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We saw pupils make a beeline for the external table tennis tables during break – being outside and playing sport are high on the list of their priorities. Hundreds of fixtures each year against other preps in hockey, rugby, football, netball, cricket, swimming, tennis and athletics. Science is a standout at all stages – decked in safety goggles, pupils we saw displayed adept Bunsen burner skills, all the while holding animated discussions about the relationship between changing variables and results. Throughout the school, academic progress is...

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What the school says...

Edge Grove is a day school for boys and girls aged 3-13 years, characterised by a genuine commitment to the pursuit of excellence. Located in 48 acres of beautiful Hertfordshire countryside, and conveniently located close to the M1 and M25 motorways and only 15 miles from central London, its wonderful setting and facilities ensure pupils are exposed to a wide range of experiences and develop confidence in a challenging, fun and inspirational environment. Following a recent inspection from the ISI, the school was rated ‘excellent’ in all areas. Edge Grove looks to encourage and foster talent whether in the classroom, art room, in music, on the stage or on the sports field. Its first class resources, strong academic approach and accessible and enjoyable teaching allow pupils to progress individually and reach their true potential in all spheres of school life ...Read more

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What The Good Schools Guide says


Since 2023, Ed Balfour. Degree in English literature from Cardiff University, PGCE from Homerton College, Cambridge. On joining Edge Grove he was immediately faced with steadying the school after a short period of instability, as well as an imminent full ISI inspection. His experience of leading Beechwood Park for seven successful years – and a career teaching English, drama and sport at schools including Parkside College and Chesterton College, both in Cambridge, RGS Worcester, Uppingham, Whitgift and Bradfield College – stood him in good stead to tackle these challenges.

With an excellent in all areas ISI report under his belt, he set about other changes, both physical and cultural, which have been warmly welcomed by staff, parents and pupils. Key appointments have been made, including heads of learning support and marketing and admissions. Timetabling issues have been addressed and pupils approve of the more structured approach. ‘Everything just feels more organised and less chaotic.’ The cramped dining area has been cleverly extended by making use of a ‘dead space’ hidden behind a wall. ‘It’s like lots of things are going on, everything is changing,’ said one pupil. Parents tell us that ‘communication is better, more efficient’ and describe Mr Balfour as ‘a steady pair of hands’.

Although the school feels things are moving in the right direction, Mr Balfour says there’s no time for complacency and spoke frankly to us about the issues facing stand-alone preps – including retaining pupils (particularly girls) to year 8 in an area where well regarded day schools offer the majority of their places for year 7, and the likely impact on school fees of a change in government. A school report for this realist, who has the attributes of both philosopher and business CEO, could read, ‘A strong and determined start; we look forward to seeing the impact of his vision and tenacity.’

Lives on site with wife Emma, who heads up the school’s junior department; they have three children in their teens and 20s. Sharing a multitude of hobbies including reading and travelling, they enjoy walking their black Labrador, Scoobie. In family tradition, Scoobie is also fully immersed in Edge Grove life, particularly forest school activities.


Into the popular nursery at rising 3 following an informal assessment via play and learning activities. Vast majority (all but three in the year we reviewed the school) move up to reception at the main school. Reception is the next key entry point, with a few more at 7+ when occasional places arise. Applicants do assessments in maths English and reasoning plus a taster day in school to ensure a good fit for both parties.


Around half of the boys and the majority of girls (although this does fluctuate) leave at the end of year 6 for independents including St Albans High, Aldenham and St Margaret’s and St Albans Boys, as well as selective state schools such as Watford Grammar (boys and girls) and Parmiter’s. Year 8 destinations include Harrow, Eton, Haileybury, Merchant Taylors’, Mill Hill (day and boarding) and St Margaret’s. Parents say school guides and advises them on suitable destinations, with conversations starting as early as year 3. In 2023, 40 scholarships.

Our view

Surrounded by 60 acres of parkland adjacent to Aldenham village, Edge Grove’s semi-rural setting cushions it from the nearby network of main roads and major motorways. While grazing farm animals, majestic trees and walled gardens may or may not be the envy of more urban preps nearby, the seamless one-way entry and exit that enables painless drop off and collection almost certainly is.

