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Milbourne is big on traditions, including games like Ambush, Puttocks and the Mornington Mile. ‘I couldn’t tell you what the rules are,’ laughed one mother. ‘None of the parents understand it but the children know exactly what to do.’ Strong emphasis on PHSEE, with outside speakers invited in to talk to children and parents. Tutors are children’s first port of call and there’s also the Bob Box, where pupils can post a letter if they are feeling worried about something...

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What the school says...

Milbourne Lodge is a selective Pre-Prep and Prep School for boys and girls aged 4-13. The philosophy of the school is based on combining the proven values of a traditional education with the positive and encouraging environment children need to achieve their full potential. The school strives to turn out not only well educated children but also confident, well rounded ones who really get the most out of their prep school days.

We have an outstanding record of success at both Scholarship and Common Entrance level. In addition there are strong Art, Music, IT and Sports departments with games played every day. The latest Inspection report - September 2017 - classed the school 'Outstanding in All Areas'. The SIS Inspector commented that, "Milbourne Lodge provides an outstanding education for its pupils. The pupils’ academic attainment is very high and their achievements are exceptional."

Situated in over 8 acres of beautiful grounds, the school is within easy access of the A3 and M25 and a daily bus runs from SW London.
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What The Good Schools Guide says


Since January 2016, Judy Waite BA, previously deputy head. Educated at The Tiffin Girls’ School in Kingston upon Thames, then read modern history, economics and politics at London University, followed by a PGCE at the Institute of Education. She started her teaching career in secondary schools, teaching history and politics at Croydon High School GDST, then at a variety of comprehensives. Her twin sons (a lawyer and a banker) attended Milbourne Lodge and she liked the school’s ethos of ‘work hard, play hard’ so much that when a job came up she made the switch from secondary to prep school education. She started as an English and history teacher in 2010, was deputy for three years and then became head. ‘It’s great to lead a school whose values I absolutely believe in,’ she says.

She loves teaching and still teaches English to year 5 pupils and history in the upper school. ‘I can’t imagine doing anything else,’ she says. ‘I want to give the children a thirst for knowledge.’ She believes that teaching enables her to see the curriculum from the inside and to know all the children well, which helps when it comes to advising parents on future schools. Excellent connections with schools like Westminster and St Paul’s (she predicted both of these would abandon common entrance before the official announcement). She’s also a firm believer in children having ‘a balance of studying and physical activity every day’ and all the Milbourne children get this. ‘If it rains we just carry on,’ says the head. Often playful and fun when she leads assemblies, she’s a stickler for hard work and excellent behaviour in the classroom. ‘If they cross the line I’m terrifying,’ she jokes.

Warm, dynamic and fizzing with ideas, she’s very visible around the school. Parents say she is ‘a good leader’ and ‘very much embodies the Milbourne spirit’. One told us: ‘She’s a great ambassador for the school and she really embraces and supports the school’s idiosyncrasies and quirkiness.’ Another remarked on her approachability – ‘she’s very often on the gate in the morning.’ In her spare time she enjoys studying historical battles and archaeology and goes boogie boarding in Cornwall. Her husband Rob is a retired engineer and often helps out around the school, taking on everything from odd jobs to coaching rugby. He also referees rugby at St Paul’s School.


Entry to the school is selective. Children registered for reception entry are invited to an informal activity session 18 months before they join the school. Around ten to 12 new entrants start in year 3 (the whole year group is about 40), following a November assessment in maths and English and an informal discussion with a senior member of staff, plus a games session with sports staff.


The majority of pre-prep children move to the prep (they don’t have far to go – everything is on the same site). Most prep pupils stay till 13, although girls opting for all-girls’ schools tend to leave at 11. The wooden boards in the entrance hall bear testimony to an impressive array of leavers’ destinations, with scholars’ names engraved in gold lettering. In 2020, destinations included Brighton College, Claremont, Charterhouse, Dulwich College, Epsom College, Fay (USA), Hampton, Harrow, King’s College, Reed’s, RGS, St Paul’s, Uppingham, Wellington and Westminster. Eight scholarships in 2020.

Our view

Founded in 1912 by Harvey Wyatt, Milbourne Lodge built up a formidable academic reputation under the classicist Norman Hale, who was owner and head from 1948 to 1998. In 2007, the school became part of the Cognita Group, which owns and manages 70 schools in Europe, Latin America and Asia. The School Inspection Service judged it to be ‘outstanding in all areas’ in 2017.

The school has remained on its original site, set back from a quiet, leafy lane in Esher. The main building is a converted Victorian mansion – very charming and busy, with every inch of space used to maximum effect. Recent additions include a stylish new building complex, named after Norman Hale and comprising six new classrooms and a swish science lab equipped with Bunsen burners and microscopes. There’s a new music block and a resources centre, which the pre-prep uses for assemblies. Four classrooms are housed in a large wooden hut in the garden – they look fairly basic but the children love them. Extensive playing fields are a short walk away but still on the same site. The heated outdoor swimming pool is used from just after Easter to the October half-term. There’s also an award-winning garden, where the children grow their own produce.

