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‘You must see the library,’ said our eager young tour guides, leading us downstairs to a large space with comfy sofas and beautifully organised library books. Reading is a huge part of the school, which uses the Accelerated Reading programme. Pupils do a quiz about every book they finish, building up points for the number of words they’ve read; the head treats those who get to a million to a millionaire’s shortbread at the local Costa at the end of term...

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What the school says...

The Mount Kelly Foundation was established in June 2014 following the merger of the Kelly College Foundation and the Mount House School Trust.

Situated in the beautiful market town of Tavistock on the edge of Dartmoor National Park between Exeter and Plymouth, in over 100 acres of woodland, forest and green fields, Mount Kelly combines academic excellence with an outstanding range of learning opportunities beyond the classroom, impressive facilities and exceptional pastoral care.

From Reception onward children at Mount Kelly are nurtured, guided and inspired to develop their own skills and interests with small class sizes offering an exceptional degree of individual focus. In addition to a proven track record of academic excellence via a Common Entrance curriculum, the School offers an outstanding range of sporting and cultural programmes and facilities. Mount Kelly is also renowned for its strong family culture from the Reception through to the Sixth Form which is central to the outstanding pastoral care at the School. Every child is a member of one of four Houses and has a dedicated Form Tutor committed to ensuring that they their school career is happy, fulfilling and successful. Family style boarding is available from Year 4 at the Prep. The majority of Mount Kelly pupils progress from the Prep through to the College; however, some pupils choose to move to a different school. For those that do leave, Mount Kelly has an outstanding record in preparing pupils for Common Entrance and Scholarships to a number of national schools.

Mount Kelly is also well known for its world class coaching facility for swimming and elite training programme which are available to younger pupils through to Sixth Form. Mount Kelly has produced swimmers who have competed in the last five Olympic and Paralympic Games.
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Other features

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

Head of prep

Since 2016, Dominic Floyd, previously assistant head of Hazlegrove. Educated at the Dragon in Oxford, Farleigh, where his father was head, and Worth School. Headship clearly runs in the family because his brother Adrian is headmaster of The Hawthorns, a Surrey prep. After reading geography at Royal Holloway he headed to Pangbourne to teach geography and coach rowing, before doing his PGCE at Goldsmiths, University of London. After that he worked at Holland Park School, Cothill House, where he was a housemaster, and Westminster Under, where he was head of geography. Four years later he moved west as deputy head of Polwhele House in Cornwall for five years, followed by four years as head of Ashdown House and three years at Hazlegrove. The view from his large oak-panelled study is one of the best we’ve seen – an expanse of rolling hills with the pretty town of Tavistock in the distance – and he’s clearly very happy to be back in the south west. ‘I love the quality of life and the people,’ he says.

He says the prep is distinctive in the local area in going up to 13. ‘Parents buy into the fact that we unashamedly prolong childhood and encourage play and innocence and curiosity. We give kids an extra two years of childhood really.’ He still teaches English and general studies. ‘It’s essentially current affairs for year 5 to year 8. They love it because it’s a safe environment where everyone’s opinion is valued. I want our pupils to be punchy, to have an opinion and to be well informed. I think it’s important to challenge respectfully and not be shrinking violets. We really value their voice.’

Parents are glowing about him. ‘I feel very lucky that my children go to the school,’ said one, who herself taught for 24 years at a state primary. ‘The inspiration he provides to everyone – I don’t know anybody who has a bad word to say about him. Every child should experience someone who loves their school as much as he does.’ ‘He doesn’t take himself too seriously, said another. ‘He’s like a big child – the way he giggles when he’s walking round the prep and the way he is with the children. The deputy head has a lovely relationship with the children too and together they are a really nice balance.’

The head and his artist wife Maria live in a house on site with their three children – one at Mount Kelly and two at university. In his spare time he plays tennis and squash, spends time by the sea at Polzeath and walks the family dog Skye, a half Labrador, half collie. ‘We used to have free range chickens but the fox got them,’ he says sadly.


