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Outdoor work is an integral part of the curriculum, with everyone in the prep doing more than an hour’s work outside every week – everything from planting trees and bulbs and growing fruit and vegetables (including pumpkins, runner beans, garlic and raspberries) to beekeeping and looking after the guinea pigs, chickens and ducks. ‘It’s always work-based,’ says the head of outdoor work. ‘Children are a lot more willing to try things outside...’

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What the school says...

Dunhurst is the prep school to Bedales, set within the same grounds a few minutes walk from the main school. Founded in 1905, Dunhurst remains a forward-thinking school where academic rigour sits alongside passtionate pastoral care. Children are encouraged to work independently. The school has a strong reputation for sciences, drama, art and music and for producing well-rounded and confident children. Bedales Pre-prep School, Dunannie sits alongside the Prep School and caters from 2 years 9 months in the Nursery to age 8. Dunannie is the starting point for the Bedales approach to education. Described as “an outpost of heaven down the road”, Dunannie inspires children by learning through doing in a community based on mutual respect. ...Read more

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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.

What The Good Schools Guide says

Head

At Dunhurst since 2017, Colin Baty BEd NPQH (40s). Education degree from Waikato University in New Zealand. Comes from a family of teachers – grandfather, father and brother all heads and his mother is a retired teacher. Originally worked in business but he taught swimming and cricket in his spare time and was told: ‘You should be a teacher.’ Taught in New Zealand for four years, then decided to travel the world for two years – known in New Zealand as OE (overseas experience). During his travels he worked at Bryanston for a term, then at Bedales, where a three-week stint turned into six years. He later became deputy head of Moreton Hall Prep and head of Great Walstead Prep. Married to Debbie, who is head of wellbeing at Dunhurst, and they have three children, two at Bedales and one at Dunhurst. In his spare time he enjoys surfing, tennis, walking, swimming, cricket, film and theatre. He still teaches sport and year 4 humanities.

At Dunannie since March 2021 Fiona Read. Educated at Clayesmore School and Kingston University, she also studied a postgraduate degree in psychology from Open University. First teaching job was at Latchmere Infant School which was followed by a jet setting career including teacher at British International School Jakarta, Indonesia, head of Early Years at the International School in Nice, France and junior school vice principal at United World College of South East Asia. Speaks Italian, French, Spanish and Bahasa Indonesian. Enjoys the outdoors and sport and has coached netball, cross country, badminton, swimming and tennis. Also loves photography, drama and community service.

Entrance

Dunannie and Dunhurst are non-selective. Main entry points are nursery, reception and year 3 at Dunannie and year 4 and year 7 at Dunhurst. For entrance to years 1 to 3, informal assessment of reading, writing and maths. For Dunhurst, English and maths assessments, reasoning papers and interview. Prospective pupils spend time with their peers during assessment days so the school gets to know them.

Exit

Most Dunannie pupils progress to Dunhurst and then to Bedales. Last year Dunhurst pupils scooped five academic scholarships, two music scholarships and an art scholarship at the senior school.

Our view

The prep dates back to 1902 and the pre-prep opened in 1953. Both schools are on the Bedales campus but have their own entrance and loads of space to run around in. Dunhurst and Dunannie are all about ‘the whole child’. Outdoor work is an integral part of the curriculum, with everyone in the prep doing more than an hour’s work outside every week – everything from planting trees and bulbs and growing fruit and vegetables (including pumpkins, runner beans, garlic and raspberries) to beekeeping and looking after the guinea pigs, chickens and ducks. ‘It’s always work-based,’ says the head of outdoor work. ‘Children are a lot more willing to try things outside.’ As well as connecting with nature Dunannie children become proficient writers, fluent readers and sound mathematicians, with the ability to apply these skills to a range of practical problems and theoretical challenges.

‘Practical and very hands-on’ science in light, airy science labs, with biology, chemistry and physics taught separately in years 7 and 8. French and Spanish taught in Dunannie and Dunhurst. The school is very keen on reading – years 4 to 6 have 30 minutes dedicated to reading for pleasure every week and everyone takes part in the Drop Everything and Read scheme. Maximum class size of 18 in the prep.

Common entrance isn’t taught here (Bedales doesn’t require it) but even so pupils have won places at Marlborough, the International Community School and Gordonstoun in recent years without any problem. Learning support given one-to-one (pupils aren’t taken out of class; they access learning support during free study periods, known as ‘greens’). Saturday school for years 7 and 8. A space called The Well is used for drama and assemblies (whole school assembly is known as ‘Jaw’) and external speakers are invited to talk about subjects like Fairtrade, animal cruelty and world events as part of the school’s enrichment programme. Head of drama gives each year group a play, then puts the whole thing together in the space of a week. ‘It’s very impressive,’ say parents. More than 90 per cent of Dunhurst pupils have singing or instrument lessons and there’s a host of groups to join – from orchestras, choirs, rock bands and ensembles to jazz band, African drumming and samba. Most of these are taught within the curriculum.

