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What says..

Inspiring pupils to ‘give everything a go’, through exemplary extracurricular offerings, seen as a vitally important part of character education here. ‘It’s phenomenal how the school is able to find something to make every child shine,’ exclaimed one parent. Pastoral care ‘absolutely extraordinary… the pastoral team knows every little quirk of every child’. The school goes out of its way to make education a pleasure not a chore, one parent even laughing, ‘They have so much fun that I do sometimes have to double check that they really are at the standard they should be academically and each time I find…’

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What the school says...

St Peter's School is an independent preparatory school set in 28 beautiful acres overlooking the Exe Estuary, we offer a full and broad curriculum right from the start. We offer scholarships for Years 7 and 8. Our pupils gain places to top independent senior schools when they leave us. The Independent Schools Inspectorate declared 'The educational experience at St Peter's is outstanding', 'Leadership and management are highly successful and give effective and clear educational direction, reflected in the good standards achieved, the pupil's outstanding personal development and the fulfillment of the school's ethos and aims'. ...Read more

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What The Good Schools Guide says


Since 2016 Charlotte Johnston, the school’s first female head. Previously deputy head academic at Edge Grove School in Hertfordshire. Schooled at St Albans High School for Girls and Uppingham, studied English and history of art at Birmingham; PGCE primary from University of Herts; MEd from Buckingham. Worked as a change management consultant for PwC; after starting a family she retrained as a teacher and joined Edge Grove in 2002. She and Oliver (a former police officer) have two children, their son is studying philosophy at Edinburgh and their daughter is at Exeter School.

She is contagiously enthusiastic, warm and driven. Extremely proud of the school and full of a constant stream of plans to make it even better. ‘Things can and do move quickly here to respond to current needs and ideas; being privately owned makes us very astute, capable and nimble.’ Exudes capability and a genuine love for her job and her pupils. Parents adore her: ‘Absolutely knows each and every child here and how to get the very best for them.’ Personally meets with all parents as pupils get closer to the end of their time at the school to advise and assist on next steps.

A huge advocate of learning outside the classroom, she has gone out of her way to ensure that pupils have missions that take them out and about constantly and the facilities to support their learning.

What little time she has away from the school herself sees her following this love of the outdoors, either at their coastal home in north Cornwall or exploring the local moorland and coastline.


This is a popular school with considerable waiting lists in most years so well worth getting names down early; 90 per cent of the nursery cohort continue into the school. Interested families start with a tour of the school and meeting with the head. Post registration, a taster day is offered which, combined with a review of reports from any previous setting, enables school to be ‘mildly selective’ on behaviour.


Exeter School takes 50 per cent of the cohort every year. Other popular choices include the Maynard School, Wellington, Blundell’s and the Taunton schools. An occasional pupil to state non-selective and a handful succeed in the competitive Devon grammar route annually – although teaching is not aimed at coaching for the required 11-plus exam. On average, up to one quarter leave at the end of year 6, replenished with new starters. Future schools fair held at the school every two years to ensure all future avenues are explored, explained and accessible.

Our view

This is a delightful independent prep school that parents say ‘exceeds our every expectation; offering children a happy, nurturing, beautiful bubble in which to learn and grow’. Housed in a Georgian manor house, set in 28 acres overlooking the estuary of the River Exe with views over green fields to the sea beyond, this school is very much an archetypal prep idyll. From the moment that you step through the door you are embraced into the warm, gentle and encouraging atmosphere that pervades the school. Children are genuinely happy here: ‘My children literally skip out every morning with high levels of excitement about everything from beach school trips to forest school science lessons. There is never a grumble!’ enthuse parents.

The school goes out of its way to make education a pleasure not a chore, one parent even laughing, ‘They have so much fun that I do sometimes have to double check that they really are at the standard they should be academically and each time I find that they are actually exceeding standards without realising it.’ Older pupils concurred, full of giggles: ‘I feel as though we have accidentally learnt a lot at this school whilst having lots of fun along the way.’

Academically this is a strong school, pupils reach a low GCSE level in key subjects by the time they leave at the end of year 8, so are well placed to hit the ground running at secondary school. Specialist teaching starts early with children in nursery up to year 3 having dedicated sessions in French (with a native speaker), music, PE and forest school. From year 4 specialist teaching in science is added to this list. Once in upper school (years 6-8) all subjects are taught by specialist teachers and children move around the site for every lesson exactly as they will at secondary school. Maths is taught in ability-based sets from year 3, English from year 5, with science and French also adding sets from year 6.

Tech-ed very embedded into the school, every pupil from year 3 up has a Chromebook to use in class. Pupils either bring in their own or can use one from the school ‘bank’ and each child has an email account to receive set tasks, teacher feedback, school information etc. Although there are some parental grumbles about this approach ‘encouraging too much screen time at too young an age’, most parents agree that ‘it is a very clever, slow and gentle introduction to how the real world works and shows them the correct way to use the increasingly important digital element of education.’ Classes we watched were dipping in and out of the online element, with pupils very engaged, actively participating and full of chatty enthusiasm for their learning.

All pupils from year 3 track their academic, sporting and extracurricular skills-based progression through the school via the St Peter’s School Baccalaureate® (SPB), an award that incorporates ‘the best of the national curriculum, the Common Entrance and more’. It enables pupils to reflect on their own work, set their own targets and work towards a pass, merit, distinction or honours. Teachers mark all project work against this SPB certificate, helping students to aim high and achieve the best outcome by the end of year 8.

