Caterham Prep School, Caterham
Friendly, inclusive and stimulating, Caterham Prep sets the foundations in children for a love of learning.
Caterham Prep School is the younger sibling of the Caterham School – the academically and pastorally strong senior school tucked away on 200 sprawling acres in the Harestone Valley, Caterham. It’s a co-ed day school taking children from age 4 until 11, when most progress to the senior school.
The Prep school is found a little further along Harestone Valley Road from the Senior School, and while there are separate entrances for both the Prep and Pre-prep – each with their own car park and drop-off zone – the schools very much share the same breathing space across the 200 acre site, as well as many facilities. There are just shy of 300 kids in the prep school with a two form entry across each year level.
The Prep school was opened in 1935 when the elegant Victorian Shirley Goss building, then a boarding house, was adapted as a teaching block. The Pre-prep is housed in a separate building called Mottrams, named after a former Headmaster Alan Mottram. From September 2022, the Pre-prep will no longer offer Nursery places, entry will be from Reception to Year 2. The existing Nursery building will become a brand new Innovation Centre for the Prep School.
Like the senior school, the ethos here is strongly focussed on the wellbeing of each child – a journey that begins in the Pre-prep and continues all through the school until the Sixth Form. There’s also an emphasis on learning – which sounds kind of obvious I know, but it’s about more than just gaining knowledge and understanding. At Caterham, the children are taught how to learn, and a love of learning is instilled from the start.
With no squeeze on space the Prep has its own playing fields, an adventure playground, gardens, separate Pre-prep playground, a woodland playground, sports courts and an outside classroom. The Prep also has the use of the Senior School’s sporting fields, astro pitches, tennis courts and sports centre, as well as the Performing Arts Centre.
MUSIC AND DRAMA
Drama is important at Caterham Prep, and children are encouraged from a young age to stand up and speak, sing or play an instrument in front of others.
Children have the opportunity to learn music on a wide range of instruments including piano, voice, string, woodwind, brass and percussion instruments to pupils from Year 2, and class group musical instrumental schemes taught at Year 3, 4, 5 and 6. Children in every year group participate in concerts throughout the year.
Sport is a biggie here, and all children, regardless of ability, take part in fixtures against other prep schools. Like the senior school, there’s an emphasis on offering sport to all and a determination to help children find a sport they’re good at and love. All children learn swimming, and in the summer term there’s an extensive athletics programme. The usual suspects are there too, of course, football, rugby and cricket, netball, lacrosse and hockey.
Like the senior school, Caterham Prep is not an exam-passing factory, although there’s a very strong success rate for pupils all the way through. Learning starts through play in the Reception, and gradually becomes more formal as the children move up through the year groups.
There are specialist teachers for Music, Art, Games, Forest School and French in the Pre-prep. Children in the Prep school also learn Spanish, and in Year 6 Mandarin is introduced. A short course in Arabic is also available to the Year 6 pupils.
Like the Senior school, Technology and Innovation is big here – not just in the use of technology and devices to aid learning (although there’s that too – iPads are used in all classrooms) but in developing problem solving skills and design thinking.
Ben Purkiss arrived at Caterham Prep in April 2019, coming from Bede’s Prep in Eastbourne where he was Deputy Head. Like Ceri Jones, the headmaster at Caterham School, Mr Purkiss has keen eye on wellbeing, as much as academic results. He lives on the school site with his family, including two teenage sons who attend the Senior School. When he’s not Headmastering, he’s an obsessive runner and can be often seen training for a marathon in the local area.
The smallest Caterhamians delight in a warm, happy and nurturing atmosphere in their own gorgeous corner of the campus. If you fancy your little one exploring nature, swimming, dancing, enjoying yoga, searching for creatures in the woods – all 180 acres of them! – (along with all the essential phonics and pre-school learning, of course) this is the place for you.
There’s a complete wrap-around care facility at Caterham, starting with the Breakfast Club at 7.30am until the school day starts at 8.15am. There’s flexibility too, and the option to book on an ad-hoc basis if need be. After school, Sibling Class is available until 3.45pm for Pre-Prep children who are either staying for After-School Care or for children who have older siblings in the Prep School. There’s also after-school care available for all kids from pre-prep to Year 6 from 3.45pm until 6pm.
There’s also no shortage of extra-curricular activities on offer – almost 50, ranging from enrichment clubs like science club and French, to music, gardening, dance and sports. Unusually, the extra curricular clubs and activities are offered from Reception upwards.
Nearly every child in the prep school continues on at Caterham Senior School.
Fees start at £3,950 per term for Reception to Year 2; Years 3 and 4 is £4,655 per term and Years 5 and 6 is £5,330 per term. Lunch is extra – between £230 and £235 per term.
WORD ON THE GROUND
The fact that most children move up through the senior school is seen as a definite plus for parents. And the outside space and facilities, are a winning combination.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Those looking for plenty of space and opportunities – the wealth of options here will help you identify an area where your child can excel and enjoy. Sporty children will also benefit as the school ranks highly in local competitions.
Not for: Parents who want a selective hot-housey approach to schooling.
Dare to disagree? Take a private tour of the school and see it for yourself. Get in touch here.