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Windlesham House School

What says..

Parents may well find themselves thinking, where do we sign, halfway down the school drive: stunning South Downs backdrop, imposing Queen Ann building, 25m pool, abundant cricket pitches with pavilion standing resplendent, nine hole golf course, numerous tennis courts (grass and astro) and adventure playground complete with zip wire. For a school so polished, it seems at odds that there’s such freedom of choice on uniform, in fact there is no uniform. Still a place where children can ‘roam free and be children,’ said one parent, although...

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What the school says...

Windlesham House is one of the country's leading and oldest IAPS co-educational boarding and day preparatory schools. Set in 60 glorious acres on the South Downs, in West Sussex, the school is within easy reach of the Brighton, Horsham and Chichester districts, just over an hour from central London and close to Gatwick and Heathrow airports.

Established in 1837, Windlesham House was one of the first schools in the country to be established as a preparatory school and in 1967 became the first IAPS co-educational school.

Whilst academic excellence and success is a high priority, Windlesham House provides a warm, secure, caring and very happy family atmosphere. Our school encourages children to be children, giving them space to learn, discover and play, while ensuring academic excellence is at the heart of all we do. Our focus is on enabling every child to flourish and achieve their potential. Headmaster, Ben Evans, and his wife, Alex, take enormous pleasure in seeing children grow in what is a wonderful environment and an unrivalled setting.

"The school you dream you had gone to yourself." (Windlesham parent)
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Equestrian centre or equestrian team - school has own equestrian centre or an equestrian team.



What The Good Schools Guide says


Since 2020, Ben Evans. BA (Hons) history and archaeology, PGCE, University of Exeter. Formerly head of Edge Grove. Prior to that, junior head at British School, Colombo, deputy head of Bramdean, head of history at Brighton College.

Mr Evans is a true country boy with a genuine love of nature and the outdoors and spent most of his childhood on Dartmoor where his mother breeds Dartmoor ponies. He met his wife, Alex (PhD in waste water management, now impressively wearing many Windlesham hats) while teaching at the British School, Colombo – she was working there as an environmental scientist. A well-travelled and adventurous partnership, although not many clues to these intrepid adventures or country roots on display in Mr Evans’ vast and elegant study; possibly reflective of his focus on the new job at hand. We got the impression that this new headmaster means business.

With two sons at the school, Mr and Mrs Evans have a vested interest in ensuring Windlesham maintains its status as one of Sussex’s leading prep schools. This forward-thinking team cares and were eager to talk us through every aspect of their many plans. Understandably they want to make their own mark but they are also respectful of the school’s history and character.

Both agree the move back from Sri Lanka was ‘a biggie’, whereas ‘the move from Herts to Sussex hasn’t been as hard.’ They have family in the New Forest and Devon and their own home in Somerset, ‘We get away in the holidays and visit family when we can, but when we’re around school we’re tending to the market garden or feeding the chickens.’ Something of a green-powerhouse of a partnership, Mr Evans has embedded forest school lessons into the timetable and Mrs Evans heads up the school’s eco club and has written an eco-plan worthy of inclusion in a UN paper.

'Very outdoorsy’ and ‘gets stuck in,’ say parents of Mr Evans. True to form, he had driven some local children to school the morning of our visit, as the usual bus driver was ill. He was then on duty that evening, covering for a member of the boarding staff. Relaxed, caring, and approachable, we saw many pupils running up to him during our tour, eager to share their news. He knew them all by name, right down to the pre-prep children.

‘More professional,’ said one parent. Another commented, ‘SEN provision has ramped up since Ben’s come on board.’ Staff praise came thick and fast for Mr Evans: ‘inspirational’ and ‘has a strong vision for the school’ were among the accolades. ‘We feel heard now and it’s less of a top-down approach,’ said another. Also has a strong understanding of the needs of full boarders and international pupils, likely down to his four years as junior head at British School, Colombo. The Windlesham Challenge and Diploma, designed to replace formal Saturday school (now optional), is very much Mr Evans’ brainchild.

