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House system provides basis for keen competition (including music) in many areas of school life culminating in annual sports day. ‘It’s cool to be a musician,’ say pupils, most of whom have individual lessons: best reach grade 6/7 level as well as national children’s orchestras. Pupils get out and about: whether it is theatre visits, year 5 pupils experiencing living history in period homes or reception class down at the farm to meet the animals. Pre-prep housed in purpose-built, timber-clad classrooms: delightful sylvan setting with bird watching and pond dipping in Zen garden...

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What the school says...

Clayesmore is a thriving, forward-looking boarding and day school, filled with warmth. We aim to develop the unique gifts of every pupil, encourage a life-long love of learning and build their confidence to adapt to an ever-changing world. Small classes and individual attention ensure speedy progress while opportunities for sport, music and drama, coupled with endless activities, mean the days your child spends at Clayesmore really could prove some of the happiest of their lives.

The Nursery and Pre-Prep share a self-contained home, nestled snugly among trees on Clayesmore's beautiful campus, where little ones learn and develop through play while trying a host of activities.

Clayesmore Senior School has been deemed excellent across the board following a recent Independent Schools Inspectorate inspection. Academic results for a mixed ability school are impressive and the highly-regarded learning support department offers individual attention, exam strategies and effective study skills. Add to the mix some welcoming boarding accommodation, nurturing pastoral care and boundless opportunities to shine, it's clear that Clayesmore offers a winning combination.

Clayesmore's all-through provision means that pupils can make a worry-free step up to senior school and siblings can be together. It is a flourishing school offering excitement, opportunity and a confidence-boosting family atmosphere.
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What the parents say...

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All-through school (for example 3-18 years). - An all-through school covers junior and senior education. It may start at 3 or 4, or later, and continue through to 16 or 18. Some all-through schools set exams at 11 or 13 that pupils must pass to move on.

What The Good Schools Guide says


Since 2014, William Dunlop, previously head of first year at Kingston Grammar School. He is a former pupil at Clayesmore Pre-Prep. English degree from Liverpool, then did officer training at Sandhurst and joined the army. Married to Celia, also a teacher; they have two young children at the school.


Taster day, report from previous school and informal assessment (educational psychologist's report sometimes required). Like the senior school, a mainstream school, with a cracking learning support team: ‘will take any child we can develop educationally’. Highly praised by CReSTed for its success with dyslexic children. Admissions ramp up dramatically at year 7 (mainly transfers from local primaries). Nursery takes from rising 3s upwards and majority continue through school.


More or less seamless transfer to senior school: virtually all go on (prep provides half senior school entry). Others to senior schools including Cheltenham College, Dean Close, Oundle, Radley, Rugby, Tudor Hall.

Our view

Sharing beautiful 62 acre site with senior school, main prep school building forms a two storey cruciform shape. Proximity of dormitories and classrooms seen as a major advantage. Impressive Everett building provides four classrooms for years 3 and 4, a geography room, two science laboratories and residential accommodation on top floor. Previously based in Charlton Marshall, school was founded in 1929 by Dick Everett, succeeded in 1963 by Lt Col Ivor Edwards-Stewart who, when he retired in 1974, 'funded a school of a most modern design' on the senior school campus. Dedicated play area where pupils have ‘muck’ (drink and snack) at breaks. Adjacent former gym has been refurbished as drama studio plus social area for year 8 pupils. Surprisingly successful blend of the makeshift (eg creative art department flourishing in somewhat dated prefab) and the purpose built. Former stately squash court houses music department for both prep and senior schools with plenty of practice rooms, separate classrooms, joint ensemble room and a music technology suite. New adventure playground and play facilities include improved ball-park. Joint use also made of sports facilities, senior school dining room (three minute trail to meals even on short legs), chapel and leisure centre.

Very popular with local families, sprinkling of expat children, some foreigners, high percentage of boarders from Forces plus siblings of those in the senior school, a number of first-time buyers and London escapees. Boarding full (60 or so) when we visited, day children may stay for a minimum of two nights a week all term if space available. Still predominantly Anglo-Saxon, school has won British Council award for international education. Involvement in Comenius programme and global partnerships with Portugal, Gambia and Bangladesh (visiting Bangladeshi teachers were ‘bowled over by openness of Clayesmore'). Refugees from state schools and academic hothouses equally at home. Parents emphasise good pastoral care and importance given to individual child. ‘School wants children to be happy and settled,’ we were told. Elder siblings at senior school can be met regularly and are invited to prep for birthday parties.

Practical everyday uniform, blazers worn on special occasions. Experienced houseparents (husband teaches by day and is on duty five nights a week, wife provides ‘lifeline to parents’ by phone) live on site and are supported by assistants, matrons and ‘the sisters' (qualified nurses who act as ‘super mums’); parents are informed if children in sickbay overnight. School chaplain takes Saturday chapel: spiritual life is important but no ramming down throat. Children choose annual charities to benefit from fundraising activities (eg Julia’s House – children’s hospice in Wimborne). Dormitories kept up to mark with reward system which includes extra muck; children are allowed back after working day. Largest dormitories for youngest and thereafter boarders thin out into smaller units. Mobile phones permitted for boarders (overseas boarders also have access to Skype) but have to be handed back to staff before lights out. Relaxed atmosphere at weekends with 40+ children on site: ‘we’re never bored,’ said pupils: late rise on Sundays and lots of ‘amazing’ trips (we were told about powerboat rides). Boarders' council involved in selecting next batch of assistants.

