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Lambrook School

What says..

Fifty-two acres in which to run and run – total freedom to explore, provided you’ve got your wellies on. Pastoral care excellent: this is a big school, but pupils feel known and staff quick to take action where there’s a concern. One challenge, says head, is how busy pupils can become with the sweet-shop-esque timetable of extra-curricular fun. London market growing quickly: ‘but we won’t be the London school in the country,’ says head. A sociable school – ‘there’s always great cake at match teas’ – and every parent we spoke to seemed…

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What the school says...

Nestled in stunning grounds of over 52 acres, Lambrook School boasts 150 years of academic excellence and outstanding opportunities for its pupils. The Lambrook experience combines first class teaching and excellent facilities with traditional values, in the idyllic, tranquil surroundings of the beautiful Berkshire countryside.

By far, our most important asset is our children. From 1860 to the present day we have been nurturing boys and girls, ensuring that they enter senior school life as confident, outgoing, intelligent and creative young people.

We pride ourselves on our high academic standards, superb facilities and sporting provision. Our boarding is fun, friendly and flexible, with a real family atmosphere, yet not compulsory.

Lambrook gives your child the best possible foundations for senior school and beyond. The development of each individual child is at the heart of everything we do, allowing them to grow and thrive in a stimulating, challenging and rewarding environment.
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What The Good Schools Guide says

Headmaster

Since 2010, Jonathan Perry. BA in theology and history from Gloucestershire before PGCE at Cambridge. Four years as head at Kingsmead, housemaster at Monkton Combe, head of RS and philosophy at Wheatley Park.

Wife Jenny, part-time pharmacologist, works with pastoral team. Sitting together in his immaculate yet homely study, they radiate calm, warmth and a sense that everything’s going to be okay with the world. Sofas covered in perfect neutrals; painting of the school (by a parent, naturally) hanging above the fireplace; huge windows looking out onto parkland. Jenny pours a winning cup of tea from one of those personalised Emma Bridgewater teapots ubiquitous in kitchens across the home counties and yet still somehow classy. Heaven.

It may feel like stepping into Homes and Gardens, but Mr Perry is far from complacent. Very socially conscious and keen to modernise by increasing bursary provision and outreach: ‘Our role mustn’t be tokenistic,’ he says, ‘and we need to sow seeds then water them.’ May fund a languages teacher at a local school and recently launched Lambrook Foundation on the bursaries front. School has no endowments but ‘significant fundraising’ will allow school ‘to serve more individuals’. ‘We are really, really committed to building a healthy surplus,’ he says sincerely, and we believe him: we don’t sniff any cynical marketing chat here. Parents call him ‘charm personified’ and ‘a really good frontman’: ‘There’ll be hundreds of people at a match tea and he’ll say, “Ah, Mrs X, would you like an egg sandwich?’’.’

Strapline is ‘feathers to fly’, a concept which Mr Perry returns to often. ‘We give them feathers to fly so that when they leave us, they will spread their wings and take flight,’ he says. Fits with gentle, encouraging approach, informed in part by his Christian values. ‘We are not a sharp-elbowed environment,’ he says, despite the school’s increasing popularity with Londoners. Embodies the school with his softly spoken and twinkly manner, with no rough edges or ego.

Entrance

Mainly into nursery, reception, years 3, 4 and 7. Register ASAP. Not formally selective in younger years but ‘meet with all families to ensure that we are the best fit for their needs’ (yes, they’re interviewing you too and they are ‘not afraid to turn away’ parents who don’t fit with the ethos). Formal assessment for year 4 and up: academic but also ‘interests, character and general behaviour’. Biggest feeders in recent years have been west London preps. Fifty-five per cent boys overall, though varies year to year.

Exit

Handful leave for 11+ schools, but huge majority stay until 13+. Leavers to 40 schools each year, almost exclusively boarding, mainly co-ed but significant minority to single sex. Top 2023 destinations were Wellington, Eton, Marlborough, Charterhouse, Bradfield and St Edward’s. ‘Very, very few parents will say they must go to this school or that school,’ says head (not a pushy bunch). School is ‘quite firm about not allowing 13+ to turn into a circus,’ say parents, and good at keeping pupils calm. Separate scholarship class identified in year 7 and taught separately in year 8. Sixteen scholarships in 2023 and five awarded during the first year.

Our view

Breadth and balance in the curriculum prepare spongy young minds for whatever the Common Entrance has in store. All the usual, including French, RS, design and technology and, from year 5, Latin. We saw an RS lesson come to life as pupils competed to recall their Bible stories, squealing as their names appeared on the interactive whiteboard. Teachers strike balance between relaxed and fun but totally in control – unflustered by the hustle and bustle. Academics gentler than at pushy local and London preps, but yield effective results. ‘They’re getting more out of her by not sitting right on top of her,’ says one mum. ‘At our London prep they made a point of being a year ahead in English and maths – what’s the point of that?’ says another, knowing full well that this would be sacrilege in Battersea.

