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A traditional prep school with an outdoorsy, sporty feel. The great outdoors is what defines Cranleigh: acres of grassy pitches, Astro, tennis courts and netball courts. Lovely play area for the youngest Cranleighans. The school even has its own little woods: the Copse. The buildings are a mix of Edwardian and...

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What the school says...

Set in 40 acres of stunning Surrey countryside, just 50 minutes from London, Cranleigh Prep offers a uniquely warm and welcoming educational environment for children aged 7-13. Although a top, high-achieving independent school in its own right, pupils benefit from sharing an exceptional 7-18 programme with Cranleigh School (just across the road) for sports, music and computing. This is reflected in our many county and national achievements in sport and music in recent years. From academics and musicians to sports stars and artists, the experience of each individual is at the heart of everything the School does. Pupils have won over 200 scholarships over the last five years to some of the country's leading schools, including: Cranleigh, Brighton College, Charterhouse, Eton, KCS Wimbledon, Marlborough, RGS Guildford, Tonbridge, Wellington and Winchester. ...Read more

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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.

What The Good Schools Guide says


Since 2018, Neil Brooks BA QTS. Read geography and PE at Warwick University. Unusually (to say the least) for a head, he spent his 20s as a soldier – a British army officer serving in an airborne unit in Northern Ireland and Bosnia. Plunged into the world of education by becoming a housemaster, and then headmaster for eight years, at Cothill House. He and his wife then embarked on an Elysian project to reopen the recently shuttered Old Malthouse Prep in Dorset as a venue for science courses. Courses and boarding experiences were designed for inner-London children, in affiliation with the Natural History Museum and London’s Pimlico Academy. Most recently, had a spell at Fulham Prep where he was hired on the quixotic errand of launching a senior school. Spent two years on the project before being snapped up by Cranleigh.

An outdoor education enthusiast, he spends much time running and cycling. Emanates competence, experience, calm. Thoroughly direct and down to earth, with an engaging, self-deprecating sense of humour.

Retiring in December 2024. To be replaced in January 2025 by Will Newman, currently head of Sedbergh Prep for the last six years and before that, deputy head of Taunton Prep. He has 24 years of experience in senior leadership positions in prep school education and has taught both science and English. He has an MA in PE and a strong interest in sport, as well as the performing arts. Married to Liz, a fellow teacher; they have two children.


Main entry point is at 7+. The assessment day consists of an informal group interview, English papers in comprehension and creative writing, a maths paper and ‘fun team building activities’. Parents promise us it’s nothing to stress over. Around 38-45 boys and girls enter at this stage. Most come from independent schools like Glenesk, Duke of Kent, Longacre, St Hilary’s and Belmont, plus local infant and primary schools like Ewhurst, Wonersh & Shamley Green, Shere and Peaslake. Some 10-15 pupils join at 11+, many from London preps, and here the process is more competitive. These late applicants sit the ISEB pre-test in year 6 and attend a holistic review day. Strong sibling policy: this is very much a family school.


Vast majority, some 85 per cent, move ‘across the road’ (an oft-used phrase here) to Cranleigh School, many with scholarships. CE taken in core subjects with school’s own tests in the humanities. However, promotion isn’t (quite) guaranteed, and children aiming for other schools are given equal support and advice (‘but they certainly push the senior school,’ noted a parent wryly). Those who move go on to eg Eton, Seaford, Lancing, Charterhouse, Millfield and Radley. In 2024, 29 scholarships.

Our view

A flourishing school with two forms entering year 3, expanding to five forms by year 8. Specialist teachers from day one for French and science. Spanish has been introduced in the top two years, and there are murmurs of Mandarin following suit. Every child in year 8 now has a school-issued iPad; year 7 will come on line next. Wide ability range but, as usual with trad preps, we found some parental grumbles about the scholarship stream separating children for the last two years. Proto-scholars have all lessons together and, as a by-product, can end up socially separated from former friendships (school points out that scholars have all games sessions and breaks with the rest of the school). ‘It’s unnecessary,’ the parent of a child who is now ‘way ahead’ of his peers at his senior school told us. ‘They get them so far ahead, they could polish off a couple of GCSEs – the pump is primed too early.’ Long days ending at 5.45pm after two preps or an optional activity; bit earlier on Wednesdays (school day formally ends at 4.35pm; the prep sessions and activities are optional).

Good SEN support for mainstream pupils who do not require specialist assistance: 55 children currently receive this additional help, mainly for dyslexia and dyspraxia. Parents we spoke to heaped praise on the support their children received. Access ramps and accessible toilet facilities mean the school can cater for children with mobility issues. The new buildings are equipped with lifts.

Reading and literature boosted by Cranleigh’s very own Awesome Book Awards, an annual prize that honours the best new fiction for young readers aged 7-10. Thousands of pupils from schools across the south-east read the five books on the shortlist and vote for their favourite. Winner is announced at a celebration at the senior school and the winner becomes the school’s Reading Patron for the year: Awesome!

