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

(43 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I have read the other threads about Castle Court, some of which are quite out of date.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.

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