Littlest are structured from the off, covering phonics, literacy, maths in their pre-school year – we saw a lively phonics session (sausage! stick! star!). Moving imminently to new, purpose-built centre. Thence to self-contained pre-prep zone – easy flow between classrooms, colourful displays about happiness and reminders of character values (kindness, respect, independence, manners, courage, responsibility) on the wall. Specialist teachers in PE, swimming, music and French. Saturday school from year 5 gets mixed reviews from parents, particularly those less local (‘we just suck it up’; ‘it’s just one of those things’).

Modern classrooms housed in single-storey, wooden-clad buildings with big windows that let in lots of natural light. Strikingly clean-smelling and up-to-date teaching spaces – no dusty corners or tired paintwork. All feels chipper – serious capital expenditure in recent years, and it shows. Science labs a little more tired (though really, this is relative), with strip lighting and slightly saggy inflatable planets dangling from the ceiling – but totally fit for purpose and well looked after. Pretty chapel at the school’s physical and emotional heart hosts four services a week – families join on a Saturday morning and often outside speakers, too.

DT studio well organised, tools stored under wooden benches – working clocks, a year 8 project, proudly displayed. Art room similarly pukka, with colourful paintings of water lilies on display and a wonderful tutu made from ballet slippers on a mannequin in the corner, plus elaborate Venetian masks ready for the kiln. Welcoming library heaves with books (not to be taken for granted, we find) and student book reviews, beautifully illustrated (‘It is a story about friendship and many things its young readers can relate to,’ writes one year 7 – warrants many heart emojis). Walls lined with names and photos of first XVs and XIs back to 1905 – one suspects today’s teams don’t look dissimilar. We saw diggers in action developing the dining room, newly extended to reduce waiting times and accommodate more boarders. Food delicious.

A whopping 178 LAMDA lessons each week and 420 individual music lessons. Diamond Jubilee Centre one of the best prep performing arts facilities we’ve come across – we saw year 8s studying film scores, boys tap-dancing (yippee), bagpipe teacher in action. Extracurricular choirs and ensembles galore. Lambrook Festival of Arts week culminates with house choral competition. Senior chapel choir has performed in Notre Dame and Windsor Castle. Listening to them trilling away about badgers and hedgehogs in preparation for upcoming harvest festival was a total delight.

Fifty-two acres in which to run and run – total freedom to explore, provided you’ve got your wellies on. At least one mum mystified by how they get pupils back for lessons, but like clockwork they tumble in, ruddy-cheeked and full of fresh air. A nine-hole golf course, 25-metre swimming pool, huge AstroTurf and sports hall.

Volunteering and charity prominent. Year 7 don’t just go canoeing on the lakes in Sweden – everyone raises £500 to enable an underprivileged child to do the same (through Teenage Wilderness Trust). Mum and dad aren’t allowed to get the cheque book out: ‘They have to feel like they’re raising the money, making cakes or washing cars,’ says Mr Perry, giving their time, not just their money. Pupils also visit partner school outside Durban, ‘playing lots of cricket’ with pupils there and taking practical donations like pens or toothbrushes. ‘They come back as better individuals,’ says head. Mountains of food awaiting donation to two local food banks (much of it organic, of course). ‘We want them to be leaders, want them to be outward-looking,’ says Mr Perry. ‘We’d be really sad if our children were arrogant so-and-sos.’ Prints from Charlie Mackesy around the school – ‘The mole says to the boy, “I’m so small”, and the boy tells him, “Yes, but you make a huge difference.”’

Sustainability important – children planted 300 saplings last year. Recent development has been emergence, rather organically, of school orchard. Pupils collect eggs from rescue chickens, newly restored to good health and refeathered, Lambrook-style (don’t point out that chickens are hopeless flyers); beehives produce Lambrook honey (a particularly nice going-home present); pupils come to stroke the rabbits of a lunchtime. Every class has a veg patch. Excellent teaching resources on ecology and food industry; we were less convinced by the educational value of the bunnies, but they’re very cute and no doubt good for everybody’s general zen.

Pastoral care excellent. This is a big school, but pupils feel known and staff quick to take action where there’s a concern. One challenge, says head, is how busy pupils can become with the sweetshop-esque timetable of extracurricular fun. ‘They need time to be on their own,’ he says, ‘to just stop and be – ensuring that as we go forward we still find moments in a busy weekly schedule.’

Fifty receiving support from LDC, either long term or for a short-term confidence boost. Nice big classroom devoted to it, cupboards neatly labelled ‘handwriting’, ‘visual skills’ etc. ‘Children with dyslexia, dyscalculia etc might find academic learning challenging’, but their ‘many strengths’ should be ‘viewed positively’.

