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A wholesome and traditional rural prep where children don’t just get an education, but a childhood too. Every day, pupils go outside and excitedly wait for the teacher to shout ‘Time!’ (translated as ‘Go off and play!’), to which pupils shout back in cheerful unison, ‘Tiiiiime!’ as they simultaneously head, full pelt, across the grounds. Old-fashioned values abound. Even in pre-prep, a purpose-built one-storey building about a 30-second walk from the main building, tinies leap to their feet when a visitor enters. Great attention is paid to handwriting – we were shown some pretty snazzy writing books…

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What the school says...

We offer fortnightly boarding, finishing at 12.30 on a Friday every other weekend and returning on Sunday night for boarders and Monday morning for day children. In addition, once in the prep school, children have the option to board two or three nights a week, should they wish.

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What The Good Schools Guide says


Since 2022, Anthony Rendall. His first headship, having previously been deputy head at The Elms School and before that, deputy head at Horris Hill. Degree in education and history from Bath; PGCE from Bath Spa. Cut teeth in London preps. ‘Adored’ his own experience of prep boarding (followed by Brentwood School) and couldn’t wait to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather and aunt (both headteachers), even opting to pore over school budget sheets as part of his teenage work experience!

Had his work cut out from day one, having been brought in on the back of a disappointing ISI inspection and a merger with Uppingham. Parents think he was just the man for the job – ‘One hundred per cent the right appointment.’ So far has overseen significant facility upgrades, shaken up the staffing body, remodelled boarding and is growing pupil numbers ‘while keeping a small school feel’. ISI already back on track, and parents no longer have to worry the place is going to fall down. Achieved all this while – according to pupils – being out and about ‘most of the time’, which can’t be easy as he has one of the nicest, cosiest studies we’ve seen. Pupils say he is ‘funny’, ‘but you know when he means business’. Wife, Lucy, ‘very involved’, and they have three sons – the older two at the school, the youngest waiting in the wings. All that’s missing is the black lab.

There is something of a marketeer in his manner, though he clearly also relishes the more people-facing side of the job. A fast-talker too, no more so than when listing his most played sports. After cricket, golf, tennis, rugby, climbing, skiing and surfing, we gave up trying to jot them down. Used to play the trumpet, still sings. Loves debating.


Newish pre-prep means most children now arrive in reception, following a taster day. Next key entry point is year 3, with handfuls joining every year thereafter, resulting in numbers almost doubled at top of school. Gently selective, with assessments in maths, spelling, reading and NVR from year 3, plus short interview. Individual year groups can be boy or girl heavy, but there’s a good balance overall.


Everyone stays until 13+, progressing to mainly co-ed public schools. Half of the year group head off to Oundle and Uppingham but, despite the merger with the latter, parents say there’s ‘absolutely no pressure to apply there’, a concern some initially had. Others recently to Cranbrook, Oakham, Rugby and Stamford Hill. Head has good relationships with these and other schools, regularly visiting a wide range. Scholarships ‘given proper attention, which wasn’t the case in the past’, with four in 2023.

Our view

As sweeping drives go, Maidwell’s is up there. On the right, ancient trees frame breathtaking views of lush lawns, well-kept gardens, sports pitches and trout-stocked lake, with a patchwork quilt of rolling Northamptonshire countryside beyond. On the left is the main school, housed in 17th-century turreted hall – magnificent but unintimidating. There’s also a six-hole golf course, forest school, treehouse and ‘wilderness’ where children build dens, play games such as manhunt, and climb trees – ‘only to three times our own height,’ we were earnestly assured.

These riches are not just saved for high days and holidays. Every day, pupils go outside and excitedly wait for the teacher to shout ‘Time!’ (translated as ‘Go off and play!’), to which pupils shout back in cheerful unison, ‘Tiiiiime!’ as they simultaneously head, full pelt, across the grounds.

Inside is a spacious entrance hall with creaky floors, old wooden lockers, grand piano, games area (chess, naturally) and a wide staircase with patchwork cushions in the vast bay windows. Every Christmas, pupils sing carols round the tree, with head girl and boy placing the star on the top and the youngest hanging a glass dove on the lower branch, followed by ‘the best ever’ Christmas lunch. Classrooms too feel homely and loved, with carpets, wooden desks and vibrant displays. Our guides’ favourite was the geography classroom, whose walls are adorned with flags, maps and a much-loved weekly quiz. On the landings, you’re never far from a squidgy sofa.

The school’s size is a strength – any latent talent is spotted, according to parents, and nobody can hide. Class sizes max at 16, with streaming in some year groups, depending on need, and separate setting for maths and English. French and Latin for all, and there’s Greek for potential scholars. In year 3, majority of time is spent with the class teachers, with specialist teaching in PE, music, art and French; other subjects added from year 4. Many are trained secondary teachers, which ‘enables us to be teaching to almost GCSE level by the time pupils leave’. Exam technique covered in detail in the run-up to senior school exams, and all CE pupils create a revision plan. Prep all done at school. Pupils say, ‘They work you hard but at your level.’ We were impressed by the sheer number of hands popping up in a poetry comprehension lesson (‘What the Dickens is the poem about anyway?’ posed the teacher), while in a Latin lesson (‘taught brilliantly!’ according to pupils) children were making up rhymes by which to remember tricky vocab.

Old-fashioned values abound. Even in pre-prep, a purpose-built one-storey building about a 30-second walk from the main building, tinies leap to their feet when a visitor enters. Great attention is paid to handwriting – we were shown some pretty snazzy writing books. What they lose in wall displays (but only because it was the beginning of the academic year, we were assured), they make up for in toys (year 1s were counting with plastic dinosaurs) and it’s clear everyone loves the thematic learning – crowns and gowns; where my wellies take me; Great Fire of London, etc. Pupils come up to the prep for assembly (called ‘prayers’) and year 8s go to them to read.

