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What says..

The nursery, housed looking onto a modest playground, contains puzzlers who look up politely and pirates who are too engrossed in their adventures to notice a strange visitor. One tidy tot puts away her toy on a shelf whilst a cheerful boy digs messily for treasure in a fake blue sea, all encouraged by smiley, qualified staff. Games have been moved up a rung recently and parents notice that there have been improvements in both standards and the quality of the teaching, with netball fielding particularly successful teams and an original initiative making sport gender free (girls can choose rugby and boys netball if they so wish)...

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What the school says...

The principle on which The Roche School was originally founded in 1983; 'thorough teaching in a homely atmosphere' remains the central precept of the school today. Our aim is to engender high achievement - academic, sporting and artistic - within the context of a warm, friendly community in which values such as respect for others and oneself are explicitly taught. We believe that such a context has the greatest chance of producing high-achieving children, who are comfortable in their own skin and able to recognise the unique gifts of others.

We are non-selective but children are "set" across the year group in English and Mathematics, enabling them to learn at an appropriate pace with peers of similar ability. Further up the school, subjects such as philosophy as well as critical and creative thinking ensure that pupils develop valuable intellectual skills which ensure a successful transfer to secondary school. Pupils move on to a wide range of London day schools and plenty of guidance and support is given to parents throughout the process of application by the Headteacher and 11+ team.

There is a lively parent association which runs a wide range of enjoyable events for children and parents. We encourage parents to get involved and operate an "open door" policy ensuring queries and problems are speedily attended to and resolved by the Senior Management Team. Please check the website for open days or ring the school for a private tour.
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What The Good Schools Guide says

Principal

Since 2010, Vania Adams (50s). Another example of the educational gene with both her siblings university lecturers, she worked in broadcasting and publishing but decided to swap the office for the classroom. She still teaches 11+ English and loves ‘getting stuck in’ but also ‘pops into’ classes to spread her love of reading. She is also heavily involved in the annual production for the Shakespeare Schools Foundation, a major feature in the school’s calendar. A warm, articulate, approachable woman with whom her pupils are totally at ease, this is definitely a carrot not stick headmistress.

She has taken over from the founders Carmen and James Roche but their influence and involvement, both in the governance of the school and the day to day (Dr Roche was helping one of the pupils when we visited), is still very apparent. According to parents the school is ‘more organised and professional since VA’s arrival but she has not changed its spirit.’

Entrance

The majority into nursery (24 children) here or their other nursery Keswick House (up to 50 children) or else into reception. There is a waiting list at 2 for both nurseries and the system is first come, first served but you can’t jump the gun by a pre-natal move. Three reception classes with siblings automatically offered places. They are able to manage the full range of learning difficulties, provided that the child will be able to cope within the school’s framework, and also EAL children if they are confident that they will catch up with their year group. The odd place on offer higher up the school, often attracting children who have not flourished elsewhere, as the head is very sympathetic to those who may have been the victims of an academic ‘chuck out’ policy and regards it as a challenge – result, a great success rate at 11+. A very flexible approach to bursaries, particularly for those already in the school, and there is a special pot so that no child misses out on a school trip or expedition.

Exit

The Leaver’s List can feature dozens of schools, explains the head, as they aim to ensure a good range of offers. In 2018, Emanuel, Streatham & Clapham High School, King’s College Wimbledon and Wimbledon High were amongst those top of the list but there was a particularly wide range, from Eton to local grammar schools. A satisfactory number of scholarships including four to Dulwich College. VA says that she makes a huge effort to ‘manage parental expectations’, starting in year 4, ‘encouraging parents to trust us’.

Our view

In a tiny corner of London off the Wandsworth end of Putney Bridge Road and close to the river, you might easily miss the unassuming white façade with its discreet plaque. This is definitely not one for the parent who wants to expound on the glamorous outside facilities of their child’s prep school but, once inside, an Aladdin’s cave of educational possibilities opens up. Undoubtedly a small cave, but every inch has been used, including a booth for a front office that only functions because of the tangible goodwill of the people working there. All possible display spaces are commandeered for colourful mobiles, crammed notice boards and words of wisdom.