Hobbies and pastimes? By Mr Evans’s own admission, ‘We don't get out much, but we love Sussex and go to the beach occasionally.’ A hardworking and formidable team with a long to-do list. Lots of positive changes afoot, including a re-vamped dining hall, re-designed library and new parent café. Let’s hope that optional Saturday attendance doesn’t sever this historic school’s sporting and full-boarding roots.


Lightly selective, with academic assessments from year 1 for setting purposes, plus a trial day to ensure no obvious behavioural needs. Strong learning support provision, but will advise parents if unable to accommodate any needs identified during application process. Trial boarding night for all boarders.


Windlesham hosts public school admissions teams, saving parents the job of going to one of the big fairs. Parents say Mr Evans has a strong relationship with most senior schools and, as one parent glowed, ‘has been incredible with my child’s next move.' Seaford College, Charterhouse, Lancing College and Oundle all popular in 2023. Other choices over the years include Marlborough, St Edward’s, Oxford, Uppingham and Bryanston, plus the odd one or two to Eton, Rugby, Wellington and Brighton College. Total of 16 scholarships in 2023.

Our view

Parents may well find themselves thinking, where do we sign, halfway down the school drive: stunning South Downs backdrop, imposing Queen Ann building, 25m pool, abundant cricket pitches with pavilion standing resplendent, nine hole golf course, numerous tennis courts (grass and Astro) and adventure playground complete with zip wire. Yes, this is definitely a school, not a country club. As one parent put it, ‘It’s a one-for-the-memory-bank, kind of school.’

Founded in 1837 by Charles Malden, Windlesham was the first boys’ prep school in the UK and in 1967 was also the first to go co-ed. The school remained in the Malden family until 1994 and must be unique in having had five generations of heads with the same name.

Warm, welcoming and comparatively modest entrance hall is somewhat incongruous with the grander exterior. High ceilings, open fireplace, wood panelling, and a headmaster’s sitting room that wouldn’t look out of place in an interiors magazine are balanced by homely touches – displays of children’s artwork, eggs for sale from the school’s much loved and praised chickens, and Mutley, the Windlesham cat, cruising around in the background. Beyond the impressive aesthetics and facilities which, one parent proudly shared, ‘are absolutely top-notch,’ is an ordered and slick operation. Still a place where children can ‘roam free and be children,’ said one parent, although quite a few differed, ‘they’re over-supervised now.’ Hard to know how much is down to a shift in ethos or simply lingering post-covid measures. Children seemed content going about their business with relaxed purpose and chatter. For a school so polished, it seems at odds that there’s such freedom of choice on uniform, in fact there is no uniform as such, just a ‘strict dress code’ but it’s quirks like this that add charm. Uniform (or lack thereof) is being ‘smartened up,’ and branded jumpers and ‘special occasion’ blazers will soon be ‘an option,’ head informs us.

Children we encountered during our visit were exceedingly well behaved – discipline in the classroom seems very firm - we overheard a teacher telling a pupil off for talking during their lesson, in no uncertain terms. Parents commend, ‘the good quality of teaching,’ and, ‘teachers with good subject knowledge’ who ‘get to know your child very well.’ Classrooms are traditionally laid out, although some are due to be rearranged with new smart boards, working stations, no teacher’s desk, and will be more ‘collaborative,’ says head.

‘Very impressed with the languages here’ agreed parents. ‘If they don’t teach it and you’d like it, they bring in a dedicated teacher, for example, Mandarin,’ said one. A dedicated language block, another Ben Evans change, has further elevated the status of languages.

One or two parent whispers that learning support wasn’t ‘the strongest,’ although a few others disagreed, remarking favourably on the ‘consistency of teachers,’ explaining that ‘they worked with my child closely and had good tools,’ and ‘my child needed fewer sessions as time went on.’ An experienced SENCo heads up a team of five (sizeable for a prep) and offers ‘fluid support across the school where needed.’ Those needing support, including English as an additional language, are not stigmatised: the department sits in the centre of the campus, which is telling.

