This non-selective Catholic prep school in the Hampshire countryside offers a wonderful boarding programme, with a strong musical, artistic and sporting offering and excellent preparation to top senior schools.
Set in the beautiful Test Valley of Hampshire, this co-ed school has a small community of 460 boys and girls aged 3 to 13, and there’s 120 boarders. The Catholic faith guides a values-driven curriculum that encourages children to “discover where their gifts lie and to enioy their talents”. There is voluntary mass in the chapel three times a week and Father Simon Everson (who was previously chaplain at the school) is the school’s very present headteacher. It’s a very inclusive school, though, and welcomes children of all religions and none; only 40% of students are actually Catholic.
Farleigh is a non-selective and high-achieving school where children of all abilities go on to a variety of senior schools in the area, mainly Sherborne, Canford, Marlborough, St Mary’s Calne and St Mary’s Ascot. Students aim high while working in a very nurturing supportive environment with small class sizes. In 2022, 17 students were awarded scholarships.
The school has a strong nurturing, family vibe and puts student wellbeing first. There’s an extended day offering wrap-around care with a breakfast club at 7.30am through to after-school club at 5.45pm, which helps to support busy working parents. All new students are helped to settle into the school with help of a student buddy, known as a 'shepherd'. And teachers and students sit together to eat breakfast and lunch every day (we hear that the food is excellent here, and there are five different options of main course including vegan and gluten-free).
Father Simon Everson is the school’s inspiring Headteacher. Fr Everson takes a very active role in the school, still teaching Religious Studies to Years 7 and 8, and Personal Social and Health Education to Years 6, 7 and 8.
While the pre-prep is housed in its own purpose built building, it shares the same ethos and facilities as the main school – and this feels like one very close-knit community.
In Pre-prep students follow what the school describes as a “lively curriculum” with a broad focus on both core and non-core subjects including English, maths, religious studies, science, history, geography, French (from Reception), ICT, PE, dance, drama, music, art and craft.
There’s plenty of specialist teaching, and a focus on creative and physical activities including ballet, yoga, cookery and swimming. It's a school where children “learn to enjoy the outdoors as a learning environment”, and you can expect to see students wearing dungarees and running around in Forest School sessions with rosy cheeks and muddy palms!
In the Prep school, there’s a focus on discovering the individual talents of each child – and as a small school it can take the time to really get to know your child and their needs. Lessons are adapted for different learning styles – visual, kinaesthetic and auditory – with the school wanting students to be “active participants, rather than passive listeners”. Class sizes are small (14 to 18 is typical) which helps children’s strengths and weaknesses to be easily identified by teachers.
Students continue to study a broad curriculum, with the addition of Latin and design technology, in preparation for Common Entrance, senior school exams and 13+ scholarships. Teachers also focus on teaching soft skills such as collaboration and teamwork, independent learning and study skills; while these are less quantifiable than subjects such as maths, success can be seen in the well-rounded students that leave Farleigh year on year.
There’s also a big focus on reading, with every student expected to read for at least half an hour every day.
The Ambassador Programme in Years 7 and 8 is a fantastic example of Farleigh adding breadth and depth to students’ education and helping to prepare many scholarships in their chosen field. Students volunteer to take on extra responsibilities within a department, such as drama, and act as role models for other students.
The school has a six-day week, and on Saturday mornings students attend Farleigh for timetabled lessons followed by sports clubs and matches.
Sport is an integral part of life at Farleigh; Years 4-8 play games four afternoons per week and the school is very active (and successful) in competitive sport. Boys play football, rugby and cricket, and girls play hockey, netball and rounders; tennis is offered year-round and PE lessons cover a wide range of physical activities including swimming, life-saving skills, dance, and cross country.
Farleigh students also excel in the arts, and its modern music school is outstanding. All children from Pre-Prep to Year 5 sing in a choir, and high numbers of students learn to play an instrument too. Drama is taught through to Year 4, students can take LAMDA lessons, and there are opportunities for every student to get a part in the many plays and productions staged throughout the school year. Students are fortunate to have their own purpose-built Theatre, a studio rehearsal space, and an alfresco amphitheatre.
Life at Farleigh is always busy, and students are given so many opportunities to pursue passions, learn new skills, explore new hobbies. With so much space on their doorstep, comes so many opportunities for outdoor pursuits and who wouldn’t want that for their child?
There are sports clubs that introduce sports not featured on the PE curriculum such as girls' football, lacrosse, boys' hockey and judo) and a choice of creative (pottery, art, design), community and practical clubs. The school also has a very strong house system with “countless competitions during the year” where students can earn points for handwriting, hockey, geography and even circus skills; it’s another example of the school’s well-rounded focus on developing children of all abilities and interests.
Farleigh has full, weekly and flexi-boarding for boys and girls from Year 3 (age 7); the option to board from aged seven and the choice of boarding packages are a big draw for busy working parents and those living overseas. Boarding is popular here, and many Year 7 students convert to weekly or full boarding in their summer term as they prepare for boarding life at senior school.
There are 20 staff living on campus, which certainly helps to contribute to the Farleigh family vibe that comes across here. Weekends are action-packed with activities such as making go-karts or kites, scuba diving in the pool or a day trip to the cinema or ten-pin bowling. The boarders don’t have to venture too far afield to have fun, with many staying on campus to build dens in the woods, cycle, skateboard, play tennis or dance in the studio in their 'Club'.
Pre-Prep students have their own activity hall and library, playground with treehouse, outdoor stage with seating, multi-use games area, sensory planting, sand pit and ‘water wall’. The prep school is set within a wonderful Georgian house at the heart of the campus that’s surrounded by woodland. Children have the space and freedom to explore and play and enjoy these treasured years of their childhood.
The school is most popular with students living in the nearby villages surrounding Andover, Overton, Romsey, Salisbury and Winchester. Only 10% are London-based, Armed Forces or overseas boarders.
Annual tuition fees range from £6,210 to £22,695 for day students, and £25,950 to £30,075 for boarders.
Good for: It’s ideal for parents searching for a school close to London (it’s just a one hour commute) and offers all the healthy benefits of going to school in a countryside setting. With its small size, there is plenty of one-on-one attention and individual support, and the school’s flexible boarding policy can help you strike the right balance between school and home life.
Not for: It is a faith school, and the Catholic ethos underpinning an education at Farleigh may not suit every family. It may feel too down-to-earth for some and would not appeal to those looking for a more city-based education.
If you are the owner or the principal of the school and note any inaccuracies, or would like to update data, you can now open an account with us. You will also be able to add admissions availability per year group, and advertise current job vacancies. This is a free service. Please help us keep prospective parents up to date with your latest information.
Are you looking for a place for your child, and want help from our school consultants? If so, click on the link below, and we will forward your request for information to the school or schools of the same type that we are confident have availability. This is a free service for our readers. Request Information