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 All female staff except for the head of music. The head describes them as ‘passionate and dynamic’, ‘incredibly impressed with their work ethic, the best I’ve seen at any school’ and ‘open-minded to new initiatives’. Classrooms are mostly spacious and all wonderfully bright, often with views of Victorian rooftops. The school seems to be perceived as very much ‘traditional’, but we’d add without being remotely stuffy. Mr Snowball can see why it has that reputation...

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What The Good Schools Guide says

Head

Since 2016, Mr Oliver Snowball (early 40s). BA (in English literature), MA (in theatre studies) and PGCE. Previously a teacher of English and drama at Tunbridge Wells Girls’ Grammar School, then at various points head of drama and senior housemaster at Kent College Pembury. Most recently deputy head and interim head at Kent College Prep.

Energetic, immaculately turned out, friendly and engaging, with an almost paper-free glamorous (if hot on a summer’s day) office/greenhouse, Mr Snowball seems to have hit the ground running with his vision for the school and is clearly engaged with contemporary educational debate. Firstly, he has introduced a focus around seven character traits that he feels will help children perform to the best of their ability. They include grit, optimism, empathy and trust. The head and teachers model the attributes and discuss them in assemblies. The challenge is to make the results tangible, but it is clearly working well with girls, jotting down on post-its when they have demonstrated attributes, and staff able to feedback evidence to parents. More creativity and thoughtful planning went into the Adventure Book – an A4 book which is a girl’s own space to explore ideas just for herself without any right or wrong.

A parent who has seen a lot of change at the school told us she has generally been impressed with it all. Others say: ‘I think that Mr Snowball sets a very warm, supportive and nurturing tone for the school. He also seems to be a genuinely kind person, with time for the girls as individuals.' Another mother agreed: ‘He learnt my daughter’s name and face very quickly and always congratulates her on good work she has done or outside achievements when he says good morning.’

He is married to Claire with two children and the family is enjoying the novelty of London, being ‘resident tourists’. Without quite so much country air at his disposal he has inevitably found himself joining the local joggers around the common.

Entrance

Currently non-selective at aged 4. The school will grow with two form entry until it reaches 250 pupils. Any late entrants are required to spend a day at the school during which they sit a maths and English assessment. Rows of scooters attest to the vast majority travelling from within a two to three mile radius, with many from the neighbouring streets.

Exit

Girls head to both a broad and notable mix of day and boarding senior schools. The largest little group in 2017 to academically demanding JAGS in Dulwich. One also to St Paul’s Girls. Those heading to Benenden are in good company too. Otherwise, one or two to the GDST schools, Putney High and Wimbledon High have been favourites in past years, as have Ibstock Place and Alleyn’s, but also Cheltenham Ladies, Woldingham, Roedean, St Swithuns and Worth. In 2017, 13 scholarships out of a cohort 30 girls.

Our view

Standard curriculum. French not Spanish, as befits this corner of London perhaps, and Latin and critical thinking for the senior girls. Mr Snowball is pleased to see the children responding well to more ‘curve-ball’ open ended type questioning in lessons which will serve children well as the 11+ landscape potentially moves away from simply testing maths and English. His focus will be on improving independent thinking, creative and analytical skills, and whilst wanting to stretch the upper abilities will try to ensure the middle range are not forgotten. One mother shared her delight with the way academic learning alongside well-matched trips have inspired her daughter: ‘This week she came home talking about the Roman walls around Londinium and London Bridge's timeline, and wanting to look up related topics in books or on maps.’ Another parent: ‘The trip to 10 Downing Street was amazing. Teachers are very enthusiastic, which rubs off.’

Parents believe the main emphasis of this school is on the academics and arrive looking for a top London exit. The head comments: ‘We are an academically rigorous school; we are not a hothouse’ (his office aside). Parents would seem to agree, but there is more talk of the pressures of homework - which begins in year 1 - than we often encounter, and the head says that he will be reviewing it at the end of his first year, given his belief in family and down-time. One parent: ‘There is probably more homework than there needs to be at times but it's a good learning process.’ Another: ‘I would say quite a lot of homework, but not more than they can handle. My daughter does a lot of sport outside school, and the teacher is always prepared to let her complete homework the following evening if necessary. There is a certain amount of exam pressure, but we live in a very competitive area.’

There are a tiny number of children with identified SEN in the school currently – mainly dyslexia, mostly with mild tendencies, but one or two with mild dyspraxia and ADHD. One full-time and one part-time member of the learning support team offer one-to-one sessions, regular review meetings with parents and external specialists.