Our visit began at the off-site nursery where we met young pupils proudly displaying their artwork and 3D creations, confidently labelling colours. Child initiated recital of nursery rhymes accompanied outdoor play, with one rushing up and informing us that, ‘story time is the best’. A three-minute drive along the road brings you to the main school where the junior department houses reception, years 1 and 2 – here we saw lively, child-initiated learning in beautifully decorated classrooms. Core subjects are timetabled in the mornings, with a slightly longer break allowing for clubs and extracurricular activities. TAs in every class. Years 3 and 4 have their own separate modern building, where assemblies, concerts etc are also held. From year 5, pupils have a form room and move around for all lessons – good preparation for senior school.

Specialist teaching throughout – starting with MFL, sport, music and forest school from nursery, then everything else from year 5. Spanish is added to French from reception, with pupils specialising in one or other from year 6, when Latin is also added. Language classroom relatively devoid of visual stimulus but pupils describe MFL teaching a, ‘fun and a mix of vocabulary and grammar’. Setting in maths and exam preparation from year 3.

Science is a standout at all stages – decked in safety goggles, pupils we saw displayed adept Bunsen burner skills, all the while holding animated discussions about the relationship between changing variables and results. Throughout the school, academic progress is tightly tracked and reviewed alongside national averages. ‘I feel the balance is about right,’ said one parent, ‘the good thing is they can identify how your child learns and that might not be the same as the one he sits next to.’

Led by the enterprising head of English, one of Edge Grove’s stand-out features is the prioritisation of reading. From numbered book bags which are rotated in nursery, through to the renovated library, books and reading are high profile. ‘Reading Matters’, the weekly newsletter promotes book subscriptions, makes age-appropriate recommendations and explains to parents how their child can develop a robust vocabulary through fiction and non-fiction choices. Parents approve: ‘It’s good to know what we can do to encourage reading at home.’ One raved about the Lexile test, which assesses the complexity of texts a child can read. General knowledge club, ‘What on Earth?’ was formed to encourage pupils to read the non-fiction Britannia magazine together and discuss the content, a key focus being evaluation and questioning the reliability of information. All this reading has clearly paid dividends as they have been crowned champions in the magazine’s national competition.

The colourful library caters for all tastes, genres and interests, readers seemingly oblivious to background buzz of conversation spilling over from the adjacent dining room. After introducing himself, the library monitor proceeded to show us the new books and featured authors, declaring that pupils can find books on, ‘absolutely anything at all - we have everything in here!’

The enrichment programme for year 6-8 has had a makeover, with the multi-discipline Edge Grove Diploma now encompassing the 10 core skills of the World Economic Forum. Designed to foster independent learning and provide opportunities to take on challenges, it is universally popular among pupils who couldn’t wait to tell us about the diploma’s value, explaining that it makes them feel responsible for evaluating and improving their skills. One mentioned an ambitious sounding topic he was addressing, entitled, ‘How will the WEF values and the Edge Grove values be applicable to the future? Demonstrate engagement through use of technology.’ He told us, ‘It helps to see how what you are learning is going to be important, not just now at school, but in the future.’

New head of learning support has brought more structure to formally identifying specific needs. Support is offered in class, via out of class interventions in small booster groups and individually (additional cost), for SEND, EAL or mental health issues. Learning passports are in place to ensure consistency. Two year 6 pupils we spoke to felt they had been well supported for dyslexia, with one commenting, ‘You sometimes need help with some things. Your friend might be great at maths, you might be a brilliant singer. It doesn’t really matter as long as you feel you can have a go and get help if you need it.’ Parents thought that this more co-ordinated approach to tracking results and identifying needs has led to a ‘more academic feel – still fun but more accountable’.

Performance opportunities abound. The modern theatre was alive with rehearsals for a year 3 and 4 production of Aladdin, featuring a highly comical portrayal of a floppy-haired former prime minister (no prizes for guessing). The older year groups, having recently auditioned for Mary Poppins, were eagerly awaiting the final cast list, and year 1 treated us to a sign language rendition of Silent Night, followed by a repeat – in German, no less. Around 200 peripatetic music lessons each week feed into rock and jazz bands and numerous choirs and orchestras.

