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All Hallows Prep, Cranmore

Muddy says – a small co-ed Catholic prep school with a family feel, very good results, Famous Five forest school and a cutting edge design studio

ALL HALLOWS PREPARATORY SCHOOL, CRANMORE

What? Where?

A small Catholic day and boarding prep school, All Hallows sits in 25 acres near the village of Cranmore (‘crane in the mere or marshes’ which explains the bird in the school logo) just off the road between Shepton Mallet and Frome. The newly cleaned stone frontage of Cranmore Hall makes it look alarmingly new but the building dates back to the 17th century. Founded in Bognor Regis in 1938 on All Hallows’ Day and with just one pupil, the school arrived here in 1946 and now has around 265 boys and girls aged from 3 to 13. The Head, admin and boarding dorms are in the main manor house; the rest of the school’s housed behind, a hotchpotch of ornate old buildings, converted stables and newer teaching blocks.

The school’s got a religious sounding motto (‘For every saint a candle’ meaning that everyone shines in their own light, they explained), they have a weekly mass and I did spy a few crucifixes dotted around but it’s open to all faiths – and none. The Head’s not a Catholic but about 40 per cent of the pupils are.

Facilities

Brand spanking new design and technology focused Creative Centre complements the traditonal arts and ceramics workshops and is fully tech’d up with the latest 3D printer, laser cutter and digital design packages.

Like many country prep schools, there’s a Forest School but this one goes on and on with three different base camps, a giant tipi, pizza oven, log cabin and an impressive, pupil-made totem pole. Up to Year 4s pull on their boiler suits and come here every afternoon; older kids as and when (minus the onesies). Lots of different stuff going on, from A Midsummer’s Night Dream to fish and chips in the woods.

Sports-wise – the usual pitches, nets, astro turf, tennis courts and a small indoor pool.

Academics

The Junior School follows the theme-based International Primary Curriculum. In Years 7 & 8, the focus moves towards Common Entrance/Scholarships. Despite being non-selective results are very good: over 60 percent of pupils leave with some sort of scholarship or exhibition and everyone passes the Common Entrance to the school they want. Lots of support in finding the right senior school.  Unlike some other prep schools, there’s no fixed group of ‘scholars’ from day one.

Headteacher

Dr trevor richards all hallows prep school somerset

Headmaster Dr Trevor Richards is a qualified Educational Psychologist – pretty useful, I’d say – and has been in post since January 2017 but with the school for years as Deputy Head and previously the school Ed Psych. He believes that the pastoral and academic systems should be intertwined (happy first, then teach) and focus on the whole child, instigating regular ‘whole child’ meetings for everyone who comes into contact with the pupil, from dinner ladies to teachers. He doesn’t pigeon hole pupils with ‘gifted and talented’ but rather, ‘high performing’. Traditional values are important but not tradition for tradition’s sake. An emphasis on self-belief, inclusivity and community.

Sports

All the usual prep school sports and games, there’s a whole school cricket team mainly made up of girls, and layers of sports teams so all abilities can play – plus more unusual activities like parkour, orienteering and unihoc (a sort of indoor hockey).  Am I the only person who’s never heard of this?

What else?

Music and drama are strong  both on the curriculum and extra-curricular, with 12 perepetic music teachers offering 1:1 tuition (want to play the piccolo?) and 100 per cent success rate in LAMDA exams. This music room’s in the old billard room – never seen timpani drums in a small prep school before. On the art front, lots of projects with local artists and galleries like Hauser & Wirth just 20 minutes down the road.

The Learning Support Centre is not just for pupils who are struggling or whatever but for support in any area, including extension work and 1:1 preparation for scholarships (and it’s free).

Almost everyone in Years 6–8 joins in the Saturday morning enrichment programme – well, with typical countryside activities like clay pigeon shooting and falconry and not so typical flamenco dancing on offer, wouldn’t you? Turns out they’re hot shots too (podium places in the Independent Ass of Prep School Clay Pigeon championships).

Boarding

All the boarding’s in the big ‘ouse, with boys and girls on different landings. A warren of rooms and corridors with mostly spacious dorms and common rooms which I’m sure will look more homely once everyone’s got their stuff up and around them (they’d only been back a day or so when I visited). Clubs and activities each evening plus regular whole house get-togethers.  Around 40 boarders (with a sprinkling from overseas) as well as day plus boarding option to sleep over for up to 25 nights a term.

school dormitory

Quirks

They’ve got their own tennis academy linked to the sports village at Bath University, with around over half the school playing tennis and benefiting from specialist coaches.

Wrap around care

The school day starts at 8 and ends 4/4.25 with prep at around 5 –day pupils can be picked up as late as 7.30. Supervised prep (so you don’t have to). After school clubs include judo, calligraphy, fencing and they’re responsive to pupils’ suggestions for others. Transport currently set up around the Chew Valley and Bath areas.

Fees

From September 2017, Nursery £47/day, Pre-prep (Reception and Yrs 1 & 2) £2,560/term, Yrs 3 & 4 £4,815/term, Yrs 5 & 6 £4,915, Yrs 7 & 8 £4,960 with boarding £7,450/term. There’s the option to have up to 25 nights boarding a term for an additional £525/term.

Word on the ground

The Head’s been well-liked in his previous incarnations and seen as a strong postive force in the school.  Parents describe the school as down to earth and caring, producing happy kids that do well.  The whole child meetings and the fact that the school doesn’t top slice the pupils comes in for praise. A good sense of camaraderie between parents and school.

MUDDY VERDICT

Good for: anyone wanting a supportive, friendly school with a caring family feel that does well on the academics without being a hothouse

Not for: the religious aspect, though low key,  might not appeal to some

Don’t take my word for it:  Go and see the school for yourself – their next Open Morning is Sat 7 October. 9.30am-midday.

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