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The playground is full of timber play equipment, puzzles and trails painted on walls and tarmac, a lovely Wendy house for tinies, and even the fence posts are shaped like coloured pencils. In the library, colourful little mats looking like open books invite children to sit and read, while the big central atrium has a chess board carpet. One classroom boasts a real ex-BBC Dalek, while a wall we passed was covered with writing exercises in which some observant children had enjoyed ‘comparing father with a gorilla’ – the children’s writing was workmanlike and the gorilla had the advantage...

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What The Good Schools Guide says

Head

Since 2010, Adam Gibson (mid 40s). A Wellington pupil himself, he was previously head of Manor House Honiton, which closed in 2010. He is a triathlete and takes a running club at the school as well teaching some ICT and maths. Adept at analysis, having had an earlier career in information systems, he is dab hand at tracking and assessing pupils’ progress. Achievement is monitored in conjunction with their cognitive ability and quick action taken if potential is not being realised. Despite these skills, he is essentially a people person. He and his deputy meet children and parents in the playground each morning so that he can assess each child’s mood, pick up parental concerns. ‘A child should be happy, confident, prepared to experiment and think differently. Every child should be inspired every day.’ Looking round this delightful school it is easy to believe in inspired pupils. Mr Gibson has a son in the senior school and is pleased to find that the spirit of the school is similar to his day.

Entrance

Not selective, but those who won’t cope are ‘turned away gently’. They won’t admit anyone who won’t make the senior school.

Exit

Over 90 per cent go on to the senior school; the remainder are either scholarship winners to other schools or go to the state system. Junior school children take the same exam as outsiders.

Our view

Parents wax lyrical about the junior school. Several, with children recently moved, note their offspring blossoming in attitude and confidence. Established and built in 1999, the building, Mr Gibson considers, needs trees to soften its edges. Meanwhile, the playground is full of timber play equipment, puzzles and trails painted on walls and tarmac, a lovely Wendy house for tinies, and even the fence posts are shaped like coloured pencils. In the library, colourful little mats looking like open books invite children to sit and read, while the big central atrium has a chess board carpet. Assemblies, indoor PE, lunches and anything needing space happen here, but carpets are spotless even at the end of the day.The surrounding corridors are wide enough to have recesses with seats and table for extra teaching or just chatting.

One classroom boasts a real ex-BBC Dalek, while a wall we passed was covered with writing exercises in which some observant children had enjoyed ‘comparing father with a gorilla’ – the children’s writing was workmanlike and the gorilla had the advantage. Lessons, even the serious ones, looked fun, from the enchanting animal songs in the nursery to the studious reading in an older year. Children are screened both for learning difficulties and for physical mobility – ‘the motor skills are so vital to development’. Learning support team works in class and withdraws pupils where necessary, giving particular attention to the exam year.

Younger children get out of the town environment for forest school days spent in their Blackdown hills site, wellies, anoraks and all. In all weathers, snow, rain or shine – except for high winds (dangerous in forests) - they enjoy a muddy natural learning environment, exploring and gaining skills such as making clay oven damper bread and eggs scrambled in a plastic bag. Older children have nature study day projects and a survival course, successful enough for pupils to enjoy teaching their parents a thing or two when they are allowed to join in.

Masses of sport, with rugby number one for boys and netball (now at national level) for girls. Though it’s pretty competitive, one parent recounted with gratitude that her eager but disappointed son had been completely consoled by spending match time learning to make a cake. Wellington Junior holds the national under 11 title for cross-country.

The music department has an orchestra where even beginners can join in. As well as classrooms, the upper floor, arranged around the wide corridor with windows down to the central atrium, has dedicated art space, music teaching rooms for class (with lots of instruments and keyboards) and individual lessons.

School is from 8.35am to 3.30 or 3.45pm, but the day extends either end from 8am to 6pm, offering a range of clubs and homework sessions.

Enchanting toddlers group, ‘Little Wellies’, for pre-school age - brand new nursery for two year olds from September 2016.

A joyful school, full of pleasant surprises, but there is no doubt about its serious educational standards.

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