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Objective is to move the school gently forwards, but nothing dramatic on the cards. Wants to raise aspiration and broaden leavers’ destinations, encouraging parents and pupils to aim high. Facilities also on the hit list, such as enclosing the outdoor pool and perhaps an enhanced focus on design, ‘to encourage practical skills, everything from frying an egg to building a robot’. A big school, but effectively divided into...

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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. International business management at Newcastle and then eight years as an investment manager before going into teaching, first at Cothill House (his alma mater, and where brother Duncan was head), then as head to Château de Sauveterre and Mowden Hall. An unbelievable rise to the top, really – if he wasn’t so nice, we’d be suspicious. Married to Nici, also a teacher and his inspiration for going into education; they have two sons, both were at Pinewood.

Joined the school between lockdowns. Spent every morning of his first year getting to know parents through their windscreens at drop-off – ‘By Easter I could recognise a Pinewood car in the Sainsbury’s car park.’ Prep school through and through – a natural sports coach, according to parents, in his element running around on a Saturday morning with a whistle. In fact, a total sports nut – give him a racquet, a ball or a surfboard and Mr Bailey’s a happy man. Calm, confident and, we imagine, unflappable. How does he do it? ‘A 20-minute run seems to do the job’, he says, ‘and I don’t lose sleep over anything.’

Objective is to move the school gently forwards, but nothing dramatic on the cards – ‘modernising tradition’, he calls it. Wants to raise aspiration and broaden leavers’ destinations, encouraging parents and pupils to aim high. Facilities also on the hit list, such as enclosing the outdoor pool and perhaps an enhanced focus on design, ‘to encourage practical skills, everything from frying an egg to building a robot’. Excited to build his team – has already made some popular new recruits – and get word out there about the school. Big on kindness (‘Pupils probably think, “Here he goes again, telling us to be nice to each other”,’ he laughs). Glass is half full – ‘Someone described me recently as nauseatingly positive – I wasn’t sure whether that was a compliment or not’ – but he’ll take it. Early efforts to get to know parents after lockdown(s) seem to have paid off.


Non-selective (‘hoorah!’ cry London exiles), so get in quick. Two taster days for year 3 upwards include ‘low key’ assessments in English, maths and reading ‘for setting purposes’. References sought from current school ‘to assist a smooth transition to Pinewood’. Ensures school can fully meet child’s needs.

A tilt towards boys in almost every year group, though parents of girls aren’t concerned and head says this is the ‘most coeducational environment I’ve been in’. Boys and girls seem to mix very naturally.


Around 85 per cent stay until the end of year 8, enjoying all the responsibility and fun that comes with being top of the pack. Those that leave after year 6 head off to independent day schools, grammars or comprehensives. Marlborough College top destination by miles in 2023, single figures to Radley, Cokethorpe, Monkton Combe and St Mary’s Calne among a long list of ones and twos to the other usual suspects. Quite an old-school approach from parents – ‘I want to go to Eton because all of my ancestors went there,’ one little boy told us proudly at lunch (though overwhelmingly they go co-ed, with Radley and the Sherbornes being the only single-sexers that feature regularly). In 2023, 19 scholarships.

Our view

Founded in 1875 but rather nomadic until 1946, when it settled in a very pretty house in the middle of the charming village of Bourton. Since then, stable blocks converted and more modern developments added – pupils particularly excited to tell us about when Charles and Camilla opened super new teaching block, the Hoyland, in 2021. ‘We had to stand in a very straight line,’ they told us, declaring the visitors ‘really nice’ (good to know). Classrooms throughout the school feel loved – photos, pupil work, bunting. One interactive whiteboard had a huge photo of the teacher’s wet-nosed terrier as its screensaver. Library central to school life. School uses Accelerated Reader scheme – ‘word millionaires’ leaderboard in pride of place outside head’s study.

A big school, but effectively divided into units to maintain the family feel, with head of school at each level. Between 14 and 18 in each class. No plans to ditch the CE – ‘as an exit exam in the core subjects it works well’ – though year 7 and 8 humanities curriculum is now thematic with lots of cross-curricular links. ‘We can be reactive to what’s going on,’ says academic deputy. Lots of discussion of COP 26 when we visited.

Outdoor learning for all in the woods or, for the little ones, the ‘squirrel classroom’. Treetops adventure playground with stunning views over the countryside, mountain bike track and mud kitchen – so outdoor-learning-but-really-just-loads-of-fun. Come break time, you’ll find most of the school on the pitches, either running around with a ball or just hanging out.

Early years arranged around their own outside space – lots of flow between nursery and reception. ‘What they really like is splashing in puddles,’ staff tell us – wellies and waterproofs essential. Tinies walk all the way to the woods to explore – ‘we make the walk itself into an adventure, we stop and look at the clouds’ – and come home completely exhausted. We met one, very proud of a self-portrait that she’d just produced – ‘Look, I have arms and legs and shoes!’ Ballet every week for boys and girls.

Head of wellbeing position created a few years ago and department has blossomed, moving from its original spot in the eaves to a bright, welcoming room in the centre of the school. Children and staff come in for regular sessions, drop-ins or just for a quiet moment. ‘This morning I’ve had tearful year 8 girls in here’ – and occasionally ‘tearful mummies’ too. Indoor break sessions an option to those finding things tricky who aren’t ‘enjoying the frantic ball throwing’. Staff praise the Baileys’ support of wellbeing and willingness to invest in it. School linked with a school outside Mombasa, where their fundraising covers the annual salary of a teacher as well as basic infrastructure projects.

