Beachborough School is a charming pre-prep and prep school in a beautiful rural setting, where children are thriving in its homely, friendly and very outdoorsy setting.
It also has an outstanding academic record, with a 100% success rate at Common Entrance; students leave the school with places at senior schools in the independent sector including Abingdon, Bloxham, Headington, MCS Oxford, Stowe, St Edwards and Tudor Hall. A high number of students are awarded scholarships for excellence in academia, music and sport every year, with 23 scholarships in 2021.
One of the advantages of sending your child to a standalone prep school is that it has no affiliations to any particular senior school – so the school has greater freedom to advise you on ‘where next?’. There are downsides to this too, as students do not benefit from the easy transition of moving within one school where the teachers and facilities will be familiar.
Beachborough is a small school where you can expect your child to be ‘known’ and their individual learning needs understood by teachers. It’s a school that's focused on having a family feel – something it works hard to achieve through its active parent community, the 'Beachborough Friends'. It is also a 110-year-old school that blends tradition and history with progress and innovation. And it’s a rural school located on the borders of Buckinghamshire and Northamptonshire where girls and boys have plenty to space to explore (and get muddy!).
Headmaster Christian Pritchard joined the school in 2018, and has experience working in both UK and international schools in Taiwan and the Netherlands; he describes Beachborough as an exciting adventure. This is a school that has treasure maps painted on its boarding dorm walls, takes students pond dipping in its own wetlands, and builds soap box cars in its own trendy workshop. It feels creative and exciting – and worlds away from any notion of a stuffy prep school.
From Nursery through to Reception, teaching follows the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS); there are weekly music, games and gym lessons with specialist teachers, as well as a “little French”. It’s like a school within a school here, with the Nursery to Form IV classes all based in the Boardman Building. Little ones have their own classrooms and playgrounds set apart from the main school, which is spot on if you’re looking for an early years setting that’s intimate and cosy.
There’s plenty of learning outdoors in the Forest School where getting muddy is encouraged and, while wearing iconic blue boiler suits, students are given the freedom to explore. Older students use The Wetlands, a terrific space for outdoor learning where children may be calculating the volume of water in the wetland's pond one day and performing a play under the canopy of trees the next.
As students move up the school, teaching continues to follow the National Curriculum for England, becoming more structured and broader. And, as children move into Prep, the focus is very much on preparation for Common Entrance or scholarship examinations to a wide range of senior schools. Forms V-VIII (10-13 years) also have specialist lessons in the Manor House, giving them the independence of moving between classes in preparation for senior school.
In recent years, the school has increased its focus on teaching STEM with the opening of a specialist centre it affectionately calls TED (Technology, Engineering, Design), where students learn coding, robotics, digital design, 3D printing and laser cutting. We have to give a special mention to one of the school’s after-school activities, the Goblin Car Club, which sees students design, build soap box style cars that are then raced at the Goodwood track.
A highlight on the school calendar is its Enrichment Weeks and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) Days, where the normal timetable is replaced by a cross-curricular theme that covers all subjects. It’s not a new idea but Beachborough executes it particularly well. During Harry Potter week, for example, the school was transformed into Hogwarts; Quidditch replaced hockey; pupils made magic potions in science; and the Maths department transformed into Diagon Alley.
Beyond the classroom, Beachborough has a huge and varied programme of co-curricular activities, including modern dance, battle re-enactment, computer programming, trampolining, philosophy, and dodgeball.
From Form III, students are encouraged to take part in CCAs and earn points to be awarded bronze, silver and gold in the school’s own Francis Drake Awards, which is very similar to Duke of Edinburgh. There’s no Saturday school – Beachborough prefers its students to be “raring to go again on Monday morning” – but you can still expect to be busy at the weekends with sports matches and family events.
There’s a broad sports programme for all year groups, and plenty of opportunity to play competitively. Main sports here are hockey, netball, rounders, cricket, rugby and football. Beyond the PE and Games lessons, triathlon, tennis and equestrian are very popular too. Outdoor facilities include Astroturf, tennis and netball courts and acres of grass playing fields; inside, students have the use of a sports hall complete with a five-a-side football pitch, badminton courts, a trampoline, cricket and archery nets.
As well as being part of the weekly curriculum for all ages, drama and art are promoted throughout a full programme of performances, competitions, clubs and activities. There are weekly music lessons from Nursery, and a wonderful choice of 25 different instruments to discover in instrumental lessons. The arts are celebrated here within the walls of its drama studio and Performing Arts Centre (and on many corridor walls); in fact, 95% of students sing in a choir or play an instrument, and 52% take the LAMDA exams.
With its flexible boarding options (occasional, flexi or weekly), Beachborough has students staying one night, one week or longer; 45% of students board every week, it’s very popular. Nightly boarding fees range from £38-48.
Students in Form III and above can board in Kites House; there are three dormitories for girl and three for boys, each painted with lovely individual murals, as well as a common room for hanging out in. As Beachborough describes the water fights, movie nights, BBQs, swimming and games in the woods that comes with boarding, it sounds like a sleepover that your child will not want to miss. And the pet dog Arnie also helps to create that ‘home away from home’ feel.
With its village setting and lovely old stone Manor House building, Beachborough has the cham of a small country school; it also has the benefits of modern facilities including its new technology, engineering and design suite (TED), sports hall, performing arts centre, wetlands area, and library.
School fees range from £11,406 to £17,910. This is an all-inclusive fee that leaves you only paying extra for optional music lessons and some co-curricular activities.
The school offers both flexibility and affordability for busy working parents; there is free morning and after school care including tea, supervised prep and evening activities depending on your child’s age. There are also the flexible boarding options mentioned above.
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