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Fairfield Prep School

What says..

Particularly noticeable is how curiosity, critical thinking and creativity are encouraged at every turn. ‘Fairfield is interested in the whole rounding of your child rather than just push, push, push on academics,’ said one parent. It’s all about sparking the imagination, whether that’s through seeing chicks hatch, visiting the beehives, taking part in the Fiver Challenge to set up a business venture for £5 or exploring frozen dinosaur eggs…

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What the school says...

At Fairfield Prep School, tiny feet take huge strides towards becoming confident, happy, and independent learners. The school community offers endless exciting experiences, developing an early love of learning. Independent reviews highlight its commitment to pastoral care, emphasising the unique environment where every child feels fortunate to belong. Pupils benefit from exceptional facilities, including our acclaimed 'All-Steinway School' music department, cutting-edge STEM resources, a team of outstanding educators, forest school adventures, diverse extra-curricular programmes, exceptional sports facilities, top-level coaching, nutritious catering and a comprehensive transport service within our extensive catchment area. ...Read more

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Other features

All-through school (for example 3-18 years). - An all-through school covers junior and senior education. It may start at 3 or 4, or later, and continue through to 16 or 18. Some all-through schools set exams at 11 or 13 that pupils must pass to move on.

What The Good Schools Guide says

Headmaster

Since 2013, Andrew Earnshaw, previously head of Nottingham High Junior School and before that, deputy head at Beeston Rylands School. Down-to-earth and self-deprecating, he has worked in both state and independent schools, as well as at The British School in Saudi Arabia. Educated at Bacup and Rawtenstall Grammar School, and the University of Lancaster. His wife is on the teaching team and their two sons have been through Fairfield and are now at the grammar.

Though he says he never set out to be a head (don’t they all?), he describes his role as ‘Willy Wonka’s golden ticket: a once in a lifetime opportunity,’ and relishes the challenge of continual improvement, whether that’s for the school (£8m pre-prep development), the pupils (mini-quizzes after each book read), the teaching staff (emphasis on CPD) or himself (he has recently taken up the trombone - in a school renowned for its music facilities, he felt it would be ‘remiss’ not to learn an instrument; apparently, it’s all about ‘perseverance rather than perfection’).

With his door always open, he describes himself as ‘not a desk dwelling head in any shape or form.’ To get to know the students, he teaches weekly handwriting as pupils work towards their much-coveted pen licence. Asked if they’re ever scared of him, the children we met burst out laughing: ‘I’ve never actually seen him shout at anybody, but he can lift his eyebrows up!’ Another chimed in, ‘Actually he can shout, but it’s only ever happy shouting.’

An avid historian, he loves reading, as evidenced by the well-thumbed copy of Lord of the Rings on his bookshelf. He also admits to being a hoarder, his office filled with mementoes and keepsakes from past students, plus an extensive Lego collection. At the end of each academic year, and when everyone else has scarpered off on holiday, he treats himself to a new set. Says he builds to ‘decompress,’ which is probably needed as he seems to be in all places at once. As one parent says, ‘It’s like he’s five people.’

With a background in sports, his interests include everything from skiing and snowboarding to football, cricket and golf. ‘A bit like a Labrador, get me on the field and throw a ball and I’m quite happy.’ He can often be found on the side-lines of the school sports pitch, enthusiastically cheering on its teams.

Entrance

Main entry points are kindergarten (3+) and reception (4+), following a one-to-one session and observation of social interaction in a group setting. From year 1, the school is academically selective, with assessments in English and maths and, from year 3, NVR too. School looks for average, or above, ability. Waiting lists in some year groups.

Exit

Nearly 90 per cent remain within The Loughborough Schools Foundation, although children must have joined Fairfield before the start of year 4 to be guaranteed a place. By the end of year 5, pupils will be offered a year 7 place, based on internal tracking and monitoring of performance, at either Loughborough Grammar School (boys) or Loughborough High School (girls) and/or Loughborough Amherst School (co-ed). Pupils joining from year 4 sit the 11+ entrance exams for the relevant school. Recent alternative destinations include Ratcliffe College, Leicester Grammar and Repton. Academic scholarships are awarded annually to the top three performing boys and girls transferring through to the grammar and high schools, part of an elite group known as Fairfield Scholars.

