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The school had warned us that lessons here are loud and the maths class we joined was exactly that – lively teaching and lots of discussion. And we love the school policy of writing reports directly to children rather than parents – at start of term too so the points stay fresh in the mind. ‘It’s hugely powerful,’ agree teachers. Every school has weak spots in its staff but…

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What the school says...

At Beechwood Park School, we are academically ambitious for all our children, seeking to blend that, daily, with an unwavering focus on kindness, care, and confidence.

We value and promote tradition, alongside innovative learning - helping children to live happy, healthy, successful lives.

Beechwood Park is creating 21st century learners and principled citizens with a caring sense of adventure. Whilst websites, virtual tours and prospectuses can give you the flavour of a school, we know that you need to visit to know for sure that it is the right place for your child - we hope to see you soon.
At the end of the jam-packed day, School buses depart and boarders’ tea commences, then homework, music practice and entertaining games, including the ever-popular “Colditz” - a Beechwood Park tradition.
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Equestrian centre or equestrian team - school has own equestrian centre or an equestrian team.



What The Good Schools Guide says


Since September 2023, Christian Pritchard, previously head at Beachborough School in Westbury, Bucks. Educated in Northumberland, he qualified as a teacher with DT in York and also holds a master’s in educational leadership. He started his teaching career in Yorkshire, then moved overseas, teaching and leading British international schools in Taiwan, the Netherlands and UAE. In 2012, he returned to the UK as head of Ranby House Prep in Nottinghamshire. This is his fifth headship. He is an ISI team inspector and a level 7 ILM executive coach.

Married to Zoe, also a qualified teacher, who is head of the Woodlands Nursery School at Beechwood Park. In his spare time, he enjoys travelling, cooking and riding his mountain bike – as well as ‘magic’, a hobby he shares with his children.


Most join from nursery, with reception and year 7 other key entry points. But applications are welcome at any stage, space permitting. Children are not appraised for nursery, and are given a ‘light touch’ assessment from reception. From year 2, they are invited for a group assessment and interview, and their current school work is considered. ‘We’re looking for interaction and enthusiasm — not just academic ability.’ School report required for joiners into year 5 upwards.


A double-edged sword for any good Hertfordshire prep is losing a number of your pupils after year 6 to great local state options like St George’s in Harpenden or St Albans Girls. St Albans (the boys’ equivalent) is the top pick for boys at 13 (though precise numbers are not spelt out on the website). Committed as it is to co-ed, the school recognises the irony that many go to single-sex secondaries ‘because that’s the provision round here’. Abbot's Hill, Aldenham, Bedford School, Berkhamsted School, Eton, Haberdashers’ Aske’s Boys, Haberdashers’ Aske’s Girls, Haileybury, Lockers Park, Malvern College, Merchant Taylors, Queenswood, Repton School, Rugby, Sherrardswood, St Columba’s College, Swanbourne, Uppingham and Wycombe Abbey have also featured recently. Good scholarship success – 12 in 2023.

Our view

The tone is set in Woodlands nursery, the newest part of the school. Bright and spacious, indoors and out (the nearby long jump doubling as a sandpit), there’s a long Forest School tradition which our year 8 tour guides remembered vividly. Main nursery building accommodates two classes of 20, divided by a partition, but our concern that this might be noisy seems unfounded – one class is often away anyway doing PE, music etc. Beechwood's child-centred approach is visible from day one with individual interests logged on a white board to be integrated into exercises on phonics etc. The staff here want every child to feel ‘safe, secure, known and loved’ and are touchingly mindful that many lately have had limited socialisation through the pandemic; a detailed knowledge, care and affection for pupils permeates everywhere.

