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  • More House School (Farnham)
    Moons Hill
    Frensham
    Farnham
    Surrey
    GU10 3AP
  • Head: Mr Jonathan Hetherington
  • T 01252 792303
  • F 01252 797601
  • E [email protected]
  • W www.morehouseschool.co.uk
  • A special independent school for boys aged from 8 to 18 with specific learning difficulties
  • Boarding: Yes
  • Local authority: Surrey
  • Pupils: 487; 82 full and weekly boarders; sixth formers: 71
  • Religion: Roman Catholic
  • Fees: Day £13,980 - £19,596; Boarding £24,861 - £30,495 pa
  • Review: View The Good Schools Guide Review
  • Ofsted report: View the Ofsted report

What says..

Every fortnight, Flexi-Friday allows the boys to follow a single subject for an entire day – bliss for students who dislike transitions.  Practicals like cookery, chemistry and art benefit from the extended time, ‘They are so practical, so creative’ said the Art teacher, whose BTec courses require team work and a written exam, ‘It’s getting the words on to paper that is difficult’.

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What the school says...

More House School provides high quality education and pastoral care for boys aged 8-18 who are intelligent and thrive in a specialist learning environment, due to a specific learning difficulty.

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Sports

Fencing

Shooting

What The Good Schools Guide says

Headmaster

Since 2015, Jonathan Hetherington BA MSc (late 30s). Launched into a teaching career the hands-on way, by qualifying through the work-based graduate training programme, having quit a PGCE the first time round as ‘wasn’t ready’. After graduating in English from Southampton University, was persuaded to help out at More House by the head of music; from there, found his way into the English department, becoming head of boarding in 2011. Married to Lizzy, who teaches music, with two children at local schools and Rosie the dog - a much-loved dog-blanket graces his study. A fearless spokesman for the unconfident child, ‘Boys come here with a keen understanding of what their weaker skills are; far more important is helping to find what they are naturally good at’. It is this ebullience that has helped to maintain More House at the top of the specialist schools league, in numbers as well as reputation. ‘Fundamentally, the vision remains what it was: a very mainstream academic curriculum but delivered in a way that works’, he tells us. A recent building project has seen an expanded library, ‘we have managed to inspire children who are terrified of literacy’, a new sixth form centre and extra sports pitches. He shares his talents on the Independent Schools Association, and as area co-ordinator for local schools, offering free teacher-training to support neuro-diverse learners. Involved and approachable say parents, ‘He’s on the school gate. He rolls up his sleeves’. A boy’s verdict, ‘Lovely man. He’s got a lovely dog as well’.

Entrance

The pathway to a place consists of paperwork, parent interview and taster session, including at least two nights sleepover for a boarder. Half of all applicants are turned away, ‘Everything is about trying to match what the pupil needs with what the right environment is’, says the head. The primary need must be literacy and developmental language; candidates include those with other features, such as autism or attention difficulties. Six out of ten children come with an EHCP from their local authority, ‘nearly every EHCP doesn’t fit this school’ he laughs, ‘… designed as a bolt-on for mainstream’, some have private Educational Psychologists’ reports. The school fills up from year four, with around twenty places available at year seven. Rumours of availability spread through the Surrey Hills like holy smoke.

Exit

Many boys take the university route, with a variety of destinations including Winchester, Reading and London Universities, to study an unusually wide range of subjects; architecture, media and engineering are popular. However, as the head remarked, ‘By the time you get to adulthood, you realise there’s no such thing as normal’ and others opt for apprenticeships or vocational courses, eg conservation, sports coaching or game-design. A dedicated careers advisor supports students from year nine, with interview skills and organisation, equal weight given to promoting life skills as to choosing a prestigious course, ‘It’s not just qualifications, it’s being able to have the confidence to get the bus from the halls of residence to the lecture theatre’, said the head. One mum agreed, ‘My son can use a washing machine and can iron his shirt’. About a third leave after year eleven to local FE colleges.

