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Despite sitting cosily in its corner of the Cotswolds, [Wycliffe Prep] is anything but parochial —armed forces families and international boarders provide a platform from which to leap into different cultures... families feel they have found, as one parent put it, ’the best around’. School renowned for pastoral care but headmistress noted, ‘being a humble school, we don’t shout loudly enough about our academics’. Every evening there’s the opportunity to get out of the classroom and play sport,’ celebrated a parent, with a myriad of extracurricular options...

 

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What the school says...

Wycliffe is committed to fostering individual learning in all areas of the curriculum and pupils benefit from small class sizes with a high teacher to pupil ratio. One of Wycliffes aims is to cultivate each pupils unique talents and to bring out the best in its pupils by creating a supportive learning environment which promotes individual achievements in all fields. Specialist teachers ensure outstanding teaching delivery across the curriculum and a wide variety of extra-curricular activities enable the school to offer a fully-rounded education designed to develop confidence and self-esteem. Wycliffe enjoys excellent academic traditions and offers both academic and non-academic scholarships at 13+ for academic excellence, art, drama, music and sport. There are generous bursaries available for HM Forces families. ...Read more

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Sports

Rowing

Fencing

What The Good Schools Guide says

Headmistress

Since September 2020, Helena Grant BEd (50s). Her parents were career accountant and librarian, a fact that belies an, ‘incredible childhood growing up in Hong Kong and travelling with my hobby anthropologist and explorer father.’ TEFL course during A levels confirmed her vocation and after graduating from the University of Plymouth she took up her first teaching post in Devon. However, wanderlust swept her first to Greece, then on to Tanzania where she met husband, Steve. Mrs Grant kept education at the heart of her work, launching East Africa’s only educational children’s magazine, ‘Jifunze’. She then set up her own nursery school and developed a conservation education programme for an NGO called ‘African People and Wildlife’, which is still thriving. Moving with their young family to Kenya, she worked in IAPS District 4 Prep School, Hillcrest as deputy head academic.

As deputy head at Monkton Prep in Bath, she was neither looking to move, nor for headship, but visiting Wycliffe College knew instinctively that she wanted to be part of this ‘very real, authentic and special’ school.
Lives on site with Steve and their two sons, both pupils at the senior school. Whenever possible, the family return to Nairobi where they own 150 acres of bushland and live a ‘simple life outdoors’. In her spare time she loves to read and runs a book club with some girlfriends, ‘who are the mainstay of my life.’ Harking back to days in Hong Kong watching the Sevens, she loves rugby and enthusiastically supports Western Samoa!
Mrs Grant’s study speaks volumes about her character — undeniably British yet blended with international influences; a feature wallpaper of crested cranes in the long grasses, lush lemon and lime trees in rotund earthenware pots (plus thick pile carpets that ‘children like to kick off their shoes and feel beneath their feet'). Enthusiastic, open and outgoing, parents say she is ‘easy to talk to’, ‘encouraging and supportive of staff,' ‘leads by example’ and is a ‘highly effective communicator’. Pupils say, ‘she’s always smiling’, ‘we’ve all been to her study to get to know her’ and delight that, ‘everyone gets a birthday gift from her ‘present box.’
Despite arriving at the height of the pandemic, Mrs Grant seamlessly integrated into school life. A parent appreciated her greeting the children dressed head to toe in colourful robes on international day, engaging them in tales of African culture, ‘both wowing and putting them at ease.’

Entrance

From 3+ into newly situated on site nursery. Head stresses that although they have an open door policy, entrance tests and taster days (via Skype for international pupils) give insight into a child’s ability and they do not accept those who would struggle to access the curriculum.

Exit

Most pupils move directly up to senior school at the completion of year 8 (age 13). Some depart for local grammars at age 11 but places are usually filled.

Our view

There’s a tangible energy coursing through this little prep. Despite sitting cosily in its corner of the Cotswolds, it is anything but parochial — armed forces families and international boarders provide a platform from which to leap into different cultures. It’s small enough that ‘everyone knows each other’, yet — as one teacher explained — ‘big enough to field teams in each year group and have a wonderful cross section of pupils.’ Add to that the security that a child can join at nursery and move seamlessly to the senior school and families feel they have found, as one parent put it, ’the best around’.

School renowned for pastoral care but headmistress noted, ‘being a humble school, we don’t shout loudly enough about our academics’. As such, recent restructuring of prep’s senior management has installed a deputy head academic to fine tune the Wycliffe prep baccalaureate, align the curriculum with their ongoing commitment to pioneering spirit and global citizenship and tie in to Wycliffe College’s Round Square nomination - which, headmistress underlines, ‘encompasses everything we are and seek to develop further’. Having chosen the prep over local grammars and ‘hot house’ independents, one parent commented, ‘Wycliffe won hands down’ with their balanced, ‘non-pressured’ approach to academic, pastoral and cocurricular life.

