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  • Chigwell Junior School
    High Road
    Chigwell
    Essex
    IG7 6QF
  • Head: Mr Andrew Stubbs
  • T 020 8501 5721
  • F 020 8501 5723
  • E [email protected]
  • W www.chigwell-school.org
  • A mainstream independent school for pupils aged from 4 to 11 with a linked senior school
  • Boarding: No
  • Local authority: Essex
  • Pupils: 410
  • Religion: Church of England
  • Fees: £14,685 - £20,835 pa
  • Open days: October / November; visits at other times encouraged
  • Review: View The Good Schools Guide Review
  • Linked schools: Chigwell School

What says..

Rarely have we come across such quiet learners on a school tour. There were so many heads in books in classroom after classroom that we gleaned more about pupils’ hair colour than their facial expressions (fortunately, we met many of them again later). ‘Drop everything and read’ is more than a mantra here – it’s a literal demand to kick-start every afternoon. Reading isn’t just big, it’s huge, with reading schemes, awards, competitions etc part of the lifeblood of the school. Later, in other classrooms, we saw pupils equally immersed in maths challenges. Although we saw no evidence on our visit, we were assured that these subjects, along with the rest of the national curriculum, are taught via experiential learning wherever possible, with topic work, workshops…

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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 2016, Andrew Stubbs BA (history from Sheffield) PGCE (50s). Previously deputy head of junior school. Practically part of the furniture, having first joined the school in 1993, and still teaches history right across the school – ‘means you can really get to know the children,' he told us. ‘Really nice’ and ‘very funny,’ according to pupils, though perhaps a bit too soft around the edges for some parents’ liking: ‘I do sometimes feel he’s too nice and could be a bit firmer,’ remarked one, though we suspect they might be underestimating the backbone beneath. Granted, his softly spoken, mild manner sets him apart from the usual headmasterly stereotype, but all agree he’s a ‘good listener’, ‘very involved’ and ‘unquestionably has the children’s best interests at heart.’ Married to Victoria, they have a son that went through the school and recently finished university. Walks to school from his home in Buckhurst Hill, a couple of miles away – ‘often my only chance of exercise.’ Given his long working hours, one can only presume he carries a torch. When spare time allows, history still lights his fire more than anything else (lectures, museums etc), with cinema and theatre other interests. Doesn’t miss a chance of dusting off his suitcase to attend school trips whenever possible eg Berlin, battlefields, Isle of Wight.

Head of pre-prep since its inception in 2013 is Evelyn Gibbs PA, PARICS, PGCE. Previously acting head in St Mary’s Catholic Primary School, Chingford. Also has a history degree, though started her career as a chartered surveyor, retraining as a teacher, after which she worked in the state sector, teaching year 6s and under, before moving into educational leadership. Adept at getting right down to children’s level while retaining an underlying air of authority and has a very loyal fanbase among parents - ‘Mrs Gibbs is one of the reasons we chose the school,’ ‘Her energy and passion really drive through the school,’ etc. As savvy, sharp and knowledgeable as they come, she knows both the sector and school inside out, though we did have to ask her to cut to the chase past all the educational jargon once or twice. Lives locally with her husband, David, and has two grown-up children. Enjoys sailing and cycling in her spare time.

Entrance

Competition for pre-prep even fiercer than when we last visited. For entry into the pre-prep at 4, around 160 applicants for the 40 places, with young candidates evaluated via an assessment based on the EYFS curriculum and is primarily play based (top tip: they are mainly looking for good command of language).

Even more cut-throat at junior school level, where there are 120 applications for 20 places at 7+. At this stage, there’s an assessment, interview and report or reference from previous school. Another 40 places become available at 11+ - around six times as many as this apply. Exam and interviews are the deciding factor at this point.

Exit

Most parents are in it for the long haul, so it’s not unusual for children to attend aged four to 18, with entry from pre-prep to junior and junior to senior virtually automatic, though all are now reassessed at 11 (just the odd one or two are warned if school doesn’t think they will cope). Under a handful a year choose to leave for other schools after pre-prep or juniors.

