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Pupils were eager to tell what they had learned, and how: 'Exciting teaching, kind teachers, some a bit mad but the good thing is you remember what they say, it stays with you and they will always help'. We saw super maths model villages (lots of nets and shapes, fashioned into 3D high streets); we even gently teased our charming guides about the designer outlets and Jack Wills stores; they responded with good humour, enthusiasm and grins. A hardy bunch, practise in all weathers; used to lose at everything but no longer the case...

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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

What the parents say...

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What The Good Schools Guide says

Head

Since 2002, Mr Philip Hoyland BEd (50s), educated at The Downs, Malvern, followed by Cheltenham College. Read English and education at Exeter; previously housemaster, then deputy head, at The Dragon. Married to the warm, compassionate Henrietta; they met at Ludgrove when she was under-matron and he a rookie teacher (they have three grown-up children). Very much a partnership, her gentle humour a foil for his sense of adventure; both fully involved with the school (she is head of girls' boarding and central to much of school life).

Articulate, charming, a gentleman, Mr Hoyland wants education to be explored, and enjoyed. Seeks to offer 'non-conformist, old-fashioned values, coupled with innovative learning.' More than a sense that his Quaker heritage (his great-grandfather was businessman and philanthropist George Cadbury) shapes his views. Says, 'we work hard to ensure we have happy children here, it is difficult to do anything if they are not; children need to take risks, to be excited'. We watched as gaggles of animated youngsters flocked to his side, eager to tell of their day, show off work, badges, awards. Parents say he is kind, an intellectual and fantastic with the children, 'they adore him', but seemingly he's not always quite so good with parents: 'He's not a gushing head and if you expect your child to always be the star of the show you're probably not going to get on too well here.' Other mutterings that he backs staff over parents, but all unanimous that he really has propelled the school forward.

Entrance

Mainly via nursery and pre-prep; register early. Unselecitve, but prospective pupils come in for a taster day. Deliberately takes broad-ish ability range, 'deal with what we get', but always considers what is in child's best interests (occasional one helped to move elsewhere). Assessment for entry into prep. Handful with parents at nearby Defence Academy (nominally for a year or two, but many convert to boarding and stay). Most years full with waiting lists, though movement, especially of day children, and flexibility for additional groups, means places materialise.

Exit

Primarily Winchester, Marlborough, Radley, Cheltenham College, Wellington, Sherborne, Sherborne Girls, Dauntsey’s, Cheltenham Ladies' College, St. Edward’s Oxford, Our Lady's Abingdon, Bryanston, St Mary’s Calne, Tudor Hall and Abingdon. Occasional early departure from parents who believe school isn't pushy enough, yet they annually win a clutch of scholarships (art, music, academic and all-rounder) to a selection of schools.

Our view

Founded in 1875, moved to this pretty Victorian Cotswold stone house in 1946. Nursery and pre-prep in former stable block with fantastic play area in old walled garden.

Noughties, and the arrival of the Hoylands, saw shift from a school languishing in the doldrums - 'it really was falling down,' said one parent - to one riding a wave, albeit with choppy interludes. 'There was too much complacency; we had made strides but not leaps', admitted the head. 'Our parents were shocked but it allowed the final clearing of driftwood'. Now vast majority of teachers are head's own appointments; admits he has taken a few risks, going for the fizzy or alternative to encourage excitement and develop a joy of learning. This strategy hasn't been lost on the youngsters; pupils were eager to tell what they had learned, and how: 'Exciting teaching, kind teachers, some a bit mad but the good thing is you remember what they say, it stays with you and they will always help'. We saw super maths model villages (lots of nets and shapes, fashioned into 3D high streets); we even gently teased our charming guides about the designer outlets and Jack Wills stores; they responded with good humour, enthusiasm and grins. We were dragged to the plush changing rooms (complete with under-floor heating) but the boys didn't swallow our tease that we especially loved the girls' sauna and steam room (alas not yet!). They got their own back with tales of 'breaking the ice' in the outdoor pool – not literally, but an annual event that usually sees the head dive in first, followed by a posse of pupils.

Only the caffeine kept us from drifting off as the head recounted the extensive building work but, as we toured, we began to appreciate how fundamental the redevelopment has been to the Pinewood metamorphosis, with library rehoused in renovated Orangery, super performing arts centre, new sports hall etc. Pupils certainly appreciate the changes, possibly nowhere more so than in science where the newish labs have opened a whole world of discovery and experimentation. Indeed, we were hijacked by an endearing chap who insisted on explaining his classification diagram (task carefully differentiated) and cheerfully showed us the errors his partner had made, and how they were putting them right. Refreshingly, this is a school where children are encouraged to make mistakes, take risks, explore their learning and get it right.

