Prince’s Gardens is a co-ed prep day school in central London for Pre-Reception through to Year 6 (three to 11 years) that shows early signs of excellence through its specialist teaching, an exciting approach to hands-on learning, and rigorous preparation for some of London’s leading senior schools.
Located in Kensington, Prince’s Gardens is a small, boutique-style school.
With its prestigious SW7 postcode, Prince’s Gardens takes full advantage of its location. As well as being a stone’s throw from Hyde Park for outdoor learning, sports and bushcraft activities, the school is only a “five-minute walk for little legs” to the many museums on Exhibition Road (Natural History Museum, the Science Museum, the V&A and more). Trips such as these aren’t a highlight of the academic year but more a regular occurrence – part of the weekly or monthly timetable – and there aren’t many schools that can offer such opportunities without the hassle of a bus trip and packed lunch included.
Cast aside your preconceptions of city schools as concrete jungles – this one has a ‘secret garden’ that’s wonderfully unexpected as you approach the doors of its five-storey townhouse campus. Prince’s Gardens has two acres of green space where children can don their wellies for the type of runaround you’d expect in a country school. Here’s a school to prove that outdoor learning isn’t just the preserve of rural schools; rain or shine, outdoor learning spans the curriculum here. As the school says: “A little bit of mud after a rainy day will not keep them inside.”
Typical of a small prep, there’s a close-knit community with a warm and nurturing environment that many families of young children will be looking for: for example, teachers eat lunch with their Reception students and there’s an end of year family sports day complete with picnic. We all know how reluctant children can be to share the news of their school day but, thanks to the school’s online journal, parents can view daily photographs, videos and quotes of their child ‘in class’.
Community is also built through house events (as a nod to the school’s focus on the importance of nature, and the houses are named after botanists and conservationists Attenborough, Carson, Darwin and Goodall). There’s also room for every child at the school to have their say, with student leadership positions ranging from head boy and girl to eco-councillors and digital champions.
Prince’s Gardens is still very much in its infancy – and its first year has been filled with unexpected upheavals due to Covid-19. The school has dealt with school closures and online learning, as well as the delayed opening of its campus. We now look forward to seeing how the school moves forward into its second year.
Prince’s Gardens motto is “Prepared. For everything”. It’s a bold claim but one that most importantly highlights the school’s belief that prep education is about more than just academic achievement. It signals an ethos that looks beyond grades and exam results to equip students with “skills for the future”. Yes, Prince’s Gardens is ambitious for its students to attend top senior schools, but academia is just one part of a much richer learning experience. Stories of children going on a tree hunt using the LeafSnap app, learning French by baking croissants, and upcycling their old clothes illustrate the school’s focus on other skills such as creativity, collaboration, communication and critical thinking.
In Pre-Reception, teaching follows the Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum enriched with weekly lessons in Spanish and Mandarin, and specialist teaching for sport and music. Don’t expect your child to be confined to the classroom for all of it as Prince’s Gardens is a strong advocate of outdoor learning. As well as exploring the school’s own garden, students spend two afternoons a week in Hyde Park building shelters, floating handmade boats in the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain or hunting mini-beasts.
In Years 1-6, the school covers all key areas of the National Curriculum for England, enriched with a strong provision for specialist teaching. All year groups have lessons in English, mathematics, computing, PSHEE and the humanities (history, geography and RE, as well as specialist teaching in art, drama, music, PE, and science.
After an initial exposure to Spanish and Mandarin in Pre-Reception both languages are fully embedded in the curriculum from Year 1, hopefully leaving students with the solid building blocks needed for future language study at Senior School. For students who need additional support in English, the school has a dedicated English as an Additional Language (EAL) teacher who works in classrooms, with small groups and on a 1:1 basis.
Teachers use the many museums as an extension of the classroom. In science, for example, every year group takes at least one trip to the Science Museum to see topics such as astronomy, electricity and evolution brought to life; once back in school, students are then experimenting and learning in the multi-purpose science lab and the science theory classroom. Learning here feels relatable, exciting and fun.
The best facility within the school is perhaps the makerspace, an open plan space filled with gadgets from Lego bricks and construction materials to green screen technology, 3D printers and a laser cutter. The school talks about how students create 3D hovercrafts and animatronic glove puppets for story-telling – or simply build the tallest tower. There’s a feeling that this is the hub of the school – a place where children can be hands-on, inquisitive and explore learning without textbooks.
