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What says..

Interior décor raises a smile, particularly the beach-inspired classrooms for younger pupils (sea blue carpet, sand yellow walls) and the overall exuberance of the place, where boys and girls from years 3 to 8 gladly get stuck in to all that goes on and generally have a whale of a time. A lot of parental chatter about the importance of preserving childhood and the main reason why so many families relocate perennially from the city to the idyllic north Norfolk coast...

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What the school says...

Gresham's Prep School is a very special place. We cater for around 236 pupils, about a quarter of whom are boarders. We offer a broad, forward-looking curriculum, a vast range of extra-curricular activities and outstanding pastoral care and support. In 2016, the School was awarded ‘excellent’ in all nine categories following an inspection by ISI Inspectorate. ‘Excellent’ is the ISI descriptor for the Ofsted term ‘outstanding’.

Above all, we offer the space and care for your child to develop; their happiness and progress is an absolute priority. We want every child to feel encouraged, confident and at home. That way they can develop strong roots that will help them grow into happy, well balanced and responsible adults. We also value the individual and want all our pupils to be proud of themselves, their abilities and their individuality. In addition, we make sure that children have plenty of time to be children and that play, fun and laughter feature strongly. Above all this is a happy, kind, busy and inclusive school; please come and visit us and experience it for yourself.
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Other features

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.


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



What The Good Schools Guide says


Since November 2018, Cathy Braithwaite BA (Ed), previously deputy head. Hails from Exeter, educated at Norwich High School (GDST) and has taught in Staffordshire, Norfolk and Northern Ireland, as well as having been head of maths and director of teaching and learning at St Francis School in Wiltshire for 10 years. Married with two sons (and Isla the black lab). Parents are bowled over by her drive and enthusiasm - ‘indefatigable,’ according to some. ‘My husband and I respect her enormously,’ said one mother, ‘and our son says that when she speaks everyone listens extra carefully, including the teachers.’

The prep school is very much her domain - as she strides around the corridors, children seem happy to see her and eager to please (‘I love your green dress,’ exclaimed a typically confident young character as she swept into a classroom - ‘Well, thank you,’ she replied, ‘so do I!’). Clearly knows and appreciates each pupil and family. ‘We’re not trying to turn them into something they’re not,’ she told us, ‘it’s a very bespoke education.’ As keen to retain the individuality of the school as its pupils, but also appreciates the benefits of being part of a much larger entity: ‘There’s a lovely small-school feel, but the children also have access to many of the facilities at the senior school and if I’m organising an event I can have 17 guys in hi-vis jackets over here in a matter of hours.’

Head of nursery and pre-prep since 2016 is Sarah Hollingsworth, previously director of pastoral care at Oswestry School. She has had various early years and KS1 roles and is a trained ISI inspector.


Between 20 and 30 pupils move into year 3 from the pre-prep (charming, and on a separate site nearby), along with a few extras. An additional 20 year 7 places fill up quickly, with joiners from local primaries and preps. Not particularly academically selective – a satisfactory taster day, rather than any assessments, for those joining in the early years; English and maths assessment, plus taster day, for joiners in year 4 and above. Some short-stayers from around the world but no more than two per year group with the same native tongue for ‘the true English immersive experience’.


Around 85 per cent transfer to senior school for year 9. The rest leave for three main reasons - wanting single-sex, a state school or moving out of county (recently to The Leys, King’s Ely and Bedford School; Oundle, Eton, Stowe and Uppingham also sometimes feature). Parents of children better suited elsewhere are supported to find the right place – head visits schools and advises. In 2023, 11 scholarships.