Non-selective. The main entrance points are reception, year 3 and year 7. No written assessments for reception to year 6 entry but children attend a taster day. For entry into year 7 an assessment day is held in February and a letter from children’s previous school is required.


Very few, perhaps two or three a year, leave at 11+, sometimes for the grammars in Plymouth. At 13+ the majority cross the road to the senior school but around five per cent opt for other schools in the south west, including Sherborne, Sherborne Girls, King’s Taunton, Bryanston and Canford. ‘Most have their eyes on the college,’ says the head, ‘but some feel they want a change and we’re happy to prepare them for that.’

Our view

The school’s location is idyllic – an elegant Georgian mansion set on a hill, with a river at the bottom, far-reaching views across the Tavy valley and to the senior school over the road. When we walked up to the prep on a blustery autumn day, children were playing exuberantly outside, clearly relishing their surroundings. Originally built for the owners of the large Taviton estate in the late 18th century, the house was used as a neurological hospital during the First World War and later became home to Mount House School (which joined forces with Kelly College in 2014 to become Mount Kelly). Well-equipped classrooms – some an extension of the main building, others in buildings and converted stables behind the main house.

The prep uses the International Primary Curriculum in years 1 to 4, delivering science, history, geography, RS, art, DT, PE and music in thematic units (temples, tombs and treasures when we visited). A topic on volcanoes might involve learning about ancient Pompeii in history, discovering how volcanoes are formed in geography and painting hot and cold pictures in art. Learning outside the classroom, both on the school site and beyond, is integral. Children visit local places like Dewerstone Cottage, where year 6s study myths and legends, test their courage by abseiling and even take part in a bog run. Year 4 children write sensory poems after a stroll outside, year 7s re-enact the Battle of Hastings – ‘It poured with rain but they ploughed on regardless,’ said a teacher – and year 8s conduct a tourism survey at Tintagel Castle. It’s all about getting children out of their comfort zone and promoting independence.

The prep refers to learning support as personalised learning and caters for mild to moderate needs, including dyslexia and slow processing speeds. The prep’s SENCo leads a team of five learning support assistants who work one-to-one with eight pupils and support 14 youngsters in the classroom. Others are supported by Quality First Teaching and personalised learning profiles.

The pre-prep – housed in a separate building – opened in 1997 for reception to year 2 children. When we visited, reception pupils were busy rehearsing songs for their harvest festival, year 1s were baking bread (a member of the catering team had popped in to guide them) and year 2s were learning about the Gunpowder Plot. Lots of wet weather gear and wellies neatly lined up – ready for playing outside. Like the prep, the pre-prep is keen on getting outdoors as much as possible.

‘You must see the library,’ said our eager young tour guides, leading us downstairs to a large space with comfy sofas and beautifully organised library books. Reading is a huge part of the school, which uses the Accelerated Reading programme. Pupils do a quiz about every book they finish, building up points for the number of words they’ve read; the head treats those who get to a million to a millionaire’s shortbread at the local Costa at the end of term. There’s also a reading buddy scheme, with older pupils reading with younger ones.

Like its senior counterpart, the prep is very keen on sport and pupils do something physical every day. Rugby, hockey, netball, cricket, athletics and tennis are the main sports, plus cross-country and squash. Lucky prep pupils get the chance to use the senior school facilities, including a vast sports hall, grass pitches galore, a 50-metre Olympic size pool, a 25-metre pool and a heated outdoor pool too. Exceptional swimmers can join the school’s elite swim squad from year 4 upwards. Around 170 swimmers aged nine to 18 train for up to 20 hours a week and many of them swim at national and international level.

Music is a big part of school life. Three-quarters play an instrument, everything from piano and violin to drums and ukulele. Instrumental lessons move round so no one misses the same lesson twice but parents can request that they take place at break if they prefer. Fifteen bands played at a recent band gig – a noisy rendition of The Lion Sleeps Tonight went down a storm. When we visited, a local singer-songwriter had just led a songwriting workshop (pupils were very impressed he’d worked with Olly Murs). Our guides were particularly enthusiastic about the art room, complete with separate clay room and pottery wheel. They loved the fact that the eldest pupils are allowed to paint on part of the wall if the head of art approves their idea. Each age group puts on a play each year.

