The Paragon School, Bath
Independent day Prep, Pre-Prep and Pre-school for girls and boys aged 3 to 11, on an 8-acre hillside with a Georgian mansion, woodland and natural spring, in Lyncombe Vale in Bath. Breathe in the fresh air – no nasty city fumes here – yet the city centre is just a mile away.
Lyncombe Vale and its mineral spring was a famous beauty spot in the 18th century. The Grade II-listed Lyncombe House was built for visitors and later housed different schools. The Paragon School itself started life in the centre of Bath in 1911, moving to Lyncombe House in 1983.
Part of the Prior Park Educational Trust, with the senior school Prior Park College a mile or so up the road and the Prior Park School rather further away in Gibraltar.
It’s a Christian school but not evangelical and open to pupils of any faith or none.
Currently around 270 children on the roll, 19 of these in the nursery.
Georgian mansion Lyncombe House houses the Squirrels Pre-school, Years 4, 5 and 6 classrooms with a library, large gym/dining hall, ICT suite with a network of PCs and art studio. The building may date back to the 18th century, but the facilities are definitely 21st, with computers and interactive screens in all the classrooms.
The Squirrels Pre-school has dedicated outdoor space and the woodland close by for Forest Fridays. Sport, French, music and art from specialist teachers. Norland Nannies come on placement.
Over the way, are Reception– two classes of around 11 pupils and a large courtyard – and the new art studios. Headed up by an inspirational teacher who comes with secondary school experience, teaching covers technical skills, creative work in a range of media and art appreciation. The results, produced by pupils of all ages during lessons and eight after school art clubs, are breathtakingly good. Year 5 were working on a puppet project was inspired by Chagall. The school took part in the Take One Picture project run by London’s National Gallery, where Year 4 pupils created artworks inspired by St Ives painter, Alfred Wallis.
Music takes place in a log cabin called The Music Lodge. Around half the pupils play at least one instrument and there are all sorts of ensembles and choirs including the prize-winning Joyful Noise – maybe you heard them at the Mid Somerset and the Bath Children’s Festival – and a boys-only choir.
A huge play area with climbing frames and fun low-level assault course.
Four separate outdoor learning areas in a woodland area, including a wattle and daub shed with pizza oven and woodworking bench, an African garden, a dingley dell with a stream, ‘bug hotel’ and a greenhouse for projects and after school gardening club.
All the additional facilities at the senior school Prior Park College – theatre, indoor swimming pool, sports centre and pitches, athletics track, dance studio, science labs, design tech classrooms and more – are a 3-minute mini bus ride up the road.
It’s selective from the Prep (taster day and assessment). Set for maths from Year 3, with three ability groups across each year group. Specialist teachers for art, ICT, music, modern foreign languages (French from Pre-school; Spanish in Year 6), drama, philosophy and sport. Most pupils move up to Prior Park College, others to local schools with lots of awards offered.
Andrew Harvey took the helm in 2012 after a theology degree from Derby, Sandhurst and the Royal Dragoons and teaching positions including Deputy Head at Lambrook School in Berkshire. He’s hands on, coaching sport twice a week, keeping in touch with what’s going on in the classrooms, eating lunch with the rest of the school – he says he finds the kids genuinely good company – and has an open door policy for both pupils and parents.
He talks about the ‘Paragon Wheel’ imbuing pupils with qualities like persistence, collaboration, curiosity, originality and risk taking; the curriculum as a springboard to the future and the school ‘covering the pupils with scaffolding’ and then gradually removing it so they can stand alone. He introduced philosophy for Years 3 to 6. Plans for the school include a transformation of the school hall, creating a modern multi-use space.
All the usual sports with a gym, hard play areas and playing field here, and more extensive facilities close by at Prior Park College. Swimming and ‘proper sport’ from Pre-school onwards. Girls play cricket, rugby and football as well as netball and hockey. School teams do very well in competitions and events like the Interschool Biathlon at Crystal Palace in London. With teachers including an Olympic pentathlete and an ex-England rugby player, we’re not surprised.
The Paragon Way you see around the school reinforces the philosophy here: treat others as you wish to be treated, forgive, share, be honest, listen, show good manners, be kind and helpful and be your best self.
Family atmosphere with a buddy system for newcomers.
House system from Prep, with friendly competition and friendships across the age range. Elected prefects and school council.
The pupils choose a different charity to support each year.
On the ball with tech: coding from Year 1, beebots, virtual googles, programmable vehicles, own iPads from Year 6.
Underlying Christian ethos, with grace at lunch, hymns and Bible stories during assemblies, etc., but different faiths embraced.
ISI Inspections are consistently ‘excellent’ .
There’s a brick laying club (they’re building a wall around a greenhouse).
Parent and child choirs and Dad’s touch rugby.
The U10A rugby team have played at Twickenham Stadium.
WRAP AROUND CARE
You can drop off from 8–8.40am and with up to three hours after school care from fab children’s events/entertainment biz The SuperPirates. After school homework club until 5pm. Some 60+ extra-curricular activities going on every week – samba band, Lego, yoga, mindfulness, rugby sevens, science, sewing, Groovy Movers and more – most of them free. Holiday clubs open to all, e.g. Greatest Showman workshop, Camp Teepee, (Peter Pan vs Swallows & Amazons), art school, cookery school (watermelon gelato anyone?).
2018 fees: Nursery from £260/term (half-day afternoon) to £2,915/term (full time); Reception £3,085/term; Years 1 & 2 £3,250/term; Years 3 & 4 £3,415/term; Years 5 & 6 £3,500/term.
WORD ON THE GROUND
Parents rave over the beautiful setting and the wealth of opportunities across the board but say that pupils don’t ever feel pressurised. The school’s seen as down-to-earth and nurturing, with a good cross section of children so it doesn’t feel elitist. Parents with boys appreciate the fact that there are plenty of male staff around. Sports and music are described as exceptional.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: even the shyest, quietest girls and boys would feel at home and thrive in the warm, family atmosphere; the opportunities are many but children are allowed to develop at their own pace.
Not for: hot house parents, those wanting boarding for younger children (wait until they move up to the senior school Prior Park College).
Don’t take our word for it: Just call Mrs Braithwaite on 01225 310837 to arrange your own tour of the school with the Head.
The Paragon School, Lyncombe House, Lyncombe Vale, Bath, Somerset BA2 4LT. Tel 01225 310837. paragonschool.co.uk