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Idiosyncrasies include all-you-can-learn corridor tracing a path through history from medieval times to Covid when history stops - as ‘ran out of wall.’ (Francis Fukuyama might approve). Outside, wooden figures in school uniform shock parents into slowing down. Inside, tiny paintings of mice and on the wainscoting appear ‘by magic’, said teacher…

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What the school says...

Wokingham's Excellent Independent School!
EXCELLENT Across The Board ISI (Independent Schools Inspectorate) Report 2015

Holme Grange School is an independent school for girls and boys aged 3-16 years. We offer a unique educational experience in an idyllic setting in 21 acres of Wokingham countryside. Each pupil can thrive in an environment offering a wide variety of opportunities in the classroom, on the stage or sports field and in our woodland outdoor learning areas.

Our parents describe the School as caring, friendly and warm which highlights our strong pastoral support and sense of community.

When a child leaves us, they will be well-prepared for the world self-confident, sociable and articulate and will have many special memories of their time at Holme Grange.

Holme Grange School - Open a World of Possibility!


The ISI report is available via the school website
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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.

What The Good Schools Guide says


Since 2009, Mrs Claire Robinson BA (Open). Previously spent nine years as head of St Thomas Moore RC Primary School Kidlington, turning it from a failing school to a top-15 primary. A serial multi-tasker, she combined a highly successful sales career in finance with an Open University degree completed in three years (rather than usual six), had an ‘is this all there is?’ moment and moved into teaching.

Joined St Edmund’s Abingdon in 1996 as an NQT, promoted to head of science/KS2 within months. Moved to St Thomas Moore Primary as deputy head in 2000, appointed head soon after – also full-time class teacher to give pupils continuity. Filled school coffers by offering expertise to other failing schools.

Obvious move when she joined Holme Grange – then in gentle decline - would have been to axe years 7 and 8. Instead, extended to year 11, making it (then) the only all-through day co-ed in the area, and saw numbers triple to current 675.

School now a happy home for a range of pupils, neurotypical and otherwise. Not, though, for anyone solely focused on selectivity and results. It’s ‘about the children and we will do everything to put [them] first,’ says Mrs Robinson. ‘If you say I want to get straight nines [in GCSEs] she’ll say, “This is the way we’ll go and the support we can give”,’ agrees a pupil. ‘The complete opposite of Miss Trunchbull,’ concluded another (always a good sign).

Not one to big things up. When former education secretary Michael Gove visited, a local paper reported that she thought he’d ‘had a good view of what our school is about’. He was positively gushing. Knows pupils and their families inside out. One parent compared her to Margaret Thatcher (in a good way) – ‘works tirelessly, never sleeps’. As to the future, no plans for a sixth form - though school takes part-credit for leavers’ university successes, including first place at Cambridge.

She lives on site, convenient for feeding school farm animals (the full Old MacDonald - chickens, ducks, geese, pigmy goats and the occasional weakling piglet, recuperating in front of the Aga). No punches pulled. Turkeys are raised for Christmas. Recent pig castration - a new interview topic for this reviewer - was watched by pupils who ‘loved it’, says Mrs Robinson… pig’s feelings may have been more nuanced. ‘Terrifying… but inspirational,’ says a teacher. Broke her arm during maiden voyage on new hoverboard but made a triumphant comeback on speech day, whizzing round the assembly hall to prove that you can learn from failure.

Working for her sounds exhilarating – ‘When she starts to smile and giggle, it’s like adopt the brace position,’ says one member of staff. ‘You have to hang on to your seat.’ Commands huge loyalty. ‘If she goes, I go,’ says another. ‘Totally clued up, unbelievably outstanding, compassionate and starts from the viewpoint of the child,’ says parent.


Main entry points are nursery, reception, year 7 and (from 2023) year 5. Occasional places in other year groups but increasingly rare. Gently selective from year 1 upwards (must be able to access the curriculum). Also attracts some very gifted pupils.

Ask to see all reports for children with SEN to see if school can support them. For years 1-6, taster day at the school, meet peer group, sit assessments including VR/NVR, have interview with form teacher. Feedback – and sometimes offer of a place - at end of the day. External candidates for additional 25 or so year 7 places (school’s own prep pupils move up automatically) have group interview, activities plus team building exercise plus maths, English and reasoning assessment.


Occasional leaver at 11+, though school doesn’t prepare pupils (one to King’s College Wimbledon in 2022 with scholarship). Year 11 leavers go on to a variety of destinations eg Wellington College, Lord Wandsworth, Bradfield College, Pangbourne College, Luckley House, Reading Blue Coat, Shiplake, Cranbourne (all independent) and Gordon’s School, The Holt School, Edgbarrow, UTC in Reading and Farnborough Sixth Form (state).

