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Avert your eyes as you drive through the cabbage patches and retail parks of Thanet – it is worth it. Parents spend up to 45 minutes in the car each way to send their children here, passing other good prep schools en route. While schools often claim to be one big family, this one lives up to the hype and it’s great fun too, with idyllic beach themed photos of pupils getting well deserved top spots in the marketing materials. Tonnes of sport – ‘almost relentless,’ according to one parent, ‘which is truly brilliant if you’re a sporty kid, although those that ...

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What the school says...

Wellesley House aims to open up a world of possibilities for each child. Renowned for academic excellence, Wellesley has particular success helping its pupils to win scholarship places. However, children open up more than just books here. Art, music and drama are central to school life, while an impressive range of sport, from riding to sailing, provides an outlet for every talent. A caring ethos and broad curriculum ensures pupils are nurtured as part of a happy family where friendships last a lifetime and the next step is always in the right direction. ...Read more

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Sports

Fencing

Shooting

What The Good Schools Guide says

Headmaster

Since September 2017 Gavin Franklin BA (40s). Previously a housemaster at Wellington College, from which he ‘unashamedly plagiarises’ when it comes to approaches such as reflection instead of detention. Sport degree from Durham; represented British Universities at cricket and went on to play for Staffordshire and Warwickshire. Spent five years at the Oval, as performance manager in charge of elite player development, becoming a level 4 cricket coach, before moving to Wellington as assistant director of sport and English teacher.

Hands down the homeliest head’s study we’ve seen – hardly surprising since it doubles up as the family sitting room, complete with sizeable telly, heaps of framed photos and the kind of sofas that invite you to curl up on with feet up. Needless to say we didn’t, although there is evidence that his gorgeous black lab Freddy may do so, and who can blame him? Merely a few steps from the school’s main entrance, this family couldn’t live closer to the school if they tried. All somehow works a treat, what with his warm and elegant wife Claire - also a Durham graduate and teacher with an interest in sport – reportedly ‘essential to cultivating the parent community,’ and both their young sons attending the school.

We loved the way our guide described Mr Franklin not with words but actions. With arms outstretched and grinning ear to ear, he eventually engaged his vocal cords to explain that ‘his personality is larger than life’ and that he’s ‘just really friendly, really funny and, well, really amazing’ which, we later learned, was pretty much the general consensus of all pupils. Meanwhile, from the parent cohort, we learned that he ‘always has time for you and knows every child and parent by name’ and is ‘affable, knowledgeable and kind but with a core of iron.’ Widely commended for his ‘modern thinking’, ‘good vision for the school,’ and ‘having a real team spirit’, we were also won over with his classically British self-deprecating humour and seeming ability to get involved in every aspect of school life, minus the micromanaging. In his spare time, sport still looms large, most recently golf and running.

Entrance

Pre-prep opened in September 2019, so children now able to join from three upwards, with automatic entry into prep. Entry into all year groups thereafter, but be warned it can be difficult getting up to speed for Common Entrance if you join after year 7. Non-selective but entry via interview and reports and examples of work from the child’s current school. Would only test if there were concerns about learning support or that a child might not thrive.

Surprisingly large catchment area, as far as Deal, Canterbury, Faversham and Whitstable, with a handful from London (an accompanied minibus runs to Battersea at half term and exeats). Means tested bursaries up to 50 per cent are available for sports and academic scholarships (on average one of each a year). Discounts for army families.

Exit

Around a third to King’s Canterbury. Rest to huge range of senior schools all marked and labelled on an enormous wall map in the corridor – the odd drawing pin denotes schools as far as Scotland and Wales while Harrow, Eton, Charterhouse, Tonbridge, Eastbourne, Benenden, St Edward's Oxford, Sutton Valence and Cranbrook are all closer – a daily reminder to these youngsters of potentially very bright futures. Trouble taken by the head to find the best school is heavily praised by parents. Seven scholarships in 2019. Currently hardly any leave at 11+ but they are expecting some Kent Test leavers with the introduction of the pre-prep and are happy to prepare pupils accordingly.