We watched as a ‘higher ability’ science class in year 8 discussed their next and final project, an in-depth investigation and presentation on the topic of conspiracy theories. The class was fascinated in the briefing and keen to jump into the research whilst happily sharing with us their progress on their SPB sheets and what they needed to do in this final project to get the best grade. End-of-year exams also contribute to the final grading for this SPB as well as extracurricular interests and results. Many secondary schools use this SPB as a means of assessing a prospective pupil from St Peter’s whilst scholarships have seen a dramatic rise since its introduction.

Learning success department an integral part of the school – parents sang the praises of the diagnostic and intervention abilities of the staff. Alongside the head of LS, there is a team of four peripatetic specialists offering additional support for pupils with dyslexia and dyspraxia plus optional one-on-one support, at an additional charge, for those with greater educational needs. School happy to offer places to those with an EHCP or assist pupils in obtaining one, so long as they feel that the school can offer the best environment for that child to shine: ‘We are limited by our setting in the physical needs that we can support here.’ ‘From the minute my son started at the school, the diagnosis and overseeing of his needs has been exemplary. There is so much support on offer that at no point has he felt any different to anyone else and his improvement academically has been staggering,’ said one parent.

Art, drama and music all on offer at a high level. The art room was buzzing with enthusiasm on our visit as year 6 were adding the final touches to some stunning Chinese lanterns. Good quality art on display around the walls and pupils spoke glowingly of their artistic achievements. Drama coaching of an impressive standard, every year group has the opportunity to shine in an annual performance. No onsite theatre but school productions make use of professional theatres locally.

Music a highlight: 21 different instruments on offer via peripatetic lessons and plenty of chances to perform with regular lunch and tea concerts. ‘Recitals are way beyond your expected prep level,’ agree parents. Multiple ensembles on offer from school wind band to flute and string groups. Lots of choral highlights including the invitation-only, and hugely impressive, chamber choir, and inclusive junior and senior choirs.

Sport is plentiful, with both the head and many parents laughing, ‘St Peter’s children are all very fit.’ Co-ed cricket, football and athletics, single-sex rugby and netball combine with squash, swimming, sailing, golf and tennis amongst others on offer. Lots of opportunities to represent the school in matches with over 400 fixtures every year. Parents’ only request was for even more specialised, high performance coaching in the main sports.

On our visit, pupils were practising for the Harefield Run, a notorious annual activity that sees every pupil and their parents race around the school fields. ‘It is the highlight of the year for many of the children and watching the year 8 pupils helping the tiny ones around the course and the line of children offering high fives to everyone as they cross the finish line exemplifies the family feel we have throughout the school.’ Parents are extremely and often hilariously competitive, with staff placing bets and discussing the favourites. A huge cream tea on the lawn is the welcome finale to the event.

Pastoral care ‘absolutely extraordinary’, according to parents. ‘The pastoral team know every little quirk of every child and I will get a call just checking in if something seems even slightly off kilter.’ From play therapy sessions when things get tricky socially to pastoral interventions over a hot chocolate in the ‘wild woods’, the happiness and wellbeing of every pupil takes a huge precedence here. School matron a superstar, according to children who say, ‘She can always work her magic if you hurt yourself or you are just feeling sad.’ Loads of interaction between year groups leads to a happily familiar and supportive sibling feel amongst the children of different ages.

Masses of trips, very much the highlight for the children. Starting with an onsite sleepover for year 2, they increase in duration and activity as the children go up the school with water-sports weeks, PGL trips, London visits, Dartmoor adventures and the final week-long trip to France, all in French. Add to this optional ski trips, cultural visits, sports and music tours and the opportunities to get out and about with the school are vast and varied.

Inspiring pupils to ‘give everything a go’, through exemplary extracurricular offerings, seen as a vitally important part of character education. ‘It’s phenomenal how the school is able to find something to make every child shine,’ exclaimed one parent. Most clubs included within the wraparound care but a few at an additional cost. Pupils spoke excitedly about survival skills, ballet, gym fitness, swimming and pottery.

Parents drive in from across the county or take advantage of the minibus routes. It’s not unusual for families to move to the area because of the school. Socially a real mixed bunch, from consultants in the local hospitals to battered camper van drivers, but all are united in their absolute love of this school. ‘I can’t bear the thought of them leaving and going into the real world.’ School takes pride in involving families socially with the school, from supporting at matches to drinks parties, balls and introductions for new starters.


Flexi boarding from year 3 to 8 – run as an optional extra, with boarding activities lists posted termly to encourage groups of friends to book in and stay together. Handy for parents with busy social lives or to ease any boarding anxiety for those heading along this route at secondary. Options included glow-in-the-dark dodgeball and pottery nights for lower school to wakeboarding and tennis tournaments for upper school. Rooms are seaside chic style with plenty of white bunks and high-ceilinged, light-filled space, perfect ingredients for a fun sleepover. School has announced that it will discontinue boarding from September 2024.

The last word

The dream idyll of a rural prep. This school ticks all the boxes: the perfect location for some serious outdoor adventures, a strong academic reputation and an inspiring, happy and holistic bubble for children to start their educational journey within.

Special Education Needs

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
Genetic 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 Y
MSI - Multi-Sensory Impairment Y
Natspec Specialist Colleges
OTH - Other Difficulty/Disability Y
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 Y

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