A small prep school that offers a forward-looking education anchored in traditional values, where children are given an excellent start to their education thanks to impressive facilities, a ‘have-a-go’ ethos, and plenty of fun.
Located in West Sussex, Cottesmore is a co-ed day and boarding school for students aged seven to 13 years where school life is full of choices, academic achievement, and plenty of fun. Its warm, family vibe makes Cottesmore feel hugely welcoming (particularly for boarders from Year 3 upwards), and its forward-thinking curriculum prepares students exceptionally well for Year 9 entrance exams.
Cottesmore girls and boys gain regular academic and non-academic scholarships to leading public schools across the South East and beyond, including Benenden, Canford, Dauntsey’s, Downe House, King’s Canterbury, Roedean, Tonbridge, Winchester and Wycombe Abbey.
‘Everyone has a talent’ is the school’s (unofficial) motto – and Cottesmore is committed to finding at least one area that your child excels in. It’s certainly a school for the all-rounder, with the school expecting every student “to play in matches for the school and participate in plays and almost all learn at least one instrument”. You can expect your child to be busy, whether they are musical, sporty, a budding scientist or engineer, a dancers, a creative writer, an angler or a gardener.
Cottesmore was founded as a boys’ prep schools in 1894 and became fully co-ed when it admitted girls in 1974; today, there is an even split between boys and girls, and 30% of students have parents who live and work abroad.
The school has a wonderful history; it’s housed in a grand Victorian brick manor house that was the country home of a rich ostrich farmer, who made a quick fortune after finding a diamond stuck in the throat of one of his farmed ostriches. It’s named after the Cottesmore Hunt in Rutland by its founder Geoffrey Davidson-Brown.
Headmaster Tom Rogerson is the grandson of former headmaster Mark Rogerson. Now in his 14th year in the role Mr Rogerson says his mission has been to build on Cottesmore’s heritage with a "future-oriented education". Cottesmore itself says it offers “old fashioned values of good manners, sportsmanship and courtesy” while pioneering new initiatives in technology and sustainability.
The school has been extended and modernised over the years, and now includes a 20m indoor heated swimming pool and the very impressive Sopwith Centre (named after Old Cottesmorian Sir Tommy Sopwith, the World War I aircraft engineer) with outstanding facilities for IT, science, design and technology. While the school has a large area of land, the majority of learning and extra-curricular activities takes place under the one roof of the main house which the school says, “gives the feeling of home”.
Student wellbeing is most definitely a priority. There’s a Happiness Charter in every classroom, where students can see a strong network of people they speak to for support, including form tutors, peer mentors, shadow students, the school counsellor, teaching staff and the head (and the head’s wife). Small class sizes (there’s an average of 14 students in a class) ensure each child can develop their own potential under the individual attention of teachers, and regular mindfulness and yoga sessions encourage a healthy mind and body.
The school has been rated Outstanding in all areas in its past two ISI inspections, with inspectors noting its “family atmosphere “, “caring and kind community” and “happy and self-confident pupils”.
The curriculum at Cottesmore is as broad and balanced as it claims to be. There’s an enriched curriculum that includes Latin, drama, French, music, art, and design technology, and a focus on practical, hands-on learning. Students are stretched and challenged academically. There’s a focus on traditional learning; for example, every child has a Words Album where they are encouraged to collect words and phrases that they find interesting and might use in their own writing. And teaching is also moving with the times; recent additions include sustainability as a lesson on the timetable.
Cottesmore has developed a curriculum where learning and enjoyment go hand in hand, and there’s a strong message that learning here is ‘serious but fun’. The school focuses on preparing students for taking the Common Entrance exams at 13+, as well as various scholarship programmes. Potential academic scholars are grouped in Form 6 and given extra academic and specialist lessons and ‘master-classes’ to help prepare them.
There’s a six-day timetable with morning school on Saturdays followed by sports games and matches.