Our view

Nestled among the myriad senior school buildings on this most attractive of school sites is the red brick 1990s edifice that houses Chigwell’s junior community. It means, as you’d hope, that these youngsters benefit from the extensive array of senior facilities, notably around science, sport, art, DT, music and drama. Meanwhile, back at junior HQ the three-storey building (the recent loft conversion allowing for the expansion of two to three classes per year) has modern, airy classrooms, ICT room and spacious library.

Rarely have we come across such quiet learners on a school tour. There were so many heads in books in classroom after classroom that we gleaned more about pupils’ hair colour than their facial expressions (fortunately, we met many of them again later). ‘Drop everything and read’ is more than a mantra here – it’s a literal demand to kick-start every afternoon. Reading isn’t just big, it’s huge, with reading schemes, awards, competitions etc part of the lifeblood of the school. Later, in other classrooms, we saw pupils equally immersed in maths challenges. You can be left in no doubt, wandering through the long blue-carpeted corridors with their vibrant displays (a poetry one literally jumped out at us), as to both the academic expectations and the sharp focus on English and maths, especially in year 6 where children sit both Sats and the 11+. Not that the pupils seem fazed by the latter – they’re well used to assessments, having previously endured the CATs test and 7+, along with termly assessments (national standardised ones for English and maths; school’s own for everything else). All teachers are trained in the latest maths techniques eg maths mastery, as well as in new ways to teach literacy and writing. They are also adept in helping high achievers via eg additional homework, maths and writing competitions, reading awards etc.

Although we saw no evidence on our visit, we were assured that these subjects, along with the rest of the national curriculum, are taught via experiential learning wherever possible, with topic work, workshops, field trips, presentations and competitions all part of daily life. A parent had recently come in to do a course on financial training when we visited, while a science fair had proved popular. Children told us about Romans Day, which includes a cookery day on learning to cook how the Romans did. ‘Outdoor learning is amazing,’ added a parent.

The SENCo – a popular recent recruit – is shared with the senior school and has been shifting the culture away from SEN pupils spending one-to-one time with the TA towards more teacher training in SEN. So it’s goodbye to withdrawal from lessons and hello to the teacher adapting their teaching style to suit all learning needs. No EHCPs – we’re talking here about the much milder end, mainly dyslexia. ‘SEN support is much better than in the past,’ said a parent.

‘Shall I show you?’ was the response the head gave us when we asked about clubs and societies. A first-rate idea, it turned out, as it would have taken an age to list out all the options – many subject related - shown on a large noticeboard in the corridor. Astronomy, creative writing, science, art, LEGO – you name it, it’s all there for the taking, although get in quick if you want a slot, advise parents.

The ethos of sport is the same as in seniors – that is, the taking part matters more than the winning. But this school does win, especially in football and hockey, and they have a national swimming champion – although that’s probably more to do with their lessons outside school, by the head’s own admission. Pupils are fortunate to share the 100 acres of playing fields, including Astroturf, well kept courts with all-weather nets and outdoor swimming pool, as well as the less fancy indoor facilities which are well overdue an update (it’s on the cards, we were assured). Boys mainly play football, hockey and cricket, while girls play netball, hockey and rounders with some cricket and football in the summer. Badminton, tennis and swimming also on offer as part of the two games sessions a week. ‘My child regularly comes home wet and muddy – just as it should be,’ said a parent.

You're never far from the sound of music. Weekly music classes take place in the slightly tired but well equipped and roomy music department and around half of all pupils have instrumental (or even more popular, singing) lessons, making for an impressive sounding 40-strong junior school orchestra, as well as boys’ and girls’ choirs. Parents are invited to two or three concerts a year and elite performers get a chance to perform in eg Royal Festival Hall and St Martin in the Fields.

Drama facilities are as good as it gets, with the whizzy performing arts centre boasting a massive foyer, green room, rehearsal and teaching spaces and dressing rooms, while inside there’s a 170-strong theatre designed for use by the whole school, as well as amateur dramatics in the wilder community. Schools tries to ensure every year group does at least one performance a year, with the year 6 one also produced by the pupils – but parents told us they’d like to see a greater number of bigger productions. Over 100 do LAMDA.

