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What says..

When you arrive at this idyllic country prep, it’s hard to believe that it’s just a stone’s throw from north London and less than five minutes from the M25. Set in grassy parkland (even more of it since the school acquired extra land) with the requisite cows grazing next to the drive, Edge Grove – formerly the home of JP Morgan – is a world apart from many of its concrete-clad urban rivals. Families are a real mix – the predictable 4x4s, some discreet old money and plenty of dual income families who work hard to pay the fees. The latter are particularly grateful for...

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What the school says...

Edge Grove is a day and boarding school for boys and girls aged 3-13 years, characterised by a genuine commitment to the pursuit of excellence. Located in 28 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

What the parents say...

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What The Good Schools Guide says

Headmaster

Since 2012, Ben Evans (40s). A Devon lad (mother still breeds Dartmoor ponies there) with a love of all things country. Head boy at Bramdean School before heading to Exeter University to read history and archaeology. Returned, armed with his degree and PGCE, to Bramdean where he ‘learned to teach,’ before taking up the post of head of history at Brighton College, later returning as deputy head to his alma mater.

Had a ‘now or never’ moment before hot footing it to Sri Lanka to teach at the junior school of the British School in Colombo, Sri Lanka, where he served a total of six years, the final four as head. Returned to the UK following the birth of his first child and found love at first sight with Edge Grove – ‘exactly what I wanted.’ Lives in the main house (his living room doubles up as a meet-and-greet office for visitors like us and parents) with wife Alex – ‘an absolute gem,’ according to parents – and their two young sons, both at the school. A dynamic, likeable and plainspoken couple, they run the school very much as a partnership, albeit with clearly defined roles – his realm being all things educational; hers being the person to say, ‘And why exactly are you doing that?’ (along with helping the admin team, co-ordinating the uniform shop and PA and organising events eg a recent science conference for year 8s). All this, and she also completed a PhD while in post.

He has made dramatic changes, including scrapping Saturday school, ‘upping the ante’ on the academic front and growing the school both physically (acquiring an extra 20 acres, adding to their existing 28 acres) and in numbers (from 320 pupils in 2012 to current 500 – ‘it stops there,’ says head). ‘You can see he has everyone pulling in the direction he wants the school to go in – from the top to the bottom of the school, there is a solid consistent message about doing your best, being a risk taker and having fun,’ one parent told us. Just what Edge Grove needed after an unsettled patch with a revolving door of head teachers.

When not immersed in running the school and family life, the great outdoors beckons. ‘I try to run marathons,’ he says; ‘and I try to stop him,’ laughs Alex.

Entrance

More selective than it was, ‘if only because we have more interest in the school and fewer places,’ says head. But assessments and parental interview still relatively relaxed by north London standards. School says it would rather take someone with lower IQ who plays an instrument and has parental buy-in than someone very bright with no passion for the school’s ethos. Little ones at 3+ and 4+ come for a short session where staff engage them in an activity and observe their skills in, for example, sharing and socialising. Currently oversubscribed for nursery and reception. Occasional entry at 7+ and more at 11+ - an assessment day and verbal/non-verbal reasoning tests before spending a day in class to see how they fit in.

No bursaries in the lower part of the school apart from those offered to military families. Scholarships for existing pupils in years 7 and 8 to ‘acknowledge their contribution to the school.’

Exit

Majority of girls leave at 11; others and most boys leave at 13 – although it’s a movable feast, depending on the year. Girls to St Albans High School for Girls, Haberdashers' Aske's School for Girls, Abbot's Hill and Downe House, with St Albans Boys, Merchant Taylors’ School and Harrow popular for boys; plus both to a range of co-ed schools including Rugby, Haileybury, Uppingham, Berkhamsted and Aldenham. A good handful of scholarships achieved annually, ranging from academic to sport, art and music. Conversations about next schools start with parents in years 5 and 6.

Our view

When you arrive at this idyllic country prep, it’s hard to believe that it’s just a stone’s throw from north London and less than five minutes from the M25. Set in grassy parkland (even more of it since the school acquired extra land) with the requisite cows grazing next to the drive, Edge Grove – formerly the home of JP Morgan – is a world apart from many of its concrete-clad urban rivals.

Smiling boys and girls (school is now firmly co-ed, though older pupils told us you still get the odd class with less than a handful of girls) in bright red uniforms give an impression of a happy, down to earth and confident cohort. And, really, who wouldn’t be smiling with these big skies, beautiful views, open spaces and walled gardens (‘we get plenty of freedom to use it all,’ say pupils) to greet you every morning? Not to mention the beautifully maintained outdoor swimming pool (lessons are weekly, weather permitting) and well-used forest school, plus separate facilities for science, home economics, art and creative arts for older ones. When head gets his long-awaited small rare breeds farm (they already have chickens), it really will be seventh heaven for outdoorsy types.

