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Children are ‘gently streamed’ from year 3 and taught by ‘phenomenal and passionate’ subject specific teachers from year 5. Parents are unanimous that the teaching is top notch and almost run out of superlatives to explain it. Lessons indeed look awesome on our tour. The head’s Labrador Jess has her own timetable which includes listening to children read - she is trained to...

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What the school says...

Yateley Manor offers pupils an inspirational educational journey that will prepare them for their chosen senior school and provide them with the tools to build successful adult lives.

Innovative, enthusiastic and committed teachers provide the framework for your child’s educational, cultural and social development. Nurtured in a warm, friendly and safe environment within a unique and supportive family atmosphere, children are given new experiences to explore, building confidence and resilience, stimulating their desire to learn.

A full programme enriches the educational experience giving every child the opportunity to find talents and strengths. Chess is an important part of Yateley Manor’s programme with children learning to play from an early age. There are many activities to try, including modern dance and ballet in the specially equipped Studio and music technology in the Music School. Horse riding, masterchef and photography in art are also very popular. Sport is enhanced by impressive facilities. The profile of drama has recently been increased with a new outdoor stage and masterclasses, along with LAMDA classes which are proving extremely popular.

At the heart of the school is the importance of strong relationships between children and adults. In a community that embraces a breadth of cultures where all relationships are based upon respect, children learn to appreciate the need to be courteous, considerate and to use common sense. They are encouraged to be creative and courageous as they develop into confident individuals, with a strong foundation for a happy and balanced life. Pupils can only achieve this once they have been given the tools and the self-belief.
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What The Good Schools Guide says

Headmaster

Since 2015, Robert Upton BSc PGCE MA (Ed) NPQH. Graduated in estate management from the University of Greenwich but swerved a career in property ‘thanks to the 1990s property crash’. Fell into (and in love with) teaching and quickly rose through the ranks to headship in a couple of state primaries, one of which he lifted out of special measures within a year. After a successful spell as director of studies at Bede’s Prep, became just the third headmaster at Yateley Manor since the 1960s. Seven years on and he is ‘still passionate about the place’.

Approach is informed by his experience of being the shy, overlooked and potentially underachieving boy at state school. He finished up as head boy, confidence eventually gained through sport. David Brailsford - the former performance director of British Cycling noted for his innovative ‘marginal gains’ development strategy - is a mentor. ‘Yateley Manor was already a good school when I arrived. What I have done is, as Dave says, focus on the details and make every single aspect a little better,’ he explains.

We found him authentic and affable, level-headed and astute. This is a head who listens as he leads - a skill he attributes to his ‘patient father’ and the counselling course he’s currently studying for ‘a break’. It helps inform his weekly blogs which are compelling mini masterclasses in parenting and, as one previous reviewer noted, are headed rather like concept albums of yesteryear with titles such as ‘Open Your Eyes to Paradise’ and ‘Absorbed by Light’.

According to parents he is ‘an inspirational leader’ driven by ‘the children not the finances’. Adolescent reserve perhaps not quite overcome, with some saying ‘he’s not a chatty chap or a schmoozer’. One added that he doesn’t pander to ‘those parents who want to be in and out of the school like a jack in the box’ which rather contradicts The Hub, a welcoming space complete with daffodils and tropical fish tank that he created for parents to enjoy impromptu coffee mornings. He has also recruited a body of parent ambassadors who act as ‘sounding boards’ on all manner of school issues. Commitment isn’t in question, with one new starter telling us that he rocked up in board shorts and flip flops to lead a personal school tour mid pandemic during the summer holidays - ‘We immediately felt he really cared.’

A family man, he peppers our chat with warm anecdotes about his own parents. His wife Olivia works at the school as a science teacher and the couple are looking forward to a ‘quieter chapter,’ now their children are off at university.

Entrance

No academic selection or waiting lists. School has turned away just two children in seven years - as long as pupils can access the curriculum they are welcome. Two form entry with classes averaging 15. Majority join in reception and year 3 after a taster day which involves informal assessments. In-term applications also welcome. Rumours abound that the school may expand to an an-through in the near future. Watch this space.

Exit

School achieves excellent academic results and leavers usually secure at least 15 scholarships/awards to a broad range of local day schools, state and elite boarding schools. Bradfield College, Wellington, Salesian College and Farnorough Hill, plus 'a few to Eton in recent years too.’ School goes above and beyond to ensure the fit is right - we even heard reports of teachers checking which exam boards potential future schools take to ensure the onward path is smooth. Around half bow to external pressure and leave at year 6 which head says ‘infuriates me because we make an incredible difference to pupils between years 7 and 8’. Some do return. ‘The door is always open,’ says school.