Individual needs department is centre of excellence. Pupils have learning support as and when required, from qualified special needs teacher, half hour lessons only – from two to five a week depending on need. SENCo plus fully-trained learning support assistants help in the classroom, in addition to the class or specialist subject teacher. Gym club and OT group to develop gross and fine motor skills, touch-typing, speech and language therapy once a week, sloping desks, special pens - all sorts of tricks brought into play. Multi-sensory and auditory processing used as appropriate. Parents pay extra for one-to-one help according to level of support required. Register of gifted and able: staff aim to stretch them. Library is at centre of school’s reading culture and is somewhere to crash out during breaks; plenty of visiting authors and world book day has become a costumed extravaganza.

High percentage of staff have state and/or overseas experience. Long hours for day pupils who arrive for 8.20am start and leave at 5.30pm, either by school minibus or with parents (many arrange car sharing) from discrete prep school car park. Lots of activities during lunch hour and after lessons save parents the endless ferrying of children to multifarious venues elsewhere. Years 3 and 4 are taught by form teachers (two sets in year 4 with setting in maths and English) and finish at 12.30pm on Saturdays. From year 5 children are taught increasingly by subject specialists with 30 minute single or hour long doubles. Lots of practical work (DT and cookery were obviously favourites), geographers go out and about locally: eg locating source of river Iwerne. French is specialist from year 3 (songs and games in pre-prep), separate sciences are taught from year 7 and also Latin to higher sets. Two pre-university and four postgraduate teaching assistants provide support in classrooms and boarding areas. ICT geared to encouraging individualised learning and games are restricted. Personal tutors hold regular tutor group meetings, are responsible for PSHE and stay in charge for two years at a time. No complaints about homework (older day pupils attend bus prep to clear one assignment at school). Older children stay for matches on Saturdays. Strong parents’ association organises social and fundraising activities through year. Informal parental get-togethers indicative of the school’s family atmosphere.

Sports facilities are superb; school has inclusive approach (over 90 per cent play in six or more matches) which doesn’t detract from success. County level representation in cricket, rugby, hockey and football. Cross-country, swimming (boarders get a 45 minute slot after prep), tennis and squash (coaching in both) and athletics also on menu. Autumn term split between soccer and rugby for boys. Wide range of sporting activities includes horse-riding and sailing (pupils compete at prep schools regatta). House system provides basis for keen competition (including music) in many areas of school life culminating in annual sports day. ‘It’s cool to be a musician,’ say pupils, most of whom have individual lessons: best reach grade 6/7 level as well as national children’s orchestras. Lots of performance opportunities for budding musicians, chapel choir has toured widely. Recent finalists in Pro-Corda competition. Picnic in park welcomes other preps and is school’s annual jazz bash in grounds. Mexican trees of life and Quentin Blake style illustrations competed for wall space in art room where lunchtime and after-school activities include pottery, banner art, model making and photography. Drama brings creative arts together for four major annual productions in senior theatre and 20+ children have LAMDA lessons with good results. Pupils get out and about: whether it is theatre visits, year 5 pupils experiencing living history in period homes or reception class down at the farm to meet the animals. Popular arts/science week runs at the end of the summer term. Other highlights are ski trips, post common entrance visit to France or Spain for rafting, climbing etc and year 7 trip to Normandy. Year 8 prefects, school and boarding councils ensure pupils’ opinions are heard. We liked the annual magazine and the pic filled weekly e-letter (one of the better ones we’ve seen).

Pre-prep of 60+ children housed in purpose-built, timber-clad classrooms: delightful sylvan setting with bird watching and pond dipping in Zen garden. Nursery area interconnects with reception class: bugs theme well in evidence (including mobiles) when we visited. All-in-one waterproofs at the ready to help make most of safe outside play and veggie growing areas. Nursery vouchers are accepted. Phonic approach to reading with liking for Read Write Inc. SENCo gives support from outset (all children are assessed aged 5) and one-to-one help where necessary. One mother we spoke to was thrilled by how regular Mr Tongue activity sessions with his teacher had helped her son’s speech problem. Regular ‘coffee and catch-up’ gatherings after drop-off provide opportunity to explain anything of importance and open door policy allows for daily contact between staff and parents. Much use made of circle time to improve children’s social and communication skills. Before and after-school clubs and wide range of activities (including swimming) are included in fees.

Never a dull moment was the impression we left with. School takes on a wide range of ability and works hard with every child. Not socially divisive: an unpretentious and happy, family atmosphere for local children and boarders alike.

Special Education Needs

Clayesmore Preparatory School has an excellent reputation for its provision of support for dyslexic pupils. Our Learning Support Department ensures that pupils have effective and targeted teaching, either individually or in very small groups, to meet their specific needs. Pupils are withdrawn at carefully selected times during the school day to attend their specialist lessons. They may also benefit from the support given by LS Teaching Assistants, who work alongside the teachers in some mainstream lessons. All Learning Support Tutors are fully qualified teachers with additional qualifications in teaching pupils with Specific Learning Difficulties. Mainstream teachers are empathetic with the needs and difficulties of some of the children in the mainstream classes and differentiate accordingly. The school is registered with CReSTeD. Nov 09.

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder
Aspergers Syndrome [archived]
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders [archived]
CReSTeD registered for Dyslexia Y
Delicate Medical Problems [archived]
English as an additional language (EAL)
Epilepsy [archived]
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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