Sunninghill Prep School V's Knighton House V's Castle Court

(41 Posts)
KAHsch Tue 13-Nov-12 21:22:40


I have been avidly reading threads on this site and found everyones comments very helpful.

We are looking for an independent school for our 7 year old daughter next year entering prep. She loves ponies, art, music and is generally very creative. She seems to enjoy and cope with the academics but really her passion is seems to be in the arts. She is not especially sporty but does enjoy riding.

We have been to see Knighton House and loved it. We are considering all our options so also viewing Castle Court and Sunninghill Prep School.

I have read the other threads about Castle Court, some of which are quite out of date. I wondered if anyone had any recent experience of Forms 2/3/4 and what their thoughts are? I hear there is a new head at Castle Court, is he liked? We are viewing Castle Court this week.

I have heard Sunninghill is a very friendly school but the headmaster is growing the school 'too quickly' and it has been causing some dissatisfaction with long term families leaving? I have been told it is in a period of aggressive recruitment and main focus is on bringing the numbers in. Does anyone know whether this is the case? No plans to view Sunninghill yet but prob will as to do our diligence.

Knighton House seemed so lovely, sounds like they get the results whilst keeping them as children for as long as possible. I am not wild on Saturday school however.

I guess we will find out this week but does Castle Court or Sunninghill have Saturday school?

Has anyone experienced two of the schools and can compare or any of the schools. I feel like the longer we look the harder it becomes.

Many thanks in advance!

DorsetKnob Tue 13-Nov-12 21:30:24

Sunninghill is right slap bang in the middle of Dorchester, not sure if it has Saturday school but don't think it does. Your options seem to be pretty spread out are their any others you have thought about? Leweston might be an option for you as well although my cousin took her daughter out of it. Sunninghill has the advantage of feeding on to Thomas Hardy which is a very good state school in Dorchester.

DorsetKnob Tue 13-Nov-12 21:31:26

My friends son was in pre prep at Sunninghill and she loved it but they have moved.

KAHsch Tue 13-Nov-12 21:41:06


Our options are all a 30 min journey max. Leweston being a girls school possibly should be a consideration although it is a 45 mins away.

Leweston does seem to have an excellent reputation for the senior school. I did take a look at the video but it just looked so boring and we are not catholic. Why did your cousin remove her daughter? What age was she and was this recently as was also told they have a new head. I have stated the hunt now for next Sept so plenty of time to view them all!

We will most likely use independent secondary and so good preparation for common entrance is essential. Our closest feeder secondary schools are Canford and Bryanston thus the schools mentioned. Please tell me if I have missed any considerations!

TheBigKidsDidIt Tue 13-Nov-12 22:37:26

Hi KAH. I can highly recommend Castle Court - the 'new' head is brilliant, devoted, highly professional and good fun! I don't have direct experience of the forms you mention though. The school feeds to Camford, Bryanston and Clayesmore in the main as well as local grammars. Feel free to pm me if you want to chat more.

CC has guinea pigs, pigs, chickens, vegetable gardens, and is a Forest School - they go into the woods and make dens. What we like is that it's not just about academia (though that is taken v seriously) but enjoyment. There is a culture of being kind and polite - I was quite taken aback on Open Days with how many children said hello, stood aside for me or opened doors! (wasn't like that in my day)

sailorsgal Wed 14-Nov-12 09:25:48

Sunninghill School doesn't have Saturday School. I am happy to talk to you. Please PM me. smile

KAHsch Wed 14-Nov-12 11:06:41

Castle court does sound lovely! Manners are so important, often over looked.

No saturday school is much more at our speed. Weekends are important family time. That said Knighton House was very precious, exactly the type of school I would have loved as a child! So still in the running...

Thank you for the kind offers of PM thebigkidsdidit and sailorsgal, when I am further along I may take you up on them smile

sailorsgal Wed 14-Nov-12 12:09:51

Most prep schools in my experience have a big emphasis on manners so not unusual to have kids open doors for you. My experience of Castle Court is a bit out of date but it used to be a lovely school. I do have knowledge of one of the schools mentioned in your op but would rarther not post it here. You will probably find positives and negatives for most schools and it is best to look at all and choose from there. Is Sherborne prep too far for you? Excellent feeder for the senior schools.

KAHsch Wed 14-Nov-12 21:08:32

Sherborne prep was a consideration, having spoken with the school there are 7 boys but only 2 girls in Year 2. DD doesn't really play with boys and so not a real consideration sad

TheBigKidsDidIt Wed 14-Nov-12 22:24:45

CC has no Saturday school. Forgot to say that. There is a preponderance of boys in ds year - but marginal. Feel free to pm as you progress!

TheBigKidsDidIt Wed 14-Nov-12 22:25:36

Sailorsgal - do you know anything about Canford/Bryanston v Sherborne? Sorry to grab the thread KAH!