Our view

Our first impressions were completely dominated by the size of the car park – delightfully huge and conveniently located right in front of the school entrance (sadly same cannot be said for all schools, as parents traumatised twice daily will testify). Low-rise collection of teaching blocks, boarding houses and other facilities arranged around pretty gardens are less remarkable, certainly in comparison to the grand country pile style of Gresham’s senior up the road on the fringes of Holt. However, interior décor raises a smile, particularly the beach-inspired classrooms for younger pupils (sea blue carpet, sand yellow walls) and the overall exuberance of the place, where boys and girls from years 3 to 8 gladly get stuck in to all that goes on and generally have a whale of a time. ‘Parents want their children to do well, of course, but mainly they want them to be happy,’ says head.

A lot of parental chatter about the importance of preserving childhood and the main reason why so many families relocate perennially from the city to the idyllic north Norfolk coast, particularly post-pandemic. Indeed, compared to a high-pressure urban education, Gresham’s Prep is a refreshing coastal breeze. Common Entrance preparation has been abandoned in favour of a more relaxed approach to learning and, although not an academically selective school (‘It’s more a case of who will thrive here,’ says head), outcomes are good and Gresham’s senior school scholarships regularly secured. ‘Even in subjects which we thought our son would be poor at, the teachers have managed to inspire him,’ said one satisfied parent.

With pupil numbers creeping upwards, there are now three forms in each of the two lower years (no more than 14 pupils in each; a maximum of 18 in each of the three classes per year in years 5 and 6, and four classes per year in years 7 and 8). Teaching is in mixed-ability groups until year 4, then in ‘flexible’ sets for most subjects (‘Children can easily move up or down’), including French from year 6 (who were loving learning to tell the time when we visited) and Spanish and Latin from year 7 (other languages, such as German and Mandarin, on request). Two very spacious senior-style science labs with full-time technician for year 3 and up; older pupils can join science enrichment activities in the senior school’s whizzy new Dyson Building. Large library is positively bursting, overseen by a hugely enthusiastic librarian and decorated with displays and competition information aimed at building excitement about reading. Judging by the number of early morning arrivals choosing to sit in the library and devour a few pages before school, it’s working.

Around a quarter of pupils receive learning support: one-to-one tuition, small groups or assistance in the classroom. Five specially trained class teachers (two full-time) help with mild difficulties such as dyslexia and autism. ‘It’s good for everyone to have a mix of abilities,’ says head. ‘I ask parents what kind of support they want and tell them if we can do it.’ Gresham’s full-time mental health practitioners are part of the wellbeing team and spend a day a week at the prep seeing pupils on a sessional basis.

Co-curricular activities entered into with great Gresham’s gusto. ‘We were told at the welcome day that if a child wishes to do a particular activity, then the school makes it happen – and they certainly do!’ confirmed a parent. More than half have instrumental tuition but all are hands-on with music in class lessons and there are several orchestras, bands and ensembles. Every pupil in the lower forms sings in a choir; auditions higher up for senior and chapel choirs. Dance on the curriculum to year 6 and optional for years 7 and 8. Drama lessons for all and great anticipation for termly productions in the prep hall. Next up is Joseph, with a part for all in years 3 to 6 and auditioned main roles for pupils in the top years. Big behind-the-scenes team too (stage and screen make-up a popular enrichment choice). Year 7s look forward to their annual ‘play in two days’ workshop and every pupil takes to the stage on speech day.

Mentions of art and DT when we asked pupils about their favourite subjects. A visit to the cavernous art room explains it – an Aladdin’s Cave of colourful creative works which spills out and around the school as pupils are encouraged to brighten up ‘any boring space’ - participants in the mural-makers activity have already decorated some dull school chairs and are about to get their hands on the school’s fire escapes. Industrial-style Butterwick Centre is the prep’s STEAM building – on setting foot in the DT workshop pupils are transformed into engineers and must plan a project and make a prototype using the enormous array of (mostly sharp) implements lining the walls on hooks. Year 7s recently manufactured wind turbines and sound machines - ‘So much fun,’ uttered one overalled pupil without lifting his gaze from the metalwork he had given up his breaktime to work on.

