A small countryside prep with a reputation for its all-rounder offering where students gain regular scholarships to leading public schools across the South East.
Around 50% of leavers are awarded scholarships spanning academic, drama, design and technology, art and sport, which highlights the strength of the school’s well-rounded education. Students go on to leading schools across the South, including its partner school King Edward’s Witley.
The school is part of the charity Bridewell Royal Hospital Foundation together with all-through school King Edward’s Witley. Although there’s no boarding here, students are offered the option to board at King Edward’s for Years 7 and 8.
Headmaster, John Towers, joined the school in 2023 with over 30 years of experience in both the independent and state sector. He champions the overarching mission of Barrow Hills to be a school “for life” which is family-orientated and warm but equally, aspirational, and values-driven. It’s no surprise then to see wellbeing is still at the heart of this school. There’s a Happy Hangout wellbeing room, where children can chat with Youth Mental Health First Aid trained staff, leave notes in a letterbox, or simply say hello to the beloved school dog – Mr Chops.
All students from Reception to Year 8 wear a pin badge denoting the colour of their House, named after former Headmasters Kean, McCormack and Murtough. Students in Years 7-8 can also be trained as peer mentors.
Barrow Hill is two-form entry throughout most of the school, and reduces to single form group in Years 7-8 when some children leave to join secondary/senior school. Its broad curriculum is focused as much on sharing knowledge as it is on developing learning habits and how to learn.
There’s specialist teaching from Nursery in French, music and sport, and all subjects are taught by specialists by the time children reach Year 5, including drama, art, design technology, games and Forest School. Latin is introduced in Year 5.
The Common Entrance syllabus is taught over Years 7 and 8, but despite its achievement, this non-selective school anything but a hot-house school. Creativity and creative thinking are as important as core academic subjects, with the school more focused on nurturing the individual talents of its small community of students. The school says:
“From our perspective, the same level of drive and expectation is equally applicable to the expressive arts, sport and activities. Why should it be otherwise?”
Barrow Hills has a wonderful community spirit driven by some charming traditions, including the annual Grandparents Day. Students look forward to Years 7-8, when they swap their red blazers for blue, which are worn with a huge sense of pride. Leadership positions are student-driven; there’s no pre-ordained list to be filled, instead Year 7 children apply to be a captain for an area of school life that interests them.
Facilities are more than ample for a prep school of this size – a cricket pitch, Astroturf pitch and tennis courts. The school also uses some of the facilities at King Edward’s Witley, just a short drive away, including sports pitches and swimming pool.
PE and Games lessons cover football, rugby, cricket, hockey, netball, rounders, swimming, tennis and lacrosse, and every child from Year 3 to Year 8 plays a fixture every week. When the school says it has sports for all policy, it really means it.
Music, art and drama are another strength here, and students take part in regular productions, theatre and art gallery visits, individual music lessons, and musical theatre workshops.
There’s also an exciting mix of activities in the school’s after-school programme, including tennis coaching, judo, tap and jazz, ballet, LAMDA and musical theatre. There’s a popular Adventure Club, and the recently added Magic Club (the children asked, and the school listened).
The main school is set over three floors of a beautiful Edwardian building, and there are standalone facilities for art and technology and science. There’s also a chapel, which is used for both worship and school assemblies.
The school has 15 acres of woodland, perfect for running, hiding, climbing, building dens, lighting fires, and cooking on the campfire, as well as field study and data collection for subjects such as geography and science.
Entrance is based on an informal interview and assessment.
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