Muddy says: A delightful day and boarding prep on the outskirts of Salisbury, perfect for girls aged 3-11
GODOLPHIN PREP, SALISBURY
An inspiring day and boarding school for girls aged 3-18, Godolphin‘s balance of academics with strong pastoral care and extra curricular brilliance makes for well-developed, visionary girls who stand out from the crowd. The Senior school was awarded Southwest Independent Secondary School of the Year 2019 by Sunday Times School Guide, and indeed the whole school is as much about developing the whole person, as much about encouraging critical thinking as it is ticking off exam results (fabulous though they may be). The Prep School, with its 80 girls, is a lovely addition on site, and has recently celebrated its 25th anniversary.
***Hot off the Press*** This September, this famous girls’ school has just opened their arms to boys in the nursery, so now all little cherubs aged 3 and 4 can reap the benefits of Godolphin’s fabulous early years.
Girls come to the prep from within a forty minute radius, with boarding for prep girls from Year 3. A truly lovely environment, with each girl very much treated as an individual, extraordinary pastoral care, and a real family feel, with a hugely loyal parent body (who rock up for assembly every Friday!).
There is a strong connection to the senior school, with some teachers in the prep also teaching higher up the school, girls crossing over, and pupils enjoying all that the ‘Big’ school has to offer.
The Prep School building is small but perfectly formed, with brand spanking new outdoor play equipment (the pupils asked for it and the parents raised the money!). Classes are light and bright, circled around a lovely central hall.
A whopping great bonus for these lucky girls is that they get all the benefits of the senior school and all is that it has to offer, right on their doorstep. As well as acres and acres of playing fields and sports pitches, there is a fitness centre with a 25 metre indoor pool, and a gym. There is also an extremely impressive Performing Arts Centre with an in-the-round theatre, lobby and practice rooms, where drama and music classes take place, as well as the school’s orchestras, choirs and school plays. There is a big school drama production for Years 3-6 each year, while the entire school get the wonderful gig of staging a Nativity play. Prep girls take part in Drama Club with girls from the senior school. Prep girls can also join in Mrs Hattersley’s Orchestra with older girls, with over half of all prep girls taking music lessons in at least one instrument.
Indeed, co-curriculum is key here, with over twenty (twenty!) after-school activities. Children can stay until 5.45pm daily, and if parents are running late they can even head up to the junior boarding house for supper. Sport is strong in the prep, with all children playing in a team. Swimming, hockey, netball, athletics, cricket and cross country running keep the girls busy, with teams in Years 2 and 3 mixed, while Years 4-6 each field their own teams.
Unsurprisingly, academics are strong here. Having said that, as in the senior school, success without stress is the mantra, and it starts from the very beginning. Last year, in order to make the transition to senior school even more seamless, the Senior School dropped the asssessment exam for pupils already at Godolphin Prep. The girls are absolutely ready to move up when the time comes, and some will sit an academic exam in order to be considered for scholarship. Excitement of moving up starts at a young age, and there is much talk of ‘When I’m a Blue Pinny Girl’! Godolphin is very much a pastorally-minded school and the small class sizes work well with this approach. In Reception and Years 1 and 2 classes are tiny, with less than ten girls currently in each year. Once they get to Year 4 children are split into 2 classes, with no more than 17 in each class (but as it stands classes are significantly smaller).
A biggie here is the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) based curriculum. Technology is made much of, with all of the children in the prep school having access to iPads, and weekly, very popular, computing lessons. The team at the prep work hard to embed this STEM learning into and across the curriculum and I was extremely impressed by their learning journeys: each half term is given a theme, which runs across all areas of study, including outdoor learning. Even music and art find their way into each learning journey. Take the first term’s theme, Let’s Go Exploring – this will include a visit to Brownsea Island, a Pirate Party, celebrating Australia Day, and finishing rather fabulously with a treasure hunt, devised by pupils for their parents and older girls. This will be followed by We Like To Come Out At Night, which will involve an evening walk with staff, a lantern-making workshop, lantern parade, a visit to Longleat to experience their famous Light Show, and ultimately a pupil-driven digital presentation to parents.
