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Children put on their boiler suits at break time and head into the woods to play, and can climb trees to the height of the tallest teacher – the headmaster strikes a balance with health and safety. Who needs a climbing frame when a fallen tree is much more fun? Everyone needed for matches and the less sporty have to take part. This gives all children a chance to shine – ‘my daughter was never really interested in sport but has had to take part and now she really enjoys it – that would never have happened in a larger school'... 

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What the school says...

Great Ballard School is situated in the South Downs National Park and, as such, we successfully combine our modern teaching resources and our stunning woodlands and grounds during lessons, activities and break times. Our excellent facilities include; a modern science lab, ICT suite, and outdoor classroom in Pre-Prep, a Dance and Drama Studio, Music Centre, Astroturf, covered swimming pool and playing fields with views of the South Coast.

Since Great Ballard School first started in 1924, there has always been a strong belief in learning from the environment and the ethos of the school has developed to encourage children to explore and discover their world and we now offer Forest School education programmes.

Academic, Art and Music scholarships have been gained to many senior schools in recent years including; Lancing College, Hurstpierpoint College, Brighton College, Seaford College, Portsmouth Grammar to mention just a few.

Great Ballard prides itself on its friendly, family atmosphere and offers flexibility to our parents with subsidised bus runs, after school care and activities and the popular breakfast club, all of which help our parents with their busy lifestyles.

We also welcome International boarders for short or long term stays which gives them a great opportunity to experience British Boarding in our small, rural, family community.

We would love to have the opportunity to show you round
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Sports

Equestrian centre or equestrian team - school has own equestrian centre or an equestrian team.

Sailing

What The Good Schools Guide says

Headmaster

Since 2015, Richard Evans BEd MEd (management) (50s). He was educated at a grammar school in Wales and did his teacher training at St Paul’s and St Mary’s in Cheltenham (where he met his wife Carol) and spent five years at a state secondary school before joining Eagle House prep school. He then held several prep school posts before spending five years as head of St Andrew’s in Surrey, a further four as head of Bromsgrove Prep and three as head of Craigclowan, Perth before moving south to Great Ballard.

He took over after a period of uncertainty when the school had two headmasters in three years and has now set it on an even keel. ‘There has been a great change since Mr Evans took over,’ said a parent. ‘The school used to be a well-kept secret, but he is brilliant at marketing and raised its profile in the local area and on social media.’ There is a brand new star-studded website (the school is in an International Dark Sky Reserve) and the school ‘feels a much more self-confident place,’ said a parent.

He loves all things sporting and used to be a keen cricket and rugby player – he played rugby for Saracens for four years. He also loves golf, has recently taken up fly fishing and is outdoors whenever possible, walking or cycling on the downs – and having owned a few himself, he enjoys sports cars. He is also an ISI school and boarding inspector.

A visible presence around the school - he is always out on the steps in the morning and his door is genuinely open for parents to call in. ‘He seems to care about the children on all levels and gets to know the whole family,’ said a parent, and ‘we love the fact that he knows everyone and what’s going on in your life,’ said a pupil. His year group annual dinners for parents and teachers are extremely popular, as are the special lunches he lays on for the children in his drawing room. He is a stickler for tidiness and good manners and anyone with muddy shoes is sent to polish them.

He and his wife Carol are very much a team – she is in charge of pastoral care and boarding and teaches geography and maths. They have two sons in their 20s.

Entrance

Almost non-selective – all have a taster day with informal assessments when teachers look at behaviour, confidence and integration. Entry from year 3 is via spelling, reading and non-verbal reasoning tests and references from the child’s current school. If the child has learning difficulties the school will ask for a more formal assessment with the head of learning support. Most join in nursery or reception, with other entry points in year 3 and year 7, when children often come from local primary schools, but entry possible at any time, even mid-term, if there are spaces. All new children are paired up with a buddy to help them settle in.

Exit

The school takes great trouble making sure that children move on to a secondary school which is right for them, works closely with senior schools and recently hosted a senior schools fair. Seaford College the most popular (five scholarships, one of them academic, in 2018) with others off to Priorsfield, Lancing, St John's Southsea and Midhurst Rother College in 2018. Very few children leave at 11+.

