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Pupils were busy being explorers on a magic carpet in one class and pouring out gunk into measuring cylinders in another. Without exception, the boys were captivated. ‘I want the children to have a very creative experience, so they look back on these years with happy memories,’ states head. Fairly cramped premises with tiny outdoor courtyard but Kensington Gardens is used for daily ‘huff and puff’. Not bad as a back garden...

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Meet Hawkesdown House at the Independent Schools Show 2018, Stand 613

What the school says...

Hawkesdown House was founded a decade ago and has a single nusery class for 16 boys and a double class entry up to and including Year 3. The whole school follows roughly the same timetable; mornings spent on Mathematics, English and handwriting and the afternoons on more informal, creative work covering the humanities, Science, French, art, music and ICT and sport. The boys are kept engaged with very boy specific topics and every opportunity is taken to expend energy both in the classroom, the large hall space and in Holland Park and Kensington Gardens nearby. The philosophy underpinning the school is that teaching and learning are enabled and maximised by being happy, so everyone works incredibly hard to achieve this. ...Read more

What the parents say...

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What The Good Schools Guide says

Head

Since April 2017, Jenny Mackay, BEd from Westminster College, Oxford. Previously deputy head of juniors at both Lady Eleanor Holles and Streatham and Clapham High. Has also taught at Dulwich College, Eaton Square and in Dubai. Teaches year 3 comprehension and drama.

The day after running the London Marathon, Mrs Mackay took up her role as head. She recalls rehearsing her speech to teachers as she pounded along the Thames. ‘I had to take it fairly slowly on the stairs on my first day!’ she jokes. Keen theatre-goer and bookworm. Has travelled extensively. Proactive head who enjoys networking and spreading the word about Hawkesdown. As one parent put it, ‘By cold calling the heads of local preps, and inviting them in, she literally rebuilt the relationship between Hawkesdown and these schools.’ Stands cheerily at the entrance every morning welcoming pupils and parents, aware that minor problems can often be nipped in the bud through a timely word at the door. Married.

Entrance

Names down as soon as possible after birth. Pupils can join at 3 in the nursery or 4 in reception. Occasional places thereafter. Parents invited into the school two years before starting, to meet head individually. Confirmed or waiting list places offered 12-18 months ahead of start date.

Nursery is capped at 16, but room for 20 in reception. ‘We appreciate that many families may want their children to complete their own local nursery, and so we are happy to take them in reception too'. Sibling priority at every stage.

Gradually becoming co-ed and expanding up to 11: its first girls joined the nursery in 2018 and it will take girls into reception in 2019, with the first year 4 class in 2022.

Exit

Informal chats begin with parents at the end of year 1 to identify possible prep schools. Most boys currently leave at the end of year 3 though sizeable proportion leave after 7+. They head for a mix of boarding and day preps, with most favouring London. Westminster Cathedral Choir, Chepstow House, St Paul's Juniors, Thomas' Kensington, Westminster Under, Caldicott, Summer Fields, The Dragon and Papplewick all perennially popular.

Some boys sit for one or two schools at 7+ or four or five schools at 8+. ‘When one leaves depends upon where one is heading. If parents have a clear future school in mind, this will dictate which year they want to sit exams’. From 2022, boys and girls will be ble to stay on to 11.

Our view

Founded in 2001 as part of a group of schools that includes Devonshire House and Lyndhurst House. Named by its owner founders, Mrs F Loveridge and Mr M Loveridge, after Hawkesdown in Devon where there is an ancient fortress. The name chosen reflects the team spirit, hard work and sense of community of those who built it.

Currently a free-standing pre-prep. The big change on Mrs Mackay’s watch is the beginning of the expansion of the school to year 6 and the introduction of girls, starting in nursery and filtering up to the top over time. Exciting times ahead. Mrs Mackay’s calm professionalism will surely mean Hawkesdown takes it all in its stride. Parents are delighted she is at the helm for this regeneration. No major building modifications needed to house additional pupils. School will become one-form entry, with an occasional bulge year.

School went through a difficult patch when there was an inter-regnum with deputy head becoming acting head. Shrinkage in numbers enabled school to plan forward. One mother stated, ‘It is definitely back on track’. Another commented that ‘the school now has a sharpened sense of direction.’

Huge emphasis on literacy and numeracy from the off and many pupils read well by the age of 5. On several occasions, head stressed, ‘we are not a hothouse, but we do get the best out of the children.’ No setting as small classes allow differentiation and no child is under the radar.

Inspired teaching much in evidence on the day we visited and not a dreary worksheet in sight. Pupils were busy being explorers on a magic carpet in one class and pouring out gunk into measuring cylinders in another. Without exception, the boys were captivated. ‘I want the children to have a very creative experience, so they look back on these years with happy memories,’ states head.

