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From year 3, after school clubs are embedded into the timetable rather than given a twilight slot. Chafyn Grove has long been known for its winning ways on the sports field and while there has been no dilution in standards there has been a change in ethos. The head would rather ‘lose by one than win by ten’ as part of ...

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What the school says...

At Chafyn Grove we expect a lot from our pupils and we offer a lot in return. A huge variety of extra-curricular activities, a committed staff, excellent facilities and small class sizes combine to allow us to aim high in every field of school life. At the same time, a friendly environment; supportive parents and a relaxed atmosphere make for happy days at school. It is this combination that makes Chafyn Grove special. ...Read more

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What The Good Schools Guide says

Headmaster

Since 2016, Simon Head, previously headmaster of Moreton Hall School in Suffolk. Educated at Stonyhurst, he held a short service limited commission with the Royal Green Jackets (‘good fun and a great leveller’) before studying classics, followed by a PGCE at Cambridge. Taught at Dulwich College Prep and Pembroke House in Kenya and then became deputy head at St John’s Beaumont in Windsor where he met his wife. First headship was Moreton Hall (Suffolk). Married to Sarah, also a teacher, they have two sons.

As a child he wanted to be a vet so maybe there is something in nominative determinism (his surname either raises a smile or causes confusion) because his mother was a headmistress and his twin is also a teacher. At first he resisted following suit and on his father’s advice took a little longer to decide on his profession. He says ‘I wanted to do something rewarding and I’ve no regrets; I love it’, adding ‘it does help when you have grown up in the system.’ Takes year 8 for Latin and under 9 games and describes teaching as ‘the most important job after farming … it is a vocation, it matters to do something meaningful.’

At the time of our conversation around two thirds of children were in school (lots of parents in the army or work for the NHS), but it was clear how much he missed having all Chafyn’s pupils together, ‘They need to see us and we miss them.’ While he is proud of how staff and parents have rallied together to make online learning work, he says, ‘Something is lost, it’s not the same.’ Recalling his time in Kenya he adds, ‘That experience was formative, it made me understand that teaching is all about relationships.’

We found Mr Head both thoughtful and insightful on what it is that schools do, a perennial topic thrown into sharper relief by the pandemic. ‘It’s the things that can’t be measured that are more interesting than those which can,’ he mused, ‘there’s so much in a school which is ineffable.’ Ineffable. Now that’s a great word we don’t hear very often from heads. Less focus on data and a bit more appreciation of mystery – Mr Gradgrind would be horrified!

Parents describe him as ‘personable’ ‘professional’ and ‘approachable’ and marvel at his ability to put names not just to pupils’ faces but parents’ as well. All appreciate his presence, along with dog, Peggy, at pick-up. And it’s walks with Peggy, running, football in the garden with his children and reading (favourite authors are John Buchan and Graham Greene) that have been welcome distractions during lockdown. He also tries to get in the odd bit of fly fishing, ‘It’s a time to tune in to what nature’s doing, to unhook the mind.’

Entrance

Children join at all ages and stages and from all over the area. Entry is non-selective. Applicants are invited to spend a day at the school the term before they begin.

Exit

Bryanston, Godolphin, Canford, Warminster, Marlborough College, Clayesmore, Winchester, Rugby, Radley, Sherborne and Clifton College top the list of ‘next schools’. Around ten leave at age 11 each year for the Salisbury grammar schools and independents. Fourteen scholarships in 2020.

Our view

Founded in 1876 as Salisbury School and changed its name in 1916 following an endowment by Lady Chafyn Grove. A 1914 school photograph shows just 17 boys and three members of staff sitting in the grounds of a large Victorian building. Today, that handful of solemn Edwardian scholars would be very surprised to find 200 boys and girls at Chafyn Grove.

Along with many prep schools Chafyn Grove has moved away from teaching Common Entrance. ‘It’s good to have a finishing post, but by year 8 pupils are essentially running laps’ says Mr Head, ‘exams are important, but the change has been invigorating. Senior schools want interested and interesting pupils.’ Language teaching in particular has benefitted from this change with less emphasis on writing and more on developing skills. Spanish and French are on offer throughout the school and Latin enters the mix in year 6. Science is taught in dedicated labs by specialists from year 3 and maths is also streamed from this age. Scholarship success is strong, particularly in sport, but academic, art, music, drama and DT awards are also gained to the full range of senior schools.

From year 3, after school clubs are embedded into the timetable rather than given a twilight slot. These activities range from parkour and bushcraft to sign language, coding and sailing. All in all, over 60 pursuits are covered over the course of the year as part of the school’s commitment to breadth, balance and ‘finding something for every child to hang their hat on.’ Reading passports, where children complete routes around the world, encourage a love of books.

Because many parents are in the forces or keyworkers, a relatively high proportion of pupils has been in school for lessons during lockdown. At first teachers filmed lessons for those learning from home but after parent feedback quickly switched from pre-recorded to live lessons so that pupils could learn with their peers. ‘It gives a proper structure to the day’, said one parent. Praise too for the weekly newsletter and social media posts keeping home schooling and in school families updated together.

