Churcher’s College Junior School and Nursery, Liphook
The gateway to the famous co-ed senior school, Churcher’s Junior School has nurturing staff, a good all-round curriculum and popular extra-curricular activities, with bags of space to play and learn.
A 15-minute scenic drive from the famous Churcher’s College Senior School and Sixth Form campus in Petersfield, Churcher’s College Junior School and Nursery is located in a self-contained campus of mostly modern buildings in the nearby village of Liphook. The school takes children aged 3 – 4 years in the nursery and 4 – 11 years in the Junior School. On the current roll call are 252 junior pupils and 950 seniors.
One of the best-known and most historic schools in the county, Churcher’s was founded in 1722 by local philanthropist Richard Churcher and became fully co-educational in 1988. Set up to educate boys from Petersfield and equip them to become apprentices to masters of ships sailing in the East Indies, nautical nods to the past continue throughout the modern-day school.
Set in the rolling countryside of the South Downs National Park, the 14-acre Junior School has no shortage of outdoor space; there’s a wide expanse of playing fields, tennis courts, an open-air music and sensory garden and plenty of wooden playground equipment, including a huge pirate ship (play-time, me hearties!). There’s also a hugely popular outside classroom used for lessons and outdoorsy fun like cooking marshmallows over a campfire.
Inside, the school’s stand-out equipment can be found in the dedicated art room, a creative heaven with its own kiln and ceramics equipment, as well as a laser cutter and ultra-modern, mixed-media digital sublimation printer (go on, look it up). As you walk around the school, a multitude of imaginative art installations are proudly shown-off in corridors and reception areas.
Newly refurbished reception classrooms have their own toilet facilities (ideal for avoiding near-misses) and the large, well-stocked school library (above) has been overhauled to appeal to today’s bookworms, replacing out-of-date titles with a fresh selection of award winners and Early Years favourites.
Girls and boys participate equally in competitive sports such as rugby, netball, non-contact pop lacrosse and tennis. Infants up to 7 years participate in mixed sex lessons and teams and its single sex afterwards, with occasional mixing optional: one girl was part of an unbeaten Under 11 rugby squad (true Muddy spirit!) and boys can opt to play in the netball fixture programme.
Along with grass pitches as far as the eye can see, there are tennis and netball courts with a multi-use surface pitch and an all-weather cricket strip. For swimming, pupils transfer to Churcher’s College Senior site in Petersfield which has at its own 6-lane, 25-metre pool heated pool (above). Infants get a block of 10 weeks of swimming lessons over the year and juniors get 8 weeks. For the keenest, there’s an elite swim squad that forms part of the extra-curricular activities programme.
MUSIC + DRAMA
Drama lessons start in the nursery and there’s also workshops and breaktime clubs for the older children in the large performing arts studio, along with summer and Christmas productions – one of the most recent was a musical extravaganza based on the quirky Dr. Seuss books.
A respectable two thirds of pupils take music lessons and there are string and brass ensembles, a school orchestra and the occasional virtuoso rock violin performance, as well as choirs of all ages.
Most Churcher’s pupils go on to Churcher’s College in Petersfield (above). There’s regular interaction with the senior school, as well as daily shuttle bus that connects the two sites – ideal if you have kids at each school. Senior School Head Simon Williams has been headmaster at the school since 2004 and is a familiar face among the juniors. He regularly pops up at Junior School assemblies and parent events and even spends time as a teaching assistant, with an impressive knack for remembering names.
Ffion Robinson has been Head of Churcher’s Junior School and Nursery since 2016 and was previously Head of Junior School of Lady Eleanor Holles in Twickenham, and Assistant Head of King’s House, Richmond. Four years into the role, she has focused on improving pastoral support which, at the beginning of her tenure, was available but not always easy to find and access. She’s also broadened therapeutic learning by introducing activities such as art therapy and mindfulness.
Previously heading-up a single-sex London junior school, her measured, analytical approach has helped bring about changes to benefit all her young wards. Specifically, she’s a strong believer in using books as a gateway to learning and has introduced an accelerated reading programme.
The purpose-built Churcher’s College Nursery was added to the grounds of the Junior School in 2017. ‘Owls and Pussycats’ meet in Honeypot Hall, looked after by a male and female nursery team. As well as the usual books, show and tell and ever-popular messy play (when I visit, they’re happily smearing foam around a tuff-tuff table) there’s also Spanish lessons – Ola! – with a dedicated languages teacher (which continues until Year 4), theatre, and plenty of outdoor games in the vast fields right on the nursery’s doorstep.
Churcher’s kids are madly enthusiastic about extra-curricular activities including school’s own ‘Guild’ award scheme of activities that starts in Year 3, geared to encourage community awareness and connect with their activities and hobbies outside school. A throwback to the college’s early nautical training, children work to become Apprentices, Journeymen and Masters. During the 2020 lockdown, the school creatively devised fundraising initiatives including walking enough steps to climb Everest, which were wildly popular.
A rather sweet quirk: community values are taught to younger children using accessible, mascot-style animal characters to embody school values: Resourceful Squirrels, Respectful Penguins, Resilient Swallows, Reflective Owls and, of course, Responsible Dogs are relatable and, importantly, super-cute.
WRAP AROUND CARE
Churcher’s has a number of free clubs that run for an hour after the regular school day finishes. There’s also a paid-for breakfast club from 7.30am and tea club from 4.30 – 5.30pm. At the nursery, earliest drop off is 7.30am for early birds and latest after school pick-up is 5.30pm.
FEES & SCHOLARSHIPS
Nursery sessions are charged from £32 per 3-hour session. Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 annual fees are £11,535 per academic year and for Years 3 – 6 its £12,315 per academic year. Scholarships at the Senior School are a 5% reduction in fees primarily based on general academic ability and are offered on the basis of the Churcher’s entrance exam at age 11+, 13+ or interview and GCSE results at 16+. There are also limited music scholarships and means-tested bursaries for scholars of up to 100%.
WORD ON THE GROUND
Churcher’s College is known and rated well beyond East Hampshire. The children seem to love it too: a lively group of Year 5 children tell me their favourite things are sport, drama, computing and art, and there’s a surprisingly strong showing for maths, too.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
A great springboard to the Seniors without all the usual stress of Year 7 applications coupled with the already friendly figure of the Headmaster popping up in class, Churcher’s College Junior School has loads to offer in its own right. There’s no shortage of choice round here but it’s easy to see why Churcher’s extensive grounds, all-rounder curriculum and easy transition to Senior School make it an appealing option. Quieter kids are encouraged to have a go and raise their head above the parapet and big characters to be responsible leaders.
Good for: A confident, community-spirited ‘one-stop’ through school in a countryside setting with outdoor fields and play space galore
Not for: The ‘all-rounder’ curriculum and citizenship emphasis might not appeal to those looking for a specific specialism and the 5.30pm last pickup could be a bit tight for some working parents
Dare to disagree?! Be my guest… The next whole-school open events are Monday 19 September, Monday 17 October and Friday 25 November 2022.