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This is a school for all types of children; not by any means a hothouse but it has ambition and expectation. Like the town, the school seems down to earth and unpretentious but is quietly confident, as it should be. There are big changes afoot: the diamond structure is being jettisoned and the senior schools are transitioning to become a single co-ed school. As well as normal changes and restructuring, the head has had to firefight and bring unhappy parents along with him, which by and large he seems to have done. The impression we got was that parents trust the school and are happy with it and the changes afoot…

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What the school says...

Stamford Junior School nurtures the academic and social growth of its children, whilst enriching them with values which emphasise community and responsibility. The School is a caring environment in which the children feel safe and happy, and look forward to returning to each day. Stamford Junior School is one of three schools that make up the Stamford Endowed Schools. Pupils normally move to either Stamford School (Boys) or Stamford High School (Girls) at the age of eleven. ...Read more

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Other features

All-through school (for example 3-18 years). - An all-through school covers junior and senior education. It may start at 3 or 4, or later, and continue through to 16 or 18. Some all-through schools set exams at 11 or 13 that pupils must pass to move on.

What The Good Schools Guide says

Head

Since 2021, Matthew O’Reilly. Studied German and politics at Newcastle with plans to either work for the EU or become a lawyer; teaching was not on the radar. After university and spending a year working in Germany he then went to Japan to teach English mainly online to adults and children. After two years the teaching bug had bitten, but back in the UK he quickly realised he did not enjoy teaching languages at secondary level: ‘It was more about behaviour management than teaching.’ Germany beckoned again where he spent two years in Cologne interpreting and translating, often at board meetings where he learnt a lot about the corporate world and culture. And then it was time to return home and study for his PGCE at Cambridge as a mature student. He started teaching at 28 as an NQT at St Mary’s in Cambridge and by 34 was its head. Stamford attracted him as ‘it’s an all-in-one school and we love the town’. His three daughters are all at the school and his wife teaches year 3.

He was a wise appointment and has been able to use his online teaching skills to help reopen the school after Covid. But it could be said the Stamford Endowed Schools got lucky in other respects. There are big changes afoot: the diamond structure is being jettisoned and the two senior schools are transitioning to become a single co-ed school. He was appointed without being aware of this which could have been problematic for him as the father of three daughters. It has been parents with older children in the school, particularly those with daughters, who have objected most strongly to changes. So as well as normal new head changes and restructuring, he has had to firefight and bring unhappy parents along with him, which by and large he seems to have done, calming things down and allaying fears. Younger parents appear to buy into the changes fully. He is liked: ‘He’s settled in well’; ‘He’s really approachable and knows all the children.’

His corporate experience is being put to good use as well with class numbers being reduced: ‘We want fewer classes which are full with 20 children in them.’ He is planning for the future: ‘We are very aware of the economy and a possible upheaval in politics.’ And educational changes have been made as well. There is more ambition for the pupils and expectations are rising. Maths and English curriculums have been changed and PHSE overhauled. Parents are being made much more aware of where their children sit in their year groups; lots of meetings and national scores. ‘We are very open with our parents.’ And they like it, to judge by the comments about his ‘excellent communication’. He has certainly hit the ground running; he needed to.

Entrance

Numbers grow the further up the school you go with a large influx coming into year 6 to avoid the entrance exam for the senior school. All children are assessed, even those coming into the nursery. Those going into nursery are guaranteed a place in reception but it’s not a prerequisite. Children come from a 30-mile radius, mainly from local primaries, some from other local independents. There’s a larger London contingent now, as well as the old local families, including the farming ones, with second or third generation attendance. Interestingly there are now many first-time buyers too. School happy to say no to a child after assessment if they don’t feel it is right.

Exit

Most go up to the senior school. Almost always automatic entry to the senior school, with no examinations unless applying for scholarships or a Talented Athlete Development Award (TADA). Lots of transition days and assemblies for preparation from year 5 up and lots of visits from heads of years from the senior school. Head very proud that scholarship numbers are rising. Lincolnshire is an 11+ county so some go to the local grammars but very unusual for a child to go to another independent.

Our view

This is a school for all types of children; not by any means a hothouse but it has ambition and expectation. And the new head seems to have invigorated the place. Situated on the outskirts of the town, it is surrounded mostly by fields and the river and cut in two by the small local railway line. This works well as the beautiful stone boarding house, nursery and year 6 are separated from the main body of the school by a bridge. Like the town, the school seems down to earth and unpretentious but is quietly confident, as it should be.