Sport sits firmly at the heart of education here. It’s timetabled every day, with matches midweek and on alternate Saturdays – all levels. ‘It’s the reason we moved our daughter here,’ said the parent of a girl attending one of the area’s many girls’ schools. Head has tipped the balance a smidge towards the arts, and perhaps a scintilla away from sport, but the latter’s heft continues to be felt. Aims to marry the goals of ‘sport for all’ (encouraging the duffers) with ‘competitive excellence’ (pushing the natural athletes). Lots of minor sports, like fencing, judo, swimming and fives, are a welcome alternative for children who don’t excel at team games. The senior school’s equestrian centre looks after keen riders, and a few children keep their own horses or ponies at the school. Prep shares all the senior school’s sports coaches, pitches and its indoor swimming pool.

Annual stage performances for each year group include nativity, panto, musical and Shakespeare. Dance part of the curriculum years 3-5. DT in lovely new building from year 5; food tech too. Music is particularly strong, and musicians benefit from a programme called Cranleigh Music 7-18 through which music teachers work at both Cranleigh Prep and Cranleigh School and the most able musicians play in ensembles across the age range. Around a third of children learn an instrument. The art room is stuffed full of current projects by pupils of all ages, including some really unusual ceramics, textiles and sculptures. Talented artists could find the perfect niche here.

Lunchtime has been extended and now includes a ‘protected’ half hour for enrichment activities like orchestra and choir, so children aren’t rushing off mid-chew or missing out on play and social time with their peers. Middle and upper school children have optional ‘priority time’ activities at the end of the school day, which include hobby-based activities such as Airfix modelling, brain games, chess, crafts, family history, patchwork and stone masonry.

Pastoral care is ‘as important as what we do academically’, says the head. Kindness valued above all things. Some years ago the school was occasionally faulted for not always handling bullying with sufficient vigour. Children accused of bullying received understanding and rehabilitation when parents were really looking for an iron fist. We found no complaints from parents on this score now, and nary an iron fist in sight! Mobile phones are not allowed, and the head pleads guilty to being ‘slightly old fashioned’. One of the advantages of having a well-seasoned head is he can take the long view. He worries about children as young as 10 or 11 suffering from anxiety: ‘It never used to be the case.’ The school runs lectures on mental health for parents and children. Wants the prep to be a place where children can be children, and where play is valued (‘not always easy in materialistic Surrey,’ he murmurs).

Not what you might call an international or multicultural melting pot; the school roll included zero children of expats or of overseas nationals at the time of our visit, though one child was receiving EAL support.

The great outdoors is what defines Cranleigh: acres of grassy pitches, Astro, tennis courts and netball courts. Lovely play area for the youngest Cranleighans. The school even has its own little woods: the Copse. The buildings are a mix of Edwardian and a hotch-potch of newer. The glass-and-wood Townsend building was inspired by African game lodges (previous head grew up in Kenya) complete with viewing deck overlooking the cricket pitch. The senior school across the road dominates the views, keeping that future option ever in mind.


Smallish numbers of boarders, especially under age 11. The school is always fanning the boarding embers, but continues to attract take-up of around 15 per cent (though this percentage is now growing rapidly). Increasingly popular with south London families who find the weekly option handy indeed. Big plans to refurbish boarding accommodation were stalled by Covid. Super-flexi boarding means children can board from one night a week up to five (no boarding offered on weekends) or even on an odd night when parents will be out or away. The head calls it ‘a gentle introduction to boarding rather than Cothill-type full-on boarding’. Two matrons are always on hand. Although day pupils hugely outnumber boarders, the daily routine of late finishing, prep at school and Saturday school on alternate weeks permeates the ethos.

Money matters

A few scholarship awards are given to exceptional candidates at 11 for academic, music and sport, nothing earlier. Scholarship winners may apply for means-tested bursaries. Sibling discounts are available for third and subsequent siblings.

The last word

A traditional co-ed prep with an outdoorsy atmosphere radiating space and freedom. Strong links to its senior school. A good choice for a broad education, less academically pressured than many others and with plenty of learning support for those who need it. A school for children firing on all cylinders and keen to get stuck in: it’s all here.

Special Education Needs

The Learning Support Department at Cranleigh Prep School deals with pupils who have a learning difficulty which in some way hinders their ability to learn fully in the main classroom. The aim of the department is to provide a safe learning environment for pupils to achieve their potential. We provide specialist tuition for pupils with dyslexia, dyspraxia and dyscalculia. Support can be provided for pupils for whom English is a second language. We tailor our teaching to the pupil's specific learning difficulties. Every pupil has an individual educational plan or IEP made specifically to suit their needs. A multi-sensory approach to learning is taken with our students. The department offers specialist teacher assessments to identify pupils who may have a specific need. All teachers in the school are made aware of pupils receiving support and their needs. We can also recommend outside specialists such as educational psychologists, speech and language therapists, occupational therapists and opticians. All the teachers in the Learning Support Department are qualified special needs teachers. They all hold diplomas in SpLD. We also have a trained Phonographix tutor and Visualising & Verbalising tutor.

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