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Hazlegrove School

What says..

A place where children work and play hard, but where they also as importantly have bucket-loads of fun and stay children (lanky boys literally in short trousers) until they leave at 13. In the prep school, day to day communication (prep etc) between parents and school is via each child’s journal, where the days of the week are printed in no fewer than three languages - two modern, one ancient - and where the owner is reminded of common courtesies (listen carefully when people are speaking to you; look interested etc) and invited to reflect on his/her own learning and activities. Teaching is usually mixed ability, with some…

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What the school says...

The school is in a country house setting in a 200 acre park. Over eighty scholarships and awards in the last three years. Academic success is important at all levels. Lots of sport and a developing outdoor education programme. Music is a strength - fifteen ensembles a week and nationally acclaimed choir. Boarding numbers have increased to 100 in the last few years, largely through personal recommendation. ...Read more

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


What The Good Schools Guide says


Since 2022, Ed Benbow, previously deputy head at Cothill House and before that head of boarding at Pinewood School. He is a maths teacher and a keen coach in rugby, cricket and hockey. Grew up nearby so Hazlegrove provides the ideal return to the west country. After his degree from Durham, he worked in the City before ‘following his calling’ to teaching.

Loves sport and runs marathons. Is also a talented musician who plays the French horn and the piano. Married to Amanda, an ed psych who was previously an early years teacher. They have two children, both at secondary school.


From year 1 through informal assessment and observation on a taster day, following a look at the school either on an open day or private tour. Age-appropriate tests in English and maths are designed to give ‘a snap shot of current academic ability’, states the policy. Rather less formal for reception and earlier, with these younger children meeting a member of pre-prep staff and/or attending a Squirrels parent/toddler group. A handful join at year 7 for the final run-up to CE or scholarships to senior schools.


Around 40 per cent to King’s Bruton which, as part of the same eponymous Tudor foundation, is effectively its senior school. Others to a wide range of up to 40 independent senior schools including some of the UK’s finest – Marlborough, Sherborne, Millfield, Bryanston and Ampleforth. King’s College (Taunton), Canford, Winchester and Cheltenham Ladies’ also sometimes feature. In 2023, 20 scholarships.

Our view

The sometimes unpredictable journey (there are longhorn cattle and oncoming 4x4s to dodge on a single-track road) up the long winding drive through the greenest of pastures to Hazlegrove leaves the busy A303 behind in favour of a more gracious world. The stunning four-square 18th-century house of golden stone looks out on immaculate lawns and topiary; more utilitarian buildings are tucked away so as not to spoil knockout first impressions (nursery and pre-prep in what was the walled kitchen garden). The school only moved to the house and acquired its current name and identity in 1947; its adopted crest of bearded dolphin and crown reflects the fortunes and history of the house. Before that, the school was based at The Plox in Bruton alongside King’s School Bruton – the foundation is 500 years old.

These days, it’s a place where children work and play hard, but where they also as importantly have bucketloads of fun and stay children (lanky boys literally in short trousers) until they leave at 13. Learning starts in the nursery, much of it child-initiated, and even the tiniest children enjoy forest school and have the run of the considerable prep school facilities – closely supervised, of course! Specialist teachers too – we were charmed by the lively rendition of Wheels on the Bus to guitar accompaniment (teacher) and enthusiastic shaking of maracas (children) we saw on our tour. The EYFS is followed until the end of reception, thereafter learning becomes more formal with the building blocks of English – phonics are taught daily – and maths every morning when young brains are at their sharpest; practical hands-on subjects take place in the afternoons and children routinely go home in their PE/outdoor kit with their uniform in their rucksack.

In the prep school, day-to-day communication (prep etc) between parents and school is via each child’s journal, where the days of the week are printed in no fewer than three languages – two modern, one ancient – and where the owner is reminded of common courtesies (listen carefully when people are speaking to you; look interested etc) and invited to reflect on his/her own learning and activities. Reading tops the list of academic priorities and the Accelerated Reading Scheme is embraced with enthusiasm; the beautiful well-stocked senior library painted a pleasing shade of oxblood red and staffed by an exceptional librarian can only help.

Humanities take place in the Fitzjames building, a fantastic, flexible and innovative addition to the teaching space whose light, bright classrooms open on to first-floor gallery and full-height atrium where a huge globe hangs from the ceiling; broad steps double as informal seating. Beautifully white, light well-used food technology space too. Fancy new science labs.

