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A ‘90s building inside the kitchen garden walls houses the pre-prep – large, flexible classrooms with wonderful displays where plenty of hands-on creativity ensures motor skills develop alongside minds. The atmosphere is ‘positive, fun, caring, diligent’ and ‘happy and focused’, say parents. ‘Many people refer to Hazlegrove as a sporty school, but in my view, this does a disservice to the music department,’ said a parent...

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What the school says...

The school is in a country house setting in a 200 acre park. Over eighty scholarships and awards in the last three years. Academic success is important at all levels. Lots of sport and a developing outdoor education programme. Music is a strength - fifteen ensembles a week and nationally acclaimed choir. Boarding numbers have increased to 100 in the last few years, largely through personal recommendation. ...Read more

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Sports

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

Shooting

What The Good Schools Guide says

Headmaster

Since 2017, Mark White (early 50s), educated at Eton College, read politics and modern history at Edinburgh University. He began his teaching career at a state senior school in Cheltenham, rising during his 10 years there to assistant head. He joined Hazlegrove following 12 years at the highly regarded Dragon School in Oxford, where he was deputy head academic. As a father of three children, two of whom are now at university, he can take the long view and finds he very much enjoys prep age children, particularly the ‘emerging adolescents’, tweens and teens, of 8 to 13-year-olds. Married to Serena, an early years specialist working in the pre-prep, he has a keen interest in sport and has coached teams in rugby and cricket.

We find him to be unflashy, warm and with a distinct energy and sense of purpose. The jury may still be out with a few parents who perhaps wish to see or hear more. One father commented: ‘he is still new in post. Very solid and likeable and has not changed too much.’ Another parent is delighted in Mr White’s ‘belief in childhood’: is it too soon to mention how thrilled we were to find the entire school including teachers a mobile phone free zone? His aim for his pupils is to ensure that horizons broaden rather than narrow during their time here – finding ways of stimulating a child’s ability to try new things whether they are rearing to go or reluctant – whilst delivering excellence (a long list of scholarships) and aspiration. ‘There is the expertise here to develop their strengths’, whatever those may be. A new celebration has been devised to ensure achievements no matter how quirky are noticed part of ensuring difference is recognised and empathy developed.

Entrance

A largely non-selective school the only proviso being the ability to pass the CE at 13+, the school mushrooms from two petite forms in the nursery, to four forms by years 7 and 8. Standard entry points are into the nursery, reception or years 3 and 7, but the school is notable for welcoming new joiners to every year. Two open mornings a term, or individual visits by arrangement.

Taster days, with or without boarding, allow children to try before parents buy. Pupil guides from these days are then each new child’s helper and initial friend during their first couple of weeks. During the day, a short assessment provides the school with a snapshot of current academic ability, with unusually speedy feedback at the end of the day for parents. Offers of places made subsequent to continuing good reports. For entry to the nursery and reception classes, children are invited to meet a member of the pre-prep staff before a formal offer of a place is made. A few scholarships and a small number of means-tested bursaries.

Exit

Whilst the school was founded as effectively the junior school for The King’s School, Bruton, and around 40 per cent head off there each year, it is by no means the whole story. Other favourites include King’s College Taunton, Sherborne and Sherborne Girls’, Marlborough College, Bryanston and Millfield. Meanwhile, there is enough ambition to ensure a long-tail of single numbers heading to their chosen schools across the country. In the last few years these have included Eton, Winchester College and Wycombe Abbey. A significant number of scholarships and exhibitions for musical and academic performances, with sports awards leading the way.

Our view

The elegant Georgian mansion with Tudor roots, now tastefully decorated and highly polished with fresh flowers, sitting behind stately gates, manicured hedges and topiary, is a very pleasant surprise as one turns off the A303. The highland and long-horn cattle pacing about the drive add to the grandeur. The school moved here in 1947. A ‘90s building inside the kitchen garden walls houses the pre-prep – large, flexible classrooms with wonderful displays where plenty of hands-on creativity ensures motor skills develop alongside minds. The atmosphere is ‘positive, fun, caring, diligent’ and ‘happy and focused’, say parents.

The head describes his staff as ‘extremely hard-working and competitive in a good way’. A notable crop of ‘excellents’ across the board from the ISI in response to pupil achievements, the contribution of curricular and extracurricular learning and teaching. When asked about the teaching, a little patchiness is reported among the parents who spoke to us. A father commented: ‘Very strong, great classroom settings, and all teachers good with some outstanding.’ A mother summed it up: ‘Some totally brilliant, majority really good and one or two less inspiring’. The first word to describe teachers from the delightful and extremely keen group of pupils we spoke to in years 3 to 8 over biscuits was an appreciative ‘supportive’. A parent said: ‘The pressure is not intense for common entrance – parents tend to wind each other up into a frenzy, the teachers are measured and realistic.’ You may be too distracted by the tranquil views of beautiful English countryside to notice the classrooms, but each is light and spacious with tables to aid collaboration and the latest touch-screen technology. Years 6, 7 and 8 are issued with iPads. Wonderfully small class sizes of 14 to 18 pupils.

French, Latin and Mandarin are on the curriculum. Years 7 and 8 spend a week in Normandy at Easter for total immersion. Spanish and impressively Arabic are available via clubs and linguistics is added for scholars. Classical civilisation is now taught alongside Latin from year 7. Keen readers can join the millionaires' club (a million words). No-one is stuck behind a desk for long, with myriad trips and events. History caught our eye, the classrooms visited by an author, TV actor and producer, whilst year 7 took part in a re-enactment and a very realistic World War I trench sits in the humanities atrium. Meanwhile, geographers have been considering the hot topic of lack of racial diversity in Somerset.

