Shrewsbury House School, Surbiton
A great all-rounder boys school set on a leafy site in Surbiton with an emphasis on inclusivity and individuality, and nailing it as a feeder to excellent independent senior schools.
Shrewsbury House is a prep school for boys aged 7 to 13 years tucked away down a quiet residential street in a leafy part of Surbiton. One of England’s oldest boys’ prep schools, it was founded in 1865 by local clergyman Rev Henry Wilson who had close ties to Shrewsbury in Shropshire – hence the name – and it has been on the current site on Ditton Hill since 1910.
The school has a reputation for its great all-rounder offering and feeds into some of the UK’s top senior schools. But don’t be fooled into equating history and tradition with fustiness – it’s anything but. There’s a progressive attitude here, one that recognises a need to teach the boys skills beyond just academics, skills that will see them through their schooling years and into the wider world. The school is known for its ‘have-a-go’ approach with boys getting involved with everything from sports to the school drama productions.
There are 340 pupils here in total drawing in boys from a fairly wide catchment including Putney, Fulham, Wimbledon, Kingston, New Malden, Raynes Park, Weybridge, Cobham, Esher and Claygate, as well the local Surbiton and Thames Ditton areas. Boys feed in from The Rowans in Wimbledon and Shrewsbury House Pre-Prep in Thames Ditton – both part of the Shrewsbury House School Trust – as well as local state nurseries and independent pre-preps.
Pretty fabulous actually. The school is set on a 4.5 acre site with a gorgeous Arts and Craft former mansion house at the centrepiece. Other additions have been made to the buildiings over the years including a large sports hall a junior block, called the Nathan Ross Building, plus the ‘new block’ which connects to the main house.
Sports wise, the school is well catered for with an all-weather sporting pitch for rugby, cricket and football (international rugby-certified, no less!), and a separate swimming pool with a retractable glass roof. The large sports hall is used for sports and clubs, including cricket thanks to some fabulous indoor cricket nets.
There are further sporting pitches a short drive away on the school-owned Almshouse Lane Sports Ground a seven-acre site which is soon to get a brand new sports pavilion. Boys are bussed there and back for sports lessons and fixtures.
There’s a multi-purpose hall – used for assemblies, school productions and recitals and school lunches – as well as a separate library, art studio, DT studios and three brand new science labs. The history classrooms are well kitted out with display cabinets of memorabilia.
The results say it all really. Boys are specialist taught throughout all years at Shewsbury, but in Year 3 they remain in their tutor groups. Some gentle streaming starts in Year 4 and pupils’ strengths are fully differentiated to prepare them well for assessments.
There’s very little attrition in years 7 and 8 with most boys staying on until age 13. It’s during these years where the magic happens, and by the time the boys leave they’re more than ready to step up to GCSE level. But it’s about more than just the academics – the boys are kind, confident and happy to have a go. Values are strong.
MUSIC, DRAMA & ART
As you’d expect from a strong all-rounder school art, music and drama are all on top form here. An impressive array of artwork is displayed around the school – there are some seriously talented young artists here.
Music and drama, too, are both strong. The school’s ‘can-do’ approach comes into play here, with all the boys taking part in the school plays and productions. All boys are encouraged to take part in the music programme – there are 17 visiting music teachers and each week 200 boys take part in lessons. As well, there are more than 20 different music groups from jazz, string and wind ensembles to orchestras, choirs and rock bands.
Sport is big here – and the school is keen to provide as many sporting opportunities as they can so boys can find what they’re good at and what they love. The main sports are football, rugby and cricket – and fixtures are played against other schools each week – but the school also has teams for hockey, tennis, swimming, cross country running and rifle shooting. Boys in the senior years have the opportunity to row.
A huge number of sports are also made available as after-school clubs, including skiing, golf, basketball, sailing, triathlon, table tennis, fencing and judo.
The 2020/21 leavers achieved an impressive number of scholarship offers from schools like St John’s Leatherhead, Hampton School, Reed’s School Cobham, Westminster Tonbridge School, Royal Grammar School Guildford, King’s College School Wimbledon, Charterhouse in Godalming, Whitgift in South Croydon, Bede’s School in East Sussex. There’s a very strong focus on finding the right senior school for each boy, and this journey starts early on for families.
The school has an excellent relationship with senior schools, and each year there’s a ‘future schools’ event at Shrewsbury which gives parents an insight into current educational trends as well as providing information on entry process.
Boys from Shrewsbury House also regularly go on to schools like Eton, Harrow, Winchester College, Cranleigh School, Wellington College and Brighton College.
Joanna Hubbard is Executive Head at Shrewsbury House, starting in February 2021 coming from the role of Head Mistress at The Rowans School in Wimbledon. She’s been with the Shrewsbury House School Trust for four years in total, and before that was head at the Jack and Jill Pre-Prep in Hampton for six years.
Warm and friendly, Joanna has more than 30 years of experience working in education – and her passion for the school, the boys and helping them achieve their best is obvious. Her own son and nephew were pupils at the school – both now grown up – so she knows and understands the school and the community well.
Her teaching career has spanned pretty much all aspects of education – from adult education to pre-prep learning and special needs education and spanned the independent and state sectors, as well as schools abroad. Impressively, she is a former member of the Great British rowing team, and says it was rowing that led her to education in the first place starting out as a professional rowing coach. She has been director of rowing and Headington School in Oxford and rowing coach at Lady Eleanor Holles School.
I’m always impressed when a head teacher still has time to actually teach, but in Joanna’s case I wasn’t surprised. She knows every child by name, and as we tour the school, she’s stopped regularly by the boys who want to tell her something of their day. They clearly like her a lot.
Not exactly a quirk, but Shrewsbury House seems to really understand boys – getting the right balance of work, exercise and play. There’s also an understanding that not all boys are the same – some will want to run around full pelt during break time, while others will prefer to find somewhere quieter.
WRAP AROUND CARE
For those who need an earlier start, there’s a breakfast club from 7.30am, otherwise the doors are open from 8am.
After school, there are an impressive number of co-curricular clubs on offer covering academics, art, music and sports – everything from chess to coding to cooking. Clubs run each day from 4.15-5.15pm – with a few extras for the senior boys until 6.15pm.
Fees are the same for all year groups – £6,750 per term which includes morning break and lunch. Bursaries are available.
WORD ON THE GROUND
The excellent facilities, strong sports offering and good academic results were noted as a huge draw by one parent. While another praised the excellent sport and music programmes, the wide range of clubs on offer and the school’s inclusive approach to make sure all boys were given opportunities and not just those with talent or aptitude. The school’s excellent relationship with senior schools was also seen as great thing. And, of course, the fact the boys are happy.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Boys who thrive on outdoor play and who love to try news things. Super-sporties are well catered for and so are the triers. The facilities are great, and the academics are strong.
Not for: Well, it’s a boys’ school – so the obvious answer here is girls. But in all honesty, it’s such a solid all-rounder, I can’t think who wouldn’t do well here.
Dare to disagree? Book in for an individual tours of the school, or head along to the Open Morning on Sat 24 Sep 2022.
Shrewsbury House School, 107 Ditton Road, Surbiton, Surrey KT6 6RL. Tel: 020 8399 3066