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Parents are a mix of locals, Londoners and forces families – all hugely supportive of the school. ‘Farleigh creates very unique children,’ said one. ‘The kids are really grounded and unspoilt. They are taught that the most important thing is to be kind.’ Another parent concurred. ‘In this day and age Farleigh does something remarkable...’

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What the school says...

A leading co-educational IAPS boarding and day Prep School for children aged 3-13 situated in 70 acres of beautiful parkland in the Test Valley of Hampshire, just over an hour from London. Boarding and day pupils alike benefit from excellent teaching and pastoral care of the highest standard in a warm, welcoming and inclusive atmosphere, supported by a large number of resident staff. The school's Catholic identity, which is caring and values each and every individual, encourages enquiry and produces confident, open and thoughtful young people. The broad and stimulating curriculum is complemented by extensive opportunities for sport, music, drama and art. Farleigh pupils thrive in an environment where they begin to discover who they are, develop interests and find their talents. ...Read more

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What The Good Schools Guide says

Headmaster

Since 2004, Father Simon Everson BA cert theology (50s). Educated at Caterham School and then spent a year working as an auxiliary nurse. ‘It was the most formative year,’ he says. His parents weren’t churchgoers but he studied theology at Leeds Collegiate, followed by a three-year certificate in theology awarded by the University of Oxford. He spent 13 years as an Anglican curate and vicar in south London, first in Rotherhithe and then in Kennington. ‘I couldn’t have enjoyed it more,’ he says. ‘The people were so warm and welcoming.’ He took a keen interest in local schools (he was chaplain and governor of Archbishop Michael Ramsey Technology College in Camberwell) and when the opportunity to become senior chaplain at Hurstpierpoint College came up he jumped at it. Following his conversion to Catholicism he was asked to apply for the role of chaplain at Farleigh and he became head five years later.

Thoughtful, enthusiastic and engaging, he’s determined that children should enjoy their time at Farleigh – and they clearly do. He recently gave an assembly about the 10 things he hoped an ex-Farleigh child would say about the school. They included the following: ‘Here people believed in me. Here I was listened to. Here I was understood. Here I was given the best possible start in life.’ He attributes the school’s success to three things – having a clear vision, recruiting the best possible staff and having ‘utterly supportive families’.

He enjoys teaching this age group because of the children’s openness and lack of cynicism. ‘I feel completely energised by them,’ he says. He’s adamant that the school should be inclusive and ensures that every pupil represents the school in sport every season. Parents say he is an outstanding head. One told us: ‘He is an amazing and very unique man. He is very approachable and understands how parents think. The children highly respect him.’ Another explained that the ethos of the school ‘comes primarily from the headmaster, who is the most remarkable exemplar of a decent man. He is an inspirational headmaster who imbues the school with his values.’

He is certainly busy. As well as his headship role, he’s the school chaplain and teaches RS to years 7 and 8 and PHSE to years 6, 7 and 8. He also celebrates Sunday mass, baptisms, weddings and funerals in the school chapel. He tells the children they can ask him anything they like and is constantly surprised by their insightfulness. Nevertheless, he was taken aback when a child asked him if his dog collar was ‘bolted on’. He ensures that pupils are grounded and aware of what is going on in the wider world, from Syria and Iraq to the local community. ‘We are always trying to look away from ourselves,’ he says. Pupils visit homes for the elderly in Andover and he was delighted when a 100-year-old woman imparted her tip for a happy life to them. ‘Don’t bear grudges against anybody,’ she said. The school also has a long-standing relationship with a local special needs school .

Head’s wife Gail is immersed in school life – one parent described her as ‘an unsung heroine, always smiling and very caring’. A qualified nurse, she is part of the learning support team. They live in a house on-site and have two daughters, one at college and one at university. Asked about his hobbies, the head answers with one word: ‘Italy’. Passionate about music (Wagner in particular), he used to play (and teach) the cello and hopes to take it up again when he has time.

Entrance

Non-selective. No formal assessment for entry into kindergarten and the pre-prep but pre-prep joiners are invited to spend a taster morning with their peers. ‘We don’t really turn children away,’ says the pre-prep head, ‘as long as we feel this is the right place for them.’ Virtually all pre-prep children transfer to the prep.

Informal assessment for prep school places. Priority to practising Catholics (40 per cent of pupils are Catholic), boarders, siblings and children of former pupils. The school offers a 15 per cent discount to full or weekly boarding children of Forces families. Bursaries are available on a means-tested basis. The school has partnered with the Royal National Children’s Springboard Foundation, the boarding school bursary charity, to offer means-tested, 100 per cent bursaries to two children from disadvantaged backgrounds. It recently launched its own bursaries programme – The St Theresa Fund – for year 7 and 8 boarders.

