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Pre-prep and prep blend so well that the transition is ‘hardly noticed,’ parents say, ‘they just skip on to the next year with little fuss’. In a year 4 English lesson, pupils were checking out the performance poet James Carter – there was a relaxed but industrious vibe, with even a bit of beat boxing thrown in. Sport packs a punch, thanks to the teaching team’s expertise and pupils’ ‘can-do’ attitude. There’s a clear pathway starting in pre-prep where uni-hock, tag rugby and tiny kickers prepare for big team sports later in football, netball, hockey, cricket, and rugby. A short minibus drive away, in a ‘secret location,’ is the Forest School...

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What the school says...

Spring Grove in Wye, Kent, is an independent Nursery and Prep school for children aged 2 – 11, widely known for its family ethos and feel. It is located between Ashford and Canterbury, close to the high-speed train into London. Rated 'Excellent' in all aspects in its most recent (2023) ISI inspection, Spring Grove offers a first-class education, preparing children for both grammar and senior independent school entry and scholarships.

Our extensive grounds are one of the most beautiful playgrounds in Kent and our Forest School has won a series of awards since opening in 2016. Our teaching is research-led and innovative, with a growth mindset that encourages curiosity, resilience and a love of learning. Spring Grove is also on an Artsmark journey to develop and celebrate the school’s commitment to all aspects of the creative and performance arts.
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Since September 2020, Therésa Jaggard, previously deputy head and acting head of Leybourne St Peter and St Paul for seven years. Educated in Surrey where, having enjoyed success with music, she faced a dilemma: to study law or music– the latter won, and she completed a joint degree in music and educational psychology with a certificate in education at The University of Kent at Canterbury and Canterbury Christ Church College. Cut her teeth in West Kent, starting as a class teacher and music specialist in Sevenoaks Primary School, followed by Sutton Valence Prep and St Michael’s Prep. Later, continued her studies at the Institute of Education at UCL, where she gained her NPQH, which ‘sowed a seed for my vision for a research-led school’. Her experience in both the state and independent sector is ‘invaluable,’ say parents, even though there were ‘big shoes to fill’ when she arrived. ‘It’s like the new Dr Who,’ one laughed, ‘the ethos of the school has stayed the same but with a new face for different times.’

We’re told that ‘she understands the mindset of parents,’ and her ability to ‘step back’ to let the pupils ‘shine’ at events is also applauded. Pupils respect her for being ‘clued up’ and ‘approachable,’ saying she’s ‘super kind’ and a ‘brilliant maths teacher’ – ‘High order questioning and curiosity really floats my boat,’ she admits. Pupils also say they love her hair – no wonder, with her stylish image.

Her traditional 17th century study is far from stuffy or frumpy – a welcoming space in which to hang-out (be it head teacher coffee mornings, Lego club or an impromptu violin jam). There’s a sense of family life and we laugh at the tea cosy made to look like her, (‘That’s what you look like knitted, Mum,’ her daughter had joked!). But the real talking point is the violin lamp, handmade by her husband. She lives with him and their two daughters offsite. When she’s not conducting the management of the school, she’s gigging on her electric violin. And then there’s her love of dance - all give thumbs up for her introduction of a specialist dance teacher – though her greatest challenge is to resist the temptation to join in... too much (she might put off the teacher)!


Academically non-selective. Mainly into nursery at 2+ (first come, first served but names down at birth due to long waiting lists), then age 3+ into the pre-school class Giraffes - but only at this stage if continuing to reception. Thereafter, flexible entry at any time up to and including year 5 (if places), with entrance via taster day.


Parents say pupils are ‘well prepared’ for next steps, and that ‘all options are open.’ About half go to the local grammars – Highworth Grammar, Norton Knatchbull School and Simon Langton (girls and boys). Most of the rest to local independents including Ashford School, St Edmund’s School, Junior King’s, Canterbury, Kent College, Canterbury and Sutton Valence School. Twelve per cent to state schools – Wye School the most popular. Six scholarships in 2023.

