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Review: St David’s Prep

This co-ed, West Wickham prep is a little green oasis in a town setting. Ideal if you're looking for a nurturing, supportive, non-hot-house style school.

ST DAVID’S PREP, WEST WICKHAM

WHAT? WHERE?

St David’s Prep is a co-educational prep school for 3-11 year-olds, close to the centre of West Wickham (just moments from the West Wickham train station and leisure centre). It currently has 159 pupils, 77 boys and 82 girls, (so a nice even ratio of boys and girls), with a single-form-entry throughout.

The school had been owned and run by one family, the Schove family, for over 60 years until September 2015 when it became part of the Wishford Schools group (more on this later). The current head however was first a pupil, then parent then teacher at the school before taking on the lead role, so she’s been a consistent, well-established figure throughout this transition.

FACILITIES

The school sits on a residential street and behind it, hidden from the road, lies six acres of grounds and playing fields. It’s a green oasis ringed with beautiful mature trees, in which flocks of escaped parakeets have made their home.

There’s no imposing gothic building or extensive grounds here, as you get at some prep schools, but still plenty of precious room for children to stretch their legs as well as developing their creative minds.

What the school doesn’t have on site can easily be accessed in the immediate area. For example – children have swimming lessons in the local leisure centre (within walking distance from the school). There’s a nearby sports ground where pupils play cricket in the summer. However, most matches are easily accommodated on the school’s own field.

The space they do have here is well used. Forest School takes place in the field and wooded area.

MUSIC AND DRAMA

Like a lot of prep schools, pupils have the opportunity to take LAMDA exams both individually or in groups. Year 6 perform an end of year production with EYFS (Pre Reception and Reception) and Year 1 and Year 2 both performing their own nativity play. There are drama clubs for all year groups as a co-curricular activity. Each class from the youngest to the oldest has an opportunity to take part in a whole school assembly.

The school has 4 houses with the usual healthy dose of inter-house competitiveness. Every single Y6 pupil has a responsibility, from House Captain to Charity Monitor, rather than glory just being bestowed on an elite few.

The school has a lovely little stand-alone music block where a selection of Peripatetic Music Teachers offer lessons on between 6 – 8 instruments. The school’s music teacher has links with the Bromley Youth Music Trust, a very well-respected local musical education programme.

TRAVEL

Parking and travel is always an issue for town-based sites but I was pleasantly surprised to find very straight forward, easy parking on the main road and side roads nearby (side roads have no parking restrictions).

ACADEMICSThere’s a  white board in every classroom. At the moment class sizes vary but the plan going forward is to introduce two-form entry with a maximum of 18 in each class.

St David’s has a brilliant approach to academic excellence. The school does not  follow the classic ‘streaming’ model. Instead the children are organised into fluid groups. They move according to the exact topic covered within any one subject – so a child might be great at times tables but need more help with fractions. No one feels ‘labelled’ at such a young age  – this encourages the growth mindset idea.

Here you have access to a range of Kent, Sutton and Bexley grammar schools as well as Bromley’s own St Olave’s and Newstead Woods selective grammar schools – every year St David’s pupils win places to both the boys and girls grammars. But this school is not a grammar hot-house and many of the children go on to local secondary schools (there are outstanding ones in the area) or independents  – often with scholarships. Last year 91 per cent of children met the expected standard in Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar and Mathematics which is well above the national average and very good considering this is a non-selective school.

THE HEAD

Head teacher, Julia Foulger, is incredibly down-to-earth and approachable. She has the school running through her veins; she attended as a pupil, then as a parent before joining as a KS2 teacher in 2003, becoming Deputy Head in 2012 and then Head in 2014. When she joined the school it was moving into the Wishford Schools group and by taking over at this time Mrs Foulger has provided continuation.

When I ask her what is the strongest selling point of the school she repies without hesitation. ‘We do happiness very well.’ This is evident in the nurturing environment and her long-standing commitment to the school.

LITTLIES

Little people start here at 3 years old, and seem very safe, secure and content. They have their own classrooms and outside self-enclosed areas, which have recently been improved too.

There’s pre-Reception ( 3 -4 years) and Reception (from 4 years) in the same building. This part of the school is growing in line with interest in the school locally which is a positive sign. Classrooms are colourful, staff are friendly. They follow a brilliant Woodland Explorers scheme where pupils earn postcards which are signed and sent home when they meet certain ‘animal milestones’ (ie learning landmarks) like Resilient Rabbit, Curious Cat and Focused Fox.

QUIRKS

St. David’s offers most of the normal extra-curricular clubs with Lego Robotics being one of the more original. Last year pupils entered the First Lego League (a global robotics competition for young people) and won the Judges Prize, which they are understandably proud of.

The other distinguising feature is that it is part of the Wishford Schools group. More and more schools are coming under the umbrella of educational groups primarily because heads share information and ‘best practice’, there’s a bigger pot of money and so on – it’s generally seen as an advantage for smaller schools.

FEES

Very competitive indeed compared to your average prep school in Kent. Reception prior to 5th birthday £1,950, Reception after 5th birthday £2,750 (plus 15 funded hours); Years 1-2 £2,750; Years 3-6 £2,850 (Before and After School care and lunch fees are not included).

WRAP AROUND CARE

Clubs and activities are available most mornings from 7.45am and evenings until 6pm.

WORD ON THE GROUND

Pastorally strong is the feedback from parents, who delight in their happy, down-to-earth kids. The school is coping well with the changes and plans that are the inevitable result of new ownership and a successful growing school. On the whole parents are happy with the mix of small classes, individual care and a lack of pressure.

THE MUDDY VERDICT

Good for: The family ethos, which is so ingrained in the school’s culture, remains as strong as ever and the future of the school has been safeguarded for many generations to come. There’s definitely a gentle, inclusive, family atmosphere here. Kids who could benefit from a nurturing, supportive, non-hot-house style school.

Not for: Those who like pomp and grandeur, or for anyone looking for a country idyll – the school, like a lot of the grammar schools it feeds into, is town based and off a main road. Although when you are in the field, it’s hard to believe you are in the middle of a very residential area and six acres is really plenty for allowing children to stretch their legs as well as their minds.

Dare to disagree?! Be my guest! Have a look for yourself at the Open Day on Fri 22 March 2019, 9am-11am & 3-6pm. (Call (0)20 8777 5852 for further details).

St David’s Prep, Justin Hall, Beckenham Road, Kent, BR4 0QS, Tel: (0)20 8777 5852stdavidsprep.com

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