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What says..

Teaching is excellent throughout the prep. Teachers are a dedicated bunch, full of ideas and enthusiasm. One parent described them as ‘outstanding, with a diversity of styles and approaches,’ while another declared that the support they’d given to her son, who took scholarship exams to his senior school during lockdown, was ‘phenomenal’. No lessons on Saturdays. Instead, there’s an optional…

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What the school says...

At Sherborne Prep School we aim to meet the needs of each child as an individual and they are supported not only by the enthusiastic and committed staff but also by each other as a community and family. There is a real warmth and vitality about the School and visitors always comment on the happy children. When you visit you will see confident enquiring children, happy to be learning about the world around them. They will be keen to speak to you and show you what they are doing. You will also see for yourself the variety and excellence of our staff.

We provide a wide range of opportunities on the academic, creative and sporting front whilst allowing children to be children. Consistently, all our pupils are successful at reaching the Senior Schools of their choice and leave feeling delight in their many achievements.

Such things are admirable, but we aim to proivde more. We believe that education should convey a real sense of meaning and purpose and grow open and enquiring minds. We value imagination, individualism and variety and we want our young people to fulfill their talents wherever they lie.
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What The Good Schools Guide says

Headmaster

Since 2015, Nick Folland BSc (50s). Educated at Exmouth Community College and Loughborough University, where he read PE, sports science and geography. Worked with deaf children for three years, did a PGCE at Loughborough and then moved to Blundell’s. Played professional cricket for Somerset for three years before becoming a housemaster at Blundell’s. Appointed as inaugural head of Blundell’s Prep and, after a decade there, took on the headship of St John’s on-the-Hill prep in Chepstow, where he spent four years.

He has two grown-up children and is married to Di, a charming Australian speech and language specialist who is immersed in school life. Head is energetic to say the least (his wife describes him as a ‘can-do person’), refreshingly down-to-earth and popular with parents. ‘I’m a pretty open book,’ he says, ‘and if there are things to improve then I get on and improve them.’ Very proud of the fact that the school is not selective yet gets excellent results. ‘The children are what it’s all about and they are wonderfully positive and really want to achieve,’ he says. He’s very visible around the school, lunching in the dining hall and chatting to pupils in the corridor. Parents like his positive approach and say he’s always around at drop-off in the mornings. ‘He even stepped in and drove the minibus one day,’ we were told. Retiring at the end of the summer term in 2021.

Entrance

Entrance is by interview with the head and previous school report, plus informal assessment at a taster day before joining – to ensure that the school is the right fit and can meet the child's needs. Most pupils start in the pre-prep or year 3 but there is a steady trickle joining from years 3 to 7 and at least 10 new starters arrive in year 7. School is happy to consider new pupils all year round, not just those starting in the autumn term.

Exit

Around half head to all-boys Sherborne School or Sherborne Girls. Others go to Bryanston, Canford, King’s Bruton and Winchester, plus a few to Eton, Harrow, Cheltenham Ladies’, Marlborough, Blundell’s, Dauntsey’s, Radley, Rugby, Downside, Milton Abbey, more than a third with scholarships. Some to local state schools like The Gryphon in Sherborne or Thomas Hardye in Dorchester at 13+.

Our view

Founded in 1858, the school moved to its present location, just off a quiet Sherborne side street, in 1885. Went co-ed in the 1970s. The school site combines the best of both worlds – it’s five minutes’ walk from the centre of town but has 12 acres of grounds (including five acres of sports fields) for children to play in.

The prep will merge with nearby Sherborne School in April 2021, ‘formalising’ a longstanding link between the two schools and enabling it to share the senior school’s performance spaces, sports facilities and specialist resources, including its stunning chapel. ‘It’s a logical move,’ says the head. ‘It brings us under one body, makes us part of a school with 600 full boarders and a huge history and enables the prep to move forward with even greater confidence.’ The prep will keep its own identity and autonomy and will continue to prepare pupils for a wide range of senior schools, including Sherborne Girls. ‘It’s right and proper that we feed a whole variety of schools,’ explains the head.

Teaching is excellent throughout the prep. Teachers are a dedicated bunch, full of ideas and enthusiasm. One parent described them as ‘outstanding, with a diversity of styles and approaches,’ while another declared that the support they’d given to her son, who took scholarship exams to his senior school during lockdown, was ‘phenomenal’. ‘The teachers are always available if you need to talk,’ she said. ‘You really feel included in your child’s education.’ Exam results are first rate but a member of staff emphasised that the school isn’t an exam factory. ‘Exams aren’t the be all and end all,’ she said. ‘They are part of the journey. People get so focused on exams and it’s important to realise that they are just a stepping stone.’ As well as their form tutors, who they see every day, the children get to choose their own tutors.

We spoke to the head during lockdown, when 100 or so children of key workers were in school every day and the rest accessed their learning online from home. ‘They just want to be in school and interact with each other,’ said the head. ‘When everyone is back we’ll be giving them all time to socialise and be with each other again.’

