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What says..

Yes, it is a brilliant all-round school, to which parents testify and children confirm by not being able to agree on what is best about Spratton, but it is also a school that is a big hitter nationally in a number of areas, perhaps most notably .....

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What the school says...

Spratton Hall is an excellent independent preparatory school set in fifty acres of rolling Northamptonshire countryside. We enjoy a fine reputation both locally and nationally with our pupils going on to enjoy further success at many of the top Senior Independent Schools. We pride ourselves that pupils will leave Spratton as polite, self-confident, courteous people who have a commendable approach to all that they do. Above all they will be fine people to know. ...Read more

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What The Good Schools Guide says

Head master

Since 2014, Simon Clarke BA (40s), who had been deputy (and pupil) at the school before taking over as head. Educated at Trent College and University of Surrey, he brought a wealth of experience when he returned to Spratton from excellent schools such as Gresham's and Millfield, where he was head of English and drama. A good deputy never upstages his head, so people may worry that a deputy taking over will not command centre stage effectively, but Simon’s valuable experience as six years as deputy is much appreciated by everyone. He knows the children, parents and staff and hit the ground running. He understands the essential USPs of Spratton and is determined to build on them. He hasn’t frightened the horses by imposing some grand new plan on everyone, but with considerable charm and diplomacy is moving the school forward to ensure its premier position in the region.

The already excellent pastoral care is enhanced by a magnificent kindness tree where children and staff add leaves to recognise acts of goodness and understanding. The already stunning academic rigour is enhanced by his emphasis on independent learning. Already at the forefront nationally in the use of IT, he runs very regular staff training to introduce everyone to get more advanced IT in the field of teaching and learning. He has a very strong senior leadership team round him. Parents love the fact that he meets and greets everyone as they come into school and when parents collect at the end of the day. ‘It stops any small niggles building up,’ he says. He has three children at the school and his wife is immersed in classroom life. He exudes a warmth and sharp intelligence (perhaps it is those piercing blue eyes) that gives confidence to the school community.

Entrance

Get your name down now! This is one of those schools that fills up from the maternity ward. Most children join in reception. There are occasional places higher up the school, as families leave the area. Children registered for reception visit the school on five occasions during the summer term before they start in September. They are observed and assessed by staff. If teachers have major concerns they are discussed at length with parents. Any year 1s and 2s will come in for a day and again be informally observed followed by an in-depth meeting with the family. Anyone wanting to join after that will take tests in reading, writing, spelling, maths and non-verbal reasoning.

Exit

The head talks to parents at the start of year 5 about future options and expects to meet with each family individually that year. Most go on to the big midlands' public schools, including Rugby, Oakham, Oundle, Uppingham, Stowe and Harrow. There are an impressive number of scholarships – academic but also sports, drama, music and DT. The head built up relations with these schools when he was deputy and is well positioned to advise parents on where is right for their child.

Our view

Yes, it is a brilliant all round school, to which parents testify and children confirm by not being able to agree on what is best about Spratton, but it is also a school that is a big hitter nationally in a number of areas, perhaps most notably IT. This is deeply embedded. The school uses the tablets which all the older children have not just for word processing and research but for changing the very nature of teaching and learning. Children film their own science experiments to review at home. Teachers film their introduction to new topics and post on the school intranet. The staff training programme and rate of innovation is impressive.

Learning support is exceptional in its flexibility, rigour and inclusivity. There is no extra charge for it. If your child has been away from school for a week or two, or is just unwell and needs some intense work to catch up on, say, maths, the learning support kicks in. If a child has mild learning difficulties or dyslexia, there may be one-to-one sessions, or work in small groups when the team can see that is more helpful. Parents comment on the significant progress made by the children and how the fact you need some extra help from time to time is regarded as the norm for making the best progress you can, rather than something about which children and parents feel a bit embarrassed. Small class sizes (about 16 in a class) help, of course, as do the teaching assistants who are an integral part of the personalised learning agenda, and are as well informed as teachers about the learning needs of every child. Parents spoke admiringly of the quality of the teachers. The head of pre-prep, herself a totally committed and enthusiastic leader, says her first criterion for appointing teachers is that they must be inspirational, and we saw some of that.