Pupils split into four classes of 15 in reception in the junior department building, with fantastic self-portrait wall tiles, then three classes of 21 for years 1 and 2. Specialist teaching kicks in from the word go for PE, music and French, then for TPR and art, and streaming now starts in year 3 instead of 4 – one impact of all that additional data. Year 2 handwriting is impressive, testament to the school’s drive to develop fully cursive handwriting throughout the school. Regular contests for ‘handwriting heroes’ and entries to the SATIPS national handwriting competition. Year 3 marks the move into the fabulous main Queen Anne building, for many years the home of the Sebright family (Queen Mary visited several times), overlooking farmland. School’s history goes far beyond that, though, and archaeologists have found artefacts dating back to Tudor times and beyond. Became a school in the sixties, saving it from dereliction, and incorporating two other prep schools as it rose from the ashes. It has been fully co-ed for almost 30 years. Rolling programme of refurbishment extends to the many music practice rooms, a sports and playground in a former walled garden, lofty dining halls and stunning panelled library. It couldn’t fail to bring out the reader in any child, particularly as local children’s authors come in to give readings and run workshops.

The school had warned us that lessons here are loud and the maths class we joined was exactly that – lively teaching and lots of discussion. And we love the school policy of writing reports directly to children rather than parents – at start of term too so the points stay fresh in the mind. ‘It’s hugely powerful,’ agree teachers. Every school has weak spots in its staff but favourites far outnumber them in parental feedback, the head of French particularly adored. Something of a long-standing speciality here, Beechwood runs annual soirées amicales for year 6s and above, involving songs, plays and recitals in French. Rumours abound about Beechwood pupils being ‘practically GCSE standard’ when they leave, though one parent was cynical about the ratio of French lessons to computer science (which is taught weekly from year 1). Ever ambitious linguists, Latin plays are also tackled – Latin is taught from year 5.

Plenty of enrichment, with children in years 3-5 taking part in the future skills programme – includes puzzle solving, presentation and interview skills: great secondary school application preparation. Senior pupils can work towards the optional Beechwood Park leadership through service award, involving four levels, to encourage thinking about and working with others in line with Beechwood’s 16 well-publicised values (illustrated in various posters around school). As one parent put it, ‘There’s a lot going on to remind children there’s a real world at the end of that long drive.’ School recently raised the vast sum of £250,000 for a local hospice. Those who stay to year 8 are given extra responsibilities – eg as link monitors for younger forms – and a lot of ‘transition training’ including early career guidance, contact with secondary school teachers, advice on conflict resolution and more. Blazer lapels therefore often laden with achievement and responsibility badges, and pupils positively burst with pride in the place. Inter-house activity has been beefed up to encompass competition in everything from sport to academics and music to community action. Everyone pounds their feet in a drumroll at Monday assembly as the latest point tallies are announced. Parents report that any instances of unkindness are handled swiftly and in a way that encourages children to step forward and take responsibility.

Parents agree no stone is left unturned in ISEB preparation – ‘loads and loads of Planet BOFA’ besides the future skills programme. ‘It’s total rubbish that you can’t prepare for VR and NVR tests,’ attests the school, and around 65 per cent of pupils now sit them at 11 or 12. However, several parents say they’d like more information and reminders about open days, entry processes, key dates etc for schools beyond St Albans. Almost no one sits CE at 13, though this can be accommodated when needed.

The learning support team works with about 10 per cent of pupils, mostly with dyslexia and ADHD, led by two full-time specialist teachers and a TA. They run group and one-to-one sessions and have two grad assistants. A counsellor visits weekly (though this is chargeable, unlike other LS help). ‘The children we help are not necessarily on the SEN register, but need support in the context of Beechwood,’ explains the LS lead. ‘Many of them may not even be identified in another school. We’re a big, busy, school and you need to be able to cope.’ Beechwood occasionally takes children who are acquiring English, and with LS support, the last ISI report noted they make ‘particularly rapid progress’ here.

Head of art makes the most of refurbished art rooms in the old coach house, where we found children happily absorbed in sketch books. All kinds of media are explored here including print making and weaving, and the cellars house a pottery studio. DT similarly well equipped (3D printer, laser cutter etc) and was the scene of a riveting Micky Mouse robot dissection on our visit.