We’d have loved our tour guides to be the pupils themselves, but alas this wasn’t possible. Those children we did come across were incredibly articulate, gently confident and a great advert for the school. The group selected to speak with us had (perhaps not unsurprisingly) very few grumbles and these centred around the same children leading sports teams for entire terms instead of sharing the captaincy around. This was a common complaint, although one dissenter piped up in defence saying, ‘it’s not the same in years 7 and 8.’ This apart, all fell silent on being asked what they would change about their school. Even the food was praised, although one child confided that the duck wraps are a no-no, such is the culinary bar here.

Children told us that favourite lessons were French, maths (their teacher was referred to as the human calculator), and drama, ‘we do the best games in drama,’ a few exclaimed. Many do LAMDA and all were involved in the current production of Bugsy Malone showing in the impressive refurbished theatre, with its new LED iPad-operated lighting system. Windlesham is one of just a few schools in the UK to be Apple accredited, meaning its tech is tip-top. Plenty of opportunities to get involved in productions, if acting isn’t a love.

Much on offer in terms of co-curricular beyond the usual; the school was prepping for Windlesham Rocks during our visit, we met some of the band members of The Night Lizards, a year 3 band who were taking it all very seriously — lovely to see. The (optional) Windlesham Diploma (years 7 and 8) and Challenge (years 4 to 6) are in full swing, and, on paper, sound exciting; think subject-based team-building, risk taking and problem-solving activities, working towards badges and certificates. Parent opinion is divided, ‘the trouble is, it’s optional,’ commented a few full-boarder parents, with obvious reason. Day, flexi and weekly parents inclined to be more supportive of the freedom of choice.

Parents all agreed about the wealth of sports opportunities and sporting prowess at Windlesham, although boys' teams more victorious. The 25m swimming pool hosts numerous IAPS events for other local prep schools, ‘it’s amazing’ and ‘always warm when you get out,’ raved the children. The grass tennis courts were being prepped for the inaugural 'Wimblesham' during our visit, and anyone can enter. While competitive on the field, sport is inclusive and with so many teams and so much choice, children will find their niche.

Well-balanced sports’ opportunities for both sexes (not always the case at mixed preps). One child did comment that she’d like to see the girls’ fixture results reported in the newsletter before the boys sometimes, though.

Numerous comments from day and boarding parents about how well their children have settled. Pupil hosts help newbies navigate the vast grounds and sit with them at lunch for the first few weeks. One parent described how their child was given a part in the school play in her first week, despite having not been a pupil in the school at the time of auditions and rehearsals, ‘the performance was a week later.’ Children are ‘welcomed very quickly.’ Pupils have a house parent, form teacher and academic tutor, so plenty of touch points regarding communication with staff. There’s also a peer listening system in place and children told us they felt they always had someone to talk to. Pastorally Windlesham is ‘strong’, ‘staff seem like a real team,’ ‘staff are very supportive,’ and ‘a lot of effort goes into weekends,’ said parents.

Praise too from parents for school comms; Mrs Evans’s weekly information letter plus a more formal newsletter from the head are ‘excellent,’ ‘easy and simple,’ ‘very good’. Refreshingly there are no mobile phones here at all (there’s no signal anyway). Numerous cordless house phones flying around for full boarders to call home, at set times. Scheduled video calls an option, too — popular with overseas parents.

The school day is long and children need the stamina to cope here. With so much on offer and a large cohort, likely all will find their tribe. No inkling of snobbery or entitlement amongst the children we met. A healthy international mix, with 25 per cent living overseas and 23 different countries represented.

A more flexible approach to boarding has widened the demographic, and as one parent remarked, ‘the school celebrates everyone for their differences.’ Our visit coincided with match day and, yes, it was 4x4s galore, but a scattering of old run-arounds and muddy farm vehicles, too. Long-standing Windlesham families and alumni account for a sizeable 20 per cent of the cohort.

Former pupils are a familiar roll call of gentry, bishops, first class cricketers, diplomats, army officers and politicians. More recent notables include Olympic gold medal swimmer Duncan Goodhew, Professor Chris Whitty, former chief medical officer, actors Tom Hiddleston and Tamzin Merchant and comedian Adam Buxton.


