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Some children really do skip between lessons here; it’s a very buoyant place. Elegant buildings, beautifully kept. Gravel crunches under foot. Mature trees (no climbing); but under the rhododendrons at break time, flashes of uniform and scrambling limbs. A plastic cow peers around the edge of the bushes, a school jumper draped around its head. One teacher blows a bugle of brilliance if he reads something fabulous in class; another gives top gun award for great work: aviator shades and a moustache for the day. ‘They enthral the children’, said another parent, in awe...

 

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What The Good Schools Guide says

Headmaster

Since 2013, Martyn Ward, married with two girls at Marlborough House School (MHS). Went to Westminster College Oxford, then taught at The Hall and Cothill House, before becoming deputy, then acting head of Eastbourne College Prep.

Warm and personable, much liked by pupils - ‘he’s fun, and interested in us’ - and parents - ‘he’s a breath of fresh air’; ‘always around when you want to speak to him’; ‘knows the children and is genuinely interested in them’ (he sends birthday cards to all the children, which is much appreciated).

Entrance

‘No type it wouldn’t suit’, says the head. Broadly first come, first served, with taster days and soft touch testing so they know where pupils are and can monitor development. Wouldn’t accept a child who would feel exposed in a year group, academically or socially, which would be unfair on the child. A parent thought that it wouldn't suit children who don’t recognise discipline - pupils here need to be respectful of all ages.

‘Took a long time to get in’, said a parent who waited two years to get a place for her daughter, but it’s evidently worth the wait. ‘Our experience is overwhelmingly good at many different levels…’.

Exit

Large number to Cranbrook (which started 11+ entry in 2017, and may affect numbers at MHS); Eastbourne College, King’s Canterbury, Benenden and Tonbridge are also popular. A few to Eton, Harrow et al.

Our view

Some children really do skip between lessons here; it’s a very buoyant place. Elegant buildings, beautifully kept. Gravel crunches under foot. Mature trees (no climbing); but under the rhododendrons at break time, flashes of uniform and scrambling limbs. A plastic cow peers around the edge of the bushes, a school jumper draped around its head.

‘When education looks [this] good and learning is [this] inspiring, how can you not choose it for your children?’ said a parent. When the head arrived, he replaced some of the old guard with a young, lively staff which transformed the school academically - ‘fun and active lessons’; ’inspiring’, say the children (yes, the children). ‘The staff the head brought in are utterly amazing’, said a parent, ‘and anything you might wince at occasionally is overwhelmed by their reinvention of lessons’. One teacher blows a bugle of brilliance if he reads something fabulous in class; another gives top gun award for great work: aviator shades and a moustache for the day. ‘They enthral the children’, said another parent, in awe. Dull or mediocre will not be tolerated from teaching staff here; an assistant head’s role is continuous assessment and improvement of all teaching staff (360 appraisal is coming, and these articulate pupils will welcome the opportunity to make their views known).

The curriculum in year 5 starts to prepare pupils for both CE and 11+, the focus being on maths and literacy - ‘this is what gets pupils into senior schools’, says an assistant head. Commenting on the atmosphere, a parent said ‘ it’s not wholly laid back; but [doing] the best you can do is perfect’. Both the very able and those towards the middle of the pack thrive here, bright pupils being stretched with extension work.

The SEN unit is open door to anyone, including those who just want a chat and some reassurance. One pupil with difficulties at home knows that they can go at any point to the unit, to sit quietly, or as a safe quiet place to work. They help those with a variety of needs, including severe dyslexia, and one parent described how her daughter’s English has come on in leaps and bounds. Most support is offered in groups of up to six (the dynamic is better in small groups, they say, and it’s more fun for pupils). One-to-one help is also offered, and is charged as an extra.

The school is divided into nursery, pre-prep, middle and upper school, with separate buildings for pre-prep and nursery. A jolly nursery, with children learning to care for rabbits, guinea pigs and giant snails. A quiet area behind ribbons, for snuggling down for a nap or quiet time.

MHS is often chosen by parents and children for the happy comfortable atmosphere that pervades the school, one parent adding that it is ‘neither as clinical or feral as other independent options in the area’. Another was attracted by the respectful interaction between staff and children, and described the role modelling by staff as ‘exceptional’. ‘It does feel like a special greenhouse environment’, said one parent who worries a bit that her children won’t be able to cope in the real gritty world, and would like more integration into the local community - ‘but they learn great values [and] they have found [my son’s] areas of potential and fanned them’.

MHS promotes British values, says the ISI (tolerance and respect, in case you were wondering). Officially non-denominational with a Christian ethos; it actually feels distinctly Christian, with a sung grace (lovely chime-like responses), and chapel twice a week. One parent said, ‘I like the fact that it’s not afraid to have a Christian ethos: in word and genuinely in spirit it is a kind school’.

The uniform is moving from navy to grey tweed, ‘curiously old fashioned’, said a parent: the school listened to pupils and parents about the faults of the current uniform (itchy jumpers and tricky tracksuit bottom linings), but parents don’t feel they were sufficiently consulted over the new design. Pupils do feed back their views on school through the class rep to the pupil forum twice a term, but these very vocal pupils were clear that they would like a greater voice, particularly to make suggestions about food: puddings are excellent, first courses variable, and some outrage that only year 8 get to visit the salad bar. More outrage that burgers and doughnuts have disappeared (quiet hurrahs from the parents), and disgust at the courgette buns and beetroot brownies which have appeared in their place. Thank goodness for much loved fishy Fridays.