Our view

Parents describe Fairfield as the ‘jewel in the crown’ of the Loughborough Schools Foundation. The long-term vision is for children to head to the senior schools, but many families voice regret that the ever-popular head can’t extend his golden influence beyond the prep. The schools sit together on an extensive campus, allowing for an element of informal mixing between pupils and access to a wide range of facilities. Fairfield itself is surrounded by a swathe of sports fields, and the long, balconied school building, crowned with a giant clock face, gives the distinct impression of a luxury cricket pavilion.

With over 500 students, Fairfield is undeniably large but it retains a welcoming feel. Several generations of families have been educated here. Pupils mention the sense of belonging, and there is an inclusive mix of backgrounds, religions, and family units.

Besides the more traditional White House building - home to the head’s office and centre of operations - the school is modern and spacious. We were led down immaculately neat corridors and through bright atriums, with splashes of colour akin to contemporary art galleries. Tidiness matters: there are even prizes awarded for best-kept lockers. Spills over to students too, equally smart in their traditional uniforms.

Major investment (to the tune of £8m in 2016) into new facilities includes a new pre-prep building. Parents describe life in these early years as a ‘protective bubble’ (in a good way). Learning is brought to life with an interactive ‘White Room’ that uses cinema projection onto all surfaces for an immersive experience. There’s also a gymnasium, specialist arts and craft studios lined with children’s creations, a food technology space and a counsellor’s room. Provision for outdoor learning is exceptional, with two forest school areas capturing children’s imaginations, whether for a newt hunt or discovering wriggly worms. There are two libraries (pre-prep and prep), both welcoming and filled with a vast selection of books, eye-catching displays and cosy reading corners.

From the start, there are specialist teachers for ICT (children use iPads from year 1), music, yoga, French, art, PE and forest school. As you’d expect, there’s a gear shift as children move up to the prep for year 3, when science is also specialist taught along with design, technology and engineering (DTE) - and, by year 6, German, Mandarin and Latin too. Expectations are high throughout. Children who’ve experienced other school settings speak of academic standards feeling several years ahead at Fairfield. We observed students completely absorbed by their tasks, calmly and methodically working, but unafraid to ask teachers for help.

Particularly noticeable is how curiosity, critical thinking and creativity are encouraged at every turn. ‘Fairfield is interested in the whole rounding of your child rather than just push, push, push on academics,’ said one parent. It’s all about sparking the imagination, whether that’s through seeing chicks hatch, visiting the beehives, taking part in the Fiver Challenge to set up a business venture for £5 or exploring frozen dinosaur eggs. ‘There’s so much for the children to do,’ said a parent, ‘they flourish because they’re helped to make the best of themselves.’ A year 6 student told us, ‘You can really embrace your talents.’

Just seven per cent (well below the national average) of pupils are on the SEN register – all for milder end needs - supported by a dedicated SENCo, who teams up with the head of pastoral care to monitor progress. External specialists brought in if required. Families praise the way ‘communication with parents is faultless’ and that ‘whenever there’s been an issue or a problem, they’ve taken it very seriously and been speedy with it.’

If you have an active child, they’ll be spoilt for choice at Fairfield. Pre-prep and prep each have their own head of PE, with shared facilities including an expansive Astro and modern sports hall (built 2019). Lots of breadth - cricket, football, dance, gymnastics, netball, athletics and swimming among the mainstays. Hockey does particularly well. The triathlon club (from year 4) is popular, along with boys’ and girls’ football clubs. Plenty of fixtures with other schools and via the house system – everyone gets a go. The predictable tagline is ‘sport for all,’ and parents say it rings true. Dance lessons are a big hit – including, refreshingly, the boys. Children were mid-rehearsal for a dance performance when we visited – even the teachers in the audience were unable to restrain themselves from joining in with some of their own moves.

At a time when arts are under threat in many schools, parents say ‘Fairfield leads by example’ with its music facilities. As the only ‘All-Steinway School’ in the Midlands, pupils have access to 25 of the finest pianos – and there’s a 130-seater recital hall, plus recording studios. Every fortnight there’s a soundbites concert, recorded and streamed to parents. Music on curriculum, initially focusing on ‘fun and games’ to build up enjoyment. Everyone learns a string instrument from year 2 and then brass, woodwind or percussion by year 4. No wonder there’s such a wide variety of instrumental ensembles and choirs – includes chamber choir, guitar club, strings, jazz band, keyboard skills club and more.