Head told us, 'It’s a priority to make sure weekends are as full as possible for our full boarders.' However, he has overseen a definite shift to more flexible options, notably weekly boarding where children go home on Friday night and reappear on Monday morning. Attendance at Saturday fixtures is no longer compulsory and we wondered how team camaraderie and consistency might be affected by this notable change. School told us they are ‘responding to parent demand,’ and are drawing on results of parent surveys, which seem to inform most of their decisions.

Despite the move to a more ‘dip in, dip out’ approach, the school still pulls in nearly 20 per cent of its boarding community from overseas. There’s a ‘strong international mix’ and expat cohort and ‘a lot of effort goes into the weekends’ remarked one overseas parent. Local parents agree, ‘it doesn’t clear out at weekends.’ We heard many positives about the new flexi-boarding options, which fit better with outside commitments (ponies and county level sport).

When we visited, we noted, alas, that while the boys’ dorms were named after top public schools, girls’ dorms were named after colours. We’re delighted to hear that this is no longer the case and in homage to the head’s love of nature and the local area, all now go by the names of trees and local villages eg Mulberry and Wiston. The dorms themselves are cosy, relaxed and convenient, housed in the main grand house with treats, stay-ups and movie nights aplenty.

Most flexi-boarders have their own beds but a few are ‘juggled’ across separate days. Half a term’s commitment needed to bag your chosen days. The flexi concept is in its infancy here – interesting to see how it settles.

Money matters

Some means-tested bursaries available. Twenty per cent fee reduction for armed forces and diplomatic service. Generous sibling discount; five per cent off the first sibling, ten per cent off the second and thereafter.

The last word

Inclusive and more down-to-earth than first impressions might suggest. Lovely community and family feel; pupils seem genuinely happy and love their school. Gets the best out of all its pupils: ‘I have very different children, all who’ve gone through or are going through Windlesham; all have thrived.’ ‘We’ve loved everything about it,’ parents of recent leavers told us.

Special Education Needs

At Windlesham we cater for a broad range of abilities including the very talented and academically able children and those who may need learning support. Our curriculum is designed to meet the requirements of the Independent Schools Examination Board with their Common Entrance exams taken at 13+. We do have a number of children with special needs and aim to provide them with appropriate help, but these children must be of average ability or they are likely to find the broad curriculum too demanding and not appropriate to their needs. We assess the children briefly before they join the school (normally when they have an overnight stay) and we hope that any existing special needs will have been discussed with us by the child's parents. Once we have had access to any existing reports (e.g. from previous schools or from Educational Psychologists) we can arrange a programme to suit their needs. We have a team of specialist teachers, under the Head of Learning Support, who give a mixture of individual or small group lessons to the children. The number of lessons will vary according to need and to our resources. We offer support with reading, spelling, written language skills, handwriting, word-processing, touch-typing, maths, visual perceptual training, speech and language and occupational therapy and counselling. We make a charge for these lessons, and details are available on request. Other children, after an initial settling in period, may be identified by subject teachers as having some areas of difficulty and this leads to discussion with the Learning Support Department. In October, we give all children NFER Verbal and Non-Verbal Reasoning tests, Maths, Reading and Spelling tests and these will help identify any areas of concern. After observation and discussion with the child's teachers we may give a child diagnostic tests to ascertain where the problem lies. We will inform parents at this stage and discuss the support that may be needed. It is possible to arrange a full, in-depth assessment by a visiting Educational Psychologist who will make recommendations for the child's educational programme and we do have the services of a Speech and Language Therapist and Occupational Therapist when required. All children have a right to a broad and balanced education and we aim to provide the necessary support for each child. This is in line with the government's Code of Practice for the teaching of children with special needs, which emphasises that the needs of the children are paramount. In order to do so, many of the children requiring Learning Support do not study Latin, as this is an optional subject at Common Entrance. We use this time for support lessons. Learning Support lessons can also take place in the lunch hour, outside lesson time and, in a few cases, during other lessons in non-examined subjects. 09-09

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder 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
Has an entry in the Autism Services Directory
Has SEN unit or class Y
HI - Hearing Impairment Y
Hospital School
Mental health
MLD - Moderate Learning Difficulty Y
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 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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