The Rowans School, Wimbledon
A small independent prep school for boys and girls aged 3-7 with a family feel and excellent results.
THE ROWANS SCHOOL, WIMBLEDON
The Rowans is a delightful school set down a quiet residential street not far from Wimbledon Village and Wimbledon Common. It’s also close to the A3, which makes it a handy option for parents who live outside the village and are looking for a small, community-focussed school. Children come mostly from the local Wimbledon area, as well as nearby towns such as Kingston and Surbiton, and Putney.
Co-educational with a mix of boys and girls and about 120 pupils in total, there’s a strong family vibe to the school – and a very homely feel. The main school building was once the home of the Hampton family, and was set up as a school in 1936 by the eldest daughter Marjorie, a teacher, after the death of her father as a way to maintain the family home. Story has it that furniture in the drawing room was moved aside for pupils during week and returned at weekends.
In the school’s 85 year history there have been only seven head teachers – all of them women – with the most recent, Elizabeth Spratt starting in the post this year (more on Miss Spratt later).
Entry is non-selective in Kindergarten, and softly selective in Reception through an observed play session with the aim of ensuring the school is the right fit for the child. The priorities here are wellbeing and happiness – with the view that if children feel secure and valued they’ll succeed in the strong academic programme that is offered.
Don’t be fooled into thinking this is a small school on a small residential site – it’s like a Tardis once you pass through those high front gates. The main school building is set within the large former house, with classrooms spreading across the ground and first floors. The former drawing room is the school hall – a multi-purpose space used as the sports hall, assembly hall, school production theatre and dining hall (although due to Covid, the dining room has been moved to a temporary marquee in the school’s grounds).
You can’t fail to be impressed by the grounds here. It’s a beautiful playground which is made up of areas of perfectly-kept artificial grass (not a stray leaf in sight) as well as more natural adventure play areas with timber play equipment (think swings, slides and sandpits). Lots of established trees are dotted throughout, some of which are labeled with the tree’s name, which is a lovely touch.
There’s also a large teepee – a magical space for the children which has a range of uses… it becomes a grotto at Christmas, it’s used as an additional learning space by class teachers, and after-school clubs are also held here.
Tucked around the corner from the main part of the playground there are more adventure play areas, and then – a little further on – there’s an all-weather sports court which has been newly upgraded with Matchplay II sports carpet and rubber shock underlay. This school is small, and perfectly formed.
All learning is classroom-based with specialist teachers for sport, music and French. There is also a specialist learning enrichment teacher who will assist children with extended learning as well as those who may need additional help. There is a strong academic programme with carefully thought-through progression at each stage, and this is complemented by various themed weeks throughout the year.
MUSIC AND DRAMA
Both music and drama are part of the curriculum. Children have the opportunity to perform in school productions throughout the year as well as taking part in workshops and theatre outings. All children in Year 1 and 2 take part in LAMDA exams which is a huge help in developing their confidence in public speaking.
Class music lessons are twice a week, led by a specialist teachers, and children also have the opportunity to learn the violin or piano, which is taught by visiting peripatetic teachers.
Each week children will have a PE lesson and a games afternoon, both taught by a specialist teacher, and will include sports such as gymnastics, dance and movement, athletics, cricket, football, hockey, netball, rounders, tag rugby, basketball and tennis.
Children in Reception and Years 1 and 2, also take part in sporting fixtures against other schools, and there’s also an annual sports day – a popular day on the school’s calendar, held at the nearby Wimbledon Rugby Club.
There’s a big emphasis at The Rowans on helping families find the right next school for their child – it’s a process that starts early and is very much a collaborative process between parents and the school to ensure children move onto a school that is the best fit. The fact The Rowans is a small school means that teachers and staff know every one of the children very well, which also helps with the process.
The Rowans is part of the Shrewsbury House School Trust family, and as such Shrewsbury House School is a popular next choice for boys. Other popular choices for boys are King’s College Junior School and St Paul’s Junior School. Girls frequently go on to Wimbledon High, Putney High, Lady Eleanor Holles and Rowan Prep in Claygate. Popular co-ed schools are Danes Hill, Feltonfleet and Prospect House.
Elizabeth Spratt is new to the headship, but not new to the school. She’s been at The Rowans for 10 years, moving from her role as Deputy Head to Head this year. She’s warm and welcoming – and in fact makes a point of greeting children, and their parents, every day as they arrive at school and saying goodbye at home time. She takes assemblies during the week and is a regular visitor in all the classrooms.
The Kindergarten is housed in a separate building to the left of the main school building as you come through the gates and like the main house, faces out onto the playground. There’s one Kindergarten class (which rises to two-class entry from Reception to Year 2). All children in the Kindergarten attend five mornings a week, and there’s the option for afternoons as well. Children joining in Kindergarten have automatic entry into Reception and beyond, enjoying the carefully planned four-year curriculum.
Global awareness is high on the agenda here – not exactly a quirk, but perhaps unusual in a pre-prep – and there’s a desire for children to be outward looking and aware of the world community and their place in it. There’s a big international community – about a third of current children speak additional languages to English – which feeds nicely into this ethos. The school has been awarded the British Council’s prestigious International School Award in recognition of the way it brings the world into the classroom. Each year the school celebrates International Week and this year will do so by setting up the front of the school as a harbour – the children board a virtual ship to sail to their country. They’re sailing rather than flying to keep their carbon footprint down. Each class will the spend the week ‘in another country’ – immersing themselves in the culture, will be paired with a school from their country, and hear talks from parents and guests (via video link) who are from their country.
WRAP AROUND CARE
The school day starts at 8.45am and ends at 3.15pm. There is no formal breakfast or after-school care, but children are welcome at the school from 8am for early outdoor playtime or a morning club. There’s an exceptionally strong extra-curricular programme – part of the school’s approach to encouraging children to try out lots of different activities to help discover their strengths – which goes on until 4.15pm each day, and almost all children from Reception upwards will be involved in at least one club. Clubs range from chess, dance, yoga and football to choir, arts and crafts, digital creativity and storytelling club.
Termly fees for mornings only in Kindergarten are £2,730 rising to £4,545 for full days. Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 fees are also £4,545 per term. Additional (afternoon) Kindergarten sessions are £414 per session per term.
WORD ON THE GROUND
The Rowans is focused on forming well-rounded boys and girls through exposure to sports, languages, arts, and by developing a global awareness – and parents are very much attracted to this. They also love that it’s a small, nurturing school – that also achieves great results academically.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: The Rowans is a nurturing school which produces confident and well-rounded kids. The vibe is community minded and family-friendly, but academically strong – not an easy mix to pull off.
Not for: Those who prefer to stay in the shadow. Every child is recognised individually at The Rowans, and given their opportunity to shine.
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The Rowans School, 19 Drax Avenue, Wimbledon, SW20 0EG. Tel: 020 8946 8220