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In a science lesson, we saw some creative and purposeful use of virtual reality headsets to help pupils learn about the life cycle of butterflies. Lots of educational off-site visits – on the day we visited, some pupils were just back from the Yorkshire Wildlife Park which was the focus for a cross-curricular project. French for all. Assessments each term, with results shared with pupils and parents for agreed target setting. Parents could not have been more complimentary about…

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What the school says...

Highfield is the co-educational prep department of Harrogate Ladies College (HLC). Highfield celebrates an important and wonderful stage in a child’s development. From the first day at school we aim to make this a happy, exciting and inspiring journey towards senior school.

Children join Highfield from across Harrogate and the surrounding area and are taught in small class sizes enabling us to focus on their individual development. This approach helps our children to achieve their full potential both inside and outside of the classroom.

Children at our school love to learn. It’s part of our culture; part of who we are. We believe in learning through real life experiences and our curriculum is full of exciting opportunities. As well as fantastic class teachers, children also benefit from specialist French, PE, Drama, Music, Art and Swimming lessons every week from Reception.

With almost 50 extra-curricular activities to choose from, children have the opportunity to try new things; learn new skills and develop their individual talents, all within the school environment.

As part of Harrogate Ladies’ College, our boys and girls benefit from access to a wide range of teaching, sports, drama, music and arts facilities not normally available to younger children, all of which help us to enhance the school experience.

By the time children leave us they’re fully equipped to tackle the next stage in their educational career and go on to achieve great things beyond our school.
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What The Good Schools Guide says

Head

Head since 2016, James Savile (early 50s). Was deputy head at Gordonstoun and then head at Leweston Prep in Dorset followed by a stint as principal at Dolphin School and Noah’s Ark Nurseries in London. Degree in primary education and French from Southampton. Was appointed specifically to re-invigorate and re-structure the school and has been responsible for the appointment of new leadership from pre-school upwards. He believes in strong communication with parents as the root of good learning and kept his regular meetings with parents going via Zoom throughout the pandemic. Parents like this, along with his overall style, his interest in every child and the fact that teaching and learning are at the heart of his philosophy. ‘I believe every child is talented – to help them find their talents we need to look outside the box,’ he told us. Introduced a new curriculum in 2019 rooted in the basics of phonics, developing English and maths (discreet setting here so that no child feels labelled). Everything else is proudly cross-curricular with a strong emphasis on developing the child’s thinking and independent learning skills and learning through the world around us. All encouraged no doubt by the set of whale bones displayed in the head’s office.

He works closely with his deputies – one in charge of Early Years and KS1, the other in charge of KS2. Together they share a passion for outdoor learning as witnessed by the development of the outdoor classroom and pond area. He has brought in a focus on charitable work.

Married with a son and daughter.

Entrance

For pre-school at 2+ by visit, registration and welcome session. Into prep at all ages though predominantly at 4+ when majority come from the pre-school who get priority along with siblings of current pupils. Non-selective but external entrants have an interview with the head, and reports and references are taken up from current schools where relevant. Numbers have increased significantly recently, partly because of the school’s strong provision during the pandemic.

Exit

The majority of leavers go on to the outstanding state provision in Harrogate and Ripon. All girls offered places at Harrogate Ladies' College but usually only half take up this offer due to the strong competition from local state schools. Some girls and boys will opt for co-ed to local independents such as GSAL in Leeds and Ashville in Harrogate. Head runs the senior school preparation club for year 6 pupils to help them with interview and entrance exam practice.

Our view

Pre-school is located in a large Victorian house just across the road from the senior school campus and Highfield Prep. Very well equipped with modern facilities and gardens that provide direct access to outside playing areas. There is also a pond and outside classroom which provide lovely tranquil learning spaces. The house has been converted into a spacious facility yet it retains its home from home atmosphere. Meals are brought from Harrogate Ladies College across the road and looked very tasty.

Pre-school children are in two groups until Easter (foundation and transition) and three for the summer term (when another foundation group is added) with the luxury of bespoke areas of the house for each group. For pre-school group, specialist teaching in swimming, physical education, music, drama and French starts to ease them into reception.

The emphasis is on learning being fun. ‘Outside is where they learn best,’ the deputy told us. The ‘shark in the park’ was a focus of great interest when we visited. We saw super files of children’s work which are shared with parents whenever possible. There is an emphasis on phonics to make sure that English is as good as possible before the children transition to prep. About 85 percent move on to Highfield Prep, a considerable increase over the last few years.

Core hours of 9am-4pm included within fees, extended to 7.30am-6pm at additional charge. Pre-school is open for 49 weeks a year including a holiday club that’s open to reception and pre-school children with a focus on play rather than just more learning. Older Highfield children can attend separate school-run holiday clubs.

