Prep schools for boys near Guildford - any views on Lanesborough, Downsend, Parkside, Claremont Fan Court, Cranmore(34 Posts)
I'm currently looking for a Prep school for my son to start next Sept and would be interested in any views on the above schools, particularly regarding their reputation in sports, bullying, academic results, types of people it attracts, co-ed vs single sex schools, etc. Am also worried about the commute as we live in Burpham (Guildford). We have got some tours planned with these schools but wanted the inside track on them before making up our minds. We need to decide in the next few weeks. Any help, greatly appreciated.
Some advice would be greatly appreciated. I have three children. Eldest age 9 at 'outstanding' local state school (the ' ' might give you some indiction that I am questioning Ofsted's assessment !), Middle 7 year old is at GHS and youngest boy also at state school mentioned above. I am really unhappy with the state school. Staff turnover currently running at 50% yet no-one appears to be questioning this and continues to rehash the 'outstanding' assessment score when I question the quality of education. My neighbour was also a TA at the school and lasted 8 mths - she said that she couldn't work in such an unhappy place. My 5 year old isn't unhappy but certainly doesn't bounce to school like he used to. His teacher looks pre-pubescent but I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt and guess that he is about 22 and fresh from the classroom where he was sitting at the other side of the desk !!. So, we are thinking of taking my youngest out and seeing if we can get him a place at Lanesborough (Guildford). His sister is at GHS (just moved from state school) so perfect location wise. I was wondering if anyone could give me some inside info on what the school is like. My son is athletic and pretty bright (...although getting his socks on this morning might suggest otherwise :-). Any thoughts? FYI - we are hoping that my 9 yr old will also go to GHS but no places currently. Many thanks,
I know of one person who gave up a place at GHS at the very last minute because they got a State school place they preferred. So I'd probably go for the waiting list. (I do know several teachers at Hoe Bridge, who all seem to love the school.)
Hi PHS, the waiting list, I think, is a good sign - although if Cranmore weren't adding an extra class I'm sure they'd have one as well (they told us 2 out of 3 classes were full, that was a few weeks ago). And obviously Lanesborough don't have one at this point because they do assessments. Did you ask how many children were on the waiting list? I've heard that there is normally quite a lot of movement, as people move away and as some people actually pay the deposit for several school places. There may be more hope than you think! But I take your point about the uncertainty etc.
Hi Auroborea, we visited Hoe Bridge school and were delighted with the way they run things. A lovely community split into 3 buildings - there's a pre-Prep self contained building, a middle school building and then a senior school building. We were particularly impressed with the Headmaster who tracks the academic progress from yr 3 (7-8 yr olds) and can usually tell by yr4 what type of academic trend the child will show until age 13. He also has very good insight into the Senior Schools so is able to advise and recommend the Senior School based on the culture of that school and your child's personality. They rate themselves on a par with Lanesborough and seem to have a strong focus on art and music. Don't get put off by the porta cabin style music wing that is near the sports grounds as we weren't shown that. Instead, they have another music room full of keyboards in the middle building and out of a school of 500, 180 do music seriously; there seems to be a lot of drama productions too. The pre-prep school also teaches cursive from Day 1 which is good. It has a lovely play area at the back which many types of playground frames, etc. They only teach French from yr 1 and the s/w pool is outdoors. It obviously doesn't have the facilities of Cranmore (at HB, assemblies are in the gymn and in the pre-prep a room doubles up as assembly/canteen/gymn) but the Headmaster is very much focused on making sure the children have a good time and that it's not all academic work. There is a waiting list for pre-prep, not sure about prep but you could ask. Girls and boys do everything from woodwork to textiles to pottery, etc. If it weren't for the waiting list and the fact they can't guarantee a place until they offer you one, i.e. registering and paying the deposit doesn't guarantee you anything as it's first come first served, we would go there. Even if we name the school as our #1, they go through the wait list in date order and you may not be offered anything or offered something at the very last moment which by then, you'll have had to reserve a place in another school. Too much pfaff. It's strange that there are no wait lists at any other private school but this one. Not sure if that's good or bad.
