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‘Literally, whatever you’re interested in, there’s a club,’ said one pupil, although one parent pointed out the clubs can be a victim of their own success, with disappointment felt due to many of them inevitably clashing. The children seemed at ease with all teachers when we visited, and overall the atmosphere is described by parents and pupils alike as ‘happy’ and ‘family like.’ ‘I love coming to school. It’s nearly as good as being at home,’ one pupil said. ‘We’re big on…

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What The Good Schools Guide says


Since September 2016, Mr Andrew Stubbs BA PGCE, previously deputy head of junior school, who joined the school in 2005.

Head of pre-prep is Mrs Evelyn Gibbs PA, PARICS, PGCE. Previously acting head in St Mary’s Catholic Primary School, Chingford. Did her degree in history, then became 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. A friendly and softly-spoken woman, she doesn’t have an obvious air of leadership, but make no mistake – she is largely responsible for the pre-prep having hit the ground running and staff, pupils and parents praise her for achieving the ‘perfect balance of making the children feel nurtured, whilst also getting them academically ready for the junior school.’ There was quite a bit of parental anxiety, a few parents told us, that with automatic entry into the junior school (rather than the usual rigorous assessment at age 7) that standards would subsequently drop in juniors. Also known for her enthusiasm and constant push on innovation, and other staff told us she’s never short on great ideas. ‘The pre-prep is her baby and she seems to love it with the same level of passion,’ said one parent. Lives locally with her husband, and has two grown-up children.


Competition is fierce. For entry into the pre-prep at 4, around 140 applicants for the 40 places, with young candidates evaluated via an assessment based on the EYFS curriculum and is primarily play based. ‘They come from around 26 nurseries,’ says Mrs Gibbs. Meanwhile, entry for 7-year-olds to the junior school sees eight times as many applicants as places, with all applicants going through an assessment, interview, classroom experience and report from their previous school. By 11 years old, there are nearly 10 times as many applicants for the 40 new places in year 7, weeded out by an exam and interviews. About 10 academic and music scholarships offered (11+, 13+ and 16+) and a growing number of means-tested bursaries also available.


Most parents send their children here hoping they won’t leave until after sixth form, and indeed only a handful choose to send their child to another junior or secondary school, though all are reassessed at 11.

Our view

Less than a stone’s throw from the senior school, and set on the main school site, the junior school is integral to the Chigwell community and adds to the all-pervading family feel. Its educational philosophy, academic and pastoral structures are the same as those in the senior school, supporting the school’s aim to ‘provide a consistent approach to education throughout the child’s school career’. Plenty of joint activities bring juniors and seniors together, easing the passage through the school, and some teaching staff and major facilities are shared, including the dining hall and vast sports facilities, plus the impressive art, music and drama departments. That’s not to say the junior school doesn’t have good facilities of its own, however, including a dedicated playground, plenty of airy and modern classrooms, ICT lab and a spacious library.

The biggest recent challenge for the junior school has been linking with the school’s newish pre-prep, which took its first intake of 4-year-olds in 2012. ‘We want to ensure all the year 2 pupils come in seamlessly, so there’s a lot of work on getting them to come in for assemblies, playtimes and lunches and talking to parents about the transition,’ explains school, saying (and parents concur) that it’s going well. ‘Despite pre-prep being separate, Mrs Gibbs works very hard to make sure it is part of the bigger school, bringing juniors over to read to the children, organising joint assemblies and events and running a buddy-system, just to name a few initiatives,’ added one parent. This pre-prep, which takes 4 to 7 year-olds, is set in a stunning, state-of-the-art, purpose built building a few minutes’ walk from the junior school – more of which later.

