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Open door at the back and the light, airy pre-prep kingdom is revealed. Freeflow rules outside with communal areas for all, while reception, year 1 and year 2 each have side-by-side plant-filled little gardens, with a secret leafy nature trail at the back, venue for (low) risk activities like building dens. Details-driven head of maintenance has fitted nest boxes round the pre-prep building (RSPCA occasionally called in to rescue stranded fledglings) and there’s real grass over chilly perfection of artificial version (hurrah!), everywhere bar reception garden, where nature proved incompatible with over-enthusiastic scootering.

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What the school says...

'TPS seems to be blessed with an ambience second to none. I have been in most of the schools in the area at some time or another and I can assure you that none of them come close in terms of staff attitude and the general `feel` of the school' - ex Parent & local teacher. ...Read more

What the parents say...

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What The Good Schools Guide says

Headmaster

Since 2005, David Malam BA Southampton (history), PGCE King Alfred’s College, Winchester (50s). Clever and refreshingly candid. Like every other London prep head offering both the 11+ and 13+, he’s reviewing the situation. No danger of losing Common Entrance, as long as leading senior schools (notably Hampton) retain 13+ entry. With better odds at 13+ than at 11+ and two extra prep years to enjoy – better than being bottom of the heap in a senior school – what’s not to like, he says.

Dreamed of pro career in either football or chess and took both to a high level before studying history. Running a youth club made teacher training a natural step. Worked in schools on the south coast, followed by a year in a Christian school in Cyprus. Started here in 1995 as history and games teacher, before becoming senior teacher and then deputy head in 1997.

Though cites an impressive list of improvements, from mini amphitheatre to revamped grounds (including new sports surface) it’s all outweighed by the staffing. Teachers must ‘genuinely enjoy working with children and see teaching as a vocation, not a day job,’ (all must run a club). Approach was clearly paying off, judging by feedback from parents and pupils. ‘[They] go the extra mile,’ said one, praising willingness to travel to events nationwide ‘and often abroad, too.’

He delights in pupil success (wears a tie in the school purple for celebration assembly), particularly in thinking skills and chess (one pupil recently won gold for Britain in the Mind Lab Olympics).

Though he has done his time here (four of his own children happily through the school, one remaining), appetite for the role, so far, remains undiminished.

Entrance

Non selective at 4+. Otherwise, occasional places only from reception onwards after assessments in English, maths and reasoning. Often take on a handful in year 6 to prepare for Common Entrance.

First dibs to staff children and siblings. Registered families sign acceptance form 18 months before start date. Deposit secures place - non-refundable if not taken up, deducted (with no interest) from final term’s fees if it is.

Some pupils arrive at the school with undiagnosed needs, supported with, says head, ‘best SEN in the area.’ Parents rave about school’s ability to identify barriers impeding progress –work with speech and language therapists and implement social communication programmes. ‘Provision for children with dyslexia is outstanding,’ said one.

Focus, however, is on pupils who will do well academically and not the right place for those who might struggle to access the curriculum. Where Common Entrance likely to be problematic, raised by school around year 5 though, if they want to stay, ‘we would do our very best to keep them.’

Exit

Discussions about senior schools start in years 4 and 5. In 2018, three scholarships to St George’s College Weybridge, Hampton School and Notre Dame. Hampton School (six pupils), Sir William Perkins School and Notre Dame (three pupils each) are most popular. LEH, Surbiton High, SWPS, St Catherine’s (Twickenham) and Notre Dame feature among the girls-only destinations. Current most popular co-ed was St George’s College. Others to Kingston Grammar and Radnor House.

Our view

So good that last full ISI inspection dates from 2012. According to parents, all that was good then (just about everything) remains so. IT – only area with a (small) question mark – is being sorted with help from ever generous Parents’ Committee.

Name is misleading – retained after outgrew Twickenham site in the early 1990s and moved to Hampton. Not that local punters are confused. Many come from Hampton and Teddington, others from Richmond and Twickenham, a few from Sunbury, Molesey, Walton and Thames Ditton.

Attracts maintained sector escapees who like school’s reassuring normality. ‘You don’t forget where you’ve come from,’ said one.

School’s home is a pretty listed building. Modern additions including art and music block, complete with vibrant purple clock (also courtesy of parents) and matching railings. Colour also features in tasteful stripes down tracksuits, exercise in restraint that stops assembly resembling a storm at a lavender farm.

Multi-purpose hall features eye-catching wavy roof, sprung floor but variable acoustics. Older pupils must need keener hearing than ours to pick up more than the occasional word during otherwise delightfully inclusive whole-school assembly.

Open door at the back and the light, airy pre-prep kingdom is revealed. Freeflow rules outside with communal areas for all, while reception, year 1 and year 2 each have side-by-side plant-filled little gardens, with a secret leafy nature trail at the back, venue for (low) risk activities like building dens. Details-driven head of maintenance has fitted nest boxes round the pre-prep building (RSPCA occasionally called in to rescue stranded fledglings) and there’s real grass over chilly perfection of artificial version (hurrah!), everywhere bar reception garden, where nature proved incompatible with over-enthusiastic scootering.

Pre-prep head Mrs Barnes, an English specialist, has been here for 15 plus years and exudes warmth. ‘[Pre-prep is] about being loved, nurtured, feeling secure and taking risks,’ she says.

