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Berkhampsted Prep and Girls School

(10 Posts)
ubermumma Sat 31-Oct-20 22:36:32

Hello, I'm unable to visit the school and I have three girls. Any feedback would be welcome. Is it pushy and very academic, or does it have a nurturing feel? Is there anything anyone can tell me to form more of an impression? The virtual tour is very business like and doesn't give me a feel for the school.....

OP’s posts: |
Zodlebud Sun 01-Nov-20 08:50:29

Assuming you mean Berkhamsted (with no “p”) in Hertfordshire? There is Berkhampsted prep in Cheltenham....

If it’s the former then you have hit the nail on the head with your feel from the virtual open day. It is very business like. Quite pointy elbowed competitive parents, flash cash (most have moved out of London) and they do ask children to leave on a regular basis as they are not making the grade. Hence a lot of tutoring goes on outside school.

However, for the right child it’s a brilliant school. Children are confident, sport is big (although the emphasis is more on those who are good at it as opposed to sport for all), academics are great and children really pushed. Huge amount of extra curricular stuff.

The grounds at the pre prep are fabulous. At the prep the children are confined to a small concreted over area. It’s functional and about as good as you’re going to get in a school in the centre of town, but if outside space and getting muddy is important then it’s a consideration.

Places are highly sought after, particularly in the pre-prep, with waiting lists. More places become available in Y3 and above. They have a bonkers admissions process for the girls school with exams being taken before Christmas and offers sent out just as schools break up. They only offer to the very brightest at this point with large numbers put on waiting lists. It is used as a backup school for the Bucks grammars, St Albans, Habs girls etc so as soon as those places are offered in February / March time, there is huge movement on the waiting list. Put it this way, everyone at our school on the waitlist got a place, including those in bottom sets. It’s not as highly sought after or as academic as they make out, but those children who aren’t as bright do seem to do very well there. A few children in the prep are not given places at the girls school each year so there’s no guarantee of moving up the school (although most do). With no preparation for 11+ exams you might find yourself a bit stuck if you are one of the unlucky ones.

It’s honestly a bit marmite. The girls school has a better feel than the prep to be honest. I have lots of friends with children there who are all unanimously happy with it and their children are doing well.

One consideration could be to send younger girls to Hetherton House. Part of the Berkhamsted group but a totally separate school. Much nicer feel and the girls are prepped for exams at 11 meaning you keep your options open. Girls get priority places at Berkhamsted girls.

Other good preps in the area are Westbrook Hay, Chesham Prep and Beechwood Park - all of whom send plenty of girls to Berkhamsted each year.

I guess what I am saying is that for the right girl it’s an excellent school - if you’re academic, sporty, confident and got a bit of money (think sixth formers with minis and Fiat Puntos). Any hint of SEN then it’s not the right place.

My daughter came out of the open day last year and said, “Please don’t send me there mum”. But then again she loved schools that her friends who have gone to Berkhamsted hated.

So hard to chose a school without being able to see them in real life. Just my thoughts - hopefully you’ll get some other opinions on here too.

Good Luck!!!

Zodlebud Sun 01-Nov-20 10:17:32

Sorry, correcting spelling. It’s now called Heatherton School. They dropped the “House” bit and I misspelt Heatherton

ubermumma Sun 01-Nov-20 13:57:58

Thank you so much for your response. This has been really helpful. Yes I did mean Berkhamsted! I hadn't realised at all that the prep area was just concrete. I have three daughters and they would all be joining the prep. I believe they will all be sporty and its early to tell but probably middle of the road academically. Gosh lots to think about. We are in the process of trying to find a house close to the school. I had looked at Abotts Hill School in Hemel as a possible back-up if Berkhamsted didn't work out. I believe its more nurturing but again know nothing more than this. I really don't want to have to tutor, or for my girls to feel stressed over their education!

