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Expect a home-from-home welcome as soon as you enter the oak panelled hall, complete with squidgy sofas and open fire – in full use (to our delight) by the children at break times; definitely not just a showpiece for prospective parents. Pinewood is one of the country's leading outdoor schools, so besides the Astro and sports pitches you’d probably expect, there’s a treetops adventure playground, outdoor classroom, fairy garden, super sensory gardens, polytunnel and lawn after lawn. Every classroom we saw was ablaze with gusto and pupils were keen to....


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What the school says...

We would like to think that Pinewood is a little different. What makes it so is intangible, but nevertheless apparent in the atmosphere that permeates the school, is embodied in our vision, aims and values and evident in our approach to life.
Pupils are prepared for top Independent Senior Schools at both Common Entrance and scholarship level through a blend of traditional and forward-thinking teaching which encourages independence in learning and fosters academic excellence. Music, drama, art and sport are seen as vital to a child's development and the school offers, in addition, a wide range of activities. Manners, self-reliance and a regard for others are valued principles upon which the school's ethos is built. ...Read more

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Unusual sports

Equestrian centre or equestrian team - school has own equestrian centre or an equestrian team.



What The Good Schools Guide says


Since September 2020, Neal Bailey (30s), formerly head of Mowden Hall in Northumberland, and previously directeur of Chateau de Sauveterre. He has also taught at Cothill, where he was once a pupil. Educated at Eton and Newcastle University (international business management), he worked in the City before turning to education, having realised he ‘was not destined to sit behind a desk looking at numbers’. He’d dipped his toe in educational waters as a gap year student in New Zealand and France, but the real game-changer came when his first son was born, and it would seem he is now living the dream since crossing the Rubicon into prep school life. Teaches French and maths and is a talented sportsman, particularly keen on football, cross-country and tennis, plus skiing, surfing, camping and bushcraft. His Wife, Nici, is also a qualified teacher, and they have two young sons.


Mainly via nursery and pre-prep; register early (many do so at birth). Unselective, but prospective pupils come in for a taster day. Deliberately takes broad-ish ability range, ‘deal with what we get,’ with very rare exceptions. Assessment for entry into prep. Most years full with waiting lists, though movement, especially of day children, and flexibility for additional groups, means places materialise.


Primarily Cheltenham College and Marlborough – in 2020, these made up nearly half of leavers. Others to Sherbourne, St Edward’s Oxford, St Helen’s & St Katherine’s, Radley, Abingdon, Bradfield, Cokethorpe, Dean Close, Bedales, Clayesmore, Clifton, King’s Bruton, Millfield, St Mary’s Calne and Stowe. A clutch of scholarships (art, music, sport, academic and all-rounder) to a range of schools is the norm most years – 12 scholarships and eight exhibitions in 2020.

Our view

Founded in 1875, moved to current pretty Victorian Cotswold stone house in 1946. Expect a home-from-home welcome as soon as you enter the oak panelled hall, complete with squidgy sofas and open fire – in full use (to our delight) by the children at break times; definitely not just a showpiece for prospective parents. The main house is also home to other recreational rooms, dining hall, dorms for borders, admin and head’s office, as well as some year 5 and 6 classrooms (although there are plans to move them to a swanky new building opening in 2020). Super performing arts centre, modern sports hall, outside swimming pool, library rehoused in the Orangery and newish science labs packed with test tubes, microscopes, Bunsen burners etc (‘We dissected an eyeball last week,’ one boy told us, elatedly) – a real world of discovery and experimentation.

Nursery and pre-prep in former stable block with fantastic play area in old walled garden. Pre-prep suits the worms, germs and stones brigade; aims for children to fall in love with learning, which extends well beyond the regular primary diet. Parents genuinely welcome to spend time with their child at beginning and end of the day; no classroom barriers here.

Be sure to pack your children’s wellies as outdoors is as important as in, with 86 acres of land for the children to enjoy – and enjoy it they do. Pinewood is one of the country's leading outdoor schools, so besides the Astro and sports pitches you’d probably expect, there’s a treetops adventure playground, outdoor classroom, fairy garden, super sensory gardens, polytunnel and lawn after lawn. ‘I have a tonne of conkers in here,’ one excitable young boy with a heavy tub called out to us. The children couldn’t wait to tell us how they ‘break the ice’ at the start of every summer term in the outdoor pool – not literally, but an annual event that usually sees the head dive in first, followed by a posse of pupils. They also enthused about spotlight, a unanimously favourite (don’t panic – it’s risk assessed) pastime in which children try to get from one point to another outside in the dark without being caught in the teacher’s torchlight. And don’t even get them started on the list of Thursday afternoon outdoor activities (indoor ones also available) unless you’ve got a spare half-hour on your hands. In fact, the only thing stopping us from saying this school is all about getting outside and climbing trees is pupils’ claim that this where the limit is drawn – ‘health and safety means no tree climbing,’ one told us disappointedly, with other grumbles of some out-of-bounds woods that ‘we keep being promised access to, but it never happens.’