DorsetKnob Thu 15-Nov-12 07:47:38

My nephews were/are at Bryanston and all seem to be loving it. Was talking to a couple whose daughters were/are at Canford and said it was very bitchy with the girls there, it could just be that there seem to be a smaller amount of girls in the year or a particularly bad year for bitchiness.

sailorsgal Thu 15-Nov-12 09:07:29

TheBigKidDitIt. I have messaged you. grin

sailorsgal Thu 15-Nov-12 21:28:21

I wonder whether you had looked at Clayesmore?

TheBigKidsDidIt Thu 15-Nov-12 21:40:18

Thanks sailorsgal.

DorsetKnob - thanks for that too. I have boys thank goodness - well as far as the bitchy bit goes. Bryanston looks like the most beautiful school ever (shallow).

alwaysworking Sat 17-Nov-12 10:10:58

when we went round knighton the headmistress didn't seem to know which year the class was never mind what the children's names were. it left me feeling rather concerned that the place didn't "seem right".

facilities looked lovely though and mine was very attracted by the ponies but we put her into another one you mention above and she is happier than at any other time in her education.

the video might have looked boring but the school really isn't. it's definitely not as twee though so it's horses for courses.

SoggySummer Tue 20-Nov-12 23:14:05

Have you looked at Hanford?

sproingle Thu 22-Nov-12 21:49:22

Have you looked at Yarrells? Lovely school. Slightly more girls than boys there and no Saturday School.

Also Dumpton might be worth a look but I don't know much about it.

sailorsgal Thu 22-Nov-12 22:51:31

Dumpton would be my choice if it wasn't too far away.

KAHsch Mon 26-Nov-12 19:31:39

Does anyone have any direct experience of Knighton House? Will look at Dumpton, thanks.

mjm7 Tue 27-Nov-12 20:22:59

If you're considering Castle Court which in many ways is a lovely school make sure you are aware of and happy with the evangelical ethos there.

PurpleHeadedMountain Tue 27-Nov-12 22:58:55

mjm7 - no evangelical ethos there currently. It's a Christian school, yes, they pray at the end of the day to say goodbye but no evangelising. I heard that was the case in the past.

Hettiehen Wed 28-Nov-12 09:40:34

Just caught this thread. Definately no strong evangelical ethos at Castle Court now - that was the old head. It is a Christian school, with assemblies, grace before meals etc but no heavy handed approach. I love the fact at Castle Court that my child is a child, comes home muddy and dirty from the woods, but also supported in the classroom so achieving there as well. I know that there is a riding club at school, and riding is an option on a Wednesday so plenty of chances to be a little girl with ponies if that is what your dd likes! Also when you visited the school did you see the art around the place done by the children? Amazing .... if only I had that talent! Oh yes, and defninatly no Saturday school. Good luck with your decision making.

garden3 Sat 08-Dec-12 11:11:49

Our experience of CC could not be more positive, children are nurtured, happy.

There is emphasis is on good manners, being a kind, thoughtful to others, speaking nicely and respecting each other.

We as a family are not actively religious but our experience is positive, it is not stifling and appreciate the values that the school permeates, we have certainly noticed a huge improvement how our children converse at home!

The head is very friendly, visual and effective.

Our middle daughter much like yours is very artistic, enjoys music and sports. She is very well catered for. The D&T facility is loved by both children, teachers are exceptional, committed and again effective. The musical and artistic talents in the school are exceptional.

The IT and sports facilities are outstanding. The forest school means that environment and nature is integrated into all areas of learning. No getting on a bus to do den building or a nature walk. There are several science labs and two fantastic and recently updated computer suites.

Our youngest enjoys the multiple playgrounds, guinea pigs, chickens, pet pigs. All the classrooms from age 2 and upward have interactive whiteboards and multiple desktop computers (about 5) per classroom in addition to the IT suite. There are class pets and good quality outdoor toys. Lower school teachers are at the right level and our little one who finds everything scary comes home relaxed and happy.

The forest school is a real added extra. Our children have lots of outdoor space at home but they spend a great deal of time at school and it seems that cc are aware there are more ways to learning something than being sat in a classroom. They understand children are children and do not expect them to be anything else, they encourage fun, underpinned by good manners and understand that happy children learn.

frome Tue 11-Dec-12 16:48:41

It is true that Sunninghill has increased dramatically which has caused some dissatification as it just cannot accommodate the amount of pupils. Some say standards have dropped and yes some long term families have left. It has also taken on either unqualified staff or teachers newly qualified which some parents are not happy with. I know some parents moved their children to other schools in the area. Sherborne/Dumpton/Perrot Hill.

