Benedict House Prep School
We've unearthed Sidcup's best kept secret! A small and nurturing, co-ed prep - with competitive fees, exceptional 11+ success and exciting plans afoot to change the face of this suburban school.
Benedict House is a small day prep school in Sidcup for boys and girls aged 3 – 11 years. There are currently 160 pupils on roll, with roughly an even split of boys and girls.
Big news here is that as of March 2022, the school signed a new 30-year lease thus securing the long-term future of the school and, providing the perfect opportunity for greatly improving the facilities.
Compared to some private schools with their posh science blocks and golf courses, Benedict House’s facilities are more modest. But let’s not forget we’re in the London/Kent suburb of Sidcup so the acreage of a rural prep is not to be expected. And there are such exciting plans in the pipeline for this school that will change the offering significantly.
At present the site is split over three large houses (1-5 Victoria Road) – all linked by the outside space at the back. They sit right next to a forth building on the corner (27 Station Road).
This building, Bird College, is currently empty, but used to be an old dance school. Benedict House has not only extended the lease for the school’s existing three properties but secured this forth building, Bird College, too. The proposed works will turn this into additional teaching space.
As part of the Chatsworth family of schools, the funding was there, but obviously what the school really needed was planning. Now this has been granted they can embark on a period of improvement works which will begin over the coming months. Below shows a conceptual impression of how the site could look subject to planning and consultation.
There will be additional learning rooms dedicated rooms to Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) activities, an IT suite and a library. It’s all pretty exciting stuff.
At present the school takes part in swimming galas and netball league matches. The planned works will also greatly improve the outdoor spaces at Benedict House with the proposed addition of a floodlit all-year synthetic turf pitch, a Forest School and an extended play space including multi-activity areas and a Jungle gym.
ART, MUSIC AND DRAMA
Approximately 60 per cent of children learn a musical instruments, with many doing two. The school puts on regular drama productions too.
Securing the future of Benedict House on this enlarged site, which is more than double the size of the existing school, will clearly enable the number of pupils at the school to grow as well.
Not surprisingly then, the prep is set to become a two-form entry school from September 2022 in some age groups. Two-form entry will allow them to maintain small class sizes, but expand at the same time.
I’m told the school intends to split the refurbishment activity into work that they are able to complete by September 2022 and work that they expect to complete during the holidays prior to September 2023. The idea being that, with the exception of scaffolding erected around parts of the school, the disruption will be kept to a minimum. Plus works will either be in areas that the school does not currently use or the works will take place during the school holidays.
Strong. The kids tend to go to their first choice schools, which is nearly always the grammar school system. The school knows exactly who its parents are and is refreshingly transparent about this.
A quick glance at the Benedict House homepage will tell you all you need to know. In 2021 the Year 6 Leavers achieved 100% pass rate in the Kent test – and 80% pass rate in the Bexley test (the local borough grammar school test).
Pupils go onto Dartford Grammar, Bexley Grammar, Chislehurst & Sidcup Grammar, Blackfen for Girls, Wilmington Girls Grammar and Wilmington Grammar for Boys.
But that’s not to say every single child goes to grammar and the school is quick in its reassurance that they will help parents find the perfect choice for each child – surely what we all want to hear?
Craig Wardle has been teaching for 35 years – and is clearly experienced and capable. With a very relaxed, friendly approach, Wardle is also happy to point out the school provides wonderful value for money. And by that he doesn’t mean it’s a compromise or bargain deal. What you get is pretty darn good. But the fees are more wallet-friendly than some of the eye-watering prep school options on the market.
While Benedict House has seen a number of heads in the last decade, the retention of staff is strong – for example, Alison Sheldon, the pre-school teacher, has worked at the school for over twenty years. Plus Craig Wardle insists he’s here to stay and his intention is to build on the legacy of the last head Andrew Forbes. There’s no doubt this is an exciting time to be leading the school into its new chapter.
There’s a down-to-earth, realism about the school. Headteacher, Wardle, for example points out that many families need help from grandparents to manage the rising cost of independent education these days. Educating the next generation is very much a family affair and to recognise this the school keeps grandparents involved.
There’s Grandparents Day (when they enjoy a tour of the school and afternoon tea). Mr Wardle operates an open door policy, he not only knows each individual child, but also their home situation. Does mum work Monday to Wednesday? They’ll know about this. Does Granny pick up on a Thursday and can’t help with the maths – no problem!
WRAP AROUND CARE
After school clubs run until 4:30pm each evening (offering everything from sewing to sports). There’s also a Breakfast Club from 7:30-8:30am and an After School Care Session, which includes a tea time snack, until 6pm to make life easier for you if you have other commitments. There’s a cost for this.
Early Years (Reception and Pre-School full time): £2,670; Lower School (Years 1 and 2): £2,790 and Upper School (Years 3, 4, 5 & 6) £2,960.
WORD ON THE GROUND
Feedback is positive – the school does what it says on the tin – is small, nurturing, gets great academic results and is financially more manageable than many other preps. Plus ‘this is an exciting time for Benedict House’ is very much the general feeling with parents.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Parents looking for a non-pressurised ‘welcoming’ feel, but at the same time, the school delivers on the academics. Admissions into grammars is the real driving force here. A small school where not just each child – but each family – is fully known. The fees are highly competitive too.
Not for: The current facilities are quite limited – although soon to be significantly developed – so if it’s success on the sportsfields you’re after they’re not there yet. No rolling acres or historic facades to stick on the front of a prospectus here. But the changes to the school will certainly bring a lot more curb appeal.
Go see for yourself: There’s no Open Days at the moment but request your own individual tour and meet the head now.