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Nestled under the trees is forest school with a newly built roundhouse and large fire-pit. When we visited, it was alive with activity; one group was rubbing flints to make fire, another was learning to saw and a third group was making donuts – normal and gluten-free, of course. But the most important thing for many parents is self-belief and confidence and the school does a great job here. One parent told us, ‘My eldest was very shy and within a year was in the…

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What the school says...

The phrase 'Time and Space for a Full Education' runs through everything we do here at Perrott Hill. As one would expect, this is delivered from an academic perspective, but it is the ability to enrich the children's lives with a vast number of different activities that explains why Perrott Hill is loved by the children and why the pupils look forward to coming to school and want to learn.

A talented and dedicated staff deliver a full programme of academic lessons, games sessions (five afternoons a week) and a huge variety of activities from horseriding and archery to craft and den building in the woods. Some 75% of children learn a musical instrument and Art and Drama are extremely popular throughout the school.
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What the parents say...

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What The Good Schools Guide says

Headmaster

Since 2015, Tim Butcher. Originally from Winchester, Tim was educated at The Pilgrims’ School, where he was a Quirister, and later at Lancing College. The ‘voice of an angel,’ parents told us, he is passionate about singing and after a stint of directing children’s theatre and working in holiday camps, he toyed with the idea of becoming a voice coach. However, marriage and a family steered him towards a teaching career and by the age of 24 he was head of history at his old school, The Pilgrims. He then went on to become housemaster of choristers at The Chorister School, Durham Cathedral, and lastly, deputy head at Winchester House for five years before joining Perrott Hill. Tim lives on campus with his wife and three children and one parent told us he ‘is reassuringly the right person to bring the school into its next phase of growth.’ Another said, ‘He is very visible, equally accessible to children and staff and evidently delights in the wondrous process of acorn to oak.’

Entrance

Non-selective, entry is at the discretion of the head following an interview with the parents and consideration of previous school reports. Scholarships awarded for academic, sport, music, drama and art/DT excellence. Means-tested bursaries also available. Overseas pupils should be at Basic Level A1 in English and are expected to complete a minimum of one term and preferably three terms; no short study programme. The EAL specialist teacher can offer two weeks intensive tuition to bring pupils up to speed. The school will consider all children, but may not offer a place if any special educational needs cannot be supported.

Open mornings every term. ‘As soon as we saw Perrott we were bowled over by the warmth of the teaching staff and parents, the happy positive and politeness of the children as we looked around and the stunning setting of the school and grounds.’ There’s a taster day plus a test day. Test day is a short academic assessment to ensure the school can meet all educational requirements. According to parents, these days are far from daunting. ‘They are seamlessly arranged for the new little person to snuggle into the class: the experience is homely, smiley, personal and fun.’ There is also a ‘new pupils' day’ at the end of the summer term and lots of help to settle in once started; ‘The settling process was great, they had two buddies, they were there to meet them in the car park on any settling days and the first week of starting. They also wrote them welcome cards.’

Exit

Nearly all stay until 13. (This year only three pupils left at the end of year 6 to go to Colyton Grammar.) In 2016, over half of all leavers won awards or scholarships to their schools of choice. These included Blundell's, Canford, King's College Taunton, Leweston, Millfield, Queen's College Taunton, Sherborne Girls, Sherborne, Taunton School and Wellington School. Other destinations include Harrow, Winchester, Eton, Bryanston and King’s Bruton.

Our view

Founded in 1946, Perrott Hill is situated in 28 acres of beautiful grounds and woodland close to the Somerset-Dorset border. It is a traditional prep that embraces its surroundings and promotes good country living, a big selling point for many parents. One told us, ‘They love the outdoor opportunities; double woods sessions, golf before lunch, farming in the afternoon - they didn't get to do that in London!’

The school day is long, from 8.20am-5.45pm, but all the (many) activities on offer are fitted into these hours. One parent told us, ‘There were many opportunities for the children, the hours of care suited us and the nurturing environment suited our children.’ Activities include ballet, karate, fencing, riding, gymnastics (at extra cost) and unpaid activities such as art, sports, eco-club or playing in the woods. From year 5, there is school on Saturdays until 4pm (for day pupils and boarders). There are lessons, sports fixtures and the highlight of the day is the French lunch. Not all pupils and parents are enthusiastic about the extra day but they all agreed ‘you soon get used to it.’ During the school weekday there are two long breaks of 40 minutes, one in the morning and one after lunch. Pupils are not only encouraged to rest or play in these periods; they are given the chance to read or to work on an art project. We saw plenty of these projects in the small but very productive art studio. One pupil, inspired by his recent travels, had created a collage of a world map showing flight paths. A class trip to Lulworth Cove was another inspiration. Art is obviously very popular and the teacher sets up still life projects and even life drawing sessions – the last one was a geisha. Parents are invited to take workshops too. One parent who used to work for John Galliano ran a ‘punk’ workshop recently, another ran a photography session. One parent said, ‘The art department is fantastic at school and with the resources it has bats way above other schools, but we would love there to be a bigger art room and facilities as it is such an amazing department.’ We will definitely second that.

