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A new member of staff spoke of 'the great, supportive team' who had helped her through her first weeks, and as we savoured our lamb orzos, we found ourselves sitting with a year 4 boy. We asked him what his teachers were like. 'Kind and funny,' he replied. 'How?” we questioned. He munched away. 'Well, like at assembly Mr. Earnshaw told us how he became bald. It was because he tore his hair out to give it to a rhino who needed to grow a longer horn...

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What the school says...

At Fairfield Preparatory School, children discover a learning environment which is happy and stimulating, at the heart of a vibrant school community. Children enjoy first-class teaching with the facilities to match, including a brand new school building with a dedicated Kindergarten Unit, the Fairfield Forest School, and the ‘All-Steinway’ LES Music School. The school offers a broad and balanced education appropriate to the needs of children in its care, which combines traditional and family values within an enlightened and ever-challenging curriculum. Fairfield is part of the Loughborough Endowed Schools Foundation and was rated ‘Excellent’ in all aspects by the Independent Schools Inspectorate in March 2016. ...Read more

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What The Good Schools Guide says

Headmaster

Since 2013, Andrew Earnshaw, an effervescent mid 40s. Educated at Bacup and Rawtenstall Grammar School and Lancaster University. Has worked in both the state and independent sectors and also at The British School in Saudi Arabia. A deputy head at Beeston Rylands School before becoming headmaster of Nottingham High Junior School at the age of 34. Resembles an Anglicised version of Pep Guardiola and, like the Manchester City supremo, his organisation is at the top of the Premier League. A MAMIL (middle-aged man in lycra) who recently sizzled through a coast-to-coast ride, zooming through its 120 miles in eight hours. Humorous, perceptive, self-deprecating and with not a hint of the arrogance that some heads display, his popularity within the school with children, staff and parents is obvious. Like Guardiola he has invested his resources wisely: £8m has just been pumped into a stunning development of the pre-prep department, which has created a swirl of interlinked buildings: clear evidence of his vision and style.

Some heads can struggle on their second headship as they adapt to new scenarios. Not Mr Earnshaw. He wants to be known as 'a head who says yes, rather than … I’ll think about it'. Consequently, this is an original community where staff are given the freedom to develop ideas for themselves: witness the fantastic forest school, created in a former wasteland at the edge of the playing fields, where pre-prep children can become mini celebrities in their jungle, as they learn to build a fire, cook, create dens and play plenty of hide and seek. In a school of such size (there are more than 500 pupils on the roll) the head still appears to know every child by name, and to accompany him on a tour is a joy as both children and staff are genuinely pleased to see him. But he is not some kind of trendy who just want to be the kiddies’ friend, for this school combines the wisdom of the past with the freshness of the future. For example, boys still wear caps and girls wear straw boaters in the summer. He wants his charges to look smart, so is often telling boys to tuck their shirts in. Everyone is stylish and polished …. and every child has use of an iPad to complement their learning. Academic standards are high. It is, as he says, 'cool to be clever'.

He must clearly survive on about three hours sleep a night – uniquely in our experience, he both writes a card and rings up each parent to give a report on how each of the 70-odd new pupils has fared in their first week. Perhaps his most engaging and inspiring idea is his Wheel of Fortune. This gives children who have won 100 behaviour points for good conduct by the end of the academic year the opportunity to spin the giant wheel in assembly and win, for example, time off homework or a tea party with the deputy head. The most popular segment is 8, for, if the wheel stops there, the spinner is given eight wet sponges with which to splatter the headmaster at break-time in the playground.

His wife teaches here too and his two sons attend the school.

Entrance

Non-selective at 3+ into the nursery; entry to the pre-prep at 4+ depends on a judgement of a child’s readiness for learning. From year 3 onwards tests are more formal with boys and girls sitting papers in English, maths and NVR. No scholarships or bursaries are available, although there is provision to support families if there is a sudden change in circumstances.

Exit

Nearly every child – some 90 per cent - remains within The Loughborough Endowed Schools Foundation; girls progressing to Loughborough High School or Our Lady’s Convent School, boys to Loughborough Grammar School. A high proportion of academic scholarships at the Loughborough Schools are also won by Fairfield pupils. Scholarships have also recently been won at Oakham, Repton and King Edward’s School, Birmingham. For the tiny minority of children who won’t be academically fitted to the demands of the senior schools, this will become obvious by year 5 when Mr Earnshaw will start conversations with parents to identify the most sensible options at the end of year 6.

Our view

Touring with the head gives an accurate insight into the strength and naturalness of staff-pupil relations. The children were polite and bright. Everyone was genuinely pleased to see Mr Earnshaw and answer his questions and tell us about what they were studying. When we asked one class what life was like at Fairfield, they responded with ‘fun’, ‘great’ and ‘marvellous’. When we found ourselves in the playground next to a jumpered goal post, to be hit by a shot of some power, the striker could not have been more apologetic and concerned that his volley might have hurt.

Pupils are expected by the end of their time to have a reading age at least two years in advance of their chronological one – a flair boosted by the spacious and well-stocked library and the fact that books can be read following a scheme that combines the best of the now with classics like Swallows and Amazons and ends with a quiz. French is introduced in the pre-prep and curriculum time is found for German, Spanish and now Italian in the more senior years. Some five per cent of pupils make use of the SEND provision, provided by a specialist team of teachers.

