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Adequate space for ropes to swing and break time football, though one pitch has a single goal and many disputed results. ‘Good for negotiation skills,’ says teacher. Scarcely needed anyway, what with the extensive pitches, fields and courts, shared by seniors and prep schools, just 10 minutes away. Year 2 pupils were (literally) separating fact from fiction by working out what sort of books might feature, say, a glossary, while year 3s examined coin designs with impressive levels of attention...

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What the school says...

Surbiton Preparatory School follows an enhanced National Curriculum combining traditional values with the best of modern methods. A high standard of written and practical work is expected. French, music and physical education are taught by specialist teachers throughout the school and information technology is a particular strength. In addition to a networked and internet linked computer room, each classroom has its own multi-media facility. Sound teaching is frequently supported by visits to outside venues. The positive ethos and happy, caring atmosphere enables boys to succeed and grow in confidence. ...Read more

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What The Good Schools Guide says

Headteacher

Since January 2020, Tracey Chong MA. Started her career in Wandsworth in 1992 before moving to leafy Hampton Hill in 1996. Taught at the well-renowned Jack and Jill School, Twickenham, leaving as deputy head in 2012, then joined Newland House School as head of pre-prep. There, she project managed a £5m new build, growing the school from 110 pupils to 200, including introducing the school’s first nursery, before leaving in 2019.

Calm and considered. Fortunately so, given that in her first term the COVID-19 pandemic knocked on the door. Parents like her vision and pedagogy, calling her approachable and transparent. Still teaches and loves it – ‘I enjoy seeing individuals progress and thrive.’ But says best bit of the job is that every day brings a new challenge - exciting surprises built on strong relationship foundations.

Clemmie Stewart, head of the girls' prep, is strategic head of both schools to provide consistency.

Entrance

Up to 32 pupils in two reception classes via informal assessment - numbers have doubled over past few years. And enquiries for places are showing similarly gratifying rise there can still be occasional places in other years, so always worth asking. Year 6 pupils act as buddies for new boys – notably proud of their chicks’ achievements during the year.

Exit

Currently most popular destinations are Claremont Fan Court School, Halliford School, Kingston Grammar School and Ewell Castle School. One or two to Hampton School, King’s College School, Royal Grammar School and Epsom College. All take 11+ and go to mix of schools. Each year 6 pupil is allocated a senior teacher who works on interview skills.

Our view

Acquisition of a second building and substantial investment in the first has silenced complaints of slight neglect compared to investment in the senior and prep girls’ schools that make up the Surbiton High School triumvirate. From September 2019, two forms all the way from reception to year 6 (used to be one).

Reception to year 3 are housed in former office block backing on to senior girls’ quad, with partially roofed (and consequently slightly echoey) playground – reception use mezzanine area above – that shows no trace of first life as a car park, now successfully reclaimed with grass (fake), trees (real) and adequate space for ropes to swing and break time football, though one pitch has a single goal and many disputed results. ‘Good for negotiation skills,’ says teacher.

Seniors – years 4 to 6 - occupy original premises: pretty villa in the next road, walking the two minutes to senior school dining hall for lunch each day (neither boys’ building has own kitchen). Playgrounds ‘work nicely,’ say pupils. Small front area (for older boys) notable for gorgeous flower arrangement (courtesy of gardening parent), bigger back section flora free, instead planted with open fronted locker stores (‘push bags to the back if raining very hard,’ say boys). All under review, in consultation with school council (which has also requested cricket nets at the front. ‘Quite impossible,’ say tour guides, gravely).

Scarcely needed anyway, what with the extensive pitches, fields and courts, shared by seniors and prep schools, just 10 minutes away in Hinchley Wood (also use Esher Cricket Club). Like senior school, boys’ prep is big on gymnastics (compete at national and regional level) and not bad elsewhere (with School Gamesmark Gold Award to prove it). Recent sports tours to Paris and Madrid (rugby and football) with chance to ‘visit a stadium’ (woo hoo).

Facilities, while inevitably lacking the purpose-built polish of the girls’ prep, are extensive, with bright and airy classrooms – only current disappointment is older boys’ library with piano at one end of the room and fewer books than might be expected at the other. ‘Bring in books from home,’ said tour guide, though we’re assured that reinforcement volumes (lots) are on the way. (School is investing £20,000, which should pay for several sets of collected works…)

Education is impressively thorough and achieves a good balance between ‘I can’t do this’ and ‘It’s too easy’, said pupil. Similarly, sports for all programme (just won an award from the TES) ensures that participation is matched with enthusiasm and skill levels.

Average class size is 17 (max 22) – small at the start, slightly larger by year 6. Teacher to pupil ratio ranges between one to eight (reception) and one to 16 by year 6 (though lots of smaller group work with specialist teachers in maths and English). Some tutoring inevitable though parents felt that less here than in other establishments. One parent, who had her sons assessed, was told not to bother as school was preparing them really well. ‘Very reassuring.’