Wow, PHS, thank you for the really detailed reviews - it's like reading a personalized version of the Good Schools Guide (in a good sense)! Poor you - that sounds like an awful journey to pick up your DS from Dorking in the snow, and it's putting me off Belmont! Although, as you say, at least they have the facilities there to put up the children overnight if necessary... Downsend sounds lovely, shame it's so far in the opposite direction to my work (I'm based at the university). We do like Lanesborough, and the cursive handwriting bit is impressive (something we also like about Longacre, where it starts in Kindergarden). I'll be looking forward to hearing what you think of Cranmore, as so many aspects of it are appealing (not least the fact that it's the closest one), but others are worrying...
Thanks Auroborea. We did about 6 months ago and were impressed with the Prep layout but not the senior bit - maybe it was the facilities in places, e.g. outdoor swimming pool, boys woodwork area not great, etc. I do agree that it's in a wonderful setting. Last January when the snow came down, my DS was still in nursery in Dorking (I used to work there) and it took me 6 hours to get anywhere near Dorking because they had closed the Newlands Corner road so I had to go on the Leatherhead by-pass. I didn't get into Dorking until 10pm (he was the last to be picked up) and so put off by the commute (although if he gets really stuck, it does offer boarding from age 7). We've been to see Parkside, Downsend, Lanesborough (not senior bit) and Claremont Fan Court. Surprisingly Parkside suffererd from the M25 noise just as much as Downsend - you could see the M25 traffic clearly from both schools. Downsend (both the Leatherhead Lodge and the Main Site) really impressed me as the Main Site Headmaster knew every child's name, what instrument they studies, what exams they were doing, etc. He was down to earth and very easy to talk to. The Main Site has a real buzzy feel to it, lots of room to play around (children were playing cards on the outdoor tables, playing in the tennis courts, etc) and the Headmaster asked me to pick which classes to walk into. It had a lovely feel to it. The Main Site is really well organised into little communities (most senior, middle) and then the Junior has its own enclosed little communities for different age groups at Leatherhead Lodge. Leatherhead Lodge was lovely and teaches French from age 3 in addition to regular swimming, drama, PE, music, etc sessions, so there is something on every day of the week. Slight drawbacks to Leatherhead Lodge are: canteen very small and in the basement with one long but high window (there are two rooms). The other general drawbacks to both sites are: commute from Guildford (at least 25 mins) and the expense of school after care (£10 per day per session) + after school clubs (from age 7) which have charges in addition to the overall school fees; there is a school minibus from Green Deene which takes 20 mins and they do provide many weeks of holiday care. Whereas Parkside fees include the majority of after school clubs except for specialist external coach/tuition. Parkside is a much smaller community than its propectus suggests (photo makes the school look very large) - had less outdoor play equipment but large fields (as many as Downsend); to get to the swimming pool and sports areas there is a walk whereas in Downsend it was very near and the s/w pool in Downsend was part of the main building; at Leatherhead Lodge we were shown around by current parents who were using Leatherhead Lodge and the Main Site. S/w pool at Parkside looked a little forlorn but does the trick; canteen a little bare. There is no main Assembly Hall, just a room used in the main building. However, many of the classrooms were recently built in new blocks; 3 computer rooms, good artwork; didn't see any cooking facilities for children (there was a cookery room in Downsend) and a textile/art room but not many woodwork machines. Headmaster also down to earth, someone you could easily talk to but didn't show the same family familiarity as the Headmaster at Downsend. Downside - the long commute but the school is based in a leafy suburb. Parkside do lend their grounds to an external company called Baracudas which offer holiday care (8 weeks summer, some days/full week at Easter); after school care is until 5pm although the Headmaster has sent out a questionnaire to look at after school care until 6pm. Fees are the same as Downsend except that they include most after school clubs. Lanesborough Junior Site is compact but thriving - the most impressive part is that they teach cursive handwriting almost from Day 1. As the senior part is also quite compact, it is a very small community - two pitches, one astro pitch, etc so the boys would get to know each other well. Claremont Fan Court had beautiful grounds like Belmont and although the Junior section looks a little "porta cabin" it has its own small enclosed community with its own gymn that serves as Assembly Hall as well as canteen; staff very nice. However, the after school care is not great, i.e. very small building with one small room and one kitchen/breakfast area with table. We saw the Senior section and it has great art facilities (the only school to still do chemical photo printing as well as digital print; had a good cookery class and good sized teaching rooms although may be draughty in winter as apart from Music, Drama, Sciences, most lessons are taught in the Main Building. Only main drawback was that the Headmaster in his address as well as main staff looked like Accountants (we didn't get the sense that they would be sensitive). They also lend their grounds to "Camp Beaumont" which provides a wide range of sporty holiday care. We will continue to visit another two schools and let you know what we find. We'll have to make up our minds soon though.