Competition is much encouraged. Boys and girls can enter for LAMDA examinations and we met a boy who had recently triumphed in a local Young Innovators' Challenge where he was tasked with designing a weight-bearing structure. And so he had knitted a bridge which withstood a 10kg weight. The clubs and activity programme takes place before school, at lunchtimes and after school. The variety is predictably vast, ranging from touch typing to first jazz, strategy games to dance. There are choirs and orchestras, netball, hockey and rugby clubs, a school council and even a harp ensemble. Music takes place in a splendid building which is used by both prep and senior school. Fortnightly concerts are programmed whilst the string instrumental project for every child in year 2 safeguards the future. Dramatic productions feature every year for each of the year groups, recent epics being Aladdin and Joseph and the reception’s version of Whoops-a-Daisy Angel.

Sport is very strong. Boys follow a termly pattern of rugby, football, cricket and athletics; girls compete in netball, hockey, rounders and athletics. Facilities are outstanding - the grass would grace Lord’s or Wimbledon – and somehow the sporting staff still find time to organise and run the Loughborough Town Sports, held at Loughborough University, for over 40 local state primary schools.

As the school is a part of the Loughborough Endowed Schools, there is a natural long-term vision for both parents and their children. Unlike many prep school-senior school relationships, Fairfield is independent within the Loughborough group and thus the head, in tandem with his governing body, is more able to make quicker decisions about the curriculum and development than would generally be the case in similar schools. And so, staff were closely involved in the planning of the new pre-prep building: one of the many highlights here being the custom-made carpet of inspiration. Schools often now have key words, like honesty, perseverance, loyalty and enthusiasm, plastered around the walls. These can very quickly these can blend into the background and go unnoticed. Not so those embellishing the fabric of the carpet here, which pupils can view each time they walk along it.

The soul of Fairfield is in great part created by the fact that this is very much a family-based school. Many mothers and father have been educated here. Some 40 per cent of staff have their children in the school, along with the Earnshaws' two sons. Recently the head welcomed a child of a fourth-generation family.

It is unsurprising therefore that the Fairfield PTA is so well involved in the life of the school, providing, for example, the funds for the creation of the forest school and being at the core of the community. It is a very sociable body, organising beer & curry nights, a Christmas fair, golf competitions and trips to the pantomime. Parental literature is exemplary – a model of its kind. The Kindergarten Parents’ Information Guide, for instance, answers every ‘frequently asked’ question and all those that are not, as it details the expectations regarding uniform and personal appearance, the curriculum and school shop opening times. There is even a paragraph on what to do if head lice are spotted.

But it is the people who make it fizz. A new member of staff spoke of 'the great, supportive team' who had helped her through her first weeks, and at lunch, as we savoured our lamb orzos, we found ourselves sitting with a year 4 boy. We asked him what his teachers were like. 'Kind and funny,' he replied. 'How?” we questioned. He munched away. 'Well, like at assembly Mr. Earnshaw told us how he became bald. It was because he tore his hair out to give it to a rhino who needed to grow a longer horn' (for those who don’t know these things, apparently rhino horns are made out of hair). He munched some more and then came out with his last line. 'Teachers can be bit sulky when you don’t do your homework.'

There is an ease, a positivity and an endeavour about it all. Wrap-around care is provided by specialist staff. Breakfast club begins at 7.45am. There are parents' information evenings (recently focused on anti-bullying and e-safety), and the head teaches handwriting to year 3. The inspectorate of 2016 had it right when they described it as 'excellent in every aspect'. Fairfield will appeal to most types of child.

As it obviously does to the parents. A new parent, after three weeks in the school described both her and her boy’s experience as 'fabulous'. According to another, 'children really enjoy it,' whilst a third remarked that 'the teachers are great,' citing the fact that if a child experiences personal problems then 'the pastoral care is excellent'.

With ultra-competitive fees, the drawbacks of a Fairfield education are hard to imagine - apart from the eclectic gastronomic fusion, which appears to mix Bakewell tart with chocolate krispie (surely a filling cruncher).

So, if you are lucky enough, as a prospective parent, to live in the wide catchment area - buses run from Leicester, Nottingham, Derby and Melton - do put Fairfield on your visit-list.

Special Education Needs

As an academically selective school, all children (including our 3+ Kindergarten pupils) must pass an entry assessment to join one of our classes from 4+ upwards. Following this, provision for any child with additional needs will be made in the most appropriate way, within the constraints of available resources. As a school we have experience of supporting pupils with the additional needs, but we do not have specialist provision for these.

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder Y
Aspergers
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders Y
CReSTeD registered for Dyslexia
Dyscalculia
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
Hospital School
Mental health
MLD - Moderate Learning Difficulty
MSI - Multi-Sensory Impairment
Natspec Specialist Colleges
Not Applicable
OTH - Other Difficulty/Disability
Other SpLD - Specific Learning Difficulty
PD - Physical Disability
PMLD - Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulty
SEMH - Social, Emotional and Mental Health Y
SLCN - Speech, Language and Communication Y
SLD - Severe Learning Difficulty
Special facilities for Visually Impaired
SpLD - Specific Learning Difficulty
VI - Visual Impairment

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