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Repton Prep School

Set in 55 majestic acres of Derbyshire countryside, this rural co-ed day and boarding school is known for its sporting prowess and all-rounder ethos.

WHAT? WHERE?

Repton Prep is a rural co-ed day and boarding school for pupils 3-13 years, grandly situated in 55 acres of Derbyshire countryside with the Palladian mansion Foremarke Hall as its elegant centrepiece. A strong all-rounder country prep option, the school was previously known (unsurprisingly) as Foremarke Hall School, but was rebranded as Repton Prep in 2020 thereby neatly underlining Repton School’s offer of a through education from 3-18 years as well as the synergy between the Prep and its more famous older sibling. 90% of pupils here progress to the Senior school so it’s not an idle boast.

Repton Prep is one of the larger prep schools I’ve visited at 400 pupils (expect a 50/50 split of boys to girls) and a class size of maximum 20, the majority of children here are day pupils, though 25% of pupils board, either termly or flexi.

You’ll be rubber-necking the views for hours but when you can tear yourself away from the manicured lawns and lake, you’ll find nursery and pre-prep children in their own well-appointed, modern campus (up to Y2), Y3-4 share a building with the theatre and Science Labs and Y5-8 have purpose-built specialist classrooms around a modern quad. The mansion house is home to the library, boys and flexi boarding houses, Head’s study and offices.

FACILITIES

If you like cornicing, marble fireplaces, sash windows and flashbacks to Mr Darcy in frilly shirts, you’re in the right place. But beyond the pleasing Georgian aesthetics, this place is a play palace for kids.

/SPORT

This is an area of huge investment and success for the school and the roll call of facilities reflects the space sport is given in the curriculum and beyond. Expect to see 6 cricket pitches (including an artificial wicket), 9 football pitches, a full-sized floodlit astro-turf, a six lane 25m swimming pool, sports hall with indoor cricket nets and climbing wall, 4 hard tennis courts, netball courts, 6 rounders pitches, a low ropes course, a grass running track, a cross country trail and even a golf course. What next, its own lake for sailing? Well, actually yes, there’s one of those too. 

Football, hockey and cricket are major sports here, fielding both boys and girls teams with hockey the particularly strong suit along with athletics and tennis. Swimming is another area where Repton Prep excels, with its swim club affiliated with Swim England and offering professional coaching from Director of Swimming and former Olympian, Scott Talbot, that sees a stream of children taking part in national championships. The day I visited, the kids I were talking to had to dash off half way to go to a gala, and were buzzing with it.

The roll call of wins and finals is as long as my arm but briefly (sort of), this year the U13 girls’ team were In2 Hockey National finalists 2022, and the U11 boys were In2 Hockey RegionalWinners. In Girls and boys football teams at U11 and U13 teams are 2022 ISFA National Finalists.

This year, the cross country team is in the National Prep School finals, and the swimming team has made the National Finals at the Olympic Aquatics Centre, and the tennis team will play the Covid-postponed 2020 IAPS National Tennis Finals.

There’s no doubt Repton likes to win at sport (and there are five specialist sports teachers to make sure it happens!) but the school fields squads of up to five teams in some sports so it’s also about participation – all children will get a chance to represent the school. Alternative sporting options on offer here, largely extra-curricular, include fencing, orienteering, kayaking, sailing, paddleboarding and dance.

/CREATIVE ARTS

The Art and Ceramic Studio

There’s a dedicated Music School here which includes the teaching of music IT – kids in Y7/8 compose with Mixcraft. With 11 dedicated practice rooms and four performance spaces (including one outside) there is a serious appetite for music here.

Over 300 music lessons take place each week and the school will source peripatetic teachers across any specialism – one pupil is learning the erhu (I’ll leave you to google that one!). One thing to point out about music at schools – running good ensembles and orchestras requires numbers and it’s much easier to pull together a quality orchestra from 400 pupils rather than 200! There’s a broad mix offered here, from choirs and wind bands through to string orchestras and flute ensembles, and several of the children are in national choirs and orchestras. That said, half the children learn musical instruments at Repton Prep – that’s slightly below the average I tend to come across.

Drama is well supported with its own theatre space and lessons – 20% of upper prep children take part in LAMDA exams and now Covid restrictions are over, expect the drama and music departments to come together for three Prep productions each year. Artists will love the inspiring, purpose-built Art and Ceramic Studio that includes kilns, digital and animation capability and the winner of Sky Arts Landscape Artist of the Year, Tom Voyce, as the Artist in Residence.

/GENERAL

The library

The roll call continues, with an jaw-dropping DT workshop that runs the gamut of working with traditional wood through to CAM design and laser cutting with the option for selected pupils in Years 7 & 8  to take part in designing and constructing a in Greenpower Electric Car.