Art and DT help fire imaginations here. We saw everything from robot displays to self-portraits in the spacious exhibition area in the foyer of the art block. ‘They really encourage you even if your standard isn’t really good,’ a pupil told us.

Pastoral care – which cleverly continues under the junior school umbrella through to the end of year 8 even though pupils are officially seniors by this time - is a great source of pride for the school and many parents pick the school on the back of it (although a couple of parents told us the level of kindness in juniors depends in part on the cohort and friendship group). Teachers know the pupils inside and out and parents appreciate the open door policy and prompt responses from teachers. ‘The junior school is very caring and I’d say that with both my children, if there’s an issue about anything at all, they are confident in feeling able to speak to their teacher about it,’ said a parent. Indeed, there’s a big push on pupils taking responsibility for their own actions and being independent where possible – all results in less leaning on parents to sort things out than in other schools. A behaviour ladder in each classroom makes for in-the-moment rewards and sanctions – short, sharp immediate sanctions are order of the day here. Very few serious misdemeanours, we were told, and having met this well-mannered bunch, we can well believe it. But there’s no mould, as we find in some schools – we came across various personalities with talents in all kinds of areas; the common denominator is being bright, curious, polite and hard working. We happened upon the anti-bullying committee in the library, with many pupils itching to share their latest ideas (eg posters, bullying monitors) to ensure nobody falls victim but nobody spoke until given the nod in response to their hand up. Library, in fact, was in full use pretty much throughout our visit – lovely to see, although we were slightly alarmed to be so robustly challenged by the junior school librarian for ‘failing to book a room’ and appreciated the children’s empathy after our telling off (apparently the librarian had ‘thought we were a member of staff’ – if so, we’re sure none of her colleagues makes the same mistake twice, although school assured us this is completely out of character).

Over in pre-prep, which is located behind a coded gate, things are rather more lively, as you might imagine – particularly on the day of our visit where these tiny tots were literally squealing with delight in the Great Fire of London workshop. ‘It’s the start of the topic – we wanted to really ignite their interest,’ explained Mrs Gibbs, pre-prep head. This is a caring but high achieving environment, with literacy running through practically every lesson and philosophy for children and learning neat handwriting considered every bit as important as forest school. Children are expected to do termly presentations from day one – ‘really helps build self-confidence,’ said a parent. The building itself is spectacular, both inside and out, with a large welcoming foyer and real sense of fun with the large classrooms (each one a different bright colour) full of smiley children. Tonnes of music, drama and art are packed into their busy days and they’re big on communications with parents. The 22 clubs include computer science, sewing, football, dance, ballet and art – every teacher and TA has to run at least one, while a few are run by external companies.

Parents – ‘a mix, with a bias towards the more well off,’ as one parent put it – mainly from a five-mile radius, with a growing number from further afield, especially east and sometimes even north London.

Money matters

No bursaries or scholarships.

The last word

This school stands out for its can-do approach, friendliness, hard work and lack of pretention. The informal, happy vibe that pervades the senior school, as well the focus on an education well beyond the classroom, spills neatly over into this community of younger learners, while more academic pursuits are also tip top – they have to be to get these pupils prepped for the more hardcore teaching and learning in senior school.

Special Education Needs

Despite being a selective setting, at Chigwell, we aim to support pupils with various Special Educational Needs or Disabilities through an inclusive approach that is individualised to each pupil. We have a strong Learning Support Department whose aim is to assist pupils who need additional support and ensure they are able to reach their full potential. All pupils are assessed on entry to the school as a means of identifying any specific learning difficulties. This process continues throughout a pupils time at Chigwell with regular internal screening tests. We offer a range of supports to pupils both within the classroom and on a one to one basis that are regularly reviewed with staff, parents and the pupil.

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder Y
Aspergers Y
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders
CReSTeD registered for Dyslexia
Dyscalculia Y
Dysgraphia
Dyslexia Y
Dyspraxia Y
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 Y
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 Y
VI - Visual Impairment

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