Sport happens all but one day of the week for everyone. Teams travel for fixtures in the usual seasonal team sports against schools as far as Cambridge and Bishop’s Stortford - opponents further afield often meet halfway. Individual sports too, including swimming and, for years 7 and 8, shooting and kayaking.

Saturday school for year 5+ includes wonderfully varied programme of enrichment activities, known as ‘hobbies’. The offering is the result of the head asking teachers to ‘do something they’re passionate about,’ so pupils are treated to sea fishing, fossil-hunting and ‘Things to Make you Brainy’ (English booster), among others. Cooking lessons in a superbly equipped kitchen building in the grounds, fundraised for by the FOGS (Friends of Gresham’s School), which doubles as a refreshments hub for parents’ events. Meanwhile OWLS (fabulous acronyms here) is a much-loved area of rustic woodland kitted out with obstacle and rope courses, a climbing tower and even a zipwire between the tree trunks, as well as an open-sided outdoor classroom and theatre. Children are encouraged to be free - they have the run of the extensive grounds (‘as long as they’re in sight of the gazebo,’ cautions head) and there are numerous lawns, some designated girls or boys only. ‘They usually bundle together but sometimes prefer to be apart,’ explains head, all criss-crossed with paths leading to outdoor playgrounds, piazzas and places to sit, chat and giggle. Breaktime sees numerous four-legged friends on walkies with pupils around the grounds, usually on a rota (long waiting list for a teacher’s mini dachshund).

Lunch is suitably hearty - ‘awesome’ say pupils, who choose from three hot and cold dishes (mushroom, leek and brie parcel a mature choice snapped up by many on our visit), with an optional side of salad, prepared by an in-house team. Early supper at 5.30pm for boarders and day pupils staying for activities; breakfast is boarders only. Meals served in the school’s sunny dining room.

Parents describe themselves as ‘down-to-earth’, ‘diverse’, ‘hard-working’ and ‘friendly’ and are thankful for the support offered to them as well as their children. ‘The school has gone miles beyond what might be expected,’ said one, ‘and as a family we have appreciated the many, many instances of immense kindness and thoughtfulness.’ New school administrator post has improved the efficiency of staff and parent meetings and The Chirp weekly newsletter keeps everyone on song.

A school that enjoys enormous buy-in from families: siblings educated here one after the other and parents very much in it for the long-haul.


Boarding from year 3 in one house for boys and another for girls, both very much part of the campus and with tastefully decorated common rooms welcoming day pupils during school hours. Each has 36 beds, around 20 taken up on a regular basis. Boarding arrangements from full to ‘book-on-the-day’ flexi. Regulars have their own beds – ideal for local families with parents who sometimes work away – and may bring their own duvet covers, posters (and, of course, bunting). Bedrooms accommodate two to four depending on age and are homely in the girls’ house, while boys’ house – with brand new bathrooms - has bedrooms themed for sports, the beach and Star Wars. All staggeringly tidy thanks to an abundance of storage. Boarders’ kitchens stocked with snacks and cereal for evening ‘second supper’. Resident house parents and matron; head lives on-site so also on hand. First aid room in each house; medical centre at the senior school. Fun sleepovers in the boarding houses for year groups on rotation as a taster for the future - and apparently to try out the beds for comfort (‘Last time I boarded I had a really good sleep,’ approved a year 3 pupil).

Money matters

Scholarships - academic, art and design, music, drama, sport – awarded at the start of year 7. Number and size (up to 10 per cent of fees) fluctuates according to merit. Means-tested bursaries attached to scholarships allocated impartially by a third-party organisation.

The last word

In an idyllic location on the north Norfolk coast, this jolly and caring prep has all the ingredients for a memorable childhood as a precursor to the senior years.

Special Education Needs

A well resourced department with four qualified members of staff, operating from an excellent Learning Support Centre. Pupils who receive learning support vary from those with mild dyslexic and organisational problems to those with more severe problems with reading and writing. We cater for some children with other conditions on a case by case basis.

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