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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 doughnuts – normal and gluten-free, of course. The academic results are impressive, but not the most important thing for many parents. One told us, ‘My eldest was very shy and within a year was in the…

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What the school says...

Our school motto is 'time and space for a full education' and this 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 and a huge variety of activities from horseriding and archery to carpentry and pinhole photography. 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 September 2018, Alexander McCullough, previously head of Polwhele House prep near Truro. Music degree from Durham; after his PGCE, he became a primary school deputy head whilst still in his 20s, moving on to Foremarke Hall as academic director. His wife, Helen, is a pre-prep teacher and head of early years and they have two children, who have joined the school.

Entrance

Via an interview with the parents, consideration of previous school reports and short academic assessment on test day. ‘These are seamlessly arranged for the new little person to snuggle into the class: the experience is homely, smiley, personal and fun,’ said a parent. Means-tested bursaries available, and scholarships awarded for academic, sport, music, drama and art/DT excellence.

Exit

Nearly all stay until 13. To a wide range of destinations: King's Bruton currently much the most popular, with others to Blundell's and Queen's College Taunton; 17 scholarships offered in 2018.

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!’

An average of 12 in a class. 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; 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 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. Overseas students with at least basic English can come for a term or more; the EAL specialist offers two weeks intensive tuition to bring them up to speed.

The long school day - 8.20am-5.45pm - includes a variety of activities: ballet, karate, fencing, riding and gymnastics at extra cost, and free activities such as art, sports, eco-club or playing in the woods. Year 5s upward have is Saturday school until 4pm with lessons, sports fixtures and - the highlight of the day - French lunch. Not all pupils and parents are enthusiastic about the extra day but they all agreed ‘you soon get used to it.’

We saw plenty of 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. The teacher sets up still life projects and even life drawing sessions – recently a geisha. 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 would definitely second that.

A similarly creative environment for science in the old changing rooms, with movable benches and storage to allow room for experiments of all kinds and flexible teaching. There is also a Tinker Lab full of Lego, Meccano, BBC microbits and anything else that can be taken apart and rebuilt, plus the chance to try out new technology such as drones and 3D printing.

The new music centre 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 'excellent' 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. There are plenty of drama productions, too, in the well-equipped theatre. Recently year 6 performed Why the Whales Came, and the leavers' production was Beowulf.

The library opens out on to a terrace, a rose garden, the monkey woods (a maze) and fields as far as the eye can see. Alongside playing fields and courts, including an Astro, there's a sports hall, swimming pool, climbing wall and pitch and putt course. Nestled under the trees is the 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 doughnuts – normal and gluten-free, of course. Other culinary delights have included wild garlic bread and nettle soup, all foraged and picked themselves.

Full (from year 5), weekly and flexi-boarding (from year 3), with a few pupils from Spain and France, but most from the UK, a large number 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. Parents said, ‘The boarding house is very family orientated and they have a lovely time in the evenings.’ Activities include a variety of games as well as more sedentary pursuits. There are ‘family weekends’ spent with the houseparents and ‘activity weekends’ when day pupils can join in too - themes have included 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 pupils love the school. 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.’ The academic results are undeniably impressive, but not the most important thing for many parents. 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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