Located in Essex, this is an unpretentious school with a great all-rounder offering terms of academics, the arts and sport – and the unusual offering of a single sex education within a co-ed school.
Behind this school’s heritage (it was founded in 1557), its grand Tudor exterior, and traditional features, lies a school that is forward-thinking, high-achieving, and more flexible and relaxed than elitist and hothouse-like. A large school of around 1,800 mainly day students from the local area, Brentwood has invested considerably in academic facilities (from languages through to STEAM) as well as sporting facilities.
According to the school, innovation, dynamism and a can-do attitude are intertwined with manners, respect and, above all, kindness”– and students here are thriving in an environment that is focused on developing the values of ‘Virtue, Learning, Manners’. Students ‘collect’ merits for each of the three values in an annual Passport to Success, which results in a chosen reward. It has a well-established pastoral and wellbeing programme that sees students supported through fortnightly one-to-one check-ins, a school counsellor and on-site chaplain, regular wellbeing newsletters, and three much-loved wellbeing dogs.
Brentwood is one of small number of UK schools to follow a ‘diamond model’ of teaching that offers a single-sex education within a co-ed school. Girls and boys are taught together in the Prep School, then separately from Years 7-11, and then in mixed classes again in the Sixth Form. A great believer in the advantages of teaching single sex classes “during the crucial and formative teenage years”, Brentwood offers something quite unique. Many families and teachers here say that it can offer the proverbial best of both worlds and solves the dilemma for some parents of choosing between a single sex education for academic results or co-ed for a well-rounded education. Students can benefit from a single sex education in the classroom while also having the opportunity to mix in co-curricular activities, on school trips and at lunch.
The school says, “There is a conventional wisdom that single sex schools are better academically, and co-educational schools are better socially. At Brentwood School, we provide both.”
Headmaster Michael Bond joined the school in 2019; he was previously Vice Principal Education of Berkhamsted Schools Group, a family of six schools in Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire that run a similar ‘diamond model’ to Brentwood.
In the Prep School (3-11 years), students benefit from the specialist teaching and breadth of facilities offered by an all-through school, with all the security and comfort of being in a self-contained school. A multi-million-pound expansion of the Prep school has seen the addition of an outdoor classroom, sports facilities and auditorium.
Students are taught in mixed classes of around 20 children. Languages are strong; students study Latin, French is taught up until Year 4, and then Spanish and Chinese is taught in Years 5 and 6. And there are Forest School sessions led on campus by a qualified Level 3 Forest School lead practitioner. There’s a very handy wraparound service for Prep students, who can be dropped off at 7.30am for breakfast and pre-school activities and collected at 6pm.
Brentwood shows signs of being a forward-thinking school focused on preparing 'future-ready' students. Prep students build robots, record videos and podcasts, and use VR headsets in the school’s well-equipped Futures Room. The school has a long list of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) activities ranging from a focus on problem solving and inquiry-based learning across the curriculum (skills that particularly prepare students well for the IBDP) to co-curricular activities such as building a rocket powered car.
Since 2019, the school has offered three pathways in the Sixth Form: A Levels, the IB Diploma, and BTEC Extended Diplomas in Sport and Business. This offers students of all abilities, and with a wide range of interests, the option to stay at Brentwood and follow a pathway that suits them. Students who prefer to specialise can choose from 26 different subjects at A Level; for a broader study option, there’s the IBDP; and students looking to work within the sports or business sectors can study the vocational BTEC.
There’s a large Sixth Form of around 320 students, and the school promises to be flexible enough to offer a combination of options to suit each student’s individual strengths or areas of interest. There’s a small cohort studying the BTEC (only four in 2021).
Students are encouraged to find a balance between their studies and extra-curricular activities, and all lessons finish slightly earlier on Fridays for service and enrichment activities in Year 8 and upwards.
The school offers a diverse selection of clubs from Prep School onwards that should mean every child can find something they’ll be interested in. Musical activities and drama groups include LAMDA and Glee Club; there are competitive and recreational sport clubs as varied as street dancing, fencing (one of the school’s strengths), golf and karate; and clubs as broad as offer Pen Pal Club, Young Engineers Club, Philosophy, Spanish and Mindful Colouring.
Both sport and the arts are a big focus here.
As you’d expect from a school with no shortage of sports pitches and its very own sports centre, there’s a lot on offer. The school offers over 30 sports from fencing to shooting, from aerobics to golf, and fields over 100 teams at inter-school, county and national level; and the Brentwood School Elite Player Pathway support its most talented athletes.
The on-site sports centre has a 25m indoor swimming pool and a learner pool, fitness suite, squash courts, indoor rifle range, and a purpose-built Fencing Salle, as well as football, rugby, cricket and hockey pitches, tennis and netball courts and an athletics track. Prep students also have their own sports pitches and three netball/tennis courts.
A wide choice of instruments is taught across the curriculum, and there are several choirs and drama groups to join; in Prep, every child takes part in a production and the opportunities to join in Shakespeare workshops and a musical theatre club keep the arts very inclusive and accessible to all students. The arts are also used to bring children of all ages together; there’s a whole school Performing Arts Breakfast every half term, for example. Dance, drama and music are all popular at GCSE and A Level.
It’s a Steinway School (there are more than 10 Steinway pianos across campus), it runs a rare instrument programme to encourage the playing for the French horn amongst others, and in recent years, the school has added some impressive arts facilities including a 400-seat auditorium, music technology room, and purpose-built rehearsal studios. There is also an outdoor Shakespeare Stage.
The school’s passion for the arts is not in question; during lockdown, for example, students wrote, produced and performed a brand new musical comedy. It’s impressive stuff.
Brentwood is a high achieving school across all pathways that it offers, an indication that students are finding their strengths here and encouraged to follow them.
• 26.8% of GCSE grades are 9
• 70.5% of grades are 9-7 (A*-A)
• 85.9% of grades are 9-6 (A*-B)
• 100% pass rate
2021 A Level
• 70% of grades A*-A
• 91.5% of grades A*-B
• 98.9% of grades A*-C
• 100% pass rate
2021 IB Diploma: The average score was 40, which places the school in the top 10 IB schools in the UK.
Brentwood offers weekly and full boarding to a small international community of around 70 students, coming from Nigeria, Italy, Denmark, the US, Hong Kong and Ukraine. There are two single sex boarding houses on campus, each managed by a husband and wife team.
There’s no shortage of space here. Brentwood is set within 75 acres of rolling Essex countryside, with all the benefits of being in a town centre location and direct train ride away from central London.
Specialist facilities include a design centre equipped for ICT, computing, art, design technology and food technology; a purpose-built language laboratory, two libraries and computer suites. Sixth Formers have a dedicated centre with 400 seat auditorium, as well as a specialist Sixth Form Science Study Centre.
Brentwood is a selective school, and students sit the ISEB 11+ Common pre-test as an entrance exam for Senior School. The majority coming here are day students living in Brentwood and surrounding areas such as Shenfield and Billericay.
The school offer scholarships for Chess, Dance, Drama, Music and Sport.
Annual fees range from £15,735 to £20,958 for day students and for £40,365 boarders.
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