Have you made any decisions, PHS? We went to an open morning at Belmont in Holmbury St Mary today - if you haven't been yet, might be worth considering? It's got such an idyllic setting and a lovely outdoorsy ethos, and the sport facilities are good (as are drama and music facilities). Plus we got the impression that it is nurturing (very small classes). They do a bus that goes from Horse and Groom in Merrow, and from January it's going to run in both directions. Lots of Guildford families, apparently (we met a few). If anybody has any experience of the school, I would be keen to hear your views.
Thanks for the suggestions on Feltonfleet, St. Andrews and St. George's Junior. I've heard good reports on St. Andrews and St. George's Junior. I'm not very keen on Feltonfleet as they haven't bothered to update their website for a long time. Also, as it's a boarding school (I grew up in one), there's always some discrimination against day pupils - not intentional but because the boarders do so much together and the day pupils can't share in those activities. St. George's looks like a horrible commute since it's past Weybridge centre. St. Andrews' commute looks equally awful since you have to go through Woking. I'd be interested to hear if anyone has any more views on Cranmore in terms of culture, etc. Our DS is also fairly sensitive but keen on sports.
RGS is becoming much harder to get into all round. More boys want to go and the pass mark is getting ever higher. Lanesborough never was a straight feeder school for RGS, I have known boys not get in from there for years at 11, and sometimes only scrape in at 11 (these boys have graduated Uni by now). Sports for RGS seem fine. Lanesborough does have quite a cramped site, and not the facilities of other schools (playing fields the same or less than my DCs state school, although they do spend more time on sport).
The comments about rgs are a bit odd tbh.
Rgs has a decent sports record with rugby boys getting into the Harlequins academy and the under 18 England team. I watched one of dss friends turn out for Quins last season.
Cricket is a bit weak but hockey is fine and the range of sports available is huge.
Where RGS get left behind some other schools is that, unlike schools like Whitgift, they don't get sports scholars. There are no sporting scholarships so the boys are just the 11plus intake.
And Lanesborough is no longer a feeder school. That pretty much died out under the last Headmaster and the new Head give no preference at all to Lanesborough. Entry is totally based upon academic excellence.
I'd like to know the answer to the Cranmore question as well. We are really in two minds about it. The facilities are fantastic and the academic record is very good, but we are not sure whether whether it's nurturing enough for a gentler, sensitive, bookish soul like our DS. They are also going up to a three-class intake this year, so they will be even bigger then they are now... Consequences...?
I would also look at FeltonFleet before Claremont personally, and maybe St Andrews? Or even St George's junior school?
We have looked at Longacre and from Burpham it looks an awful journey and would take me in the opposite direction to work. I heard back from Hoe Bridge today and there is already a waiting list for entry for next Sept which means we can't depend on Hoe Bridge; their nursery is also fully booked right now so that isn't an option either. So we're back to the drawing board and will now visit the other schools (Parkside, Downsend, Claremont Fan Court). Does anyone have any other views on Cranmore, i.e. we know it has a good academic reputation and sports are good but do the boys enjoy themselves or is it all push? Does anyone know whether Claremont or Hoe Bridge provide any holiday activities? We know Cranmore, Parkside and Downsend do. We know Lanesborough don't but can't tell about Claremont or Hoe Bridge.
