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What says..

The school site combines the best of both worlds – it’s five minutes’ walk from the centre of town but has 12 acres of grounds (including five acres of sports fields) for children to play in. The pupils are spirited, chatty and well mannered. They stand up when visitors enter the room and are keen to talk about their school. Despite its traditional exterior, Sherborne Prep is impressively forward thinking. The dynamic head of teaching and learning (she’s also the head of languages) helps children to work out what type of learners they are (visual, auditory, kinaesthetic) and has…

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What the school says...

At Sherborne Prep School we aim to meet the needs of each child as an individual and they are supported not only by the enthusiastic and committed staff but also by each other as a community and family. There is a real warmth and vitality about the School and visitors always comment on the happy children. When you visit you will see confident enquiring children, happy to be learning about the world around them. They will be keen to speak to you and show you what they are doing. You will also see for yourself the variety and excellence of our staff.

We provide a wide range of opportunities on the academic, creative and sporting front whilst allowing children to be children. Consistently, all our pupils are successful at reaching the Senior Schools of their choice and leave feeling delight in their many achievements.

Such things are admirable, but we aim to proivde more. We believe that education should convey a real sense of meaning and purpose and grow open and enquiring minds. We value imagination, individualism and variety and we want our young people to fulfill their talents wherever they lie.
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What the parents say...

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What The Good Schools Guide says

Headmaster

Since 2015, Nick Folland (50s). Educated at Exmouth Community College, one of the largest comprehensives in the country, and Loughborough University, where he read PE, sports science and geography. Worked with deaf children for three years, did a PGCE at Loughborough and then moved to Blundell’s. Played professional cricket for Somerset for three years before taking a housemaster’s post at Blundell’s. Appointed as inaugural head of Blundell’s Prep and after a decade there took on the headship of St John’s on-the-Hill prep in Chepstow, where he spent four years.

Married to Di, a charming Australian speech and language specialist who is immersed in school life. They live in a house owned by the school, a five-minute walk away, and have two children. Head is go-ahead, energetic (his wife describes him as a ‘can-do person’), refreshingly down-to-earth and popular with parents. ‘I’m a pretty open book,’ he says, ‘and if there are things to improve then I get on and improve them.’ Very proud of the fact that the school is not selective yet gets excellent results. ‘I’m really enjoying the job,’ he says. ‘The children are what it’s all about and they are wonderfully positive and really want to achieve.’ His hectic schedule means he doesn’t teach these days but he’s very visible around the school, lunching in the dining hall, chatting to children in the corridors and coaching the under 9s rugby team. Plans are afoot for him to coach netball in the coming year. He isn’t in the least fazed by taking on a new sport – ‘I’m a gamesy person,’ he says. Enjoys sport, film and travel in his spare time.

Entrance

School is non-selective and unpretentious. Entrance is by interview with the head and previous school report, plus informal assessment when pupils come in for a taster day before joining, to ensure that the school is the right fit and can meet child's needs. Most pupils start in the pre-prep or year 3 but there is a steady trickle joining from years 3 to 7 and at least 10 new starters arrive in year 7. School is happy to consider new pupils all year round, not just those starting in the autumn term. Academic, music, sport, art, DT and all-rounder scholarships available – school says ‘talent and enthusiasm are especially sought’.

Exit

Sherborne Prep is independent of Sherborne School and Sherborne Girls but has strong links with both, and around half of the pupils head to one of these. Others go to Bryanston, Canford, Kings Bruton, Winchester, plus a few to Eton, Harrow, Cheltenham Ladies, Marlborough, Blundell’s, Dauntsey’s, Radley, Rugby, Downside, Milton Abbey, more than a third with scholarships. Some to local state schools The Gryphon or Thomas Hardye at 13+.

Our view

Founded in 1858, the school moved to its present location, just off a quiet Sherborne side street, in 1885. Went co-ed in the 1970s. The school site combines the best of both worlds – it’s five minutes’ walk from the centre of town but has 12 acres of grounds (including five acres of sports fields) for children to play in.

Despite its traditional exterior, Sherborne Prep is impressively forward thinking. The dynamic head of teaching and learning (she’s also the head of languages) helps children to work out what type of learners they are (visual, auditory, kinaesthetic) and has brought in a self assessment programme that encourages pupils to give themselves scores for collaboration, participation, conduct and independence. The head of the pre-prep has introduced a Singapore maths programme called Inspire Maths to develop pupils’ number confidence and mental arithmetic skills.

Teaching is excellent throughout. Teachers are a dedicated bunch, full of ideas and enthusiasm. A parent described them as ‘outstanding, with a diversity of styles and approaches’. We met the deputy head (academic), who attended the school herself and had such happy memories that she decided to return, and a humanities teacher who has been at the school for 41 years. Exam results are first rate but a member of staff emphasised that the school isn’t an exam factory. ‘Exams aren’t the be all and end all,’ she said. ‘They are part of the journey. People get so focused on exams and it’s important to realise that they are just a stepping stone.’ As well as their form tutors, who they see every day, the children get to choose their own independent tutors – anyone from the teachers to the head of maintenance.

Classes are mixed ability, apart from scholarship sets at the top of the school. Maximum class sizes of 18, but rarely more than 16. Three classes per year group in years 6, 7 and 8 and two per year group for younger pupils in the prep. Learning support (accessed by 13 per cent) is provided by the Learning Hub. Children receive one-to-one help or work in small groups.

