As well as a brand spanking new name to represent big leaps forward, Embley School in Romsey is a warm, unstuffy environment for kids to utterly thrive in.
Embley, once known as Hampshire Collegiate School, is a selective, co-ed Nursery, Prep and Senior School for 2-18-year-olds just over the border in Hants. Following some major strides forward with the academics and ethos, a new name – celebrating its fantastic heritage – seemed quite apt.
The grounds of this Romsey school are breathtaking. The huge 130 acres of pristine countryside, situated right by the New Forest, was once the family home to Florence Nightingale. And, despite its lovely leafy location, it’s not too far from Southampton and Winchester, as well as being easily reachable from London – meaning that kids get all the benefits of the great outdoors, without being too isolated.
The school offers day and, from Year 7 onwards, full and flexi-boarding. There are 470 pupils on the roll and special needs provision is included in the school fees.
There is a strong sense of unity between the Prep and Senior Schools. Most pupils stay through till 18, and the same house system is embedded from Reception to Year 13.
The facilities at Embley really are top-notch. How many schools can say they’ve got their very own fleet of yachts moored just a short ride away? The school also has its very own 9-hole golf course, tennis courts, swimming pool and in the works is a brand new equestrian centre.
There is also a dedicated performing arts studio, and lately, the music offering has really been ramped up with the older kids being able to take things such as Music Tech at A-Level and the school also has its own recording studio.
On top of a 300 seater performance space with such whopping grounds there are plenty of spots for a bit of al fresco performance as well. The school is also able to offer LAMDA examinations and LAMDA lessons as part of co-curricular activities for any budding young thespians.
The art and design facilities here are also excellent. Picture a giant airy space, split into sections for everything from painting to photography, textiles and more.
There’s also work happening to create a photography studio and sixth formers who choose to do creative subjects have their own personal cubby area for the duration of their studies, meaning they can come and create whenever they need to without having to pack and unpack all their gear. It’s very reminiscent of top art schools such as Central St Martins and Camberwell and has a very cool, creative vibe.
One area I thought was really exciting was the Prep DT area. Here the kids can start using some pretty hefty equipment (under very careful supervision, of course!) to start working in wood, plastics and other tech from a young age and the projects that the smallest of children have created astounded me.
Cliff Canning has been at the school for a couple of years now and has really got his feet under the desk. An incredibly warm man, his passion for the role and the school is palpable. This is a guy who not only drives the kids to think big but won’t let anybody give up a project on a whim. Turning ideas about bake sales into national student-led conferences and setting up formal meetings with students to discuss ideas and plans, he thinks the kids are capable of great things and is conscious of making sure that they get the most to become well-rounded people and follow dreams rather than the expectations of others.
This is an incredibly sporty school and everybody gets a chance to be active. Rugby, golf, sailing, cricket, hockey, tennis… you get the picture. And with a new Director of Sport now in place, it’s sporting offering is set to grow even further.The school has also recently launched its ski team and despite being quite new on the block has achieved some fantastic results – most recently coming in second place in the national schools championships and awarded the highest ranked newcomer at an international level, and beating some very established school teams.
The school has also been making some waves (hoho!) in the world of sailing and competed in the Isle of Wight’s Round the Island Race, taking home some pretty impressive silverware. Out of 1,300 teams that started, only 288 made it to the finish line and after 13 hours of pretty hefty competitive racing the school’s teams won first in every class. I told you these kids are determined!
Although the academics at Embley are very strong there is a real emphasis that they aren’t the be-all and end-all of everything.
Kids are supported well and pushed to achieve, but through the MBA Experience in partnership with Winchester University programme and its industry career programme, wanting to be a fashion designer is considered as much a legitimate career choice as a top legal barrister, and there are even a few Italian fashion houses that pop along to chat to the students. Che fico!
The academics at the school have improved year-on-year with the latest A-Level results (the school’s best ever, in fact) coming in with over half achieving A*, A or B and four out of five securing A*, A, B or C. On the GCSE side there’s also been a continued increase in results.
All school leavers got into their first choice university for 2019 as well, one in three of which are Russell Group while others travel to Munich, Florida and beyond for higher education.
How many people can say they’ve lived at Florence Nightingale’s house? The boarding facilities are housed within the main part of the Manor House and my, what a house!
The dorms have been totally spruced up lately and are looking very chic with their grey walls and incredible views. The husband and wife boarding team, Mr and Mrs McCredie, are incredibly warm, friendly and bursting with ideas for the kids to keep them occupied. There are plenty of trips out, takeaway treat nights, Bake Off challenges and, when the prep is finished, the kids are as busy as they want to be. Birthdays are a big thing here, with the kids allowed to have their friends over to stay at the boarding house for sleepovers and the older kids allowed to go out for dinner in nearby Romsey if they request.
The Nursery and Prep sections of the school are slightly away from the main building, but there’s a strong sense of cohesiveness between the two parts of the schools with highly experienced Heads of Departments at the Senior School & Sixth Form regularly in the Prep teaching French, Spanish and the Sciences to the littlies.
Wellies are de rigeur over here and they have plenty of time out and about, whatever the weather with a special Learning Outside the Classroom area in the building for their finds and outdoor-inspired makes.
There’s a slick introduction to more formal schooling through the Early Years section of the school. French is taught from Nursery and the kids have ICT included in everything from Maths to reading. This allows additional skills to be taught, but it keeps it fun for the kids plus gives the teachers tangible measurements to make sure they are achieving their full potential.
The Prep is full of great facilities including its own DT area (mentioned above), ICT area and Music area. There’s also plans to tweak the surrounding outside space of the building to give the kids even more brilliant outside space to play and learn in.
The first impression many people will have of the school is how grand it all looks, but it is a very down-to-earth setting. From the staff to the pupils, there’s a welcoming and inclusive vibe to the school which in turn brings a lot of quirkiness and individuality to the place.
There’s also some real forward-thinking here and that’s visible in the Prep School’s Stock Market Investment Club. Kids from the Prep have raised investment from friends, family as well as local businesses, and supported by a brokerage, have invested in the London Stock Market. The kids get to learn about how the business world works, understand about the cause and effect of the news and world events on the market and when the funds mature, the profit will be used to help as many other children as possible to get an education. The club’s returns will be recycled to fund a bursary which will allow a pupil to attend Embley who would otherwise be unable to
They are also in the preliminary stages of switching over the uniform to reflect the new name and branding of the school. The rollout will take a couple of years, but I’ve been informed that tweed and traditional colours will be involved. A nice bit of traditional flair in what is quite a contemporary setting.
Fees are less than you would imagine. With full-time Nursery coming in at £2,918 per term, £3,467 for Reception and Years 1 and 2, £3,980 for Years 3 to 6, £5,411 for Years 7 to 13-day pupils and boarding costs an additional £3,916 per term on top.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
GOOD FOR: Those looking for a well-rounded setting for their kids academically, but also creatively. It’s unfussy and warm, with an inclusive vibe whoever you are and wherever you are from. Also, it’s a little less expensive than other schools in the area.
NOT FOR: Those who are looking for somewhere filled with pomp, ceremony and an absolute die-hard academic focus. Academics are important here but they want to make sure that all the kids are on the correct path for them.
DARE TO DISAGREE? Be my guest! Embley are holding a Virtual Open Morning on Tues 16 June, or you can book a Skype call with a member of their Senior Leadership Team.
Embley, Embley Park, West Wellow, Romsey SO51 6ZE. Tel: 01794 512206