GSSEG Fri 04-Jan-13 19:50:45

Sunninghill has increased its numbers, but due to popular demand, but as a parent I can honestly say, it remains a very family friendly school. Due to the increased numbers class sizes have not been effected as the school has invested considerably in building new classrooms and creating two form entry in some years. Due to the rise in numbers additional staff have been recruited all of whom are fully qualified.I am not sure how the rumour has started that some of the teachers are not qualified! Some of the new staff, are very experienced and are strengthening the senior team, whilst a newly qualified teacher has brought great ideas, is very creative and enthusiastic. My children really enjoy the energy the younger teacher brings and it complements the skills and experience of senior teachers.
Really would advise any parent to come and have a look at the school and make their own judgements.

frome Fri 04-Jan-13 20:56:17

There have been no new classrooms built. A hall is now a classroom which is not the same thing. It holds two classes.

frome Sat 05-Jan-13 09:55:40

It was never said that the teachers were not qualified. Please reread the post. smile It is possible for any private school to hire inexperienced/unqualified staff as it is not a requirement. They don't have to follow the same procedures as state schools. Two other independent schools have closed in the area so yes the demand for places has increased. Local state schools are excellent but most are at full capacity.

I have friends whose children were at Sunninghill and they did thrive there. Of course any prospective parent should look around and make up their own minds on whats best for their children.

Just another thought is to where your child will go onto after prep school. Quite a high number of Sunninghill pupils do choose to go onto Thomas Hardye the local comprehensive which has an excellent reputation.

Lollybrolly Sat 12-Jan-13 21:30:31

Is Hanford in your area? I have friends who sent their daughters there. Really lovely girls and although now much older speak so fondly of their time at Hanford.

Obviously things may have changed with time (they are at Uni now) but perhaps worth a look, if you are still at the weeding them out stage.

Sparky3 Mon 15-Apr-13 11:31:31

My daughter has been at Knighton House since reception and is now about to start her last term there. I have found it a very warm and friendly school which succeeded all my expectations and more. The teaching staff do a very thorough job and teach children as individuals which I believe is very important in a prep school. There has never been any major bullying incidents while she has been there. Although a few hiccups which the pastoral staff quickly dealt with. Whilst Saturday school can be seen as a extra effort, Knighton Saturday school can include the whole family inviting them to weekly church services and frequent matches. Boarding is a very enjoyable experience and my daughter describes it as a home from home. Would thoroughly recommend Knighton House.

lulaloon Mon 15-Apr-13 15:33:43

I second Hanford, especially if your dd is horsey

KnightonMum Mon 22-Apr-13 11:30:44

I would just add that it's all about personal choice so would urge anyone to visit Knighton to gain an insight into the warm, friendly, caring school it is. Girls are impeccably mannered, nurtured and stretched academically. Leaver destinations this year include scholarships for Malborough and Bryanston to name but two. Music and riding are heartily encouraged for all. 'Come and see' is what I would say and you will know instantly. Hope that helps!

letsgetrealmums Fri 05-Jul-13 01:08:45

I have to agree with everyone who mentioned Hanford. I went there and so did my daughter and things have not changed a bit. It is the only school I have ever ever heard of that provides the most natural upbringing for a child. Honestly it is just astounding. The environment is brilliant with everyone waking up for early morning rides across the countryside and taking initiative is naturally introduced. You create your own houses out of wood etc. Honestly I just couldn't recommend this school enough! I went back to visit it the other day with my friend (also from Hanford) and had an hour long chat individually with most of the teachers (most of whom haven't changed since I was there) as they just wanted to talk and to see what I had done in my life. You just couldn't wish for anything better for both parents and pupils as firm friendships are created all around. Truly I cannot begin to express the joy it brought me going there.

Academically as well, it is incredibly impressive. An incredibly high percentage each year of girls get scholarships to schools such as Bryanston, St Marys Shaftesbury, Malborough, St Marys Ascot, Sherborne etc. I would honestly be prepared to say that there just isn't another school like it.

KnightonMum Thu 19-Sep-13 11:28:16

Hi KAHsch are you still looking for a prep school? If so, Knighton House Open Day is on October 12th. I would advise you to go along and see the school.

Stoppicking Wed 25-Sep-13 08:11:45

I loved Sunninghill but that was many years ago and only for a term. But still my most fond memories of school!

Have you considered Talbot Heath? Then you have a good school the whole way through.

Lizzzar Tue 15-Oct-13 03:07:11

I'd say Hanford. Supposed to have a friendly and family like atmosphere, quite creative girls , lots of outdoors (climbing trees etc) and ponies to ride. Good record for entry to well known schools, particularly in the West Country, eg Sherborne girls and Bryanston.

Gilbertus Tue 15-Oct-13 16:33:34

Hanford lovely but quite eccentric and a friend removed dd because of bullying.

Lizzzar Wed 16-Oct-13 02:47:54

Might not be ideal then, I agree. I do think that bullying can be very damaging and that schools should have clear bullying policies.

Carlysimonsings Sun 18-May-14 11:31:33

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feelingold42 Mon 19-May-14 11:34:59

I am afraid i have to disagree with the last post i have children at the school, especially the religion comment and losing good staff they have fantastic teachers ......i dont know where you heard the head was on the move but i sincerely hope not because he is brilliant !!

Carlysimonsings Fri 23-May-14 10:30:24

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