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Parkside School, Cobham

A small all-boys prep school, on a 45-acre site with a community vibe that really stands out. It punches way above its weight both academically and on the sporting pitch, and has been making waves in music and drama too. The remote learning programme has been excellent too. Impressive.


Parkside school, Cobham


This is a small school on a big site, with an even bigger community spirit. Yes, it’s true that most schools have a strong focus on community and family. A school is, after all, a community. But at Parkside Prep in Cobham the community spirit is unlike anything I’ve seen before – from the school mums taking part in a tennis clinic to the constant chat between staff members, school parents and students. During my tour with the school’s deputy head, Madeline McMurdo, we passed by several parents – and it was clear that Mrs McMurdo had a genuine and close relationship with every one of them.

Parkside sits on 45 acres, just out of Cobham at Stoke D’Abernon, down a private road off the A245. The school’s address is The Manor – which tells you something about the main school building – a former Elizabethan manor house with roots that go back to before the Norman conquest and a rich history that includes kings, queens and noblemen. The location is undeniably idyllic, sitting as it does on the Mole River with the gorgeous St Mary’s Church within the same grounds. (Interesting fact, St Mary’s is thought to be built in the late 7th century which makes it one of the oldest churches in Surrey.) There are acres of playing fields which melt into a pretty woodland offering dedicated space for forest school, an outdoor classroom, and other adventures.

Parkside is an independent prep school for boys aged 4 to 13 years with a co-ed nursery for children aged 2-4. It’s a two-form entry throughout most of the school, with about 285 boys in total, and entry is selective. Boys come here from the local area as well as further afield – the school runs a bus from Wimbledon and south-west London. Many of the boys have started their Parkside journey in the nursery, and their progress and development is monitored so an assessment is not necessary. Boys coming into the pre-prep (reception to yr 2) or prep school (yr 3-8), will be invited to a ‘taster’ day where they’ll be assessed.

The school’s tagline Creating Individuals feels pretty spot on. Boys are encouraged to take risks and their talents and passions are identified and nurtured. The school has an undoubtedly strong history, but alongside that there’s a charming but subtle tendency towards classic good manners and the transition, in Year 7, from boys into young gentlemen. All very traditional – but not in a fusty or outdated way.


There’s everything you’d expect of an independent school for boys  – and perhaps more, when you consider the size of the school’s population. Sports wise, there are pitches galore – up to eight outdoor grass pitches – as well as tennis courts, there’s a 22.5 metre indoor heated swimming pool and an indoor sports hall. The Mole River lends itself to kayaking and fishing.

There’s an Art Block, Design and Technology and IT Block (with a swanky new STEM suite that’s ‘boy heaven’), a Science, Music Block, a Food Tech room which opened in September 2019 and a new science lab in 2021.

The Salon – a big manor room – is used for sport, lunch, and school plays (the small balcony lends itself quite nicely to Shakespearean plays!).


Sport is taught throughout the Parkside journey, from Nursery to Year 8, by specialist teachers (including some from Chelsea FC and London Irish RFC) throughout so the team really get to know what motivates each individual throughout their school life. Their ‘Steps to Sporting Success’ programme teaches the boys to self-reflect and review their own performance, as well as working collaboratively towards set targets. Parkside also runs an Elite Sporting Programme, designed for those boys who demonstrate excellence and/or talent in a sport.


Most of the boys carry on through the school up to Year 8 – and from here they move into a wide range of schools, including Tonbridge, Hampton and RGS along with St John’s Leatherhead, Epsom College, Halliford, King Edward’s Witley, ACS Cobham, Charterhouse, Cranleigh School, Wellington College, Lancing College and Reed’s.

The school – and the head mistress Nicole Janssen in particular – has a huge involvement in helping parents find the right school for their son, a process that starts when the boys are in Year 4 and includes supporting parents as well as preparing the boys and supporting them through the process. Finding the right senior school is something Ms Janssen feels very strongly about – and she’ll encourage families to think about schools they may not have considered. The school hosts an annual Senior Schools’ evening where about 20 senior schools are invited to exhibit in the Salon for the Year 4, 5 and 6 parents.


