Cranleigh Prep School, Cranleigh
This day and boarding prep school is an excellent all-rounder with impressive academics, music, arts and sports - plus a dazzling array of facilities. Wow!
Cranleigh Prep School is a day and boarding school for boys and girls aged 7 to 13 years (Yr 3 to Yr 8). It sits on a stunning 40-acre site with a dazzling array of facilities and also makes use of the wider 250 acre site that is Cranleigh School across the road.
The school is gaining a strong reputation for its excellent all-rounder offering, and with good reason, academics are impressive, music and art are strong and there’s a big focus on sport. And then there’s the extra curricular programme – if there’s an activity, hobby or sport you can think of, it’s probably on offer here.
The school has a long history – officially opening on the existing site in 1913. And while it’s rooted in tradition, it’s anything but old-fashioned and stuffy with a busy, vibrant and innovative feel. There’s lots going on, although not in an intense all-consuming sort of way – it’s more relaxed than that.
There are just shy of 350 pupils with a slightly larger proportion of boy to girls. Most of the pupils are from local families – and there’s a strong community feel – but there’s also a weekly bus service to and from Wimbledon which is jam-packed most weeks.
The school fosters a happy and supportive atmosphere with the strong belief that happy and contented children are the key to a positive learning environment.
Impressive doesn’t even come close. Let’s start with the grounds – 40 acres in all made up of nine rugby / football pitches, four cricket squares, three tennis courts, two netball courts, a five-a-side football pitch, a full-size astro hockey pitch, wooded areas and vast playgrounds. Phew! It’s a lot – and you can’t fail to be dazzled.
There’s also everything else you’d expect from a school of this size and calibre: library, science labs, food technology kitchens, DT centre, art studio, a separate dining hall and a multi purpose sports hall.
And then, as if that’s not enough Cranleigh Prep also has the use of the facilities at the incredibly impressive Cranleigh School including a nine-hole golf course, equestrian centre and stables, climbing wall, 25 metre indoor swimming pool, Fives courts, grass pitches and netball courts.
The school is made up of the Lower School, Middle School and Upper School. The Lower School (Years 3 and 4) is housed in the Wheeler and Roulston buildings where children are taught by their form tutors with specialist teachers for art, science drama and music.
Going up into the Middle School, children start to gain more independence and have specialist subject teaching for Science, History, Geography, Religion and Philosophy. From Year 5, children are taught according to sets in Maths, French, Science and English.
In the Upper School (Years 7 and 8) children are in sets for each subject and taught by specialist staff. For the most able students, there’s also a scholars’ set for boys and girls who may be entered for academic scholarships at their prospective senior schools.
MUSIC, DRAMA, DANCE AND ART
Visual and performing arts are highly valued at Cranleigh Prep, and the Head Master Neil Brooks has worked hard since his arrival in 2018 to bring it up to the same impressive standard as the school’s sporting achievements.
A gorgeous new art studio has opened up with designated areas for drawing and painting, print-making, sculpture, ceramics and textiles, and the pupils’ artwork is on display throughout the school, as well as in dedicated gallery spaces.
The school has taken an innovative approach to music though Cranleigh Music 7-18, which links the prep school’s music programme with that of the senior school’s creating the opportunity for shared teaching, and use of performance spaces. More than 50 visiting music teachers deliver individual lessons.
Dance and Drama are offered as part of the curriculum in the lower years, and there are workshops and optional additional classes in ballet, tap and modern dance, plus the opportunity to participate in small and fully-staged productions, musicals, concerts and other events.
They take sport seriously at Cranleigh – aiming to make it part of every pupil’s daily routine. Each pupil has three or four games sessions a week, and plays fixtures once or twice a week – football, rugby, hockey and cricket for boys, and hockey, netball and cricket for girls. Each pupil will also have swimming lessons, and there’s a wide range of other sports on offer ranging from athletics, judo and golf to horse riding, tennis and skiing.
About 55 pupils board at Cranleigh Prep and there are plenty of flexible options ranging from full boarding to flexi-boarding and occasional boarding. Children are more likely to board the further they move up the school and are a mix of local children, as well as children from further afield and overseas. The weekly bus service to and from Wimbledon is handy for the London kids. Several times a year the school holds taster boarding nights, so kids can try it out. A revival of boarding at the school coincides with plans to update and modernise the boarding offering, work starts this summer.
As you’d expect, the Cranleigh Prep has strong links to Cranleigh School, but a place there isn’t guaranteed. The school prides itself on helping steer children to the most suitable senior school for them, and while the majority (about 80 per cent) do end up across the road – leavers have also gone on to senior schools such as Wellington College, Charterhouse, Brighton College, Reigate Grammar, Prior’s Field, Millfield College and King Edward’s Witley, RGS Guildford, Reed’s School, Epsom College and St John’s Leatherhead.
Neil Brooks arrived at Cranleigh Prep in 2018, having been previously the Principal at Fulham Prep School and Cothill House in Abingdon. He’s been in education for more than 20 years, and before that was an officer in the British Army. Until recently, he was still teaching humanities subjects (geography, history, philosophy, religion), in addition to his headship role – which says a lot about him. I’m always impressed by a headteacher who also finds time to teach.
Warm and charismatic, he’s big on outdoor education and a strong believer in instilling a strong sense of responsibility, understanding, tolerance and thoughtfulness into his charges. He’s well aware that many of these kids are likely to go onto positions in later life as leaders, and he’s keen for them to understand they have a responsibility to their community, the environment and wider world around them – a strong sense of service, if you will.
WRAP AROUND CARE
The school day starts with registration at 8am and ends at 4.30pm, when the after-school activities kick in. And there’s a lot to choose from art club to chess, mindfulness and stone masonry.
The annual fees for day pupils in Years 3-4 is £16,062 and £20,838 for Years 5-8. Boarding is £25,164 a year. There are attractive discounts for siblings – 20% for a third sibling and 30% for subsequent siblings attending either Cranleigh Prep or Cranleigh School. One-off flexi boarding costs £47.50 per night, and part-time boarding is £38 per night for one or more consecutive nights.
WORD ON THE GROUND
Parents like the sporty element of the school, and the fact that the education is well-rounded. The school is also welcoming and friendly, with a strong community spirit, which families also see as a strong point.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Cranleigh Prep is a buzzy school with a lot going on so and children who love to get involved will fit in well. The school is also good at pushing it’s more able pupils, but without creating a hot-house environment. It’s all about supporting and nurturing pupils to achieve their best.
Not for: If you’re child is a super-shy wallflower, they may feel Cranleigh Prep is too much. There’s an expectation that kids will have a go and make the most of the vast range of activities on offer.
Dare to disagree? Cranleigh Prep is holding a virtual open morning on Sat 27 Feb from 9-11am. Book here.