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  • New Hall School Preparatory School
    The Avenue
    Boreham
    Chelmsford
    Essex
    CM3 3HS
  • Head: Mrs K Jeffrey
  • T 01245 467 588
  • F 01245 464 348
  • E [email protected]
  • W www.newhallschool.co.uk/
  • A mainstream independent school for pupils aged from 3 to 11 with a linked senior school
  • Boarding: Yes
  • Local authority: Essex
  • Pupils: 380
  • Religion: Roman Catholic
  • Fees: Day £9,621 - £13,275; Boarding £21,177 pa
  • Open days: Open Morning: Saturday 30 April 2022
  • Review: View The Good Schools Guide Review
  • Linked schools: New Hall School

What says..

Rather modest interiors are punctuated by frequent gleams of trophies and cups, which tell the tale of pupils’ success in a very wide field of accomplishments. A display case in the entrance hall fairly brims with the spoils of young academics and athletes in county, regional and national competitions. Yet more cups proved the point that in New Hall’s own world, the house system (houses Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) provides scope for the lessons of winning and losing, with countless annual competitions and opportunities to rack up hotly contested house points, including house singing, book week (poetry recitals etc), swimming galas, general knowledge quizzes and sports days...

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Other features

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.

Sports

Equestrian centre or equestrian team - school has own equestrian centre or an equestrian team.

What The Good Schools Guide says

Principal

Since 2001, Katherine Jeffrey MA PGCE MA (EdMg) NPQH. Previously an RE teacher at St Mary’s School in Shaftesbury, head of RE at Woldingham School and deputy head at The Marist School in Ascot before coming to New Hall as its first ever lay principal and teacher of theology. Now the longest-serving head at the same HMC school. Awarded the Institute of Directors’ East of England Businesswoman of the Year award, followed by a national Independent Schools Award for Outstanding Strategic Initiative and the TES Overall School of the Year. Since 2010 she has been a committee member of the Catholic Independent Schools’ Conference.

Making the change from dyed-in-the-wool Catholic convent girls’ boarding school of variable academic results to one of the UK’s most successful examples of the ‘diamond model’ (co-educational nursery and prep school, single-sex teaching for ages 11 to 16, returning to co-ed for the sixth form) took Mrs Jeffrey a speedy five years near the start of her tenure, and she has continued at a cracking pace of change which has touched every part of the school.

‘Mrs Jeffrey moves with - or often ahead of - the times,’ observes a parent, while others describe her as ‘a calm professional’, ‘intelligent’, ‘approachable’ and ‘dedicated to the all-round development of the children in her school’. Adds one, ‘From the principal to the division heads, subject heads and all other departmental leaders, the picture is one of focus and cohesion’. Principal’s energy for education and for providing a continually evolving and diverse range of educational and co-curricular opportunities is clear, and New Hall is now a veritable village, with everything students could need for a rounded education under one patch of sky, ready for the edification of even the very youngest New Hallians. Married with four daughters – all educated at New Hall School.

The prep school is split into two divisions: from April 2021 the pre-prep is headed up by Rachel Tagoe, with the nursery managed by Lynne Baines; the preparatory division is run by the head of years 3-6, Simon Trowell.

Entrance

Earliest joining point is at just one-years-old into the nursery (no academic selection process!). Total of 75 children on roll, 40 full-time. Children may join the pre-reception class at 3+, where assessment is by nursery reports, parent interviews and trial sessions, but the school also carries out home visits and nursery visits, ‘so that we can build strong relationships with our families and ensure that a child’s start at New Hall is as smooth as possible’, says head.

Exit

Nearly all progress from the nursery to the pre-prep. Around three quarters move up from New Hall’s year 6 to the senior school; the rest waylaid by the chart-topping state selective schools in Chelmsford and Colchester such as Chelmsford County High School, KEGS, Westcliff and Colchester Royal Grammar School, one or two to other independents, such as City of London School for Girls, and a very few to other state secondaries - St John Payne, Great Baddow High School, Boswells and Wanstead High School all currently popular. Even New Hall prep children must take the year 7 entry exam in English, maths and verbal reasoning and give a three-minute presentation to members of the senior school senior leadership team to secure their transfer, but they do enjoy priority over external applicants as long as they meet the minimum requirements.

Our view

The nursery and prep share the sweeping mile-long avenue approach to the main school (originally Henry VIII’s Palace of Beaulieu, on which Hampton Court was reputed to be modelled), with a quick swerve to the left. Now educating boys and girls from the ages of one to 18 in the much-vaunted diamond model, New Hall has been a well-publicised pioneer in this arrangement and recent academic results at all stages are certainly testament to its success.

Opened in 2019, the self-contained nursery is a cosy stable-like structure - eco-friendly and sustainable - on its own corner of the estate. ‘This is the nursery I wish I had when my four daughters were younger,’ sighs principal as she demonstrates the free-flow between the tranquil, timber interior and leafy outdoor space (no plastic spotted here) amid tiny New Hallians, who scurry about in the sensory educational environment. Each one has a key worker, which ‘really build children's confidence and enable their development to be tailored to their own needs,’ approves a parent.

Outdoors is a contemporary play and learning area of Teletubbyland humps and bumps, plus a roadway with a traffic jam of chubby cars and fruit borders to help develop early gardening skills. A gate leads out to a new forest school area - the school’s second, specifically for the little ones. Just a few months after opening, the nursery is already full and open year-round, 7am to 7pm, lunch and tea provided. Term-time only arrangements also available. ‘You can now bring your son or daughter to New Hall, whatever age they are, whether boarding or day,’ says principal, ‘that’s very beneficial for parents, and helps our staff recruitment too.’