Head mistress Nicole Janssen is genuine, warm and approachable – I liked her a lot. She has a genuine passion for the school, the school community and the boys – which she demonstrates in many ways. She has an open-door policy, with both students and parents – and feels proud for her role in turning out well-mannered, respectful and compassionate boys. She believes strongly that every boy has their own talent, and wants to make sure the school taps in to that and celebrates the boys’ individual strengths. Her motto is ‘Make it happen’ – a line she uses often, and which the boys have started to repeat. She also believes the boys shouldn’t be frightened of failure – it’s real life, after all. I was impressed to find out that she teaches maths to the Year 5 boys, and sees this as an ideal opportunity to really get to know each boy. Before coming to Parkside, Ms Janssen was deputy head at Longacre School in Bramley, and there are echoes of Longacre in the spirit of Parkside.

Parkside school, cobham


The nursery – which runs all year round – is housed in the original barn block, but still feels very much a part of the main school. It’s co-ed, with three separate spaces – one for the Hedgehogs (2-year-olds), one for the Squirrels (2-3 years) and a third room for the Owls (3-4 years). There’s also a library and a dance/drama room. Just over 50 children are on the nursery register – attending either morning or afternoon sessions.

Children in the Owls class have French, forest school, drama, music, and sport led by specialist staff, which alongside having lunch in the salon with the pre prep children helps to ensure a seamless transition as they move up to reception.


The school is situated right next door to Chelsea Football Club’s training ground – so fans of the Blues may be able to cop a peek of their favourite players sweating it out on the pitch.


School is from 8.20am, but there’s a breakfast club for earlier drop-offs from 7.30am for children in the prep school and up. The school day ends at 3.15pm for children in the pre-prep and 4pm in the prep, with after-school clubs running until 4pm for the pre-prep children and 5pm for prep school. There’s a good choice of clubs, from art and chess to yoga, forest club, mindfulness, gardening and golf.


£4,238 per term in the Pre-prep (Reception to Year 2), rising to £5,814 in the Prep (Year 3 – Year 8). The Nursery fees depend on the age of the child and which sessions they attend but start at £792 a term for one day, rising to £3,520 for five days.


For a school of this size, it punches well above its weight on both the sporting pitch and academically.


Parents love the school’s community spirit, and they’re impressed with the site – the facilities and buildings – but it’s the school’s general essence that really draws them. They also love that the school achieves excellent academic results, without being a hothouse. One parent I spoke to said the school turned out boys who were well-mannered and who respected traditional values. She said she met some of the boys when she first toured the school and quickly decided they were exactly how she wanted her own boys to grow up. “It sounds cheesy, but it really is a special place.”

Parkside School, cobham


Good for: Families looking for a school with traditional values and a strong community spirit. The academic standard is high, and there’s a good all-rounder offering of sport, drama, art and music

Not for: While academic standards are high, Parkside is no hothouse. The school is pastorally strong, and this underpins everything they do.

Dare to disagree? Don’t just take our word for it. Parkside School is holding an Open Event on Saturday 5 March. You an also book individual tour with the Deputy Head, Mrs Madeline McMurdo, throughout term time.

Parkside School, The Manor, Stoke D’Abernon, Cobham, Surrey, KT11 3PX. Tel: 01932 862749.

1 comment on “Parkside School, Cobham”

  • Kirsten Doddy January 8, 2021

    Great report on Parkside, it is a very special place. New boys are always welcomed by the other boys and it is a very positive environment. The way that Parkside has managed remote learning during CV-19 should be commended, the boys have been incredibly supported, as well as parents who were also working. As one of them, I had full confidence that my boys were stimulated and guided through their day, confirmed by their responses of ‘great’ when asked about their days.


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