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School proud of its teachers. ‘Phenomenal,’ they say. Parents describe them as ‘firm but fair’, some better at communicating with parents than others. Special mentions for chemistry teacher who offers ‘funny’ experiments involving magnesium or hydrogen - a sure fire way to win them over, to art (‘making birds out of cardboard and plastic bottles.’) and humanities enthusiast ‘who makes a virtue of being a history geek and brings the kids with him,’ says mother. Ambitious curriculum even for the very young, with nursery children taught...

 

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What the school says...

A vibrant, all-action family school, well known for its welcoming atmosphere and its high standard of pastoral care. We want our pupils both to enjoy school and to be inspired to achieve their full potential. Drawing upon our own outstanding resources, as well as those of the College, we provide a wide range of opportunities for our pupils and ensure that they are underpinned, always, with the greatest support and encouragement.

We aim to help each pupil to build a kind and strong character. The pursuit of whole-hearted effort is our priority whilst encouraging high standards of achievement. We believe that who you are is more important than what you achieve.

Our school provides a superb, all-round education that stimulates, challenges and captivates. The excellent academic curriculum is complemented by a rich co-curricular programme of sport, music, creative and performing arts alongside a wide range of clubs and activities; trips, House initiatives and competitions abound. The majority of our pupils transfer to Brighton College in Year 9.
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What The Good Schools Guide says

Headmaster

Since 2017, Mr John Weeks BA. Long-standing links with the school – joined Brighton College as a teacher in 2000, promoted to head of middle school, then to deputy headmaster, before moving to the London Academy of Excellence (partner state sixth form college). When children were born – he has two sons, both at the school - felt like the right time to return. (Parents report seeing him enjoying family cycling trips at the weekend).

Because he teaches (life skills, two maths sets - one year 6, one year 3 and lesson cover) many pupils get to know him well. He’s kind and caring, they say. ‘Never gets cross’ and has ‘a nice smile.’ ‘Impressive and professional,’ says parent, who noted that he was also quite often on meet and greet gate duty in the morning.

He’s felt to have settled into the post (predecessor was, by all accounts, a hard act to follow) and has brought in changes, notably strengthening links between prep and pre-prep, while a big anxiety-reduction measure has been to ditch competitive entry between the two.

Both now have same leadership team, with prep staff working in the pre-prep (and vice versa). ‘I wanted to be very clear that it’s one school - a 3-13 experience that parents are buying into,’ he says.

He’s also made house system consistent, with four houses and four patron saints all the way through. Clearer for parents, consistent with senior school - ‘We feed into their ethos,’ says Mr Weeks - though uniform (including distinctive black blazer) remains different.

Some of his ideas have led to grumbles from parents. Particularly mourned is axing of the headmaster’s show up – review of stand-out work. Replaced by Pelican Pathway – based on more formal, points-based system so easier for pupils to understand why they are getting an award.

Rewards system generally much clearer, with points given in three areas – academic, pastoral and co-curricular - and pupils moving from bronze, through silver and gold awards. Goal is inclusivity. ‘Recognises not just academic achievement but those who are kind or put particular effort in,’ says Mr Weeks. Extra awards for those taking part in challenge weeks where pupils solve little questions like explaining the meaning of life.

Sanctions also reworked with clear warnings given in class via a yellow and red card system. However, teachers will be aware of any pupils who find it hard to sit still so that they can ensure they are able to take a movement break. ‘Goes to the heart of a Brighton College education which is tailoring provision for the individual and recognising that there is a range of different needs.’

Core of school’s approach is ensuring that it attracts the best possible teachers – people who are passionate and capable of instilling confidence in whatever year group they teach (some work in the senior as well as the prep school). This can – as at the senior school - mean looking beyond experience or qualifications. ‘I will pick the person who I think will inspire children regardless of whether they have a PGCE,’ says Mr Weeks.

What about dealing with the parents? He’s a fan of robust discussions, he says, though prefers them not to happen when he’s in dad rather than head mode – for example, dropping off or collecting from birthday parties, though most parents are good at recognising the boundaries.

Not keen on the admin that stops him from getting out and about. Best bits of the job are spending time with pupils. ‘They’re the moments that inspire me and make me laugh.’

Entrance

Destination school for parents hoping to book passage all the way through to 18. Others find themselves here through circumstance when primary school admissions system doesn’t go their way.

