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  • Dulwich Prep Cranbrook
    Coursehorn
    Cranbrook
    Kent
    TN17 3NP
  • Head: Mr P A David B.Ed (Hons)
  • T 01580 712179
  • F 01580 715322
  • E [email protected]
  • W www.dulwichprepcranbrook.org
  • An independent school for boys and girls aged from 3 to 13.
  • Boarding: Yes
  • Local authority: Kent
  • Pupils: 400
  • Religion: Christian
  • Fees: Day £6,465 - £19,965 pa; Boarding £40.00 - £44 per night
  • Open days: Individual tours and meetings with our Registrar and Headmaster available at any time. Open Mornings 3 times a year – May, June and October
  • Review: View The Good Schools Guide Review
  • Ofsted report: View the Ofsted report
  • ISI report: View the ISI report

What says..

Very ordered, bright and inviting classrooms with tortoises in the science room. Children smiley and chatty and teachers are thrilled with the building they had input into designing. The school is set in 50 beautiful acres of Kent countryside and beautifully groomed playing fields. Every child plays sport and everyone in year 3 and above plays in a match against other schools. Children are encouraged to try everything to see where their talents lie. Child mental wellbeing is at the centre of everything the school does and children are encouraged to talk about …

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What The Good Schools Guide says

Headmaster

Since 2010, Paul David (50s) with a BEd in maths and PE from St Luke’s, University of Exeter (he grew up in Cornwall). He taught at the City of London Freemen’s School in Surrey, where he was housemaster, prior to becoming deputy head of St Paul's Juniors. He also taught maths at St Paul’s. Became headmaster of Eaton Square School in 2002.

Although his rugby playing days are behind him, he is still a keen skier and walker. He also plays the trumpet in the school orchestra. Married to Nicky who teaches PSHE at the school. They live in a house in the grounds and have two older children, both of whom were at Dulwich.
‘He is besuited and business like and likes order but is very approachable and his door is always open,’ says a parent. ‘He has the children’s best interests at heart and believes in what he is doing and won’t bow to parental pressure,’ says another. He is always out and about around the school – even more so now that the family has a dog and is a regular visitor at the Star of the Week and the special assembly at Nash House.

He says children are encouraged to try everything to see where their talents lie and are then stretched and supported in equal measure. He says it is very rare for a child not to fit in at Dulwich and ‘quirky kids’ will find their niche. He has worked hard to put child mental wellbeing at the centre of everything the school does and the school is a leader in the area – see more below.

The remote learning during the pandemic was ‘pretty phenomenal’ says a parent and was up and running from March and improved over time and included not only academic work but yoga and singing and children were given a chance to chat to their friends in between lessons.

Entrance

Nash House is for 3 to 5 year olds, Little Stream for those aged 5 to 9 years and the Upper School for pupils in their final years. Unconditional offers for children joining nursery to year 2; children who start in the term in which they turn 3, join Fledglings, based in the nursery. Children can and do join at any stage, but main entry points 4+ and 7+ and school is popular with families moving out of London. In years 3 to 8, children sit an assessment and spend a day at school.

Exit

All parents are invited for a discussion about senior schools in year 5 and Dulwich is equally supportive of those who leave at 11+ or 13+ and the headmaster has built good relationships with senior schools. About 40 per cent of pupils leave at 11+ for Cranbrook as well as other grammar and independent schools. Destinations at 13+ include Cranbrook, The King’s School, Canterbury, Benenden, Tonbridge, Sevenoaks, Mayfield, Sutton Valence, Eastbourne College and Claremont. Usually a high number of scholarships, often with top academic scholarships to Tonbridge and Benenden – 23 in 2020.

Our view

The headmaster describes the ethos of the school as ‘a world of possibilities’ where self-belief and confidence can be nurtured and there is an emphasis on kindness. There are benefits for those who stay on until 13+ as they have a chance to shine and get into the top teams. Years 7 and 8 are setted in small groups with the flexibility to move around. They follow the Dulwich Colours Programme, an innovative curriculum for languages and humanities encouraging independent and collaborative project work alongside the basic Common Entrance course.

Teachers a good mix of ‘lifers’ and younger staff and ‘their commitment and enthusiasm is unbelievable,’ says a parent. French is taught from Little Stream, Latin from year 6 with Spanish added in years 7 and 8. Late joiners may play catch up with languages not encountered before. Personal tutors monitor progress of children in years 7 and 8 as well as acting as mentors.

IT is well integrated within the school. Each pupil in years 7 and 8 has personal ownership of an iPad which just becomes part of their pencil case – the head describes a textiles project in which students used their iPads to record progress from start to finish with time-lapse photography. The library is large with a full-time librarian and boasts some 7,000 titles.

Plenty of dressing-up days in Little Stream and Nash House: on Egyptian day they mummified a member of staff. As well as form teachers, subject specialists for maths and science. Very ordered, bright and inviting classrooms with tortoises in the science room. Children smiley and chatty and teachers are thrilled to work in the building they had input into designing. Plenty of individual attention. A mother having observed her children learning through play in the initial years told us: ‘It is obvious great care has been given by the teaching staff to establish a curriculum which suits the children both academically and emotionally.’

This is a school which places an emphasis on ‘oracy’ – standing up and speaking well is all part of the school’s effort in developing socially confident individuals. Several parents credit their children’s flourishing independence to the school. Some testing lower down the school, then more of an emphasis on twice-yearly exams from year 5 – the children we met about to sit them said they were used to testing and it was no big deal.