Art and design are exciting and creative. Children design their own T-shirts, make props for plays and paint landscapes of places ‘that mean something to them’. We watched a year 5 group having a whale of a time making jugs and teapots. ‘It’s not so much about making pots but encouraging them to be creative,’ a teacher told us. DT is a delight; we saw year 5 bird boxes, year 6 siege engines and year 8 lampshades that looked good enough to feature in the Conran Shop. ‘There’s no such thing as silly ideas,’ the DT teacher tells pupils. Lots of opportunities for sport, with all pupils using the school’s Astroturf, swimming pool, floodlit tennis/netball courts, sports hall and vast playing fields. Children have weekly swimming lessons from the age of 4. Average of 16 teams play fixtures against other schools each week, with a good track record of success. Some children play district and county level sport.

Pre-prep and prep children have lunch in a light, airy dining room. Children serve themselves at a food bar at their own level, where they can also read inspirational quotes dreamed up by the catering supervisor. What a great idea.

Pastoral care is excellent across both schools, with children encouraged to talk to class teachers, tutors, boarding staff and counsellors if they have any problems. Strong relationships are developed early at Dunannie, with teachers available to talk to parents daily. At Dunhurst year 8 children volunteer to train as peer listeners (they’re called the Raktivators). When we visited during national Anti-bullying Week (called ‘harmony week’ at Dunhurst) all the pupils were wearing ‘you can sit with me’ wristbands. Like the senior school, children call teachers by their first names and there’s no uniform. ‘It’s a lot nicer to be able to dress how you want,’ a boy told us. Pupils can do community service on Wednesday afternoons; some help local primary school with their IT skills while others visit a school for children with learning difficulties. Head runs school council so pupils can air their views.

Day pupils come from places like Winchester, Portsmouth, Chichester, Petworth and Guildford (the school runs a raft of minibuses). The head stands on the school steps every morning, ready to chat to pupils and parents. He even shadowed a pupil for a day (complete with backpack and hoodie) so he could get a child’s perspective of the school. ‘I had to do a science test and even got prep,’ he says. ‘I was exhausted at the end of it and it was a good reminder of the fact that these children are on the go all day.’

Dunannie adjoins the Dunhurst building but has separate grounds, so the smallest children can whizz around on tricycles and potter about outside to their heart’s content (the nursery is separate, in a beautifully converted old barn). Children have busy and structured days, learning by doing. Teaching is child focused and there are lots of opportunities for creative learning, including dance and drama. Many of them learn at least one instrument and there’s a variety of after-school clubs.

The pre-prep is ‘all about the outdoors,’ says the pre-prep. The children spend time learning outside in the grounds and on the substantial Bedales estate. They visit the pigs, measure the size of trees and watch the way the natural landscape changes over the year.

The Dunannie garden is idyllic, with an orchard, pond, willow tunnels, castle, potting shed and even an old boat for children to play in. They grow their own fruit and vegetables, then use them to make carrot cake, pizza and soup. Inside, everything is child centred, with relaxed classrooms, immersive lessons and happy children. ‘They allow the children to have a childhood,’ a parent told us. ‘It’s a fantastic environment.’

Boarders

Children can board from year 4 but most boarders are in years 7 and 8. Girls and boys live in different wings of the school, with houseparents, assistant houseparents and matrons on each wing. Flexi and weekly boarding offered and the school runs escorted train services from nearby Petersfield for boarders heading home at weekends. Some arrive back on Monday mornings, which means they can spend the whole weekend with their families.

The last word

Parents are full of praise for the school’s approach and ethos, evidenced by the fact that many year groups are virtually full. ‘It’s very nurturing, a real community,’ one told us. ‘They treat the children with real respect, not as adults, but as equal human beings.’ Like the senior school, they aim to educate ‘head, hand and heart’ – in other words, provide a broad education and focus on developing children’s personal qualities as well as their intellectual prowess.

Special Education Needs

The Academic Support Department at Bedales Prep School, Dunhurst, aims to ensure that every pupil achieves the highest standards possible through tailoring learning to individual need, interest and aptitude. Support is provided for pupils who, whilst able to access the school curriculum, may need extra help due to a specific learning difficulty, such as dyslexia, or a lack of confidence in a particular aspect of their work. Teaching and learning strategies are matched closely to the individual’s needs and are designed to build confidence and self-esteem. Support can be given in a variety of ways including, on a one-to-one basis, in a small group and within the classroom. The department is staffed by experienced, specialist teachers who all hold additional qualifications to cater for pupils with a range of needs.

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder Y
Aspergers Y
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders Y
CReSTeD registered for Dyslexia
Dyscalculia Y
Dysgraphia Y
Dyslexia Y
Dyspraxia Y
English as an additional language (EAL) Y
Genetic
Has an entry in the Autism Services Directory
Has SEN unit or class
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 Y
SLCN - Speech, Language and Communication Y
SLD - Severe Learning Difficulty
Special facilities for Visually Impaired
SpLD - Specific Learning Difficulty
VI - Visual Impairment

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