For pre-prep (nursery to year 3), main entry point is now nursery (minimum commitment to five mornings a week, register 18 months to two years in advance, places confirmed following taster afternoon). Occasional places in every year group up to year 6. (In years 7 and 8, older children would apply to the senior school).

Exit

No guaranteed admission to Brighton College though the school says that since Mr Weeks’s arrival, no prep school pupil has failed to gain a place there (did happen – occasionally – in previous years). Just two or three families in each cohort will be advised (usually in year 6, sometimes much earlier) if need to look elsewhere - Bede’s, Hurst, Christ’s Hospital or Lancing among the other destinations if this is the case.

Our view

One of three junior schools owned by Brighton College, the eponymous prep is on a smallish but attractive site across the road from the senior school. Can look a bit constrained for taller year 8s, looming large in the playground and seemingly every inch ready for the wider horizons of the senior school, though pupils ‘don’t seem to mind,’ says parent. School does its best to maximise available space with a courtyard and Astro, caged (school prefers ‘enclosed’) ‘so balls don’t end up in the road.’

Prep buildings include a converted chapel, now a beautiful large library also used for learning support lessons (seems very public but the pupils we saw, on the quest for imaginative adjectives, certainly didn’t seem discombobulated). Ground floor is particularly upmarket, with much emphasis on lighting - downlights, uplighters, vast lanterns along the corridors and even a light up anchor at the back of the library. Gets a bit more workaday as you get further upstairs, though never shabby.

Solid education along conventional lines (uniform infringements are taken seriously here), discipline a strong feature. Felt by parents that it’s not necessarily the ideal place for the very quirky or less conformist (general view from is that many will feel far more at home in the senior school). School disagrees – ‘it’s a real melting pot.’

But for pupils who enjoy fitting in - engaging with teachers, answering questions, being part of the process, the experience ‘can be phenomenal.’ One happy parent said son’s grades had shot up after he started here.

Best prep lessons are fun, creative and engaging with much practical work and constructive debate, but we heard that some can be a little more workaday, with worksheets rather too prominent.

In a lively year 4 drama lesson, ‘dragon catchers’ were using mime to capture their dragons in different ways - ‘now by the toe’ – and drag them home, while, in science, year 5s were happily filling beakers to overflowing point and recording the results. Plenty of traditional learning goes on, too, with another group of year 4s identifying capital cities and filling them in on a map in one of the busy, cheerful classrooms.

School proud of its teachers. ‘Phenomenal,’ they say. Parents describe them as ‘firm but fair’, some better at communicating with parents than others. Special mentions for chemistry teacher who offers ‘funny’ experiments involving magnesium or hydrogen - a sure fire way to win them over, to art (‘making birds out of cardboard and plastic bottles.’) and humanities enthusiast ‘who makes a virtue of being a history geek and brings the kids with him,’ says mother.

Ambitious curriculum even for the very young, with nursery children taught Mandarin and French and specialist teachers also in drama, dance, music and art. More specialists added each year and, by year 6, used for every subject. While Mandarin had been compulsory, now optional from year 7, when pupils can also opt for French, German, Spanish, Latin or touch typing.

Maths setting starts in year 2 – based not just on ability but on learning style. English setting from year 4. In year 6, separate sets for maths continue, with pupils set by subject blocks – will be in same group for English and humanities, and for science and languages. DT, art, and drama taught all the way through, with pupils from year 4 also learning home economics. Lessons vary in length (as little as 20 minutes up to year 3, as long as 35 minutes in the prep) with ‘sharp, inspirational teaching,’ says the head.

Inevitable emphasis on exam preparation is well handled, with stress downplayed as far as possible and Common Entrance exams becoming a feature only in years 7 and 8. ‘Lessons seem as if they’re not just about the exams. You do tasks that help but don’t feel like revision, so you enjoy them as well,’ says pupil at the top of the school. Homework increases gradually but is never insurmountable. ‘In years 6, 7 and 8 you’re expected to do 30 minutes and some at weekends,’ says parent.

In the past, school has been notable for dyslexia support – reckoned to be exceptional for helping bright children whose writing, or reading, were holding them back. These days, emphasis on inclusion - supporting within in class if possible, with flexible support and differentiated teaching. Also have separate building for support – some parents questioned whether it made their children feel segregated but ‘pupils love this,’ says school, firmly.

