Barfield School, Runfold, near Farnham
A small co-ed prep school with a family feel and very good results - all set on an idyllic 12 acres with a high-ropes course, zip-wire, and a quad-biking track. What's not to love?!
Barfield School is a co–educational day school for children aged 2 to 11 in Runfold near Farnham, Surrey. The school has recently moved from a 13+ to an 11+ and in September 2021 launched a complete re-brand complete with a new logo. The school’s owl emblem is now set to fly high rather than the former ‘swooping in for the kill’ stance.
As first impressions go, Barfield gets top marks – set in 12 beautiful acres, surrounded by fields and woodland. And the school makes the most of the stunning surroundings with outdoor education a massive priority. A new treehouse has recently been built which is also used as an outdoor classroom, and there are high and low ropes courses, a zip wire, a quad biking track as well as an archery and a shooting range. Sounds idyllic, right?
The main building is very attractive and there’s a lovely homely feel when you go inside – it’s light and spacious with armchairs, and in the main meeting room there are large sofas with squashy cushions set either side of a big coffee table and huge windows that look out onto the playgrounds. If you like your schools with a feeling of informality and intimacy, you’re in the right place.
There are 220 children on the register – with a 55:45 split of boys to girls – but there are plans to grow numbers over the next few years with an eventual target of 300 pupils. Entry is non-selective. Children come mostly from the local area extending to Farnborough, Aldershot, Farnham and Guildford.
The school was founded in 1933 and is part of the newly re-branded ‘Prep Schools Trust’ a family of five prep schools delivering exceptional academic results and pastoral care but each with their own individuality, priding themselves on providing the best education for their pupils now and in the future.
There’s a warm and caring ethos at Barfield, with a strong focus on pastoral care, and the size of the school means that every child is known by all the staff.
There’s everything you’d expect to find and a whole lot more. We’ve already mentioned the outdoor adventure facilities, but you’ll also find sporting pitches and sports courts, a heated indoor swimming pool, an arts and technology centre with a good-sized auditorium, music rooms and an impressive ICT suite. They have just undertaken major building works with new science and food tech labs and beautiful new classrooms in the main building. There are plans for more building development in the not too distant future. Watch this space!
The school is set out with a nursery, Lower and Upper school. Class sizes are small with no more than 18 pupils per class.
There’s a wide and varied curriculum, but the learning goes beyond the classroom here. There’s a strong focus on character education too – developing empathy and teaching the children skills for life and adulthood alongside the academics. They want children to feel valued and to be the best they can be. There’s a pupil parliament, where the children are given a voice, and there are exercises to help develop good teamwork skills. Individual achievements are also celebrated.
In the Lower School – which is Reception and Years 1 and 2 – children are taught by their form tutor with specialist teachers for Music, PE, Swimming, Cookery, French and Forest School. In the Upper school all subjects are specialist taught.
100 per cent of children at the school pass the Common Entrance exam – as a passionately non-selective school that’s a big academic tick. Pupils go on to a variety of senior schools including Charterhouse, Churcher’s College, Farnborough Hill, Frensham Heights, Guildford High School, King Edward’s Witley, Lord Wandsworth College, Prior’s Field, RGS Guildford, St Catherine’s, , Salesian College and Tormead.
Andy Boyle arrived at Barfield towards the end of 2019, having come from Chandlings School in Oxford where he spent 10 years as Deputy Head Pastoral. As you’d expect from a head whose previous role was centred around pastoral care, he’s big on getting wellbeing right at the school which he believes will then flow through to their academic education. He’s warm and friendly, and passionate about putting the children’s happiness and wellbeing centre stage.
In the Nursery, they start as Hatchlings as two years of age, moving to Owlets from 2-3 and Owls from 3-4. The classrooms are spacious and bright with a great outdoor space. As well as a secure free-flow outdoor space that’s accessed directly from the classrooms, there’s also a play area with wooden climbing frames, sandpits, a mud kitchen, chalkboards and a much-loved wooden pirate ship. As with the rest of the school, outdoor learning is important.
There’s also a sleep room. There’s a real effort at Barfield to create an environment that’s like home, especially for the littlies. When they have lunch, everyone sits and is served at the table together.
WRAP AROUND CARE
There’s provision for early drop off from 7.30am (at no extra cost) and a new breakfast club from 7.30-8.00am available for all pupils . After school activities and Great Lates run until 6.15pm – with a light tea for children staying beyond 4.10pm.
The Nursery is open throughout the school holidays and, continuing the family ethos of the school, Three Peaks Barfield, the school’s outdoor pursuits department, is also open throughout the holidays offering activity camps for children age 4-13 years.
In the Nursery it’s £1,200 a term for three sessions as week, £2,000 for five sessions and £3,555 for five full days. Reception and Year 1 is £3,540 per term, Year 2 is £3,740, Years 3 and 4 is £5,050, and Years 5 to 6 is £5,215 per term.
WORD ON THE GROUND
Parents love the happy, caring and nurturing environment at Barfield. They also love the school’s focus on the whole child – building confidence while offering an energetic learning environment.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Well-rounded kids. The vibe is caring and friendly, but academically strong. The outdoor adventure facilities are impressive and all children get to participate fully. The good flexible after-school care is particularly helpful for busy working parents.
Not for: Families who require boarding, a town location, a larger school cohort, or parents who prefer a more hothousey approach to schooling.
Dare to disagree? Have a look for yourself – there’s an open event on Thurs 23 June, from 5.15pm-7pm. Book here.
Barfield School, Guildford Road, Runfold, Farnham, Surrey, GU10 1PB