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To compare the fabric of Maidwell to other preps would be as to compare Sandringham to Beckingham Palace. Here you will find no trace of architect designed theatres or gleaming new boarding houses but a low-key wealth of facilities that’s right in line with the lifestyle of the well-heeled...

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What the school says...

The school features full boarding with plenty of parent access. Two or three leave outs per term run from Friday at 12.30pm until Monday at 7.30pm. In their first year children have the option of weekly boarding. There is also an attractive day pupil package. A significant building programme during the last 8 years has given the school enviable facilities including most recently an indoor swimming pool. ...Read more

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What The Good Schools Guide says


Since 2001, Robert Lankester MA PGCE (50s). Educated at Charterhouse and Selwyn College, Cambridge, where he read history. Leapt into teaching after seven years in the City (‘the best decision I ever made’). PGCE at Durham then 13 years at Uppingham, 10 as a housemaster. Exudes an air of calm confidence that pervades entire school and his charges (averaging around 127 in number) have acquired in spades his self-assured qualities as if by osmosis. Was responsible in 2010 for the introduction of girls, who are now fully established at around 40 per cent of the cohort.

Adored by parents who say he is ‘incredibly all-seeing’. A teacher at heart, still teaches CE history and mingles with pupils at mealtimes. Lives on site with multi-talented wife, Carey (‘a very special person,’ say parents). With such idyllic rural surroundings, there’s probably no need to escape to the country, but when the Lankesters do, it’s to their home in Carmarthenshire, where they enjoy walking.

Retiring in July 2022.


Merging with Uppingham in September 2022, so watch this space. For now, 15-20 join school into year 4, with handfuls joining each year thereafter, resulting in numbers almost doubled at top of school. Small numbers of pupils join aged 7 and are taught with year 4, repeating the year. Very gently selective (‘I can count on one hand the number of children we have turned away over the past 10 years,’ says head), prospective pupils assessed in maths, spelling, reading and NVR, plus short interview.

Majority join from pre-preps or other prep schools and live within a 90-minute radius of school. Few London families, Forces ‘significant’. Less than 10 per cent international.


Almost all stay until 13+, progressing to (mainly co-ed) public schools. Greatest numbers to Oundle, Uppingham, Stowe, Rugby, Harrow and Eton with girls only very occasionally opting for single sex schools, eg Queen Margaret’s, York or Roedean. Extremely rare exits at either 11+ or to day schools. Some scholarships, although head says, ‘We don’t push them. They can be a weight around your neck and ruin your last year of prep school. We’d rather good grades at CE than shaky scholarship results.’

Our view

How many prep schools of such modest pupil numbers can boast such riches? Maidwell’s gardens, rugby pitches, trout-stocked lake, six-hole golf course and ‘wilderness’ – where its pupils can climb trees (‘only to three times our own height,’ we were earnestly assured) and build dens to their heart’s content – are framed by spectacular Northamptonshire countryside and farmland as far as the eye can see, the school instantly seducing visitors with its quaint Swallows and Amazons feel. A 17th century turreted hall is the main school building and boarding accommodation. To compare the fabric of Maidwell to other preps would be as to compare Sandringham to Beckingham Palace. Here you will find no trace of architect designed theatres or gleaming new boarding houses but a low-key wealth of facilities that’s right in line with the lifestyle of the well-heeled parent cohort.

The overall vibe is wholesome, jolly and humane. No abrasive bells to signal the end of lessons or break: ‘This is their term time home,’ says head, ‘and we try to make it feel as homely as possible.’ Also: ‘We have less a uniform and more a code of dress, allowing pupils to express their individuality.’ The result is a charming array of corduroy trousers or culottes, a striped or checked shirt and tie of choice (boys and girl prefects only), topped off with a jacket tailored in pupils’ own choice of tweed. Screen time almost non-existent, save the occasional sports match or the news for prefects. Phone calls home are made from one of a few good old-fashioned landlines situated in nooks around the school and the tradition of a compulsory weekly letter home to parents continues. Free time, or ‘muckabout’, is spent running around the vast grounds, taking part in one of the plethora of activities and sports on offer or – we were delighted to see – reading. Parents love that their children ‘are not just getting an education, but a childhood too’. The 21st century has not bypassed Maidwell, though, and technology is very much alive and kicking in the classroom, with all pupils now taking a standard issue iPad to every lesson.

So, we asked, what kind of 8-year-old goes full boarding these days? Head very clear that Maidwell pupils are not ‘sent away’ from home as was often the case yesteryear. Boarding here is ‘always a positive choice’ and ‘to be honest, the children clamour for it’, he says. All have a 24-hour boarding trial in the summer prior to starting and, as far as we can make out, it’s consistently a hit. About half of parents are ‘old school’, with the rest ‘a lovely smattering of everybody else, but definitely not flash’, we were reliably informed. Those we spoke to – most having had the debate about the benefits of weekly versus termly boarding – were keen advocates of the full boarding model, grateful that their children are not subject to the weekly upheaval of lengthy travels, the emotional switch between school and home life or constantly exhausted without a chance to fully recharge between Saturday teatime and Sunday evening.

