Rowan Prep School, Claygate
A caring, family-focussed girls prep school and pre-school in Claygate, with an empowering 'can-do' ethos and excellent academic results.
Rowan Prep is an independent day school for girls aged 2-11 in the lovely village of Claygate, near Esher. The school is set over two sites – about half a mile apart – both in a quiet residential area of the village: Rowan Brae is the pre-prep for girls aged 2 to 11 (Pre-school to Year 2) and Rowan Hill is the Prep school for girls aged 7-11 (Years 3-6). The school is part of the United Learning family.
There are 330 girls on the register. It’s a two-class entry at the Brae (as it’s colloquially known) rising to a three class from Year 3-6. Entry is selective, but it’s a gentle process. At Reception it’s based on a ‘Discovery Day’, and from Years 1-6 girls are invited to experience a day at Rowan which includes academic assessments and teacher observation.
Rowan was founded in 1936 by a Miss Katherine Miller who wanted to create a warm and friendly environment that inspired a passion for learning. And indeed that tradition still continues today. There’s a saying – ‘once a Rowan girl, always a Rowan girl’ – which sums up the school and its ethos pretty well.
The school is small, but perfectly formed. Both schools are based in former Victorian houses that have been extended over the years as the school has grown. Rowan Hill is a bigger site with a more extensive playground that feels a lot like someone’s back garden with a lovely wooded play area called The Spinney and an impressive treehouse. And as it’s situated at Claygate’s highest point, it has lovely views out over the surrounding area. There’s even a garden room in the playground, which is used for music lessons and productions, among other things. There’s no doubt all of this contributes to the warm and homely vibe at Rowan.
At Rowan Hill, there are specialist classrooms for science, music and performing arts, art and technology. There’s also an engineering and technology suite and a library, as well as a school hall used for lunch, assemblies and school productions.
At Rowan Brae, you’ll find specialist classrooms for art and music, as well as a library and a school hall which is used for lunch, gym, drama, dance and assemblies. There’s a practical all-weather playground as well as a multi-sensory area that includes a mud pit, willow den and a grassy mound (called The Hill), and for the Pre-School classrooms, there’s a dedicated connecting outdoor space.
Sports wise, most of the facilities are off-site – although there are some netball goals at Rowan Hill. For most sport though, the girls are ferried to facilities about a mile from the school which are shared with Surbiton High School, which is also part of the United Learning family. Facilities include netball and tennis courts, astroturf pitches, as well as grassed pitches and athletics tracks. There’s also a large wooded area for Forest School and outdoor learning. Girls are also bussed to an indoor heated swimming pool for lessons.
MUSIC AND DRAMA
Performing arts is strong at Rowan, as is music. Both Music and Drama are taught as specialist subjects from Pre-School all the up to year 6, and in Year 1 the girls take part in the Rowan Strings Initiative, where every girl learns to play either the violin or the cello. A huge number of girls at the school (95%) are learning musical instruments – many are learning two or three, and some four instruments – and to go with that there’s an orchestra as well as various musical ensembles.
School productions are staged by year groups throughout the year, and the girls also take part in external music and drama events, sometimes with other United Learning schools. The girls at Rowan also love to sing – there are five choirs including chamber choir and Rowan singers.
Like drama and music, there’s a strong sports programme at Rowan – and the girls do particularly well with some competing at county and national levels. The emphasis here on participation and ‘sport for all’ – although the talent is supported and celebrated.
PE, games and swimming are taught as specialist subjects from Reception to Year 6, and the girls take part in sporting fixtures against other schools as well as the school’s own inter-house tournaments and events.
The girls at Rowan achieve to a high academic standard – and this is reflected in the senior school and scholarship offers they receive.
Specialist subjects are taught right from Pre-School (PE, music, drama and languages) and these increase as the girls move up the school. In Year 1 upwards, philosophy is taught as a specialist subject, and from Year 2 up computing and art. From year 3 upwards, most classes are specialist taught.
The STEM subjects are an important part of the school’s learning project and this is enhanced with additional programmes. The girls recently made contact with astronauts in outer space.
Girls do well here and last year all Year 6 girls went on to their first choice of senior school. There’s supportive process in place to help guide families in their search for the right senior school. It’s all about matching the right school to the girl.
The 2021-22 cohort achieved 29 scholarship offers among all the pupils, and girls accepted places at ACS Cobham, City of Freemans, Tormead School, The Tiffin Girls’ School, Guildford High School, Kingston Grammar, Lady Eleanor Holles, Manor House School, Notre Dame, St Theresa’s Effingham, St John’s Leatherhead, Prior’s Field, Rodean, Sir Willam Perkins’s, Hurstpierpoint College, St Catherine’s Bramley, St Swithun’s and Surbiton High School.
Susan Clarke has been at the school for almost 10 years. She’s warm and is committed to the school’s family feel. Her own daughter is at the school. She’s a big fan of girls’ education and is an advocate of creating an environment where girls can know themselves, be secure, grow in confidence and feel empowered. She has an open-door policy and the girls – as well as parents – are encouraged to pop in and say hello at any time.
If there’s anything quirky about Rowan Prep it’s how you say the name – it’s pronounced Rah-wan.
WRAP AROUND CARE
You can drop your little darlings off at 7.45am for the breakfast club and then collect by 6pm if you need to. And the great thing is, it’s totally flexible. The after-school club – called the Prep Club at the Hill and Activity Club at the pre-prep – also includes high tea and homework will be supervised for the older kids. There are loads of clubs – everything from African drumming and orchestra to judo, rugby, swimming, sewing and ski club – which kids often do before joining the Prep Club.
Pre-school fees starts at £414 a term for one afternoon session and goes up to £2,070 a term for five morning sessions a week. Reception is £4,055 per term, Years 1 and 2 is £4,652 and Years 3 to 6 is £5,382.
The fees at include lunches, specialist support, extension and preparation for 11+. Breakfast club and the after school clubs are extra.
WORD ON THE GROUND
Parents value the family feel of the school and high academic standards. Children at Rowan are happy and they do well.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: What girl wouldn’t thrive here? Small and family-focussed so good for helping build confidence. All the benefits of being close to the city but with the feel of the countryside.
Not for: Parents preferring a co-ed education: it’s strictly girls only.
Dare to disagree? Take a look for yourself! There’s an open day on Fri 20 May, and then again in the autumn on Fri 7 Oct. Register here.
Rowan Prep 6 Fitzalan Road, Claygate, Esher, Surrey, KT10 0LX
Rowan Pre-prep, 41 Gordon Road, Claygate, Esher, Surrey, KT10 0PJ