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What says..

This feels a fun place to learn: inside and outside the classroom there is a wide range of discussion and activities (mostly run by staff) and to engage and interest every child, strengthening their relationship with their teachers. Children are enthusiastic about the opportunities provided, reflected in the faces of both pupils and staff. Being bored …

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What the school says...

Yarm School is a leading independent coeducational day school for children aged 3-18 situated in the attractive and historic town of Yarm on a beautiful stretch of the River Tees. A Yarm School education starts in the School's Nursery and continues through the Pre-Prep and Prep School to the Senior School and Sixth Form.

Children thrive in the Nursery's warm and nurturing environment, benefiting from small class sizes, a rich curriculum and dedicated teachers. The Nursery is superbly resourced and provides a safe, secure and stimulating environment for children to play and interact, promoting decision making and independence from an early age. Recognised as being at the forefront of best practice and building a 'can do' attitude in pupils by Early Excellence, Yarm School Nursery meets the needs of every child and ensures a smooth transition into Nursery and beyond.

Life in the Pre-Prep (4-7) is excellent preparation for Year 3 and beyond and every pupil is primed to make the most of the exciting opportunities that lie ahead in the Preparatory School. Pupils are taught to be ambitious, curious and confident as they adopt a lifelong love of learning.

The Preparatory School continues to support and nurture pupils in an environment in which they can thrive. Excellent teacher:pupil ratios and an outstanding pastoral care programme ensure the physical and emotional wellbeing of every child whilst instilling a strong sense of community throughout the School. Active partnerships are built and maintained with all families who are involved in ensuring every child has a happy, safe and fulfilled school experience through regular formal and informal communication, weekly newsletters, parent curriculum sessions and fun community events.

Children throughout the School benefit from a diverse education with expert teachers in French, music, computing, art, design and technology, PE and Games, dance, and chess. The broad and diverse curriculum is supplemented with an extensive extra-curricular programme, regular performance opportunities in music, dance and drama, a comprehensive outdoor learning programme, regular school trips as well as a wide range of visiting speakers and specialist workshops that all enhance early learning and development. Pupils also benefit from access to specialist facilities, including a 750-seat auditorium, music studio, computing suite, science lab, woodland school, floodlit astro and many sporting and recreational amenities.
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All-through school (for example 3-18 years). - An all-through school covers junior and senior education. It may start at 3 or 4, or later, and continue through to 16 or 18. Some all-through schools set exams at 11 or 13 that pupils must pass to move on.

What The Good Schools Guide says


Since 2013, William (Bill) Sawyer BA PGCE (early 40s), appointed after three years as head of Braeburn Mombasa International Primary School, Kenya. Educated at Tonbridge School, read business studies at Leeds Beckett University followed by a PGCE in primary education at Brighton University. Cut his teeth as a year 4 teacher in an inner city state primary school in Bermondsey, London but felt constrained in a state school setting. Took up a post at The Banda School, Nairobi where he was soon promoted to head of design technology and master in charge of cricket followed by his first headship in Mombasa.

Energetic, enthusiastic and ambitious for the school, he is excited by plans to provide purpose built facilities at the prep school and the adjacent 3.25 acre site. The new facilities will include a dedicated parking, arrival and drop off area, as well as a purpose built performance space, learning resource centre, classrooms and dining facilities. Works closely with the senior school to uphold Yarm ethos. Parents like that he is ‘very approachable, regularly on the school gates at the start of the day, in the playground at the close of day and knowledgeable about each individual family’.

It’s a family affair at Yarm Prep: wife Sarah is a reception teacher and both their children attend. Bill is into cricket, trail running, kite surfing, open water swimming and, unsurprisingly, travel adventures.


School tells us they look for average or above ability. Advertised taster days for nursery and reception and by appointment for those above. Main points of entry are nursery, reception and year 3, a scattering at other ages. Classes per year group expand from three to four in years 5 and 6 to cater for early adopters for senior school. Pupils can, and do, join at any point if space allows.


With few exceptions, all progress to the senior school.