Latest results

In 2022, 63 per cent 9-7 at GCSE. In 2019 (the last pre-pandemic results), 47 per cent 9-7 at GCSE.

Teaching and learning

It’s rare to find a school’s approach referenced in academic journals but when all teachers are involved in educational research (working with Oxford University on a year 9 sustainability programme, for example), it’s par for the course. Hardworking staff are mostly in their 30s to 50s, two in their 70s and include 14 long-stayers (here a decade plus). No doubt clock the school motto ‘work hard, play fair’, also cited frequently and approvingly by parents. ‘Simple but so important and applies to everything,’ felt one.

Staffing levels are high, with smallish classes – lowest 12, 18-20 the norm, nine pupils to every full-time staff member. Early years have vast spaces and a well-judged balance between free play (reception pupils cooking playdoh cakes; nursery children creating a miniature traffic jam) and adult-led activities, with specialist teachers for e.g. sport, music, science, ICT. Parents can check in online to see what children are learning, get feedback, even watch videos of child at work (with permission). Achievements are celebrated sensitively through the school (awards for learning a new times table - no public performance required) while readers and non-readers alike take books home, some pictures only but children ‘don’t even realise there’s a difference,’ says parent.

Low-key homework in pre-prep - reading and spellings, holiday tasks optional; teachers will let parents know if more help at home useful. Increases in year 3 but well planned and imaginative. So good, thought a couple of juniors, that there should be more… ‘so it takes a long, long time’. (Teacher in the room positively beamed).

Limited setting in prep years, maths and languages from year 7, science – very popular here – added in year 8. Occasional additional setting for GCSEs, nine the norm, 22 options, with BTECs for music and sport. GCSE revision clubs – all popular – spread out over the week, graduate TAs offering specialist subject support. Trips frequent and enjoyed, even if not just for the academic content – ‘You can sit with whoever you like,’ says pupil.

Teachers ‘teach to the top’, says a staff member, involve children in target setting and provide constructive feedback – star boards don’t just feature polished final products but celebrate work in progress. Set questions that ‘don’t always have neatly tied-up answers’ – sparks some motivated pupils to do more. Classroom skills, put to the test when we visited on a wet Friday afternoon, were impressively high as animated year 5 geographers debated how to convey contours - ‘colour charts?’ - and historians, also in year 5, worked in pairs and against the clock on presentations about aspects of day-to-day life in medieval times. Seniors similarly engaged, year 7 scientists investigating the mystery of the brimming cup of tea that didn’t overflow when sugar was added, year 9 biology pupils learning about body systems by playing Happy Families with organs - ‘Mr Liver, meet Ms Gallbladder’. For the academically gifted there are mixed-age after-school groups - enter external competitions, visit Oxbridge colleges and follow their interests (one pupil had dismantled and reassembled a boiler in a quest to make steam power great again…).

Forest school is timetabled from EYFS to year 2 with outdoor learning on the timetable for years 5 and 6, optional from year 7. Tree climbing, fishing (and falling in), hedge planting, fire lighting and wood whittling (one pupil produced tiny, matchstick-sized sword from blazer pocket) all on the agenda. Helps build resilience, say pupils. ‘If you don’t believe in yourself, you can’t do it… if you do, you can.’ For some children, practical approach to maths and science – like weighing food for the farm animals – succeeds where classroom approach hasn’t. They’re also involved in running farm shop, selling polytunnel-grown veg and fruit and honey from own hives to parents. Has led to yet another award - ‘best use of school farm in the curriculum’. Pupils eloquent about the alchemy that turns previously despised subjects into favourites. ‘Transformed my outlook - instead of having to write off the board, we watch films, clips, speeches, and have class discussions,’ said senior pupil.

Learning support and SEN

Happiness of pupils with what the head describes as ‘a wide range of learning styles and needs’ the priority, though ‘we’re not a specialist school’. Approach starts early, with visual timetable for nursery pupils and calming music and movement programme through to year 2. Head has a particular interest in gifted children, including those with dual exceptionality (exceptional ability and some learning needs) and is a senior figure in NACE, also offering expertise to other schools. Have 29 pupils with EAL though currently only one receives support (either from EAL specialist or experienced TA).

