London prep for very sporty DD(38 Posts)
I have to start thinking about which prep school to look at for DD and am finding it hard to find in-depth information on school sports for girls at various schools. We're only renting by the way and could move for the right school, though I have a preference for Central / SW London.
Our daughter is extremely sporty and very talented, a little gymnast and acrobat basically, always climbing, running and doing lots of things years before others figure them out. She loves ball games, climbing, running, dancing, scooting, anything really.
I've looked at our local state school and they provide one hour PE per week so that's absolutely out of the question. They say Hill House is good for sporty children and they do sports every day but I don't they do fixtures and am not sure if they really do sports at a "professional" level at some point, plus facilities are not great so I am not sure if they can move at all outside of their games.
Then lots of preps only offer the usual rounders / netball / swimming / tennis for girls whereas I'd like to see a wider range including athletics, football, gymnastics if possible. Academically, I like Ken Prep and I like their facilities but I heard they're much better for music and arts than for sports. Would Putney High be a good choice? Is further out like LEH better? Any other ideas? Maybe Highgate (although on their website is looks like athletics is only offered for boys?)?
any ideas welcome!
I am not sure what you are looking for exists in Central London, unfortunately. From what I've seen people who want to have a lot of sport take their kids to places other than school to practice. Have seen it with gymnastics, fencing, judo, tennis, etc. Mostly girls schools would have a swimming and a netball team and those kids join only from Y3, so in early years it's up to you.
Bute has good sports facilities and has several teams in various sports that kids get selected for. However, their normal schedule does not have sports every day. Same in other schools, as far as I have seen/or hear.
Schools outside of central London should be better at that - LEA comes to mind. Also Harrodian has a reputation for being quite sporty, but not terribly academic.
Have a look at Latymer Under - it only from 7+ but I heard they invested in new sports facilities
Unsurprisingly, the central London preps have less facilities than those with more spacious sites in outer London. For example, LEH, which you mention has a large green site, a pool, sports hall, netball and tennis courts and daily sport on offer in the prep and an excellent reputation for sport. In senior school, girls can make use of the rowing facilities from the boat house shared with neighbouring Hampton, fencing is on offer as well as usual sports. But no hockey - it's all lacrosse. So if you want access to those sorts of facilities look outside zone 4. Surbiton High also has a great reputation for sport, as dies Newland House in Twickenham.
Kingston Grammar takes their sport very very seriously, and unlike some of the other co-eds, girls sport is very definitely on an equal footing with boys. However it is 11+. Surbiton High is also good, particularly gymnastics and hockey. LEH is well thought of but no hockey, a pity as hockey is probably the most accessible Club sport for girls.
With these exceptions, school sport tends not to be brilliant and most sport happens outside school.
Go and have a look at Newton Prep in Battersea. It has a massive Astroturf, 2 gyms and a large specialist PE staff.
The head of PE is a passionate advocate of girls' sport - they play tag rugby and cricket as well as everything else!
You're unlikely to find high level gymnastics in a school - tht's one discipline for which you will need to find a club.
Have you looked at the Thomas group of schools? Perhaps Broomwood House would be worth a look too.
Have a look for schools competing at a high level nationally , IAPS might be a useful source as well as sport specific organisations www.bsga.org/ , www.british-gymnastics.org/clubs/schools/competitions , www.esaa.net/ etc . Would agree that gym can be tricky in schools level though as they rarely have the curriculum time , specialist equipment and coaches and don't think girls' football is widely played in private schools.
I have very very sporty children who are all at prep schools (outside London) and for national and regional level you need to go to a club. Unless you choose Millfield :-). Honestly, you will get better coaching and access to development pathways etc through clubs. EVen sporty preps spread themselves thin. The only specialist gym school I know is probably Port Regis in Dorset but even then the really good ones are at clubs.
St Mary's Hampstead is particularly good at gym, but also does tennis, hockey, netball, football, cricket, athletics, swimming and diving, dance and rounders.
If you are interested in high level sport, especially outside of traditional school team sports, you are best off looking for schools with club links. Eg that the Club uses school facilities and provides the extra training outside of school hours. The school in return is sympathetic to the demand of the sport on pupils. Eg Surbiton High and the Heathrow Gymnastics Club.
I agree with looking at IAPs performance. The very fact that a school enters, indicates their interest in supporting a sport. Some of the Central London schools, for example, take swimming quite seriously, and employ good specialist coaches. Presumably because without playing fields, this is an easier sport to do well.
thanks so much for all the information and suggestions, this is excellent. Didn't know about Surbiton High, that definitely looks really good! Was hoping there is somewhere more central but I guess due to lack of space and facilities it's very hard. We might also go for the club route suggested here - I wonder how people do it really with girls busy at school till 4 and then they still have to do homework, how many after school activities can they really do outside of school without getting exhausted? It would be so much nicer if a school could just integrate it as part of the day! I like the sound of Newton Prep as well and will check it out. Am visiting Thomas's soon so that's on our list. I see their girls playing hockey at least.