French from 4, Latin from 10, Greek and philosophy for scholars, enrichment for anyone who will benefit. Classics, French, science and maths top the popularity bill but, unusually (for a prep school), history and geography under kids' radar: 'They lack the zing of other subjects,' was parental response. (Indeed, school has announced that it will free the children somewhat from the 'treadmill of examinations' by no longer offering history, geography or RS at common entrance.) ICT important for all, even wee ones are encouraged to Google. Usual plaudits for art, groans that DT had been chopped for older years and applause for drama and music (including ensembles, jazz band, a chorus of choirs and inclusive performing opportunities). Daily sport for all ('cept Thursday which is given over to activities); every child has ample opportunity to represent the school. Lots of motivational messages on notice boards and gentle reminders: 'win with honour, lose with dignity.' Thanks to new sports director, PE back with a bounce, carefully thought out, planned and linked to games programme, health etc. A hardy bunch, practise in all weathers; used to lose at everything but no longer the case, indeed they are recent National Junior Cross-Country Riding Champions and recently became mini schools show jumping, cross-country and eventing champions.

Solid learning support and a genuinely multi-sensory approach mean those with mild dyslexia, dyspraxia, ADD (Bluetac et al for fiddlers), high functioning ASD are well served. Access arrangements and laptops if needed. OT, speech and language therapy, play therapy, in-class learning support plus one-to-one or small groups as required (most incur additional fee) but not the place for those with moderate or severe needs who need frequent, or intensive, support.

Quietly Christian (aside from the rousing hymns), emphasises tradition, kindness, fun and adventure. Think greenhouse not hothouse; tender plants (and tough weeds) will be nurtured, watered but not pruned, though delicate darlings might flounder: 'We are about climbing trees and falling out.' Very much preparing children to make choices.

Boarding genuinely popular and on the wish list of many; handful of full boarders (fortnightly exeats mean grannies and guardians essential for boarders from far-flung corners). Comfortable, squidgy, homely accommodation and great food, including imaginative vegetarian choices, continental cuisine and school-dinner stalwarts. Squabbles usually sorted over a mug of hot chocolate in Mrs Hoyland's kitchen. Unpleasantness dealt with promptly, no complaints from anywhere on that score; only slight grumble from parents is that communication dwindles as pupils move through the school. Reading room (much loved by youngsters) and old chapel provide quiet spaces, with games room (table tennis, air hockey, snooker) for the active. German spotlight (risk assessed) a unanimously favourite pastime. 'It's so dangerous,' said one wide-eyed youngster, then quickly added, 'well, only kind of', doubtless concerned that we might be among the spoilsports keen to curtail anything remotely daring.

Parents proud that it remains steadfastly a local school; majority live within an hour's drive. True country prep, car park more mud-splattered four-by-fours than flashy Ferraris. Concentrates on extending childhood – the pre-pubescent 'up-do, make-up and manicure' brigade would either roll up their sleeves and regain their innocence – or, likely as not, hate it. Very much for those happy to don a boilersuit, roll down a hill, climb a tree, play hide and seek or chase through a meadow.

Wellies essential, rain or shine, outdoors as important as in. Annual activities week for each year group the icing on a well-filled cake. Pinewood is one of the country's leading outdoor schools (they even have an award to prove it). It's not just the Astro and sports pitches but the treetops adventure, outdoor classroom, fairy garden, child-friendly woods, super sensory gardens; colours for the youngest, then scented, smelly, touchy feely and finally a polytunnel of polygons, plants, maths and more.

Pre-prep headed by the energetic, triple-hatted director of learning. Suits the worms, germs and stones brigade; aims for children to fall in love with learning (we suspect most tumble head-over-heels). Children encouraged to explore their learning through carefully planned in and outdoor activities. Parents genuinely welcome to spend time with their child at beginning and end of the day; no classroom barriers here. Learning is multi-purpose and multi-sensory, extending well beyond the regular primary diet. Learning of 'oo' in moon includes the baking of tasty m'oo'n rock cakes and tracing sounds in sand. Parents appreciative - 'they are really good at getting the basics firmly in place' - though another added, 'Lots end up having learning support which costs extra,' adding cynically, 'You wonder if so many really need it or if it is just prevention better than cure mentality.' School disputes this, saying only 18 per cent of pupils have learning support with fewer than two per cent in pre-prep (equating to handful of pupils max) – so seems perception is misplaced. Curriculum 'wow' days have seen youngsters take off on a variety of adventures including transatlantic travel: office converted to aircraft, check-in desk, tickets, airline food, sick bags – an experience so real, one boy cried at the thought of flying without mum.

Good at building confidence; suits the London day school refugee, but not a place for the smart London set, nor for those into clicking heels and clucking 'Yes sir, no sir.' 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 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 3 full-time and 2 part-time teachers in our Learning Skills department. We can cater for mild problems and by negotiation for more severe difficulty. It would be very rare for us to accept a child with behaviourial difficulties. In any event, to protect the academic nature of the school, we can only offer help to 1 in 5 of our pupils and that ratio determines whether a child with some academic problems could be accepted onto our roll.

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder Y
Aspergers Y
Aspergers Syndrome [archived]
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders Y
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders [archived]
CReSTeD registered for Dyslexia
Delicate Medical Problems [archived]
Dyscalculia
Dysgraphia
Dyslexia
Dyspraxia
English as an additional language (EAL)
Epilepsy [archived]
Genetic
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
Not Applicable
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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