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The school believes in giving children lots of opportunities to try out new things so the extracurricular programme is vast. For years 3-6, there’s a life skills based enrichment programme every Friday afternoon – children choose anything from first aid to cooking – and all pupils get the chance to earn up to 14 scout-like badges that they sew on their jumpers. The pupil-run school radio station is inspired, with an…

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What The Good Schools Guide says

Head

Since April 2021, Jennie Phillips, the first female head of the school and indeed in the King’s Foundation. Previously head of Monmouth School Girls’ Prep School, she was educated at Oxford High School and studied education at Exeter. ‘It was only ever teaching for me,’ she grins - she got a kick out of doing reception break duty even when she was still at school herself. Work experience at a primary school when she was 14 nailed her decision despite spending most of her time knee deep in sticky back plastic. First teaching post was at St Peter’s Prep, Devon, thence to Badminton Prep for a long stint before Monmouth. Covering other teachers remains her favourite bit of the job, even now.

Smiley, unassuming and very much one of the team, there’s no hint of the self-importance that typifies some heads. Parents say she is ‘lovely,’ ‘involved’, ‘friendly, ‘empathetic’ and ‘focused.’ ‘All the staff are really passionate about their jobs here but especially Mrs Phillips,’ said one. Thumbs up too from pupils, who say ‘she always talks to us and reminds us that her door is always open.’

Strictly speaking, she doesn’t even have to leave her garden to get to work as there’s no real point where it ends and the school field (well one of them) begins. ‘Means I get all sorts through my door,’ she laughs – pupils’ cards, drawings, letters etc are often piled up on the doormat when she gets home. Married to Eddie, a recruitment consultant, and their two daughters, both at the senior school. A keen hiker and swimmer, the great outdoors is very much her thing. Having drooled at the King’s boathouse every time she dropped off her daughter for rowing, she recently decided to take up the sport herself – ‘I’ve never felt more useless in my life,’ she admits, ‘but I get a bit better every week.’

Entrance

Non-selective. Main entry point is kindergarten at 2+. Not quite London frenzy standards though there is now a long waiting list and one mother recently asked to sign up her bump. Over 90 per cent move up to reception (those that leave doing so for financial reasons), after which school will expand from two to three classes if the demand is there. Pupils then join in most year groups, including mid-year, if spaces are available - especially since Covid. ‘We’ve had more and more families touring on a Friday and starting on a Monday,’ says head.

Exit

Vast majority to the senior school King’s in the centre of Worcester, with many winning scholarships (15 out of 30 pupils in 2021). Parents are given plenty of warning if their child might not pass the assessments (English, maths and NVR – the same tests as for outside applicants, but all done in their own classrooms so less pressurised). The odd few don’t go on for financial reasons.

Our view

The school is located on a 23-acre site just to the north of Worcester and has all the open-air feel of a rural paradise. As well as the extensive grounds that back onto fields of livestock, the children get use of the adjacent canal – ‘you can hardly keep us off the keta-canoes,’ beamed a pupil. As we saw for ourselves, the children use the school’s own covered swimming pool from age 2 so that they are ready for the canal by the time they’re 7. Full Forest School curriculum gets youngsters using real tools for real tasks and our tour guides took us past multiple chickens, budgies and carrier pigeons that pupils informed us had recently won a race to France. There’s an outdoor classroom, a huge tepee with characterful oak door, an ecological garden, several adventure play areas and two big fields, one with a regularly used chicken-shaped pizza oven. On the day of our visit there was a huge pile of wood too - ‘all ready for the giant Guy Fawkes bonfire,’ a pupil explained excitedly. The whole place has the feel of a children’s village, with the original higgledy-piggledy Georgian house home to some classrooms and a dining hall (with great food – we enjoyed a delicious chicken curry), while the rest of the buildings – including converted stables and newer build low-rises – are well spread out, giving plenty of space for children to run around and climb trees (yes, they still do that here). ‘The only children it wouldn’t suit are those that don’t like getting muddy,’ reckoned a parent.

Sport, as you might imagine, is hugely popular among these rosy cheeked children, with two sports afternoons a week and plenty of successes across all the main sports of rugby, football and cricket for the boys and netball, hockey and cricket for the girls. More minor sports include athletics, badminton, tennis and climbing (they have their own wall). An Astro tops the wish list for pupils but the modern dance hall is enough to make many a senior school green with envy and there’s a skilfully designed barn-style sports hall/performance space that enhances the village feel of the site.

All children learn the trumpet and violin (crikey, that’s a brave music teacher) and can read music by the time they leave. Over 85 per cent (high by any school’s standards) learn an instrument with a peripatetic teacher - cello, drums, sax and even ‘those funny looking flutes that bend over backwards’ (head’s lovely description) all feature. The junior and senior choirs and orchestras, plus all the ensembles, are well attended and pupils regularly perform in school assemblies – and that goes for a child that can just about scratch out a few ear piercing notes on a violin to those doing grade 7 piano. The school regularly performs in local festivals and one year group told us they were going to sing at their teacher’s wedding! Drama doesn’t have a dedicated teacher and nor is it on curriculum, but it forms part of English lessons and there are three big performances a year – nativity for the pre-prep, a year 3 and 4 production, then a biggie by years 5 and 6. There’s also LAMDA in the converted Victorian conservatory. Art is varied and imaginative, involving everything from still life to canopic jars and masks made out of Plaster of Paris. We loved watching year 4s making Henri Rousseau inspired jungle pictures to tie in with their topic work on rainforests.