Our view

The school was founded in 1924 in New Milton in Hampshire and - following moves to Stowell Park in Gloucestershire during the war and 12 years in Camberley - it moved to its current location at Eartham House in 1961. Built in 1743 as a summer retirement house, the main building was remodelled by Edwin Lutyens in 1905 and is set in 30 acres within the South Downs national park – you couldn’t really imagine a more wonderful place to grow up. It still has the atmosphere of a family country house, complete with a large teddy bear in the hall and a cannon in the garden. The headmaster’s study is an elegant drawing room and only the prefects are allowed to walk down the sweeping staircase.

Most of the classrooms are in purpose built cabins in the garden and are all light and airy. The gym is used for assemblies, concerts and school plays and can just accommodate the whole school. The headmaster would dearly love to build a sports hall but the strict planning laws within the national park won’t allow this; parents who send their children here value the ethos and atmosphere far more than swanky facilities.

The school is owned by Sue Jay whose father, John Chedzoy, rescued it from almost certain closure in 1990, when it was the only school in the area that would accept her child, who had a disability. Her husband and son are both on the board of directors and Sue is involved with the day to day life of the school.

Single form year groups throughout the school with a wide range of abilities in each class and an emphasis on personalised learning and care for all, with effort is valued equally with achievement. ‘Expectations are high both in and out of the classroom, but in a nurturing and encouraging way,’ said a parent.

Average class size is 12-13 with a maximum of 19, often with setting for maths and English in the larger classes. Children gradually introduced to testing - exams at the end of every term from year 6 means they are well prepared for scholarship and common entrance exams in year 8. The more able children are stretched and those aiming for academic scholarships take extra science and maths as an activity. Children are encouraged to discuss current affairs and to take an interest in the world beyond the school. Cooking is part of the curriculum – ‘we love it when we can eat our own prep,’ say the children.

Average age of staff dropping due to natural fallout and is now late 30s. Several new heads of department have reinvigorated the school and nearly half the prep school teachers are men. All staff get involved in boarding duties and activities.

Ongoing standard assessments for dyslexia, and any learning difficulties picked up early and support put in place. Full time SENCo and part time assistant as well as a teacher who is trained in SEN, and school can cope with a broad spectrum of difficulties. Many taken out of class for one-to-one tuition, some in class help and one child with an EHC plan has a teaching assistant.

Well-established forest school for all year groups where children can build dens, make mud sculptures, learn crafts and toast marshmallows over a campfire as well as learn about the natural world. Children put on their boiler suits at break time and head into the woods to play, and can climb trees to the height of the tallest teacher. Who needs a climbing frame when a fallen tree is much more fun? An outdoorsy school where children can go mountain biking on the downs and sail and kayak nearby, and there's a whole school camping adventure in the grounds every summer. ‘Children can be children for longer here without the outside pressures’, said a parent.

Pre-prep and nursery have their own buildings with an enclosed play area in the old kitchen garden, but are very much part of the school and use the grounds, forest school, swimming pool, cookery room and other facilities. The pre-prep is headed by a man who provides a good role model for boys to look up to. Specialist prep school staff teach music, sport and dance and pre-prep children can take part in after-school clubs. It is a happy and cosy environment, and often children come for the nursery with plans to move on to primary school and then end up staying until they are 13. 'My son would not settle at any nursery until we discovered Great Ballard – he loves the outside space’, said one happy parent.

Indoor heated swimming pool, an Astro and tennis courts with playing fields at the top of the hill with views to the coast. Boys can do winter cricket net practice at Arundel. Everyone needed for matches and the less sporty have to take part. This gives all children a chance to shine – ‘my daughter was never really interested in sport but has had to take part and now she really enjoys it – that would never have happened in a larger school.’