Back in the junior school, expect academic rigour at the core, so that children leave well-equipped at 13 to go into the senior school, but with an emphasis on fun in learning, with interactive, interesting lessons by well-qualified teachers that the pupils describe as ‘firm but fair’. Enrichment includes the likes of day trips, visitors running workshops, presentations and taking part in regional and national competitions, whilst clubs range from animation and astronomy to debating, gardening clubs and BBC School reporting – plus all the usual academic and sporting clubs you’d expect. Plenty of opportunities to take part in activities in partnership with the seniors, and there are visiting speakers for year 6s and over. ‘We want children to seize opportunities and really find and develop their interests.' This means that whilst the school day starts at 8.20am, with a staggered finish time from 3.05 to 4pm, many end up staying on – and there’s also after-school care until 6pm for an extra cost (and a breakfast facility from 8am). ‘Literally, whatever you’re interested in, there’s a club,’ said one pupil, although one parent pointed out the clubs can be a victim of their own success, with disappointment felt due to many of them inevitably clashing. Plenty of school trips, mainly day trips into London, but some residentials further up the school.

National curriculum is followed. Languages strong, with French from pre-prep right through, and Latin from year 7; pupils are offered a choice of either German or Spanish from year 7. Mandarin offered as extracurricular. Setting in maths from year 5 and French from year 7. Pupils taught mainly by their form teachers in year 3, but they have a growing amount of specialist teaching as they move up the juniors, and all lessons are with subject specialist teachers from year 7. Latest Sats results when we visited put the school 22nd in the prep school list in the Sunday Times. ‘If you need an extra session with the teacher, that’s always fine,’ said one pupil.

Sport is strong, with pupils fortunate to share the 100 acres of playing fields of the senior school, including Astroturf, well-kept courts with all-weather nets, outdoor swimming pool, as well as rather less fancy indoor facilities, which are steadily being improved. Boys mainly play football, hockey and cricket, whilst girls play netball, hockey and rounders, along with some cricket and football in the summer. Other sports on offer include swimming, futsal and tennis. School does well in competitions, with the under 11 football team reaching national finals for independent schools, and regular appearances from teams across all sports at regional finals.

Weekly music lessons for all up to year 8 and every other pupil learns an instrument, making for an impressive sounding 40-strong junior school orchestra, which regularly performs concerts. Year group concerts for everyone else. The Primary School Music Festival is a big event here, in which over 100 pupils learn three pieces to participate.

Drama facilities are outstanding, with the state-of-the art drama centre boasting a foyer big enough for pre-theatre drinks receptions; 170-seat theatre designed for use by the whole school community; green room; rehearsal and teaching spaces; and dressing rooms. All pupils have weekly drama lessons up to year 8, with a bi-annual play performed to parents, with cast of over 100. Drama club particularly popular and around 100 pupils take LAMDA, with 100 per cent pass rate, and plenty of distinctions.

Art and DT is of a high standard, with both visiting artists and creative teaching staff helping pupils develop their skills and individual flair, with some extremely skilful work displayed around the school.

Pastoral care is taken seriously here, with each form tutor knowing their pupils well. School counsellor also available, and there’s lots of regular contact with parents, who know they can email any time. The junior school has its own house system, with house points and competitions, whilst opportunities for leadership include heads of house, prefects, librarians and catering committee. House points aside, pupils’ stand-out behaviour and work is also rewarded via Chigwellian of the Year award and a golden time system. Meanwhile, bad behaviour (mostly forgotten homework and escalating misbehaviour) results in lunchtime detentions. ‘We like discipline, but it’s more a case of high expectations than lots of rules.' Temporary exclusions have happened (for example, for misuse of social media), but no permanent exclusions recently.

‘We’re pretty lucky when it comes to bullying. We keep a behaviour log and track any patterns that are emerging. Children also know who they can talk to if they feel anyone is being unkind.’ But most of all, there’s a culture of kindness and looking out for each other, so the main work is preventative, not troubleshooting. School council meets fortnightly to thrash out issues pupils feel strongly about, such as catering issues and the rewards system, and each form has a rep who contributes to this.

Homework only given ‘if it has a clear purpose and links with learning,’ with a maximum of one hour a night, and there are plenty of open-ended homework tasks given to encourage independent learning. Children learning about the Tudors, for example, might get to choose a Tudor portrait and write a story around it.

