Hello from Oxfordshire!
Our boarding school visit this week was rather special.
We went to Walhampton School.
Walhampton is a so-called prep boarding school, a boarding school for children aged 7-13 where they get ‘prepped’ for senior school entry.
Walhampton, however does so, so much more than prepare children for the more serious years of school education.
Rather, it is a blueprint for what a joyful, healthy, well-rounded and dynamic school for young children ought to be.
Read on to find out why.
My, what a setting!
Walhampton is nestled in over 100 hectares of woodland on the southern edge of the New Forest National Park. Our drive to the school was an experience in itself: sumptuous green meadows and ancient forests, wild ponies and cows peacefully grazing by the roadside, and at one point a dozen donkeys strolling leisurely down our road.
Truly, a magical, unspoilt corner of the world.
Meet Polly, one of the school's 12 ponies!
This theme continues on Walhampton’s school grounds. The school’s main building, a beautiful stately home turned school, is surrounded by lush green lawns, three small lakes, an adventure playground, a forest school, stables with ponies and hundreds of trees ideal for climbing.
As is to be expected, the children spend most of their days outside. Clad in wellies and all-weather clothing they fish and sail in the lakes, climb trees, go riding one of the 12 ponies, play hide-and-seek, or help harvest fruit and veggies from the kitchen garden.
We were told that Walhampton’s school uniform was specifically designed so that pupils could climb trees in it. This sums up Walhampton in a nutshell!
Or, as English magazine Country Life aptly puts it: This is a school where mud is part of the curriculum.
The beautiful assembly hall
The Ethos and Atmosphere
Ever since headmaster Titus Mills took over Walhampton in 2014, the school has thrived. We met him for coffee and could see why: Titus is friendly, with bundles of energy and a rare, almost childlike enthusiasm. He spoke with passion about Walhampton’s mission statement, which is to impart a joy for learning.
Textures from Walhampton - a large painting of the school
Titus emphasised the equal importance of academic study and the development of character. Kids at Walhampton are taught the regular fare of maths, sciences, creative subjects, languages and humanities. But they are also taught resilience, creativity, courage, compassion, kindness and to have curious minds. All essential for a happy, successful life at school and beyond!
Textures from Walhampton: homely, warm, friendly
What about Walhampton’s atmosphere?
Walhampton does not feel like a school.
It feels like home.
From the acres of outdoor space to feel free and safe in, to the caring teachers and house parents, to the beautiful, well-kept facilities, to the delicious food and most beautiful bunk-beds we have ever seen at any boarding school (!), Walhampton really is a home from home.
The school's incentive system - kids collect stags for good behaviour and get rewards
We were also impressed by how polite the children were. Enter any classroom in Walhampton and the children stand to attention. No doubt, this has something to do with the school’s smart incentive system for good behaviour. Pupils collect so-called ‘stags’, little colourful plastic chips which they get for anything from making their beds to participating well in class. In return they receive rewards like breakfast in bed on week-ends or outings to eat pizza in nearby Lymington.
Mrs Smith giving a chemistry lesson
Walhampton’s big thing is outside learning.
On our tour through school we chanced upon a group of 7thgraders enjoying an outdoors geography lesson, building an actual river. To understand how sedimentation in rivers work, of course.
Geography is an obvious candidate for an outdoor-lesson. But how about history? Here’s where Walhampton gets really creative: re-enactments of the Battle of Trafalgar with kids in boats and uniforms, anyone? Or how about a staging of Agincourt with the school’s ponies as part of a charging cavalry?
Cynics might say that while this sounds like solid outdoors fun, it won’t get the children into Eton now will it.
Very interactive, participatory science lessons...
Wrong. Walhampton has a very good record at helping pupils to get into England’s top boarding schools. This year children got into renowned boarding schools Canford, Harrow and Marlborough. Moreover, 50% of year 8 pupils won academic, sports or drama scholarships to senior schools. That is impressive!
A typical classroom
What about children needing language or learning support? We are keeping in regular touch with parents and everyone says that the English language support is amazing. One of our children has mild dyslexia and is getting constant support for it.
Walhampton ponies in profile
Walhampton’s many outdoors pursuits are surely at the heart of things.
The most popular of these are riding and sailing. The school keeps 12 healthy, happy New Forest ponies and offers daily riding lessons. More experienced riders take the ponies on proper outings across the school’s compound.
On Saturdays, pupils take to the sailing boats on Portmore Pond. The sail boats also come into action in Walhampton’s annual Arts Festival. Pupils dress up as characters from Shakespeare plays and perform recitals from their sail boats on the lake!
Pupils build model airplanes....
But there is so much more - children have over 60 activities to choose from! Here’s but a few to mention: archery, golf, girl’s rugby (!), coding, bee-keeping, canoeing, fishing, fencing, gardening and orienteering.
...fortresses, fire engines and many more things in the design technology department
Some of the extracurriculars are extensions of the regular school curriculum. Music, theatre, art, technology and design are the most prominent of these.
For example, next to the regular music classes, 50% of pupils at Walhampton play an instrument. Also, there are choirs and an orchestra. The school’s thespian scene is vibrant, with regular school and year-group plays. Outside art classes, pupils are regularly encouraged to pursue their own creative projects in their free time. We saw some amazing collages in the arts department and some really impressive model planes in the design and technology department!
An amazing arts department!
Whatever your child is into, Walhampton is likely to offer it. But more importantly, the school will offer an infinitude of opportunities to try new things out. Unsurprisingly the kids LOVE this! One of ‘our’ pupils Alexander raved about the AI project he launched with his IT teacher and proudly told us how he had harvested his first pumpkin the other day.
A girls dorm - we LOVED the bunk beds!
The school has capacity for 60 boarders between the ages of 7 and 13. Some pupils board full time, some are flexible boarders and return home on week-ends. The school’s Walhampton Express runs weekly from London down to the school, one of the houseparents traveling backwards and forwards to escort weekly boarders.
A boys dorm- spacious, cozy, comfortable
The dorms are some of the nicest we have seen in any boarding school. Pupils are six to a room on average. They have loads of space for their things and lots of wall space to decorate (as ever, the girls make use of this, the boys hardly at all!). A key design feature of the rooms are Walhampton’s beautiful bunk beds that were specifically built for the school.
More lovely bunk beds...
Textures from Walhampton - in front of the Moore's flat
Becky and Tristan Moore, the house parents are lovely. Even from our quick visit to the boarding house it became clear how much they care for the children - with lots of love, humour, competence and patience!
The stag in the reception hall
Applying To Walhampton School
Walhampton School is non selective. Tests in maths and English are for level-setting purposes only!
Please get in touch with us via info@buloweducation if you require more information!
The beautiful school library
Some facts about Walhampton School
- 370 pupils, 211 boys,159 girls
- 60 boarders, some flexi
- 1.5 hrs from London Heathrow
- Fees: £8,670 per term