This Surrey-based prep school for boys aged seven to 13 years has a reputation for being a family-focused day and boarding school.
It has a stunning rural location in a small village with the advantage of being just 30 miles away from London and close to both Gatwick and Heathrow airports.
Aldro was founded in 1898 as an all-boys school, but after 122 years this is about to change. According to the Independent School Council (ISC), the number of single sex schools has halved in the last 25 years and 52% of single-sex boys’ schools have begun to admit girls. Aldro joins the likes of Charterhouse, which is its nearest senior school, to transition to full co-education. Aldro will phase in co-education from September 2021, starting with Years 3, 4 & 5; it plans to be fully co-ed by September 2022 and have a girls’ boarding house. In line with many single sex schools across the UK, Aldro has made the move in response to the “ever-growing number of Aldro pupils choosing to progress to coeducational senior schools”.
The school recognises that “the diversity of learning styles evident when boys and girls are taught side by side have many benefits, enhancing the learning experiences for both genders.” The transition to co-ed is one of several changes introduced by the relatively new headmaster Chris Carlier, who joined the school in 2015.
As you’ll find with any school with such a long history, Aldro has plenty of heritage and traditions, one being the annual Grimston Cup which sees every student take part in a cross-country competition. However, it has also developed a “modern, progressive and innovative curriculum” that builds on the National Curriculum for England with additional specialist teaching, languages, and a focus on preparing students to take entrance exams for senior independent schools. It is also built on strong Christian foundations, and students attend both lively Chapel services and daily Assemblies.
Aldro was rated either excellent or good in all areas of its most recent ISI inspection in 2016. Inspectors found that “pupils are extremely well educated in accordance with the aims of the school. This is reflected in their high standards of achievement and their excellent levels of success in extra-curricular activities.” Also, “There is an excellent curriculum which offers breadth and opportunity for all. This is enhanced by an outstanding extra-curricular programme.”
The school has small class sizes capped at 20, and it has promised that this will not change as the school grows and enrols girls. There are just two forms in each group and students are split into three smaller forms focusing on either Common Entrance, scholarship papers or specific examinations such as Winchester Entrance; this is certainly one of the benefits of being such a small prep school.
Students are streamed by ability from Year 5 and taught by specialist teachers from Form 5; there is a dedicated Art and Design Technology block, science labs and an ICT suite to support this. The curriculum covers English, mathematics, science, French, history, geography, religious education, art, music, drama, ICT, design technology, physical education, Mandarin and PSHE; Latin is taught from Form 5 and students are taught separate sciences from Form 6.
Lessons are creative – events such as the History Table bring history to life with a themed lunch, for example – and students benefit from an excellent range of residential trips and visiting speakers. Learning is also strongly focused on the academic, with students staying in school in Forms 3-6 to complete their homework (prep), and lessons being taught on Saturday mornings.
The school supports its most gifted and talented students with a programme that includes enrichment competitions, activity clubs, and one-to-one lessons.
Aldro has an excellent reputation for sport and students celebrate sporting success in rugby, football, cricket and shooting at local, county and national levels.
Both boys and girls play football, hockey, tennis and cricket as their main competitive sports; netball will replace rugby for the girls. From September 2021, girls will share the same programme of additional sports and activities with the boys, including sailing, rowing, swimming, cross-country, shooting, badminton, basketball, athletics and others. There are plans to introduce new sports including fencing and equestrianism this year. A new sports centre opened in 2015, and to prepare for its move to co-ed, Aldro is developing facilities to include netball courts and dance facilities within its existing performing arts venue.
The arts also take centre stage at Aldro. The school offers less sporty students the choice of swapping one games session per week for an art lesson where they work on independent projects. Almost 50% of students take LAMDA classes. Forms 3 to 7 can audition for various School Productions which have included the Lion King, Disney's Beauty and the Beast, which featured a staggering 90 boys on stage! and High School Musical.
For young musicians, there is the Aldro Young Musician of the Year competition, as well as a Spring & Summer Concert, and the chance to join any of 17 different music ensembles and activities a week.
Aldro is passionate about its extra-curricular programme and there is a wide variety of activities on offer, both timetabled and during evenings and Saturday afternoons.
In the words of headmaster Chris Carlier:
“As you walk around the grounds, you will see children playing a whole variety of sports, rowing on the lake, learning the rules of Pétanque, or playing pirates on our very own adventure island. You will see them rehearsing for an upcoming play, singing in the choir, or heading off to the woods for yet another outdoor education lesson. Aldro life is guaranteed to be varied and stimulating!"
Aldro offers the flexibility of full time and part time boarding; for full time boarders, every two or three weeks there is an ‘exeat’ weekend when all the boys are away from the school. Boarding life balances the academic with the social. Every evening, students have ‘Mars’ time when they can study, revise, do music practice or read followed by a programme of sport, art and special interest activities.
Students come to Aldro from more than 90 different feeder schools in the local area, London and overseas. As reported by ISI inspectors in 2016, students are “successful in gaining entrance to senior schools of their choice, often with a good range of scholarships.”
Annual tuition fees for Form 3 are £17,895 (day) and £23,961 (full boarding); for Forms 4-6 it is £20,384 (day) and £26,430 (full boarding). The school offers bursaries and a discount for boarding places up to 20% to Armed Forces families.
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