The prep is conveniently sited on the main Harrogate Ladies College campus. The original building (with grand staircase including carved griffins) has been sensitively designed to provide warm and welcoming classrooms. Built behind and linked is a beautiful purpose-built extension housing further classrooms, as well as a new hall for group activities and assemblies. The classrooms are on three floors with access to a secure, well-resourced outdoor learning area and playground. Beyond that school shares the playing fields and other sports facilities of Harrogate Ladies College, including swimming pool and sports hall. Display work was fantastic during our visit. Overall vibe was purposeful and warm, with lots of happy smiling faces and children keen to learn.

Maths is taught separately with setting in KS2; the rest of the teaching is cross-curricular and thematic. Homework for maths, reading and spelling but after that pupils choose 20 activities a term – two are free choice, two they can do with their families and the rest are topic based and can be anything from a piece of writing to a performance or making an artefact. The pupils love it – ‘Teachers make you do it independently it lets you be different and do the things that interest you,’ said one. ‘My projects have really made me think and push myself to do different stuff,’ voiced another. In a science lesson, we saw some creative and purposeful use of virtual reality headsets to help pupils learn about the life cycle of butterflies. Lots of educational off-site visits – on the day we visited, some pupils were just back from the Yorkshire Wildlife Park which was the focus for a cross-curricular project. French for all. Assessments each term, with results shared with pupils and parents for agreed target setting. Full reports and parents’ evenings twice yearly. Weekly updates on what children have been learning. SEN is catered for in and out of the classroom by dedicated learning support. Generally, in class teacher support is free with scale of charges for a more individual programme.

Parents could not have been more complimentary about the school’s response to Covid and immediate move to online learning. There was no sense that in coming back to school the children had significantly missed out on their learning.

The school has its own specialist facilities for music, art and drama. Vast array of extracurricular clubs and activities includes boyz rock, construction challenge, calligraphy, creative cat theatre company, lots of arts based clubs and of course several choral and instrument based groups (including a school orchestra) reflecting the school’s strong musical and choral vibe. There are three separate choirs (junior, middle and senior), plus mini music makers for Early Years and the Gallery Choir which brings together older girls in Highfield and younger girls from Harrogate Ladies College. Instrumental lessons are available. While we were visiting rehearsals were underway for Treasure Island and over 50 per cent of pupils have LAMDA lessons; plenty of performance opportunities in school and out including the Shakespeare Schools Festival. Every year group has their moment on stage during the year with four separate nativities for EYFS, Reception and KS1, Easter Cantata for year 3 and 4, a short stage production for years 5 and a year 6 leavers production.

PE taught by specialists for three hours a week including weekly swimming from reception onwards plus extracurricular clubs. Centred on traditional team sports. Increasing inter-house competition and fixtures against other schools, independent and state, with transport provided by school minibus where needed.

Pastoral care came in for a lot of praise from parents who felt staff know the pupils well. Lots of communication wit parents, both face to face and by email. ‘They listen and when we have questioned things or simply needed to know something, they always have time to talk,’ said one. The children feel listened to, largely thanks to an effective school council, much valued by pupils who see results from their proposals. Healthy eating, nutrition and wellbeing all high on the agenda with input from the school catering manager on food waste and tasting menus. One pupil told us ‘I can’t believe no-one’s mentioned this already but I love the food it’s brilliant’.

There are clear systems for behaviour management, with the sanctions well understood by pupils. When we asked about bad behaviour, the puzzled looks from the pupils and heated discussion about whether or not anyone has behaved badly this year demonstrated that it is a rarity. Awards are strong, with pupils speaking proudly of the ones they’d received for project work.


There’s an impressive list of charity work both home and away. The new outdoor classroom was built with funds raised by the pupils with very little adult input. Further afield there is a strong link with a school in Bombo, Uganda; each year a group of year 6 pupils visits and, with staff, helps with teaching and building projects. There were some moving accounts of support for the wider families in Bombo and many Highfield families sponsor a child there.

Busy and supportive PA, plus parent volunteers in classroom and weekly updates on how parents can give curriculum support written by class teachers.

The last word

A confident and forward thinking school where young people have the opportunity to learn and think in a safe, supportive and challenging environment. Great indoor and outdoor facilities, creative staff and a genuine focus on independence help pupils to get the most out of a wealth of sporting, musical and artistic activities plus a super outdoor learning environment. The pupils are happy and having a great time growing as learners.

Special Education Needs

Specific SEN provision is provided for Dyslexia, with support from staff at Dyslexia Action. Other SEN provision is available as appropriate to cater for children of all abilities in order to meet individual learning needs. Gifted and talented children are also thrive in this vibrant and caring community.


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