The Hawthorns School, Bletchingley
This co-ed day school for children aged 2-13 is set in an idyllic location, bears more than a passing resemblance to Hogwarts and has a deserved reputation for its all-rounder offering. Impressive!
There’s no denying the idyllic setting of The Hawthorns School in the village of Bletchingley, near Redhill and Godstone. The school’s centrepiece is an elegant Jacobean manor house – Pendell Court – which is approached via a gated driveway that passes a pretty lake, woodlands and acres of playing fields. The school is nestled in 35 acres of stunning grounds – surrounded by fields of horses and goats. It’s really quite something.
There are about 500 pupils in total – both boys and girls – who start from the age of 2 (in the nursery) and continue on to age 13 (in the upper school). The school has a non-selective entry and most of the kids come from the local area including Reigate, Redhill, Outwood, Lingfield, Oxted, Westerham, Warlingham, Caterham, Chipstead and Coulsdon.
It’s a warm and friendly school, with a strong family and community vibe. Parents are active both socially – there are parent netball and tennis clubs – and within the school, helping with activities like reading. It’s been dubbed a ‘school for life’, and indeed, Old Hawthornians still meet up throughout the year for social events and dinners.
The Hawthorns began life as a boys’ boarding school and was originally situated at Gatton Point, where East Surrey College is today, moving to the Pendell Court location in 1961. It became co-educational in 1992, and boarding ended two years after that.
In a word? Impressive. The school has been extended over the years – and very sympathetically I might add – to include an impressive sports centre, an arts block, DT centre and a music centre. The former garages (which date back to the 1800s) at Pendell Court have been converted so everything blends in really nicely.
The grounds are large – and lovely. There are acres of fields which includes 11 sports pitches for hockey, rugby, football and cricket, outdoor tennis and netball courts, an all-weather pitch and a multi-use games area. There’s also a wooded area, with a high wire that is used in team-building exercises for kids from year 5 and up, and a wonderful outdoor classroom that’s completely off-grid with solar panels and a soon-to-be-fitted wood-burning stove.
There are three forms in each year, until Year 7 when it drops to two. Children are taught by their form teachers up to Year 2, with specialist teachers for Games, PE, Dance, Music, French and Forest School. From Year 3 Drama, DT, Textiles and Computing lessons are also taught by specialist teachers, and from Year 5 up all subjects are taught by specialist teachers. From Year 4 children are streamed for maths, from Year 5 for English and streaming for other subjects starts in Year 7.
Music is big at The Hawthorns. Children are taught curriculum music from Rainbows up to Year 8, and from Year 2 children have the opportunity to take up individual lessons. There’s also a mini-strings session for children in Reception. More than 200 music and voice lessons are taught at the school each week by a mix of staff and visiting music teachers.
The Hawthorns has a reputation for its sporting prowess. The sports hall is impressive, with a big hall and a 20m indoor heated pool. From Nursery upwards PE lessons are taught weekly covering everything from gymnastics and athletics to fitness and basketball for the older children. Judo is big too, thanks to an inspirational teacher – a former Olympian – who lost her leg in an accident four years ago.
From Reception children also have weekly swimming lessons, and from Year 3 have the opportunity to take part in weekly fixtures in football, hockey, rugby, cricket and netball.
The Hawthorns goes against the trend of many other schools, with about half staying on in Year 7 and 8. The focus is firmly on finding the right school for the pupil, and this process begins in year 6 when each family is assigned a senior school guide to help guide and advise with the process.
More than 40% of pupils move on from The Hawthorns to take up a scholarship place at a local independent school. In recent years they’ve gone on to Caterham School, Reigate Grammar, Ardingly, Bede’s, Brighton College, City of London Freeman’s, Hurst, Cranleigh, Dunottar, Epsom College, Guildford High, Lingfield College, Millfield, Sevenoaks, Trinity, Tonbridge, Wellington, Whitgift and Worth.
I liked the headmaster, Adrian Floyd, a lot. He’s warm and charismatic, with an obvious passion for education. It’s unsurprising really, since education appears to run in the family – his father was a headmaster until his retirement, his brother is headmaster at a prep school in Devon, and great-grandfather was also a headmaster.
Mr Floyd is now in his fifth year at The Hawthorns, following on from 10 years as headmaster at Finton House in Wandsworth before that. He’s not a head who’s focus is firmly fixed on the results – although as you can see, the school achieves well in this regard. Mr Floyd feels it’s his job to set the foundations for children to achieve in senior school and later life. He wants the children to feel loved and secure and to develop character and confidence so they become articulate contributors with the self-belief to embrace life.
Little people start from the age of 2 in the Rainbows nursery which has its own separate playground, but also uses the schools other facilities. The children are split into two groups according to age. They move from here to the Ark, a purpose-built nursery shaped like (yes, you guessed it) an Ark complete with round windows in the doors. It adjoins the original walled garden, and has made wonderful feature of it by creating a secret garden which is accessed via a door at the back of the nursery.
It’s undoubtedly the Hogwarts thing – creaking staircases, panelled walls, mullioned windows, huge heavy-set doors, and the most incredible looking marble open fireplace in the entrance hall which is kept burning throughout the winter months. It makes for a warm and homely first impression.
WRAP AROUND CARE
It’s very good. There’s a breakfast club from 7.15am for children in Reception and above. Kids in the Arc Nursery can come from 7.45am. The after-school care is until 6pm and includes a hot tea. The school is located fairly close to Merstham station, which has direct links to London, so some parents find it handy to drop children early before their London commute.
The school also offers holiday clubs year round – to both Hawthorns pupils and non-pupils – as well as various sports programmes.
The extra-curricular programme is extensive and varied with activities every day including things like street dance, judo, outdoor art, sports, science, roller skating and circus skills.
Termly fees are in line with other local prep schools – £3,560 for Reception, £3,860 for Years 1 and 2, £4,720 for Years 3 and 4 and £5,260 for Years 5-8. Nursery sessions in Rainbows and the Ark start at £730 a term for two mornings a week, rising to £3, 560 for five full days (including lunch).
WORD ON THE GROUND
Parents love the caring, family atmosphere, along with the nod to old-fashioned values without being stuffy. They also love the school for its good all-rounder offering of sport, music, drama and academics.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Parents looking for a bucolic school setting, and those who believe children learn through being happy not hot-housed. It’s a great school for parents who want an all-rounder education for their children.
Not for: It’s not ideal if you’re looking for a town location. And for those who require boarding, this one isn’t for you.
Dare to disagree? Take a look yourself. There are open mornings on Fri 7 Feb and Thurs 12 Mar 2020 from 9am.
The Hawthorns School, Pendell Court, Pendell Rd, Bletchingley, RH1 4QJ. hawthorns.com