Families are a real mix – the predictable 4x4s, some discreet old money and plenty of dual income families who work hard to pay the fees. The latter are particularly grateful for the wrap-around care (breakfast club from 7.45am and activities from 4.30-5.30pm daily, with children also able to stay for prep and supper - ‘if you get stuck on the train, it’s no problem,’ said one). About 20 per cent London based with the rest from around Radlett, St Albans, Elstree, Stanmore, Edgeware and Borehamwood. Ethnically diverse, far more so than the competition: ‘wonderful,’ say parents. Four minibus services ferry years 3 to 8 to school if they choose.

Head ‘aiming for excellence in all subjects,’ with parents praising the ‘academic rigour while keeping learning interactive and fun.’ ‘Sometimes, you don’t even realise you’re learning, especially with forest school,’ said one child, incredulous that education ‘can be so entertaining.’ Plenty of kinaesthetic learning in evidence – not a whiff of chalk and talk when we visited. School day structured with English and maths in the mornings, when the children are most receptive, followed by a superb lunch (literally no complaints – almost unheard of), although dining room’s proximity to (stunning) library made for loud background noise for readers when we visited.

French from pre-school and classics from year 5 with setting starting in year 3 for English and maths, then for French and science from year 5. Years 7 and 8 see pupils split into three classes - a scholarship set (scholarship or CE); CE only set; and everyone else. So streaming, then? ‘I like to think of it as tailoring,’ retorts head, who sees no point in children doing CE for the sake of it. Edge Grove Baccalaureate completed by all year 7s and 8s as part of the school enrichment programme – taught by head. Mandarin, Spanish and Italian offered as after-school clubs for budding linguists. Massive push on digital technology. SEN provision for the milder end and no plans to increase provision. ‘I’m dyslexic and get all the help I need, mainly in the classroom,’ one girl assured us, while a parent said, ‘They put a lot of things in place to help my son, including some extra lessons – they were really good.’

Outstanding art taught in inspirational atelier style space with first class work in genres ranging from ceramics (every pupil was creating a ceramic poppy for remembrance Sunday when we visited) to textiles, on display. Lots of cross-curricular. Home economics also on the curriculum. Classrooms alive with sound of music (we saw year 3s do an enchanting stone age song and dance) and wonderfully decorated practice rooms (over 180 peripatetic lessons each week) with posters on the doors, exclaiming things like ‘Rubbish! Sorry! Terrible! Are all words banned in here.’ A lucky few get to try their hand in the school rock band or the award-winning junior jazz band. ‘And there are three choirs, plus orchestra and ensembles!’ one of our guides added, excitedly. Plenty for budding thespians too – every child gets a chance to perform in the modern, airy theatre.

Sport taken seriously, with around 800 fixtures a year and specialist teaching from reception, and coaches with top-notch credentials on board. ‘They’re getting better at integrating the genders,’ said one parent, although one girl told us, ‘they still don’t do football for girls, which is a shame.’ Core sports are hockey, rugby, football and netball – and cricket, swimming, tennis and athletics are also played to high levels, with squads who reach regionals if not nationals. Cross-country, table tennis and archery added to the mix to enable children who don’t take to team sports to find their sporting prowess. Basketball increasingly popular. Inter-house matches and tournaments (especially swimming) are considered highlights of the year among pupils and ensure everyone gets a go. ‘Shame there’s no full-size Astro pitch, but you can’t have it all,’ said one parent. Clubs galore – many of which are included in fees – from gardening and chess to taekwondo.

Around 40 flexi boarders. On the downside, very little wardrobe space (one wardrobe for seven girls) and no lockers (leads to lots of lost socks), but it’s worth it, say pupils and parents, for the nurturing, cheerful environment and brightly decorated dorms which sleep up to 14 pupils, with seniors (years 7 and 8) having their lounging and TV area incorporated into the dorm. There’s also a games room in an annexe with snooker, table tennis and table football. Head, determined to avoid ‘sleepover culture,’ insists that boarders stay for a minimum of three nights a week from year 5, although they can stay for one in years 3 and 4. ‘We only live round the corner, so never even thought of boarding, but our child insisted and loves it,’ said a parent, echoing others.

Pastorally strong across the board, with head of well-being (qualified life coach) and non-teaching head of pastoral care on staff. Parent workshops on offer, and children have an emotional barometer in their planner. Minimal misbehaviour and bullying because ‘we’re big on respect,’ says head; pupils concur. No school rules for the same reason – ‘if you respect the school and others, you shouldn’t need rules, although we do have golden moments which are read out in assembly,’ he says.

This is a delightful prep with an ethos of discovery and learning through doing – no drilling facts and boring worksheets for these lucky things. Both aspirational and fun, it’s a school that enables children to go onto a wide range of first choice schools, without the pressure that’s so prevalent in this north London bubble. And the children seem to genuinely appreciate the big skies, lush grounds and round-the-clock activities.

Special Education Needs

No comment offered - and very modest in the SEN details section too.

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