Music increasingly important, especially singing, and all have to sing in one of the three choirs until year 5 – director of music is a semi-professional singer. ‘We love singing,' said a pupil, 'and hymn practice is such fun.’ Children take part in the Young Voices school choir concert at the O2 and in the Chichester Festival and sing at the Christmas carol concert as well as lots of informal concerts and performances in assemblies. Growing numbers learning an instrument and there are now two percussion ensembles and other instrumental groups, and children can compose their own music on a suite of computers.

Dance including ballet, tap and zumba popular, and school has its own dance and drama studio in the main house. Weekly drama lessons from year 3, annual prep school musical and the pre-prep has its nativity play and termly concerts. Many take LAMDA exams and all are confident to stand up in public by the time they leave.

Busy art department with its own kiln – it was van Gogh term when we visited so there were sunflowers everywhere and year 8 had made some fine sculptures of their heads. Artists who show potential are singled out for extra lessons in the evenings and usually stay the night afterwards - the school gets at least one art scholarship each year.

Good range of clubs after school and on Saturday mornings - gym, dance and sport are the most popular. Much interaction and collaboration between year groups through sport and activities, reinforced by the keen competition between the three houses – Romans, Spartans and Trojans.

Year 7 trip to France and the year 8 outdoor pursuits to Dorset after common entrance. Children also get involved with fundraising in the local community and support charities including St Wilfred’s Hospice, Chestnut House and the Stone Pillow a charity for local homeless people.

‘The great strength of the school is the tight knit community and the strong pastoral care,’ said a parent. ‘Everyone knows each other and the older children naturally look out for the younger ones.’ There are clear rules and boundaries and an emphasis on respect, good manners and consideration for others means bullying is rare, and when it happens it is dealt with immediately. Cyber issues carefully monitored; years 5 and 6 take part in an e-safety workshop with a follow up session offered to parents. There is always someone to talk to, staff, peers or an external ‘listening ear’. Emphasis on well-being and mindfulness for senior pupils. Staff know whole families well and ‘support and nurture them in everything they do,’ said a parent. ‘My daughter settled in immediately and has never been happier – I wish we had found the school earlier’, said a mother.

Elegant dining room lined with honours boards and shields and children’s artwork. Cafeteria system with lots of choice – staff eat with children to supervise table manners, the chefs know every child and everyone we spoke to praised the home cooked food. ‘It’s the only school where my child hasn’t complained about the food,’ said a parent.

Seven dorms, all with fab views, and children often see deer on the lawn in the early mornings. Girls’ rooms decorated with posters and fairy lights and the boys’ with the usual sports posters. Nearly all boarders are flexi except for a group of children, mainly from France, Italy and Spain, who join the school for half a term in the summer. They have intensive English teaching in the mornings and then take part in the full range of activities in the afternoons. Boarders have their own social area with a pool table, ping pong tables and a television and can take part in activities and outings like bowling and indoor rock climbing.

Parents mainly local professionals from a 20 mile radius. Active parents' group organises events like the Christmas fair, summer fete and Valentine’s day disco as well as street dance classes. ‘Parents have lots of opportunities to be involved but there needs to be a balance,’ says the headmaster. The school runs a minibus service and is very accommodating of working parents with breakfast club, after-school clubs and supper for non-boarders, and can usually fit in an extra boarder if there is an emergency. After-school care till 5.30pm; the nursery is open all year and older children can join activity camps here during the holidays.

Alumni include: actress Honeysuckle Weeks of Foyle’s War fame; naval officer Captain Nick Cooke-Priest OBE; professional cricket coach Julien Fountain; former British defence attaché, Patrick Tootal. Michael Morpurgo taught here in the 1960s.

A charming small school in an idyllic location where children have the freedom and space to grow up slowly. The only complaint we could elicit from any parents was that children cannot stay there until they are 16.

Special Education Needs

Our school has an established Learning Support Department that supports about 40 children on a 1 to 1 basis and also works with parents and outside agencies to support these children and any others within the school who have need. We cater for children from Nursery through to Year 8 (2 - 13+ years). The majority of the students on our LS register have dyslexic difficulties, or difficulties that come under that umbrella. All children are seen as individuals who make up part of a large family which is the school.

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