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Casterton, Sedbergh Preparatory School
  • Casterton, Sedbergh Preparatory School
    Kirkby Lonsdale
    via Carnforth
    LA6 2SG
  • Head: Will Newman
  • T 01524 279200
  • F 01524 279208
  • E [email protected]
  • W
  • A mainstream independent school for pupils aged from 3 to 13 with a linked senior school
  • Boarding: Yes
  • Local authority: Cumbria
  • Pupils: 228
  • Religion: Christian
  • Fees: Day £8,310- £16,185; Boarding £19,425 - £23,910 pa
  • Review: View The Good Schools Guide Review
  • Linked schools: Sedbergh School

What says..

Eggs, ‘laid with love’ (says the sign) from the free range chickens here, plus the goats and the rabbits bring out the ‘softer side of a prep school,’ says the head. The children, whilst not quite ‘free range’ (tiger mothers and helicopter parents need not worry), have an abundance of outdoor space and room to breathe. For obvious reasons, the location means that boarding makes sense, and it also allows you to join in with activities ranging from a parachute regiment leadership day to abseiling, bouldering, go-karting, clay pigeon shooting, bushcraft and (for the gentler soul) cheese-tasting...

Read review »

What the school says...

Casterton, Sedbergh Preparatory School is situated in the spectacular rural location of the Lune Valley. There is no rush to grow up here but, the foundations are laid for nurturing the resilience our children need as young adults and the tenacity essential for achieving high standards. This is evident in the unrivalled activities’ programme
and around the clock personal care which is offered to our children. Breadth of opportunity and depth of involvement is what sets us apart. Maths competitions, explosions and dissections in Science lessons, pony care at our stables and collecting eggs from the School chickens will, create outstanding prep school memories for the young people in our care. Above all, we incubate a sense of success in each and every one of our pupils.
Facilities at our Prep School are first class and include a new Design and Manufacturing Department, 7 Science specific laboratories, flood lit astro and tennis courts, a theatre, a heated pool, an equestrian centre and an iMAC and iPad suite. Our three boarding houses – Beale, Thornfield and Cressbrook – are very much ‘home from home’ environments with all houses having space for music practice and a kitchen for preparing those all-important snacks! Very few prep schools dovetail their educational lectures and activities in the way we do here at Sedbergh Prep. Likewise we balance our academics with outdoor learning, we are creating a School farm and pupils already consult with the School Chef about growing vegetables and herbs in the new Secret Garden. We are excited by the curiosity and thirst for learning that each child, regardless of their academic ability, naturally displays. We work hard to allow each child the time to question and develop their thoughts independently, leading to fresh discoveries in an innovative learning environment. Each child is actively taught to ‘own’ their learning because all our teachers plan their lessons using three strands – discovering, applying and communicating. To support this, we have recently introduced a Digital Enhanced Learning strategy, including SOLE (self organised learning environment) lessons. This encourages our children to use what they have learnt, to create their own ideas which are
then communicated to their peers. The end result is the celebration of learning – a reward in its own right! One of our strengths is a focus on the individual. We are not a School of rote and regurgitation. Rather, we understand that a child’s future success is dependant upon their ability to use what they know and to use it in a variety of creative ways, most of which we, as teachers could never have imagined. Every area of School life provides fantastic opportunities for creativity of all kinds. Day in, day out, we encourage our pupils to give their best in all that they do. Our ethos is ‘give it a go and try your best’ in order to help them develop a level of resilience and determination which will give them the best chance of
overcoming challenges, in all areas of their schooling and beyond. We are responsible for making memories and we are determined to make them special.
...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.


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

What The Good Schools Guide says


Since September 2017, Will Newman, previously deputy head of Taunton Prep. He has also been housemaster and head of boarding at Edgeborough Prep in Surrey. Education degree from Exeter; won a commonwealth scholarship to study at the University of Victoria, Canada, where he got an MA in PE. Interested in sport and music: currently concentrates on the guitar. Married to Liz, a science and maths teacher, and they have two children who have joined the school.


Assessment by head's interview and previous school report for younger children; English, maths and cognitive ability tests for year 4 upwards.


Around 80 per cent to Sedbergh senior school.

