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Incredible range of clubs and activities for children from dawn until beyond dusk, seven days a week. 'We want everyone to find their niche; discover their passion.' Older children also encouraged to take on responsibilities and to celebrate the achievements of their peers. 'Everybody has a chance to shine here,' one said. One parent said she specifically chose the school because she felt it would not 'push them to hard too quickly academically' and would develop the whole child. Dance and drama are very popular; children relish the opportunity...

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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


Since January 2018, Jim Walton, previously head of Elizabeth College Junior School on Guernsey. He was educated at Warwick School before going on to Sheffield to read business studies. Has taught in both prep and senior schools, including Clifton High School and Cheltenham College Prep, where he was a housemaster, and part of the senior leadership team, for 11 years. He is married to his wife Melanie, also a teacher, and they have two young sons.

Jo Newman is head of the nursery and pre-prep.


Informal assessment in literacy and maths for Y1, Y2, Y3 (none in EYFS). Entrance tests in English, maths and general ability for Y4-8, Minimum requirement usually appropriate national curriculum Sats level for age group.


Majority (between 90 and 95 per cent) take scholarship exam and move on to Upper School. Some sit common entrance for other major public schools such as Winchester, Marlborough and Cheltenham.

Our view

Restructured from three separate schools - nursery, pre-prep and prep school (popularly known as the Pre) – to an all-through school, aligned with Clifton College upper school, allows for a more seamless curriculum and learning experience for children and for families. School admits it has been hard for staff – 'not without its issues' – but everyone realised it was being done for the right reasons. 'Some were initially territorial but are now seeing tangible benefits.' In the transition, seven staff with a total of 198 years' experience left. Those who remain are 'reinvigorated', enjoying the challenge of being responsible for curriculum progression from Y1-Y8.

Children benefit from being taught by specialists for music, science, technology, languages, and from access to improved facilities for art and IT. 'There can't be many pre-prep schools that have these kind of facilities at their disposal. We have found subtle ways to keep the best bits and give each part of the school its distinct identity. We were braced for a reaction but parents have embraced it. They were confident the merger would work. They now feel part of one college, not a piece of a big jigsaw. They buy into the Clifton lifestyle and ethos.' Term dates and exeats aligned too. One parent confirmed: 'There was a lot of difference academically between Butcombe (the pre-prep) and the Pre – that's not the case now.' Parents are impressed that the school has sought their views and acted upon them. 'There has been a real willingness to listen.' 'It's a sign of a school that wants to move forward.'

Very strong EYFS provision with nursery and reception in own building, fabulously equipped for child-led learning. Messy room was a beach when we visited – one child had insisted on bringing her swimsuit. Children love the smart table, with age-appropriate games and apps, which encourage collaboration. Wonderful early years library. Lovely outdoor area with willow tunnel, fake grass, sandpits, spider frame. Three reception classes. Forest school - every week - an integral part of the curriculum. Lots of feedback for parents – interactive learning diaries, including video and audio, with mums and dads encouraged to add photos and information from home.

Y1 and Y2 follow a topic-based curriculum, with plenty of innovative and imaginative activities to suit all types of learners. Children use iPads increasingly. More specialist teaching in various subjects as children move up the school. Scholarship class for high fliers in Y8. Standards and expectations high, but parents and staff adamant that school is not a hothouse. One parent said she specifically chose the school because she felt it would not 'push them to hard too quickly academically' and would develop the whole child. One-to-one support from specialist teachers where needed for children in pre-prep found to have dyslexia, dyscalculia or dyspraxia or other specific learning needs. Prep school has its own specialist learning centre, the Coach House, where short and long term needs are addressed 'as part of the school, not an added extra.' Parents feel that communication has improved. 'Previously reports were a bit vague. A really positive change is that we can access achievement points online through the parent portal. It means I can give my children immediate praise and feedback.'

Music very strong from the start. Every child in Y2 learns violin and in Y3 recorder. Singing, composing, choirs, individual instrumental tuition encouraged. Art is of exceptional quality. Dance and drama are very popular; children relish the opportunity to stage shows in the school hall and in the Redgrave Theatre. DT facilities are better than many a secondary school.