Milbourne Lodge offers a traditional, very personalised education for energetic, bright pupils in pursuit of excellence. The school motto says it all really – 'ad optima petenda', in other words, ‘strive for excellence’. English and maths are set from year 4 but it’s ‘very flexible’ and children frequently move sets. French from year 2 and Latin from year 4, plus Greek for scholars and separate sciences from year 5. Parents says the school’s size means that the education is ‘tailor-made’ for every child. A mother told us: ‘Every child is known – and their strengths and weaknesses are known.’ Everyone is encouraged to read widely. The school shadows the annual Carnegie award and the staff talk about their own favourite books in assembly (the children have assembly four times a week). They were gripped when the head of sport recalled excitedly queueing up at midnight as each new Harry Potter book was published. ‘They found it really funny that you had to wait,’ smiles the head. Each year has two forms, with a maximum of 40 in each year group in the prep.

Art and IT are exceptional. Both departments, located at the top of the school, work closely together, sparking off ideas and capturing the children’s imaginations. They take on a different theme each year and when we visited pupils had just started a project entitled Money Can’t Buy. Their first task was to think of ‘something that makes them incredibly happy and doesn’t cost anything’. They wrote these on Post-it notes – everything from hugs to friendship – and created a vast poster. We were struck by the children’s creativity and ingenuity, particularly a leavers’ book with self-portraits in the style of Julian Opie and QR codes linked to videos of the year 8 children talking about their time at the school.

Pupils do sport every day and the school fields loads of fixtures. Despite its size there have been notable successes in rugby, football, cricket and netball. ‘Gosh, we are feisty,’ says the head. Boys do football, rugby, cricket, swimming and athletics and girls do netball, hockey, rounders, swimming and athletics. A mother whose sporty daughter stayed on till year 8 said she’d had fewer competitive matches in her last two years but she’d also played football with the boys and done lacrosse out of school. She promptly sailed into the hockey A team at her next school. Plenty of opportunities for music and drama, including the Dickensian Evening, where a play is performed in the school’s Centenary Garden in December (yes, December), with fairy lights woven through the trees, mulled wine for parents, hot chocolate for the children and a recitation of Benjamin Zephaniah’s Talking Turkeys. At the time of our visit the child chosen to read the poem was excitedly planning to wear an inflatable turkey suit for the occasion.

Girls are greatly in the minority. We wondered whether they need to be robust here but a year 8 girl told us that Milbourne suits all types. A parent with three daughters told us: ‘It cuts out the princessiness that you get in some all-girls’ schools. We absolutely love it.’ Pupils say the school is friendly and that they all know everyone. An engaging year 8 boy had made it his mission to know every year 3 child by name by the end of the autumn term. Most pupils come from within a 35-minute drive (the A3 and M25 are within easy reach). Some are very local and walk to school, others are driven in by their parents (no cars allowed on the school site) or get the bus from places like Guildford, Oxshott, Horsley and Cobham. The school runs a return minibus from Wimbledon and Putney.

The school is ‘digital-free’, which the head says gives the children an extra couple of years of childhood. Some pupils who travel to school by themselves have mobile phones but they hand them in when they arrive. The school day is a long one, from 8.15am to 4pm or 5.05pm for the upper school, but the children said they loved being busy. ‘You get tired, but in a good way,’ one boy told us. ‘And we get lots of breaks.’ The school runs a breakfast club from 7.45am and there’s a sibling club for children waiting for older siblings to finish lessons.

Milbourne is big on traditions, including games like Ambush, Puttocks and the Mornington Mile. ‘I couldn’t tell you what the rules are,’ laughed one mother. ‘None of the parents understand it but the children know exactly what to do.’ Strong emphasis on PHSEE, with outside speakers invited in to talk to children and parents. Tutors are children’s first port of call and there’s also the Bob Box, where pupils can post a letter if they are feeling worried about something. Every child belongs to one of four houses and there are house competitions galore as they compete for points for the highly prized house cup, presented in the summer.

Attractive nine-acre grounds, with gardens, woods, sports pitches and an eight-lane athletics track. Older pupils do cross-country runs. Younger ones play Ambush in the Woods (unique to the school and invented 40 years ago by a teacher). ‘The children are out in all weathers,’ a mother told us approvingly. The food is managed by Cognita’s supplier and everything is cooked on-site. The menu always includes a main course, a meat-free option and a snack bar – the children told us they like the curries and the gammon best. Pupils wear dashing magenta blazers, piped in white braiding, and the older children’s lapels are laden with badges for sporting and leadership achievements.

The pre-prep opened in 2009 and is housed in the former headmaster’s house, stylishly brought up to date with bright, airy classrooms opening on to the pre-prep garden. Prep teachers teach subjects like French and RS in the pre-prep – which all adds to the school’s family atmosphere.

The last word

Last time round we described Milbourne as a boys’ school with girls – but things have definitely moved on. Girls are still greatly in the minority but this feels like a co-ed school, with opportunities for everyone to thrive. Best of all, the children are industrious and engaged, with a sense of purpose and clearly having the time of their lives. As one parent put it: ‘They are comfortable in their own skin.’

Special Education Needs

Children are screened for dyslexia during their first term. Thereafter individual tuition is provided for those with learning difficulties. Each child's programme is developed by two in-house specialists, often in conjunction with an external educational psychologist. Nov 09

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