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Low profile and hidden at the end of a drive. ‘You could drive by every day for 20 years and not know it’s there,’ said a teacher. Visitors encountering St Andrew’s for the first time are greeted by one of the most idyllic panoramas you are likely to encounter at a prep school – like walking into a gallery of Constables. Grounds are a children’s paradise of loveliness including zip wire, ‘monkey base’ tree and donkey field. One of the boys told us that ‘freedom’ was the best thing about the school. Teachers use the word ‘independence’. ‘They think for themselves and have a bit of rope.’ ‘I went to look round,’ a mum told us. ‘My first thought was this is a magical kingdom ...

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What the school says...

St. Andrew's, Berkshire is a warm and welcoming co-educational day and flexi-boarding (Monday to Thursday) school for children aged 3 - 13. Situated in over 50 acres of beautiful Berkshire countryside, it is only 3 miles from Pangbourne and about 10 miles from both Reading and Newbury.

Academic attainment and outstanding pastoral care are synonymous with St Andrew’s, and the children move on to a range of top day and boarding schools at 13+, with some awarded scholarships. Children are 'stretched, not stressed', enjoy learning, and leave School, considerate, cheerful and well-rounded individuals. ...Read more

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What The Good Schools Guide says

Head Master

Since 2021, Ed Graham, previously deputy head at Westminster Cathedral Choir School in London. Educated at Ampleforth, he read ancient history at Edinburgh before joining Teach First directly after university, teaching in Lewisham for two years and getting his teaching qualification. From there he headed into the City for two and a half years to work in shipping. Ran scampering back into teaching, spending nine years at Westminster Cathedral Choir School before being snapped up by St Andrew’s.

Two grandparents were teachers and he still teaches a bit of Latin, so chalk and talk must be in the blood. Super high energy in school, Mr Graham unwinds with more restful pursuits in his free time: he is keen on fishing and cricket (a member at Lord’s) and took up baking during Covid. Married to Olivia, a communications consultant who works part time on a mix of admissions, events, PR and the school’s brilliant weekly Messenger (newsletter). We suspect she had a hand in producing the superb Parents’ Questions Answered brochure – the crispest prospectus we have ever seen and a work of art to boot. Two young children, both at St Andrew’s. ‘They’re a phenomenal addition as a family,’ said a long-term parent. ‘Ed is taking the staff and parents with him on his vision of the school as a community. They really do look after your children here. It is gentler and more nurturing than other schools we looked at.’


Visit, register, taster day, school reports. No entrance exam but informal assessments in English and maths for prep school entry. Main points of entry are at ages 3 (children can join the nursery full-time in the term they turn 3), 4 and 7, although places may be available in other years. Two sets of around 16 children most year groups.


At 13 roughly a third move on to Bradfield and a third to Pangbourne. In 2023 the rest headed to Abingdon, Downe House, Exeter, Radley, St Edward’s, Oxford and King’s Canterbury. Shiplake, Marlborough and Wellington often feature, occasionally Eton. A ‘smattering’ leave after year 6 to the excellent rural state comprehensive The Downs, or to local independents like St Helen and St Katharine and Leighton Park. Some popular 11+ destinations, like Downe House and Queen Anne’s Caversham, offer deferred entry. Loads of scholarships – 11 in 2023. The school’s newish link with Bradfield hasn’t had much impact on leavers’ destinations so far, say parents. No automatic entry to Bradfield, ‘but we can put in a word’, says the head.

Our view

Low profile and hidden at the end of a drive. ‘You could drive by every day for 20 years and not know it’s there,’ said a teacher. Visitors encountering St Andrew’s for the first time are greeted by one of the most idyllic panoramas you are likely to encounter at a prep school – like walking into a gallery of Constables. Grounds are a children’s paradise of loveliness including zip wire, ‘monkey base’ tree and donkey field. One of the boys told us that ‘freedom’ was the best thing about the school. Teachers use the word ‘independence’. ‘They think for themselves and have a bit of rope.’ ‘I went to look round,’ a mum told us. ‘My first thought was this is a magical kingdom – the grounds, the ability to play, the all-roundedness.’ The school itself occupies a rather delicious Gothic revival pile designed for Herbert Watney (of the brewing family) by Alfred Waterhouse, better known as architect of the National History Museum. Not all parts of the school building are by him – no prizes for guessing those in which he didn’t have a hand.

