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‘Never aim low, you will get there,’ is the head’s mantra. But it’s fun too. In keeping with Book Week’s food theme, a year 3 class were exploring adjectives and adverbs in the context of cupcakes decorated and eaten the previous day: a mouth-watering grammar lesson. School understands the need for pragmatic preparation for senior school and beyond, but there’s an inspiringly relevant post exam timetable too. NVR lessons turn to chess and there is a five-night residential trip. Loads of music, universally lauded as outstanding. Seventy per cent learn...

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What the school says...

We are a leading co-ed independent prep school with a village feel, overlooking Putney Heath in south-west London. Our 21st century approach results in happy, motivated and high achieving pupils.

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What The Good Schools Guide says

Head

Since 2017, Michael Hodge BPrimEd (Rhodes), previously deputy head for 13 years. Qualified as a teacher in South Africa before gaining a Montessori diploma from Montessori Centre International. Dapper and smart. With the sleeves of his impeccably ironed shirt rolled up, he was raring to go when we met him – he’d been up since 5am and already done a stint at the gym. His inner fervour is tangible. Genial, jovial and jocular, but ardently serious about his role as an educator. Straight-talking and unapologetic too. ‘I am what I am.’ An inspiration to children and parents alike. ‘He’s just like the big father of this whole family,’ said one pupil, extending her arms in an embracing circle.

Came to the UK over 25 years ago, ‘for a year’s travelling.’ Taught in a Streatham state school before coming to Prospect House. Married to a former deputy head, now an acupuncturist. Relishes his role. ‘I want the best for the children.’ As we look out from his light, bright office, with window wide open, over the hoar frost of Putney Heath on a bracing morning, he reflects sincerely on how privileged he feels every day. Regrets he doesn’t have time to teach, but this does not keep him out of the classroom. Always dropping in or watching rehearsals, he is the hub of this lively and confident school. Wellbeing for all, in a real (not tick box) context is pivotal. ‘Are we being sensitive? What can we do better?’ Staff evidently much valued, loyal and devoted. ‘The staff are the ones driving the place forward,’ he told us. His commitment to the school ‘knows no bounds,’ said one parent. Endlessly keen to develop professional talents. ‘Am I still having an impact?’ he asks himself daily. Parents and pupils tell us he is.

Leaving summer 2024.

Entrance

Non-selective, on first-come-first-served basis. School offers bespoke visits for families. Very flexible, eg children in nursery can stay half or full days and children in reception can opt for a Wednesday afternoon off. Roughly equal gender split. Most start in reception, with entrants higher up given basic tests in maths and spelling to make sure they can keep up with the curriculum. Siblings prioritised. A sprinkling of older ones join every year, including mid-year.

Exit

Destinations wide and varied. Most to south London day schools (Emanuel and Kingston Grammar for example), but some go further afield, including boarding. Surrey schools popular, St John's Leatherhead and Epsom in particular. Fundamental is collaboration with parents. As Mr Hodge says, ‘We want the best for the children and so do the parents. Why wouldn’t you work together?’ A Future Schools Fair offers a taste of what is on offer. Parents praise the tailored meetings to discuss options, as well as the speed with which queries are answered, especially with deadlines in mind. One parent, who claimed ‘not to have a clue’ about senior schools, confirmed their child was found ‘absolutely the right place.’ Roughly a dozen scholarships/awards a year - impressive for a small non-selective school, six in 2023. These run over academic, music and sporting fronts.

Our view

Now part of Dukes Education, the school sits on two separate sites, one for the lower and one for the upper school, about 300 yards apart. Both former capacious family houses, they accommodate large, bright and cheerful classrooms. Up to 40 children per year in two parallel forms, shuffled every year. Logistics of the split site are embraced. ‘It can foster growth and independence,’ reckons the head of the lower school. A carefully designed programme of movement between the two smooths progression to upper school. When we visited, year 6 were excited to be going down the road to read to year 2s – and to be going down their own memory lanes.

Younger children, whose teachers are supported by TAs, have a colourful AstroTurf garden, with plentiful playground equipment. A Forest School lies at the bottom of the garden where a specialist teacher leads sessions for all up to year 2, come rain or shine. On a gloriously sunny but chilly day, children clad in vibrantly entertaining animal-themed overalls and wellington boots, were busy measuring and pouring water. Outdoors features centrally. Both sites have secure bike and scooter parks, much used by the myriad local pupils. Many classrooms in lower school have direct access to the playground and a tastefully enclosed veranda extends sense of the outdoors. Food – this year’s Book Week theme - was fully incorporated into all activities: painting faces with shapes of fruit, writing a wrap recipe, learning subtraction with vegetables.

Learning is taken seriously and passionately, with staff praising Dukes’ approach to ‘upskilling staff.’ ‘Never aim low, you will get there,’ is the head’s mantra. But it’s fun too. In keeping with Book Week’s food theme, a year 3 class were exploring adjectives and adverbs in the context of cupcakes decorated and eaten the previous day: a mouth-watering grammar lesson. Both younger and longer-serving members of staff appear inspirational, motivated and wise, collaborating effectively for the benefit of the children – this teamwork is the bedrock of the school’s ethos. English and maths only taught in the morning, with half an hour at the beginning of the day devoted to ‘interventions’ – when the teacher spends time reinforcing previous learning. French from the outset and Latin from year 5. Setting from year 3 for maths, spelling, VR and NVR. Homework is refreshingly light and being revisited all the time. ‘We need a change of perspective. It must be purposeful.’

School understands the need for pragmatic preparation for senior school and beyond, but there’s an inspiringly relevant post exam timetable too. NVR lessons turn to chess and there is a five-night residential trip. Shorter ones lower down. School has evolved an exemplary 10-pronged programme, tackling fake news and internet safety to financial management and travelling on Transport for London. The thinking is that it’s easier to address these issues while children are still receptive because something one day ‘will go wrong.’ Excellent grounding, we felt.