Closely connected, and central to the success of the whole story, is the pastoral care. This is where the school’s holistic view of the child is really lived out on a day by day basis. There are daily senior management team (SMT) meetings, to go through not only the smooth running of the day (of which more later) but the progress of individual children. ‘We nip any problems in the bud’, members of the SMT reiterated to us. Intervention is swift, effective and, parents tell us, discreet. The pastoral care and support staff have the reputation for sticking with a child who might be a bit quirky and not conform to everyone’s idea of the perfect pupil. On the very few discipline problems that get beyond the forgetting-the-correct-equipment level, the school has a reputation for being firm but caring. In the prep department, classes are mixed up every year so the children get to know the whole year group well.

The house system is seen by staff as being key to the positive sense of community. As well as the usual competitions, children get house marks for pleasing behaviour and can lose marks for the reverse. These house totals are read out in assembly every week and when we visited, there was a palpable hush of anticipation and sitting forward on seats as the results were announced. The houses are also responsible for raising money and awareness of specific charities that the children choose. The house system allows for a number of significant positions of responsibility at the senior end of the school. The school is keen that year 8s do experience leadership, and even those who are not getting the coveted top positions have opportunities to take on other responsible roles.

Rarely do we come across a school where the parents are in complete awe of its efficiency. Usually there is the odd grumble that the school doesn’t keep us informed about a minor change, but at Spratton, it is the parents who are worried about not quite coming up to scratch and letting everyone down by forgetting some date that has clearly been flagged up by the school. ‘Highly professional’ and ’superbly organized’ are words parents come up with first when asked about the unique qualities of Spratton. ‘Run like a commercial business,’ said one, ‘fiercely efficient’. It is an incredibly well-oiled machine as far as communications are concerned and very much appreciated. On a more informal level, parents can have breakfast at school with their children when they drop them off, a boon for the busy family.

Everything else is in place, as one would expect. It is a broad curriculum, including French from year 1 and Latin from year 6. Cookery has recently been added to the design and technology curriculum and regularly comes top of the popularity stakes. One of the many male teachers delivers some of this, presenting a very encouraging role model for the boys. There is no doubt that in years 7 and 8, there is an emphasis on common entrance. Most parents want this, but one or two told us that others found it all ‘a bit intense’. The pressure clearly builds up, but most felt it was carefully managed so as not to overwhelm. There is setting quite early and tests with revision are introduced soon to ensure everyone is exam ready in time. Even the 4 year olds have spellings to learn once a week.

There is a lot on offer on the extracurricular front. Sport is strong and the school does well competitively, particularly considering it is not huge. Cross-country is popular and successful. The aim is that every child will play in a team and it is certainly not just the A teams that get regular fixtures. Each team has its own coach. Arts are a strength. Most of the children take individual instrumental lessons, which feed into the high quality of the school music making. There is a drama production in the school theatre each year for every year group, as well as drama club productions. Artwork hangs all over the school – the aim is that every child should have at least two pieces on display at any one time. A recent term’s theme of Alice in Wonderland produced some brilliant work in a range of media.

The original building exudes Georgian elegance and calm. Much of the teaching takes place in purpose built classrooms as the school has developed the site since it took over in 1951. The classrooms are bright, displays lively, there is a well-stocked library, drama space, music rooms, sports hall, theatre, three science labs and three IT suites. Everything you could possible expect in fact, except a swimming pool. The outdoor sports facilities are amazing and the higher fields have a wonderful view over the Northamptonshire countryside.

Senior schools say Spratton children are well-rounded, work hard and are fun. That is quite a big part of every parent’s dream.

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