This day prep school in Bristol offers a very wholesome and happy learning parkland environment where they are both challenged and nurtured.
It’s a school that really cherishes childhood and lets children ‘be children’ rather than encouraging them to grow up too fast; expect to see students wearing wellies, climbing trees, bushcraft cooking and making dens. As the school says,”
“Simply put we wish to nurture decent human beings who enjoy their precious childhood in a safe and beautiful rural environment, slightly removed from the pressure and clamour of modern youth.”
The Downs is effectively led by Headteacher Debbie Isaachsen, who joined the school in 2020. She was previously Headteacher of Heatherton School, part of the Berkhamsted Schools Group, and Head of the lower school and the Deputy Head of the pre-prep at Cheltenham College Preparatory School.
The Downs has developed a well-resourced curriculum that works towards achieving high academic standards through access to specialist subject teachers, the outdoors and modern technology. There’s specialist teaching for French, music, dance, PE and information technology from Year 1, Latin is introduced in Year 6.
From Year 6, teaching focuses on the Common Entrance Syllabus to prepare students for the 13+ senior school entry exams, as well scholarship exams in drama, art, music, and sport.
Students here are very much known by their teachers; class sizes are small, up to a maximum of 18, so that teachers know the strengths and weaknesses and help them “thrive”. Students leave here aged 13 to attend many prestigious UK schools, and 100% get places at their first choice, including Badminton, Blundell’s, Bristol Grammar School, Bryanston, Clifton College, Queen Elizabeth’s Hospital, King’s Taunton, King’s Bruton, Malvern College, Marlborough, Millfeld, Monmouth, Sherborne, Uppingham and Winchester. Around 60% of students are offered scholarships, a mark of the high standards in academic, music, art, drama, sport.
The school, which was once part of a wider estate including the well-known Tyntesfield National Trust property, values the connection between nature and student wellbeing. It means that the outdoors plays a huge part of school life, and students can often be seen climbing trees-climbing and playing in the ‘hobbit house’ and wooden castles within the grounds. Lessons are often held in the Tree House Classroom (known to every student as The Wizard’s Hut).
Students are encouraged to broaden their horizons and get involved with choirs and theatre productions; there are 40 different clubs, and the chance to play for one of the many sports teams from golf and cricket to swimming and lacrosse. There are high numbers singing in the choir, attending dance lessons and playing a musical instrument. They are also brought together through various co-curricular and community activities.
There’s no typical student here, and the school steers children away from specialising in any one area too soon.
The school says,
“We guard against them becoming specialist sportsmen, musicians or lead characters. Rather we encourage rugby players to sing with distinction in our outstanding Chamber Choir, saxophonists to act with conviction in the numerous school productions and leading characters to delight in creating ceramic sculptures and water colour paintings."
One of the first things you’ll notice as you arrive at this prep school in Bristol is its sensational gardens and breathtaking grounds, filled with tree houses, climbing frames, tropical plants. There’s also a Pets’ Corner with guinea foul, rabbits and chickens.
Most children enter the school in Reception, and children who join after this are informally assessed. Annual fees range from £12,222 to £18,570 and bursary awards are available.
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