The head is planning on creating a similarly creative environment for science. Now the new sports hall is complete, the old changing room will be refurbished as a ‘science suite’. The labs will be set up with movable benches and storage to allow room for experiments of all kinds and flexible teaching. There will also be a ‘tinker room’ full of Lego, Meccano, BBC micro-bits and anything else that can be used for ‘free-flow projects’ at break times. Although many parents love that screens are few and far between at Perrott (fibre-optic broadband only reached them last summer), the head feels it’s important to find a balance and prepare children for the real world. This is a creative and fun way to do it.

The location and outside environment are stunning; in fact it’s hard to believe that anybody could have a bad day here. At the back of the main school building the library opens out on to a terrace, a rose garden, the monkey woods (a maze) and fields for as far as the eye can see. There are playing fields with an athletics track, cricket pitches and nets, rugby and football pitches and a pavilion. Plus two hard courts, a climbing wall, an Astroturf, a sports hall, a heated swimming pool, and not one but two golf holes and a practice putting green. Nestled under the trees is forest school with a newly built roundhouse and large fire-pit. When we visited, it was alive with activity; one group was rubbing flints to make fire, another was learning to saw and a thride group was making donuts – normal and gluten-free, of course. Other culinary delights have included wild garlic bread and nettle soup, all foraged and picked themselves.

Not far from the forest school is the new music centre. Fundraising for this has included staff taking grade 1 music exams, and an auction to become head for the day (head becomes a pupil, of course). Environmentally sensitive, it sits in the natural slope of the hill, clad in cedar. Concertina doors open out onto the decking looking across the Somerset hills. Fantastically inspirational. The department is run by ‘an excellent music teacher’ who has set up a good-sized string orchestra for such a small school (all year 2s learn violin for a year), and a choir that has been to Venice, Prague, Rome and London. As well as musical performances, there are plenty of drama productions too, all taking place in the well-equipped theatre. Most recently year 6 performed Why the Whales Came, and the leavers' production will be Beowolf.

Class sizes are small, average of 12 to a class, with two classes in most years. Years 6 and 7 are streamed in preparation for common entrance. Excellent learning support department, highly praised by parents. One told us, ‘My child, having received learning support for a few years is now leaving with scholarships, has been made a prefect, his confidence has increased and his academic ability has improved enormously.’ Another told us, ‘He had lost his confidence and with the individualised teaching and fantastic learning support it is like Pandora’s box has been opened, it is so wonderful to see.’ The head of SEN is a literary specialist and there is an in-house team of five assistants plus an external team, Sound Thinking, who provide speech and language therapy and educational psychology. The school provides good support for dyslexia and dyscalculia and extra tuition can take place instead of Latin or French, at an extra cost.

The school offers full, weekly and flexi-boarding. Boarding has become increasingly popular, especially for those planning to go on to board at senior school. Currently there are 8 full boarders and 24 weekly. There are six pupils from Spain, one from France and the rest are from the UK. In fact a large number are fairly local. One parent said, ‘They love it! We live only 15 minutes away and the older boys choose to weekly board and flexi board. Sometimes they don't want to come home - they have a lot of fun!’ Flexi boarders must book regular days; the school is keen not to be used as a hotel. There are currently 40 boarders (girls and boys) in for one to three nights, mainly from the older years. Flexi or weekly boarding is available from year 3, and although numbers are currently low, interest is growing in the lower year groups. Full boarding available from year 5. Due to the high demand (there is a waiting list) the school is converting the old music suite into two senior boys’ dorms and a shared common room over the summer. Dorms are a good size and there are decent separate common rooms. Parents said, ‘The boarding house is very family orientated and they have a lovely time in the evenings when the houseparents are very involved with activities with the boarders.’ Evening activities include reading, music practice, watching TV, art, ICT, games in the sports hall, tennis, football, skateboarding, rollerblading. There are ‘family weekends’ spent with the houseparents and then there are ‘activity weekends’ when day pupils can join in too (up to 40 pupils). Past weekend themes have been Inspector Gadget, Indiana Jones (with an assault course), Harry Potter and Making a Musical. ‘The boarding staff are fantastic; my children have always been very happy to board, although we tend to build it up over a few years as they get older, and have more stamina,’ parents told us.

The best thing about this school is that the pupils love it, something we couldn’t help but notice on our visit. One parent said, ‘She will not hear a bad word against it or anything to do with it and cannot under any circumstances be persuaded to stay at home if she is under the weather.’ And the academic results are undeniably impressive. But the most important thing for many parents is self-belief and confidence and the school does a great job here. One parent told us, ‘My eldest was very shy and within a year was in the final of the school poetry recital performing in front of the whole school and parents - in less than one year!’ With confidence and self-belief you can go far.

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