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Quite a lot of parents were brought up round here, moved to London for work and have returned, hoping to give their children a bit more green space and a lot less school pressure. They approve of Edgeborough’s traditional values, several singling out pupils’ smart appearance and good manners, ‘they look you in the eye’. They love the small classes (average of 14) and want their children to do well – but not at any cost. That’s why ...

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What the school says...

Edgeborough is an IAPS School, for girls and boys aged 2-13, with day and weekly boarding. Situated in 50 acres of beautiful countryside just outside Farnham, Surrey, the stunning grounds enhance the education that is provided at the school. With an emphasis on a happy, family atmosphere, Edgeborough fosters all round development and a balanced, first class education.

Small class sizes ensure that each child’s progress is recognised and encouraged, with children also being well prepared for the exciting challenges they will face at one of the many excellent day and boarding senior schools available both locally and nationally.

A range of extra-curricular activities and clubs provide the opportunity for teachers to nurture and develop pupils’ self-esteem. The vast outdoor space is ripe for discovering and is a constant source of enjoyment for pupils. The specialist facilities help make learning fun; enriching the academic, social and cultural aspects of school life

The opportunity to meet with prospective parents and offer a personal tour of the school, seeing Edgeborough in full-flow, is welcomed. Appointments are made on an individual basis at your convenience. Of course, termly Open Mornings are another way of seeing the school in action while still getting to meet the Headmaster, staff and pupils.
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What The Good Schools Guide says

Headmaster

Since 2017, Daniel Thornburn MEd, BA Hons, FCMI (40s, but doesn’t look it), formerly head of St Petroc’s School, Bude. Yet another head who claims he ‘fell into teaching’, but it seems he did follow a slightly more circuitous route than most, with stints as a ‘milkman, painter and delivering TVs’ along the way. Comes from a teaching family (‘sort of’), his father was in the army and ended up as a university lecturer; his grandfather was a housemaster at Wrekin College in Shropshire before becoming a headmaster of Colfox, a grammar school in Dorset. Educated at Packwood Haugh and then on to Wrekin where he dreamt of becoming a professional rugby player and ‘messed up his A levels’. He was embarking on an ‘enforced gap year’ when a friend’s father suggested he go and be an actual gappie, helping out at Lockers Park School. After a degree in history (‘and rugby’) at Exeter, where he also met his future wife Emi, he returned to Lockers, qualified via the graduate teaching programme and stayed for five years as class teacher, head of rugby and games coach. Thence to Chafyn Grove for nine years where he taught English and history, was head of ICT and rugby and became deputy head. He and Emi then took six months off and travelled round New Zealand in a camper van. Such a wide skill set (though maybe not the milkman bit) must have come in handy when he took on his first headship at St Petroc’s: ‘I did every job, including maintenance, in addition to 50 per cent teaching. It taught me a lot about how schools work.’

Has made changes since arriving but nothing revolutionary, ‘it’s all about the feel’ he says. There seems to have been a general opening up and softening of hierarchies – a case in point is the ‘head’s lawn’, a large grassy area at the back of the school that had always been out of bounds. Mr Thornburn decided it was time to share it with his pupils – they probably get a lot more use out of it than he would. Says his priorities are getting to know every child and being ‘visible’, and since all the parents we spoke to commented on how well he knows the children and how visible he is, we think he can cross those off the list. Regrets ‘not having enough time to teach’ at the moment apart from the odd cover lesson and some pre-prep sport.

Enjoys cricket and squash as well as rugby (trains with the Farnham veterans). Recently acquired a rowing machine - claims he gets up at 4.30am and after an hour on that is ‘set up for the day.’ Gulp. His favourite book as a boy was The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay, the story of an English boy in apartheid South Africa. Now he loves anything by Colin Dexter. Mr and Mrs Thornburn (‘they’re a brilliant team’) have two children at the school as well as Twitter star Humphrey, the golden retriever.

Parents confessed to being in awe of his energy. ‘I don’t know how he fits it all in,’ said one, ‘his door is always open, you see him all over the place. He’s always smiling, his positivity rubs off on everyone.’ Another added, ‘He wants the children to have fun and adventures; when it snowed he got everyone outside for snowball fights. He tells the children, “bring in your conkers and we’ll play".'

Our year 8 guides, clearly old hands at the Edgeborough tour game, told us rather solemnly that Mr T had ‘made a positive impact’, before warming to their subject and adding, ‘he’s so easy to talk to and his Friday assemblies are really special’. We’re not sure what he says but apparently those Friday assemblies set parents up for the weekend too. He should sell tickets.

Entrance

Gently selective. Around 20 pupils join reception each year and there’s another intake at year 3 to form three classes for this age group. Will accept applications into other year groups if vacancies occur.

Exit

Some pupils go at 11+ but most leave at 13+ to a good variety of day and boarding senior schools including Charterhouse, Prior’s Field, Frensham Heights, Cranleigh, Lord Wandsworth, Churcher’s College and Wellington College. Twenty scholarships in 2018.

Our view

Edgeborough started life as a ‘coaching establishment’ in 1895 and opened in Guildford as a boys’ boarding school in 1905. Moved to its current site – 50 wooded acres that look out over the Surrey hills – in 1939. Main house, Frensham Place, is a sturdy Victorian mansion that was once home to newspaper magnate and founder of the Daily Express, Sir Cecil Arthur Pearson. The head’s secretary at the time spotted the building and thought it might be suitable; shortly afterwards it was purchased by the school for £7,000. Co-ed since 1992.

