Surbiton High Boys’ Prep School, Surbiton
This day school for boys aged 4-11 set across two sites in leafy Surbiton makes up for its small size with a sizeable focus on pastoral care and individual learning - to great effect.
Surbiton High Boys’ Preparatory School is an academically selective day school for boys aged from 4 to 11, set in the leafy Surbiton suburbs just 8 minutes walk from the station with fast connections to London. With over 200 pupils in average classes of 20, year groups are split across two sites – Reception to Year 3 are taught at the newer Charles Burney Building (above), which was opened in 2017, while you’ll find Years 4 to 6 in the Victorian ex-residential Avenue Elmers building, just a couple of minutes walk away. Both the Surbiton High Girls’ Prep and the Surbiton High Senior School for girls are less than five minutes’ stroll, too.
The best is made of the space, with split-level playgrounds, multi-level layouts and large, airy-feeling classrooms wherever possible, but don’t expect wide expanses of outdoor space on site. Instead, the Boys’ Prep takes advantage of Hinchley Wood (above) just down the road, which provides a whopping 39 acres for sports, Forest School and outside learning opportunities.
Strong links to the Surbiton High Senior School means that Surbiton High Boys’ Prep has extra resources at its disposal, including a beautiful Victorian Hall for performances and well-equipped gymnasium. As a result, boys here often get a head start on some lessons – dissecting hearts in science labs, for example, which usually wouldn’t appear on the curriculum until Year 11.
A big importance is placed on physical development here. While some prep schools reduce PE curriculum time as they head up the years, Surbiton High Boys’ Prep deliberately increases it. Every week, boys in KS1 receives two hours in PE and Games, which includes an hour of swimming at Hurst Pool (an hour, people!!), around 5 miles away. From Year 3, this increases to three sessions of sports a week (a 60-minute PE lesson and two 90-minute Games afternoons), and all children are expected to represent the school competitively on one of the A through D teams. The Head of Sport teaches right from Reception to spot any fledgling talent (trophies are always welcome, right?) but clearly with D teams being put out there’s also an emphasis on taking part.
The three core sports are football, rugby and cricket, with cricket classes taking place at Esher Cricket Club during the Summer Term, but clubs mean that boys can try their hand at anything from gymnastics to skiing.
MUSIC & DRAMA
Taking its lead from the Senior School, music provisions here are nothing to sniff it, with instruments split across years – pupils will spend a year on brass, then woodwind, then strings, for example. As a result, a large percentage of boys here learn an instrument and extra-curricular groups such as orchestra and choir (in non-Covid times) give them ample opportunity for practice.
Drama productions are also split across years, with each year group given the opportunity to put on their own performances at the end of a term. At the end of the year (a normal year, at least), the whole Prep School joins together for a large-scale production, taking advantage of the lighting and set design in the High School. Budding thesps from upper Key Stage 2 are also often asked to perform with the High School girls in their major production at the New Wimbledon Theatre in Wimbledon or at The Rose Theatre, Kingston.
Academically a well-respected school in the area, Surbiton High Boys’ Prep feeds into about 24 competitive leading independent and grammar senior schools in and around Surrey plus some in south-west London, including Kings College Wimbledon, Kingston Grammar, Hampton School, Whitgift, and Reeds School. In 2020, 41 pupils received 124 offers, 46 of which were scholarships. The focus here is very much on tailoring to each boy’s individual strengths wherever possible, ensuring there’s enough stretch for high achievers while offering support groups for those who need it. Specialist teachers are provided in English, Maths, PE, Music and Art, and future pathways are on the radar from the start (good communication about the 11+ starts in Year 3). Coding is taught from Reception upwards.
A core focus at this school, I’d say. The school motto is ‘May love always lead us’, and the strong wellbeing program reflects this with two trained Emotional Literacy Support Assistants (ELSAs), small mentoring groups, a buddy system between Year 6 boys and Reception, and teacher observations to ensure that no-one falls between the cracks. Boys also have access to a full-time counsellor who works across the three schools.
Surbiton High Boys’ Prep, along with the Girls’ Prep and Senior girls-only High School all place a heavy value on charity work throughout the community, with each House choosing their own charities to raise funds for throughout the School year. Last Christmas, local residents living alone were encouraged to visit the school for a festive meal and party on Christmas day, while this Easter the entire school family took part in a fundraising cycle, run and walk around the perimeter of Britain (figuratively, of course) to raise over £5,000 for the NHS and local food banks.
While remote learning looks to be an inescapable part of our children’s future in the short term, Surbiton boys seem to have adapted well for home-schooling. From Year 3, pupils are each given their own iPad, for in/out of school use. Over lockdown, daily videos from teachers, online mentoring groups and teacher-led live sessions, assemblies and remote well-being support kept boys on track and ahead in their learning.
When we spoke, the School had just finished their first batch of assessments to measure the success of their home learning program, and they’re confident there are no gaps and that boys have adapted well – which must be a comfort to frazzled post-lockdown parents.
Head Tracey Chong only joined in January (talk about a baptism of fire!), but more than knows the lay of the land having previously been a Surbiton School governor for two years. She also has good knowledge of the local schools, having worked in the area for 25 years in both single-sex and co-ed environments, and her early focus (once the dust of COVID has settled) is on shoring up Surbiton’s considerable strengths and regaining some sense of normality (once the dust of COVID has settled).
For an academically robust school, homework is relatively restrained here with homework generally set to prepare pupils for the next lesson, such as reading a poem or researching a time period. Pleasingly (and unusually) the teachers are encouraged to be creative with the curriculum, to add in their own personal passions and experiences, such as projects on cultures or destinations they enjoy. A whole school project on Japan, replacing the Olympic disappointment, punctuated the final week of term and the boys loved it!
Reception to Year 2 costs £3,764 a term; Year 3 to Year 6 £4,844, and Year 7 to Year 13 £5,943.
WRAP AROUND CARE
65% of Surbiton School parents both work, so it’s no surprise that wrap around care is well thought through. Breakfast Club starts at 7.30am, as do some extracurricular activities such as Running Club, and After School Club runs until 6pm. Current fees are £7.30 a day for Breakfast Club, and £6.70 an hour for After School Club.
Usually, pupils have access to around 120 co-curricular clubs during the week, ranging from robotics to baking, but they’re still managing to deliver a whopping 60 clubs, even with health and safety limitations.
WORD ON THE GROUND
The combination of academic success and a strong emphasis on wellbeing is what parents love about Surbiton High Boys’ Prep. Parents say the teachers are nurturing and seem to really know the boys, and the buddy system has also been praised for helping younger pupils settle into the school with ease.
The boys are cheerful, confident and keen to show off their knowledge right from Reception. They happily chat and joke with the Head during our Tour.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Commuting parents, mid-year joiners (the School attracts an overseas cohort), and sporty boys who want a chance to prove themselves.
Not for: Those after extensive facilities and rolling grounds (you’ll have to go further afield for that), anyone wanting tight conformity to a curriculum or not sold on single-sex education
Reception to Year 3: Charles Burney House, 143 Maple Road, Surbiton, Surrey KT6 4BB. Tel: 020 8390 6640
Year 3 to Year 6: 3 Avenue Elmers, Surbiton, Surrey KT6 4SP. Tel: 020 8390 6640