The gates of Wycliffe Prep open to the traditional Ryeford building with its striking stone entrance, an eye-catching theatre and the sleek modernity of Etheridge Hall. Tucked out of sight, a number of classroom blocks in a confusion of architectural styles sit around a quad with central lawn. Overall the school offers a sizeable footprint for its 210 pupils. Ryeford houses a myriad of cheery, bright and colourful classrooms spilling off a grand Victorian staircase. Two well stocked libraries welcome emerging bookworms to read, study or just take some quiet time. Etheridge Hall, a spacious, crisp classroom block for year 7 and 8 pupils includes large common room and kitchenette for its older cohort. Science master advocates making lessons ‘fun, hands on and as practical as possible’, there are two fully resourced labs and IT suites easily provide a computer per child.

Learning support widely acclaimed especially for its dyslexia programme (including CResTeD and recent ISI inspection). ‘They really go above and beyond’, a parent reflected. ‘We want to get it right. We’re really honest with parents about how we can help their child,' head of learning support told us. Around 30 per cent of children have some level of additional support; EAL also available. School has experience with physical disabilities. TAs offer individual support where needed — NAGC recognises its provision for gifted and talented pupils. All teachers and boarding staff have pupil profiles to assist both in and outside the classroom. Coordination with senior school and visits to ease transition.

We met a group of pupils enthusiastically spray painting a huge canvas outside the art studio, while inside walls are a cacophony of colour and tremendous talent. Professional artist instructs. DT stacked with sewing, woodwork and engineering projects. The theatre, a parent enthused, ‘is a real wow!’ - outstanding for a prep. Staggering four plays in production at time of our visit.‘ My son was reluctant to join in but the drama department really brought him out of his shell’, advocated one parent. Pupils fully involved from acting and makeup to lighting and stage sets. Music department well equipped, rooms overflowing with instruments. Individual tuition booths. Active choir (mainly girls) and orchestra.

Although there are pockets of green space and (rather lacklustre) sensory garden for quiet reflection, there is nowhere to really let rip and run off steam in break times. Pupils claim they can go over the foot bridge to the Astro or a playing field beyond if accompanied by teacher for more whole hearted exertion.

The bright, well equipped interior of the nursery sits in contrast to its exterior space which, though plentiful, could benefit from a little imagination and sprucing up. Over the footbridge there are plans for outdoor teaching areas, Forest School, DT and a cookery block. We look forward to seeing finished results.

Sports structure recently reviewed to encompass College as a whole. Assistant director of sport oversees prep to ‘foster development throughout a pupil’s time at Wycliffe, setting them up for life’. Though standard ‘isn’t top of table,’ parents say it is ‘improving’ and ‘everyone is given a chance’. Girls play hockey, netball, cricket. For boys, ‘football stronger than rugby,’ and cricket. Both compete against ‘sporty’’ schools such as Cheltenham College, Clifton College, Kings Gloucester. Year groups field ‘strong’ A team, with development squad encouraging ‘challenge for places’. Prep shares pitches with senior school, creating sense of ‘being part of something bigger’. Prospective team captains apply in writing — we questioned whether more timid children might shy away, but pupils seemingly enjoy the process and assured us, ‘teachers have a word if they think you should put your name forward’. Swimming pool is another wonderful asset but some parents disappointed by ‘tired changing rooms’ and ‘slightly shabby sports hall’. School confirms these facilities scheduled for upgrade due to be completed within two years. A smart new Astro sits across the road next to four serviceable tennis courts. We cannot elucidate as they did not feature on our tour, but children mentioned playing fields and cricket nets situated near boarding houses.
‘Every evening there’s the opportunity to get out of the classroom and play sport,’ celebrated a parent, with a myriad of extracurricular options reserved for Thursday ‘activities’. When we asked how the less sporty respond to this, we were offered open face assurance by pupils that, ‘We are all sporty at Wycliffe!’. Headmistress qualifies that those who find sport challenging work in smaller groups to learn skills so all access ‘the mental and health benefits’. Thursday activities include a sweep of sports: Squash, rowing, fencing, cross country, sevens, yoga, capoeira, tennis, trounders (cross between tennis and rounders), plus girls’ rugby and boys’ hockey. Non-sporting options include Forest School, crown court, green power, sewing, languages... list goes on. Prep can be done during after school club with help from staff. Parents told us they delight in this complimentary option, allowing children to get home, ‘kick their shoes off and relax’.

Usual prefects and captains, with addition of ‘subject leaders’ — able children, recognised for ability, encouraged to assist others in class. Head boy and girl rotated per term, giving more opportunity for leadership experience. Pupils compete resolutely for their houses - mainly in sport and academia, however misconducts result in removal of credits - so all are forewarned. Year 8s undertake the ‘Kirby’ challenge; a significant personal assignment, documented and presented to peers and staff. Residential outward bound trip planned for year 8, visit to York for younger pupils and many local excursions in glorious Gloucestershire countryside.