From the nursery, all pupils are expected to progress to the prep school. Rather a thorn between two roses, this long 1960s brick-built building is made the best of, with large windows that focus the eye more outside than in. Each of its two storeys has a spinal corridor and spacious classrooms leading off.

Rather modest interiors are punctuated by frequent gleams of trophies and cups, which tell the tale of prep pupils’ success in a wide field of accomplishments. A display case in the entrance hall brims with the spoils of young academics and athletes in county, regional and national competitions. Yet more cups proved the point that in New Hall’s own world, the house system (houses Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) provides scope for the lessons of winning and losing, with countless annual competitions and opportunities to rack up hotly contested house points, including house singing, book week (poetry recitals etc), swimming galas, general knowledge quizzes and sports days. Every Friday, the week’s house points are awarded to the house captains during the whole prep school assembly. Annual house cup presented at prize giving. A member of the school council was in our midst during our visit and, on passing a board featuring his own beaming face and those of fellow councillors, he explained that the school is, on the face of it, run by principal and teaching staff but that the school council also has quite a say in what goes on, actually.

Reception and pre-prep classes – since 2019, three-form intake all through the school (even though some classes are smaller than usual, ‘good timing’ says principal) – line the ground floor corridor, each room with its own outdoor fenced play and learning space. Usual maximum class size from reception to year 2 is 20. In years 3 to 6, classes can increase to 21 or 22 pupils, primarily to allow for reserved places for 7+ boarders.

All aspects of the curriculum start in pre-school - science, maths, English, music, PE, performing arts, ICT etc. Children also benefit from a languages and culture programme that is delivered by specialist languages that exposes them to a range of languages including French, Spanish, Mandarin and Russian. The most able are accelerated – ‘my child was introduced to the reception class reading scheme a year early, which was a real confidence boost,’ approves a parent. Classes are small, often around 12 or 13 and many are supported by a teaching assistant. At KS2 English and maths are divided into ability sets to allow the delivery of a more detailed and bespoke curriculum. Children also begin dedicated French and Spanish lessons, taught by subject specialists and working towards recognised language diploma qualifications. All children in years 3 and 4 take part in the instrumental music scheme that provides them all with an instrument (including trumpet, clarinet, viola, cello and flute) and specialist tuition to kickstart their musical ambitions. Children in years 5 and 6 study a bespoke politics course that leads to the Foundation Project GCSE Qualification which is taken (five years early) at end of year 6 by the UK’s youngest cohort – most awarded A or A*. Latin is introduced once a week in year 6. SATs results impressive. Extraordinary. Preparation for the 11+ supported – ‘it’s what parents want,’ says principal. ‘It would be strange in a strong grammar school area, with the SATs results our pupils get, if parents were not aspiring to the grammar schools.’

Applications from pupils with dyslexia, dyscalculia or ADHD, or who just lack confidence, welcomed. ‘SEND is not a negative thing here,’ says principal. All teachers well versed in differentiation, and one-to-one and small group support as well as in-class assistance on tap. A real focus on finding something for each child to flourish in.

Well-stocked and meticulously organised library has corners for each age group – colourful stools for little ones to perch on while reading – and a suggestion book for titles the librarian ‘will be happy to investigate’ before stocking. No plans to move to e-readers as yet – ‘you can’t beat the feel of a book,’ says librarian, who has a band of year 6 volunteers to help scan in and out. Art rooms are cavernous and there is space for music practice – more than half of pupils learn an instrument and there’s a 35-strong, full prep school orchestra. Top musicians get to grade 5 with distinction by end of year 6. Lots of performance opportunities and three choirs - infant, junior and chamber.

A large assembly-cum-sports hall is central to the prep school, but pupils also have the run of the campus’ extensive sports facilities – hard courts, pitches, Astros, indoor pool, golf driving range athletics track. Prep’s own sports teachers are bolstered on games' afternoons by specialists from the senior school who coach pupils in specific disciplines (rugby, hockey, tennis, netball, even golf), with great success in local competition. A fishing pond is soon to be introduced. Many co-curricular activities in the last hour of the school day - sport, music, dance, Lego building and coding, for example - some charged separately (as well as 5-6pm childcare) in an effort to make the school more affordable for parents at the entry level.

Grounds are rolling and well used. Garden area recently covered to create a giant space for outdoor play, learning and even semi-al-fresco concerts and other performances. School’s own farm is a noisy mix of rabbits, guinea pigs, ferrets, chickens, geese, peacocks, sheep and goats, which are visited regularly by pupils from the nursery and prep - reception children were learning about the Little Red Hen when we visited and keen to see the real thing, while year 5 pupils were taking inspiration from the animals to create their own creative writing having read Charlotte’s Web. A memorial orchard on campus is due to be unveiled in tribute to those affected by the events of 2020.

Around six trainee senior teachers and one pre-prep teacher study on-site each year, with the intention of staying on at New Hall, and are accommodated in two houses on the edge of the school grounds.

A tight-knit community, keen to share its life and resources with others – the on-campus chaplaincy is a hub for local groups and even the prep children get involved with concerts and events. This is a Catholic school and although those of all faiths and none are welcome, Christian values are at its core. Support and care for others, both in school and outside it, are fundamental for even the youngest pupils, who benefit from a thorough, academically focused education, enhanced in depth and integrity by the Catholic ethos.

Boarders

From 7+ - up to 16 reserved places for junior (full and weekly) boarders from year 3 onwards in two recently refurbished junior boarding houses. Popular with London families.

The last word

Support and care for others, both in school and outside it, are fundamental for even the youngest New Hall pupils, who benefit from a thorough, academically focused education, enhanced in depth and integrity by the Catholic ethos.

Special Education Needs

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