The nursery, housed looking onto a modest playground, contains puzzlers who look up politely and pirates who are too engrossed in their adventures to notice a strange visitor. One tidy tot puts away her toy on a shelf whilst a cheerful boy digs messily for treasure in a fake blue sea, all encouraged by smiley, qualified staff. Forest school is also part of the curriculum, taking place in Wimbledon Park or occasionally in more rural Richmond Park where one small, wise person pointed out to the teacher that the mushrooms were ’yellow, so they’re probably poisonous’.

Once up the stairs (no barrier for one small girl moving up from nursery to reception: ‘I’m going to do this on my own’), you find yourself in what is palpably the heart of the school. This is a space dominated by a library (complete with two librarians, albeit stuffed into a very small corner) and surrounded by classrooms with eight to 10 pupils in each, all heavily involved in either maths or English. The numbers are small because they group them in these subjects from year 1 although it is a flexible system and pupils move up and down regularly to make sure that the pace is correct for each child and extra support is available if necessary. The library is well stuffed with classics and modern authors, unsurprisingly, as reading is a ‘big thing’ with reading diaries, voluntary Book Club and even participation with 10 other schools in Battle of the Books.

The top floor holds the multi-purpose hall and, although a non-denominational school, we were treated to the whole of year 6’s rendition of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah (complete with majorly enthusiastic synchronised waving), nearly reducing one not particularly religious GSG hack to tears but which, on a more positive note, had been the winner at the Woldingham Choir festival. The room also metamorphoses into the dining hall, served by a miniscule kitchen, a source of worry to one pupil who wished that chef had more room to work in. Year 6 lives up here too, engaged on our visit in a Philosophy for Children class on religion; lower down the school P4C is incorporated into topics in history, geography and RE.

To expand the space available they lease a building just down the road which now holds year 5, a surprisingly large art room, two music rooms and an extremely popular (high on the list of ‘best things’ when we asked) gym run by a physically imposing, newly promoted head of games. In an ideal world, the head would like this building to belong to the school and she is in talks about the possibilities of expansion, not that she wants more pupils, simply more room for them to occupy. However, as one parent remarked, ‘although it is rather cramped and chaotic with children charging around, there must be a system as it all works’.

Games have been moved up a rung recently and parents notice that there have been improvements in both standards and the quality of the teaching, with netball fielding particularly successful teams and an original initiative making sport gender free (girls can choose rugby and boys netball if they so wish). Sport meets charity with Run For Us in Wandsworth Park which all take part in, including the head, who would normally prefer a good book or an exciting new play. Extracurricular clubs also feature sport as well as everything from carpentry to cooking to chess, which has a huge fan club.

It was a very nasty surprise to all concerned when the school was downgraded by Ofsted. Parents were uniformly ‘astonished and shocked’ and it would appear that the inspector was more than somewhat unprofessional in her approach, only squeezing in minutes observing lessons. Nevertheless, VA accepts that there were some areas where improvement could be made and has brought forward the appointing of new legal and financial governors and a new early years co-ordinator. The rebuttal to the findings has to be the high regard in which parents (nearly 80 wrote testimonials for Ofsted after the event) hold the school and the three-fold increase in the sign up for places in 2019.

We simply wish that schools like this, where children hug the headmistress and the more academic move on to starry academic senior schools, had been around when we were young. The Roche Approach (Respect, Open-mindedness, Compassion, Humour and Effort), which might sound a tad jingoistic elsewhere, seems to be working beautifully.

Special Education Needs

For those children who are identified as having particular learning difficulties, extra provision can be made through one-to-one support and by small group sizes - particularly in English and Maths.

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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