Our Approach: Minimise Anxieties and Maximise Aspirations

We are in competition with every other school to attract families to enroll their children. It is an unusual sort of competition for two reasons: firstly that most schools don't think of it as a competition or at least they don't discuss it openly in those terms; and secondly in that we make a charge for what we provide while two thirds of the competitors are free.

 

Why would anyone choose to pay for a service which can be obtained for nothing? And why would you choose us rather than any of the other fee-charging schools? This section of the website will help to answer those questions, along with profiles of the Prep and Secondary and the ASD Annexe.

The best answer, of course, is to come and visit the school in action: see a community of teachers and students inquiring energetically, reflecting quietly, arguing respectfully, creating art, thinking deeply about possible answers to the hard questions of our times.

Small Class Sizes

Our class sizes are mostly around 11 children and will not go above 13. This means that our staff-student ratio is exceptionally high, well above the average even in independent schools. The average class size in state secondaries is 22 and increasing every year.

Safe Learning Environment

We provide a genuinely safe environment with a strong, deeply embedded culture of safeguarding, which both reduces risks and boosts resilience. As a result bullying is rare and is dealt with quickly. Behaviour is mutually respectful without losing the fun and laughter of childhood.

Small, Close-knit Community

We are a human-scale school, where everyone is known by name by everyone. Our maximum size is around 140 compared to the average state secondary of 986 pupils. Our size is deliberately limited to Dunbar's number - the cognitive limit of stable social relationships. Any institution of 1,000 people is intimidating and impersonal.

Close Individual Attention

 

This allows us both to spot potential and to pick up on potential problems very quickly. Our pastoral support through mentoring, caring and kindness is much-praised.

Stimulating Learning Environment

Our school occupies an inspirational and historic building with character in every room, set in a vibrant city with outstanding local facilities to enrich our Arts, Sports and Drama. 

Engaged and Enthusiastic Staff Team

As a direct consequence of our size we have a mutually supportive community of skilled, knowledgeable, happy & enthusiastic teachers who share a commitment to a higher vision for education.

Rigorous and Progressive Curriculum

 

Our flexibility of approach allows individual strengths to develop within a very strong curriculum model, which has been described as the best secondary curriculum available in the world.

Personal Achievement and Development

Regular outdoor learning activities at the Wilderness Centre develop character which in turn provides the motivation for hard work, ambitious goals and superb value-added results for all our students. Here "it's cool to succeed".

Strong Relationships with Families

 

Our size permits the channels of communication with families to be always open. As an independent school we welcome family involvement and scrutiny - we are accountable ultimately to parents not to politicians!

How does the Prep School work?

Wotton House Prep is a school like no other, it has a true family feel and we genuinely value every student for their own interests and abilities. I like to think we enable our children to find their ‘element’, the spark that ignites their love for learning. We do this through delivering a thoughtfully tailored and effectively differentiated curriculum, prioritising emotional literacy and planning meaningful real-life learning experiences, allowing our students to make a difference. 

At Wotton Prep our students rapidly grow in confidence, forming positive relationships with the other students in Prep as well as from the wider school community through initiatives like our mentoring programme. They quickly get to know the Prep teachers, as well as senior-school staff; our students enjoy specialist teaching in languages, sport, computing and music.

 

Some of our clubs and activities also allow for crossover with the secondary school, including our popular weekly judo club. Swimming is an important part of our weekly timetable where students enjoy small-group tuition and make rapid progress. Break times are a relaxed social occasion where students from all year groups get to enjoy the ample grounds, the Prep are often found enjoying the new trim trail, picking apples from the apple trees or even leading the pony!

We believe passionately in the importance of a balanced education to prepare our students for their adult life. Technology is constantly moving forward, and we pride ourselves in delivering a world-class curriculum, equipping students with an enquiring mind. This is largely aligned with the National Curriculum – with all of the rigor you would expect, but has greater depth; enriched through subjects like ‘Global Perspectives’ where we learn about world issues such as health, education and water usage. Students are able to research real world issues using real data from well-respected sources which brings learning to life and enriches learning outcomes.

Our weekly timetable is unique; students spend one day of each week at our second campus in the Forest of Dean. Here they are engaged in meaningful projects to rewild our 30-acre centre; taking part in activities like tree planting, harvesting crops, making scarecrows, campfire cooking, surveying wildlife and making memories to last a lifetime. We run residential trips to The Wilderness Centre and have a growing herd of Dartmoor ponies which the Prep help to care for.

 

Our weekly rewilding programme forms part of our John Muir Award Scheme. Prep students work towards the Conserver award, the highest level possible. We share our conservation and rewilding achievements through poetry and artwork and enjoy linking up with a range of external agencies.

I can’t think of a more inspiring place for any student to start their learning journey. We offer flexibility, rigour, real-life experiential learning coupled with a spirit of adventure!

For more information or to arrange a showround please email, phone, or fill in our contact form on the Home page.

Parents and prospective parents can also read our Prep Parents Handbook here and our Prep Prospectus here.

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Children Reading
Students learning at Wotton House School
Further Information

There has been a great deal of research into what parents look for in a school - but there is not unanimous agreement as these links show.

The “right” school builds children’s academic, social and emotional skills, gathers a diverse group of classmates and potential friends, and helps to prepare children for the world of work later on. 

Discipline, learning environment, small class sizes​

“School choice is a parental attempt to maximise aspirations and minimise anxieties associated with their children’s future.” 

‘a school that suits my child’ and ‘location’ of the school were identified as important by over half of respondents

Families want their children prepared for life after high school.

"we confirm that all families do indeed choose schools on the basis of their academic performance. Parents also value particular peer groups, preferring schools with low proportions of poor children."

Good teachers, strong curriculum and academics, and school safety are the most commonly cited criteria by parents to evaluate schools. 

More than 85 % of parents said they chose a private school for a “better learning environment” for their child, whereas 81% said for a “better education.” The next two most common responses were “smaller class sizes” (80%) and “more individual attention for my child” (76%). 

Behavior problems are so much greater in larger schools that any possible virtue of larger size is canceled out by the difficulties of maintaining an orderly learning environment (Stockard and Mayberry, 1992).

Why does smaller seem to work better?...People seem to learn, to change, and to grow in situations in which they feel that they have some control, some personal influence, some efficacy (Berlin and Cienkus, 1989 ).

"Leading motives for parents to choose private schooling are the wish for their children to gain better academic results through smaller class sizes and better facilities, and to mix with a preferred peer group. The peer group motive is masked by social desirability bias when using conventional survey methods, but is revealed through alternative methods."

"I want my son’s school to facilitate creativity and independence within a supportive and nurturing environment." 

“I want a teacher to spot my child’s potential in different areas”

"When choosing a school for their child, parents in all participating countries value academic achievement highly; but they are often even more concerned about the safety and [pleasant] environment of the school and the school’s reputation."