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What says..

There are eight acres of grounds but not in the sense of lawns and pitches: instead hills and trees, enough grass for a running track for sports day and games and a dingly dell full of wild garlic and bug hotels. Wellies are essential kit. Not only is the art wonderfully vibrant and diverse, meticulously conceived and taken up with great skill and enthusiasm by the children, it’s so sophisticated as to be highly covetable. This is a Christian school...

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What the school says...

Many factors help create the distinctive Paragon Atmosphere. Our emphasis on laughter and having fun... on being stimulated and inspired... the way we bring our lessons alive... our Christian ethos and strong morale framework... our caring atmosphere... being based in a beautiful Georgian house with stunning grounds and woodland... the way we involve parents and members of the local community its these and much more.

We're proud of our consistently impressive academic results but we strive for much more than success in exams. We believe in nurturing and developing the whole child intellectually, physically, spiritually as well as emotionally. As W B Yeats said: Education in not filling a bucket but lighting a fire. We want to light a fire that will burn brightly, lighting up your childs life long after they have left The Paragon.
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What The Good Schools Guide says

Headmaster

Since 2012, Andrew Harvey (40s) BA PGCE. Brought up and educated in Dorset (Milton Abbey), he taught briefly before joining the Royal Dragoon Guards for three years, ‘mainly for the rugby, but also the leadership values’; though he always intended to return to teaching. His career was forged in prep schools (most recently Lambrook where he was deputy head) except for a stint as head of pastoral care at Sherfield School. The unstuffy atmosphere and Bath location appealed to him, but it was the fact that he and his wife, Anna, felt it would be ideal for their two daughters that swung it.

Parents are fans, telling us: ‘Really excellent. Unafraid to make bold or tough decisions where needed – that’s been obvious in some of the staff who’ve moved on and some of the building and school improvement works undertaken’; ‘he’s always physically around in the playground, at drop-off, knows all the children ’ and ‘professional, and loved by the children.’

His elegant office features his own children’s art in pride of place. Favourite food is steak fajitas, favourite book First Light by Geoffrey Wellum. Out of hours he can be found playing squash or leading the occasional battlefield tour.

Leaving to be head at Twyford School, from September 2020.

Entrance

Main entry points are pre-school reception and year 3, though children are welcome at any stage. Prep school entry via taster day and assessment. Year 5 is an increasingly popular start. Essentially, the school flexes to meet supply and demand. Unusually ‘every day is an open day’ so rather than having to plead for 10 minutes with the head, as can sometimes be the way, he will take you around himself. The school welcomes applications from all and will make provision for children with SEN or physical disabilities where possible.

Most families live in Bath and Wiltshire, plus a few Bristolians. Many families relocating from London or overseas.

Exit

Children feel well-prepared for their 11+ examinations. The majority head to nearby Prior Park College, part of the same foundation. Twelve exhibitions most recently, including sport, drama, creative design, art and academic; around a third has left with scholarships or exhibitions in the last three years. Few, if any, venture far. Other leavers to Bath stalwarts: King Edward’s School, Beechen Cliff School, Kingswood, the Royal High School and Monkton. Any for whom Prior Park isn’t advisable would be invited to discuss what next in year 5. One disgruntled parent said: ‘If you want to look elsewhere (as we did), you’re totally on your own.’ The head says this isn’t the case, but the school doesn’t prepare specifically for other schools' entrance test requirements.

Our view

Since our last visit, there has been a thorough overhaul of the curriculum. Mr Harvey says they’ve ‘revamped maths and English and introduced philosophy’. He’s aware of preparing children not only for the next stage of their education but for life and the world of work – ‘children need to be creative, interested and interesting’ - and wants them to think differently. Meanwhile, The Paragon Wheel focuses on skills from persistence and risk-taking to originality and collaboration.

Plentiful evidence of creative cross-curricular work. Year 3s are well-placed for their study of the Georgians, enjoying a visit to the Royal Crescent where they were thrilled to learn about washing clothes with urine and potato starch. This editor feels rather ancient on finding ‘technology of the 90s’ and ‘TV of the ‘80s’ cropping up in year 6’s exploration of the life in the 20th century. Plenty of whizz-bangs in the annual science day. Topics begun lower down the school are revisited in greater sophistication in subsequent years such as year 1's and year 6’s investigation of microbes culminating in year 6 growing cultures from swabbing iPads, door-handles and their own shoes.

Fifteen of the 61 current teachers have been at the school for more than 10 years and the school aims for each child to have had at least two male teachers. Parents describe teachers as ‘exemplary, dynamic, caring and intuitive’; ‘no duds at all among the staff. They all (regardless of actual age) have a youthful energy, buzz.’ We joined an English lesson considering Narnia and what it would mean to eat in a ‘pelicany’ way – the teacher delighted children with his enthusiastic acting backed up with video clips. Another English class roamed the grounds with iPads photographing inspiration for free verse. Our guides felt their teachers are firstly ‘really kind’.

The school recently welcomed an RAF Typhoon pilot, working with year 6 on leadership skills and teamwork, whilst, inspirational James Shone of ‘I can and I am’ led a workshop for children and parents. With entrepreneurial types amongst parents, it feels as though the whole school pulls together. During an enterprise challenge, they advised on branding, finance, eco-advice and design for a Dragon’s Den style showdown.