Teaching is rigorous and thorough with happy children absorbing lessons with great enthusiasm. Interesting to note that those who are behind with their work stay in at break to catch up; slackers or chatterers, please note. The bright and breezy surroundings of the school seem to be reflected in the lessons. Year 2 were studying the Egyptians, year 3 working away on their laptops doing maths. Power maths has been introduced and it seems to be working well with warm-up sessions ‘to get the brain working’. Parents are happy with progress and trust the school: ‘My child has grown in confidence since being there and has come on in leaps and bounds.’ Reception housed in the old stables next to the boarding house and close to the nursery. Lots of space and fresh air here, inside and out, and we enjoyed the delightful scent of hyacinths growing in the classroom. Parents are able to access this area for drop off and pick ups without being in the main body of the school, which seems to work well.

As the children get older they cross the bridge to the main part of the school until they reach year 6, when they come back over the bridge to be in a newish separate building. This seems to work well and helps with the transition to the senior school: ‘They are competent learners by the time they leave here.’ Indeed, that seems to be instilled from reception. We liked seeing the go-karts which are rebuilt and driven every year in year 6. From year 4 subject teachers are used and there is always a support teacher in the class as well. Our ghoulish guides were relishing ‘dissecting a lamb’s heart soon’. We were glad to not be visiting that day. Spanish taught up to year 5 and then split with French in years 5 and 6. German and Russian available as extracurricular clubs.

Learning support is there for those that need it with small groups formed for extra phonic support if necessary; maths as well. Two funded EHCP with one-to-one support. Parents spoke very highly of the SEN team with the SENCo role being a non-teaching one. ‘My child has come on in leaps and bounds with their support.’ Interesting to see a ‘disabilities board’ full of famous faces who have overcome challenges such as dyslexia and dyspraxia.

Our guides talked about weekly hot chocolates with the head to reward successes, and – let’s be honest – talked about everything and anything. This chatty pair showed us every nook and cranny including the forest school, bug hunts, library, swimming pool, piles of musical instruments, newly introduced woodland animals including Rosie rabbit, took in the aquarium along the way and deposited us at the boarding house, all with great humour and eloquence.

Attention must be drawn to the brand new sports centre on the opposite side of the road to the junior school. For use by all pupils, senior and junior, this state of the art building, with its numerous pitches including eight all weather ones, high tech gym, 12 tennis courts, spin bikes and dance studios, is impressive. Parents talk about ‘teams for all’ and ‘how proud their child is to represent the school’. We get the impression that all children are encouraged to have a go and even the less sporty are instilled with enthusiasm: ‘My son was set up to get the ball during his first attempt at rugby which meant he was hooked immediately.’ Extracurricular clubs galore; there seems to be something for everyone.

All parents spoke about the atmosphere at the school: ‘We liked it from the minute we walked through the door’; ‘The children are relaxed and there really is a family feel to the place.’ Parents spoke about teachers seeming to ‘know their child well’ and ‘they really do seem to care’. No parent mentioned unpleasant behaviour or anyone ‘being mean’.

Head has introduced more PHSE lessons for older years. Year 6 were experiencing a sex and relationship education (SRE) workshop from an external source. Mental health care rigorous here with the head setting up a strong pastoral structure: free counselling available, a pat dog pops in, and there are two fully trained pastoral support assistants. The head sees pastoral support as just as vital as learning support, particularly at a young age and post Covid.

The impression we got was that parents trust the school and are happy with it and the changes that are afoot. Discipline not even mentioned.

Boarders

Boarding in the junior school is small and available from year 3; nine children only and all bar one from Forces families with the odd flexi one joining occasionally. This makes for a tight-knit little community with shared common room and democratic votes for film choices. Housemistress from a Forces background too so lots of maps and deployment talk. Trips on Sundays to the beach in Norfolk, laser tags, dry ski slopes, cycling trips to Burghley and much more. And Saturdays means supervised trip into town to buy sweets, followed by baking sessions. Facilities are clean and tidy and up to date. A nice garden too. Numbers are small enough for a family feel and rooms mixed up every half term. Phone removed before bedtime, everyone reads before bed and lights out at 8.30.

Money matters

Scholarships for the senior school hotly contested locally. The junior school pupils are now increasingly winning them.

The last word

Stamford Junior School offers a great start to any child’s education. The relaxed atmosphere seems to nurture even the quieter, less adventurous child. Pupils are set up well for the transition to the senior school and can complete all of their education here, from 2 to 18. There might be rocky times ahead with the restructuring of the school, economic downturn and political turmoil, but the appointment of the extremely competent, charismatic new head means he’s there to steady the ship if need be.

Special Education Needs

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder Y
Aspergers
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders Y
CReSTeD registered for Dyslexia
Dyscalculia Y
Dysgraphia Y
Dyslexia Y
Dyspraxia Y
English as an additional language (EAL) Y
Genetic
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 Y
Other SpLD - Specific Learning Difficulty Y
PD - Physical Disability Y
PMLD - Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulty
SEMH - Social, Emotional and Mental Health Y
SLCN - Speech, Language and Communication Y
SLD - Severe Learning Difficulty
Special facilities for Visually Impaired
SpLD - Specific Learning Difficulty Y
VI - Visual Impairment Y

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