Large SEN team with 12 well-qualified specialists, one with masters in ASD, four with level 7 SpLD qualifications (so can diagnose and put access arrangements, like extra time, in place). Visiting specialists include OTs, psychologists, counsellors and physios (charged as extras). Team has clout – runs insets for staff covering different areas of SEN, e.g ADHD – teaching assistants have separate sessions. Support individual teachers in class, always available for advice.

Despite some (fairly minor) concerns from staff that system might wobble slightly as the school expanded, there’s not been the slightest tremor, as pupils needing support confirm. ‘I was bottom for everything [before]. Now I’m in the middle set. I can ask for what I need help with, as many times as I need,’ says one. Biggest area of need is dyslexia but can support almost anything as long as staff aren’t spread too thinly, including physical disabilities. Offer numeracy, literacy, social communications and study skills sessions (sensitively organised so don’t miss core subjects or dent confidence). Might be either one-to-one or in pairs - would find it hard to accommodate child requiring extensive one-to-one support in class. Lunchtime club ‘The Hangout’ provides more structured/supervised play – not badged specifically as SEN though entrance is by invitation/suggestion – friends welcome to come, too.

Huge range of places and spaces on site where support happens including sensory rooms for primary age pupils, Accelerated Learning Centre in older main building - don’t call it SEN, why stigmatise? - and The Hub over in Eaton Grange where senior school pupils have one-to-one support (also base for Hebe, the emotional support labrador, who extends a helping paw to those in need). ‘If you have a problem because there’s too much homework and you’re getting overwhelmed, they’ll sort it,’ says pupil.

Work closely with pastoral team to support increasing number of pupils with mental health issues and eating disorders, with posters outlining support on the inside of toilet doors. Staff also encouraged to make contact if need help – can be signposted to other resources. ‘Highly competent,’ says a parent. Nobody feels different – ‘normal for other kids to need a bit of help.’ Parents are coached on how to support their child and recognising that sometimes TLC is the best approach after a tough day.

The arts and extracurricular

Build stage confidence early, with 3-year-olds performing nativities in well kitted-out theatre (300 tiered seats), and form assemblies more like glitzy first nights - year 4 crowd pleaser on day of visit featured snappy singing, dance and a lot of terrible jokes. Even the professional lighting was pupil operated.

Music, housed like drama in the impressive performing arts centre, is similarly characterful. Electric guitars roost in the music room, xylophones on the bend of a staircase, gamelan ensembles and steel bands augment more conventional orchestra, string and wind groups. Each senior year has own rock band (access to practice rooms on first come, first served basis at break) and there are numerous choirs including one just for year 8 boys – appeal enhanced by emphasis on rock standards. All senior pupils learn notation basics (there’s a keyboard-shaped crib sheet for the uncertain) and around 200 learn an instrument, up to diploma level.

Art and DT exceptional, from pewter pendants (first make your resin mould) to an explosion of fabric flowers from a boiled felt background and tiny, detailed ceramic tiles (school has own kiln). Teacher, St Martin’s trained, is an experienced skip surfer, transforming discarded metal-framed windows with colour explosions – made from PVA glue and powder paint. Ooh and ah factor higher only in the imagineering room where imposing industrial machines rip apart, melt down and repurpose single-use plastic bottles into plant pots and frisbees.

Clubs are numerous (list extends to 40 pages), some free old favourites (cookery, music composition) mixed with new additions (coding and bey blades), some academically focused for senior pupils (maths and language clubs). Many held at lunchtime. ‘If you’re sat there doing nothing, you’re probably missing out on something,’ says senior pupil, sagely.


Lots of space – plus sports hall, normal box-shaped design transformed by daringly pitched roof – for team games, including rugby, even at pre-prep age. Trampolining, judo and dance timetabled for all younger pupils. Differences between the sexes gradually disappearing – girls’ football and cricket both offered.

Recent county and district team successes in hockey, netball, football and swimming with individual pupils (dance, gymnastics, athletics, hockey, netball) selected to train/play for England, county teams (swimming, cricket), and football academies (Chelsea).

Facilities ‘crazy good,’ says parent. So much going on during the week that families feel – justifiably – that, especially for younger pupils, they can cancel all the paid weekend activities and just enjoy a bit of family R and R.

Ethos and heritage

Started as a boys’ boarding prep in 1945 with 40 pupils from London. Pre-prep added in 1974, girls a year later (when also became day only). Substantial additions to the 21-acre site include colossal early years buildings. In addition to performing arts building (also home to DT), there’s a separate recording studio. STEM well catered-for, environment ditto – some buildings, including the new dining room (serving v. good lunches, too – previously one of the few niggles). Charm award, however, goes to the original house - well preserved with airy art room and wood-panelled and well-stocked prep library. Senior version – big on computers, careers information and learning pods but rather low on actual books – is rather less inviting.