Of course the other downside of Longacre for boys in particular is that it only goes to Yr 6 meaning a move to another prep school for 2 years if you want to go to a 13+ senior school. Many boys leave Longacre at 7 for this reason
Longacre does do a bus from Guildford but I agree with others that socially you will find yourself constantly in the car. IME the parent profile at Longacre tends to the monied end
How about Belmont, is that too far to consider? We haven't been to see it yet, but I've heard that they do a minibus from Merrow.
Lots of boys I know from Lanesborough do not go to RGS. (Usually because they'd struggle to meet the Maths requirement). Quite a few go on to St John's Leatherhead and so on, and the odd one goes to Eton.
Lots of working mums at Cranmore maybe not quite as much as Lanesborough but you get more of a family feel as a result - quite good after school care provision and holiday provision, far better than at Lanesborough where you have to collect them by 4pm.
Longacre I have heard good things but from Burpham playdates are going to be tricky. Journey doable but not much fun in the winter. Not convinced from what I have heard that Longacre is very sporty but you could move them (and have a further commute) to Cranleigh at age 7.
Given you have to work I would look at where the schools are - Cranmore does a school bus from Guildford, Hoe Bridge you are on the edge of Woking , Longacre well....
We are in the same position and in addition to the other schools we are also considering Longacre. A few very helpful MNers mentioned it, and we went to visit the school. We were really overwhelmed by the genuine warmth and the friendliness, and very much liked the new head and the teachers there. We are on the Burpham edge of Merrow, but the journey is doable as you can cut through Chilworth and avoid the morning traffic. The facilities don't compare to Cranmore, of course, but there are other things to compensate.
Which schools are you hoping to move onto for secondary? Lanesborough is very much a feeder for RGS which is a love it or loathe it school. Very academic, rather eccentric and bookish - right up our street but if my sons were sporty I'd think twice.
Thanks for all the feedback. I think we've now narrowed it down to Hoe Bridge, Cranmore and Lanesborough. Our son appears to be quite sporty so that may rule out Lanesborough (we have a visit booked in a few weeks' time). We heard Cranmore has great facilities and does well academically but are a bit worried as to whether it's caring enough and if they make the lessons enjoyable. We don't want it to be all push and no enjoyment. From Hoe Bridge's website, we got a real feeling for caring, nurturing though facilities aren't as good and not as wide a range of sport available as with Cranmore. As a working Mum we also want to be able to mix well with other parents and we heard that most of Cranmore's Mums don't work (not that it should matter).
I think with any prep school you need to ask where the kids go on leaving- this will give you the best steer on where it lies in the academic scheme of things (knowing which senior schools require higher common entrance pass rate helps for this) Prep schools job is to PREPARE for senior school entry and if they get the children into schools of patents choice they are at least doing that part of the job well!
I know a few boys that have/tried to move to the Lanesborough from Hoe Bridge looking for a more academic school. Plenty happy with Hoe Bridge though. Ripley Court closer but have heard very mixed reports about the headmaster you seem to hate him or love him.
I know zillions of people who've put boys through Hoe Bridge. My DD1 was there till she was 7, but she is now 17 so it's hardly up to date information. We moved her because the prep was too boyish for her, which I think is largely still true but less so than it was. It seems better for support of things like dyslexia than some, def less academic than some, lots of different things to do and I think is generally quite caring - new head has been there just over a year, I think. I know of one boy, not specially good or bad at anything, who's got a bit lost in the crowd. I can't think of anyone i know who's moved a boy (rather than a girl) because they were dissatisfied with the school As Such, although obviously I know some who were moved because they had serious issues of some sort or another (autism, severe behavioural problems, etc). I think if you want an academically respectable but not massively pushy traditional type of school, it does what it says on the tin. Most children who go there live in Woking, so be prepared to get to know the A320 very well indeed, but the journey won't be too bad if he's prep age and has to be there by 8.15 - if he's pre-prep age and only has to be there later, the journey would be worse. Go and have a look!
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