Pressure, what pressure? ‘It’s not a patch on London-style competitiveness,’ thrilled a mother. ‘Homework is at very manageable levels,’ confirmed another.

The library strikes a rare disappointing note: just a bit small and gloomy. But children here were discussing the ethics of inherited power, inspired by the abdication of Japan’s emperor. Plenty of ICT in evidence throughout including a dedicated room full of PCs.

There is a maximum of 22 pupils per class. The learning support department works to support children with a variety of needs on a case by case basis.

Squirrels pre-school caters for 3 and 4-year-olds, offering free and structured play. Forest Fridays for den building, worm digging, foraging. Rated as ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted and ‘excellent’ by the ISI. Children’s social and communication skills are singled out for praise. Specialist teachers for French, music and art.

All children play sport from nursery age – we watched a tennis lesson with mini flouro bats. Timetabled lessons taught by specialist teachers. There’s a gym on site, plus a hard play area and a playing field. Otherwise, it’s off to the senior school for the sports centre, pitches, netball courts, indoor swimming pool, athletics track and dance studio. From year 3 they play fixtures against local schools. Recently, the year 6 football team was victorious at the Millfield Prep tournament. Meanwhile, a year 6 girls’ netball team won every match in their spring season. And 20 pupils qualified for the British school’s biathlon final at Crystal Palace. Girls play cricket and football and there’s a girl in the current football A team who also plays for Bristol City.

Said a parent: ‘I love that although there have been multiple national and Olympic athletes within the sports staff…sport is extremely inclusive; participation and enjoyment are prized way beyond ability and elitism. That said, those who excel sportingly do have great opportunities.’

‘After some lack of continuity, I think that music is back on track,’ said a parent. The recently appointed director of music encourages children to join an instrumental club or band, the orchestra or one of five choirs, including the popular ‘boys don’t sing’, conceived to overcome any self-consciousness, where boys belt out pop songs. Coldplay more likely than classical in a keyboard lesson. The usual instrumental lessons taken in a dedicated teaching/rehearsal space in a log-cabin. Lunchtime recitals each week. Don’t forget your singing voice along with the car keys – parents and children arriving early can join the ‘sing out’ choir.

When a school schedules time for you to sit down with the head of art, you know that something special is afoot. A mother: ‘Miss Hucks has raised the standard of art in the school considerably.’ Not only is the art wonderfully vibrant and diverse, meticulously conceived and taken up with great skill and enthusiasm by the children, it’s so sophisticated as to be highly covetable – the hugely popular sewing clubs’ tall rag-dolls, some with bird or cat faces, and patchwork mounted animal heads particularly so. DT takes place too, but without dedicated facilities on site.

A fantastic range of 65 clubs from chess and pottery to African drumming, science club and coding. Most are free. Breakfast club for a small fee and free homework clubs until 5pm. Trips include a week in France for year 6, visits to local historical sites and a residential adventure centre.

The Paragon occupies a large Georgian house with a mineral spring in its grounds, but owes its name to its origins as an educational gymnasium in the street of the same name in the city. The younger years, dining room and art blocks are housed in buildings at a lower level – all on a wooded site less than a mile from the centre of Bath and the train station.

For any metropolitan migrators to Bath, dropping your child at this sylvan idyll must bring home why it was all worth it. As one parent told us: ‘the outdoor play curriculum is one of the reasons I sent my children to the school.’ There are eight acres of grounds but not in the sense of lawns and pitches: instead hills and trees, enough grass for a running track for sports day and games and a dingly dell full of wild garlic and bug hotels. Wellies are essential kit. No need to venture elsewhere for bushcraft. The bold in year 6 even have a go at dissecting a rabbit. The playground has a ‘buddy bus-stop’ and a quiet corner. A few older trees have been turned into stunning carvings, one of The Owl and The Pussy Cat in their boat. Reception have their own outdoor play space with multiple activities and a shaded area.

There is a nod to the traditional with the choice of uniform – whole school photos are a sea of pink due to the red striped shirts or summer dresses – but everything else feels decidedly contemporary. The fabric of the school may soon follow suit with the head looking to create ‘classrooms of the future’. ‘Busy, exciting, buzzing, happy’ is how a parent described it and we absolutely concur.

This is a Christian school that welcomes all faiths and none. The head aims to nurture ‘a self-less attitude that is unique’. Teachers model kindness towards each other as well as towards the children.

Parents told us: ‘the pastoral care is incredible’; ‘the school stands out for: its genuine interest in the well-being of each child.’ ‘It’s a nice size’ and ‘it feels like everyone is one family,’ said our guides. One head boy and girl per term in their final year, so that more get a go.

Parents describe themselves as ‘very hands on and all want the school to be its very best’; ‘a mix of very wealthy and the more ordinary’; ‘a definite Lycra brigade – a typical Paragon parent might dash to do a run after drop off’. The school may help a family who falls on hard times.

Special Education Needs

Provision for children with special educational needs is a matter for the school as a whole. This also takes account of the exceptionally able child who will have his or her own needs, for which the class teacher will make provision through extension activities. If the progress and behaviour of a pupil has cause for concern, the pupil will be monitored, assessed by Head of Learning Support and may be registered to receive Learning Support. Provision varies between in-class support and/or withdrawal for a number of sessions each week. 10-09

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