Latest results

GCSE results: 29 per cent 7-9, 28 per cent A*/A at A level or BTec equivalent of Distinction*/Distinction.

Teaching and learning

In many respects a traditional independent school: junior boys (years four, five and six) have a dedicated building with classroom-based curriculum covering core subjects, round termly topics. Specialist teachers deliver art, PE, computing and DT. Boys in the middle and upper schools follow the secondary model of moving round between buildings for lessons, with subject-specific teaching. Students are expected to take at least five exam subjects at the end of KS4 but some take up to eleven, from an array of 21 possible GCSEs or BTecs. Choices are made in year nine, ‘it gives them time to test out different subjects’ said one parent.

The magic is in the detail: teaching in small class sizes, up to 15, with a generous teacher to pupil ratio of 1:12, and all learning is nourished with literacy or therapeutic support. The effect is GCSE results above national average, ‘We couldn’t imagine him getting a single GCSE’, said a parent, ‘and he has come out with nines in all his A level choices’. One mum told us how the school vets the exam boards’ syllabuses each year, for ‘the one that gives our boys the best chance’. Maths and hands-on subjects such as art and design are popular with kinaesthetic learners. Media and photography have a dedicated floor and attract budding film-makers. We heard one group discussing the health and safety requirements for stunt performers, with action video-clips. A would-be Paparazzo in year 13 was setting up a photographic studio with screens and stage lighting. Elsewhere the English A level group had been delighted to learn standard spelling rules were not a headache for Chaucer.

We saw a class of KS5 boys in DEC (Design, Engineer, Construct!) creating virtual classrooms, using computer-aided design. The task assessed weathering and sustainability to industry standard, and had borrowed a wheelchair for hands-on measurements for disabled access. Laing O’Rourke sponsors the course, offering talks and work placements.

Every fortnight, Flexi-Friday allows the boys to follow a single subject for an entire day – bliss for students who dislike transitions. Practicals like cookery, chemistry and art benefit from the extended time, ‘They are so practical, so creative’ said the Art teacher, whose BTec courses require team work and a written exam, ‘It’s getting the words on to paper that is difficult’.

Learning support and SEN

The More House secret ingredient is the Learning Development Centre or LDC, which has expanded over the years to comprise a small army of SLTs, OTs and literacy and numeracy specialists, who provide integrated support across all subjects. In addition all teaching staff are formally trained in specific learning needs, to adapt the curriculum to different learning styles, ‘They manage to create a tailored experience for each child’, a mum said. Speech and language therapy is available to all students in the middle and lower schools, as part of the normal timetable. Where children had previously suffered the humiliation of being singled out by missing lessons for work with a therapist, these students attend in small groups for regular short periods, ‘So many have hated being withdrawn’, commented the director of therapies, ‘They work out that the other boys are the same as them, they face the same struggles’.

Specialists ‘do a lot of co-working’, we heard from an OT, as well as delivering group or bespoke therapy sessions. In addition they help set a weekly academic challenge for each boy, with a mentor, eg, ‘I will read for five minutes every day’. Laptops with text-speech software are ubiquitous and helpful scribes or readers are always at hand, ‘They don’t allow the technology to do the work for them’ explained a dad. One boy reflected, ‘I was always able to walk into the LDC. I was never afraid to ask, ‘Can you help me read through this?’’

All students, whether required by EHCP provision or not, get an annual review with a senior leader, ‘I feel it is really good to have parents, teachers and pupils all in the same room’ said Hetherington.