Technology and arts collide happily in the music department which has new software for recording and manipulating sound. We’ve rarely seen a school with quite such a high percentage of pupils (around 90 per cent) taking private music lessons, but judging from the groove coming from one young rock band, who could resist? Lessons at the more expensive end, though year 2s may try a range of instruments for two terms in small groups at a reduced rate. There’s a percussion room packed with drums and xylophones, six choirs (with the selective chamber choir the most prestigious) and over 20 different music ensembles. ‘We don’t have a school orchestra – we want the children to hear themselves playing,’ said head of music.

Like music, drama is taught right through to year 8, with a host of productions staged annually which children discuss rapturously. There can have been no shortage of great outdoor locations for a recent Wind in the Willows.

The sports facilities – including a large sports hall with viewing gallery, Astro turfs, cricket nets, covered swimming pool – would be a credit to a secondary school. Parents describe sport as ‘huge’ while our pupil guides reckoned football and cricket are Beechwood’s specialities. Every child has the chance to compete for the school and there’s a thriving, parent-run equestrian team, and a ski team too (run in part by parents, part by school). Children appreciate that senior pupils may opt out of team sports in favour of alternative options like sailing.

Almost everyone lives within 40 minutes of the school, and feels very involved, including via a lively PA. Working parents who don’t take up the boarding option have a sports-rich array of after-school clubs for children to use and may pay for tea and after-school care until 5.30pm.


The fact that most pupils live extremely locally has not impacted on the popularity of boarding – so oversubscribed at the time of our visit that it was only open to year 6s and above, instead of year 5, as usual. The model here is for a boarding place to be paid for Monday to Friday, whether or not your child chooses to stay every night – two or three seems most popular – so no hot-bedding.

Bright, welcoming dormitories sleeping up to 11 in the eaves enjoy terrific views. Partitions with built-in reading lights are used cleverly to break up larger spaces and belongings are either stored on shelves in the laundry – dirty clothes are never sent home – or in a truckle under the bed. Each child has a daily 20p allowance for the tuck cupboard and given that Beechwood is a mobile-free zone (hurrah!), there’s a free mobile any child may borrow who wants to call home.

After prep and music practice, children are let loose on activities that make the most of these terrific grounds. Sport features heavily but there’s also a lounge-cum-games room well equipped with table football, table tennis etc for hanging out in, plus a range of fantastic themed nights from bug eating to laser tag.

On-site houseparent declares himself ‘a boarding evangelist’ and with potential boarders able to have a two-week free trial, it couldn’t be much easier to work out if boarding life is for you, either now or in the future.

Money matters

Some means-tested bursaries available from year 3 upwards.

The last word

‘We have some of the best state schools the country round here but still chose Beechwood’ and ‘Our children feel loved and part of everything’ are typical parent comments. Particularly strong reputation for trad subjects like French and music but also nurtures and educates children in the wider sense. The result is sparky, confident children who exude pride in their school and are incredibly happy learners.

Special Education Needs

Beechwood Park is an inclusive school where all staff work hard to ensure that the individual needs of pupils are met and reasonable adjustments made where necessary. Individual strengths are also recognised and celebrated which helps to ensure that pupils thrive in our environment. The School's Learning Support department has three full time members of staff who oversee the assessing, identification and support of pupils with SEND. This experienced team work with pupils both in and outside the classroom and are based in a central quiet area of the school. The degree of additional support provided varies according to individual 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
Has an entry in the Autism Services Directory
Has SEN unit or class Y
HI - Hearing Impairment Y
Hospital School
Mental health Y
MLD - Moderate Learning Difficulty
MSI - Multi-Sensory Impairment
Natspec Specialist Colleges
OTH - Other Difficulty/Disability
Other SpLD - Specific Learning Difficulty Y
PD - Physical Disability Y
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 Y
VI - Visual Impairment Y

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