A special mention should go to the art department and the energetic head of department whose ideas must captivate even the most reluctant artist. The studio is overflowing with a variety of work, and pupils can enter a range of competitions and challenges, as well as working collaboratively with a number of professional artists and engaging in community projects, eg delivering their artwork to a local care home. Pupils also enthused about the varied design and technology curriculum covering product design, textiles and food technology. For would-be senior school scholars, the Ignite programme identifies pupils with notable ability or potential in one or several areas, including art, design technology, computing, the arts and academic. A proud year 5 pupil explained, ‘Ignite gives you the chance to develop something you can be recognised for and it might help you get a scholarship at your next school. You have to do more work and push yourself.’

We saw pupils make a beeline for the external table tennis tables during break – being outside and playing sport are high on the list of their priorities. Hundreds of fixtures each year against other preps including Westbrook Hay, Aldwickbury, Kingshott, York House in hockey, rugby, football, netball, cricket, swimming, tennis and athletics. Non team options such as yoga and archery also on offer. Some of the teams, such as girls’ football, span year groups because of small numbers of girls in older classes, but the school manages this well,’ we heard from a parent, confessing themselves to be a ‘serial side line cheerer!’

Parents and pupils praise the school’s pastoral care. ‘You know if you have done something wrong and should own up to it – there is always someone to talk to and someone to listen to you,’ stated a year 4 pupil. A parent said, ‘There will always be niggles, but my daughter’s friends all seem to think any unkindness or low-level bullying is dealt with immediately.’ Assemblies, often led by pupils, reinforce values of respect and diversity. Conversations about emotional difficulties, eating disorders and low self-esteem are not shied away from. The majority of pupils we spoke with felt well supported to handle the inevitable highs and lows of childhood, which include the potential pitfalls of being in a minority of girls in years 7 and 8.

While the school genuinely feels co-ed, it could be a challenge for girls transferring in at this stage. A year 7 pupil said she had, ‘thought long and hard about staying on’, when her year group was so boy heavy. Ultimately she felt the benefits, including personal development and care, made it the right decision for her. Pupils and parents know who to talk to regarding any concerns with racism, bias, gender issues or just transitioning to senior schools. The school is working in conjunction with the National Children’s Bureau to further streamline their practice and develop a whole school action plan, once consultations with parents, staff and pupils are concluded.

Working families are well-catered for with breakfast club at 7.30am and late pick up at 6pm. Minibus service from Barnet, Mill Hill, Stanmore, St Albans and Harrow, which parents find invaluable. ‘The transport and wrap-around care were important to us, as well as the diverse mix of pupils. It gives the school a slight edgier, cultural mix than others we viewed.’

Money matters

Bursaries available for current families who experience a change in circumstances and to new families from year 3. Scholarships into years 7 and 8 (internal and external), which can carry fee remittance.

The last word

Edge Grove’s strapline is ‘Integrity, independence and inspiration’ and we found the school lives up to its words. This is a friendly, dynamic and thriving prep, looking to the future in good heart. A very attractive option for local and north London families.

Special Education Needs

The Learning Success department covers both SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disabilities) and EAL (English as an Additional Language) and is made up of an outstanding team of highly qualified individuals: Our SENDCO, Dr Neil Alexander-Passe, is an academic and published author in the area of dyslexia, school-based trauma, and post-school success. He is a strong advocate in removing barriers to learning, and making use of technology and other resources to reduce the barriers to learning, so students can shine and demonstrate their potential. Edge Grove Prep has an EAL Teacher who has worked in both European and UK schools supporting learners new to English, with a range of Learning Support Assistants in the Pre-Prep, Lower-Prep and Upper School; many are qualified teachers and have training in dyslexia. At Edge Grove, we value the fact that pupils bring to school different experiences and strengths that influence the way they learn. We are committed to identifying each pupil’s individual learning needs and we offer provision that is flexible and varied to ensure that children work at age-related expectations or above and achieve their personal potential, whatever their needs and abilities. There is frequent SEND/EAL-based training for staff, and the SENDCO spends time in classes to support teachers to offer outstanding differentiated/adapted learning, and to better understand the needs of their pupils.The SENDCO also works closely with parents to ensure children are supported both at home and at school.

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders
CReSTeD registered for Dyslexia
English as an additional language (EAL) Y
Has an entry in the Autism Services Directory
Has SEN unit or class
HI - Hearing Impairment
Hospital School
Mental health Y
MLD - Moderate Learning Difficulty Y
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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