Girls in the Prep school can board from Year 3 upwards, and they do! Although numbers are small at this early stage, they grow as girls move up the prep, with plenty of taster nights on offer. Girls can flexi board (1, 2 or 3 nights a week) as well as full or weekly board, or they can sign up for individual nights on a bed and breakfast basis if there is space. The junior boarders have a lovely cosy floor to themselves (with the most delightful housemistress I’ve met!), and the dorms are mixed ages. A friendly Gappie, much like a big sister, will put them to bed and provide an extra layer of support and another friendly face. I particularly loved the Prep snug, which was super warm and cosy. Want to know more? Ah, handily we have a film on Boarding Life at Godolphin!
Julia Miller steers the Prep School ship, and I hear she is much loved. She also teaches A-level history at the Senior School, so is a good example of the cross over. In advance of moving up, girls also get to know Head of the Senior School, Emma Hattersley, especially if they play in Mrs Hattersley’s Orchestra.
The Elizabeth Godolphin Award for sixth formers is Emma’s brainchild, a programme of self-development running alongside A-Levels and covering areas such as digital literacy, car maintenance, communication skills and managing finances. It also runs in the final year of the prep school, where girls tackle various independent projects, including life saving, first aid and bushcraft.
‘Little Explorers’ looks after little boys and girls from age 3 onwards, and what a lovely space it has! Situated to the rear of the prep school, they have a sunny outdoor space and a revamped and extended Nursery Garden which includes a vegetable patch, herb garden and sensory garden, busy play areas with natural resources and quiet areas for chatting and playing make believe.
This September the nursery has ‘gone green’, replacing all plastic resources and storage with items made from sustainable and eco friendly materials, plus plants have been introduced into the nursery for the children to study and care for.
Even the nursery at Godolphin follows the STEM approach, with many children moving up into Reception already reading and making excellent progress in maths. Art is a biggie in the nursery, as are music and French. For working parents the nursery offers wrap-around care with arrivals from 8am and plenty of after school activities.
Sadly, the boys will have to move elsewhere when it comes to Reception, but I promise you they’ll have had a great start!
Godolphin has the best of both worlds – on the edge of town with the space (and views) that this allows, while enjoying a strong bond with the city, its cathedral and community. The girls are involved in a growing number of charity events and will think nothing of donning a green wig and darting in and out of Salisbury’s cloisters in the name of raising dosh.
The House system is strong in the prep (and in the senior school), with houses Hamilton, Methuen and Douglas taking each other on in an inter-house science quiz and a highly competitive Pancake Race!
If I haven’t mentioned it already, the whole school has a strong family feel, which weaves its way up from the nursery to Sixth Form, as shown by their May Day Picnic, organised by sixth formers especially for the prep school girls. It is clear that the girls’ happiness is of the utmost importance – to explore their talents, celebrate their abilities and ultimately feel great about themselves. Pupils are encouraged to do their best, to develop their skills and explore their interests, but the focus is very much on the child, not results.
A big tick goes to the prep’s personal approach. Yes, it’s easier with a small school like Godolphin but from the moment we arrived on our visit, it was clear that the ‘whole’ child is at the forefront here. Academically, on the sports field and in the music studio, the school and its staff go the extra mile for their pupils.
A final word goes to the school pinnies – red for prep and pink for birthday girls. We love them!
Prep School Day Fees are £2,470 for reception, rising to £4,815 for years 4-6. 3-day boarding starts at £6,485.
See the full schedule of fees here.
WORD ON THE GROUND
The parents I spoke to were all, without exception, in love with the school. Parents love the small, family feeling of the Prep – girls are happy, sport, art, music and drama are strong, and results are great!
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Parents looking for an all-round education for their girls. The small number of pupils means that staff get to know all the children well. It offers the very best of single sex education, tip top academically but firmly embracing the whole child. Art and drama are unbeatable and sport is excellent. Girls can truly be themselves.
Not for: Children (or parents) who need rambling tree-lined driveways, polo fields, and boys. You’ll find none of them here. Godolphin is for down-to-earth, aspirational, hard-working, fun-loving, well-rounded girls.
Dare to disagree? The next Prep School Open Morning is 8 November, with another on 31 January – book via their website.
Godolphin Prep, Laverstock Road, Salisbury, Wiltshire SP1 2RB. Tel: 01722 430500. www.godolphin.org