Dean Close Prep Review

Dean Close is part of the Dean Close Foundation, a family of schools that includes a pre-prep and prep school, senior school and sixth form – all located within Cheltenham.
At a glance
School type
Private
School phase
Primary
Inspection rating
No rating
Curricula taught
Availability 2021/22
No data
Availability 2022/23
No data
Annual fee average
GBP 15,000
Annual fees
GBP 8,700–21,600
Price band help
Premium
Status
Open
School year
Sep to Jul
Principal
Mr Bradley Salisbury
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Dean Close Prep
School type
Private
School phase
Primary
Inspection rating
No rating
Curricula taught
Availability 2021/22
No data
Availability 2022/23
No data
Annual fee average
GBP 15,000
Annual fees
GBP 8,700–21,600
Price band help
Premium
Status
Open
School year
Sep to Jul
Principal
Mr Bradley Salisbury
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Dean Close is part of the Dean Close Foundation, a family of schools that includes a pre-prep and prep school, senior school and sixth form – all located within Cheltenham.

Dean Close is a small independent day and boarding school Prep school in the Cotswolds. There are close links between the schools and campuses, which occupy 50 acres of the town, and students in the lower years benefit hugely from sharing the facilities and specialist teachers of the senior school.

The school has around 150 pupils in the Pre-Prep (ages 2-7), 300 pupils in the Prep (ages 7-13) and 500 in Dean Close School (ages 13-18). There’s a large boarding community, accounting for around 55% of the total student body, and students come from both the local area and overseas; around 25% of the Senior school are international students, representing 28 different nationalities. 

Dean Close Prep School (DCPS)  is clearly a warm, and welcoming school where the Headmaster is said to know every student by name, and students have not one but two different tutors to offer a high level of individual academic support and pastoral care.

Every girl and boy belongs to either a Day House or a Boarding House, which is run by a Housemaster or Housemistress. Dean Close’s family vibe is built on a very strong house system, and students are quickly made to feel part of the community whether boarding or spending time before and after school in a day house with a mix of students aged seven to 13 years. 

They’re also supported by both a Form Tutor, who keeps an eye on their academic progress, and a Houseparent, who supports their wellbeing and overall. Thanks to the size of the school, students do get ‘lost’.

Founded in 1886, the school has a strong Christian ethos that that is developed within the staff and children through everyday life, and students here are said to be “grounded, responsible and well-rounded young people”. The school has some outstanding facilities for sport and the arts, as well as beautiful grounds. Students sit entrance exams for senior schools at 11+ and 13+, and results are excellent. 

Curriculum

Teaching follows an enriched National Curriculum for England in Years 3-6 combined with learning for Common Entrance in Years 7-8. There are specialist teachers for French, art, music, drama, PE and games.

Children in Years 7 and 8 have lessons on a Saturday morning, and Year 6 have optional activities as well as sports matches. It’s all good preparation for those students who move up to the Senior School, which has a six-day week; there are morning lessons every Saturday followed by games in the afternoon.

Sport and the arts

There’s plenty going in both arts and sport. Dean Close is the choir school for the choristers of Tewkesbury Abbey Schola Cantorum, so young choristers have the chance to get some outstanding musical training, alongside a well-rounded education. Throughout the year there are plays and shows in the purpose-built music school, and over 75% of students in Prep learn at least one instrument.

A two-storey art school is particularly well-equipped for the fine arts, such as painting, drawing, sculpture and ceramics. And perhaps the school’s shining star is its 550-seat Bacon Theatre with a huge stage (the largest in Gloucestershire apparently), a retractable orchestra pit, dressing rooms, lighting rigs and a marble foyer. It’s quite something. There’s also a large 400-seat open-air woodland theatre (what a great setting for young ones to discover the joys of performing), and a smaller drama studio for teaching.

Students can access a really wide variety of sports, from rugby and hockey to netball and cricket; gymnastics, trampolining, lacrosse, all types of dance and shooting, are also taught on and off the timetable. There’s also an equestrian school on campus, and the chance to ride for the Dean Close team. 

This is a school that says it has a ‘sports for all’ ethos and makes the extra effort to really mean it. The strong sports department that gets every student in Years 3-8 playing for a team in any of the main sports. There are regular sports tours for the school teams too, prior to Covid-19, students went on a hockey tour to Barcelona, for example.

Sports facilities include a sports centre with aerobics room/dance studio, fitness suite and indoor sports hall. There are two high spec, floodlit Astroturf pitches over 20 tennis courts, a 25m indoor pool, an indoor rifle range and climbing wall. 

Beyond the classroom

You’ll find students being stretched and challenged in so many ways. A highlight is the DCPS Challenge Award, which has been continued after being launched during the first Covid-19 lockdown. Students work towards Gold, Silver and Bronze award levels by completing activities as varied as touch typing, cooking, drama, entrepreneurship, gardening and first aid.

There’s also a wide choice of activities and clubs – mostly focused on having fun – in the school’s extra-curricular programme available to all children from Years 3 – 8. 

Boarding

Students in the Prep school can board from Year 3. There are six day and boarding houses all located in the Prep School grounds, including a junior boarding house which offers a very nurturing ‘home away from home’ environment for the school’s youngest boarders. 

Admission and fees

All students entering Years 6,7 and 8 sit a Cognitive Ability Paper (CAT) and an English paper; applicants for Years 3, 4 and 5 take a written maths and English paper. 

As well as attracting overseas students, the school is very popular with military families (who receive remissions on both day and boarding fees). The majority of students in the Prep school go on to Dean Close School. 

The school offers academic scholarships for Year 3, and six different types of scholarship for Year 7 (Foundation, Academic, Sport, Music, Art and Drama).

Annual fees are £8,700 to £21,600 for day students, and £21,525 to £28,725 for boarders.

Our view

Good for: Whether joining as a day or boarding student, families can expect their child to quickly become part of the inclusive, welcoming and friendly community. It’s a place for students of all abilities and with all interests – so whether your child is academic, arty or sporty (and either outgoing or the quieter type), Dean Park offers the facilities, support, expertise and subject choices to bring out their potential. It has a beautiful location in the Cotswolds, but not too remote, and fees are slightly below some of the more elite schools in the area,

Not for: There’s a strong Christian ethos that underpins the whole attitude to teaching, inclusion and pastoral care, although religion is not forced upon any student and it is a school for all faiths and none. It’s not as pushy as some more academic schools in the area, and the entrance exams are not as highly selective.

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