Teaching is usually mixed ability, with some setting in French and maths. Mandarin timetabled from year 5 and Latin from year 6. For the final two years, however, children are sorted into scholarship and CE classes. Teaching is generally thought to be rigorous and thorough – perhaps short on fun at times. We were jolly nearly caught out by a rogue question from a Latin vocab test during our tour (readers, our rusty recall did not fail us) but reassuringly reminded of the consequences of moving the decimal point left or right, beautifully explained to one child needing one-to-one support (from the head’s wife, no less).

The use of educational IT is not excessive but from year 6 onwards, pupils are required to have their own iPad, supplied but not paid for by the school. According to the children, best subjects are maths, geography and English. Saturday morning school from year 4.

Learning support, housed in the beautiful Fitzjames building, has a staff of four who offer emotional as well as academic bolstering. About 20 per cent of children in the prep school have dedicated (payable) lessons to address their specific needs; one-to-one support is offered in class only in the pre-prep. ‘My husband thinks it’s all a bit fluffy,’ one mother confided, ‘but it’s given my dyslexic kids confidence.’ Help for all moderate learning difficulties is available, including a busy happy EAL department, catering for the Chinese, Spanish and children of any other nationality who come for a term, a year or for the whole of their prep school career.

We were struck by the attention paid to the emotional wellbeing of all the children, commented on by parents and indeed pupils: ‘There isn’t a teacher you couldn’t go to for help,’ one boy told us. Any of the younger children, including those on the autism spectrum, might be invited to join a ‘treasure group’ to help them navigate social situations with support from staff trained in emotional literacy support (ELSA). Girls on Board is an initiative the school has recently signed up to to help their girls through the choppy waters of female friendships.

Beyond the classroom, there is simply masses going on. Deservedly known for its sport and lucky enough to have acres of space (not just an array of pitches and courts, but also areas to run about and get lost in), Hazlegrove is a sporting force to be reckoned with on the local circuit. One mother told us she thought the school worked hard for its reputation, and that ‘the sporting cream is very quickly skimmed off the top. There is real currency being a member of the A teams.’ Games include the usual offer of rugby, hockey and cricket for boys and hockey, netball and cricket – hurrah! – for girls. Tremendous facilities for a prep school include a 25m pool, three all-weather pitches (one floodlit), plus long jump, squash courts and a six-hole golf course. PE sessions take up chunks of the timetable and team players are expected to turn out on Saturday afternoons.

Music has always been good but it seems particularly vibrant under a newish head of music. Groups include a girls’ and boys’ vocal group, percussion group, swing band and new rock band for older pupils. Children are encouraged to learn an instrument, to sit their grades and aspiring music scholars grade five theory. ‘I have loved learning the marimba and the bagpipes,’ one leaver reminisced. But not enough enforcement of individual music practice, in the view of one mother. Annual carol service takes place in Wells Cathedral.

Drama very strong too and benefits hugely from close collaboration with the music department – at the time of our visit, casting for the year 8 play, shoehorned into the few brief weeks after CE, was eagerly anticipated. All year groups put on their own production each year and those pupils who do not want to appear on stage (or at their own request to read or perform in assembly) are encouraged to get stuck in to set design and backstage help in the school's own theatre, not enormous but with raked seating and a lighting rig. Speech and drama are provided as an optional chargeable extra, leading to LAMDA exams and a special showcase evening. The fact that the drama department is headed by a West End trained dance teacher only burnishes the offering. ‘The plays are some of my best memories,’ another misty-eyed leaver told us.

Other hands-on extracurricular stuff includes go-karting around the track in the grounds, building ‘impact buggies’ in the well-equipped DT workshop to attempt the notorious ramp of doom and trips to local stables and Pony Club centre to ride; anyone with their own pony wanting to compete can represent the school by arrangement. Trips and jaunts abound: little ones might go to Bristol Zoo, older ones to nearby Montacute House, year 7 have a week at a River Dart activity centre (a particular highlight) and leavers to Cornwall. A valiant effort to recreate Wales in the grounds for year 5 before Covid restrictions were lifted looked pretty authentic, with a sea of tents, field kitchen, piles of bulging rucksacks and, most importantly, grinning muddy children. ‘They are forever outside!’ exclaimed one delighted mother. The prevailing vibe is very much of getting children to try things out such as pistol shooting (or recently laser shooting where Hazlegrove has done very well) or ‘everyone doing everything’, as one parent put it. ‘I have three very different children and the school has played to all their strengths,’ another told us; yet another that the school had ‘found something in my daughter – that was DT and she now has a scholarship to her next school’.