Over in the pre-prep, which is located behind a coded gate, life is rather more lively, as you might imagine. But the extremely well-thought-of head keeps the 40 pupils in each of the three years (two forms in each) in check in a manner that the rest of the teaching staff mirror – that is, never shouting and with a nurturing and soothing manner, but with clear boundaries and expectations. The children seemed at ease with all teachers when we visited, and overall the atmosphere is described by parents and pupils alike as ‘happy’ and ‘family like.’ ‘I love coming to school. It’s nearly as good as being at home,’ one pupil said.

The building itself is spectacular, both inside and out, with a large welcoming foyer, grand assembly hall/dining room/sports hall (with stage lighting, temporary staging, sound equipment), large and airy classrooms with different coloured walls and unusual shaped windows, a welcoming library, IT suite, art and science room and a dedicated outside play zone, pond, adventure trail, soft play area and woodland (where outdoor learning often takes place). Even the toilets are beautifully decorated, with a sense of fun at the core. The food is the same as in the main school, but to suit younger palates, and is wolfed down enthusiastically by children, who wear aprons over their uniforms to save extra washing for parents. Some use of the main school, including the chapel and swimming pool.

The pre-prep curriculum is creative, including forest school type events, and highly practical. French from reception. Plenty of specialist music provision, along with an emphasis on art and drama, including two musical concerts per year. ‘We’re big on language and communication, so all children do presentations,' says head. Two hours of sport every week, including by specialist coaches. Close monitoring of pupils, with results shared with parents.

Pastoral care is as strong in the pre-prep as in the rest of the school. ‘This is a small, family community and we work very closely with parents,’ says head and parents agree, praising the way friendships are encouraged among parents, as well as pupils. ‘We’re invited to a lot of things like assemblies and lunches, which is lovely,’ said one parent. Seventeen extracurricular clubs ranging from computers to ballet, with 80 per cent of pupils staying on after school every week. Enrichment includes workshops and visits, ranging from animal workshops to Indian dance sessions, and lots of trips to the likes of Bethnal Green Museum of Childhood and the National Maritime Museum. Parents praise the emphasis given to encouraging children to become independent. ‘Children are encouraged to clean themselves, change by themselves and so on,’ said one parent.

SEN provision across both pre-prep and junior schools involves one full-time SENCo on hand to help children cope with the academic pace here. Dyslexia is screened for on entry, and any necessary mechanisms in place for this and any other issues, such as ADHD, autism or dyspraxia (although none statemented when we visited). TAs help too, with most help classroom based. Plenty of provision for gifted and talented, both in the classroom, and via (for juniors) literary or science workshops, links with the senior school and trips open to the Scholars' Group to places like the Royal Courts of Justice and Royal Observatory. For pre-preps, extra provision is regularly provided for any speech issues.

Automatic transition all the way up the school. Pupils generally hail from a five mile radius, with a few starting to come in from east London, and many are the offspring of Old Chigwellians. Mostly wealthy parents, but a growing number give up a lot to send their kids here. ‘The reason most of us want a slice of the Chigwellian cake isn’t just it’s the academic excellence, but the outstanding personal development,’ said one parent.

Feeling cheerful and nurtured really matters here and the creative displays and smiling faces prove it. Once you get through to juniors, though, it’s not for the fainthearted, with parents talking about ‘a demanding workload’ that expects a lot of its pupils. There’s plenty of monitoring and help to make sure nobody gets left behind, however – there are even lessons on how to think constructively. This is a school where minds can and do grow in the widest sense possible and it all happens in a really lovely, warm atmosphere where a happy mix of ages and cultures work together harmoniously and develop a genuine love of learning.

Special Education Needs

We have very few pupils with Special Educational Needs but we do have a strong Learning Support Department whose aim is to assist any pupils needing support to fulfil their potential. All pupils are assessed on entry to the school as a means of identifying any specific learning difficulties. Any areas of concern are discussed with pupil and family, and the relevant support programme is then put in place. Nov 09

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