Our view

Avert your eyes as you drive through the cabbage patches and retail parks of Thanet – it is worth it. Parents spend up to 45 minutes in the car each way to send their children here, passing other good prep schools en route. While schools often claim to be one big family, this one lives up to the hype and it’s great fun too, with idyllic beach themed photos of pupils getting well deserved top spots in the marketing materials. Learning here is a far cry from chalk and talk – we sat in a French lesson where year 3s sang their hearts out about French colours accompanied by the teacher on the guitar and an ICT class where children were having a terrific time coding a guessing game on Python. On warmer days, the children are often taught outside - from hunting for insects and collecting leaves to check for starch to painting a scene of the cricket pavilion or writing nature poems – plus, of course, making use of that fabulous coastline. No wonder the Old Welleslians, who feature in the old whole-school photos that adorn some of the corridors, are famously nostalgic; many stay in touch or even marry and good numbers send their own offspring here. ‘It’s busy, it’s happy and most importantly, it’s kind,’ summed up one parent, while another told how consideration for others, tolerance and being a thoroughly nice person are as celebrated as academic effort (and it’s always effort over attainment here) at the annual summer prize giving.

Originally located in Ramsgate when it was founded in 1869, the school moved to its current purpose-built site in 1898, merging with St Peter’s Court in 1969 and going co-ed in 1977. Slow down when your sat nav says you’re nearing your destination – the entrance, a gravel driveway that leads to the red-brick building, is easy to miss. Lots of adding onto over the years, including some stand-alones, but the overall scene remains appealing and although the grounds don’t boast the rolling acres of some preps, there’s enough room for den-making, vegetable plots, shooting range and playing fields. Everything is immaculate despite being well utilised by these bouncy, spirited youngsters who have an endearing sense of ownership and pride. Blazers and ties are only for best here – house coloured aertex shirts, many hanging out from under their navy jumpers, serve as far more sensible attire for such an energetic schedule.

Inside, the maze of corridors leaves you in no doubt that you’re in private school territory – Farrow & Ball painted tongue and groove on the bottom, and white with neat displays of children’s work at the top. Classrooms are inviting – ‘Geography Rocks!’ we were reminded (literally, with rows of interesting stones) as we entered one classroom, while labs await eager young scientists with white coats and colourful test tubes. There’s a large, welcoming library with plenty of comfy seating and each year group has its own common room. Boddington House, adjoined to the main school, is home to the new pre-prep where we were sorry to have missed the Goldilocks Crime Scene. If that kind of endeavour is not enough to lure in the punters (tiny-tot numbers were quite low when we visited, but it’s still early days), the free wraparound care from 8am to 6pm is bound to tempt working parents.

Upstairs in the main house is boys’ boarding – great big dorms with up to nine beds (no bunks) would win military points in the tidiness stakes, yet are surprisingly homely, with personalised bedding ranging from Marvel to nautical themes. Girls live over at the Orchard, set in its own grounds and – as the name suggests – surrounded by apple trees. ‘Like one big sleepover,’ said a pupil, while another chooses to board despite living within spitting distance of the school. Still, boarding numbers are on the decline, to the disappointment of some parents – ‘my son was the only full boy boarder in his year, which was a bit of a surprise,’ voiced one.

About 40 per cent of boarders come from overseas, mainly Chinese and Spanish – these, plus some from the UK, form the half of the boarding cohort that stays for weekends (around 23 when we visited); the other half is weekly. Parents like that it’s ‘a phone and iPad free zone – they don’t even watch much telly because they’re too busy having fun,’ and that ‘they’re just so well looked after – pastorally it’s outstanding’. Sunday outings (there always is one) range from bowling to beach time and paintballing to cinema; and the top year is allowed ‘down town’ into Broadstairs, pocket money usually spent on ice cream.