Our view

The trophy cabinet in Yateley Manor’s reception displays not silverware, but soft furnishings crafted by pupils. It is the ultimate visual clue to what this school stands for. ‘Your child, their journey, our focus’ is the strapline which cleverly plays to the hearts and minds of the ‘grafters’ who chose Yateley Manor above some of the swishier schools in this neck of the woods. Also, unlike some of its competitors perhaps, it’s a school motto that we feel transcends the website.

One of the four founder schools of the Prep School Baccalaureate, a Yateley Manor education encompasses a boundless and creative curriculum alongside the development of character skills such as collaboration and leadership. Children are ‘gently streamed’ from year 3 and taught by ‘phenomenal and passionate’ subject specific teachers from year 5. Parents are unanimous that the teaching is top-notch and almost run out of superlatives to explain it. Lessons indeed look awesome on our tour. It’s eyes down for a game of pressure calculations bingo in one of the two well-equipped science rooms. In history, a pupil (surely destined for a career on stage) is re-enacting the torture of Guy Fawkes. ‘Don’t worry, he’s fine,’ quips the teacher who is spiritedly narrating events to an enthralled class of year 5s. A parent tells us that her child was squirted with a water pistol during another lesson on the Titanic.

‘Macaroni cheese, everyone freeze!’ commands the ardent cookery and DT teacher as tiny year 3s knock up spring rolls that would make Ken Hom proud. Like a whirlwind she barely pauses for breath as she explains she’s a ‘big believer in back to basics’ and that next week it’s Indian cuisine before adding that the cushions in the trophy cabinet are modern takes on the Bayeaux Tapestry – oh and had we seen the fabulous new outside woodwork table... ‘It’s the passion of the children that drives me, I’m just a facilitator,’ she adds humbly before whizzing off mid-conversation to tell the class they may ‘defrost’ and get back to work!

Next, we bump into the head of maths. We know this not through introductions, but because his tie is adorned with mathematical symbols. His weekly whole school maths problems dotted around corridors are just as legendary as his quirky ties. Fizzing with energy, he tells us he loves to visit the nursery so he can identify future mini mathematicians. He even inspired in this maths-phobic reviewer a fresh perspective on algebra.

Spilling out of the classrooms are impressive and eye-catching displays of work on every wall, at every turn. The art and design is outstanding. From recreated food packaging so good you could hardly tell it wasn’t the real thing, to intricate clay models and a donut stand spilling over with cute cushion donuts.

Manor House, the main red brick school building, is welcoming and serviceable although, to be honest, we were so in awe of what goes on inside the bricks and mortar that our notes on this aspect of the school are limited! Parents, however, described buildings as ‘a bit tired looking’ in comparison to some of the fancy-pants country house estate schools in the vicinity and universally agreed the pool (closed on our visit due to a ‘water issue’) is in desperate need of a refurb. But they all insisted aesthetics don’t matter when the teaching is as good as it is. ‘It is clear that quality teaching is the school’s priority,’ said one mother. Nevertheless, it’s on the head’s ‘bucket list’.

The modern pre-prep is a vast, self-contained space with an airy central hub for assemblies, lunch and break out groups. It is surrounded with high ceilinged, colourful classrooms and its own little library. There’s a dedicated play zone with a fabulous adventure playground and a woodland learning area too. ‘From day one the children are loved and nurtured and set up for brilliance by the amazing dream team in the pre-prep,’ said one mother. The nursery enjoys equally rave reviews.

A family ethos underpins the school’s pastoral approach which joins the dots between staff, parents and pupils. School’s communications are universally commended. There’s an exhaustive (and exhausting!) weekly newsletter plus a true open-door policy and immediate contact if a pupil ‘goes off the boil’. Discipline is delivered with ‘certainty not severity’ but rarely required. One parent said, ‘the teachers have a sixth sense and step in really quickly if they need to course correct.’ According to one parent, there has not been a single case of bullying in the decade their family has been at the school. Head cites hanging out shirts as his main gripe and is a big believer in modelling happiness and optimism to ‘avoid the surly teenagers who feel the world is against them’. To this end he recently led a joyous whole school cha-cha slide dance from the sports department’s rooftop, and we enjoyed an almost unbroken soundtrack of children laughing or singing on our visit. ‘I call Yateley Manor a happiness factory,’ one father comments on Facebook where there’s a steady stream of fun, eclectic school events and innovative teaching posts.

Higher up the school all children in years 7 and 8 are ambassadors with specific duties (the school recently did away with prefects) and there’s a year 8 common room. Head not afraid to tackle pithier issues but keeps them ‘grounded in our community’. ‘We talk about ecology, but I don’t want the children worrying about our planet exploding.’ We also heard that the school ‘understands the challenges facing blended families’. Kindly matron has ‘been there forever’ and there’s a new calming ‘blue room’ in the learning support block where pupils can seek solitude. A family who had suffered a bereavement told us the school provided a ‘safe space’ and support had been ‘brilliant’. The head’s Labrador Jess has her own timetable which includes listening to children read - she is trained to rest her head on their arms as they do.

