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Dolphin school in Hurst: help!

(23 Posts)
todaynottomorrow Mon 05-May-14 00:38:15

We're struggling to make a decision for DD start reception - we've visited Dolphin twice and love the ethos, the community feeling, it looks like a very special place. However, facilities are in a bit of state (science lab, art room etc.) and I simply don't get not having a hot meal available... very odd for an independent school I believe. Anyone with a bit of knowledge on the school, on how lunch time works and why the facilities are the way they are? Many thanks!

frillysockmum Mon 05-May-14 08:50:46

Is it any better than a decent local primary ? Sorry I don't know anything about the school but I was left wondering what you would be paying for !

TheEnchantedForest Mon 05-May-14 08:57:31

What are you paying for?
Many state primaries have the community feeling you describe but also have hot lunches and good facilities!
It sounds as if this school is not reinvesting the money they get in fees back into the school.

I presume there will be small class sizes so that might be worth it for you? particularly if the alternative isn't good?

Sorry, I don't know the school myself.

CharlesRyder Mon 05-May-14 09:25:16

What are your alternatives?

I looked at Dolphin and felt much the same as you- it did look lovely but that it was a little jaded and perhaps trading on something that it was in the past. As it is privately owned and not a Charity it is pretty difficult to check what state the finances are in.

For me personally though I would prefer it over, say, a 4 form entry Primary with 120 4yos in an open plan Reception setting or a school that had sacrificed the curriculum in favour of attainment.

frillysockmum Mon 05-May-14 10:01:02

Ours is a 3 form entry which I was nervous about until I visited and then was totally bowled over about how amazing it was. Look carefully at all alternatives. Big schools do have huge resources which means great extra facilities and wrap round etc

GleeFull Mon 05-May-14 10:14:07

Which other schools are you considering? I live very close to the Dolphin, but my DDs don't go there. Would you consider Maidenhead or Reading? My girls are at all girls, but I travel 20 mins.

CharlesRyder Mon 05-May-14 15:10:13

I teach in a 4 form entry frilly and agree that the scale means swanky facilities can be afforded so the school looks great. When you start trying to give 1000 kids access to those facilities though they each get very little.

It does feel impersonal and 'corporate' and more like a Secondary then a Primary which isn't what I would want for my own DS.

frillysockmum Mon 05-May-14 19:25:28

Ours is very personal despite the size and the facilities are not swanky in themselves (old buildings) but the extra dedicated teachers for sports, music, sen, dyslexia etc are brilliant - huge range of extra curricular, most DC are involved in at least one sports club, 60% play an instrument etc

OverAndAbove Mon 05-May-14 19:30:12

I think the fees have gone down recently at the Dolphin, which I thought was very encouraging - although perhaps that's reflecting the lack of facilities ie have they had complaints? Regardless, a small school that's a bit shabby wins over a larger swankier one, IMO. The extra-curricular activities at the Dolphin are amazing.

todaynottomorrow Tue 06-May-14 12:28:11

Sorry for not coming back earlier and thanks for the input. CharlesRyder that's the thing for me: I'm between what my eyes can see - facilities - and philosophy. I couldn't find any other school looking to prepare children like Dolphin, critically and engaging them with the sort of real life I believe in. However, when I look to a more traditional approach, like Lambrook for example, I see the all round that maybe it's the best for a primary, when DD will have so many opportunities (facilities wise). Does that means less to do at Dolphin? Don't think so, with their amazing extra-curricular, but I'm not sure if the school is not, as you sad, trading on their past. As per Lambrook, you can't fault what you see, but I keep wondering if its not too "industrial" too me. I do believe, OverAndAbove, that the fees at Dolphin went down exactly because of the facilities are putting people off. Unfortunately it's quite difficult to get feedback on Dolphin, to be able to balance curriculum/teaching and facilities, and really understand how they operate on a daily basis.

CharlesRyder Tue 06-May-14 16:37:57

I'll be honest and say I chose Lambrook. However, we are now relocating to Dorset so I have withdrawn him (he starts R in September).