Of the 25 staff only three have been at the school for more than 10 years, with a couple of NQTs bringing the latest ideas into practice. All female except for the head of music. The head describes them as ‘passionate and dynamic’, ‘incredibly impressed with their work ethic, the best I’ve seen at any school’ and ‘open-minded to new initiatives’. Classrooms are mostly spacious and all wonderfully bright, often with views of Victorian rooftops. We created quite a stir by commenting on them, revealing the girls’ knowledge of all of their neighbours’ daily habits. Smart new science lab, and lovely charcoal drawings of characterful Vikings on one classroom wall. The art room is light and bright with lovely work in evidence of a cubism project, designs for Harry Potter book jackets and Giacometti sculptures tying in with the Tate exhibition.

This is a school of keen readers, but the library didn’t do too well out of the rebuild: behind a closed door in the new basement, it’s a tiny and, we felt, uninviting space with a modest collection of books to choose from. When we enquired as to whether girls would come here at lunchtime, they were understandably bemused.

Not, as yet, the most fiercely competitive sporting school. All girls have a PE, games and swimming session each week at the nearby Clapham leisure centre and everyone learns ballet. All girls from years 3 to 6 play netball, hockey and rounders or athletics in the summer. The new netball courts on Clapham Common are useful, but the girls can also make use of the huge new basement sports hall and gym for indoor football, hockey, fitness and netball. Recent sporting success from year 6 has boosted year 5’s performances too. This year, the U11 netball team won the IAPS Smaller Schools tournament and the U9 A and B teams won their respective hockey tournaments involving a number of other London prep schools.

One parent told us: ‘in my opinion, music and drama, although taught and appreciated with enthusiasm, get a little squeezed out.’ The head (with his theatre studies background) agrees that there is room to develop. There is no head of drama - form teachers currently direct productions - but the school will introduce expertise from outside when needed. The girls we met were very much enjoying rehearsing Bugsy Malone. A parent suggested: ‘I think the girls and boys could have a little more interaction, eg in drama.’

Everyone learns the recorder and over a third of girls currently learn piano, violin, flute, drums, guitar or voice, ranging from beginners up to grade 4. There are three choirs: the non-audition junior and senior choirs and Bel Canto by audition for potential soloists. There is also an orchestra and children perform in music assemblies and concerts.

A fun and sophisticated mix of clubs, running until 5pm, some with an intellectual bent such as Plato’s Child, a mix of English and philosophy for year 5s, plus book-making, curiosity club, introduction to psychology and yoga. Some are joint with the boys next door and many with additional charges. There is also an early room club from 8-8.30am for parents in need of an early drop off.

The school seems to be perceived as very much ‘traditional’, but we’d add without being remotely stuffy. Mr Snowball can see why it has that reputation: there is the very distinctive green and red uniform of blazers and boaters, a sense of formality, he shakes hands with every child on the way in and the way out and there is the calendar of events from harvest festival to sports day. But as he’s demonstrated, the school is as modern and fresh as the new buildings in terms of the contemporary educational thinking they engage with. These buildings, opened in 2008, are light, bright and full of unexpected views, green roofs and the odd living wall – a very pleasant space in which to learn.

This is very much a girls’ school – ‘There is a lovely feel of girl power about the place!’ said a mother - but given the school’s buildings and structure, with the boys' prep next door, it seems instead to have the atmosphere of one big family with brothers and sisters and family friends educated alongside each other, sometimes in adjacent classrooms. There is one combined residential trip with the boys in year 3.

When we asked parents about the school’s feel, a typical response - whether talking about the girls’ school or Eaton Manor as a whole - was: ‘The school has a relaxed atmosphere, although most parents have a common goal to get their children into a top secondary school.' Every classroom we stepped into certainly seemed focused on the task in hand but also calm and relaxed, plenty of discussion in science and quiet pottering about in art. One mother observed 'It’s ‘pretty competitive’ but also, ‘She sees the school as her second home. She feels very comfortable with the other girls and teachers.’ One parent got into the spirit of things in answer to our wondering about whom this school might suit: ‘Bright, busy, friendly, kind, chatty, confident, open, ambitious girls, prepared to pack a lot of stuff in and work hard.’

Rules are straightforward: to be kind, be polite, be careful, be tidy and be smart. A parent said: ‘The teachers are extremely kind but they are no-nonsense in my experience.’ The house system has recently become ‘more substantial’. Housemistresses will know the girls right through their life at the school. Girls in the upper years are ‘big sisters’ to the KGs (reception), which they seem to love. Year 6 girls feeling both nervous and excited about next step very much appreciate old girls coming back to talk to them about their senior schools.

Predominantly British with a few girls coming from families where one or both parents are western European, Asian or American. Approximately 10 per cent of girls are bilingual or trilingual. Only a couple of overseas nationals. A handful receive EAL support.

No bursaries or scholarships currently, but watch this space as scholarships are being introduced.

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