Small class sizes of up to 15. All lessons taught by subject specialists, many of whom are trained secondary teachers, which ‘enables us to be teaching at almost GCSE level by the time pupils leave,’ says head. Two streams in each year, with pupils set separately for maths. Trad curriculum (languages are French and Latin, with Greek for potential scholars taught outside of usual timetable). Parents of very academic children full of praise for teaching, with staff spending their break times to offer extra tuition to scholarship candidates around exam time. Exam technique covered in detail at frequent revision seminars in the run up to senior school exams and all CE pupils create revision plan with deputy head, with up to eight hours' extra independent study expected at key times: ‘we make sure they are always in the right place at the right time,’ he says. High praise, too, from parents of the less academically stellar who, if necessary, are ‘taken off quietly by the incredible learning support department’, often resulting in pupils becoming ‘unrecognisable’ in their outcomes. Mild dyslexia, dyscalculia or dyspraxia all in a day’s work ‘but pupils do have to be mainstream,’ says head. Mild ASD (mainly undiagnosed) also fine but ‘I dislike labels and won’t allow them,’ says head. ‘The structure of a boarding school plays to the favour of children who may have been told they have ADD or ADHD – we work with it as we would anything else.’ Specialist EAL teacher supports international students, who are often withdrawn from French or Latin. We loved the vertical tutor system – there are no forms and pupils have the same tutor from the start of their school career to the end and meet weekly in groups of six to eight – ‘it engenders a lack of hierarchy among the pupils,’ says head. Behaviour and manners a major strength of school: ‘we are very strict, although pupils don’t really realise it and parents comment on improvements after just a few weeks,’ says head. Mothers concur: ‘if you want a well-mannered child, send them to Maidwell’.

On top of all the academic subjects, very strong art, led by the ‘young, fizzy’ head of department, and drama equally impressive. One ‘massive’ production every year, described by parents as ‘brilliant – so slick and fresh’. About two-thirds take peripatetic music lessons in the somewhat makeshift music rooms. ‘Not ideal, but it all just happens,’ says head. Sport six days a week with ‘everyone in the teams’ and plenty of match day success. It’s rugby, hockey and cricket for boys, and girls – whose sport is ‘good now’, thanks to new head of girls’ games – play netball, hockey and rounders, albeit sometimes in mixed age groups to make up numbers. Great to see girls’ football on offer as an activity – how about cricket next? Pupils jet away on fabulous sports tours (eg hockey to Barcelona, rugby to Dublin and cricket to Antigua). Weekly swimming in school’s indoor pool, also used for free swims during activity time. Activities aplenty, with two compulsory during the generous 45-minute morning break and three in the evening each week.

Whole school assembles each morning plus service in the church next door every Sunday, with plenty of parents in attendance. Meals all taken in quite the loveliest prep school dining room we’ve ever seen. Family style dining (‘the food’s amazing,’ said pupils – and we can vouch for Friday fish and chips) served out by either a member of staff or, for the older ones, a pupil. Lunch fairly formal, with grace at the beginning and end announced by head’s hand bell, and the tradition of a box of boiled sweets passed round to finish. At breakfast and supper pupils can sit amongst their friends or siblings in different year groups.


Boys’ dorms up a sweeping staircase off the main entrance hall and girls (who have to access their dorms via a different route in the evenings) on the charming attic floor above. Pupils allowed to board weekly during their first year – and can even choose to be a day pupil throughout their Maidwell career if they so wish – but very few do. Homely dorms sleep six to seven pupils. Dorm captains – top year pupils placed to keep an eye on their younger peers – in every room ‘to make sure everyone’s happy – and tidy’. Spectacular views across the grounds and surrounding countryside (beds in turrets most coveted) and the girls’ rooms in particular, with their sloping ceilings, lending themselves to festooning with cheerful bunting. When we visited, pupils were buzzing in anticipation of the competition for most festive dorm decorations (whilst on the subject of Christmas, we are told that the carols round the tree, with the tradition of head boy/girl placing the star on top and youngest boarder a glass dove on a lower branch, followed by an ‘amazing’ Christmas lunch, are ‘magical’). No boarding parents per se but head and his wife, a director of boarding, two matrons and three gappies live on site.

Weekends in school are action packed, with Saturday morning lessons generally followed by a sports fixture and relaxed evenings in with pizza and movies. After church on Sundays, there are trips or friendly sports matches. As one parent told us, ‘There really isn’t time for homesickness.’ House system in place with head boy/girl, house captains and fiercely fought competitions for absolutely everything.

The last word

Maidwell parents ‘couldn’t be more delighted’ with their choice. Traditional in the most positive sense, parents describe as ‘extraordinary’ the extent to which staff know their children and love the fact that school allows its pupils to elongate their childhood, free from the pressures of social media and the internet, whilst packing a hefty academic punch and shimmying them smoothly into their next schools.

Special Education Needs

The school has a strong learning support department which provides extra lessons for those who need them. This covers moderate learning difficulties associated with dyslexia or dyspraxia together with study skills lessons and more general subject support. 10-09

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder Y
Aspergers Y
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders
CReSTeD registered for Dyslexia
English as an additional language (EAL)
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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