Our view

Pre-prep, purpose-built in 2003, houses bright, stimulating and well-equipped nursery. Open term time only, blended theme-based learning and play is based on the early years curriculum. Specialist teaching in French, PE, dance and music and direct access to the outdoor learning area in all weathers. A great introduction to more formal education. Children 3+ get LA funding rebate for 15 hours. Wraparound care available from 8.00am to 6.00pm, at an additional charge.

Pre-prep takes 4 to 7-year-olds in six classes of up to 18 pupils, usually two per year group. Theme-based learning in a curriculum that the head describes as ‘national curriculum plus’ with specialist teaching continuing in French, PE, dance and music. Reception to year 2, get weekly specialist lesson in the ICT suite at the prep school. Children read daily to a teacher and there is an impressive number of reading scheme books tailored to each child’s progress. Pre-prep has its own library, studio and multi-purpose hall used for collective gatherings and clubs.

Strong creative element in the teaching, lots of investigative work, indoors and out. ‘The focus is on active teaching,’ says the school and we certainly observed that in action with year 1’s range of learning experiences based on the story of The Lighthouse Keeper’s Lunch. Creative writing around the theme, artwork designing funky lighthouses, maths in practice weighing different baskets of plastic lunch items in the classroom, whilst in the playground a team of children imaginatively created a horizontal lighthouse with working pulley from an assorted pile of materials. Fun and practical learning that emitted a buzz of enthusiasm and engagement.

Woodland school develops a sense of adventure in the weekly sessions in a dingley dell across the road on the edge of the senior school campus. Activities range from making fairy doors to den-making and toasting marshmallows round an open fire.

The prep school is a short distance away, located in the original Yarm Grammar School building. The number of classes expands to three per year group, and can go up to four classes in some years if needed. Maximum 22 in a class. Specialist teaching extends to science, computing, art, design technology and speech and drama. Computing – algorithms, coding and app design - is taught as a discrete subject. Class sets of Chromebooks and tablets as well as a designated computer suite give pupils plenty of access to digital technology. Well-stocked library, with teacher-supervised pupil librarians and weekly library lessons. Accelerated reading scheme.

The school day begins at 8.40am and is broken into six lessons of 30 minutes, with a daily assembly and over an hour for lunch, clubs and activities. Supervised after-school care.

Teachers here are ‘brilliant’, according to the pupils we met; ‘learning is fun,’ they said. They are taught the 5B reference points to use if they get stuck in class – brain, book, board, buddy and boss. If that’s not enough there are weekly maths clinics and prep and handwriting clubs.

InCAS is used to track and monitor pupil progress from year 1. Gifted and talented pupils are identified and challenged through a range of stimulating extra activities and those with special needs are offered specialist support as required.

Designated SEN leads in both the pre-prep and prep schools identify children needing support and plan the required support through differentiation in class, small group working or on a one-to-one basis as necessary.

PE taught in mixed groups though generally boys and girls play sport separately. Plenty of exercise through timetabled lessons and clubs and activities. Traditional team sports from year 3 with everyone given the opportunity to represent their school, though unashamedly competitive. Inter-house competition, too, keeps the on site all-weather playing surface, netball courts and playing fields well used. Swimming lessons at a local pool start in year 3.

Examples of excellent artwork decorate the walls of both schools, diverse and creative in nature. Well-resourced art rooms, including a popular pottery throw down.

School resounds with the sound of music, from recorders and singing sensations in pre-prep to choirs and instrument ensembles, including a harp group, in prep. Year 3 children try different instruments on a six weekly carousel culminating in a performance showcasing their progress. Instruments provided from the school’s bank, there’s no opt-out but a lot of enthusiasm, stimulating musical interest, providing performance opportunities in front of an audience – one highlight being the grandparents’ tea party concert.

Drama for all from nursery and pre-prep nativities to the carefully crafted swansong year 6 production, most recently an adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Prep pupils also have an annual performance: recently a jokey whodunit Mystery at Magpie Manor.