Our view

The school is an Instagrammer’s dream, thanks to the wisteria bejewelled 17th century schoolhouse, where maypole ribbons catch the breeze, and the iconic Wye crown of the North Downs beyond. The super-sized playing field with zip wire, slack line, spinning cups, chickens - the whole shebang – is everything a child could wish for. And behind this idyll, there’s a well-appointed school with modern classroom blocks, a family atmosphere and the odd giraffe thrown in (more of that, later)! ‘It’s hard not to get hooked,’ parents confide.

For most, the journey starts in nursery in the self-contained hub opening onto the large walled garden, complete with play equipment, slackline and fairy garden. Great for preparation later when set loose on the playing field. Next door in reception, there’s a climbing wall and, inside, more structured play. Then onto year 1 where the more formal learning continues to ramp up a notch. We sat in on a phonics lesson - digraphs, prefixes, suffixes and root words rolling off pupils’ tongues. All kept light and fun - with air fist pumps aplenty - but learning on point. Specialist teaching in sport, art, music and French from reception. No setting at any point.

Pre-prep and prep blend so well that the transition is ‘hardly noticed,’ parents say, ‘they just skip on to the next year with little fuss’. In a year 4 English lesson, pupils were checking out the performance poet James Carter – there was a relaxed but industrious vibe, with even a bit of beat boxing thrown in. In a year 6 science lesson, things felt more formal, with pupils investigating the effect of the surface area of a parachute on falling speed: variables, fair testing and mathematical calculations being explored with excellent articulation and focus. French taught by a native speaker, and year 5 were excited for the upcoming trip to Normandy: ‘It’s what we build up to, we’re ready for it.’

SEN provision ‘top of the weekly morning briefings,’ we were told. The 12 per cent on the SEN register are supported mostly for dyslexia - but also autism, ADHD and physical disability - by the enthusiastic SENCo and one full-time SEN teacher in the calm Maple Room, now at the ‘heart of the school’. ‘Short 10-minute bursts’ seen as most effective, with care given to timetabling so they don’t miss the same lessons. Not ‘dwelling on diagnosis, but identifying needs’ underpins the provision, and parents confirm support is often put in place before diagnosis with eg use of reader pens, chunking and listing information and time out passes for anxiety. When pupils need to ‘self-regulate,’ they can go to The Cubby – not used often, we were told but, ‘It works!’. The upskilling of staff is a priority, with recent inset days on sensory circuits and classroom strategies for inclusion. Pupils without SEN see the benefits too: ‘It’s always best when things are explained in different ways – visually works for me,’ said one.

Sport packs a punch, thanks to the teaching team’s expertise and pupils’ ‘can-do’ attitude. There’s a clear pathway starting in pre-prep where uni-hock, tag rugby and tiny kickers prepare for big team sports later in football, netball, hockey, cricket, and rugby. Boys and girls train and play together in the core sports when fixtures allow (good to see that they have taken a stand insisting on fielding a cricket mixed team). We caught years 3 and 4 practising bowling, the ratio of staff to pupil ensuring no child slipped through the net. Facilities include an impressive cross-country track, Astro with nets and 15m covered swimming pool. Many of the pupils belong to one of the swim clubs and, in curriculum lessons, ‘you can go at your own pace,’ pupils told us. A ‘higher ability’ club, by invitation only, caters for more elite young sportspeople; school also supportive of pupils with sporting interests outside school eg biathlon – and they have excellent relationships with local clubs.

A short minibus drive away, in a ‘secret location,’ is the Forest School, creating a sense of adventure and escapism – even includes a state-of-the-art composting toilet. All pupils from Giraffes class in nursery have a session every fortnight, replaced for most year groups by beach school in the summer.