He is now going to go to a school with a similar ethos and feel to Dolphin in our new location and I have to say I'm almost relieved. However, the difference is that I'm confident the Prep we have chosen is on an even footing with it's numbers, economically viable and able to maintain and improve itself. I wasn't 100% convinced about that with Dolphin which was one reason for going for the more 'solid' option.

I'm sure you couldn't go wrong with Lambrook, it seems to be going from strength to strength, if becoming a little 'gold bath taps'. However, I wonder if you might end up with a nicer 13 year old at the end of a Dolphin education?

Greenwichgal Sat 17-May-14 00:26:01

Hi Today. Hope I can be of some help. (Forgive me if I gush. I'm a big fan of Dolphin!) We relocated last year and had to find a school that suited two very different boys - one very academic/musical/sporty, one very creative. We looked at school after school and felt very lacklustre about the whole thing, until we walked into Dolphin. The children were confident and engaged, and eager to tell us about what they were learning. And these are not cookie-cutter children, sitting in rows, only speaking when they're spoken to. One child, rehearsing Romeo and Juliet to take to the Edinburgh Fringe, whispered from behind a curtain 'This is such a great school! Your kids will love it!'. Our sons started last September, and we haven't looked back. Try to look beyond the facilities. Personally, I think private schools blind parents with such things these days, and often forget about what really matters: giving children a life-long love of learning. Dolphin really is an extraordinary school. We feel very lucky to have found it, and travel a stupidly long distance for our children to go there, driving past a number of other schools with beautiful manicured lawns on the way. The number of parents who move back to put their children through the school is also testament to its success. But it is difficult to put your finger on what makes it so special. The residential trip programme? It is phenomenal, and my sons have grown a foot in confidence this year already because of it. (Y5 has just been to Ironbridge on a science/geography and history trip; Y3 has just got back from a history, geography and English trip to East Sussex. Next week Y5 go to the Brecon Beacons for a 4 day walking trek.) But it is more than that, I think. The curriculum's extraordinary. All the usual stuff plus lots of extra bits and pieces: architecture, construction games, quiet reading every day, cross-curricular days, meditation, mindfulness, there's so much that it offers that is way beyond the scope of other schools we looked at. But there's also something very different about the way children learn there: it's very child-led, with lots of doing and questioning, rather than being lectured to. We were blown away by it that first day, and we have not been disappointed. The lunch thing is an issue, but tbh it's one you get past pretty quickly. (We cook extra the night before to go in food flasks the next day.) Do DM me if you want any more information. I know what a minefield it can be.

CharlesRyder Sat 17-May-14 08:21:51

I notice the Headship is in the TES this week. Hope they find somebody great!

cheshirelass1 Sun 25-May-14 22:34:46

I agree with greenwich gal. My daughter goes to Dolphin and yes, it is shabby compared with other private schools in the area but there is something a little bit special about it. I can only assume the fees pay for teachers because they are all incredible. The ethos at Dolphin is very different from most schools and focuses on learning through experience and fun. For example, French was taught by doing a bug hunt the other day. My daughter learns so much more than standard curriculum fare whilst thriving in core subjects. This is mainly due to the scope of learning at Dolphin. If you can look past the swimming pool and the hot lunch thing it really is an extraordinary school.

stealthsquiggle Wed 28-May-14 10:36:39

Dolphin is, indeed, a very special and different place. I was there in the 1970s, but if we lived anywhere close I would still send my DC there. You really do have to look past shabbiness of facilities though, as no matter what state the finances are in (and I have no idea), there is no way that would be the spending priority - it is simply not the way the school works. I do still have some contact with the school and know people with DC there, and although it has come closer to "normal" schools over the years, it's definitely still a bit nuts, in a good way. If that bothers you, then don't go for it, as it won't change.