Exit

Most prep pupils stay till 13, although a few leave at 11. When we visited, Westminster, St Paul’s and Wellington College had recently announced plans to drop CE from 2021 and rely solely on pre-tests. ‘I can see the advantage of it because the children can then enjoy the rest of years 6, 7 and 8,’ the head told us, at the same time expressing concern about those who don’t get through the pre-test and have to do CE as well. An impressive number of children gain scholarships – 19 in 2018.

Year 8 leavers go to a host of schools – 21 different destinations in 2018. Popular choices include Marlborough (eight out of 53 in 2018), Sherborne, Sherborne Girls, Radley, Godolphin, St Mary’s Ascot, St Mary’s Calne, Ampleforth and Downside. Some boys to Eton, Harrow or Winchester most years. The school makes a huge effort to stay in touch with former pupils, with a thriving Farleigh Society and regular reunions.

Our view

Founded as a school for Catholic boys at Farleigh Wallop near Basingstoke, it moved to its current location in 1982 and became co-ed. The heart is a magnificent Georgian house set in 70 acres of sweeping Hampshire parkland with a landscaped arboretum. On the day we visited the head pointed out a glorious red maple tree, its leaves glowing in the autumn sunlight. Despite its rural setting, the school is only five minutes’ drive from the A303 (very handy for London parents). It has grown over the past years but the head doesn’t want it to get any bigger than it is now. Average class sizes of 14 in the prep and rarely more than 18.

The house has been sympathetically adapted to school life, while retaining much of its original charm. The elegant drawing room is used as a common room and the ballroom is now the chapel, recently extended so it easily seats the whole school. ‘You can come into the chapel and have a quiet moment any time,’ our young tour guides told us. A variety of new buildings, including a modern science and food tech department and a swish music block, complete with a stunning recital room, 12 practice rooms, recording studio and rock room.

Subject specialists from year 5 (French and PE from reception and Latin from year 6). There’s an annual week-long French trip for year 6s. Pupils are set for maths from year 3, English from year 4 and science from year 6. Science is taught in three ultra-modern labs, with circular fixed benches with gas taps, electric points and circuit points. Everyone does ICT – an hour a week in years 1 to 7 and 30 minutes in year 8. Teachers can book iPads for younger children but year 7 and 8 pupils are provided with their own by the school. Everyone learns to type and the children learn coding from scratch. ‘Someone left with a typing speed of 82 wpm last year,’ said our awestruck guides. Year 5 pupils and up create their own e-portfolios – a record of their work and a useful revision tool. Four classes per year group in the prep (around 60 children in each year). Saturday school for years 3 to 8. Learning support is free, provided one-to-one or in small groups and very well integrated into the fabric of the school. Well-stocked library – all pupils have a library lesson and a reading lesson each week. School has also introduced a 20-minute ‘drop everything and read‘ session every day. Assembly is held every day, either in the chapel or the theatre.

The music is ‘extraordinary’. Three-quarters of the pupils play an instrument and there are plenty of opportunities to join orchestras, bands, groups, specialist ensembles and choirs. Several rock bands and three jazz ensembles, including the Thundering Herd Big Band, Five Foot Six traditional jazz band and Green Shoots. Piano is popular and every pianist gets the chance to play in public at the annual piano festival. Programme of 50 to 60 musical performances each year, plus regular informal concerts. New head of drama is continuing the focus on public speaking, regarded as an invaluable skill for the future. The school excels at debating, regularly winning the prep schools’ debating competition at Marlborough and elsewhere. Myriad opportunities to act in plays and musicals, all performed in the well-equipped theatre. Annual dance show and school recently introduced an arts festival, with a street piano, concerts, outdoor science laboratory and a Bake Off competition.

Art and DT departments pride themselves on discovering pupils’ talent – often when the children themselves had no idea. ‘It’s the sheer, raw pleasure of a child finding that they could do something that was completely unknown to them before,’ says the head. The head of DT (wearing an apron emblazoned with the words ‘epic DT teacher’, which he hastened to explain was given by a parent) says he is constantly surprised by the children’s inventiveness, whether they are making ‘wiggly wooden snakes’ or building bridges – yes, literally.