The school has a long tradition of drama, which pupils say is really good fun. Think face paint, cracking costumes, fab wigs, scenery painted by the art specialist and the piece de resistance - live music. Year 3 and 4’s ‘Pirates versus Mermaids’ was ‘so funny’, we heard, with ‘Hood Winked’ the next hot ticket. With the nativity for early years and assemblies aplenty, ‘there’s always something going on.’ Also, the house jamboree and summer prom – both ‘showcases’ for performing arts. ‘Dance is so much fun,’ pupils gush, helped by the dance teacher’s pedigree. LAMDA also popular.

All approve of the ‘very special dimension’ brought by the new director of music to the already solid music department. The facilities are superb, with two practice rooms, large studio space and recording equipment. We admired the proficiency of an individual music lesson (about 70 per cent have private lessons – singing, piano, violin and drums all popular) we popped into - the studio so spacious and drumming so controlled that we could even conduct a conversation above it! We heard of pupils being pied-pipered from their classroom to the studios by an accordion (everyone takes a weekly lesson) and outreach is important too. Mantra is ‘Give it a Whirl,’ the encouragement particularly appreciated by parents of quieter children. As such, orchestra caters for any ability, with arrangements written by in-house director. Lots of ensembles too, plus a chamber choir which recently brought its ‘Spring Groove’ to the local church with a bossa nova take on Silent Night.

Specialist weekly art lessons take place in an intimate art studio in the eaves – currently doubling up as year 4 classroom (soon to be reclaimed when classes jigged around, we were told). Striking artistic displays around the school celebrating International Week, evidence of art across the curriculum. So too the fabulous year 6 Hatwalk Catwalk creations– Philip Treacy move aside!

Popular after-school clubs include ball skills, swimming and tennis with the usual sports covered, plus Lego, art and dance. Some parents would like to see more available for younger children, but ‘days are probably busy enough,’ one concluded. We’re told that more for the tinies is in the pipeline.

Teachers are a welcoming and jolly troupe – well-seasoned but with a peppering of newbies and gap year students, everyone’s ‘kept on their toes,’ parents reckon. The coaching culture, introduced by the head, was initially met with some hesitation but is now taking off, and parents love that teachers bring in their outside interests such as horse riding and rugby, making them more tuned in to ‘identifying and nurturing talents’.

Vocal school council meet weekly and say they ‘get things done’ (next up, more football provision after school for younger girls). The eco team is a force to be reckoned with – proud of its activism in negotiating no-mow zones and the planting of a sensory garden, and they recently organised a plastic-free week. Houses compete for Jelly the Giraffe (why a giraffe? No-one really knows – it’s just one of those ‘quirky traditions’) – the weekly winner is announced in Friday family assembly, where ‘parents are sometimes more excited about the winner than the pupils,’ a parent joked. But all have a ‘sense of pride’ when they see the winning house’s coloured scarf around the baby giraffe sized toy in the lobby.

Two sittings for lunch in the dining hall. ‘It’s loud,’ pupils warned (but assured us that pupils with sound sensitivity could eat elsewhere), although we found the chitter-chatter low-level. Parents approve of pre-prep having no food choices – ‘encourages picky eaters to try new things.’ Scampi and chips is a fave, plus Mexican food on International Week - although some blame parents for recent healthy tweaks eg apple crumble now has oats!

PTA grafts hard to keep up with the busy calendar of events including the local firework display and summer ball. ‘Making an effort’ important, parents say, as it’s a ‘sociable school’. No more so than in younger years, where parents report ‘all children being invited to parties.’ Some travel from a 15-mile radius, while others are very local. Most families are dual income and no ’gym gear at drop-off,’ because most parents are heading straight off to work, a parent chuckled, although the tug of war at sports day is game on!

The last word

A school for ‘have-a-go’, adventurous children who aren’t averse to muddy knees. The academics are skilfully woven into a joyful school day, producing bubbly, confident, able pupils with well-nurtured and strong roots.

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