A modern learning support department nestles between the humanities classrooms, with four part-time staff, and has recently received CReSTeD status as a dyslexia unit. Supporting neurodiversity tops the agenda with the head of learning support pointing out a child who received support now studying English at Oxford, but the aim of the department is to help children to feel happy. Children diagnosed with learning difficulties are offered one-to-one teaching once or twice a week, as well as in-class support, mentoring and exam support.

The school simply excels at sport. Everyone has two PE lessons a week including a session in the smart 25m indoor pool. Beyond the lovely new adventure playgrounds lie a golf course, multiple pitches, eight tennis courts and several Astroturfs. Indoors, a huge multi-purpose hall, with space for dance and squash courts. All children from years 3 to 8 have the opportunity to represent the school, plus they can try archery, kayaking, laser pistol shooting, martial arts and more.

Sport is mostly taught in gender-based groups – we notice a combined badminton class – but it’s great to see the strength of girls’ cricket including one county player whilst girls’ rugby is taking off too. The girls are proud of this, but one champion of equality wondered why the boys don’t play netball and rounders – hear, hear. Plenty of glory: two alumni have won Olympic gold. Meanwhile, the U12 hockey team are currently unbeaten, the U13s won the Somerset county tournament, swimmers were finalists across all age groups at the national IAPS finals and one year 7 football goalkeeper has been selected to play for England.

‘Many people refer to Hazlegrove as a sporty school, but in my view, this does a disservice to the music department,’ said a parent with justification. Over 250 instrumental lessons each week (two music specialists per instrument to inspire competition, confides the head), 20 concerts a term and 32 ensembles to try, including a children’s military choir. The carol concert takes place in stunning Wells Cathedral.

Every child is involved in a major production every year they attend the school, which includes at least three musicals during their time at the school, whilst year 7s perform Shakespeare. Art and DT were mentioned as weak spots by parents but in the process of improvement, with the large DT workshop now complemented by a digital realisation suite with a 3D printer; and a new head of art, appointed to reinvigorate, is bringing his own stamp of individuality and drive to this area.

Clubs include swing band, papercraft, Hazlegrove radio (impressive interviewees such as Chris Riddell and John McCarthy), gardening and cartooning. With so much space, outdoor education - home and away - is plentiful. There’s bushcraft in Wales for year 8; year 7 get to mess about on the River Dart and the school fields a year 8 team in the Exmoor challenge.

A mother extolled the virtues of the school’s pastoral care: ‘exemplary – the staff really know the kids, are excellent role models, and do their best to keep on top of an ever-shifting pre-pubescent friendship dynamic.’ ‘No cult haircuts’ in the school rules amused and bemused us. Praise tops the list as a reward for good behaviour. Altruism is nurtured via fundraising initiatives. The recent festival of well-being included a whole community dance-a-thon, tea party for the elderly, life coaching for year 8, yoga and relaxation classes, sculpting, meeting a guide dog, and the finale for any with energy left was a Sports Relief run.

A strength of the school is the way day and boarding pupils blend together. Most day pupils live within one hour. Some 80 per cent of boarders are from Forces families across the UK, often recommending the school to friends, plus a few overseas nationals, currently from Spain, China, Hong Kong, Japan and Nigeria. Some board from a very young age, many opt for flexi days before boarding full-time. Two houses for boys - junior and senior - and one for girls.

We were really enthused by the focus of the head of boarding – ‘encouraging the children to care more for each other’ – and with higher boarding staff to child ratios than is the norm; no child goes to bed without having been seen by an adult, and all are parented every day. Rooms are a blend of tasteful paint colours and practical storage beds with own bed linen; open windows everywhere. Devices are largely absent and the internet cleverly only accesses Skype. Lot of lovely touches to create a family feel, such as children serving each other food at meals, and pets – chickens and guinea-pigs are popular new recruits. Within striking distance of the coast, there is mackerel fishing at Lyme Regis, fossil hunting at Charmouth and fun on the beach at Weymouth.

As Bruton’s star has risen in the fashion firmament, a parent confirmed there is a significant body of families ‘escaping from London with a high-octane approach’. Nonetheless the friends of the school seem a fun and friendly bunch , welcoming the incoming head with a hoedown complete with bucking bronco.

Special Education Needs

Hazlegrove provides an excellent education for its dyslexic pupils. They benefit from high quality specialist tuition from skilled and dedicated teachers as well as a broad, well balanced curriculum taught by staff with a good knowledge of dyslexia and how it impacts on a child's learning. We seek to help pupils with Special Educational Needs, or Learning Difficulties, to achieve their individual potential and to feel confident within the school community. The support unit comprises 3 dedicated rooms containing specialist equipment, up to date IT facilities and a library. Pupils usually have 2 lessons per week which are multi-sensory in design and meet individual needs. Each pupil has an IEP and there are close links between the unit and the class teachers. We are a CReSTeD Category DU school offering a Dyslexic Unit. 09-09

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder
Aspergers Y
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders Y
CReSTeD registered for Dyslexia Y
Dyscalculia
Dysgraphia
Dyslexia
Dyspraxia
English as an additional language (EAL)
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
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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