Homework is equally imaginative, taking the form of a Take Away Menu, with starters, main courses and desserts that allow for various creative activities linked to the term’s topic. Pupils complete a meal over the course of the term. The menu of tasks might include learning one’s name in sign language, paint blind or create a Florence Nightingale lantern. ‘It gives them a chance to choose and be more independent in their learning,’ explains head.

Head not in favour of after-school tutoring. She wants her pupils to ‘have a life. They need to work hard in school but then have down time, so they are refreshed for the next day. We need to think carefully about what we expose children to.’ One parent admitted there is a smattering of tutoring but ‘not that much. The parents put in the work, though!’

Experienced SENDCo, on-site four days a week. All pupils screened for dyslexia in year 2. School does what it can to help with physical disabilities but there is no lift and it is not the easiest school to navigate. Some seven boys currently receiving speech and language therapy and one boy weekly one-to-one sessions. EAL support offered.

Non-denominational but with a Christian ethos. All newcomers are given a stylish teddy bear, named Jack. Jack is an acronym for school values: joy of learning, all in, confidence and independence, kindness and respect. Children are rewarded with stickers when they demonstrate JACK values. Gold stickers also given for tying ties or shoe laces independently and for demonstrating community spirit.

Pastoral care is a priority. School very aware of mental health issues and accepts that taking prep school entrance exams at the age of 7 or 8 can be hard. Masterclasses and workshops for parents to help alleviate pressure on their offspring. Head has noticed a reduction in families being hellbent on supremely academic schools for their sons at all costs. Mrs Mackay knows that ‘if you put pressure on children they crumble, especially if they are getting it from home too.’ No such thing as a typical Hawkesdown pupil: ‘We have the loud, quiet, quirky, those who struggle to tuck in their shirts, those who want to save the world … we are very much about the individual.’

Children have a say in running the school and boys recently requested to serve themselves at meals. Bedlam on days when rice and corn are served, but generally works well and children feel empowered. Not all child-led initiatives are approved and drinking hot tea at meals was firmly rejected. Hawkesdown pupils do not go hungry. Food includes a sandwich mid-afternoon. Sophisticated home-made vegetarian options include polenta cakes and asparagus tart; rice cakes for snacks.

Located on a pretty road off Kensington Church Street, next door to Fox Primary, so the street is awash with children first thing. Purpose built as a school. Fairly cramped premises with tiny outdoor courtyard but Kensington Gardens is used for daily ‘huff and puff’. Not bad as a back garden. PE takes place in school hall, as well as nearby Holland Park. Football, cricket and tag rugby offered, as well as judo and fencing. Tournaments and matches galore. Everyone gets the chance to play in a team. Possibly not the right school for the uber-athletic. Chess taken seriously and is compulsory from year 2 upwards.

About 30 per cent currently learn either the piano or violin. Choir meets regularly and performs at the carol service, Notting Hill Christmas market, harvest festival and summer concert. Annual event singing to elderly at a local residential care home. Parents feel that ‘art has taken off recently’. Collages aplenty.

After-school clubs mostly run by school staff, but with some outside agencies too. Internal clubs include art, storytelling, cooking, brain benders, board games and cricket. External clubs include chess, Chinese Dragons (Mandarin with some art thrown in) and Relax Kids (mindfulness and yoga). Sport, anything IT related, art and drama are always a hit, but all have respectable numbers attending. Many are free.

Mostly dual-income professional families. Majority British but with sizeable contingents from America, Europe and Russia. About 40 per cent of pupils are fluent in more than one language. Most live within walking distance, and tend to walk, scoot or cycle to school. Most are very involved, but school is not afraid to tell parents to be more visible if they have not been glimpsed for a while. They are encouraged to attend assemblies, concerts and matches, as well as annual prize giving, sports day and carol service, and attendance is very high. Parents and grandparents read to the children twice a term. Parents recently watched delightedly as their children sashayed down the catwalk in eco-friendly outfits, complete with compère.

No bursaries but head explains that ‘if someone was struggling while already at the school, we would have a discussion and see what we could do. We are a family and people do go through hard times.’ No sibling discounts.

Changes are afoot. The introduction of girls and the extension to year 6 mean that this school is positively buzzing. Hawkesdown nurtures its pupils, encourages fun but also achieves academic success. Happy memories guaranteed.

Special Education Needs

How can we help? This is the first question that is addressed at our school. Hawkesdown House prides itself on being as inclusive as possible and welcomes all boys that the staff feel they can help, while remaining a mainstream school. Each boy is regarded on his own merits and the school will do all it can to meet individual needs. In cases where the school does not have the appropriate expertise, the headmistress always suggests a viable alternative and will facilitate an introduction to that school. Hawkesdown House works closely with many outside agencies and therapists are able to work in school with individual boys in several instances. 09-09

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder Y
Aspergers Y
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders Y
CReSTeD registered for Dyslexia
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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