Sport is important. Games on four afternoons a week, with matches on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons. Vast expanse of playing fields, plus a 22m indoor pool, sports hall and an all-weather pitch. PE curriculum includes dance, gymnastics, life-saving, fitness and leadership/team-building. Boys do football, rugby, cross-country, cricket, athletics and tennis and girls do hockey, netball, cross-country, cricket, rounders, athletics and tennis. Notable successes include the U12 netball team winning the IAPS national finals in 2018 and recent U13 rugby team unbeaten in five years and 55 matches at Farleigh. Tennis is popular – two-thirds of pupils have lessons.

The school offers flexi-boarding up to the summer term of year 7, when children either revert to day or convert to weekly or full boarding. The boarders include a cohort of four or five children from Madrid, who spend three terms at the school. Boarding is well organised, with junior (years 3 to 6) and senior (years 7 and 8) boarding houses. Larger and very wholesome dorms for youngest while older pupils are housed in twos and fours. Children are encouraged to bring photographs and posters from home, all adding to the cheery atmosphere. The school has its own 24/7 surgery, complete with a brightly coloured model skeleton to explain the parts of the body (‘we call him Nelson,’ the senior nurse told us with a smile). GPs from nearby Andover Health Centre visit twice a week. Children eat all their meals in a light, airy dining room. At lunch there’s lots of choice, including a vegetarian option, plus salads. Boarders have high praise for the breakfasts – they can have a cooked breakfast every day if they choose. Plenty of opportunities for pupils to air their views – a pupil from every class represents their peers on the school council.

The Catholic faith is at the school’s core and Sunday mass is open to all. The head aims to keep faith enjoyable and contemporary and members of other churches say they never feel left out. At mass children of other faiths ‘come up and receive a blessing’. Parents praise the school’s pastoral care – ‘it’s why we chose the school,’ said one mother. We were impressed by the buddy system, whereby younger children team up with older buddies. We spotted pairs of intertwined butterflies woven into the hedge – depicting each pair of buddies.

Most live within 15 miles of the school, including villages around Andover, Basingstoke, Romsey, Stockbridge, Salisbury and Winchester, while some come from near Alresford, Devizes, Marlborough and Newbury. The school runs minibuses on three routes. Parents are a mix of locals, Londoners and Forces families – all hugely supportive of the school. ‘Farleigh creates very unique children,’ said one. ‘The kids are really grounded and unspoilt. They are taught that the most important thing is to be kind.’ Another parent concurred. ‘In this day and age Farleigh does something remarkable,’ he said. ‘The children it spits out at the other end are by the standards of their peers remarkably well-adjusted and thoroughly decent and kind.’

The pre-prep is based in its own spacious building on the school site, with two classes per year group. We arrived at 4pm, with excited children pouring into after-school activities like yoga and sewing. Pre-prep opens its doors for breakfast club at 7.30am and an after-school club runs till 5.45pm.

Farleigh is an outstanding school and we aren’t in the least surprised that parents go into raptures about the place. ‘Ah, lovely Farleigh,’ mused one father. Children, teachers and parents extol its virtues, its academic success, its beautiful grounds and its prowess at everything from music to sport. But above all, it’s a happy school, led by an exceptional head who’s determined that every pupil should be listened to and understood. He wants children to be given the best possible start in life – and they really are.

Special Education Needs

Due to the nature of learning, all pupils require support at some time in their school life, whether it is educational, social or emotional. Support for our young learners includes literacy, numeracy, study skills, gross and fine motor skills, access to word processing, support with organisation, ELSA for years 1–5 and FEIPS (Framework for Enhanced Individual Pastoral Support) for year 6 upwards. In school, the learning support team works with the staff, both individually and through INSET, so that they too feel informed and supported in working with all aspects of special educational needs. Our support for learning includes the use of educational psychologists, speech therapists, occupational therapists, plus a child psychotherapist and a play therapist who work in the areas of social and emotional development. The ISI inspection report of 2013 remarked, ‘Pupils with SEND benefit from excellent support. Identification of their additional needs is efficient with prompt screening and appropriate help provided. Where necessary, pupils are provided with an up-to-date individual education plan. The school keeps track of all their progress through careful monitoring and record keeping. Support for pupils with SEND, those with EAL and those who are gifted and talented is excellent. Pupils with EAL or SEND make a high rate of progress.’

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder Y
Aspergers Y
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders Y
CReSTeD registered for Dyslexia
Dyscalculia
Dysgraphia
Dyslexia Y
Dyspraxia Y
English as an additional language (EAL) Y
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 Y
SLD - Severe Learning Difficulty
Special facilities for Visually Impaired
SpLD - Specific Learning Difficulty Y
VI - Visual Impairment

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