St Margaret’s Prep
We love this lively, ambitious prep school with stunning facilities and a nurturing, community atmosphere. A thriving independent day school, well worth a look!
An independent co-ed day school in rural Wiltshire for ages 3-11 years, St Margaret’s Prep has a whopping range of impressive facilities, plus the added benefit of sharing a 28-acre site with adjacent sister secondary school St Mary’s, Calne, including a 25m indoor swimming pool, sports pitches, dining hall, theatre and chapel. The schools have separate Heads, but share a Board of Governors.
The school’s 180 or so pupils are fairly equally split between boys and girls, with half living within a 15min drive and almost all within 30 mins, keeping it local. A non-selective school, many children start at an early age in the vibrant, purpose-built Kindergarten, with most moving onto the single class reception. At Year 3, when more pupils join, the year expands to two classes. More children join from the state sector in Year 5 to prepare for secondary school entrance exams.
Down a tree-lined avenue off the A4, St Margaret’s is nestled in an unexpectedly gorgeous green oasis. The attractive grounds include extensive Astroturf surfaces for hockey and tennis, as well as a large indoor sports hall with cricket nets. The dedicated computer suite is equipped with more than enough Macs, and there is a spacious art room plus a host of music rooms including tuition rooms and a soundproof drum studio. The school shares a fully-staffed medical centre with St Mary’s, as well as a school shop, science laboratories, dining hall, chapel and theatre. The recent addition of a full-scale climbing wall is a spectacular highlight, too! In progress for 2021 is a new area for the younger children, a free-flowing learning space that bridges the gap between indoor and outdoor for Kindergarten, Reception and Year One. In our experience, you’d be hard-pressed to find a prep school with better resources.
THE HEAD TEACHER
Luke Bromwich joined the school in September 2019 after an extremely successful six years as Deputy Head of Kellett, a British International school in Hong Kong. He was immediately impressed with the children at St Margaret’s, who he describes as having a “quiet confidence with a have-a-go attitude” and they are clearly his priority. We love the fact that he was particularly touched by a welcome painting by year six pupils picturing his old school in Hong Kong meeting his new one in Wiltshire. Mr Bromwich brings a passion and youthful energy to his first Headship and won’t be letting this successful school rest on its laurels.
Deputy Head of Academic, Alex Hopkins, is a new appointment to the faculty, joining Pastoral Deputy Head Juliette Heal. Mr Hopkins will be leading on the renewed thematic emphasis to learning where, especially in the lower school, cross-curricular themes such as “Farm to Fork” will be the way into many subject areas.
Academic excellence is certainly an aim at St Margaret’s, but not at the expense of a well-rounded holistic education with an emphasis on individualising provision. Their most recent Ofsted report in 2017 was “Excellent”, and class sizes are small, averaging 12-18 children.
There is a great breadth to the curriculum, with specialist teachers dedicated to sport, art, music, computing and languages. Music is (only one of) the school’s strengths, with several choirs, a very successful chamber choir and the expectation that every child will learn to read music.
Most pupils gain entrance to their first choice secondary school, on which plenty of personalised advice is given. While many go on to St Mary’s and Dauntsey’s, Warminster, Stonar and Prior Park in Bath are also popular. This year’s 34 leavers have already secured around 13 secondary school awards and scholarships.
Pupils here enjoy expert tuition in rugby, football, netball, hockey, swimming, cricket, athletics, and climbing as part of the curriculum, with every child having a weekly swimming lesson. Most of these sports also have regular inter-school fixtures. Head of Sport, Dan Dury, favours inclusivity and absolutely encourages every child to get on the pitch and have a go.
An in-house tennis academy offers group tennis tuition after school and Bath Rugby visit the school in the autumn term to deliver ‘Attacking Maths’ as part of the Year 4 curriculum.
WRAP AROUND CARE
Working parents take note – provision of care is on offer from 8am-6pm Monday to Friday, as well as clubs that run during the holidays. The affectionately-named “Maggots” after school club takes place in a large purpose-built space, and includes playtime, a hot meal and an hour of homework supervision.
Online provision has been impressive over the past months. A full school day has been delivered via Microsoft Teams, with many lessons based on a model of 20mins teaching, followed by 40mins work with access to the teacher.
Fear not – fun has not been neglected, with fancy dress Fitness Thursdays a highlight (visit the website if you want to see the sports teacher dressed as a superhero). A whole school disco marked the end of home learning and celebrated the return to school.
There is a lively feel around the school’s extra-curricular activities which are many and varied, such as participation in the annual Devizes Eisteddfod, the Year 5 and 6 summer musical/drama production, and summer prize-giving.
Children can choose from over 30 clubs, from gardening and art to Mandarin, which take place in the extended lunch hour and after school. They are given the opportunity to complement their studies with a range of day and residential trips, culminating in a week spent at UKSA in Cowes on the Isle of Wight.
Individual music lessons are offered on at least twelve instruments from recorder to drums. Peripatetic specialist tutors are engaged for these, as well as for extra-curricular tennis, yoga, ballet and Rock School.
**Hot off the press! Bath Rugby are joining pupils at the school during the Easter holidays for a rugby day camp for ages 3-11.
An admirable connection with the outside world is also apparent here – there is strong engagement with local charities such as Wiltshire Mind, awareness of Fairtrade and collections for foodbanks.
All in all, a staggering amount of opportunity is on offer here, both within the curriculum and beyond it. Whether your child’s interest is climbing, computing, art or languages, every area is catered for with excellent resources and high-level tuition
BOASTY BITS / QUIRKS
Back in March last year the Chamber Choir reached the semi-finals of the Songs of Praise Choir of the Year and in 2019 (and 2017) they were finalists in the Barnardo’s National Choral Competition. The Wiltshire Choir of the Year title has been won a total of three times – the last time in 2018. Not bad!
In the summer of 2020 the Fairtrade Foundation awarded the school FairAware status and the year before they were given gold status as a UNICEF Rights Respecting School.
The school has the NaaceMark for technology and was one of the first schools to receive this award in 2019.
WORD ON THE GROUND…
…is overwhelmingly positive. Parents have found highlights to be:
“the dedicated and hard-working staff, the emphasis on sports and outdoor play, and the music and drama opportunities which are given to all children at the school”
“A positive energy which is truly palatable! It’s a genuinely uplifting place to be – and the children visibly respond to the engaging atmosphere.”
“a truly bespoke experience for every child”
“I particularly like the behaviour and absolute contentment of the children. Additionally, the very strong bond between the teaching staff and the parents”
“The key differentiation is the staff members. They are genuinely outstanding, totally dedicated and manage to combine exceptional teaching, fun, energy and care. Their enthusiasm and positivity filters through every aspect of the school.”
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Those looking for a top-notch prep education that prioritises individual needs; great facilities in a vibrant environment; those with girls aiming for St Mary’s, Calne.
Not for: Children not keen on getting stuck in and trying new things. There’s too much you’d miss out on here!
Find out for yourself: Book now for their next Virtual Open Event is on Thursday 29th April at 4.30pm. Details are at https://www.stmargaretsprep.org.uk/Admissions/Open-Events-Visits
Also, do take a look at their virtual tour: https://www.stmargaretsprep.org.uk/About-Us/Virtual-Tour
St Margaret’s Prep, Curzon Street, Calne, Wiltshire SN11 0DF, tel: 01249 857379, www.stmargaretsprep.org.uk