Big on teaching the children the learning process, a strategy that hasn't been lost on the youngsters, with pupils eager to talk us through how they got from A to B when showing us their work – and there wasn’t a single classroom we saw that wasn’t ablaze with gusto. Between 42-48 pupils per year group, split into three forms of 16, until year 5 when pupils are taught in three sets, with an extra scholarship set added from year 7. French from age 4, Latin or classics from 10, enrichment for anyone who will benefit. History, geography and RE recently dropped at common entrance ‘to free the children from the treadmill of exams and subjects that just require children regurgitating facts’. RE replaced with theology, philosophy and ethics. Clear focus on teaching collaboration, problem solving, independent learning, presentation skills, linking ideas etc. Computer science important for all, even wee ones are encouraged to Google. Saturday school unpopular with pupils and parents alike, but ‘no plans to stop it.’

Solid learning support is well integrated, not an add-on. A genuinely multi-sensory approach mean those with mild dyslexia, dyspraxia, ADD (Bluetac et al for fiddlers), high functioning ASD are well served. OT, speech and language therapy, play therapy, plus one-to-one or small groups if required (most incur additional fee) but not the place for those with moderate or severe needs.

Usual plaudits for art; DT replaced with graphic design for older ones; lots of applause for drama (year group performances, not whole school, with plenty of Shakespeare) and music thrives (includes ensembles, jazz band, a chorus of choirs and inclusive performing opportunities, with around three-quarters of the children learning an instrument). Daily sport for all, plus Thursday activities which include touch rugby, girls’ football, ballet, clay pigeon shooting, archery, sketch and paint, yoga, mindfulness, drama, mountain biking, model making, camp building and more. Main school sports are rugby, football, hockey, cricket and tennis (girls’ hockey and boys’ cricket the strongest performers). A hardy bunch who practise in all weathers and of course play to win (which they often do) in weekly fixtures but, as one parent said, ‘It’s not the kind of school that gets in the best rugby coaches to help them win the most matches – it’s more a case of making sure every child gets a chance to represent the school and have fun doing it.’ Trips generally within the UK (‘so everyone can go’), the highlight of which (to the pupils anyway) is the annual PGL-style Pinewood Adventure Weekend for year 4s upwards.

Think greenhouse not hothouse; tender plants (and tough weeds) will be nurtured, watered but not pruned, though delicate darlings might flounder: ‘You need a have-a-go attitude,’ pupils insist. Concentrates on extending childhood, Enid Blyton-style – the pre-pubescent ‘make-up and manicure' brigade would either roll up their sleeves and regain their innocence – or, likely as not, hate it. But for those happy to don a boiler suit, roll down a hill, play hide and seek or chase through a meadow, it’s a blast. ‘I don’t get hung up about untucked shirts – a smiley face is much more important,’ says head. Small-scale transgressions are dealt with swiftly and discreetly, although pupils told us ‘some teachers are a lot stricter than others.’ Bullying not seen by anyone as an issue; school is a mobile phone free zone (‘none of us minds,’ a pupil told us); recent appointment of head of well-being and mental health.


Parents consider this a local school, majority live within an hour's drive. Boarding (from year 5) popular, though, and on the wish list for most pupils. Opt for either regular boarding (sticking to set nights per week, often increasing as children go up the school) or weekly boarding (particularly popular for year 8s). Comfortable, homely accommodation (‘the girls’ accommodation has recently given the Hotel du Vin uplift,’ jokes head about the new carpets, door frames etc; boys' equally as shiny but a little cramped under the eaves), with between four to nine beds in a dorm and great food - ‘better than the lunches,’ say pupils. Prep finishes at 5.30pm, after which ‘there’s plenty of activities and free time – it’s like a huge sleepover every night,’ say pupils.

The last word

This is a true country prep, with more mud-splattered four-by-fours than flashy Ferraris. Expect relaxed rigour, not blazers and caps; cobwebs on windowsills, not spic and span. If you could recreate The Secret Garden you'd probably do it here; active children fizz with enthusiasm, happily maintaining the innocence of a bygone era but with the benefits of modern technology and teaching. A genuinely wholesome school that emphasises cooperation rather than competitiveness, confidence not arrogance and team before me. Especially good for the creative boy or girl with boundless energy, sporty or not, and limitless curiosity.

Special Education Needs

Pinewood has four part-time, specialist SpLD teachers in our learning skills department. We are able to cater for most mild to moderate specific difficulties of a dyslexic, dyscalculic, dyspraxic, ADD/ADHD or ASD nature, along with EAL needs, but would welcome early discussion to ensure that we are able to offer appropriate support. Support may be in the classroom, in small groups, or one-to-one as a charged extra. We also offer wellbeing and emotional support where appropriate. It would be unusual for us to accept a child with significant behavioural difficulties.

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder Y
Aspergers Y
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders Y
CReSTeD registered for Dyslexia
Dyscalculia Y
Dyslexia Y
English as an additional language (EAL) Y
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 Y
SLCN - Speech, Language and Communication
SLD - Severe Learning Difficulty
Special facilities for Visually Impaired
SpLD - Specific Learning Difficulty Y
VI - Visual Impairment

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