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What says..

A traditional, but not hidebound, country prep with vitality and warmth and a well deserved reputation for nurturing its pupils who are ‘friendly and confident, willing to give things a try‘. Given a solid grounding, Beestonians go on to do well and make the most of their senior schools.  A predominance of pupils are from county boarding families, know what to expect and settle quickly: ‘The atmosphere is so welcoming and friendly, lots to do'; ‘Older pupils look after younger ones; it is not hierarchical at all.' Idyllic setting, close to north Norfolk coast...

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Meet Beeston Hall School at the Independent Schools Show 2018, Stand 503

What the school says...

'Here at Beeston Hall we are passionate about education in its truest sense. We genuinely believe that childhood is special and that a child's education should be exactly that; a rich playground where learning is fun, challenges are aplenty and friends many. While offering a first class education, we hold traditional values dear, and are unashamedly proud of our finest ambassadors, our children.' ...Read more

What the parents say...

Beeston is a really good school and recent legal problems should not put other parents off. Offers a great niche old fashioned prep school approach for away from the next door broader/modern/higher budgeted) Gresham’s Prep School - Beeston is not overshadowed by the facilities and double the numbers of this more illustrious neighbour because at Beeston small numbers does not mean small passion from this group of good all rounder teachers - they are dedicated and will turn their hand to virtually anything. My only reservation is just check the year doesn’t have a bully in situ as, with such small year sizes, that can be scarring and ruin things for others.

Commented on 4th Sep 2018

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Sports

Fencing

Shooting

What The Good Schools Guide says

Headmaster

Since September 2016, Mr Fred de Falbe (50s). Eton (same vintage as D Cameron), followed by theology at Manchester. Was previously head of St Richard’s, a boarding prep in Herefordshire that has since closed. His varied career has taken him into the film business, property management and a spell as a ‘jackaroo’ in Australia as well as eight years teaching in state schools close to the family farm in North Devon, where, among other things, he carried out most of the maintenance work and raised Tamworth pigs. Was drawn back into full time teaching at Knightsbridge School, a popular day prep in London.

His style is exceedingly hands on – definitely not just a man in a suit, think parents. ‘He’s very visible around the school and pupils like that,’ said one. Easy to talk to with understated charm, has already established good rapport with staff while pupils say he’s interested in all of them, not just the stars. ‘You don’t have to be the best in something for him to talk to you,’ said one.

Has strong views about the need to nurture confidence and self reliance. His advice to parents to, ‘Give your child a broken Hoover to take apart and try and fix in the holidays,’ provoked media interest and he is happy to be associated with the idea of ‘directed purposelessness’. Believes children should look forward to coming to school, ‘Learning takes many forms and some of the best schooling is done when children are having fun.’

Is very pro 'the small country prep school where we all know each other,’ and is not looking to expand the school greatly. His wife Juliet is immersed in everything going on at the school. A trained artist, she was able to fill in teaching art for half a term. Very much a partnership. Three children, now almost through school and at university stage.

Entrance

Non-selective. Now admits pupils to pre-prep department in reception, but numbers increase steadily throughout the school with year 8 the largest age group. Older pupils attend an informal assessment day. Can accommodate mild to moderate learning difficulties but all must be able to follow the curriculum. Not for those with behavioural problems.

A plethora of scholarships (up to 20 per cent of fees) offered for academic excellence, art, music, sport and general all-round ability for all ages plus some means-tested bursaries and help for parents who fall on hard times. Encouraged by former pupils, a drive to fund a greater number of bursaries is underway. The head is determined to encourage the widest possible access to the school. Sibling discounts on a sliding scale are available if two or more children are at the school at the same time.

Exit

Almost all stay to the end of year 8. Majority depart for out of county boarding schools – recently Ampleforth , Eton, Harrow, Oundle, Stowe, Tudor Hall and Uppingham. A clutch most years to Gresham’s and one or two to Norwich School. Careful guidance is given and pupils all get where they want to go, many - over a third in 2017 - with awards.

Our view

The school retains a strong boarding ‘feel’; many day pupils stay on into the evening for activities and supper (no extra charge). Very often the pupils themselves want to change. 'My son began as a day pupil, saw the fun and wanted to board – it was his decision,’ said one mother. ‘Mine both boarded and when family circumstances changed, we asked them if they would like to become day pupils – but they refused.'

Predominance of pupils from county boarding families who know what to expect and settle quickly. 'The atmosphere is so welcoming and friendly, lots to do,’ said a parent. 'Older pupils look after younger ones, it is not hierarchical at all.' They make friends for life,' felt another. 'My daughter has done her gap year travel with old boys.' Lots stay in at weekends (30 is usual) and there are regular exeats at least once each side of half term. The recent introduction of flexi-boarding on designated nights is popular, though full boarding remains the choice of many, especially higher up the school. By year 8, virtually all are boarding full time. Parents chorus approval for the way pupils are prepared for senior schools. 'By the time my son left, he had developed the confidence to cope in a much bigger school.’ Year 8s are integrated into the boarding houses with other years but have certain privileges (such as access to an all-important toaster). Mr de Falbe feels the opportunities to befriend and offer leadership to younger pupils in that final year stand pupils in good stead, besides promoting a strong community.

