Muddy best schools guide #2 – Cumnor House School for Boys, South Croydon

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What? Where? Cumnor House Boys’ School is an independent prep school for boys aged 2-13 in South Croydon. There is also a Cumnor House Girls’ School (see my review on that next week), and two nurseries on separate sites – one on the same road as the main school site in South Croydon, the other just down from the girls’ school in Purley. Both nurseries are co-ed.

The main school is divided into the Pre-Prep (for boys in Reception to Year 2), the Lower School (for Years 3-5) and the Upper School (Years 6-8). There are about 370 boys at the school, with three classes across each year group – each with about 17 students. The kids are mostly from the local area, but boys do travel from as far as Canary Wharf in London and East Grinstead in West Sussex.

The school is set on a fairly busy residential road, looking across the road to garden allotments. Its sporting fields are a short walk away. It’s made up of three main buildings that were all former residential houses.

Facilities: The school has everything you’d expect of an independent prep school: art, science, and sporting facilities, with a particularly impressive music house. The main site feels a bit like a tardis – looking somewhat modest from the front, but extending beyond the main buildings to include outdoor courts as well as an indoor heated swimming pool. The playing fields are on a 10-acre site a short walk away from the main school, which also has tennis courts, a sporting pavilion and one of the two nurseries. Plans have been approved to upgrade the pavilion.

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What else? The school is keen to promote ‘The Cumnor Way’ a set of values that includes good manners, courtesy, self-respect, respect for others, a sense of duty and responsibility. The headmaster, Floyd Steadman, says he expects all boys and staff to display these traits. When I was touring the school, the boys in the (bright and airy) art room, greeted me with a sing-song “Good morning visitor.”

Like most independent schools, House events are an important part of school life at Cumnor. Children are divided between four houses – Danes, Saxons, Normans and Romans – and the houses compete for points.

The school places a lot of emphasis on its music programme, with music taught to all boys as a subject, as well as individual tuition in a range of instruments. There are more than 20 staff just for music – some of these specialist peripatetic tutors. There are 14 musical ensembles, including a string orchestra, percussion group, choristsrs, guitar group, cello group and woodwind ensmble among others.

Sport is also important in the school’s  to produce well-rounded boys ready for senior schools, and teams represent the school in all age-groups in soccer, rugby and cricket. There is also a school swim team. Regular tours are taken abroad to a destinations including South Africa, Dubai, the West Indies and Europe.

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The academic results: The school has a reputation for academic excellence and for getting results. About one-third move on to other senior schools after Year 6, with most of those going to the two Whitgift Foundation schools, Trinity or Whitgift, or the local Grammar schools. In 2015, 18 scholarships were awarded at 10+ and 11+ and 15 scholarships were awarded at 13+ (most of these were for Trinity and Whitgift).

Scholarships: A small number of scholarships are offered each year to talented boys for academic, sport, music, and art & drama.

Other boasty bits: The school is proud of its sporting achievements and has some pretty impressive gongs including a taekwondo age-group world champion, swimming, cricket and rugby champions or runners up.

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The headmaster: Floyd Steadman is the headmaster, new to the school this academic year, having come from Clifton Lodge School in Ealing, and Downsend School in Leatherhead before that. We chatted for about 30 minutes, and I found him to be passionate about the school and the boys. He says it’s the school’s job to find talent in each boy, and then to work with the boys’ parents to make sure they find the right secondary school for their son. He says he wants all of the boys to work hard, but also to enjoy the experience, and he’s keen to move away from the school’s reputation for being an academic hothouse. Mr Steadman comes from a strong sporting background, having captained Saracens rugby team and played for Barbarians.

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Littlies: There are two nurseries, both called Treetops Nursery, which are open to boys and girls from the age of 2 up. They offer two levels of provision – term-time from 8am to 3pm with an optional Teatime Club until 6pm, and new from this September parents also have the option of year-round care from 8am to 6pm.

Quirks: If you’re used to thinking of private schools as having bucolic grounds, the biggest quirk to Cumnor House Boys’ School is that it simply doesn’t have that on the main school site. But I was pleasantly surprised with the amount of outside space they had managed to wiggle in here and there. If you can’t offer grand vistas and roaming, you have to work doubly hard to offer the other stuff. And the other stuff here is impressive – particularly the music programme.

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Wrap around care: As with all schools, there is a before and after school programme. The After School Club runs from 3.15pm until 6pm. The cost for this is £3.65 per hour, up to a maximum of £10 a session. A shuttle bus runs between the girls’ and boys’ school, and children can attend the after-school care at either school. I liked this thoughtful approach.

Fees: Average and on an increasing scale as you go up the school. Reception, Yeas 1 and 2 is £3,350 per term, and years 3-8 is £4,030 a term. Fees at Treetops nursery depend on how many days your child is there, starting at £1,480 a term for two days a week, rising to £3,165 a term for five days. Lunch is  included in the fees.

Word on the ground: Cumnor House is known locally for academic excellence, pushing and challenging the boys to get the best results, and parents are very much attracted by this.

THE MUDDY VERDICT

Good for: Parents who want academic results. And if your boy is musical or sporty, the school also has a lot to offer.

Not for: Those looking for grandeur and grounds. It’s suburban position means there’s not a huge amount of outdoor space on at the main school site, so if your idea of the perfect school includes gamboling children in rolling fields, this isn’t the place for you.

Dare to disagree?! Don’t just take my word for it, check it out for yourself. The next open day is on Sat 1 Oct. To register your interest click here.

Cumnor Boys’ School, 168 Pampisford Road, South Croydon, CR2 6DA. Tel: 020 8660 3445. cumnorhouse.com

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