Learning support ‘much better than it was’, say parents: ‘They really think outside the box and communicate with you.’ Staffed by a part-time SENCo, two part-time SEN teachers and two TAs, the emphasis is on classroom-based support, with booster groups in handwriting, spelling and reading. One-to-ones chargeable. Mild dyslexia, dyscalculia, dyspraxia, ADHD and autism all in a day’s work. Specialist EAL teacher supports international students, who are often withdrawn from French or Latin. Three EHCPs when we visited. School draws on Uppingham’s SEN expertise and is also in close dialogue with senior schools to ensure seamless transition.

Uplifting pupil art is everywhere – beautifully framed too. In the art room itself, we watched year 5s getting properly messy with paint ready for their collages. Wonderful. Emphasis on painting, drawing and printing, but no kiln. No fancy DT centre, but they get to use Uppingham’s (ditto with the drama centre and certain sports facilities), and the school has a rustic carpentry shed (although we wouldn’t fancy a winter lesson there).

Drama on curriculum for younger years, with a big performance in the Lent term. Matilda up next (‘Oh I really, really want to be Miss Honey!’ exclaimed one girl, hands clasped). If being in the spotlight isn’t your child’s bag, there’s always sound and lighting or, as one parent said, ‘They can show parents to their seats on the big night.’ LAMDA popular, especially from year 7, and poetry readings are a focus.

Impressive music facilities, with the cluster of classrooms and practice rooms lined with instruments, including some unusual Thai instruments a teacher brought back. Over 90 per cent learn an instrument and there’s a 40-strong orchestra, with multiple ensembles and three choirs – junior, senior and church. The school has no trouble persuading boys to audition – always a good sign. Big Christmas and summer concerts, where again the whole school performs, ‘from a bit of jingling on the triangle right through to guitar solos’. Weekly music lessons for all – our guides said they were learning about Peter and the Wolf.

A new director of sport has been tasked with setting higher expectations around participation and standards. ‘Come back in five years and I think you’ll see real excellence,’ predicted a parent. Now on curriculum six days a week, with ‘everyone in the teams’. Main sports are rugby, hockey and football for boys, and netball and hockey for the girls, plus cricket for all (taught co-ed). These – plus eg shooting, orienteering, climbing, tennis, outward bounds, cross-country, athletic, yoga – are rotated on a carousel. Depending on which year group you find a parent from, they’ll tell you Maidwell children win everything or nothing! Weekly swimming in school’s indoor pool, and there’s a sports hall and even squash courts. Several sports tours.

This is a sociable school, where everyone knows everyone – all helped by the vertical tutor system, daily whole-school assemblies, twice-monthly Sunday church service and mixed-age tables for lunches, taken in quite the loveliest prep school dining room we’ve ever seen. Lashings of bubbling, delicious home-made lasagne, along with garlic bread, salad and brownies and cream were laid out on the long wooden tables, all served up by teachers. Plus napkins, proper salt and pepper grinders and all manner of sauces. A favourite is Teachers’ Torture, a treacle tart so solid that watching the teachers chisel away it has the pupils in stitches. There’s daily grace, a hand bell for announcements and a bowl of sweets that’s passed round at the end. ‘Grog’ (home-made snacks) served up three times daily.

We found pupils cheery, considerate and well-mannered. Displays emphasise ‘kindness superheroes of Maidwell’ and ‘bye bye bullying’. ‘It took me about one day to settle,’ said a new year 8. Pupils say they can talk to ‘most teachers’. ‘Matron is like my mum at school,’ we kept hearing. Confidence building seen as essential – nobody leaves year 8 without a trophy in something. This is a no-phone school (and pupils approve!) but the 21st century has not bypassed Maidwell, with all pupils now taking an iPad to every lesson. Lovely approach to uniform, with choice of check shirts and variously coloured tweed jackets.

Parents a tight-knit bunch. There’s money swilling around, but there’s a feeling that it’s ‘a bit less posh’ in the younger years coming through. Dual income families appreciate the wraparound care, available from 8am to 5.30pm (pre-prep) and 7pm (prep). Latter includes supper and activities (over 60 in total) including the likes of fly fishing, trout smoking and scuba diving. ‘When you drive in to get your child,’ said one parent, ‘they all wave at you from the trees and lawns, it’s quite magical.’ If there’s a weak link, they told us, it’s comms – ‘It needs to step up a notch.’


Traditionally full boarding only. Now, everyone goes home every second Friday lunchtime, so there’s a choice between fortnightly boarding and staying over two or three nights a week. Dorms – one floor for girls, the other for boys – are awaiting a refurb so are currently more shabby than chic, but still cosy enough. Up to six beds a room, with dorm captains (top-year pupils) in every room ‘to make sure everyone’s happy – and tidy’. Jaw-dropping views across the countryside. Common rooms in the making – one each for boys and girls, eagerly anticipated. We liked the old-fashioned landlines in cosy nooks around the school, from which children can call home, and pupils actually write letters to their parents! Everyone loves the new houseparent – the first time the school has had one living on site (she doubles up as the art teacher). Grounds made full use of, otherwise it’s baking, crafts and telly nights inside. Comics and ‘grog’ before bed. Saturday school every other week, and trips out on Sundays, most recently to a roller disco. ‘My son is desperate to board – no joke, he asks every day and even asked for it for a birthday present!’ said one parent. Less than 10 per cent international – mainly European, notably Spain, with others from further afield, eg Thailand.

The last word

A wholesome and traditional rural prep where children don’t just get an education, but a childhood too. They build dens, boat in the lake and play in the wilderness, while also soaring ahead in their studies. Boarding more flexible, and day pupils also now welcome, ultimately attracting more local families.

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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