Learning support takes place in The Link where a team of specialists provide one-to-one support for children with particular learning needs, as well as in the classroom. This teaching is included in the general fees until year 4. Parents impressed by how quickly staff readjusted to provide continuity of SEN provision for pupils during lockdown.

Chafyn Grove has long been known for its winning ways on the sports field and while there has been no dilution in standards there has been a change in ethos. The head would rather ‘lose by one than win by ten’ as part of an approach which emphasises teamwork rather than win at all costs. ‘If we beat everyone then we’re picking the wrong fixtures,’ he says. Cricket in the summer is not divided into boys/girls but has open selection throughout and increasingly equal representation in senior teams. Outdoor swimming pool used in summer and up to October! Regular attendance at National Athletics finals and recently the school won the ISA national hockey championships at the Olympic stadium. On-site facilities include two Astros, a sports hall, squash and tennis courts, a bouldering wall and low-ropes course.

Art studio is roomy and light, with plenty of high quality work (standard is ‘incredible’ say parents) on display throughout the school and also in Salisbury. A dedicated workspace for scholars, as well as a ceramics room and DT lab make this a well-resourced and used department. Drama is on the timetable and there are a range of plays for everyone wishing to be involved, whether on or behind the stage. Stronger drama provision was on parents’ wish list and head has appointed a new head of music and drama. Singing is very popular and there are three choirs, as well as a school orchestra, training orchestra and jazz band. Large performance hall has good acoustics, a grand piano and an organ. Practice rooms are small but masses of space for storing instruments and music.

Regular trips for every year group. Ski trip takes parents too ‘with memorable consequences.’ Choir recently toured to Barcelona and Montserrat (the monastery). Chafyn Challenges run alongside the main curriculum, ranging from delivering a match report to a lamb, as well as cooking the Sunday roast (no links with the former). The tenet of ‘Enjoyable Challenge’ informs as much as possible, from giving new things a go to helping others. The Chafyn Champs mentor scheme of older children looking after younger finds many expressions, from listening to reading to getting in the pool with Pre-prep.

The original Victorian building is still home for the boarders, but most of the teaching takes place in modern buildings which seem to flow into one another on school’s well-proportioned site. Children are happy, grounded and energetic. Head sets great store by staff sitting with children at lunch and simply chatting. We hear that a great treat is to be chosen as head’s lunch guest, although whether the attraction is him or the ‘special ice-cream’ wasn’t clear (both, we’re sure). Food is prepared in-house by the chef and served cafeteria style; meal times are informal and children sit where they like. Wrap-around care runs from 8am till 6pm and can be extended further to take in breakfast or dinner.


Emphasis on accessibility of staff extends to parents. As well as encouraging a daily liaison as much as possible between teachers and parents, the Friends (parents’ association) and class reps meet regularly with the headmaster to discuss provision in detail. Every pupil belongs to an Eight (house) with appealing names - Wasps, Frogs, Birds and Knights. Some year groups are ‘a bit boy heavy’, inevitable with a girls’ prep just down the road, but aspiration is to reach equal numbers all through.


Lovely modern pre-prep with bright, spacious classrooms, own hall and play area. Nursery starts small, after which numbers gradually increase into two classes of around a dozen children in each. Children in pre-prep can stay until 6pm and have their own after-school clubs and activities including ballet, (Lego) engineering and drama. Transition to prep managed very well by all accounts.

Parents tend to come from Salisbury and surrounding villages; roughly a quarter of the children are from military families. Army contingent can be somewhat transient but parents describe the whole school community as welcoming and sociable, something that has been a great help during lockdown, ‘It’s been hard for everyone but Chafyn parents have been so supportive of each other.’ Year group WhatsApp keeps everybody in touch.

Boarders

Boarding accommodation is comfortable and recently refurbished. The houseparents also teach in the school, supported by residential staff, gaps and matrons. Boarders have a sitting room and green room where they can Skype parents. Mobiles are not allowed. As well as weekly and full-boarding, there are flexi and occasional options. There are usually around 15 full-boarders – mostly British plus a few Spanish - and the same number again boarding most nights during the week. Boarders can walk into town (accompanied) on Saturday and there are a variety of excursions on Sunday, covering the beach, New Forest and usual attractions. Parents of boarders really appreciate the fact that staff take footage of matches so that they can watch their children in action on the pitch.

Money matters

Forces discounts (normally 10 per cent day and 15 per cent full boarding) and sibling discounts from five to 15 per cent available. Means-tested bursaries typically range between 10 and 40 per cent of the fees.

The last word

A happy, busy school where children are individually understood. A recently-retired long-serving member of staff says ‘Chafyn is a kinder school than ever.’

Special Education Needs

Pupils with learning and speech difficulties are identified as early as possible and are then assessed within our department. If further investigation is recommended, pupils may be assessed by either an educational psychologist or speech and language therapist. If help is needed, pupils are supported within our Learning Support Department and class support may also be given. There is no charge for Learning Support lessons. 10-09

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder Y
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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