Shrewsbury House Pre-prep School, Esher
A small co-ed pre-prep school for children aged 3-7 years. It's warm and welcoming with a super strong sense of community, great academics and active sports and music programmes.
Shrewsbury House Pre-Prep is a non-selective pre-prep for children aged 3-7 years. It’s a welcoming and homely school – described by some parents as like one big family – with a sense of community at its core. Parents are heavily involved at the school, and they’re encouraged to be so.
You’ll find the school on Milbourne Lane in Esher, close to the Claygate border and with easy access to the A3. It’s part of the Shrewsbury House School Trust, along with Shrewsbury House School in Surbiton and The Rowans in Wimbledon, and there are currently 100 pupils at the school – a mix of boys and girls. The school prides itself on its small class-sizes, with a teacher and teaching assistant in each class. The small size means every child is well-known to all staff members at the school – from the teachers to the cooks.
The pre-prep was founded in 1912 moving to the current site in 1914. In 2009 it merged with Shrewsbury House Prep School to become Shrewsbury Lodge School. In 2017, the school was re-named Shrewsbury House Pre-prep – and although it’s on a separate site to Shrewsbury House Prep, the two schools maintain a close relationship.
The school’s ethos and values are centred around TRACK: Teamwork, Resilience, Aspiration, Care and Kindness. Children are encouraged to aim high and not be afraid of failing, while underpinning everything is care and kindness.
The school is in a lovely semi-rural setting, between Claygate and Esher, with a pretty Victorian building as its centrepiece. From the front entrance, it might seem bijou, but don’t be deceived – beyond the charming white period building, it’s like a tardis with an acre of grounds stretching out behind it.
You can’t fail to be impressed. There’s a brand new, colourful all-weather playground packed with exciting play equipment. Both Nursery and Reception have dedicated outdoor play and learning areas, including a climbing wall in the Reception area. There’s also a kitchen garden, and a heated outdoor swimming pool.
The main building has been cleverly extended over the years to provide purpose-built classrooms and facilities. And inside, classrooms are lovely, bright and light. There’s also a great indoor sports hall, used for PE lessons, assemblies, school productions and school functions, as well as a separate library plus the school’s front hall which is where the children have their lunch and where the before and after school care is held.
The sports playing fields – with space for several mini-pitches – and a charming timber-clad sports pavilion are a little further along the street, just two minutes walk from the school. Again, it’s a gorgeous setting, with a wooded area within the playing fields where the Forest School is held.
In the Nursery and Reception, learning is focused on a mixture of play and supported learning, with a strong focus on foundational skills of reading, writing and arithmetic. Even in these early years, lessons in Music, French, P.E. and Forest School are taught by specialist teachers, and all children participate in swimming lessons.
Things become more structured as the children move from Reception into Years 1 and then 2. Children here are challenged to be inquisitive and creative, they’re encouraged to question things and urged to have a go without being afraid of making mistakes. Half-termly topics connect the children’s learning in English, Maths, History, Geography, Science, Art, Computing, PSHE and Religious Education.
Music is strong at Shrewsbury House Pre-prep – and your first glimpse of that comes when you see the baby grand piano in the main hall as you enter the school. A separate bespoke music room is also home to an upright piano, and there are also two separate music practice rooms.
Children have two music lessons each week from Nursery all the way through to Year 2, and from Reception there’s also the option to learn the piano, violin and guitar, taught by visiting peripatetic teachers. In Year 2, all children learn to play the recorder and glockenspiel as part of their music timetable. There’s also a school choir, which all children are encouraged to join.
Sport is also important at Shrewsbury House Pre-prep. There’s a strong sport-for-all attitude at the school – the head feels strongly that all children should have the opportunity to play individual and team sports from a young age.
In Nursery the children have two PE sessions every week and from Reception upwards children have an additional whole afternoon of games. All sport is taught by specialist sports teachers, right from Nursery.
The outdoor Games sessions change each term but centre around Football, Tag Rugby, Athletics, Hockey and Cricket. All Children will also have a swimming lesson each week for up to half of the year. There are after-School Clubs in tennis, football and multi-sports and chess.
Most of the boys at Shewsbury House Pre-Prep will go onto Shrewsbury House – and although a place is not guaranteed, the schools work closely together and boys are continually assessed at the Pre-Prep so there’s no requirement to attend the formal assessment.
Many of the girls go on to Rowan Prep in Claygate. In recent years children have also gone on to Danes Hill, Downsend, Feltonfleet, Hampton, King’s College School, Milbourne Lodge and Parkside.
Jon Akhurst is in his third year as Headmaster at Shrewsbury House Pre-prep – although he’s no stranger to the Shrewsbury House family having spent 17 years at the prep school. He covered a range of different roles at the prep school, most recently as Deputy Head (Pastoral) a role in which he was responsible for overseeing the wellbeing of the boys.
Mr Akhurst comes from a family with a long history in education – his grandmother was a senior school Latin and English teacher, his father was head of English (and his English teacher) and his sister also teaches. You don’t need to be a fly on the wall to know how the conversation goes at the Akhurst family Christmases! It’s not great surprise, then, that he has a passion for education, for children and for helping children achieve their best. But this is all rooted in wellbeing, and making sure children are happy, confident and content.
While the Nursery has its own designated play area, which is used all year round, it is still very much a part of the main school. In fact there’s an emphasis on the whole school and children are encouraged to mix across age groups. Children in the Nursery are paired with a buddy in Year 2 who they get to read and spend time with.
The school also holds a weekly Toddler Group (during non-Covid times) which is free to attend on Friday mornings from 9.30-11.15am. It’s an informal drop-in session with a different focus each week ranging from art and craft to music – and a great way to experience a taster of the school.
While the Nursery was open as usual, children in Reception and Years 1 and 2, switched to remote learning during lockdown with a full programme of lessons that included music, sports and French.
WRAP AROUND CARE
The Breakfast Club runs from 7.30 each morning, and Afternoon Care is from the end of school (3.15pm for Nursery and Reception, 3.30pm for Year 1 and 3.45pm for Year 2) until 6pm. There’s also an afternoon tea for from 3.15-3.45pm for younger the siblings of the Year 2 children.
As well as the after-school care programme, there’s also a programme of extra-curricular activities – from multi-sports and games to art, gardening, cookery and Italian club.
In Nursery, fees are £2,075 per term for five morning sessions. Reception is £4,190, Year 1 is £4,385 and Year 2 is £4,580 per term.
WORD ON THE GROUND
Parents love the friendly environment and the sense of community at the school. Children at Shrewsbury House Pre-prep are happy kids. One parent said her child left for school with a smile on her face and came home with a smile on her face. Parents also talk about the opportunities their children are getting at SHPP, from Forest School to sports fixtures, to the choir and piano lessons.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Parents looking for a small inclusive school that’s warm and welcoming. The school is a really nurturing, and kids who are ambitious and hungry to learn will thrive here.
Not for: Unadventurous types. Children are encouraged to have a go at everything here, so if they’re not willing to give new things a try, Shrewsbury House Pre-prep might not be the school for them.
Dare to disagree? There’s a virtual Meet the Head talk on Fri 19 March at 9.30am. Log in via the school’s website. Individual appointments with Mr Akhurst are also available via a virtual link from 9.30am to 12.30pm. To book an appointment email the registrar at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Shrewsbury House Pre-prep, 22 Milbourne Lane, Esher, Surrey, KT10 9EA. Tel: 01372 462781