Our view

Eggs, ‘laid with love’ (says the sign) from the free range chickens here, plus the goats and the rabbits bring out the ‘softer side of a prep school'. The children, while not quite ‘free range’ (tiger mothers and helicopter parents need not worry), have an abundance of outdoor space and room to breathe. They mostly ignore the glorious views and the weather that changes almost hourly; they are too busy enjoying their childhood.

Housed in a range of buildings, with plenty to spare; specialist science labs, inspirational art studios, music and superb sports facilities, these prep and pre-prep children are enjoying all the benefits of this former senior school that enable school to put STEAM subjects at the very heart of its academic provision. In addition to this very much 21st Century education, philosophy now on curriculum along with critical thinking and problem solving skills. Years 7 and 8 now work towards building their SPACE (Sedbergh Prep: academic, community and extra-curricular) profile, with achievements through all walks of school life duly recognised. With reference to the relatively recent merger, parents say, ‘it was the best thing that could have happened’ – Casterton parents with older girls may disagree somewhat, but undoubtedly the feel-good factor is back and they are bucking the trend in this northern demographic with excellent post-merger recruitment figures and a good solid number of boarders. This is no mean feat in a school tucked away with no passing traffic; you have to seek it out, but advice from parents is ‘if you are at all unsure, go and take a look – and take your children with you, that’ll do it’. Most of us have at some point seen teary parents and weeping children at school gates at some point – well, here the children were weeping because they’d been for a taster morning and didn’t want to leave...

Variously described as a ‘broad church’ and ‘a good all-round education’, the facilities are matchless for a prep school, having originally been designed for pupils up to A level. Note the six full size science labs, massive sports hall with cricket nets and a bowling machine, swimming pool, Astroturf, music practice rooms and much more besides, and they make full use of every bit of it. Nothing precious about it; parents say the children ‘live in it’ rather than ‘just exist’, and whilst they are quick to add that ‘it’s the people who really make the place’, they also tell us they feel as though they have ‘hit the jackpot here’.

You can bring your bike, you can also bring your horse - though not essential if you have a love of riding, as the school has 10 ponies that they happily loan. Work hard and play hard could be the school’s motto, though presumably only if translated into Latin; the energy is astounding, before, during and after school. Rugby, hockey, cricket, netball and much more besides mean that there is no lack of fresh air and exercise. For obvious reasons, the location means that boarding makes sense, and it also allows you to join in with activities ranging from a parachute regiment leadership day to abseiling, bouldering, go-karting, clay pigeon shooting, bushcraft, and (for the gentler soul) cheese-tasting; essentially, you just ‘don’t stay in’. But when you do, there are 3D printers to programme, Lego robots to build and rockets capable of zooming to heights of close to 100m to create.

The pupils are a refreshing and captivating blend of childlike naivety and honesty alongside a wisdom that belies their years. Shoe-polishing night for boarders, fastening your top shirt button and a ban on chewing gum are happily tolerated by pupils, but, for them, the deal-breaker would be bullying, ‘a real no-no’, as is anything which essentially ‘makes the atmosphere less friendly’. All meals are prepared in-house from, as far as possible, local produce; adults sit with the children in mixed age groups and apparently the curry is legendary.

Boarding accommodation, in rooms with views to die for, is spacious and homely; there are kitchens for extra toast-making and generally hanging out, plus a sitting room with TV and games for the boys; similar though slightly smaller and prettier accommodation for the girls with the obligatory One Direction posters. It’s so quiet here that one boarder told us he falls asleep each night to the sound of the birds singing outside, and then they wake him up again in the morning.

Parents are a mix of medics from Lancaster, local business owners and landed gentry; tweed is somewhat de rigueur – practical and stylish, as befits the place. It’s only a 15 minute drive to the senior school from here so parents and staff can and do manage both. Parents say it ‘doesn’t matter what car you drive, or even if you land your helicopter on the back field, you’re made very welcome here’. House staff use Twitter to keep parents of boarders up-to-date, regular photos home of joyful, smiling children.

Clearly the merger and change of status required careful handling, but thanks to good management and huge parental advocacy, they’ve not only survived but thrived. A portrait of old girl Charlotte Brontë still hangs in the sitting room, and although it’s still slightly old school here (and all the better for that - good manners and etiquette still count), she’d hardly recognise the warm and happy place it is today.

Who came from where

Special Education Needs

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders
CReSTeD registered for Dyslexia
English as an additional language (EAL)
Has an entry in the Autism Services Directory
Has SEN unit or class Y
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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