Classes are mixed ability, apart from scholarship sets at the top of the school. Maximum class sizes of 18, but rarely more than 16. Three classes per year group in years 6, 7 and 8 and two per year group for younger pupils in the prep. Learning support (accessed by 13 per cent) is provided by the Learning Hub. Children receive one-to-one help or work in small groups.

No lessons on Saturdays. Instead, there’s an optional activity programme (95 per cent of pupils attend each week). Children come into school in their home clothes or games kit for a three-hour activity programme and take part in everything from drama and dance to junk modelling, crafts and community action. During the week the school runs an impressive 100 activities and enrichment clubs.

Director of sport is keen for every pupil to get the chance to wear a team shirt during their time at the school. During lockdown he introduced co-ed sport during lockdown, which meant that the children who attended school got to play mixed rugby, football and hockey. ‘It was extremely well received by everyone,’ says the head. Main sports for boys are rugby, hockey and cricket and hockey, netball and cricket for girls (rounders less popular these days). The school generally uses its own playing fields but also has access to the facilities at Sherborne School, just over the road, with weekly swimming lessons there. ‘Everyone gets some sort of PE or sport every day,’ says a parent. ‘As well as focusing on the academic side they get the chance to run about in the fresh air and be kids.’ Pupils enjoy playing conkers (a previous head thoughtfully planted a row of chestnut trees for precisely that purpose) and the school’s own four square game, introduced by the head’s wife and comprising four players on a square court.

Parents are full of praise for the school’s music, drama, art and DT. A father with two older children and two at Sherborne Prep said a year 7 play he’d seen was far better than productions he’d seen at senior schools. Music is integral and the school provides choristers (boys only) for the choir at Sherborne Abbey. Three-quarters of the children have music lessons. A host of opportunities for budding young musicians, including full orchestra, senior choir, junior choir, chamber choir, brass ensemble, jazz ensemble and piano trio. Pupils have weekly drama lessons and each year group has an annual production. Head of drama recently introduced yoga too.

The art room is a vision to behold – light and airy, with views of Sherborne Abbey and the children’s work proudly displayed everywhere. Head of art is a professional artist who encourages the children to explore different art forms, including drawing, painting, sculpture, film and experimental media. ‘They never have the same lesson,’ he says. The art room is always open and pupils can use it at break times and in the evenings. The art department produces a weekly video to showcase children’s work, with an artist of the week announced every week.

The pupils are spirited, chatty and well mannered. They stand up when visitors enter the room and are keen to talk about their school. Asked what they like best one said, ‘The teachers - they understand you as a person.’ Another told us that the teachers have ‘a fun way of teaching,’ while a third described the school as ‘small and cosy’. They all gave the Sherborne Prep uniform the thumbs up (especially the navy blazers with jaunty green trim and assorted badges). Senior schools say Sherborne Preppers are mature, independent and like ‘having a go’.

Day pupils come from Sherborne itself and from as far afield as Dorchester, Shaftesbury, Shillingstone, Langport and East Coker. Four minibus routes at present. Parents range from architects and business people to writers and directors, many of whom have swapped London for the West Country. A mother told us she 'couldn’t sing the school’s praises highly enough.’ She added, ‘It’s a very warm, unsnobbish, lovely place.’ Another said, ‘There’s such a friendly, welcoming atmosphere. It’s a hidden gem. We loved it from the word go.’

Pre-prep and nursery housed in a separate building on the main site. Head of the pre-prep says there’s an outdoor ethos, with children spending lots of time outside (clad in wet weather gear on rainy days). ‘You don’t know until you try’ is her motto - and there’s a plethora of after-school activities, including recorder club, ballet, golf and cross-stitch.

Boarders

School offers full, flexi, weekly and occasional boarding, run by a housemaster and his wife who pride themselves on creating a ‘caring, warm, family atmosphere’. Boarding is from year 3 upwards but few board before year 5. There are around 15 international boarders – around half the boarding cohort. The boarding is co-ed, with girls and boys sharing joint common rooms and a plethora of varied weekend activities to sign up for. ‘It’s easy to make friends here,’ said one boarder. ‘It’s more like a family.’

Money matters

Academic, music, sport, art, DT and all-rounder scholarships available – school says ‘talent and enthusiasm are especially sought’. However, scholarships are honorary rather than financial.

The last word

Forward thinking and full of character, Sherborne Prep is friendly, down-to-earth and unsnooty. It achieves top-notch results while ensuring that children have a lot of fun along the way.

Special Education Needs

Sherborne Prep prides itself in catering for individual children regardless of academic ability. We cater for a wide range of learning needs including Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Dyscalculia, ADHD, Asperger's and Speech and Language difficulties. Children entering Sherborne Prep are not routinely screened for SEN but those who come with an SEN background or assessments are picked up automatically. If a child does appear to be struggling, they are assessed and appropriate support allocated. Support is offered, depending on need, in the form of individual, or group lessons with specialist teachers. There are also assistants in classes up to Year 6 to support those children who are having difficulty and to extend gifted and talented children. Where appropriate, some SEN children are also withdrawn from Latin, to have extra support lessons in Maths and English. A successful Occupational Therapy club operates to help children with Dyspraxic tendencies.

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