After lessons children can do clubs like skateboarding, judo, electronics, chess, Warhammer, Duolingo, pallet club (creating new objects out of pallets) and magic (one of the teachers is a member of the Magic Circle). Day pupils can stay for tea if they like. The school is proud of its Astro Smurf challenge, where they launched a high-altitude balloon into space with a Lego astronaut and Smurf inside. ‘Every child had to raise £20, an achievable goal, and we raised £16,000 for the School in a Bag charity,’ says the head.

Plenty of opportunities for children to air their views at the school council and food committee. Oldest children must write a formal letter to be a head of school or prefect. ‘I was quite ambitious,’ a year 8 told us. ‘I applied for four roles.’ Assemblies three times a week, where the head hands out commendations and gives BAFTA-style awards to children who have shown exceptional kindness or demonstrated one of the Mount Kelly values of compassion, courage, humility, respect, commitment and integrity. From year 3 children belong to one of four houses – the Harry Potter-style house sorting ceremony is eagerly anticipated.

Smart navy and red uniform (ties for boys) and oldest girls can wear the same ankle-length skirts as senior girls if they choose (not that we spotted any). Day pupils tend to come from a smaller catchment area than the senior school – Tavistock, Yelverton, Okehampton, Plymouth and a few from around Liskeard (the school subsidises a fleet of minibuses). ‘Most of our families appreciate the outdoors, exercise and fresh air – and the wholesome curriculum,’ says the head. Parents backed up this view. ‘I went to boarding school and so did my husband,’ said one. ‘I loved it and he didn’t. He was very nervous about sending them to a private school and was worried that the school might be stiff and formal. But when we looked round it quickly dawned at me that the teachers here really love teaching children.’


Boarding from year 3 is homely and nurturing, with boys and girls housed on separate sides of the first floor of the school. Around 22 full and weekly boarders when we visited but numbers are boosted by children who come for one or two nights at a time – and for the occasional sleepover. Charming houseparents – one teaches English and French at the prep, the other is the school’s commercial manager – live on site with their cavapoo Ralph. They make everyone welcome, baking cakes on boarders’ birthdays, running film nights at the prep’s Tavy House Cinema (children bring tuck and curl up under their duvets) and organising weekend trips. Boarders’ days are well structured – when the school day finishes they have clubs, tea, evening activities (anything from craft to karaoke), prep, snacks, shower, ‘tomorrow time’ (where they sort out what they need for the next day) and reading.

Homely dorms of up to seven, one with a stunning curved window and views across the countryside (great sunsets apparently) and a common room covered with photographs of boarders’ fun and a map of the world showing where pupils live. Motivational prints everywhere encourage children to get involved and there’s a board where they can share a funny story or joke and nominate friends who have been helpful. We visited just before Halloween and year 4 to 6 girls had really gone to town, festooning their dorm with spooky black and orange decorations, a giant woollen spider and tape emblazoned with the words ‘Caution: enter if you dare’.

Money matters

Swimming scholarships are offered for prep children from year 7. Bursaries are advertised locally when available.

The last word

A prep that sets out to make childhood last as long as possible but does a great job of developing pupils’ independence along the way. If the sparky children we met were anything to go by they’re succeeding in their mission.

Special Education Needs

Regular screening for SEN and referrals to educational psychologist. Individual education plan agreed on the basis of ed psych advice and in consultation with in house SENCO (full time member of staff), parents and our two qualified one to one learning support staff. Pupils leave timetable to attend one to one learning support lessons. Numerous pupils receive extra one to one reading sessions with a variety of staff.

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 Y
MLD - Moderate Learning Difficulty
MSI - Multi-Sensory Impairment Y
Natspec Specialist Colleges
OTH - Other Difficulty/Disability
Other SpLD - Specific Learning Difficulty Y
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

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