Another one of Prince’s Gardens strengths lie in its broad and rigorous curriculum, which is designed to prepare students for 11+ senior school entry – both the 11+ and the ISEB pre-test. This includes lessons in verbal and non-verbal reasoning as well as current affairs from Year 4, and weekly interviews, exam practice and scholarship sessions in Year 6. There’s a well-considered leavers programme including first aid courses, touch typing, the Westminster Citizenship programme and a residential trip within Europe. Students move around the school in their last two years for English, maths and science to prepare them for senior school life. And families can rely on the school for the support needed to get through the senior school application and exam process.
In the school’s first Year 6, students received offers at senior schools including Heathfield School, More House Girls School, North Bridge House Canonbury, Queen's Gate School, St George's School, Ascot, and St James's Girls School. All strong independent schools, and interesting to note that they are not all Cognita-run schools – so there doesn’t appear to be any pushiness from the school in this direction.
There are currently one or two forms per year group, and the school has the space (and the ambition) to grow to a maximum of three forms. Class sizes are capped at 18 and the average is currently 14 children per class. With its smaller class sizes, teachers have more time to teach and support every individual child, and the curriculum can be changed quickly if needed.
Headmistress Alison Melrose says that the school has a “responsibility to know every single child”; in a school of this size, teachers can be expected to know the strengths and weaknesses of every child. The school talks about tailoring the work to meet the needs of each child, “to extend the able, challenge those in the middle and to support and encourage those who progress at a slower rate” – and every parent should expect this.
In terms of SEN provision, the school has a full time Head of Learning Support and Inclusion, who works with children on a 1:1 basis, with small groups and within the classrooms. “We are able to support children where we can make reasonable adjustments to meet their needs and welcome an initial conversation with parents,” says the school.
Prince’s Gardens doesn’t have the sweeping campuses of rival country schools – so don’t expect any sports pitches and tennis courts. However, sport is still very much on the curriculum. There are weekly swimming lessons for Years 3-6 at Imperial College’s Ethos Sports Centre, which is literally on the doorstep, in the next door building, and galas are held against local London prep schools. PE lessons are held in the school hall, Hyde Park, and Imperial College’s sports centre, with a full range of traditional school sports including gymnastics, football, rugby, netball, hockey, and cricket.
Prince’s Gardens does plenty to nurture the creative talents of its students too. Children are taught by specialist teachers for art from Year 1, drama from Year 2 and music from Pre-Reception. There are weekly singing lessons, music classes and opportunities to take private peripatetic instrument lessons with tutors from the Royal College of Music. And plenty of opportunities for students to showcase their talents in assemblies, tea-time music recitals and large-scale performances (which are held off-campus).
The school is constantly developing an enrichment programme covering a wide range of activities, from fencing to chess, LAMDA to cookery, Chelsea Young Writer to Chelsea Ballet, sport, music, makerspace, stylist club, Forest club, mindfulness and much more. Some are free and provided by staff, others are paid for and taught by visiting specialists.
While the school’s planned residential trips were put on hold due to Covid-19 restrictions, there is a full programme of trips from Year 3, all led by the Active Learning Group. In future years, we can expect to see children heading off on an annual ski trip, to Spain and plenty more.
Headmistress Alison Melrose has more than 20 years’ experience within London Prep schools, including Northwood Schools, and she is a graduate from University College, Durham University.
The school is part of the global Cognita education group. While Prince’s Gardens offers its own individual ‘brand’ of education (typical of all Cognita schools), there are benefits to being part of an international family of schools. These include students participating in Cognita’s Global Be-Well Day (a day dedicated to student mental health and wellbeing), supporting charitable initiatives such as Solar Buddy and Light Up Learning, and improving their Spanish through online chats with peers in Cognita’s Spanish schools.
Prince’s Gardens is spread across four five-storey Grade II listed townhouses in Kensington. The school is immensely proud of its prime location in central London and its purpose-built facilities – and rightly so.
“With our amazing outdoor space, specialist teaching spaces and using our location and London as our classroom, a Prince’s Gardens education prepares the children for everything.”
The school combines the heritage of its Grade II listed building (there’s a beautiful, domed ceiling for example) with modern facilities including a music room, a science lab, an art room and the makerspace. (And we have to give that wonderful secret garden just one more mention!)
The main point of entry is Reception, when children attend an informal session to assess whether “they will thrive at Prince's Gardens”. For entry to Years 1 or 2, there is an assessment and interview with the Headmistress, and Years 3 to 6 complete assessments in both English and mathematics and an interview with the Headmistress.
Annual fees are £10,380 (Nursery), £18,930 (Pre-Reception), £22,200 (Reception to Year 2), and £23,580 (Years 3-6). Scholarships can be awarded for entry to Year 3 or Year 4 and include a fee remission of 20%.
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