Nursery and pre-prep are housed in Scandi-style wooden chalets with generous covered outdoor play areas, little raised gardening plots and extensive grounds beyond. Every other Friday the youngest children head off into the forest for ‘woodland activities.’ Apparently, London escapee parents (of whom there are increasing numbers) can’t get over how much space their children have to play and learn in.

A feature of the nursery classrooms was pointed out to us (if an absence of something can be called a feature): there are no teacher desks, everything is at child level. It sounded like a good idea at the time, but what’s the theory behind it? Is there proof that full size furniture inhibits early learning and, if so, how did we all cope? Perhaps it’s nice for the children, if they actually notice, but we felt a bit sorry for the teachers. Those tiny chairs must take a toll on adult backs.

Parents can find out what their children are up to (and comment) via the Tapestry App, an online early years ‘learning journal’. Mini trips to investigate things like the postal sorting office or supermarket (Waitrose, naturally) are followed up by role play and other activities. We crept in to get a preview of rehearsals for the nursery nativity play – confident singing and a very good year 8 narrator.

Big emphasis on sharing ‘positive praise’ – not just from teachers, parents can also give stars when their child does something noteworthy at home. Recognising individual achievements, however ‘normal’ they may seem to others, is a big part of the Edgeborough culture and starts early.

Everything we saw in the prep was as it should be, from the merry, paint-spattered art room to the very impressive science labs. The labs are designed so that they can be reconfigured every term according to which science is being studied; wooden benches appear to have made a comeback, apparently, ‘it’s a much better surface for chemistry’. Upstairs is food technology and science equipment used by the younger children when they come over from the pre-prep. In DT pupils were working on a sofa for the new year 8 common room and we admired Ferris wheels controlled by computer programmes, all designed and built by the children. Testing for SEN as and when required from reception onwards; parents say problems are picked up quickly and learning support (known as Leap) is very good.

Music teaching described as ‘absolutely incredible’, one even went so far as to call it ‘miraculous’, with reports of harmonious noises being coaxed from the most unpromising sources. Every single reception pupil learns the violin but there’s no need for parents to buy earplugs: ‘they don’t have to practise at home’ we were told, ‘it’s done to get them all playing something together.’ Music for all is the theme, but there’s plenty of scope for variations and solo talents with four choirs and lots of instrumental ensembles. The same goes for drama – we heard no complaints about parts always going to the select few.

Sport is a big part of Edgeborough life and as one might expect the onus is on fun, fitness and team effort; on playing the game as much as hammering the opposition (fortunately both are achieved). ‘Children are developed and stretched, whatever their ability’, one parent told us. Girls and boys play hockey and cricket; rugby, football, lacrosse and netball divide along gender lines. There’s specialist sports coaching for all from nursery upwards. Dance (street, tap, modern and ballet) is a popular extracurricular option as are judo, gymnastics and climbing. Plenty of pitches, an Astro and an adventure playground, pool is outdoors and getting that covered seems to be high on children’s and parents’ wish list.

No Saturday school, boarding is Monday to Friday only. Can board from year 3 although majority start from year 5. Most do from one to three nights but odd nights ‘hotel boarding’ also available. Everyone has their own bed, even if they only stay one night a week. As usual, dorms occupy what were once servants’ quarters at top of main house, boys and girls at either end. Rooms, named after leaders, Nelson, Drake, Churchill etc (great chaps all of them, but bit of a boys’ school hangover, we wondered?), are warm and brightly decorated; corridors feature lots of photos and well-kept, informative noticeboards. Rule is no individual screens – phones are handed in; contact with outside world is via landline. Nice, homely kitchen with sofa where boarders can make tea and toast. After supper there’s a choice of indoor and outdoor activities (day pupils can stay for these) until 7.30pm after which boarders can watch films in the common room, ‘do baking’ or just spend time with friends, ‘there’s always someone to talk to’.

Nice old school dining room (rather dramatic fireplace, honours boards, long tables); ‘family style service’ - prep children can choose where they sit and staff ‘dot about’. ‘You’re never hungry here and our match teas are the best,’ we were told. We can vouch for both friendly, informal atmosphere and delicious food. Days are fun, busy – and quite long with a 4.20pm finish; older pupils can stay on for prep, supper and activities until 7.30pm. ‘Great for logistics’, said one mother, ‘but exhausting at first.’ She felt that children needed to have ‘lots of energy’ and to be ‘well organised’. Nothing but praise for school’s pastoral care: ‘staff know the children so well’, ‘they really help children grow in confidence and self-esteem.’

Close to Camberley and Aldershot but no significant numbers from military families - ‘we’re not reliant on that’, says head; more likely that one or both parents are working in London. Quite a lot of parents were brought up round here, moved to London for work and have returned, hoping to give their children a bit more green space and a lot less school pressure. They approve of Edgeborough’s traditional values, several singling out pupils’ smart appearance and good manners, ‘they look you in the eye’. They love the small classes (average of 14) and want their children to do well – but not at any cost. That’s why they’re so supportive of the head’s attitude: ‘He tells the children not to worry about exams, that they’ll get into the school that’s right for them. He wants them to work hard but also to learn from things that go wrong. It takes the pressure off them.’ It helps too that families can relate to Mr Thornburn and his wife, who have children of a similar age and share their concerns; ‘we’re in the same boat,’ he says.

‘Make the most of every opportunity and enjoy every second,’ Mr Thornburn tells pupils, and Edgeborough is just the place to do it. Inclusive, ambitious, just the right balance of traditional and modern – and a huge amount of fun.

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