A popular and unusual option is the two lessons a week (last lessons on Monday and Wednesday) when children can choose what they want to do from an activities programme that offers anything and everything from blogging to Italian.

On top of this there's over 100 lunchtime, pre and after school clubs across a wide range of activities. Residential trips start in year 3 with Whitby, Northumberland in year 4, London in year 5, while year 6s head for France and the Lake District – all high points for the children. An adventurous school holiday programme for 3-11 year-old pupils, staffed solely by Yarm Prep teachers, runs for six weeks of the year.

Recent accolades include national finalists in recent general knowledge competition; multiple awards in national junior maths challenge; regional winners in a range of sports and regular silverware from local arts festival.

Yarm Prep School was founded in 1991, went co-ed in 2001 and opened the nursery for children aged 3+ in 2003. Sited across the main A67 road from the senior school, there is no parking on site for parents, so a short walk via the pedestrian crossing across the busy road from the senior school car park.

Pre-prep classrooms are bright, spacious, colourful, with their own verandas. All with plenty of indoor/outdoor play facilities and a woodland yurt on a hill overlooking the senior school.

It’s a short uphill walk to the prep school, traditional brick built main building with a medley of adjoining buildings housing the dining room, classrooms etc. Two playgrounds, one for noisy play, the other quieter; outdoor table tennis tables for lunchtime play when weather permits.

This feels a fun place to learn: inside and outside the classroom there is a wide range of discussion and activities (mostly run by staff) and to engage and interest every child, strengthening their relationship with their teachers. Children are enthusiastic about the opportunities provided, reflected in the faces of both pupils and staff. Being bored just isn’t on the radar here.

Children are neatly attired in their navy and red uniforms, traditional in design with navy bound blazers, short trousers for the boys, tartan pinafores for pre-prep girls and skirts for older girls. Food is prepared and cooked on site; pupils say the choice of dishes are ‘mostly ok’ – about as good as it gets in a prep school.

The school is very proud of its widely published values, a collaborative piece from pupils, staff and parents depicted in the form of a tree with ‘happy’ as its trunk, supported by six roots – ‘resourceful, ambitious, safe, respectful, responsible and compassionate’.

Parents prize the quality of care and support provided here – mirrored by the children, too, who think highly of their teachers. Children are unkind ‘very rarely,’ says the head and there is a very clear, five level behaviour code displayed in classrooms. When interrupting classes by talking to teachers we were impressed by how the pupils stayed on task despite having no supervision.

Healthy house competition, from fundraising to general knowledge quizzes; sport a highlight. Lots of opportunity for leadership throughout the school. Peer mentors are on the lookout in the playground for children sitting on the red bench – the designated spot if you are feeling sad and lonely – and rush to join them.

Prep pupils are challenged to think big through the curiosity emporium – when twice-termly visiting speakers cover controversial or ethically demanding topics across the spectrum of contemporary life and history. Greatly enhances their learning opportunities and stimulates a maturity of thought and exposure to the wider world.

The school serves the local community and a wider catchment of around 25 miles. A dedicated bus service offers 12 routes for year 3 pupils and above with starting times of between 7.15am and 7.30am for the furthest points.

Pupils mostly come from families with professional and business backgrounds and from a wide range of ethnicities. Parents are happy with communications with school, feel that ‘there is a genuine open door policy’ and staff respond promptly when contacted; teachers are ‘well prepared with statistics and data and seem to understand our children well’. New starter parents provided with a ‘what to expect when’ toolkit so they can try to stay one jump ahead – with details of recommended screen time and bedtime routines.

The last word

A school that shows learning can be fun as well – fast paced with plenty of activity underpinned with reflection and resourcefulness. These are happy, bright, confident children with lots of opportunities for responsibilities and welcome them with genuine enthusiasm and pride.

Special Education Needs

Pupils are offered assessment and support (usually on a paired or one to one basis) should this be required. Specialist staff work within the school to achieve this. Nov 09.

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders Y
CReSTeD registered for Dyslexia
English as an additional language (EAL)
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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