Cricklade Manor Prep
Muddy says: A dynamic yet nurturing day prep for ages 2-11 in historic Cricklade, on the edge of the Cotswolds
A dynamic yet nurturing day prep for ages 2-11 in historic Cricklade, on the edge of the Cotswolds, Cricklade Manor Prep has a healthy Christian ethos, welcoming those with all faiths and none. For a school in the centre of a small town, it has some pretty gorgeous outdoor spaces including a conservation area, pond, forest classroom, poly-tunnel and a wild meadow.
Founded in 2017, it was known as Prior Park Prep in a former life, a Catholic day and boarding school that ran up to age 13. In its present popular and very successful incarnation, it is a small school of 167 boys and girls (including the nursery), with one class per year, starting at only 11-13 children in each class in the earlier years. Currently the school has two classes in Year 6, with the potential of growing to a two-form entry all the way through.
Children are fairly local, travelling from a radius of around 15 miles.
….are pretty impressive for a small school. Sport is a particular strength. Spread around the eight-acre campus is a full-sized astroturf, a multitude of on-site playing fields, three netball courts, a large sports hall with four badminton courts, two basketball courts and cricket nets, and a heated outdoor pool that received a good deal of use from the Easter holidays through to October half term (lessons are compulsory for all children, which is unusual for a prep school). There is also a cricket pavilion and large outdoor learning area and Forest School. The school garden has a poly-tunnel, allotments, and even chickens!
Science, art, music and drama are also strong. The schools boasts a fully equipped senior-standard science laboratory, while the art room is lovely and bright and has its own kiln. One third of all students take individual music lessons (and an aim of upping this to 50% of pupils in the near future), and all of Year 5 learn the trombone. There is an enthusiastic and talented new Head of Music who has managed to double the size of the choir in their short tenure, so it’s all looking positive for the future!
Classrooms are large and bright, with many having been totally refurbished with smart new furniture. There is ongoing redevelopment of facilities across the school.
Cricklade Manor might be a new school but it is doing very well academically. Removing Years 7 and 8 from the school has strengthened its leaving programme in Year 6, with children doing extremely well at 11+ and benefitting from time not being watered down by pre-tests or preparation for Common Entrance. This is not a school for someone who wants just academics (they offer so much more than that), yet still 8 out of 9 children who applied to the local grammar schools last year secured places, with two of them to the famous Pates in Cheltenham, arguably one of the top grammar schools in the country. These children of local doctors, dentists and solicitors, do extremely well, with about a third to grammar school, a third to independent schools, often in Bath, and the final third into the very healthy local state sector. Last year six scholarships were awarded to pupils across the fields of sport, art and music.
The school offers a skills based curriculum, which runs throughout all of the academic work, with children learning about compromise and resilience, amongst other skills. Challenge, Motivate and Prepare are the language of learning at Cricklade, with these values running throughout each subject, each classroom, each sports field.
Last academic year saw the introduction of CPD, Cricklade Pupil Development: 30 minute sessions four times a week straight after lunch. These sessions are tailored to individual pupils needs and include topics such as mental maths, challenge maths, sport leaders’ award, art scholars, verbal reasoning in preparation for the 11+, sessions for academic scholars, handwriting, touch-typing and even debating. It’s a real opportunity to stretch and support all pupils.
SEN support is rigorous, with a SENCO head of a strong department. Individual and group support is offered, and the school keeps an ongoing watchlist so that nobody falls between the cracks.
Most children enter the school at nursery level and continue on. Children joining higher up the school enjoy a two-day assessment to make sure that they will thrive here, with entrance tests in maths and English. The school is keen to always keep enough space in the higher years in order welcome families arriving with older children.
Guy Barrett is the man at the helm, in position here for two years after a five-year stint as Head of Wishford’s Heywood Prep in Corsham. A seriously talented sportsman, he tells me that he didn’t quite make the professional cut and decided to re-train as a PE teacher. Fast forward a number of years and sporting’s loss is, quite frankly, Cricklade’s gain. A very visible Head, he has taught IT and STEAM to Years 5, 6, 7 and 8, and also coaches games as much as possible.
Even in the short time I spent at the school it was clear that he is an intrinsic part of the new Cricklade Manor Prep. His enthusiasm seeps through every nook and cranny, and he has been instrumental in masterminding the school’s conversion to a strong, dynamic 11+ day school.
There is a separate EYFS centre for Nursery and Reception (at Year One littlies move up to the ‘big school’) – a large, light and bright space, perfect for little ones to learn and explore in. A walled garden around the early years centre allows for a lovely, safe play area, with mud kitchen, digging and planting areas, all adorned with Woodland Explorer animals. These creatures offer a language of learning for younger ones, where Sporty Squirrel, Resilient Rabbit or Digital Dog teach children about their named attributes. Each of the 17 animals (attached to the 17 early learning goals) also has a toy to match, which is awarded to the children in assembly each week.
WRAP AROUND CARE
There are lots of interesting, well thought out extras at Cricklade, but particularly impressive is their Friday afternoon Cricklade Active Programme, where children are allocated a new activity for each half of term. The 5-week sessions might include archery, fencing, gardening, needlework, school play rehearsals or even Ultimate Frisbee. It is a real way to find that special something that each child excels at.
On top of CAP, the school encourages sport and the arts, with over 75 clubs on offer to pupils (embroidery, anyone?), plus a school trip every year – this year it was the Van Gogh and Science Museums in Amsterdam – priced pretty reasonably…think £500 rather than £3000.
The school has very close ties to the local community, celebrating the Cricklade Flag Festival as well as taking part in their Christmas Parade and visiting the War Memorial on Christmas Day. On another, very important, note the school is on a huge eco drive, making every effort to get rid of single use plastic.
And last, but by no means least, we loved the heart-breakingly cute school dog, Barley, who followed us around for the entire school visit.
Reception fees start at £1795 per term (plus 15 funded hours) rising to £3860 for Years 5 and 6.
WORD ON THE GROUND
The mums I’ve talked to value the school’s open door policy, appreciating the fact that the Head is very willing to engage with parents. It is very much a family atmosphere here, from Nursery all the way up to Year 6, and parents value the multicultural background of pupils. All in all, Cricklade offers a full prep school experience for children, at (almost) half the price of local country preps. This is down to Wishford’s knack of reading, and knowing, their market and their target families – they certainly do it well!
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Well-rounded children who will thrive in an academic yet non-hot housey environment. Plenty of music, art, drama and sport for everyone. Good, extended before-school and after-school care is great for working parents or those who live further afield.
Not for: Those who are after full-boarding facilities, long leafy driveways or a school that goes up to 13.
Dare to disagree?! Have a look for yourself at their whole school Open Days Fri 7th Feb and Sat 16th May. Nursery and Early Years Open Week 25th-29th Nov and 16th – 20th March.
Cricklade Manor Prep, The Manor House, Calcutt Street, Cricklade, Swindon SN6 6BB, Tel: 01793 750275, www.cricklademanor.com