Each year group performs an annual drama production – most recently year 6’s Shrek the Musical. As with music, drama is on curriculum, but – perhaps more impressively - teachers provide frequent acting opportunities throughout the curriculum, including in literacy, history, geography etc. LAMDA available.

Art is popular, with lots on display, from smaller ceramics on classroom shelves (made in the school’s own kiln) to a collaborative and colourful display of sea creatures that stretches across an entire corridor, used to highlight the perils of ocean plastic. The art facilities (two dedicated spaces) are expansive and light-filled - the perfect place to spark creativity. Many children told us art was their favourite subject.

Clubs and wraparound provision (7.45am-6pm daily) ‘absolutely phenomenal,’ say parents - ‘it’s part of the fabric of the school.’ A high proportion of parents work in medical professions, so are particularly grateful for these extra hours spent in school. Many clubs run at lunchtimes too - after enjoying a hearty roast dinner in the bustling canteen (the food here is universally popular, although the pupils want to petition for larger portions), we joined the strategy games club, a real immersion in the world of board games - and a ‘great opportunity to make new friends,’ said a teacher as the children sprawled everywhere but the chairs, even out into the corridor. Chess club is popular, with an annual tournament allowing players the chance to compete nationally. Children also rave about the trips on offer, including residentials. Any favourite destinations? Disneyland Paris, of course.

The house system fires up a healthy mix of camaraderie and competitiveness, with teams appropriately named Normans, Saxons, Vikings and Romans. Also featuring among favourite activities is the head’s weekly raffle draw, held during assembly. Students are selected to spin the Fairfield Wheel of Fortune, with prizes including everything from extra pudding at lunchtime to taking a turn in the lucky dip box. However, there’s one prize that children desire above all others: the chance to walk the head’s dog, Rosie - ‘more popular than I am!’ quips the head.

In addition to high academic standards, what sets Fairfield apart from its competitors is the commitment to pastoral care. Every child we questioned said they felt lucky to be here. ‘I’ve never once had either of my children say they don’t want to go to school, even when they’re not feeling well!’ said a parent. Children appear well versed in the importance of kindness - even without teachers present and prompting, they were keen to treat each other with respect, allying with the school’s much-lauded golden rule: ‘Treat others as you would like to be treated’. PSHE has been rebranded as the more accessible ‘Life skills’ and there’s a raft of wellbeing initiatives, including a ‘time to talk’ button on the children’s iPads to connect directly with a counsellor. Even the custom-made carpets have been embellished with words depicting key values, as a constant on-brand reminder. Parents rave that their children ‘love their teachers, probably even more than friends’ and that ‘it’s not just a job, they care for the children and want the best for them.’

The school’s extensive catchment reaches across several counties, with bus services covering Leicestershire, south Nottinghamshire and south east Derbyshire, although - as one parent pointed out - ‘It’s not so convenient for playdates!’ It’s lucky, therefore, that the PTA is so involved in bringing the community together, organising everything from black tie dos, balls, discos, and more.

Money matters

No scholarships or bursaries, although there is provision to support families if there is a sudden change in circumstances.

The last word

Parents say, ‘There’s a real buzz about the place,’ and we wholeheartedly agree. A school that proves the secret to success can be to encourage the right attitude towards learning, rather than having all the answers right away.

Special Education Needs

As an academically selective school, all children must pass an entry assessment to join one of our classes from 3+ upwards. Following this, provision for any child with additional needs will be made in the most appropriate way, within the constraints of available resources. We have experience of supporting pupils with additional needs, but we do not have specialist provision for these. In February 2023, Fairfield was successful in its re-accreditation of the NACE Challenge Award for More Able, Gifted and Talented pupils. There is also now provision for neurodiversity and Specific Learning Difficulties.

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 Y
MLD - Moderate Learning Difficulty
MSI - Multi-Sensory Impairment
Natspec Specialist Colleges
OTH - Other Difficulty/Disability
Other SpLD - Specific Learning Difficulty Y
PD - Physical Disability Y
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 Y
VI - Visual Impairment Y

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