The school has ‘quite a punchy environment and likes kids who crack on and get involved, but it could be trickier for less confident children who have less belief in their own abilities,’ in the opinion of one mother. The pupils we met were very positive and grateful for all they have – not angels either: they reckon punishments are fair and not dished out until both sides of the story have been heard. In their view, there is not much bullying and it is fairly dealt with. All kinds of achievements are recognised, sometimes publicly in assembly. Rainbow awards are handed out for kindness, effort and hard work. ‘Arrogant children are not liked,’ one mother told us.

One sight you will not see at Hazlegrove is children clustered round screens: apart from the classroom and limited evening use of approved devices, this is a mobile-free zone. Some parents love this part of keeping children young and outside for as long as possible, others wonder if the school should be helping its young people chart a sensible course through the Scylla and Charybdis of TikTok and Instagram, rather than stop their ears to the siren song of social media.


From year 3 and divided into 3 houses: all girls, junior and senior boys in separate buildings on the site. About 100 board altogether, with about 30 flexi-boarders. Each house is generously staffed, run by a married couple, kids, pets etc, plus three residential staff and gap students to help out and inject fun.

The exceptionally thoughtful and committed head of boarding showed us round the light, bright dorms and living spaces. Several younger pupils to a dorm, fewer as they get towards the top of the school, which makes at least one mother wonder if year 8 girls get quite enough privacy. You could probably swing a modest sized cat between sets of bunkbeds. It was all fresh air and a strong whiff of bleach when we visited, and immaculately clean; comfortable rather than luxurious.

The head’s highest priority for the boarding is that it should be fun – fun enough to keep full boarders in at weekends (there are two compulsory weekend exeats per term and two closed weekends, the first and last of each term). It certainly sounded fun to us, with boarders raving about Total Wipeout, an inflatable war zone on the school playing fields, and the termly boarders’ feast. You can’t bring your own device but you are welcome to bring rollerblades or a ripstick.

Boarding numbers are concentrated in the upper years, so perhaps not such a fulfilling experience for younger children. One mother told us Hazlegrove feels more like a day school with boarders tacked on, partly due to the comparatively early finish of 4pm for day pupils. Very much a family feel though – we liked the sound of ‘family service’, where siblings sit together at supper and children serve each other; food gets a thumbs up and there is always cereal and toast available in boarding house kitchens for any evening munchies. Grace before breakfast and supper, prayers before bedtime, a weekly informal Sunday service taken by a member of staff (if not the chaplain), a weekly hand-written letter home and shoe-cleaning – ‘a Hazlegrove tradition,’ said the head of boarding with a wink – hark back to a largely bygone age of boarding.

Money matters

Limited range of scholarships and bursary help. Discount of 25 per cent for the third child educated in the King’s Foundation (older siblings could be at King’s Bruton) and help with CEA, the complicated fees allowance system for Forces children.

The last word

Notable west country prep school keeping children young as long as possible before sending them on to a range of mostly west of England schools after a great deal of traditional outdoors fun, tempered by hard work.

Special Education Needs

Hazlegrove provides an excellent education for its dyslexic pupils. They benefit from high quality specialist tuition from skilled and dedicated teachers as well as a broad, well balanced curriculum taught by staff with a good knowledge of dyslexia and how it impacts on a child's learning. We seek to help pupils with Special Educational Needs, or Learning Difficulties, to achieve their individual potential and to feel confident within the school community. The support unit comprises 3 dedicated rooms containing specialist equipment, up to date IT facilities and a library. Pupils usually have 2 lessons per week which are multi-sensory in design and meet individual needs. Each pupil has an IEP and there are close links between the unit and the class teachers. We are a CReSTeD Category DU school offering a Dyslexic Unit. 09-09

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder Y
Aspergers Y
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders Y
CReSTeD registered for Dyslexia Y
Dyscalculia Y
Dysgraphia Y
Dyslexia Y
Dyspraxia Y
English as an additional language (EAL) Y
Genetic Y
Has an entry in the Autism Services Directory Y
Has SEN unit or class Y
HI - Hearing Impairment Y
Hospital School
Mental health Y
MLD - Moderate Learning Difficulty
MSI - Multi-Sensory Impairment
Natspec Specialist Colleges
OTH - Other Difficulty/Disability Y
Other SpLD - Specific Learning Difficulty Y
PD - Physical Disability Y
PMLD - Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulty
SEMH - Social, Emotional and Mental Health Y
SLCN - Speech, Language and Communication Y
SLD - Severe Learning Difficulty
Special facilities for Visually Impaired
SpLD - Specific Learning Difficulty Y
VI - Visual Impairment Y

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