Sanam - the girls are just very busy if doing homework and after school activities. They don't have time for playdates, park visits, downtime. Their social life becomes the after school activity IYSWIM. However, if they enjoy it and achieve at it, they think it's worth it. My DD has many friends outside school through swimming (agree with Needsmoresleep that swimming is an easy one for schools to focus on) which is lovely or you get stuck in the microcosm of one private school! You will become very good at organising her life, making sandwiches for her to eat on the run and driving fast to get from one place to the other in the rush hour!!
All the bigger preps will play the major sports but the ones South of the River have more scope to go into Surrey for fixtures to schools with more space (at least I know the boys do for cricket, rugby etc) - I would hope the girls get the same opportunities. I think sport at Thomas's is pretty good - when I see them in the park there are always lots of loud coaches standing around drilling the boys and girls!! When going round your list of schools, enquire about tour opportunities, squad practices, how many teams they put out for each age group and how often, number of specialist sports teachers, saturday fixtures etc - these answers tell you where sport fits into the food chain at that school!
DD is at Surbiton Juniors. Gymnastic is part of the PE rotation, but they probably onle do it for one term a year. The gymnastics after school club is over subscribed and girls are only able to attend at best every other term. They have limited facilities and it just isn't possible to fit everyone in. There is no proper sports hall at Surbiton, they have tried to get planning permission at the sports ground but it is constantly refused. Serious gymnasts join Spelthorne or Heathrow and do not attend the school clubs at all. Many of them are already doing 20 hours a week at Y6, they wouldn't have time for the school club and it wouldn't be good enough. DD isn't serious but always did recreational gymnastics at Tolworth because she couldn't get a place at the school club.
Generally any co-ed will devote more curriculum time to sport at prep school age and will have better facilities. If I were in your shoes centrally I would look at Thomas school and Hill House, coming SW Harrodian and Ibstock. People get snotty about The Harrodian academically but it has fantastic sports facilities, the Independent Schools Football Association use it as a base. Don't know Newton but there are some lovely boys from there at senior school with DS.
But I agree with previous posters that anyone playing a sport to a high level is at a club whatever the sport. If your DD looks like a serious gymnast this is something you may want to bear in mind because as she gets older she will not get the full benefit of the facilities you are paying for.
I just looked at the Heathrow Gymnastics club - that looks excellent! I foresee lots of driving and packed lunches indeed! Harrodian could be interesting actually, as is Thomas's. Thanks also for the insider report on Surbiton :-).
May I ask since there are so many interested parties here, if you played field hockey in a club, which club in or around London is the best? I used to play hockey semi-professionally in my country and would be interested in that for my daughter!
How old is your dd? You mention little gymnast and being an early user of a scooter. She is not in primary yet?
Thomases is good for sport from the London ones. Emmanuel too, but they have intakes from Y6.
She will have to trial for Heathrow gymastics, I think. Richmond Gymnastics in Kew have gymnastics for primary children, but long waiting lists, they are also a very good club, where children trial for the squad age 6 and thereabouts.
I dont know much about north London, though Southgate has a big club. In South West London the big three are Surbiton (who conquer all), Wimbledon and Teddington. There is an argument about whether it is better to start with a smaller club when you are young, as it could be friendlier and there is less chance of "getting lost". Richmond has a good reputation, as does Spencer who play junior hockey in Battersea, so probably the most central of the Clubs with junior teams.
Kingston Grammar often make National finals and take their hockey seriously. Surbiton High are quite strong, helped by the proximity of Surbiton Hockey Club. The Dulwich schools are also good. LEH, SPGS and Putney High play Lacrosse.
I should add that for boys Whitgift is the hockey school. Other schools, like Westminster, play but not to the same standard.
There are other clubs in S London which compete at Heathrow - Charisma who train at Dulwich college are one.
Has she been doing gym outside of school for some time? What level is she at? One of DD's friends at gym is at a private school which also does gym to a high level - I can check which one it is for you?
bigTillyMint - would be great if you could find out, thanks.
Richmond Gymnastics club looks really good too and closer to us than Heathrow for sure. I don't want to give too many details to avoid being identifiable but Onebananatwobanana I will reply to your pm!
There are probably other hockey clubs in SW London, but the only one I can think of at the moment is the Spencer Club in Earlesfield - there's also tennis and cricket there and it does good half term and holiday sports clubs.
Of course, it would be much easier if your girl was a boy, then we could all chorus Dulwich College for south London. There is no girls equivalent, unfortunately!
As well as checking how much sport is on the timetable, check the amount which is offered at lunchtime and after school clubs. Sport might only be a couple of double lessons a week, but if there are clubs very day as well then you can fit much more in on the school premises - and save yourself a huge amount of schlepping about.
For additional athletics in south London, btw, try Belgrave Harriers (Battersea Park) or Herne Hill Harriers (Tooting). Both do various PAYG drop in sessions, from which they talent spot for the 'invitation' training.
that's one of the reasons we moved out of London girls sporty prep schools just don't seem to exist.
Would be interested to know of any private schools with girls' football teams, they often seem so retro in options for girls!
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