Around 13 per cent on the SEN register, four with EHCPs. The school offers comprehensive support with ‘short and sweet’ interventions and every pre-prep class has a dedicated TA. Four more staff with training in ELSA, art therapy, speech and language and CBT techniques are deployed across the school where needed.

Children enjoy a minimum of three hours a week art, drama and music. Around half of pupils take individual music lessons and all benefit from the expertise of the dedicated director of music. A professional opera singer, she emits both a passion for her subject and cognizance of her charges. There are four choirs, numerous ensembles, beginner groups and guided practice sessions run four days a week.

Director of drama is ‘a stunning teacher who has turned the department around,’ says head. She runs seven LAMDA sessions a week with the last cohort achieving 40 distinctions and eight merits. Every year group performs a play or musical production and there’s drama masterclasses ‘by invitation’ for years 7 and 8, though in practice the majority receive an invitation. Facilities are ‘better than they were’ but as one parent said, ‘a fancy music and drama suite doesn’t mean better music and drama’.

High expectations from parents for new director of sport who has 23 years’ experience in state secondary schools and sees beyond A and B teams. No fear, he’s not scrapping them, but he is intent on broadening the playing field, ‘turning every single child into a mini PE teacher’ and sprucing up the games kit. School is strong in basketball with the U11 and U13 boys on a 50-game undefeated streak. Competitive too in rugby, netball and mixed cricket with some girls playing for the county. Despite the much-maligned pool, the standard of swimming is exceptional with every child competent in all strokes including butterfly by year 5. A nearby equestrian centre, laser shooting and fencing mean pentathlon is on the up too. School’s USP is availability of GCSE PE in the upper school which is achieved to a high standard by roughly half of year 8s. There’s a climbing wall and aero ball frame as well as decent multi-sports hall with four full sized indoor cricket nets, small gym, numerous pitches and courts (but no Astro) and charming cricket pavilion.

Extracurricular offering is rich and flexible especially for younger children with Lego, play dough and Hama bead clubs. Beyond pre-prep, ski club (by invitation), design and yoga are peppered among the usual sports and music offerings. Chess is a biggie - school even has its own director of chess.

The pupils we met were helpful, unpretentious and relaxed. During our conversations the teachers once again emerged as the best thing about Yateley Manor. The food the worst, though we beg to differ. There’s the odd muddy knee, but overall pupils look spic and span in their bright red felt blazers, even if the girls do complain that the tartan kilts are ‘too itchy’ and they’d prefer trousers. Apparently ‘the uniform costs the earth’ though and we suddenly notice a few are rather short in the sleeve and missing a button! Individualised approach confirms the head’s claim that school is ’not a sausage factory’. It’s refreshing to hear some very grounded future aspirations of careers in the police, hospitality, and sales too.

Parents (mainly dual income) appreciate the school’s wraparound care, flexible pick up times and bus service which is ‘set up for busy family life’. They also credit its diversity - ‘it truly reflects the community’ - and describe the school as ‘welcoming’. There’s lots of social life if you want it; the return of the annual quiz night and Harrods run at Christmas are much anticipated after a quiet couple of years. The consensus is that Yateley Manor is ‘not as posh as other schools in the area’ and certainly provides excellent value for money.

Money matters

School fees are all-inclusive so there are no additional charges for lunch, snacks, before and after school activities and all trips including residentials. There’s sibling discount and reductions for children of former pupils of the school too. There are means-tested bursaries, typically giving financial assistance to one family in each year group (applications are assessed by an independent company).

The last word

A place where imagination and intellect are ignited and memories made along the way. The teachers are undoubtedly the jewels in the crown of this warm, welcoming school that truly goes the extra mile. David Brailsford would approve.

Special Education Needs

The role of Yateley Manor School’s Learning Support Department is to identify and support those pupils within the school who have special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) and to ensure that provisions are made to support pupils’ learning and progress as part of a whole school approach to SEND. Parents, staff and pupils are included in all decisions regarding their SEND and the school adopts a person-centred planning approach to ensure that support meets the individual learning needs of each pupil with SEND. Pupil progress and provision is monitored and reviewed by teaching staff and the SENCo. The Learning Support Department will liaise with external support agencies where appropriate and support parents in sign-posting appropriate assessments and SEND needs. Learning support policy is available to view on the school’s website.

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder
Aspergers Y
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders
CReSTeD registered for Dyslexia
Dyscalculia Y
Dysgraphia Y
Dyslexia Y
Dyspraxia Y
English as an additional language (EAL)
Genetic
Has an entry in the Autism Services Directory
Has SEN unit or class
HI - Hearing Impairment Y
Hospital School
Mental health
MLD - Moderate Learning Difficulty
MSI - Multi-Sensory Impairment
Natspec Specialist Colleges
OTH - Other Difficulty/Disability
Other SpLD - Specific Learning Difficulty Y
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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