Around 25 pupils with EAL requirements – range of support includes one-to-one and differentiated curriculum. About 20 pupils have learning needs, mostly mild, majority dyslexia focused but not exclusively – support includes group and one-to-one support, study skills and handwriting club. Some issues with poor behaviour resulting in parental unhappiness. Majority of boys, however, ‘are there because they want to learn,’ said parent. Par for the course in any school that – like this one – has praiseworthy desire to be genuinely inclusive (something that other establishments could learn from). Currently has pupil with an EHCP and is seeing more with severe anxiety. Whole-school focus on well-being includes staff sitting with boys at lunchtime to tease out any problems and encourage them to talk – it’s the time when they’re at their most relaxed and open.

With SEN, takes things one year at a time, talks frequently to parents, and – should school not be the right place – supports transition elsewhere. ‘The school is trying to balance everyone’s needs and is in a difficult position,’ said parent. School stresses that assessment process is now more robust to ensure that is confident about being able to support pupils with behavioural issues.

Favourite subjects include maths (one brainbox took GCSE maths in year 4 – and achieved an 8) and sport (mentioned by many pupils of all ages), though art also got a mention. ‘Can get lost in my mind.’

In reception (where one door was disguised as a doubledecker bus - ‘Your journey begins here’, the other as a train) pupils were mastering the number one, some timing how long it took to knock down a skittle, others measuring assorted items that might or might not be longer than a metre.

Year 2 pupils, meanwhile, were (literally) separating fact from fiction by working out what sort of books might feature, say, a glossary, while year 3s examined coin designs with impressive levels of attention. Over in the senior building, year 5 pupils were tackling A Christmas Carol with diligence if not wild enthusiasm. What did they think of it so far? ‘A complicated book…’ said pupil, cautiously. Effective differentiation, rather than setting, is the rule here – year 4 maths class was choosing from bronze, silver or gold problems from the board.

Pace is brisk, in class and out. Annual production is split between years 4 and 6, other years watch (and have informal concert). In year 3, all pupils learn violin or cello and a brass instrument in year 4 (but not simultaneously) and a quarter have individual lessons. Range of choirs and ensembles, beginners to budding music scholars and annual production – includes The Lion King.

Clubs include academically focused – Latin and entrance exam preparation among them (prepare for 10+ as well as 11+) – as well as eg chamber choir, ensembles. Requires commitment - one of our guides was regularly in school for 7.45am. Some held jointly with prep girls – welcomed, as long as reasonable mix. ‘I was on my own thinking "where are my friends?"' said senior boy.

Achievements matter but attitude gets almost as much attention. Individual and team sports stars are recognised for manners and sportsmanship, not just results. ‘It’s about camaraderie, support and respecting everyone,’ said senior pupil.

Best teachers, say pupils, are kind and fair. ‘Give us fun things to do,’ felt one. ‘Give us good opportunities and hardly ever shout,’ thought another. ‘If misbehaving, given warnings first.’ (Verbal warnings disappear from the system after a week, written warnings remain on school record.) Very rare for pupils to be asked to leave – would only happen if all other options exhausted; one during current head’s tenure so far.

Our junior guides were courteous and solemnly conscious of their role (highly effective recruitment tool, say parents), springing to hold door open when test fire alarm sounded, one wagging a disapproving finger at waving friend. Senior pupils ditto – as well as loyal. ‘Timetable must have slipped out,’ said guide, when we clock fact that no pupils are learning clarinet, saxophone or recorder this year.

Many boys’ blazers twinkle with badges, including choir and platinum star - one for every 100 house points. (Girls’ prep pupils were ever so slightly sniffy about this – ‘have fewer but value them more,’ said one.) One tour guide had collected the full set and was wondering whether was worth going round a second time. Another – once equally decorated – had lost the lot in the wash.

Noise, as top years move between classes (‘to prepare us for senior school,’ said year 5 pupil) inevitably ‘a bit stompey-ish going up the stairs’ but bearable.

The last word

Parents choose the school because, said one, ‘We wanted our boys to be boys.’ Having seen the thorough, thoughtful approach to education on offer here and the delightful pupils it produces, hard to disagree.

Special Education Needs

A baseline assessment is undertaken when the boys join the school in reception. This is followed by an end of reception assessment. Children are also screened in Y1 and Y2 for dyslexic type problems. If a child is causing concern at any other point, then individual assessments are also carried out. When necessary, a child might also be referred to an Educational Psychologist. If learning support is given to a pupil, as a result of assessments, then this is usually in the form of weekly 1:1 lessons or sometimes small group lessons. The School ethos is one of embracing a pupil's individuality, helping him to grow in self-confidence and self-worth. Those pupils with specific learning difficulties are no exception and are supported in a caring and practical way.

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder
Aspergers
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders
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
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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