Average class size is 12, with 16 max – ‘means the very able can be stretched and those needing extra support get it,’ reckoned a parent. Streaming and setting from year 6 in maths and languages; scholars are taught separately for the last two years, including extra sessions with the head on Tuesday evenings (debating anything from a poem to a piece of journalism). Latin and French both on the curriculum; Spanish by private arrangement. Around 15 per cent on the SEN register – most support is in the classroom. A parent: ‘School is great for things like dyslexia, but I’ve seen those with more serious problems go elsewhere.’ EAL provided for around 15 per cent of pupils. Real push on reading throughout, with timetabled reading lessons for middle school.

Tonnes of sport – ‘almost relentless,’ according to one parent, ‘which is truly brilliant if you’re a sporty kid, although those that aren’t might feel a bit stuck’. While they may not have the pick of children that larger schools do, coaching is second to none, we heard from parents. ‘They send every child out the best equipped they possibly can,’ said one. ‘You see these kids that you wouldn’t think would shine and yet over time, they pull it out of the bag,’ remarked another. Cricket historically strong (huge excitement about a forthcoming tour to Cape Town when we visited), though they get fewer IAPS wins than they once did. Lovely dance space with vibrantly painted walls. Golf is popular – there is a putting green in the grounds and the lucky few are allowed to play at Royal St George’s nearby (cue parental envy). Clubs include photography and art, board games and chess, boys' hockey and girls' football, judo, fencing, riding at the local riding school, archery, cooking, needlework for boys and girls, even scuba diving, with the ‘shrimp’ course taking place in the school swimming pool – although one parent grumbled that it’s more set up for boarders than day pupils.

Music - once a classical only domain (though there is still plenty of that on offer, with a recent choir trip to Venice) – is now ‘cool’ and ‘modern’, we heard, with music tech, song writing and even a DJ-ing club. Over half learn an instrument in school and our tour guide, who was in a band, was itching for the forthcoming recording studio to be built – funded by Friends of Wellesley House. Singing is huge – we lost count of the number of choirs, including staff choir (‘Look how our headmaster can’t sing, yet still gives it a go,’ head of music bravely announced in assembly).

Huge paint-splattered black tables form a circle in the middle of the art studio, providing ample room for experimenting, while the walls are packed with inspiration and examples of pupil work – from Mona Lisa to year 3 portraits. Cross-curricular work prevalent, eg totem pole design accompanied children learning The Indian in my Cupboard. Imaginative DT work - puppet making always a highlight. Two school plays a year – one from middle school, the other from seniors, although neither are quite as popular as the form plays in which each class writes and performs its own 10-minute production – lots of silly wigs and no parents allowed.

Chapel twice a week and the full choral service on Saturdays – all parents welcome, with soup and sandwich lunch laid on. Team of the week celebrates everything from choir to netball teams – prize is much sought-after cake and squash in head’s study. House system encourages cross-year friendships, although pupils felt some peers ‘take them far too seriously - crazy’. Food good – toad in the hole and banoffee pie firm favourites, although mention of meat free Mondays invited some groans.

Pupils are considerate (we lost count of the number of ‘After you’s) and comfortable chatting to adults (they even quizzed us about our work – a rarity) but all with a charming naivety – ‘there’s no doubt these children are wrapped in cotton wool which I absolutely love, but it won’t be for all,’ said one parent. Friendly banter with staff – ‘Look, sir, it’s a real moustache,’ insisted one little boy sporting a piece of white paper under his nose. Pupils clearly care for each other too – minimal bullying is nipped in the bud. Parent comms could be better, say some.

A small, caring, traditional and outdoorsy prep in which everyone knows everyone, all children get a chance to shine and nobody gets lost in the crowd.

Special Education Needs

We have a fully qualified SENCo who is a full time member of staff and who has 30 years experience of working with a wide range of Special Needs. We have a specialist SEN room fully equipped with the latest computer technology and teaching resources. The SENCo works closely with all members of staff to ensure full access to the curriculum for each child in the school. SEN teaching takes place during the normal school day and can take the form of one to one withdrawal, small group teaching or in-class support. Wellesley is able to make provision for a range of moderate learning difficulties and can offer both academic and pastoral support. For a full account of our SEN policy, please contact the School. We will be only too willing to discuss Special Needs with you.

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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