The arts and extracurricular

Music is a language all boys are encouraged to learn to from year four. Each junior boy is given instrument lessons and is enrolled in the junior band, to develop team-working, ‘They squawk and squeak and manage to produce a concert for the parents’, said one. The impressive music suite houses several practice rooms and a large rehearsal room for the school orchestra and ensembles: concert band, dixie band, jazz band, steel-pan band to name a few. Music teachers were described as ‘incredible’ by parents. Ambitious all-singing, all-dancing shows are ‘a hoot’ we heard, most recently Guys and Dolls and Hairspray, with a little help from girls from Alton School. Art and design, mandatory to year nine, involves pottery with a kiln as well as use of a 3D printer. We admired the juniors’ paper collages of Hokusai’s wave and dodged the seniors’ wire sculptures dangling from the ceiling. Several boys proceed to foundation courses at art school each year. ‘They understand that every kid is a different recipe of different strengths and different weaknesses, and they’ve managed to create a tailored experience for each kid’ said a mum.

Sport

A volley of projectiles: footballs, tennis balls, basketballs, were visible on the hard courts as we arrived and on the lower slopes we saw teams of muddy rugby players, ‘My son is a kid who needs to be outside running a lot’, explained one parent. One dad helped out with the football, ‘We have great fun; it’s a shame we don’t have more matches’. There’s an outdoor and indoor gym, an open-air pool and for those ‘solo-oriented kids’, golf, archery and fencing. We heard, ‘It’s competitive as well, it’s not a half-baked experience’.

Boarders

Boarding provision has grown organically, to fill two boarding houses; surprising, as ‘Boarding is not always top of parents’ list’, the head of boarding told us. The younger boys stay from year six and sleep in small dorms, (above the head’s study, no less). Beechwood furniture and white linen (home bedclothes for those with sensory needs) make the rooms attractive, along with a massive TV screen, switched off at 9.15 by staff. Older years share rooms but sixth formers enjoy more privacy. Rather than vertical boarding houses, as is traditional, there are corridors of a single year group, attended by live-in staff, many young and just graduated, a few are alumni. Common rooms abound with squashy sofas, games consoles and a kitchen for cool drinks, to supplement the whole-school meals in the dining room. One parent described the food as beautifully laid out like a 3* hotel buffet; boys told us breakfast omelettes were best, and cooked to order.

We heard that film night was every night, and Thursdays were particularly good for treats, with the students allowed to the village shop. ‘We don’t let the sixth form live off Pot Noodle’ the teacher assured us. Boarders take part in after-school clubs, including dodgeball, manhunt and Warhammer, while weekend enrichment includes trips to bowling, paintballing and Thorpe Park.

Ethos and heritage

Founded in 1939, as a Catholic boys school with circus-training specialism, the school has since undergone a Damascene conversion - it retains its Catholic ethos but none of the acrobats or old college buildings. A remnant of the original cloisters remains at the top of the steep hill, on which the school perches, but the rest burned to the ground in the 1970s and has slowly been replaced by a small village of classrooms. The gradient allows for a wonderful view over the Surrey Hills area of outstanding natural beauty, golden with autumn light on the day we visited, a scene punctured only by a schoolboy trumpeter practising the Darth Vader tune.

There is no grand entrance, but a series of walkways, paths and steps round brick and tiled buildings. ‘The architecture is a bit B &Q’, one parent said, referring to the 20 room LDC. However, a spacious new library contained impressive stocks of books, including classics like Sherlock Holmes in graphic form, and popular magazines: Top Gear, Motorsport Racing, Minecraft. Labs for chemistry, and physics cluster together at the top of the site, beside two art studios and further down the slope, we dropped into the large OT suite, with suspended swing, balance balls and crash mats. On the lower slopes, The Bradbury School of Engineering, humming with lathes, jigsaws, and drills, took our breath away. It also housed a cookery studio. Beneath the trees, an acorn-strewn path led to a smart new sixth form centre in a converted Arts-and-Crafts house, with tutorial rooms over three floors. Break times see the terraces fill with students either on several hard courts or in playing fields, where an occasional deer appears from the woods.