Children create a good impression. Respectful but ‘at ease’ relations with staff (‘none of that giving them The Look’, as one mother put it), unforced good manners - standing up for visitors and holding doors open for each other as well as adults. Mobile phones are not allowed in the school. Head feels pupils should be better occupied. ‘We stick to the tried and tested phone box in the hall,’ he says. Close supervision of computer use in the evenings and off duty; very aware of online risks and need to educate pupils. Traditional lunch (served at tables, Grace is said, water jug passed round) for the whole school, including staff. ‘We are improving the acoustics in the dining room - the noise is unbelievable, you can’t hear yourself speak at times’, says the head. Daily organised games and lots of off duty playtime punctuate the day. No prep before year 6 ('developing a good reading habit matters most,' says school) then it's 20 minutes a day, increasing in year 8, especially for scholarship hopefuls. Dog-friendly with several around and about in classrooms with their owners (staff) and spectating at matches. Humans (and no doubt dogs as well) are agreed on the benefits.

Idyllic setting, close to north Norfolk coast and nearby National Trust Felbrigg Estate. Sweeping lawns and a Regency house are the centre of a mixture of newer builds. Extensive sporting, music and art facilities. Everything spick and span with notices such as ‘Please walk ON the grass' and, ‘Why not hold the door for someone?‘ Walls crammed with details of daily happenings, pupils’ work, art, photographs and achievements.

Small, mixed ability classes until year 4, when there's flexible setting for English, maths, science and languages. French starts in year 3, Latin from year 6 and Greek (for some) in years 7 and 8. The year 8 scholarship form gives intensive preparation for senior school awards, focusing on individual requirements rather than hothousing a group. Staff flag any problems straightaway via emails and parents are encouraged to have informal chats with them at pick up times, though effort grades are issued and more formal consultations can be arranged.

An educational support unit, based in an attractive suite of rooms, with excellent interactive displays and hard to resist games, is run by a sparkling and vivacious teacher who makes attending a session fun and even a privilege. ‘We have drop-in sessions and parties and children really do see coming here as a treat.’ Parents agree. ‘My daughter only needed help for a year but kept on dropping in to see staff there as it was such a happy place,’ said one. Roughly a quarter receive help of some sort, usually in English and maths.

A well designed and stocked library with wonderful squashy sofas to recline on is staffed throughout the day, including breaks and lunchtime. Pupils have timetabled library lessons for changing books and quiet reading. We visited on World Book Day, taken as seriously by staff as pupils, and were greeted by Captain Haddock (the head) plus the Gruffalo (DT master, helped by ‘easy access to the materials,’) as well as Matilda and Cruella de Vil – and not a single Disney princess to be seen. Art is taught in a barn style studio, mezzanine floor devoted to pupils’ scholarship work, each with own desk and work area so they can come and go in their spare time and leave work in progress undisturbed. Music a school strength with 90 per cent of pupils learning an instrument in timetabled lessons, lots of space for rehearsal and practice and a host of choirs, bands, ensembles and plenty of performance experience. Focus on encouragement - all pupils join the junior choir, auditions only introduced in the higher forms.

School does all the usual team sports and one of the benefits of being a relatively small school is that ‘everyone gets regular match play,’ said a parent. Games every afternoon, played in ‘spirit of enjoyment; competitiveness is important but should not be the last word,’ says the head. Also sailing on the nearby Broads (they have their own fleet of Toppers) and shooting instruction (prep league champions). Plenty of choice for after school and weekend activities: fencing, beach picnics, fashion shows, cookery club, trips to local attractions such as Bewilderwood, theme days as well as Beeston’s got Talent, a well established contest, though highlight of the week for many pupils remains ‘the visit of the ice-cream cart,’ in summer.

A traditional, but not hidebound, country prep with vitality and warmth and a well deserved reputation for nurturing its friendly, confident pupils who are ‘willing to give things a try,’ said a parent. Solid grounding ensures they go on to make the most of their senior schools.

Special Education Needs

Beeston Hall provides SEN support at various levels, depending upon each child's specific need. At the outset children are supported in small classes through specialist teaching by dyslexia trained English staff, supported by classroom assistants. With positive reinforcement and additional individual one-to-one sessions many children thrive in confidence and rapidly come to grips with their concerns. Should a child require additional help, there is the opportunity to drop Latin and attend extra English or maths sessions instead. These small classes are, again, taken by our dyslexia trained English staff who ensure continuity. Beyond this, children can then attend a one-to-one session with the school's special needs specialist. By this stage the school would often recommend that parents seek additional guidance from an educational psychologist, with whom the school would work in close liaison. A maximum of three sessions is allowed for each pupil with the school's specialist and these sessions are charged to a parent's account.

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder
Aspergers Y
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders Y
CReSTeD registered for Dyslexia
Dyscalculia
Dysgraphia
Dyslexia
Dyspraxia
English as an additional language (EAL)
Genetic
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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