School is universally felt to be brilliant for music, drama and art - ‘performing arts are where the magic resides,’ says one parent. Huge amount going on, with choirs, orchestras and shows, everything from informal tea time concerts (virtual beginners to young prodigies ‘can be a bit nervous – but not the next time,’ says parent) to jazz day and termly concerts.

Highlight for many are the dance performances – dazzling in terms of size, scale and glitz, say parents who – even if they work full time (though no stigma if that level of organisation is beyond you) somehow manage to put in the hours to help with costumes, make up, ferrying children to (numerous) rehearsals and don’t begrudge the effort.

Sport perhaps surprisingly strong – limited pitches on site, most a bus journey away. Games or PE four times a week. Matches aplenty for those who excel, perhaps fewer opportunities to shine for the merely good, though ‘if you can play, you will,’ say pupils (particularly the case in year groups with fewer girls to choose from). If match clashes with a favourite lesson (DT, for example) pupils say you can ask not to play. School has brought in mixed age sports teams (may include year below, as with football team combining years 7 and 8, works as long as age groups are roughly equal, think parents – can make you stand out slightly if just one or two are ‘different’).

Some parents would like school to reach out more – felt that their views aren’t always considered. Several wondered if the school could be even kinder, in keeping with its motto, ‘Be Good. Be Kind. Be Honest. Be the Best You.’ That said, individual staff are felt to be very caring – we heard of anxious pupil being given extra time to settle in the morning so could get used to new environment.

Pre-prep is on a spacious site about 10 minutes away, previously owned by Roedean and then sold on. Parking, up driveway owned by school, is the inevitable bunfight (parents and teachers will be very familiar with reverse gears and precision steering). Purpose built building has masses of outdoor space (big field, two playgrounds, one subdivided so nursery and reception classes can have their own sectioned off areas). Spaces are universally generous and inviting, from the colourful mats that make carpet time a pleasure to the multipurpose hall, overlooked by internal windows from the first floor. Much made (as at the prep) of the well-stocked library (added pleasure provided by the sea views).

Older pre-prep children encouraged to take on more responsibility. Parents grow with them – parents are asked not to come up to the classroom with them. Children often ready – parents less so though can, says the school, be trained up.

Teaching here is inventive and kind. ‘The teachers made it really fun,’ says former pupil (now at the prep). Much outdoor learning and numerous activities, with even nursery children who stay on for optional afternoon sessions getting the chance to enjoy music, yoga, small scale local excursions, languages and singing – and a popular hot lunch brought over from the senior school.

Technology also starts early, with coding taught from year 1 and iPads widely used. Though the introduction is gentle, it feels like school from the off, with full school uniform from reception and even the nursery ‘dress code’ specifying school sweatshirt and navy bottoms.

Feature of school’s approach is to take theme and adapt for each year group. So ‘Pole to pole’ includes adding and subtracting penguin eggs (reception), dramatically glittering pictures of aurora borealis (year 1), and year 3 answering questions about ‘how do polar bears live?’ (year 3). Inspiration provided by art teacher’s unnervingly realistic full size polar bear whose tissue covered frame looks amiably at visitors from the top of stairs. (Art here is exceptionally good).

Thanks to the decision to ditch prep entrance exams for pre-prep pupils, now a true 3-13 school offering a thorough education run on established lines. Links with ultra-desirable secondary Brighton College can’t help but add to its allure. Ideal for biddable hard workers.

Special Education Needs

Brighton College specialises in helping bright dyslexic children to achieve their academic potential whilst providing them with a stimulating environment in which to develop their strengths and talents. The school has its own dyslexia centre which supports children from each of the two schools of Brighton College: the Nursery, Pre-Prep & Prep School and the College. Up to the end of year 6, pupils receive a combination of in-class support in English and small group withdrawal for specialist teaching. From year 7, full members of the dyslexia centre receive all their English lessons in the centre in groups no larger than nine. In addition, most dyslexic pupils substitute modern languages time for additional support. For those pupils whose needs require less support, ad hoc provision is available. In the sixth form, an AS/A level study skills course is available, together with individual support lessons. Pupils with other special educational needs are the responsibility of the three special needs co-ordinators (SENCos). The school is always happy to discuss individual needs with parents, although it recognises that the level of provision it can currently offer may not be sufficient to support all special educational needs. The school has a separate department for the support of those pupils whose first language is not English.

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder
Aspergers
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders
CReSTeD registered for Dyslexia
Dyscalculia
Dysgraphia
Dyslexia Y
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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