Hello from Oxfordshire!
Recently, we’ve been meeting an increasing number of families with much younger children seeking English boarding schools. As a result our weekly visits to schools now also include so-called prep-boarding schools.
What are prep boarding schools, we hear you ask?
Prep boarding schools are boarding schools for children aged 7-13. As implied by the ‘prep’ prefix, they prepare for the all-important entrance exams into the top UK senior schools. Think Eton, Sevenoaks and Wycombe Abbey.
Sounds hot-house-y? That is what we thought, too. Until we actually went and visited a few.
Yesterday we went to visit Windlesham House School. Think state-of-the art education dressed as an adventure holiday camp where you are surrounded by all your best friends 24/7.
Did we like it? No. We loved it.
Windlesham's grounds - beautiful nature as far as the eye can see
Nestled into the luscious green South Downs, one hour south from London, Windlesham is a truly stunning school with vast grounds for the children to play in.
We drove towards the main house past cricket fields, woods and the school’s own golf course. Although the weather was miserable, Windlesham’s grounds were breathtakingly beautiful.
The cozy reception area
The Ethos and Atmosphere
Windlesham’s vibe is warm family atmosphere, adventure camp busyness and understated academic ambition all rolled into one.
The children we met seemed genuinely happy and free. Academic learning is obviously taken seriously here, but the kids don’t seem lose their sense of fun and playfulness. We saw and heard a lot of chatty, laughing young people!
That said, we were surprised by how enormously well mannered the children were. At every turn, pupils held open doors for us, greeted us with a cautiously enthusiastic “how are you?” and stood to attention in class. Wow!
Befitting its rural location, the dress-code is rather informal. No school uniforms! Children still dress smartly though with collared t-shirts, clean trousers and skirts a must. Yet pragmatism reigns. After all, climbing a tree with a school tie on isn’t such a clever idea.
Committed to the environment - Green Week at Windlesham
We loved the schools strong environmental awareness it tries to impart on the children. Our tour guides spoke enthusiastically about how they help the school recycle, how the school invites external speakers to talk about nature and environmental preservation, and how initiatives like ‘green week’ foster participation.
Not just words: Windlesham lives its values!
Lastly, we spotted Windlesham’s values in the form of a poem in the entrance hall:
We are curious pupils, we love to learn,
Finding out facts in the library; or in the lab
Watching chemicals burn.
We are committed to making the best of our days,
Trying out new activities, sports, music and acting in plays.
We care about our friends and the environment too,
Looking after each other is what we must do.
We like to create pictures and objects in Art and DT,
And in English, writing descriptive prose and poetry.
We hope will all contribute to Windlesham during our time.
And then there will be much to celebrate when we cross the finishing line.
Windlesham values are there for us all,
We can use them to help us get the best out of school!
Call us cynical, but we tend to be a little wary of values statements from schools. In Windlesham’s case though our two-hours visit could not have been better evidence that the school actually lives these values.
Windlesham's dining hall - great food!
Windlesham has a strong academic reputation and the school’s success in helping pupils to places in elite boarding schools in Britain is testament to this.
Posters from the lab - science is strong here!
Last year pupils moved on to over 35 different top boarding schools including Eton College, Sevenoaks School, Wellington College, Wycombe Abbey School, Marlborough College, Cheltenham Ladies College, Brighton College, Bryanston School, Oundle School, St Mary’s Ascot and Tonbridge School.
This is commendable, especially given that Windlesham is non-selective.
The school's wonderful art department
A particular strength of the school is the broad and strong offer of extracurricular activities.
Where to begin?
Let’s start with music - 80% of pupils at Windlesham play an instrument and get to show off their skills at numerous concerts throughout the school year. Everyone can get involved though: from trying instruments like the ukulele and marimba to getting involved in the recording process, Windlesham has it covered. We met the very nice Head of Music Mr Fitt, who is the driving force behind it all.
The school's equally wonderful D&T department
As you’d expect the creative arts are very strong. We got to visit the arts and DT departments, both of which were hives of activity - producing some genuinely fine pieces of art and design!
Our tour guides raved about cookery school! They had baked gluten-free, sugar-free chocolate cookies the day before and had recently staged their own version of the Great British Bake-off.
And yet, sports seems to pip them all to top spot - cricket, swimming (the new pool is the most beautiful we’ve seen at a school!), football, judo, fencing, riding, tennis, dance and even polo is on offer here. Very strong!
Needless to say, the children are kept very, very busy here!
A girls' room
Pupils can board from the age of 7 and about 50% of pupils at Windlesham do so.
We were shown both boys and girls dorms and both varieties were very cozy with colourful duvets, stuffed animals and posters creating a really homely feel.
A boys' room
Boys share with a maximum of 11 others. Girls with a maximum of 9. The average is 6 pupils to a room.
Windlesham has a no-smartphone-policy which we fully support. There are normal phones that pupils can and do use to call home.
Phone boxes, no smart phones - one of many land-line phones
Applying to Windlesham
Windlesham school is non-selective. The school expects a one-night taster stay for pupils intending to join. We feel that the this is a win-win request as potential joiners will get a good sense for what living at Windlesham is like.
Some facts about Windlesham
- 350 pupils
- 150 boarders
- One hour from London and London airports
- Boarding fees/term 2018/19: £9299
- Website: https://www.windlesham.com
If you want to find out more, please get in touch with us!
Yours von Bülow Education