The school believes in giving children lots of opportunities to try out new things so the extracurricular programme is vast – construction, arts and crafts, upcycling, chess, debating, sewing, explorers’ club and outward bound, to name just some of the startling range of clubs. For years 3-6, there’s a life skills based enrichment programme every Friday afternoon – children choose anything from first aid to cooking – and all pupils get the chance to earn up to 14 scout-like badges that they sew on their jumpers. The pupil-run school radio station is inspired, with an ex-BBC broadcaster coming in to coach the children and edit the interviews they carry out on eg the annual campout or the narrated recordings of school trip activities. Media presenter careers await.

Somewhere in the midst of all this the children fit in academic learning, though you wouldn’t know it from the number of empty classrooms. But there’s a reason for this – at least one class is usually learning outside. Everything from writing sums in chalk on the tarmac ‘because it’s more fun’ to taking iPads outside for a test ‘just because we can’. Whether inside or out, learning is practical and interactive – we saw coloured counters used to learn the column method in maths, video clips and punchy questions used to explore special places in Judaism and children making an electronic game in science. MFL is a strength – German is taught from reception, French from year 4 and Spanish (and Russian for a few) from year 6. The French teacher – whom we saw helping children learn how to order food - ‘is the kindest in the school,’ we heard, ‘and that’s saying something as they’re all kind.’ The children are taught old-fashioned loop handwriting (even tinies were doing it when we visited) and reading is massive, with the library bus (literally a converted London bus) so popular that when a teacher says the words ‘All aboard!’ they are met with loud cheers. Class sizes are small, max of 18, and from year 4 the classes are split for maths and some English with the lowest sets getting the smallest numbers. Tracking is meticulous, picking up any progress problems, and the learning success department (a positive twist on the usual learning support – we like that) comes in for rave reviews from parents. One told how her son’s teacher learned sign language to better communicate with him and then got the whole class to follow – and some of the wider school have since joined them as sign language is now run as a club. The SENCo works with two support workers and offers everything from catch up maths to one-to-ones (all included unless an outside professional, such as a speech and language therapist, is brought in). School stepped up well during Covid, say parents; the children, perhaps inevitably given daily life here, reckoned it was ‘boring.’

Parents hail from up to an hour away - stretching as far as Wales, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire and Birmingham - many grateful for the wrap-around care offered from 7.30am to 5.30pm and the network of mini-busses run in conjunction with the other Kings’ schools. They appreciate the close community and village school atmosphere with all the opportunities of a much bigger school. Lots of farmers and medics, majority dual income. Very little ethnic minority (reflective of the area), while socioeconomically there’s everything from parents struggling to pay the fees to those who turn up in a different car each day. Minor irritations include the clogged-up car park at drop off and pick up times and the sheer number of dressing up days, though we loved the idea of the Dare to be Different Day the week we visited, while on Egypt Day they turn the cellar into an ancient tomb.

If ever you needed proof that children who are motivated and challenged generally behave, a visit here should do the trick, though a recently rejigged sanction system now includes yellow cards (for eg repeatedly disrupting a class) and red cards (for something physical). ‘Discipline is done in a nice way – they don’t mind the kids running around, but not recklessly everywhere,’ said a parent. The reward system includes all the usual house points and merits but most excitingly, the head’s basket of brilliance with all manner of colourful toys, hairbands etc (there’s even one for teachers with prosecco and chocolate!). Active school council is currently campaigning for a garden area ‘to grow things’ (an easy win, we imagine, with all that space) and a few children want the hard court resurfaced (‘We get so many grazed knees,’ frowned one). Worry boxes seem to be everywhere you look, including outside – you put your name on your worry if you want the teacher to help or not if you just want to air your concern. Diversity and inclusivity are the key assembly themes – head had just done one on Rosa Parks when we visited. ‘Older children look out for the younger ones,’ said a parent, and we heard frequent tales of children arriving shy but finding their confidence here.

Fees pretty average for the area, with means tested bursaries available in year 5 and 6, while music scholars (currently eight across the school) get free music tuition.

Money matters

Fees pretty average for the area, with means tested bursaries available in year 5 and 6, while music scholars (currently eight across the school) get free music tuition.

The last word

An outdoorsy prep with a warm, fun, family feel and happy, open and engaged children. Could do with a lick of paint in places, but who cares when the children are on the move most of the time anyway? ‘They let children be children – it’s not just about preparing them for the next stage,’ summed up a parent.

Special Education Needs

The school employs a number of support staff to assist both in the classroom and in individual support lessons. All support lessons are an integral part of our provision and there is no additional charge for such provision. 09-09

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder Y
Aspergers Y
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders Y
CReSTeD registered for Dyslexia
Dyscalculia
Dysgraphia
Dyslexia
Dyspraxia
English as an additional language (EAL)
Genetic
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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