St Andrew's opened in 1934 with a school roll of eight boys. The first girls were admitted in 1971. Now finely – miraculously – balanced at precisely half boys and girls (155 of each, though not every year group is so evenly split). In December 2021 it joined Bradfield College, two miles away, to form the Bradfield Group. The merger is ‘very, very light touch’, according to the head. ‘We’re unlikely to change the name to Bradfield Prep any time soon,’ he jokes, ‘but we’re proud of our link with Bradfield and the additional opportunities it presents to the children.’ Parents are divided on the connection. Some think it can only be a good thing: ‘They played a hockey match there recently – it stretches their horizons.’ Others are less sure: ‘This isn’t what we signed up for. We chose St Andrew’s because it was an independent prep school, not tied to a senior school.’ Children told us they’d like more access to Bradfield than they currently have: ‘things like DT or the amphitheatre or squash courts’.

Academic ambitions are being cranked up half a notch. French for all from pre-prep. Latin is introduced in year 5. German from year 7. Parents and children mentioned English, history, maths and public speaking as particularly fabulous. Latin needs a bit more work (and more time), but the head of Latin is ‘brilliant’, so we are sure it will get there. Parents call the staff ‘fabulous’, ‘approachable’. ‘My children are being stretched academically, but not at the expense of other things.’ Homework starts with spellings and times tables and builds up to half an hour per night by year 7. Gentle setting and streaming: maths from year 4, English and French from year 5, science year 7. Scholarship set of around ten children branches off for years 7 and 8.

Classrooms are reassuringly bog-standard prep school fare. We saw an example of an updated classroom – pristine white walls and big screen – and actually preferred the ’80s version. Comfy, old-school dining hall where a member of staff serves at the head of each table.

No Saturday school, but quality M–F wraparound care. Prep school day finishes at 5.25pm, 3.30pm in pre-prep. Children may be dropped off as early as 7.30 am for breakfast club and years 3-8 may book in for supper (at extra cost).

Older children now use Microsoft Surface Go’s and the school is well on its way towards its goal of becoming a Microsoft Showcase School. Years 7 and 8 use devices for most prep. The Web, the school’s IT room, is well used and touch typing is now taught as part of ICT (hurrah!). Learning support department of four supports mild SEN including ASD, ADHD, Dyscalculia, Dysgraphia, Dyslexia and Dyspraxia. Around 20 per cent have some additional learning needs, with 33 children receiving one-to-one support, up to two sessions a week (extra cost), coming out of (non-academic) lessons on rotation.

Performing arts are joyful. Music for all every Tuesday morning during a protected time and around 40 per cent of pupils learn an instrument or sing. There are five choirs and the top (senior) choir sings evensong at a major cathedral each year. Overseas music tours every other year, most recently visiting Jersey to perform at Mont Orgueil Castle and St Saviour’s church in St Helier (‘fabulous’ said a mum). There’s also an orchestra, a string quartet, jazz band, guitar group, big band, flute ensemble and countless other ensembles. Currently no permanent stage, but a new performing arts centre is set to open in 2024. Children have a weekly drama lesson and there are various productions throughout the year. Dance and LAMDA lessons are run by external providers. Head an enthusiastic aficionado of poetry declamation competitions. ‘Great fun!’ say parents.

Art lessons once a week; art scholars get more. Annual art exhibit every March involves all children exhibiting their creations. ‘We’re trying to introduce more DT,’ says the head, admitting it has not been the school’s forte. Children currently make do, occasionally use DT facilities at Bradfield. A new DT room will be part of the forthcoming performing arts centre development. That said, who needs laser cutters and 3D printers? We watched children merrily racing superb mousetrap cars. Over 40 clubs and activities on offer. Children we spoke to particularly liked chess, cooking, cycling and Lego. Lots of competitions between ‘sections’ (houses) for music, sports etc.

