Barfield School, Farnham
A small co-ed prep school with a family feel and very good results - all set on an idyllic 12 acres.
Barfield School is a co–educational day school for children aged 2 to 13 in Runfold near Farnham, Surrey. Like many prep schools that go to 13, it’s in the process of phasing out Years 7and 8 and by September 2021 the school will be nursery to Year 6.
As first impressions go, Barfield gets top marks. It’s set in 12 beautiful acres, surrounded by fields and woodland. And the school makes the most of the surroundings with outdoor education a massive priority – a brand new treehouse is currently being built which will also be 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.
The main building is very attractive and homey when you go inside – 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 big 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 just 175 children on the roll – with a 60:40 split of boys to girls – but there are plans to grow numbers over the next few years with an eventual target of 250 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 in 2016 became part of the Cothill Trust, a family of six prep schools in England plus a château in the south of France.
There’s a warm and caring ethos at Barfield, with a strong focus on pastoral care. The size of the school means that every child is know 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, science labs and an impressive ICT suite.
Plans are already underway to build a new dining hall, and to regenerate the top floor of the Main House, which includes adding a further three classrooms and updating the existing three classrooms. The science lab will also be modernised and a new food tech room added.
The school is set out with a nursery, pre-prep and prep school. Class sizes are small – it’s currently a one-class intake throughout except in Years 2 and 4 which are two-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 pre-prep – 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 prep 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 is brand new to the school, having come from Chandlings School in Oxford where he spent 10 years as Deputy Head Pastoral. As you’d expect from a head who’s 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.
As you might expect, he has plans to build develop the school – and we’re already seeing the first stage of that in the construction of the outdoor treehouse classroom.
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 8am (at no extra cost). 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 from 8am to 6.15pm offering activity camps for children age 4-13 years.
In the Nursery it’s £1,152 at term for three sessions as week, £1,920 for five sessions and £3,415 for five full days. Reception and Year 1 is £3,370 per term, Year 2 is £3,560, Years 3 and 4 is £4,810, and Years 5 to 8 is £4,965 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 at the open morning on Fri 18 Sept.
Barfield School, Guildford Road, Runfold, Farnham, Surrey, GU10 1PB