that overworked word, transparency. Several people have suggested to us that Mr Phillips fits the message behind that motto. He may not be universally popular – people who need to make changes rarely are – but he is now presiding over a deeply happy school with parents falling over themselves to tell us how pleased they are with the current set up. Such bubbling enthusiasm is rare.

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
Aspergers Syndrome [archived]
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders Y
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders [archived]
CReSTeD registered for Dyslexia
Delicate Medical Problems [archived]
Dyscalculia
Dysgraphia
Dyslexia
Dyspraxia
English as an additional language (EAL)
Epilepsy [archived]
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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