OP’s posts: |
Zodlebud Sun 01-Nov-20 17:06:23

Abbots Hill is very nurturing. A really lovely school but not particularly full of gung ho type girls. Our prep sends girls mainly to Abbots Hill and Berkhamsted at 11 and if you like one you tend to loathe the other. A much smaller school, gets great results and I don’t know a single girl who hasn’t been happy there. Not half as good for sports as Berkhamsted though. An average child will do very well at Berkhamsted but they will put the pressure on to achieve it.

If you are coming from London then the 11+ process is nothing like what it is down there. Far gentler and much less stressful. There are also a number of schools with bus routes from there at 11 - Abbots Hill, Royal Masonic (also has a prep school), Queenswood (door to door transport), Habs Girls, Aldenham and St Albans High School (from Hemel station). So don’t panic about not having other options locally. Traditionally girls have also got places at Aylesbury High and Chesham Grammar too - again with bus routes from the town.

I know it might seem easier to have all the girls in one place and an all through school might seem better particularly if you have one coming towards the end of prep years, I totally get that. But for the younger ones you are essentially cutting off any other options at 11.

We personally didn’t go down the route of either school as we didn’t want to commit to that school for their entire school career. We found the atmosphere at Westbrook Hay, Beechwood Park and Chesham Prep much more relaxed. Chesham Prep has very good sport but focuses a lot on 11+ grammar. Westbrook Hay is very outdoorsy. Beechwood Park a bit posher but still outdoorsy. Chesham and WBH have minibus services from Berkhamsted.

I guess all I am saying is you probably have lots more options in the area than you probably think you have. Berkhamsted is a great school but will it fit all three?

Outdoor space is an issue at the prep - see attached picture for reference. The red circled area is the playground. They do cross the Kings Road and use the swimming pool and netball courts at the girls school but that’s just for PE.

Berkhamsted is a great town to live. You’ll be fine. There’s no bad schools. I just can’t imagine having to chose one without being able to see it in real life.

ubermumma Mon 02-Nov-20 00:03:14

Again thank you so much and yes it is daunting trying to choose a school for all three without visiting. We are coming from abroad. Relocating back to the UK, so not even that familiar with the areas. We aren't looking to live in Berkhamsted itself, but likely Hertfordshire, which would surely rule out the grammars you mention? Westbrook Hay looked very tempting but my thoughts were that after the current upheaval to their schooling and having to leave their close friends behind they would want to feel settled and make longterm friends without having to change school again at 13. Maybe I am wrong to place so much emphasis on this. I was only really considering through schools because of this, but it's true, when I looked at WH and the outdoorsy vibe I did love the sound of the place.

OP’s posts: |
Zodlebud Mon 02-Nov-20 07:43:58

I have sent you a PM

wapphighwood Mon 02-Nov-20 09:25:43

We live in Herts on the border with Bucks, with a DD at Heatherton, really happy with the school, it has such a nice family feel, very good pastoral care, and as the previous poster said Heatherton girls get priority entrance to Berko Girls, although they do need to pass the entrance exam. A coach goes from Rickmansworth/Chorleywood (Herts) to Berko Senior school. Another option, as previous poster said is RMS, an all through school in Rickmansworth, or St Mary's Gerrard Cross (all through) would be drivable from that area. Further into bucks there is Pipers Corner (all through) but probably too far to drive. Habs or at Helens in Northwood are both academic options closer to London but have junior and senior schools, although the likelihood of them having available spaces is very slim outside or normal entry points.

Zodlebud Mon 02-Nov-20 15:47:41

Pipers Corner would be a good call. As would Royal Masonic. Like I said in my PM, you have loads of options and these schools have great bus routes so offer flexibility on where you live.

PresentingPercy Mon 02-Nov-20 17:35:32

The best prep for girls in Bucks is Godstowe. It’s in High Wycombe. It preps girls for top private schools, mostly at 13. Some girls take the 11 plus for Bucks and leave to go to the grammars at 11. Pipers Corner prep tends to attract parents who only want Pipers for senior school so there’s less emphasis on scholarships, eg art, music, academic, sport etc available at a variety of schools to which Godstowe parents aspire. As a result Godstowe girls go to a huge variety of schools which makes it a different offering from Pipers. Or Berko.

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