Languages are a particular strength of the school and are taught from the pre-prep upwards. Reception children do a bit of Italian (learning through music, drama and cultural aspects) while year 1 and 2 pupils learn Mandarin. ‘The idea is to give them a foundation in the idea of appreciating languages,’ says the head of languages, who has developed a website called Language Prep to make languages fun and accessible (it’s used by other schools too). Years 3s do German, year 4s Italian (with a focus on ICT and cooking) and year 5s and up French and Spanish (ready for their senior schools). Latin is taught from year 6. Debating and public speaking are notable. When we visited a year 8 boy had just won the local round of the Youth Speaks competition, speaking without notes about finding strength through adversity. No lessons on Saturdays. School runs an optional programme of activities – children come into school in their home clothes and take part in three-hour clubs (everything from forest school and pond club to circus skills, cartoon character drawing, LAMDA and sport). Saturday lectures for year 7 and 8 children and parents tackle a raft of unusual subjects – the history of salt to ‘is levitation possible?’

Newish head of sport (previously at Glenalmond) is keen for every pupil to get the chance to wear a team shirt during their time at the school. Main sports for boys are rugby, hockey and cricket and hockey, netball and cricket for girls (rounders less popular these days). Hockey is particularly strong, with under-8 and under-11 girls winning a string of tournaments in recent months. Sportiest pupils get pro cricket and hockey training but school also has a ‘team of the week’ award, where individual children are commended for their efforts in promoting school values on the games pitch. School mainly uses its own playing fields but also has access to the facilities at Sherborne School, just over the road, and the swimming pools there and at nearby Sherborne Girls. The children get loads of fresh air, running off steam in the grounds at break and lunchtimes. Pupils enjoy playing conkers (a previous head thoughtfully planted a row of chestnut trees for precisely that purpose).

Parents are full of praise for the school’s music, drama, art and DT. A father with two older children and two at Sherborne Prep said a year 7 play he’d recently seen was ‘creatively delivered and outstanding’, far better than productions he’d seen at senior schools. Music is integral to the prep and the school provides 14 choristers for the choir at Sherborne Abbey. More than half of the children play a musical instrument and the new director of music reckons numbers will rise to 75 per cent before long. A host of opportunities for budding young musicians, including full orchestra, senior choir, junior choir, chamber choir, brass ensemble, jazz ensemble and piano trio. The art room is a vision to behold – light and airy, with views of Sherborne Abbey and the children’s work proudly displayed everywhere. Head of art is a successful artist from Spain who encourages the children to explore different art forms, including drawing, painting, sculpture, film and experimental media. ‘They never have the same lesson,’ he says. He allows children to use the art room at break times, on the proviso that they clear up afterwards, and also teaches art to parents during the spring term.

The pupils are spirited, chatty and well mannered. They stand up when visitors enter the room and are keen to talk about their school. Asked what they like best one said: ‘The teachers. They understand you as a person.’ Another told us that the teachers have ‘a fun way of teaching’ while a third described the school as ‘small and cosy’. A boarder waxed lyrical too. ‘It’s easy to make friends here,’ he said. ‘It’s more like a family.’ They all gave the Sherborne Prep uniform the thumbs up (especially the navy blazers with jaunty green trim and assorted badges), but the school’s sweet and sour chicken wasn’t quite so popular. Senior schools say Sherborne Preppers are mature, independent and like ‘having a go’.

School has 45 full boarders but offers flexi and occasional boarding too. Boarding from year 3 upwards but few board before year 5. Seventeen international pupils when we visited, from France, Japan, Thailand, Korea, China, Russia and Spain. Two boarding houses – one for boys, the other for girls. Both very homely and friendly, with a plethora of weekend activities to sign up for. Day pupils come from Sherborne itself and from as far afield as Dorchester, Shaftesbury, Shillingstone, Langport and East Coker. Five minibus routes at present. Parents range from architects and business people to writers and directors, many of whom have swapped London for the wilds of the West Country. A mother told us she 'couldn’t sing the school’s praises highly enough.’ She added: ‘It’s a very warm, unsnobbish, lovely place.’

Pre-prep (completely refurbished) and nursery housed in a separate building on the main site. Head of the pre-prep says there’s an outdoor ethos, with children spending lots of time outside (clad in wet weather gear on rainy days). ‘You don’t know until you try’ is her motto and there’s a plethora of after-school activities, including recorder club, ballet, golf and cross-stitch.

Sherborne Prep is an exciting school. Full of character and great ideas, it’s friendly, unsnooty and fun – and achieves top-notch results.

Special Education Needs

Sherborne Prep prides itself in catering for individual children regardless of academic ability. We cater for a wide range of learning needs including Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Dyscalculia, ADHD, Asperger's and Speech and Language difficulties. Children entering Sherborne Prep are not routinely screened for SEN but those who come with an SEN background or assessments are picked up automatically. If a child does appear to be struggling, they are assessed and appropriate support allocated. Support is offered, depending on need, in the form of individual, or group lessons with specialist teachers. There are also assistants in classes up to Year 6 to support those children who are having difficulty and to extend gifted and talented children. Where appropriate, some SEN children are also withdrawn from Latin, to have extra support lessons in Maths and English. A successful Occupational Therapy club operates to help children with Dyspraxic tendencies.

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder Y
Aspergers Y
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders Y
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
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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