Concerned that children may have fallen behind during lockdown, headmistress was relieved to discover, ‘not as much as I thought’. Chorus of parents attribute this to ‘excellent remote online provision’. Her main concern on return was pupils’ wellbeing and making sure teachers’ expectations were adjusted for a ‘reset’ back to school life. Cross section of strategies put in place helping children understand, ‘You’re in control. You can manage yourself. Find what works for you’, supported by staff, who always, ‘notice the small things’. Pupils praised lockdown teaching as, ‘really imaginative’. One delighted in being encouraged to ‘raid the kitchen, taking utensils and piling them into a jug of water to illustrate displacement’. Another member of staff initiated a, ‘beat the teacher’ challenge with various tasks undertaken live on Zoom, to the delight of all.

Communication with parents has increased since pandemic. Headmistress records weekly vlog to complement email newsletters. She contacted pupils directly during remote learning, for which parents are, ‘hugely grateful’.
Head of pastoral care has accessible, welcoming office or else there’s a letter box for those who would prefer to write down worries rather than approach face to face. Children told us there’s no bullying,‘You can’t because Wycliffe’s a nice school’ chirped one. Zero tolerance and a real sense that older pupils understand responsibility to take care of younger ones make it ‘a bit like a family,’ another attested. Parents confirm that the ‘merest sniff’ of trouble is dealt with.

Food, ‘had gone a bit pear shaped but has got better with the new chef’ gushed one grateful pupil. ‘Great’, ‘delicious’, oft repeated. Consensus that ‘roast potatoes are perfect’. Pupils invited to proffer suggestions to adapt menus.

Parents are a real mix with armed forces, international, London based and local. Head reports emerging trend for families to move out of London and settle nearby. Parents’ association ‘not desperately sociable,’ but WhatsApp groups keep connectivity. Local families invite boarders to stay during exeat weekends. Day parent reports that children blend well — ‘my son has lots of international boarders as friends’ Pupils are ‘lively, happy, supportive of each other’, ‘down-to-earth’ and with ‘no sense of entitlement, which is exactly what we want’, say parents.

Boarders

Crossing the footbridge and the end of the day is like ‘going home’ say boarders. ‘Completed homework and any of the day’s issues’ left behind’, provides, ‘good sense of separation from home and schools’ say parents. The interconnected boarding houses: Penwood accommodating 27 boys and Windrush, home to 20 girls, burst with colour, activity, and a lively bunch of charming and grounded children, proud of their ‘home from home’ where it’s like ‘having a sleepover every night’.

A merry band of boarders of all ages, accompanied by housemaster, toddler with football and baby on hip, greeted us for our accommodation tour. Huge property, with central, communal area nicknamed ‘the middle’ comprising common room, kitchen, ‘chillout’ area, music room - ‘for singing!’ and a computer room. Either side the boys and girls have unsophisticated yet utterly charming accommodation; rooms adorned with pictures, posters and home comforts. Every corridor boasts multiple blackboards, noticeboards or pin boards for scribbling messages, displaying photos of smiling faces or announcing the raft of evening or weekend activities. We liked the ’fake away’ night - kitchen staff rustle up burgers or pizzas, inserting in take away boxes to deliver to houses. A ‘Forces board’ (39/45 boarders are forces children), including map showing where parents are posted is a thoughtful touch. Boys’ side has a very cool ‘cave’ , previously a storage area and now a camouflaged movie screening room complete with bean bags and ‘often, our duvets’. We were charmed by a number of height charts scribed on the walls, ‘only by our housemistress’ qualified one girl resolutely with a tap on our reviewer’s arm. Amusingly, boarding house tuck shop was, until recently, run by pupils but due to portion control issues housemaster has taken charge.

Superheroes for boys, ‘inspirational women’ for girls denote dorms with ‘very comfy beds’ for up to six, fewer for older pupils. Mixed ages makes it ‘feels like a family’. Hotch-potch of functional shower and wash rooms - each pupil has own basin surrounded by accoutrements. Spacious kitchens for cereal and toast snacks alongside more common rooms with sofas, toys, games. Phones limited to half an hour in evening, encouraging socialising and ‘down time’. Flexi boarding welcome, many of the pupils we spoke to are keen to give it a go - we don’t blame them.

The last word

Refreshingly relaxed yet bursting with activity and energy, Wycliffe offers a ‘wholly child centered, holistic education’ balancing academic, pastoral and extracurricular with aplomb. A place where children can revel in their childhood and at the same time are given a foundation on which to build, question, challenge and endeavour. Some parts of the school may look a little scruffy, but what goes on inside is anything but. A small prep with big ideas.

Special Education Needs

See Wycliffe College entry for details. School is registered with CReSTeD, for the teaching of children with dyslexia.

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder
Aspergers
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders
CReSTeD registered for Dyslexia Y
Dyscalculia
Dysgraphia
Dyslexia
Dyspraxia
English as an additional language (EAL)
Genetic
Has an entry in the Autism Services Directory
Has SEN unit or class Y
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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