Every child plays sport and everyone in year 3 and above plays in a match against other schools. From year 4 children must be available to play in Saturday matches. There are also Tribe (house) fixtures for each age group and the specialist coaches and gap students are shared around teams of all abilities. Girls play netball, hockey, lacrosse, rounders and tennis, also taking part in cross-country, track and field events, triathlon and swimming. Boys take part in these too and play football, rugby, hockey and cricket. Outdoor swimming pool is used during the summer months.

Those who don’t enjoy team sports can take part in the Dulwich Inspires! programme which includes sailing on the local reservoir and biking in the forest. The school has hosted IAPS and national cross-country competitions, the under-13 lacrosse team were the only one from a prep school to reach the last 16 of the national championships and the school boasts handy table tennis players too.

Sixty per cent take instrumental lessons. Taster music lessons are available to children in year 3 on a wide range of instruments from the kinder horn to the ukulele. Some attend the Junior Royal College of Music on Saturdays. Children play at regional festivals such as the Hastings Music Festival and musical ensembles have toured Prague and Italy. The Tribe music competition, performed in front of the whole school, is a highlight. There is a string orchestra in Little Stream and a senior orchestra, percussion groups, woodwind ensemble, Rock School, Stringcredibles, jazz band and choirs.

Drama is timetabled. Each year group performs annually, whether straight plays or musicals such as Grease or The Sound of Music. Performances, musical and dramatic, are spectacular according to parents, who if they appear windswept it is because they all report being so frequently ‘blown away’.

We’re pretty sure that every school we now visit will have its art compared to the benchmark of Dulwich Prep Cranbrook: truly stunning from the earliest beginnings in Little Stream to the beautiful scholarship work that to our eyes easily compared to GCSE projects elsewhere. Leavers were working on a sculpture project making a flock of porcelain Matisse-inspired doves (there are two kilns) holding bundles. The director of creative arts conceives new projects every year, so year 4 does not always do X and year 5 Y, and says much is child-led. Dulwich has the best art in the South East,’ says a mother.

There are trips relating to every subject, ranging from visiting Lullingstone Roman villa to outings to the West End for drama and geography field trips to the coast. In Nash House all classrooms have an outdoor learning area (under a retractable roof) leading onto the playground. Little Stream enjoy forest school activities and from year 5 start camping in the grounds, progressing to a full week in Snowdonia by year 8. Teachers with a passion run clubs, most included in the fees. Huge range including coding, thinking skills, art, drama, Dulwich entrepreneurs and a variety of music and sports.

An hour from London by train, rather more by car, the school is set in 50 acres of glorious Kent countryside and has beautifully groomed playing fields. It has a charming history – Dulwich Prep London (DPL) evacuated its 300 boys by train to Cranbrook at the start of World War II, setting up in huts in the headmaster's orchard, and after the war remained as a separate school. The two schools are still linked and are run by the Dulwich Preparatory Schools Trust. It became fully co-educational in 1975.

Buildings are not as beautiful as some prep schools in the area. However, the pre-prep resides in a stylish new-build, with the same architect as DPL – a wooden exterior, fabulous in and out spaces and a large soft-surface playground. Classrooms are vast by metropolitan standards and every inch looks fun. Little Stream also has use of the outdoor heated swimming pool.

Parents praised the pastoral care as ‘excellent’, ‘impressive’ and ‘thoughtful’ and there has been a move towards further developing this aspect of the school's provision. The head places an emphasis on nurturing self–confidence but says ‘you don’t need to be “robust” to do well here’. All new children have buddies. The head attends all the pastoral meetings and says he has never before worked with ‘staff who are so attuned to children’. Mental health awareness is high on the agenda and everyone is delighted with the recent partnership with Place2Be for one-to-one counselling and group sessions. The school introduced the iSpace and #iWonder programmes in 2019 to help children build emotional resilience. Children are encouraged to talk about mental health in a normal way and to distinguish between big issues and little problems. The aim is to help children develop a deeper understanding of ‘self’. They are already becoming better equipped to identify situations that are likely to cause them stress and they are learning how to self-regulate and regain control when their emotions take them close to tipping point.

Learning support is provided for approximately 170 pupils. As well as dyslexia and dyspraxia a wide range of other needs such as maths, sensory processing, or speech and language difficulties, hearing or visual impairment and complex medical conditions can be catered for. The school is quick to pick up on children who are working behind the curve and SEN is taught in small groups and occasionally one-to-one. Some withdrawal, some in class. All learning support is included in the fees, not always the case elsewhere.

Food highly praised, with cowboy pie being particularly popular (we didn’t ask about the ingredients). Cafeteria style system for the older children and younger ones sit at tables with their teachers in the Morrison Gallery next door.

New extended day care options – a choice of breakfast and after-school clubs. Day boarding is available until 8.00 pm for year 5 and above and year 4 siblings: includes tea, supervised prep and an activity.

Most families live within a 20-mile radius of the school and many have recently moved to the area from London. ‘It is a real mix from the creative industries, doctors, finance, and farming.’ Large numbers are dual income families and some are very rich said a mother ‘but it is not at all snobbish’. The friends group organise lots of events, new parents are made to feel welcome and there is a strong sense of community.

Boarders

There are 29 boarding places in The Manor with boys and girls accommodated on different floors in dorms above the headmaster’s study – beamed and very homely with some up in the eaves. Dorms of 4-8, some in bunk beds. Flexi-boarding offered from one night to full weekly boarding. Resident tutor and a games room and common room. Pupils say they board ‘because they love it,’ and all bring their teddies. Lobby full of tennis racquets and cricket bats, overflowing bike shed, boarders' fire pit.

The last word

One long-standing parent told us: ‘The quality of teaching has been excellent across the curriculum and in many areas exceptional.’ Recent migrators say: ‘outstanding’ and ‘the standard is high’.

Special Education Needs

09-09

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