Swimming lessons in the college pool from reception onwards. A host of other sports both on site and at the college's sports ground at Beggar's Bush, including rugby, hockey and football. 'My boys absolutely love the sport, even though they are not A-team kids,' said one mum. Saturday school for years 4-6 now sports activities only, no lessons. Years 7 and 8 have two lessons followed by matches.

'It's not every school that has a zoo in its back garden.' A firm link has now been established with Bristol Zoo education centre. Positive relationships with state primaries too, and not just in the middle-class area near the school. Music projects and teacher exchanges have been set up with inner-city schools and those on deprived estates and there are aspirations for more local schools to be able to make use of the Beggar's Bush facilities.

'There is a perception of Clifton as “the toffs on the hill” and I think we have softened that image,' says school. They are determined to continue to break down barriers and ensure pupils realise how fortunate they are and how important it is to care for others. 'We are very much changed, more engaging and more accessible. We can't afford to follow what we did 50 or 70 years ago. The thing we are most proud of is the way social impact has taken off in the prep school. We have always been charity minded but we are taking a step further than cake sales.' As well as working with organisations such as Fairbridge and Prince's Trust, the school runs a unique project called Colour My Life in which staff, parents and some children redecorate and refurbish a home for an underprivileged family, Changing Rooms-style. 'It is one of the most meaningful things we have done. It changes children's outlooks dramatically.'

Another factor that helps pupils realise 'that Britain is not the centre of the universe' is the international nature of the school. Contrary to popular perception, it's not full of rich Russians. Biggest growth area is western Europeans, some of whom attend for a few years while their parents are working in aerospace or energy industries in the west country. Because they arrive speaking Spanish, French or German, their English is not always good enough to hit higher level Sats, meaning Clifton misses out in league tables, but that's a small price to pay. And, as one pupil said, having native MFL speakers is a great help when it comes to homework and practising for oral exams. 'We have friends from all over the world,' one pupil observed. This is seen as an asset by many Bristol parents, including doctors, lawyers and other professionals. Proportion of girls in the school continues to increase – now around 40 per cent.

There's a day house and a combined day/boarding house each for girls and boys. Children join the houses from Y4; Y3s have a common room where they can start to feel more independent. Families value the pastoral support from matrons, houseparents and their teams. 'I feel like they are surrounded by people who care. There is always someone to talk to.' 'It is a very nurturing environment.' 'So many people get to know your child, each from a different perspective.' Houses, mostly in Victorian buildings, are well maintained and continually upgraded.

Most full boarders are Y7 and Y8, although some are younger. British boarders largely from Forces families. 'School is 24/7 even for day pupils.' Weekly boarding and flexi-boarding options popular with busy local families, as are early start and late pick-up wraparound care. Sleepovers for day pupils popular. 'Still a critical mass of boarders around at weekends.' Recognition that children (and adults) get tired and possibly tearful from busy school day and need TLC. Emphasis on supporting families – 'one stop shop, we take care of everything'.

Incredible range of clubs and activities for children from dawn until beyond dusk, seven days a week. 'We want everyone to find their niche; discover their passion.' Older children also encouraged to take on responsibilities and to celebrate the achievements of their peers. 'Everybody has a chance to shine here,' one said.

Special Education Needs

Learning development at Clifton College Preparatory School is provided through in-class support, learning support group lessons, and one-to-one or shared tuition in our specially equipped department. Our dedicated and friendly staff are trained to help children with mild/moderate learning difficulties, including dyslexia and dyscalculia. We also have a school counsellor and a visiting speech and language therapist as part of our team. Learning support is charged as an extra.

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders Y
CReSTeD registered for Dyslexia
Dyscalculia Y
Dyslexia Y
English as an additional language (EAL) Y
Has an entry in the Autism Services Directory
Has SEN unit or class Y
HI - Hearing Impairment
Hospital School
Mental health Y
MLD - Moderate Learning Difficulty Y
MSI - Multi-Sensory Impairment
Natspec Specialist Colleges
OTH - Other Difficulty/Disability
Other SpLD - Specific Learning Difficulty Y
PD - Physical Disability
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

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