Parlay Sun 01-Jun-14 20:07:27

I also totally agree with greenwich gal. Our two children are at Dolphin and it's been terrific in its care and development for them, both academic and pastoral. I don't think it's the school for you if all you want to do is drop your child at the gates and forget about them, but we've always wanted to be part of their growing up and part of a community of people who really care about education in the broadest sense. That's what you get at DS, along with outstanding academic achievement and fantastic experiences in school and on the trips. I think it's easy to be wowed by the facilities at other schools, but I feel so fortunate that we found Dolphin, and I don't know that any next school can really live up to what we've shared there. It's really fun and engaging for us all as a family, and I wouldn't swap watching them go to school happy for all the uniforms and canteens in the world.

AviSriLav Sat 25-Feb-17 21:55:50

Hi All, I know it's a very old thread. We went for an open house at Dolphin last week and was quite impressed with the school overall however I still think the facilities such as science lab, class rooms etc are bit small. The children all looked very happy. The relaxed environment without uniforms looks good. I currently live in Slough and have to commute to London daily so looking for a good prep school that is close to the railway station. Is it worth relocating to Twyford just for this school? My son is 3.5 years old and will be starting from next year. Please your advice and thoughts about the school will greatly help. What I'm expecting is a good overall development for the kid. As my work is very busy spending too much time teaching the kid during weekdays is a bit of a challenge. Will Dolphin help my kid be self sufficient?

Pootlebobblehat Sun 26-Feb-17 08:04:44

Dolphin is an amazing school, I don't think the facilities/classrooms are small at all. Most classes have a maximum of 15 children and they have lovely grounds and an outside classroom they often use in lessons, even for French (bug hunt) Maths (working out number patterns and problems with chalks on the playground), science (using newton metres), art etc. The children are independent and motivated because they are taught how to learn, not just how to memorise information. We moved one child to Dolphin as they were unhappy in more traditional prep. Once we saw what an amazing school it is we moved our younger child there too. The teachers are outstanding they are inspiring and their pastoral care is second to none. The head is excellent, there are now hot lunches! The trips and experiences the children have are amazing. I wouldn't hesitate if I were you, I am gutted my kids were not there from nursery/ reception.

AviSriLav Sun 26-Feb-17 09:14:09

@Pootlebobblehat - many thanks for sharing your view. Very encouraging indeed.

Whippetywhippet Mon 27-Feb-17 22:28:44

Hi Avi
I'm mum to 2 kids, one of whom leaves at the end of this year, having gone through to Y8.
I really think Dolphin is a great school. Looking back, it's actually really hard to say what the best thing about the school is, and it's partly because that completely depends on your child. That's Dolphin's USP - allowing your child to be who they are. We found the school quite by chance having moved out of London and into catchment for a particular grammar school. Had I known how great the experience was going to be for my two, I would have relocated especially for Dolphin. My eldest will take so many amazing memories away with him: sketching sculptures in Italy on the art history trip, climbing Helvellyn, dressing up in Victorian dress to go down a mine, serving in the cafe on French day, scaling the Seven Sisters in Sussex, making tiles at the potteries in Staffs, bushcraft skills, walking in Brecon, baking croissants in Boulogne, dressing as monks in Northumbria, storming castles in Wales, the list of extraordinary experiences goes on and on...and ends this summer with their final trip at the end of Y8: a climbing and camping trip in the Alps. And yes - miraculously, they do have time to fit all the academics in too!
Definitely worth relocating for...

AviSriLav Tue 28-Feb-17 05:53:33

@whippetywhippet - many thanks for sharing your views.

Kangroo01 Wed 01-Mar-17 22:29:37

Just wanted to add as remember it was hard to find feedback about the School when trying to decide. We went to look twice and also attended the coffee mornings that nursery hold, to try to get a better idea. I think one soon so tried to go if you can as can get to have a real good chat with staff down there. In short the staff are amazing, truly will get to know your child and you as a family. I've been at the school during the school day and the children are really really happy. Lots of folk even included the head struggle to pinpoint what it is about Dolphin. My child started half way through nursery and only wish had switched early. Good luck

AviSriLav Sun 05-Mar-17 10:17:44

@Kangroo01- many thanks.

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