There’s a sport for everyone at Cottesmore, and the choice of team and individual sports is impressive for a Prep school. The major games for the girls are netball, hockey and rounders; for the boys, it’s football, rugby, hockey and cricket. Students can represent the school in these and many other sports including tennis, squash, athletics, swimming judo, golf, cross country running, short tennis, basketball and shooting.
Cottesmore is well known for its high standard of swimming (the swim team was 4th in the U11’s relay in the IAPS Swimming National Finals), and it’s one of the best prep schools for shooting (there’s a shooting range in the cellar, which is well used throughout the week). Cricket is also big (the school was selected as part of the top 50 prep schools in the UK by The Cricketer Schools Guide 2022) and there are students on the pitch as early as the winter term.
The school has a fantastic design and technology department, with facilities to rival many leading senior schools; with facilities including a ceramic kiln, baby enamelling kiln, and heat-treating centre, the school can offer classes in technical drawing, 3D sketching, injection moulding, plastic extrusion, dip coating and vacuum forming. All very impressive for a prep school.
Music is taken seriously, and there are many opportunities to perform in the school orchestra and a choice of choirs, including a rock choir and a chapel choir. A new drum and recording studio will be opening soon, adding to the purpose-built art facilities and school theatre.
The choice of extra-curricular activities is huge, with a list as varied as tennis, squash, judo, golf, basketball, archery, ten-pin bowling and fishing. And that’s just the sport. The list of arts, crafts and hobbies includes pottery, printing, model trains, photography, carpentry, stamps, bridge, chess, gardening, rowing, fishing and many more.
The school is full of surprises, one being the train layout in the school’s cellar area, with a working electrical track, variety of locomotives and rolling stock. It has a well-stocked lake on the grounds, and fishing is a very popular activity. Children are also able to have their own small plot of garden, and the range of fruit and veg grown here is said to be most impressive!
The school calendar is filled with many special occasions, celebrations, feasts that show it has fun at heart. Cottesmore held a Quidditch Festival against other Sussex primary schools to give students “some educational fun after a tough two years”. It also holds an annual Conker Smash, and The Great Cottesmore Pancake Throw Down 2022.
Cottesmore’s boarding programme is excellent, and it has been recognised by several high profile awards. It offers a full boarding programme to children from as young as eight years (Year 3), which is best described as a home away from home.
Cottesmore has 25 dormitories in the school’s main manor house. And, thanks to 90% of its teaching and pastoral staff living on the school’s estate (the Headmaster’s house is located on the grounds too), there’s a strong family atmosphere.
Cottesmore has a beautiful countryside campus with wonderful facilities for academic learning, the arts and sport – as well as plenty of space to run, climb trees and simply enjoy the great outdoors.
Facilities are second to none for a prep school, and include football, rugby, cricket and hockey pitches, grass tennis courts, Astroturf pitches, a heated 25-metre indoor swimming pool, shooting range, adventure playground, quiet reading garden, nine-hole golf course, lake, and a farm that’s home to pigs, ducks and chickens.
To apply for a place at Cottesmore, students have an informal meeting with Headmaster Tom Rogerson, and you will need to submit your child's last three terms' school reports.
There are no scholarships or bursaries into either the Pre-prep or Prep school.
Annual tuition fees range from £10,482 to £19,626 for day students, and are £29,796 for boarders.
Good for: It’s a school with plenty of energy, and the Cottesmore colours of pink and blue capture the fun, lively spirit of this school. It may be a standalone prep school, but it has an excellent track record to get your child to some of the top senior schools in the UK. Cottesmore offers an excellent boarding programme, one of the best for young students; and it offers a well-rounded education in a setting that focuses on the academic without being a hothouse.
Not for: There’s no flexible boarding offer so students need to commit to a full seven day a week boarding programme. The school does not offer scholarships or bursaries, so parents must be prepared to pay the full annual fee ranging from around £10,400 to £19,000 for day students. And, as there’s no automatic transition to a senior school, your child will have to go through the process of sitting entrance exams.
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