From year 2, testing pinwheels courtesy of teacher’s hairdryer, to popular prep history teacher who performs own songs with jokes (terrible but the dates stick, say pupils), lessons are lively.

If displays were restrained in places (art room was a bit too neat and tidy for our liking though ‘20 minutes ago, it would have been at a peak of messiness,’ tour guide assures us), opinions aren’t. Pupils have views they’re keen to air, given half a chance, from reception upwards. (‘We always put a chatty child by the door to talk to visitors,’ says Mrs Barnes).

Ask one child their favourite subject and you won’t be allowed to leave until everyone else in the class has told you theirs, too. ‘Mine is ICT, because it stands for Ice Cream Tasting,’ said one impish year 4 pupil.

Considerable planning goes on behind the scenes. Pre-prep subject coordinators (specialists for music, sport, ICT) work with prep team on curriculum development to ensure seamless transition. The library is sensibly organised, with fiction and factual books in different rooms, work and play carefully separated, while do-able homework increases in upper years but so gradually you ‘don’t really notice,’ thought pupil.

School’s not very secret weapon throughout is emphasis on mind games with focus on problem solving, timetabled through the school and taught by specialists. Reception pupils might house different farm animals (where do you put the pigs if they won’t talk to the sheep?); older pupils have more overt problem solving and strategy. There’s even a week-long mind festival (think cerebral sports day - synapse and spoon race?).

Does wonders for exam technique - ‘Helps your brain,’ confirmed year 3 pupil –and boosts resilience. Just as well given the inevitable cloud on the horizon, those horribly stressful 11+ and 13+ entrance exams.

Generally, they’re managed with kindness and sensitivity by the school and with grace and good humour by pupils. We did pick up a few worries at the top end of the school. ‘How are you feeling about your exams?’ we asked one senior boy. ‘Fine… and that’s the biggest lie I’ve ever told.’

But that’s down to the system, not the school. Parents and pupils stressed (and re-stressed) the quality of staff. ‘Kind and nice,’ said a pupil (and umpteen mums and dads, often adding ‘nurturing’ by way of ringing the changes). Pressure to do well often comes from within. ‘I wanted to repay my parents for the investment they’ve made in me,’ said a scholarship winner, and clearly meant it.

Works because staff know pupils inside out (verging on over-cossetting, thought one senior pupil) with teaching and support tailored accordingly. Careful setting (maths plus small groups for English and French) avoids anyone feeling either singled out or sidelined.

Small details matter – one teacher writes end of week ‘good news’ note for each pupil. Rewards are all about doing better: credits and merit certificates to year 6; £5 Amazon vouchers for top years. ‘Bet the teachers have never seen such good behaviour…’ said year 6 girl of older boys. Demerits (for repeated transgressions – e.g. not handing in homework) are tactically used: ‘Year 6s letting off steam after pre-tests is time to monitor everyone carefully,’ says member of staff. Can result in ‘sensible’ detentions used, for example, to catch up with work.

Sense of being looked after is palpable. One of our guides has done 40 or so tours but insists that the 41st (ours) is a treat (we got bonus points for asking different questions). Even the fish in two tanks by the entrance – now approaching catch of the day size – seemed to exude contentment.

Rivalry does exist but is sensibly channelled. Would-be prep prefects nominate themselves, run hustings and incentivise the plebiscite with speeches and the odd song (sweets are banned). ‘Odd maverick does get elected - and often surprisingly good,’ says school. Otherwise, there’s competition between the four houses, named for local notables. Each gets an assertive website write up, headed by surprising claim that David Garrick ‘would be proud of some of our theatrical renditions of Boom–Chig–a–Boom in house assemblies.’

Presumably he’d also be impressed by the productions, mainly combining two year groups, younger as choir, older taking the main acting and singing parts, year 7 solo effort featuring cameo parts for staff. Sport was seen as less of a focus, reinforced by trophy cabinet. ‘Three-quarters … are for chess,’ pointed out tour guide. Outdated, says Mr Malam, who reckons that sport is now on a par with other local schools and points to victories (winners of three football tournament in one term) as well as investment in good coaches and upping of fixtures.

Bar the normal girls vs boys anomalies (several girls we spoke to wouldn’t mind a crack at football and cricket, though no boys were feeling the love for netball…) there’s masses of choice. Curriculum supplemented by numerous after-school clubs (one athletics/chess enthusiast – clearly a born multi-tasker – sprints between the two to avoid timetable clash) and extensive charity work (pupils involved in selecting deserving causes), with long term support for Street Child African and school in Malawi.

Mind games almost essential to winkle out wish list items from these happy parents. For girls entering the school at out of the ordinary times, it can be hard to break into well-established friendship groups. ‘Not the same for boys – they have football,’ said one, gloomily – another argument for a girls’ team?

Bar a few mild gripes about slightly variable lunches (hunger damped down by break time snacks, ‘some the size of a three-course meal,’ said a pupil) we’d rate this a must visit prep, which manages anxieties and aspirations of pupils (and parents) with aplomb and warmth.

Special Education Needs

Twickenham Preparatory School caters for pupils with a specific learning difficulty within the average range of ability. As the School is academic and feeds many highly selective senior schools we do not take pupils with above average learning difficulties. Pupils are screened for literacy related problems from Year 2. Where a specific learning difficulty of a minor nature is identified the appropriate course of action is made in close consultation with parents.

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder
Aspergers
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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