Head holds firmly that every child is ‘brilliant at something.’ Through an integrated system of support, all children receive what they need, be it a nudge with reading or help with pencil grip. SEN department made up of three full-time and two part-time members of staff, plus speech and language specialist and physiotherapist. ‘It is a robust system,’ says its head, and it picks up around a quarter of pupils. Many have passing needs such as help with phonics, others have dyslexia or dyscalculia. Parents only pay for one-to-one longer-term intervention. Two EHCPs when we visited. No children with behavioural issues that require one-to-one support: ‘It wouldn’t really work in this environment.’

Loads of music, universally lauded as outstanding. Seventy per cent learn an instrument (possible from age 6.) Younger ones do so in chalet style practice rooms. Everybody sings in one of two choirs. Mighty impressive was the year 6 rehearsal for Matilda. An auditioned chamber choir, plus orchestras and ensembles, all flourish. The carol concert at nearby Holy Trinity is a polished performance.

Drama features strongly, performed in the respective school halls, which double up as gym and dining room. Two casts in the year 6 production ensure that double the number have the opportunity to star, while those who prefer to can remain less conspicuous. A year 4 Play in a Week, generally Shakespeare, compresses children’s skills and anchors a visit to the Globe. Art is gathering fresh pace. The variety of media explored results in eye-catching displays.

Sports much lauded, although one girl lamented lack of equality in football - ‘but things are getting much better.’ A couple of boys bemoaned fact that getting changed for sports ‘eats into break, and if you are slow, you miss it completely.’ All, however, appreciated the choice on offer, mainstream and on a club basis. Staples are football for boys and netball for girls in the autumn, hockey for all in the spring and cricket for all in the summer. Noting inadequate opportunities to compete for those in B and C teams, the school now hosts its own tournament for those teams. Children are bused to nearby Roehampton Playing Fields once a week and play on huge school garden pitches on two others. Swimming only in year 1, to the regret of some. Reflective of endless quest to improve, school is pioneering 4-week programme at Stag Lodge in Richmond Park where children will not only ride but learn stable management.

Clubs, numerous and varied, abound, run by dedicated and interested staff. Everything from coding, in a top floor room with spectacular views over London, to DIY, run by head of art and head. ‘They love their chop saw.’ Real playground equipment is made here.

Emphasis on wellbeing. From nursery, the Kevin Challenge sows seeds for little people to learn about resilience and to ‘give it a go,’ a leitmotif flowing up to year 6. ‘I am not against competition, somebody has to lose,’ says head. His mission is not to ‘crush’ the losers – parents say he succeeds. Kindness is fostered from the outset. ‘Shall I do it for you?’ asked one 4-year-old. A Golden Leaf Tree in the entrance hall celebrates outstanding acts of thoughtfulness, effort or achievement. Innovative ideas, based on the wellbeing of all the members of the Prospect ‘family,’ are applauded throughout. Positive always unearthed. There are no ‘worry boxes,’ only ‘chatter boxes.’ Online resource, Tootoot, is vigilantly monitored. Everything is decided with best interests of the children at heart, rather than demands of timetable or wishes of parents. ‘What would they like to do more easily and how can we achieve that?’ School council is given an attentive ear. A few concerned murmurs about the food: ‘It follows the same pattern all the time’ and ‘I wish we could have seconds every day.’ We found it fresh, basic and well-balanced. Smart but practical school uniform.

Bad behaviour not a significant issue. Children confident about being able to report it and spoke chirpily of the community which ‘everybody wants to support’ and of the teachers ‘who are nice and kind.’ ‘They really make me want to go to school’ (no teacher present when these words were uttered!) Special events popular. ‘I am dressing up as a lettuce leaf on Friday,’ enthused one about dress-up day.

Predominantly local, dual-income professional families, many with another language. School is excellent at deploying their skills. Formal and informal communication flows daily. Prospect Post appears weekly. PA is welcoming, active and ‘very down-to-earth, considering the trappings of this neck of the woods,’ according to one parent. A recent wellbeing walk on the Heath - involving children, parents, staff and dogs - emphasised practical activities prized by all.

A consultation group was recently set up to explore how minority children feel. No lip-service exercise, this resulted in new books and toys. As head says, ‘You have to have those uncomfortable conversations to learn, we must always learn.’ Celebrating the Chinese New Year morphed into a celebration of the Lunar New Year, demonstrating universal respect.

Money matters

Fees in line with similar local schools. Bursary fund exists but, astonishingly, unused at time of writing. Strenuous efforts being made to redress this, along with a realistic appreciation that children on such bursaries may need other forms of support.

The last word

Irrepressibly and infectiously cheerful, this is a joyous school. Pupils, polite and bubbly, speak with true love and affection for their school. Great team, well captained.

Special Education Needs

Highly qualified staff and regular screening ensures that children with any difficulties are identified at an early stage and appropriate intervention is made. Identified children may have extra classroom support or 1:1 teaching. Laptop use is available for children who would benefit from this. A speech therapist visits the school weekly. The most common areas of difficulty in identified children are mild dyslexia and mild dyspraxia. The school has a dedicated SENCo who leads the learning support unit and there are other specially qualified staff who may provide individual help.

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder
Aspergers
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders Y
CReSTeD registered for Dyslexia
Dyscalculia Y
Dysgraphia Y
Dyslexia Y
Dyspraxia Y
English as an additional language (EAL) Y
Genetic
Has an entry in the Autism Services Directory
Has SEN unit or class Y
HI - Hearing Impairment
Hospital School
Mental health Y
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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