Long tables for lunch, teachers mingling with pupils. Dining room decorated with pupil art – today’s menu (curry – hooray) written on the blackboard. Our year 8 guides were sad about the prospect of senior school – ‘We’ve heard the food isn’t nearly as good as it is here.’ Cooking club – Taste Appreciation Society – encourages children to ‘get their fingers in the bowl’ and consider a healthy lifestyle and waste. Recent delicacies include banana boats for bonfire night. Pre-preppers grow veg – annual potato challenge involves, we assume, growing and eating lots of potatoes (‘so much better homegrown,’ we are advised by one wise year 8) and ‘enjoy pulling up their turnips’ each year.

Almost 200 play an instrument. Every year 3 learns a string instrument – no doubt a bracing experience when they all come together – and lots of opportunities to perform. House music competition from year 5 is a raucous affair. We sat in on angelic year 5 choir rehearsal, pupils (mainly girls) crowded around the piano, all plaits and pigtails. ‘Make your eyes twinkle!’ head of music trilled, ‘eyebrows up!’ as they rehearsed Away in a Manger for the upcoming carol concert. Art department lively, every wall crammed with pupil work. We popped our nose into a lesson on Magritte which looked set to be fun; one year 5 recently had a portrait chosen for a Royal Academy competition (presumably the face was not obscured by an apple).

With 84 acres of proper Wiltshire countryside – including woods for den-building and a nine-hole golf course – there’s no excuse not to be out getting fresh air into the lungs, and sport is a big draw for parents. Team sport really big here in a traditional, country-prep way – oodles of fixtures and splendid match teas laid on afterwards, including for the dogs (‘I really know my match teas,’ one mum tells us, ‘and these are the best around’). Beautiful pitches stretching away from the school for rugby, football, cricket. Two AstroTurfs for hockey, netball, tennis. Overall cross-country champions at Shrewsbury School recently; school’s own track finishes with a mad dash through an enormous puddle on the grass in front of the school. Tough mudder-style event – ‘the rubber legs’ – involves 1.5km of tyres, tackle bags and a water jump (‘They jump over the water?’ we asked naively – no, they run through it). Objective is to sow the seeds for a lifetime of cardio fitness and enjoyment of a good runaround.

Outdoor swimming pool is only slight downer on this front, though head told us that this is being looked at – parents felt that swimming programme not much more than ‘splashing around’. Annual ‘ice breaking’, when head jumps into the pool followed by the children, is charming but not a substitute for year-round swimming. Girls’ sport also flagged as an area for investment – ‘It could do with a boost,’ said one mum. School has recognised that and a sports coordinator has been appointed to focus in part on competitive girls’ sport. In response to senior schools’ growing acknowledgement of the importance of the ‘holistic development of each child’ (phew!), a dazzling array of opportunities has now been rolled out as the new ‘skills’ programme: everything from philanthropy to street art.

Four specialists look after learning skills department; school ‘advocates a graduated approach’ – ie can provide whatever level of support is appropriate, from differentiation within lessons to group support or one-to-ones (no charge). Dedicated space in the Hoyland with meeting rooms, classroom and chill-out zone complete with beanbags and Lego. Thoughtful advice on suitable senior schools for those with SEND, including Milton Abbey and Shiplake.

Families from a circle around the school that stretches from Burford to Pewsey, Oxford to Chippenham. A big gang down towards Marlborough, we hear (lots of Marlborough staff have their children here), but otherwise spread out. Sociable: dinners and dog walks mainly, as far as we could tell. Parents thrilled by recent fireworks display, organised by Friends of Pinewood, who are generally busy and active. Demographic modernising slowly – more ethnically and socially diverse than previously, particularly in pre-prep. No longer have lessons on a Saturday, just fixtures every other weekend.


School offers flexi and weekly boarding from year 5 – just over half take them up on it regularly. Rooms are cosy and chaotic (in a good way) – bunk beds, posters, artwork, teddies. Bathrooms clean and modern. Common rooms cleverly positioned between girls’ zone and boys’ zone to give them somewhere to hang out together. ‘Amazing’ matron. Varied breakfast menu (pastries today; full English tomorrow; Belgian waffles coming up on Friday) and treaty suppers including a ‘Chinese banquet’ on Thursday night. Pupils seem very happy boarding – as Mr Bailey says, ‘There’s not a single child upstairs who hasn’t gone home and said, “Mummy, it’s basketball tonight and chicken nuggets for tea, I want to board!’’.’

Money matters

No scholarships. Means-tested bursarial support available with four per cent of annual fee income put aside for this purpose. Try to support temporary hardship where they can.

The last word

If Richard Curtis made prep schools, we think they’d be a bit like Pinewood. Honey-coloured Cotswold stone, wellies neatly lined up outside classrooms, a roaring fire and a soundtrack of children singing their little hearts out in hymn practice, just missing the high notes. We were surprised not to find Andie MacDowell curled up on the sofa with a hot chocolate. Parents agree that there’s a sparkle about the place – ‘It’s got a magical feel,’ they gushed, ‘just divine!’ A traditional, muddy, rosy-cheeked prep school with an unusual warmth. Stick the dog in the boot and pop your Barbour on – this gem is absolutely worth a visit.

Special Education Needs

Pinewood has one full-time and three 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, ADHD or autistic 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 appropriate. 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
Dysgraphia Y
Dyslexia Y
Dyspraxia Y
English as an additional language (EAL) Y
Has an entry in the Autism Services Directory
Has SEN unit or class
HI - Hearing Impairment Y
Hospital School
Mental health Y
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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