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Nestled at the end of a country lane in a rural setting of fields housing the local pony population, the only clue to the urban environs of Manor Lodge is the M25 sign just visible on the horizon. Outdoor learning also takes places in the newly created forest and woodland gardens, and the more exotic Japanese garden: quite the place for horticulturally inclined, as well as the young. The trophy cabinet in reception tells visitors all they need to know about the sporting culture of the school which has, according to parents, ‘hugely improved'...

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What The Good Schools Guide says

Head

Since 2018, Alyson Lobo, previously deputy head and at the school since 2005. Prior to that she taught and was deputy head at a local infant school.

Entrance

Selective ‘to a certain extent’ at 4, with more than three applicants for every place. Assessment takes about an hour, and is equal in importance to interview with candidate and parents: ‘We’re looking for children with character and parents who recognise the importance of partnership with school for 11+ success,’ the previous head told us. Automatic entry for siblings, with around 25 per cent from the sibling-only nursery on site. Waiting lists for every year group, with those entering post-reception, mainly from state sector or due to relocations, invited to spend a morning in school and tested in maths and English.

Exit

Strong record of feeding to the south Herts/north London plethora of academic powerhouses including St Albans Boys and Girls, Habs Boys and Girls and Merchant Taylors. Those not reaching such dizzy academic heights well catered for too, with movement to St Columba’s, Aldenham, Haileybury, Queenswood and St Margaret’s. Hardly any to boarding and an average of five per cent to state schools, including Dame Alice Owen's. Outstanding scholarship record: 48 in 2018.

Our view

Nestled at the end of a country lane in a rural setting of fields housing the local pony population, the only clue to the urban environs of Manor Lodge is the M25 sign just visible on the horizon. Excellent use has been made of the grounds surrounding the 300 year old former country house, which has a colourful history as health spa, film set (notably A Clockwork Orange) and the private home of double agent Eddie Chapman. Wonderful grassy outdoor spaces include two adventure playgrounds, one of these exclusively for reception children, two sports fields and a large wildlife garden (‘a great privilege to visit,’ say children), often used for science lessons and complete with well-populated swamp and observation hut. Outdoor learning also takes places in the newly created forest and woodland gardens, and the more exotic Japanese garden: quite the place for horticulturally inclined, as well as the young.

The main building provides an impressive façade for the school but the classrooms, which include a dedicated dojo for martial arts, don’t quite live up to the grandeur of the exterior, although there is a quaint charm to the winding staircases and narrow panelled corridors. Thankfully the ‘new block’ (2003) with its brightly painted corridors bedecked with fruits of the children’s labours and large airy form rooms, delivers light, bright classrooms with a more modern feel. The Grand Designs style dining room added in 2008 plays a starring architectural role and multi-tasks as dance and gymnastics studio. Newish sports hall/theatre (2015) with rooms for music and drama, plus all-weather multi use games area.

Former head constantly referred to Manor Lodge as a ‘family school’ and it benefits in atmosphere from its co-ed pupil body which gives off a friendly, relaxed vibe. Boys and girls mix freely and provide ‘healthy competition’ for one another in the classroom, according to parents, and pupils say that although the school has high standards, it is ‘not super strict.’ School community, from the north London/south Herts environs, is ‘very demanding’ in its expectations according to previous head, although children come over as earnest and serious, many articulate beyond their years but not precocious. Very few super-affluent families, with the majority hard working middle class and many first time buyers. Diverse ethnic and religious mix representative of the local area.

Quality rather than quantity in the language department, with French from reception and Spanish from year 5. No Latin or classics but specialist teaching for music, art, CDT, IT, PE, drama and languages from the word go. Around 25 per cent of teachers are male (including one in infant department) lending a healthy dose of testosterone to the mix. Pupils continuously assessed using PIPS scheme. At the top of the school, children benefit from a tutorial system ‘almost like university,’ where they are given instant feedback on all work, with ‘some responses from teachers almost as long as the child’s essay,’ according to previous head. All year 5 and 6 pupils receive a mini report every four weeks to track progress and constantly reassess targets. ‘Thorough preparation’ for 11+ is the name of the Manor Lodge game, with all year 6 pupils receiving interview technique coaching from a former top senior school admissions tutor.

Pupils mixed mainly according to geographical location in reception and classes are shuffled in year 3. Setting in maths from year 2 and English from year 5, when children start to move around the school for individual subjects. Previous head cautiously picked out English as the school’s ‘greatest strength’ but quickly added that most scholarships achieved are all-rounders. Parents say that children ‘hardly know they’re learning’ lower down the school and that pressure ‘steps up just a little bit each year.’ More than lip service paid to focus on independent thinking, with all pupils working towards completion of their ‘thinking skills passports,’ focusing on creativity, independence, collaboration and persistence. Extremely close bonds in evidence between staff and children, with teachers referring to the ‘sheer joy in learning’ they hope to give their young charges and even reception staff showing clear affection for pupils.

Not much in the way of heavy duty SEN, but that said, there is very little call for it – just a handful of pupils per year group receive extra help from the part-time SENCo to iron out minor issues. Maths and English specialists join classrooms to provide support to those who need it, and those with specific talents, either academically or in music or art, receive accelerated tuition outside classroom time.

Art room on the basic side but one of the most orderly we’ve seen – ‘you can’t create in chaos,’ according to the art teacher – and pupils enthuse about the teaching in this area, with evidence of their work displayed around the school. DT also a firm favourite with both sexes, with pupils describing their teacher as ‘passionate,’ although facilities in this area are not the star attraction. Music lessons take place in a room with spectacular views across the countryside and are very popular, with 50 per cent of junior pupils taking peripatetic lessons and a host of bands and choirs on offer for budding performers to display their wares. Previous head reckoned ‘nobody leaves Manor Lodge without being a performer,’ with frequent recitals on all scales, ranging from class assemblies, which ‘quietly teach confidence,’ according to parents, to musical productions, most recently Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Year 6s bow out of the school each year with a major production at the Radlett Centre.

The trophy cabinet in reception tells visitors all they need to know about the sporting culture of the school which has, according to parents, ‘hugely improved,’ in recent years. Two dedicated sports staff (one male, one female) run the show and have helped school inch its way up league tables and earn its place in a competitive local fixtures list. A-D teams are put out wherever possible with cricket and netball being standout sports – teams in both finished the season unbeaten recently. Girls’ football on the up and cricket also popular with the female cohort, although no fixtures – yet. Trophies and accolades also up for grabs for less sporty ones, with annual awards for everything from maths and handwriting to reading – and even one for ‘good egg.’

Hugely popular (and competitive) house system and pupil body vociferous in school matters with the school council. Two councillors elected from every year in the school attend monthly meetings to put forward ideas and suggestions for improvements. School introduced badges for those on school teams, choir or bands and holding responsibilities such as librarian as a result of council discussions –many pupils now proudly weighed down with these. School presidents from each gender are elected by the pupil body (‘they always get it right,’ says head) and lead council meetings. Pupils proud of school’s Green Flag status and boasts an eco team, recycling club and bird watching amongst its enrichment programme. No specific anti-bullying measures in place but head says that ‘children know they can talk to any adult,’ adding that incidents of unpleasant behaviour are ‘pretty rare.’

Special Education Needs

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