Sport every afternoon from year 6 upwards (three times a week for younger pupils), with lots of pupils saying that sport is their favourite thing about MHS. They excel in many areas, often achieving national level: quite something for a small sized prep. But for a school that fields excellence, there is a pleasing emphasis on sport for all, with an approach that highlights enjoyment, inclusion and effort: coaches focus on the bottom teams, with most parents and pupils saying that everyone gets a regular chance to represent the school in matches.

Superb outdoor facilities (although one parent said the outside pool is the ‘size of a pond’ and ‘the team is not strong as a result’. It looked a fairly standard school pool to us, and there are individual successes who supplement their training outside school at swimming clubs). Decent sized indoor sports hall.

There is the traditional sports gender divide along cricket and rounders lines, which causes a little parent discord -‘as a progressive prep, they should have girls’ football’. The school is not averse to girls playing boys’ sports, but it can be hard to find other preps for them to play against.

Forest school for pupils up to middle school, and it’s very popular - a big door at the edge of the woods with Forest School across the top gives a feeling of welcome to the jungle: camp fire; mud slide; dragon (felled horse chestnut); tarpaulins and hides when it’s raining. A magical place to learn -- 'you can see the kids’ shoulders going down’, said a teacher.

Music is really lovely - pupils benefit from a comprehensive programme, which evidently fosters a real love for music: an ad hoc group was singing a pop song at break, accompanied by the year 5 music scholar on the piano (blimey), while pupils passing the room in the corridor outside joined in with the odd phrase as they went past. Various instrument and vocal coaches from illustrious stables such as the ENO and the Globe. Busy programme of concerts, from informal at home events, to chamber choir at the Wealden Times Fair, and Junior choir with the Cranbrook Choral society. Parents particularly like the informal concerts, one describing with pleasure one held in the local pub.

Pupils here love drama, and would just like to do more of it (a play a term in pre-prep, but only in year 6 and sometimes year 8 in the rest of the school, say parents; school insists that there are annual plays for all middle school children and more informal plays and recitations higher up).

A wealth of clubs, including philosophy in the forest and theatre make up. Must be one of the only schools with a permanent indoor maypole, children learning that the important thing is to keep smiling merrily, even if the ribbons are getting in a frightful tangle.

‘Good manners cost nothing but mean a lot’, says a notice on a door. ‘Are you looking as smart as you could be?’ says another. Respecting self and others is the theme which runs through this school from nursery to year 8, with much of the system of rewards and sanctions being tied in to this ethos. Bad marks may well land you in the reflection room to consider the impact of your behaviour and what you might do differently in the future.

Most pupils said that they would go to their form tutor if they had a problem, one shyer pupil saying he would rather use an independent listener box so he wouldn't have to talk in front of others. ‘It’s a very caring school’, confirmed a parent whose daughter needed a lot of support after her father died: the school made sure there was a safe person to go to if she was upset, and weekly meetings at SEN to talk about her dad. A parent whose son experienced bullying at his previous school said he was ‘brought back to life’ by MHS. There have been one or two incidents at MHS which caused concern, but the school sat the boys down together and talked things through - 'it was dealt with thoroughly and communicated well’, said the parent. ‘I have the odd issue with friendship or inappropriate behaviour’, said another parent, ‘but it’s dealt with straightaway and properly: questions, small or large, get a response the same day’.

‘The best club is boarding’, said one boy, who has finally persuaded his mother that he should have one night a week at school. Forty-five boarders over the course of a week, around 17 a night on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and 26 on Thursdays (a bit of party atmosphere was suggested by one parent.) Last minute requests for boarding will be accommodated if there’s a space. Pupils can board from year 4, but most are older. Some pupils drop in and out of boarding to get used to being away from home, one parent praising the support given to her nervous son who has gradually built up to boarding two nights a week, and loves it.

Comfortable common room with sofas, TV and table football. Evening activities are popular - laser guns and throwing marshmallows into a bucket are recent hits, and pupils enjoy roaming the grounds. A nice supper for boarders - ‘pitta bread things, and hot chocolate or milkshakes’, said one boy with enthusiasm (no kitchen for snacks at present).

Rooms with bunk beds, mostly for six; cosy, but not cramped. Ample bathroom facilities in good condition. Blue sheets for boys, pink for girls; but white provided to older girls who asked. Boys’ dorms named for sport, mostly skiing, with the black run stairs (roped for safety) down from their top floor dorms; girls’ dorms named after flowers and bubbles (pupils chose dormitory names a few years back). An evening matron comes in for bedtime and stays overnight, and both she and the head of boarding are available to pupils who need help during the night. Matron’s rooms is conveniently situated for knocks and injuries.

Parents are diverse: city, professionals and business, old money, and ‘just working hard to get them through school’. A very parent-friendly school - coffee and nibbles in school every morning after drop off, and clubs including yoga, football and bootcamp; even a special breakfast for fathers and daughters. The friendly parent group quickly scoop up newcomers.

Special Education Needs

Marlborough House School aspires to unlock potential in every pupil, providing each child with an education tailored to his or her strengths and needs. Our aim is to ensure that the Learning Support department delivers fun support sessions designed with an individual focus, aiming to engage pupils and support them to become self-motivated learners. Learning support should be a positive experience and a safe environment where children can relax and focus on the areas of learning they find challenging, without feeling exposed or under pressure.

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder Y
Aspergers Y
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders Y
CReSTeD registered for Dyslexia
Dyscalculia Y
Dysgraphia Y
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 Y
Hospital School
Mental health
MLD - Moderate Learning Difficulty Y
MSI - Multi-Sensory Impairment
Natspec Specialist Colleges
OTH - Other Difficulty/Disability
Other SpLD - Specific Learning Difficulty
PD - Physical Disability Y
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 Y
VI - Visual Impairment Y

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