The library, on the ground floor of the main mansion, is designed to inspire, with its high ceilings and gorgeous views out the front and rear of the building, and light, quiet space in which to sit with a book on one of the sofas or the banquette seating by the window. All classrooms are fully interactive – Repton didn’t even blink an eye in Covid, and pupils didn’t miss a single day (they fought off competition from 32,000 to win the Education Business Remote Learning Award).

The new large glass dining room is a slick addition. And lest we forget, the Prep pupils also have access to the facilities at the Senior school (see Repton School review here).

ACADEMICS

With children starting as young as three at the school, the academic cohort is mixed, though there’s a gently selective process for those who start in Y3. Since the rebrand there’s been an increased cohesion between the Prep and Senior schools academically, which is great for the Prep as it basically means more sharing of specialist teachers and use of Senior facilities.

The school has moved away from the Common Entrance exam and has created its own curriculum though they of course will prepare children for it, should you want to send them somewhere other than Repton (in 2021, those not continuing at the school gained places at Harrow, Stowe, Cheltenham College and Framlingham College).

French is taught from Year 1, Spanish has been introduced this year for Year 7 and everyone does Latin (I didn’t get the chance to see if anyone understands the school motto Porta Vacat Culpa – my fun new game – but I’ll check next time!). There are sets for maths, English and French and streaming for all subjects by the crunch time of Y8. The pupils I spoke to seemed settled and happy, describing the teachers as ‘super supportive’ and there was no sense of hot-housing or pressure though the head was upfront about wanting to give academic clubs a push – there are 68 extra-curricular clubs on offer this term (40 for the Upper School, 28 for Lower School) and for this academic year chess, maths challenge clubs and debating all feature.

Saturday school is still a fixture at Repton Prep though it’s compulsory only from Y5 onwards . Mornings are dedicated to a normal timetable of lessons and sports fixtures take place in the afternoons. Repton Plus for children up to Y5 allows younger pupils (mainly siblings of older pupils) to come in on a Saturday morning for fun outdoors activities. Also worth noting that there’s been a timetable restructure that allows more flexibility in lesson timings which seems eminently sensible to me – so lessons are now either 40 minutes or 60 minutes long depending on the subject.

LITTLIES

It’s hard to fault this purpose-built nursery and Pre-Prep. Light, bright, chockful of art (even the loos are festooned with pretty pictures and wall hangings) and with large outdoor spaces for seamless indoor/outdoor flow and even its own walled garden and paddock to play in, it’s home to 131 pupils from Nursery through to Y2.

There’s 15 hours of Early Years funding possible here, and ratios in the nursery are 1:8 moving to maximum class sizes of 12 by Y2. Swimming is timetabled weekly. From Reception, French from Y1 and there are specialist drama and music teachers for all. There’s a Forest School programme – and yes, your children can climb (small) trees here! -and after school clubs include yoga, feel-good singing and nature club.

PASTORAL CARE

The big buzz word for Repton School, both Prep and Senior, is balance, and that does seem to play out in real time. Much is made of the equal third split between physical, academic and creative, and kids here are encouraged strongly to go out at breaktimes, run around in the woods, and let off steam.

Any school offering boarding at a relatively young age (you can start here at 7 years) is going to be piping hot on pastoral care, and there are all the checks you’d expect, with AS tracking from Year 3 onwards, a Deputy Head of Pastoral & Boarding who creates and implements individual pastoral plans in tandem with form tutors, onsite counselling for any child who needs it, plus Wellbeing Wednesdays where the whole school engages in mindfulness activities, such as bluebell walks, yoga, colouring and reading for a double lesson.  

BOARDING

Girls boarding room, snapped on my tour

There are four boarding houses – one for boys, one for girl and two for flexi boarding – you’ll find the girls house in the renovated mansion stable block and the other three houses in the original mansion (the boys’ in the Hall’s converted Gun Room, Wine Cellar, Still Room and Butler’s Pantry). Children here can board from 7-13 years, either termly, weekly or ad hoc. Currently there are around 50 full time boarders, relatively bijou numbers due to the largely local pull-in for the school. I spoke to quite a few young boarders, and it’s clear that they form strong bonds with their roomies and the boarding family as a whole – according to one boy I talked to, ‘it’s the best, it’s just like having sleepovers the whole time’.

Boarding common room

All children share with just one other pupil, and the accommodation is as you’d expect – slouchy common areas with pool tables, table tennis and a gaming room with interactive headsets, and for the girls cosy homely rooms with the usual pine furniture and pinboards (I couldn’t get in to see the boys’ rooms this time round so I’ll make a point to check next time but I’m guessing more of the same).