Pastoral care, inclusivity and discipline

The school’s pastoral structure involves a tutor group, with form tutor, who is the parents’ first port of call for grumbles, before the head of year is involved. Each boy has an adult mentor, whom they can turn to, as well as the wellbeing lead. There was praise from a parent of a particularly anxious boy. ‘You always feel they’ve got endless time for you’. Boarding staff are kept free of academic concerns, to concentrate on domestic and personal issues, like homesickness, ‘We know how it works, we could draw a graph of it’, said the head of boarding, ‘We manage it because we’re experienced’. He’s not afraid to ask the parents for tips to help settle a child, ‘It’s not behaviour modification, it’s re-setting’. One mum felt she didn’t have a clear understanding of the communication network, ‘I‘m not sure where I can go with an issue. There’s not really a forum for bringing up an issue’.

Wifi is filtered and no phones or electronics allowed overnight up to year nine, ‘For year ten and above, it is a discussion with the parents’, we heard, ‘We’re not a boarding environment that is there to solve behavioural problems’. There’s a points system and reward night for positive reinforcement and for negative, ‘Most of the time, it’s a discussion. It’s not the severity, it’s the certainty that it’s going to happen’. The relative youth of the boarding staff works as an advantage, ‘they will relate to them, if a boy’s not working well with one person, someone else will have the skills’. Parents mentioned the inclusivity, ‘School is very happy to have diverse characters. It’s a Catholic foundation, and it’s Surrey, so not as diverse as London, but receptive and tolerant of other faiths’ one mum said.

Therapy and staffing

Joint-working is key here, ‘There’s not a shortfall between SEN and staff, it just doesn’t happen’, a parent assured us, ‘it is completely joined up in a way most schooling isn’t’. Teachers were lauded, ‘Teachers are dedicated; it feels like it is a calling’, said another. Staff take over organising therapy from parents who had previously had to juggle. Each child has their own LDC timetable; prefects monitor homework and boarding staff, ‘full of energy and enthusiasm’, make bespoke adaptations in sleeping and eating arrangements. We saw a visual timetable in one dorm, with huge, bold wording: ‘8.15 Go to School’, it announced. What parent wouldn’t wish for the same at home! One mother described her relief, ‘They come home with very little homework, so there are less arguments. Weekends are family time’.

Pupils and parents

Boys arrive from 30 different local authorities, most from Surrey, Hampshire and Kingston areas, but some as far as north London and the midlands, dressed in navy polo (white shirt for older boys), charcoal trousers and navy blazer. Sixth form wear smart civvies and there’s a distinguishing house tie for year sevens up. The school runs a coach to Farnham railway station each day, with extra minibuses for weekly boarders. ‘We are entirely responsible for Farnham’s traffic problems’ admitted the head. A broad demographic, socio-economically. One parent whose other children attend independent schools in London commented, ‘My son has met a far broader range of people going to More House’. The community is united by their specific struggles with learning. One mum described the pride of seeing graduates at the annual Founders Day, ‘who came into the school unable to string a sentence together, getting up and talking to 800 people in a tent. It’s really moving’. We met boys who were immediately sociable and outgoing, and others who were private and intense.

Parents join Friends of More House, which puts on a Christmas fair for fundraising and organises second hand uniform sales; ‘sports days are an amazing event’, we were told, and there’s a dad’s book group (aka pub night). The usual difficulty of parents from a wide area having little contact is tackled by a (parents-permission) address list, for meeting up in the holidays.

Money matters

Some have fought to Tribunal level for local authority funding, however fees are set at similar level to mainstream boarding schools, for those privately-funded.

The last word

A school that gives ‘supportive’ a new dimension, in its inexhaustible supplies of therapy, intervention and adaptations, which bright boys with specific learning difficulties need to access the mainstream curriculum. We heard, ‘It’s gone beyond just meeting his special needs to shaping him into a nice human being’.

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.

Who came from where

Who goes where

Special Education Needs

Remediation across the curriculum is individually planned. Language processing improved by five speech and language therapists. Occupational Therapy available. All staff attend specialised training to give a common approach. Although there is often a hidden remedial component to classwork, the aim is to give all boys a normal, happy experience of school.

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder Y
Aspergers Y
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders Y
CReSTeD registered for Dyslexia Y
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

Who came from where


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