A sports hall costing £5 million makes a bold statement in this green and pleasant idyll. Opened in 2018 by Olympic gold medalist Lizzy Yarnold, it would be the envy of many a senior school. Used for PE, badminton, basketball, indoor netball, table tennis, rock climbing and more, it also gives St Andrew’s a much-needed space for assemblies, concerts and other gatherings. Fab 25m swimming pool, lots of lessons, morning and evening training for the very keen.

‘It’s a sporty school,’ said a year 8 rugby player proudly, and 20 sports scholarships awarded to senior school over the last four years back this up. Prep children have an hour of games every day plus matches. All the parents we spoke to praised sport. ‘Very important and very diverse; there are girls playing on the cricket and football teams,’ said one. ‘It’s very good although it can sometimes be tricky for boys to compete with boys-only schools with a bigger pool to choose from.’ ‘Progressive games’, a rip-roaring afternoon of team games in mixed year groups to celebrate St Andrew’s Day, is an annual highlight. Children tell us the ‘best’ sports are hockey (for girls) and football (for boys). Golf available in the summer term on the school’s pitch-and-putt course.

Pastoral care is ‘almost fanatical’, according to a teacher. A few parents mentioned a bullying issue in the recent past, and a view that the school may have been too tolerant, but all felt a new page has been turned. ‘There’s lots of focus on anti-bullying,’ staff told us, ‘and a belief that anti-bullying week should last all year.’ ‘Children gather in simple, unadorned chapel twice a week: one hymn practice, one chapel service. PSHE includes talks from external groups, such as It Happens. Years 7 and 8 help run the RIDE club (respect, inclusion, diversity, equality) which organised a sleep-out to raise money for a homeless charity and a football match in which everyone was blindfolded.

Grounded children; non-flashy parents. We hear that the clientele has morphed a little towards London since Mr Graham’s arrival. ‘We need to attract these families,’ admits the head, who refers to London refugees as ‘decompression parents’ – people keen for a more relaxed work–life balance but who still expect excellence. Alumni include author David Cornwell (aka John le Carré), broadcaster Adam Hart Davis, artist Sir Howard Hodgkin, wine writer Will Lyons, actress Emily Bevan and James, Pippa and Catherine Middleton, now the Princess of Wales. Apparently it was at a hockey match on the fields of St Andrew’s that Prince William, then a pupil at Ludgrove, first saw his future wife.

Pre-prep is a very special place – ‘the glory of the school’, said a new parent. Our tour on a damp autumn morning began outdoors in the hugely impressive forest school. We may have ignored an email warning us to wear robust clothing, but destroying a new pair of Blundstones was a small price to pay. We watched (with bitter envy) as children, all sensibly suited and booted in robust coveralls, made kites for a windy day. Leaf prints, fire making, whittling, singing in the rain all feature, as well as lots of kicking of autumn leaves. Nursery is based in a spectacular room with an artificial tree at its centre and branches meandering far and wide – a physical expression of the nursery’s awareness of the environment. Nursery children start every day with phonics, and then it’s down to the woods, rain or shine.


Mothballed during Covid, but the head is breathing new life into the boarding house. This is never going to be the school for expat Forces or diplomatic families, but if you’re looking for flexi-boarding, you won’t find better. Available Monday through Thursday nights, and very very flexible. Some children we spoke to said they boarded three or four nights a term – cheaper than babysitting. Half a dozen currently board twice a week and a few three times a week; 86 children had boarded at some point in the term in which we visited. Twelve staff live on site, most involved with boarding.

Money matters

Limited bursaries available, but as these are funded out of fee income, requests are scrutinised carefully. An independent company assists with the analysis and assessment of means. Pre-prep and nursery do not accept early years funding.

The last word

Wholesome, outdoorsy, happy, a touch old fashioned, the school now stands at something of a crossroads. St Andrew’s has always been known as a very happy place but, ‘We want to smarten it up a bit,’ says the head. ‘It needs to choose whether it wants to be a very academic environment or to keep the magic,’ said a parent. So far, we think it’s managing both.

Special Education Needs

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder 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
Hospital School
Mental health
MLD - Moderate Learning Difficulty
MSI - Multi-Sensory Impairment
Natspec Specialist Colleges
OTH - Other Difficulty/Disability
Other SpLD - Specific Learning Difficulty Y
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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