Weston Green School, Thames Ditton
Weston Green School is prep school for boys and girls ages 3-11. With just 176 pupils in total it’s not a huge school, and certainly from the front entrance on Weston Green Road just off the A309, it looks quite titchy. But don’t be deceived – beyond the converted Victorian house – originally the servants’ quarters for the adjacent house – there are cleverly designed purpose built classrooms, which overlook a decent size playground.
Founded in 1952, the school was closed for several years but re-opened in 1987 as a pre-prep (for children ages 3-7 years) to meet the growing demand for independent education. The school started with just 22 pupils but grew quickly, adding new classrooms and a purpose-built nursery. Six years ago the school expanded further to become a full prep school, taking boys and girls up to the age of 11.
Most year groups have a two-class intake and while the maximum number of pupils per class is 18, the reality is that most have 10-15 pupils which gives an intimate and personal feel to the classroom. Children come in from Esher, Thames Ditton, Molesey, Hampton, Claygate, Hinchley Wood, Surbiton and Kingston-upon-Thames.
The focus at Weston Green school is firmly on learning attitudes – it’s less about what the children are learning but rather how they’re learning.
The school is pretty compact, so we’re not talking an endless run of school pitches. But there’s everything you might expect to find at a village prep school including an astro-turf pitch (which the kids in Key Stage 1 use for sports) which also doubles as a playground. The playground also includes a separate creative play area which has such things as a mud kitchen, musical instruments, balance beam, stage and a bug hotel, and a kitchen garden with raised beds for growing vegetables.
Children from Year 3 upwards use the extensive sporting facilities at the Old Cranleighan Club which is just two minutes’ drive away. Children are bussed for swimming lessons (one term of 10 sessions every year from Reception), and there’s also a Forest School programme which is in local woodland.
Inside there’s a multi-purpose hall which is well used throughout the school for assemblies, a separate art / science room and a classroom where specialist subjects including History and Geography are taught in Key Stage 2.
There’s a very inclusive approach to sport at Weston Green School, and all pupils take part in fixtures against other schools during the year, as well as school tournaments, house matches and the annual sports day and swimming gala. Throughout the year boys and girls take part in netball and football, hockey, cricket and athletics.
MUSIC, DRAMA & THE ARTS
Music is strong at Weston Green and taught as a specialist subject from Kindergarten all the way through to Year 6. There are two peripatetic music teaching rooms plus a separate music and dance studio. Pupils have the option of music lessons in piano, violin, woodwind instruments, singing and performing arts, amongst others.
Children are taught by their class teacher all through the school with the number of specialist subjects increasing as you move up the school. From Kindergarten to Year 2, there are specialist teachers in French, yoga, music, Forest School and sports. The specialist subject increase from Year 2 upwards to include Art, Computing, Geography, History and Science.
I’ve mentioned the pastoral care here already but Weston Green School really does go the extra mile. It starts with having really open communication channels between parents, teachers, the Head and most importantly, the children – something that seems to come naturally in a small, intimate environment like this. Forget the old fashioned idea that kids should be seen and not heard, it couldn’t be further from the truth here, where they are listened to and their opinions considered and valued.
The school achieves remarkable results. Every child in 2019 cohort gained a place at their choice of secondary school and out of 16 Year 6 pupils 12 scholarships were awarded to 10 children for Academic, Art, Music and Sport. Places were accepted at St John’s Leatherhead, Surbiton High, Notre Dame School, Nonsuch High School, Kingston Grammar, Tormead, RGS in Guildford, Reed’s School Cobham, St George’s Weybridge, Halliford School Shepperton, Ewell Castle School, Epsom College, Hampton and Claremont Fan Court School.
In previous years pupils have also accepted places at Whitgift, St Catherine’s Twickenham, City of London Freemen’s, Radnor House and Feltonfleet.
The success, no doubt, has a lot to do with the Future Schools Programme which kicks in as soon as children start at Weston Green School – subtly in the early years but more explicitly from Year 3 onwards. It’s a personalised process that involves close collaboration between the school, parents and the child to find the right school for the child and to make sure each child is prepared academically and socially. Support is tailored specifically for each child.
Meet Sarah Evans who’s now in her second year as Head at Weston Green. She’s warm and very approachable – which fits in well with the school’s community driven ethos – but also has strong ideas about the need for schools to constantly progress and evolve. Before coming to Weston Green she was Executive Head at Hammond School and Lightwater Village School for seven years, leading them through a merger to bring the two village schools under one leadership team.
The Kindergarten is in a purpose-built Early Years building, and once children start they’re guaranteed a place at the school all through. The school has taken inspiration from the Reggio Emilia approach to learning – an Italian-based philosophy that promotes independence and creativity through the use of natural materials and neutral colours and focuses on using the children’s own ideas instead of giving them the ideas. It’s all about open-ended learning and putting the children at the heart of the learning.
Call it a quirk – or perhaps just a fundamental part of the schools’s ethos – but there are a little menagerie of animals, carved into a tree in the playground, to represent the school’s Learner Profiles. The woodpecker perseveres and sticks at things; the squirrel is the risk taker who will have a go and is not afraid to make mistakes; the owl is a thinker; the spider is creative; the badger is independent; and the bee is a team player. Once you know they’re there, you’ll see them pop up loads throughout the school – in posters, on stickers and in conversation.
WRAP AROUND CARE
The Breakfast Club is open from 7.45am to 8.25am (cost £3.10), and After School Care is available until 6pm which includes supper (cost £5.35). There is also a wide choice of after school enrichment clubs (cost £8 per session) and some children will join one of these before going into the After School Care. Clubs vary including things like Art club, gymnastics, multi-sports, sewing club, quiz club and yoga.
In Kindergarten fees start at £290 a term per afternoon session and £389 a term per morning session. Termly fees are £3,388 in Reception; £3,530 in Years 1 and 2; and £3,809 in Years 3 to 6. There is also a £285 termly fee for lunches.
WORD ON THE GROUND
The size of the school is a big draw, and the knowledge that children will most certainly receive individualised attention from teachers and staff. The strong pastoral care means the children are a really happy bunch at Weston Green – and as parents that’s what we want, isn’t it? Parents also credit the caring and nurturing atmosphere with helping their children develop and grow confidence. Parents are also happy with the excellent leavers results and the supportive process.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Parents looking for a small friendly school where your child will be nurtured and given a chance to shine. If you want brilliant results in a non hot-housey environment this school’s well worth a look.
Not for: If you’re looking for a school with grand Gothic buildings, acres of space and dozens of playing fields on site, Weston Green is probably not it. It’s compact and bijou, using the suburban village site to its fullest.
Dare to disagree? Head along to their open morning on Thurs 19 March, 9.30am, or book in for a personalised tour with the head teacher Sarah Evans.
Weston Green School, Weston Green Road, Thames Ditton KT7 0JN. Tel: 020 8398 2778.