Idiosyncrasies include all-you-can-learn corridor tracing a path through history from medieval times to Covid when history stops - as ‘ran out of wall’. (Francis Fukuyama might approve.) Outside, wooden figures in school uniform shock parents into slowing down. Inside, tiny paintings of mice on the wainscoting appear ‘by magic’, said teacher (spoiler alert – the head creates them), while another member of staff writes jolly poems about colleagues on the paintwork.

Pastoral care, inclusivity and discipline

‘A strength of the school,’ felt parent. Will ‘find something genuinely worth celebrating, like a child who didn’t have a meltdown when things went wrong.’ Not a soft school, though a forgiving one that ‘encourages pupils to like who they are,’ says staff member. Don’t pull their punches - outside speakers include recovering addicts and a former child soldier, and even the youngest pupils ‘are aware that there are choices and consequences,' says school.

Not named in Everyone’s Invited, though recognise they can’t be complacent. Topic covered in PSHE though informally starts earlier. Pupils feel they will be heard and will flag concerns if peers are involved in something risky online - ‘It’s a virtue to tell the truth,’ said one. Teachers felt by parents to be adept at spotting pupils in trouble and offering discreet help, without forgetting the little touches – like sending a signed card to pupils celebrating birthdays in the holidays.

Approach, which has netted the school a Carnegie mental health award, includes mindfulness sessions, yoga and culture of openness. One year 10 boy applying to be the pupil head of wellbeing talked about their own mental health difficulties. Also have pupil parliament: pupils can self-nominate for roles but must explain what they’ll bring to them. Have also offered a graduated start for pupils who join after bullying at previous school and may only make it to the car park at first.

Sensitive approach applies also to staff – one teacher’s new baby was brought in each day by husband so she could breast feed. ‘Don’t think would happen in other schools,’ reckoned a teacher.

No pupil departures for drink or drugs, though very occasionally for intractable behavioural issues. (Will, however, always help with finding a new school).

Pupils and parents

Some super-rich mums and dads ‘but you wouldn’t know it,’ says parent. Many working (school offers 7.30am-6.00pm wraparound care including free homework sessions) and ‘not rah and elitist’. (Just as well – head makes it clear that parents are expected to work with the school.) WhatsApp groups for every class – welcoming despite surfeit of lost property messages.

Any child ‘who’d thrive in a 300-strong year group,’ says parent, might find it a bit restrictive. Successful with many others, however, ‘quiet nerds’ something of a speciality, says parent.

Those arriving after mixed experiences at other schools know just how lucky they are. Feel looked after and listened to. Bullying rare and when reported to teachers, dealt with. They also like their durable uniform – blazers so dirt resistant that, according to one proud pupil, ‘it has never been in the wash’. Only niggle is requirement for all boys up to year 2 to wear shorts. School sticking to its guns, despite strong opposition from parents.

Money matters

Means-tested bursaries available. Unusually, don’t have to be top academic achiever to stand a chance but will be assessed ‘to ensure that the children and the school are able to gain full benefit’.

Offer range of scholarships in year 7 – academic, art, drama, sport, music – reviewed annually, worth between five and 25 per cent of the fees. In addition to assessments, candidates must write 200 words outlining why they should be considered.

The last word

Plenty of schools’ policies bristle with good intentions that somehow get diluted on the shop floor. Here, they’re delivered in full. Not exactly a hidden gem (reputation is spreading too fast) but to the parents who come here, its approach is pure gold.

Please note: Independent schools frequently offer IGCSEs or other qualifications alongside or as an alternative to GCSE. The DfE does not record performance data for these exams so independent school GCSE data is frequently misleading; parents should check the results with the schools.

Special Education Needs

Our Mission is to inspire achievement beyond the bounds of expectation within an environment where every child can succeed. We believe that every teacher is a teacher of SEND and aim to achieve a fully inclusive environment within the Holme Grange School community.

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder Y
Aspergers Y
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders Y
CReSTeD registered for Dyslexia
Dyscalculia Y
Dysgraphia Y
Dyslexia Y
Dyspraxia Y
English as an additional language (EAL) Y
Has an entry in the Autism Services Directory
Has SEN unit or class
HI - Hearing Impairment Y
Hospital School
Mental health
MLD - Moderate Learning Difficulty Y
MSI - Multi-Sensory Impairment
Natspec Specialist Colleges
OTH - Other Difficulty/Disability Y
Other SpLD - Specific Learning Difficulty
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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