No surprise if you’re living at Repton Prep that there’s a full programme of activities – treasure hunts, camping, capture the flag, war re-enactments and according to one giggling pupil, ‘lots of sweets’ which, let’s face it, is fair enough.

THE HEAD

Incoming head Victoria Harding

Since the departure of Mark Brotherton as interim head at the end of Michaelmas term 2021, the school has been headed up by Deputy Head, Sam Krbacevic. However, plans have been quietly afoot for a heavyweight senior team and this September 2022 sees the arrival of Victoria Harding- currently head of Sarum Hall School in London, and previously Acting Head of Newland House School in London and Director of Music at Dragon School (ergo – excellent news for Repton’s music department).

James Aldred also joins as Senior Deputy Head in September, from his role as Deputy Head Pastoral at Summer Fields School in Oxford, where his positions of responsibility included Head of Year and Housemaster. They are also recruiting for a new Deputy Head Pastoral. Once I meet them, I’ll fill you on their vision but new dynamic appointments with something to prove are generally excellent news for schools so watch this space.

QUIRKS

The first house event of the year is a Tug of War which sounds fun and joyfully chaotic.The food here is apparently amazing – a food committee is blunt in its assessments and recommendations and by all accounts the chefs are up to the challenge. And guess what? Kids here can actually climb trees during play time – twice the height of the teacher is the rule. Right now there are no prefects or head boys and girls at Repton Prep which is highly unusual and set to change with the arrival of the new Head (at the request of the current pupil body).

WRAP AROUND CARE

Drop off is any time from 8am from Pre-Prep onwards and the school day ends at 4pm, though Prep pupils have the option of staying for free supervised Prep or activities up to 6pm Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday (not Wednesdays as that’s the afternoon for school matches). Flexi boarding is exactly that – kids can book up 24 hours in advance (if there’s space) but as you’d expect Friday nights are booked a term in advance.

SEND PROVISION

As a broadly non-selective school, you’d expect Repton’s SEN provision to be robust, and it is, catering to 10-12% of SEND needs, the vast majority of which is dyslexia. There’s a qualified Early Years SENCO, a full-time teaching assistant in every class (three of whom are fully qualified teachers in their own right), and a screening programme every other year for dyslexia. A speech and language therapist, occupational therapist, clinical psychologist are all part of the SEND menu here, with the Learning Enhancement Department found in the Quad building.

ISI REPORTS

You can see the most recent report from 2019 here

MOBILE PHONE POLICY

Mobile phones for boarders only and are held by Houseparents and provided to the children on request.

TRANSPORT

There are seven routes run by the school from Monday to Saturday from Ashbourne, Beeston, Belper, Loughborough, Shenstone, Blyth Bridge/Uttoxeter, and Stone, available to Y1 and above though Reception children would be considered with an older sibling on the bus.

FEES

Prepare to limber up your wallet. Boarding fees cost £7,750 – £9,161 per term. Day school fees from Year 3 upwards cost £5,662 – £7,075  per term. Nursery through to Y2 is £3,291 – £3,838 per term. Single night flexi-boarding is a relative steal at £48.50 including tea and breakfast. Additional help from the Learning Enhancement team is £50 per hour one to one, or £32 shared. Music lessons are 40 minutes long and cost £317 per term for 30 lessons over the year.

WORD ON THE GROUND

Positive. The school has a good reputation locally for its all-rounder ethos and outdoor provision and the children are regarded as polite and grounded, despite the grandeur of their surroundings. One of the pupils I spoke to wanted more integration between the younger and older children in the prep school, and a couple more would like prefects and head boys and girls – they didn’t quite understand why they didn’t exist. A special shout out to Miss McGee, the Latin and Greek teacher. Apparently you make the subjects interesting!

THE MUDDY VERDICT

Good for: If you’re looking for somewhere that allows your children to stay young, rumble around, and get stuck in, this is your place. Academically the pupils are well catered for (that’s a given at Repton) but this isn’t an exam factory and it’s the type of school that will suit the energetic and curious and joiners in. Working parents will like the flexi boarding provision and families from further afield may find the more fixed boarding appealing. Sporty types will be in seventh heaven. You’ll enjoy swanning around the mansion house pretending it’s yours.

Not for: This is a country prep school, and it’s on a rural 55 acre site, so there’s a slight ‘in a bubble’ element here. Though there are good links between the Prep and Senior School, they are several miles apart so it’s important not to overstate the shared use of facilities – the Prep kids do use them but not every day.

Dare to Disagree? Be my guest! There’s a whole school Open Day on Saturday 21st May and a Lower Prep Open Morning on 8 June.

Repton Prep ,Milton, Derby, Derbyshire DE65 6EJ. Tel:01283 707112. prepoffice@repton.org.uk

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