Minibuses bring pupils from affluent areas of south Oxfordshire, Bucks, Surrey, as well as Chiswick and Brook Green. ‘They love the bus,’ say parents, raving about the ‘cheerful’ and ‘avuncular’ drivers. Lots of locals too, of course, most of whom drive. ‘The car park is a sight to be seen,’ we hear, ‘literally Lamborghinis, Ferraris, very smart Range Rovers.’

London market growing quickly, ‘but we won’t be the London school in the country,’ says head. A bit of London vs not-London awareness amongst parents – logistics mean that there are London-specific socials at the pub in Brook Green – though dedicated London rep encourages people to get involved and lots of Londoners make it to Saturday chapel and match teas. Buses leave too early for London pupils to take part in most after-school activities, ‘but they pack a huge amount into the rest of the day,’ say parents, delighted that their children get home ‘at 6pm having done their homework and their running around’.

School hit headlines when the Prince and Princess of Wales made the decision to send Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis here in September 2022. But parents tell us you’d have no idea the royal trio were even there – ‘all very discreet and low-key’. We'll be sure to keep a beady eye on how it affects admissions in the longer term. The school is a 15-minute drive from the royal family’s reported home, Adelaide Cottage.

‘Welcoming, thoughtful, warm’ induction for newbies including handwritten card from new buddy. ‘There are so many WhatsApp groups,’ said one mum, ‘for our year, for our area, for our minibus.’ ‘If there was anything I didn’t know at the beginning there were five different people I could ask,’ says another. A sociable school – ‘there’s always great cake at match teas’ – and every parent we spoke to seemed to be off to a Lambrook get-together soon.

Boarders

Weekly and flexi boarding; no overseas boarders. The two boarding houses (Lambrook House for girls; Westfield for boys) very cosy with colourful bedspreads, mini ping-pong tables and bookshelves packed with David Walliams and Roald Dahl. Boarding numbers have grown, particularly flexi (a good stepping stone for future schools, says head, with 96 per cent of pupils going on to board). ‘It’s competitive for a Friday night,’ school says – and boys’ houses are due to be expanded and developed. Around three-quarters of the school boards at some stage each year, predominantly year 4 and up but the odd year 3 who’s there with an older sibling. ‘We don’t insist that you board from a particular year group, and so parents don’t have that anxiety that their child might not be ready.’ In their experience, though, those who manage senior boarding best have done it before they get to 13+. Tries to recruit couples as houseparents where possible.

Money matters

Means-tested bursaries available; school has recently started working with Springboard to give 100 per cent bursary.

The last word

‘My son’s the classic prep school candidate – he loves the muddy knees,’ says one mum – and in Lambrook they’ve indeed found the classic prep school. Big and shiny, yes, with facilities that would make many senior schools green with envy – but we also found a heart of gold. Busy children having a whale of a time, running through the woods, singing their socks off or having a giggle in the lunch queue. A bit of a bubble, naturally, but when the bubble’s this nice, what’s not to like?

Special Education Needs

We aim to provide each child with every opportunity to develop their potential, taking into account their different learning profiles, abilities and interests (including gifted and talented pupils). Seven suitably qualified teachers, who can assess and teach throughout the age ranges, provide comprehensive individual programmes for those with special learning needs. We apply a whole school policy to meet each pupil’s individual needs following the guidelines of the Code of Practice for SEN. We aim to identify at the earliest opportunity any child who may have Special Educational Needs and to maintain a Special Needs Register. The Learning Development Centre has been well established within the framework of the school. It is expected that pupils attending the LDC will integrate into the school and achieve the expectations of the school curriculum. Pupils need to be able to access the curriculum independently and to have the potential to succeed at Common Entrance. Our aim is for pupils to be happy, motivated and efficient learners. We also strive to build their self-esteem, establish their self-awareness, self worth and confidence in the school environment and beyond. A wide range of specialist teaching is available with a visiting occupational therapist, speech therapist and educational psychologist. Lessons are designed to meet specific needs, as identified by tests or professional assessments. Strategies for classroom management are supplied to all staff to implement and these are reviewed termly. Lessons are usually on one-to-one basis and can be instead of Latin in years 5 to 8. Withdrawing pupils from curriculum subjects is avoided wherever possible. Special arrangements for examinations are applied for and word processors and laptops can be used when appropriate. The progress of pupils with the LDC is continually monitored and reviewed each term. The school has provision for EAL lessons for children for whom English is an additional language if, it is deemed that with appropriate help and support, they will benefit in due course from the mainstream curriculum and will be ultimately successful at Common Entrance. 09-09

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder Y
Aspergers
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 Y
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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