Prince’s Mead, Winchester
Muddy says: British traditionalism meets Scandi modernity at this friendly, inclusive day school. Along with excellent academics, there's a big emphasis here on green living, outdoor learning and a total abundance of bucolic charm.
Prince’s Mead is a co-ed Prep school (3 – 11 years) in the village of Kings Worthy, just outside of the county capital of Winchester.
More bijou than other local independent schools, there’s 13 acres of gorgeous Hampshire countryside – complete with woodland – centred around the beautiful Worthy Park House.
The school caters for around 220 students, with a popular new nursery opened in 2020. Class sizes max out here at 20, so larger than other outfits but there’s a real benefit to having more peers to interact with without getting anywhere near some of the heady numbers in the state system.
The school has a whopping and incredibly well-maintained sports hall, along with two full-sized tennis courts and plenty of space for sports.
Where Princes Mead really comes into its own is the clever use of the grounds for outside learning opportunities. There’s a Forest School – located in Grays Wood – with a bonfire pit that’s always going and its very own zip-wire. On top of this, there’s an Outdoor Classroom which is used for every subject going, plus a Wild Flower Meadow, for use by both the pupils and mini-beasts alike.
Heading indoors, the latest extension to the building boasts a fantastic dining hall and classrooms, all of which have been built with a neutral decor concept. With simple colours and calming vibes, it embraces a Scandi ethos and makes it all about concentration and learning rather than the shiny, distracting wall displays of old.
The music room is also a sight to behold. Located inside the Grade II listed building, its grand surroundings are also home to a myriad of African drums and other obscure instruments, plus your usual violins, guitars and drums.
The academics here are really very good, and definitely match up to (and even beat) some of the more known name schools in the area. Add to that the school also offers the 13+ pretesting for those who wish to have it.
And while those who are aiming to send their kids to the “prestige” senior schools will have to find provision for Years 7 and 8 elsewhere, the school and the staff are extremely hands-on to get the kids to where they want to be without hot-housing.
Children in previous years have won scholarships to Hampshire Collegiate (now Embley), Goldophin, St Swithuns, King Edward VI, Sherborne and Sherborne Girls, in academic, sport and creative disciplines.
Sport is an integral part of school life here and is also quite flexible based on parents – and kids – preferences and goals. The swimming teams have quite the reputation in the local area for winning, enhanced by the fact they don’t actually have an on-site pool.
The PE curriculum covers hockey, lacrosse, basketball tennis, rugby, netball, football, athletics and cricket, and when you encompass the after-school activities, kids have the choice of activities including karate, pilates, street-dance, fencing and ballet… even fly fishing! And although the school isn’t right on the coast, there’s still opportunity for sailing as well.
Peter Thacker was previously the Deputy Head of Lambrook School in Berkshire, and since his appointment to Prince’s Mead in September 2018, he has taken the opportunity to shake things up… just a little bit.
He is BIG on foodie and eco-credentials (in fact, he’s even been round to Prince Charles’ gaff, Clarence House, and talked to him about eco-friendly cleaning supplies!) and really drives the idea that academic success is intrinsically linked to excellent pastoral care and a forward-thinking attitude.
There were big shoes to fill when he took over, both as the first male Head and most of the previous heads averaging 10 years plus in the role, but he’s done it with aplomb – steering the school firmly into modernity, while remaining true to many of the traditional values that have been instilled during the school’s history. In 2020, Thacker appointed a new Head of Pastoral Care and a new Head of Co-Curricular Activities to proactively support children’s mental well-being and boost the range of co-curricular clubs on offer at the school.
A brand new nursery opened in 2020 for children aged 3 – 4. Take-up was swift and places sold out almost straight away, with high demand from parents of siblings and an influx of new families moving to the area from London. Located in a completely renovated house in the grounds of the school, there’s plenty of fresh air and outdoor fun for the youngest children to enjoy in the Forest School, playgrounds, playing fields, tennis courts and 10 acres of countryside, with a straightforward transition to reception the following year.
Prince’s Mead is absolutely ALL about the quirks and they fully embrace them in daily school life. Starting off with the cutest and fluffiest of them all, the school has its very own Pastoral Dog – Monty. Monty pops into school a few times a week and helps the kids to relax and unwind, taking him for walks and generally enjoying his company.
Speaking of animals, in keeping with the school’s eco ethos, each class has its own pet chicken (fear not, they don’t have to come home at the weekend).
There’s also a pupil-led food committee complete with a 10-mile aim – all food served up in school to come from the immediate local area.
The school also has an unusual take on Modern Foreign Languages and while introducing it from Year 1 isn’t unusual, the kids start off by learning Italian. This then switches in Year 3 to French, but very few schools in the area even offer Italian as an option let alone from the age of 5.
There is a wealth of super quirky clubs here. As well as the aforementioned Fly Fishing and Magicians Clubs, there’s also an engineering club where the kids build their very own Kit Car over the course of the year – not to mention crazy science, spy kids, robotics, ninja (along with more traditional art, dance, drama and sports). Parents groaning at the thought of all the after school ferrying needn’t fret as the school has a fleet of minibuses that offer pick up and drop off for families with a late service for clubs. Hoorah!
Also, the head’s wife is from Transylvania and the school are arranging an international trip for leavers to experience village life and take part in charitable work. Definitely a bit different to visiting Little Canada for your Year 6 residential! Speaking of Year 6, there’s also, for any child that wants to, the opportunity to climb a mountain before they leave the school.
Fees here start at £3,305 per term for Reception, up to £5,130 in Year 3 and £5,580 per term in Year 6. This includes minibus transport, lunch and insurances, including dental. There is a sibling discount of 25% for families of three kids and above. In the nursery, morning sessions from 8am – 1pm cost £40, afternoons 1pm – 4pm cost £19.50 with EYE funding and extended afternoon sessions (4pm – 6pm) are £13.
WORD ON THE GROUND
The school has previously flown under the radar of those who are not in the immediate vicinity, however, the wonderful “village school” vibe and strong relationship with home makes it super popular with both parents and kids alike and an influx of families moving to the area has increased competition for places as the school has no plans to increase class sizes. This is definitely a school with a community-feel that’s come on leaps and bounds in terms of its facilities, pastoral care and academic offerings.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
GOOD FOR: Outdoorsy kids who would benefit from a smaller, cosier setting. This is very much a local school but has all the extra little bits that really set it apart. Also, if you’re a fan of Scandi culture and aesthetics you’re going to LOVE the traditional-meets-modern amalgam they have going on here.
NOT FOR: Those looking for a totally through school or a prep school setting right up to 13. Also, the village school vibes may be a bit too snug and cosy for kids who prefer a bigger size of pond.
DARE TO DISAGREE? Book to visit the school by calling registrar, Mrs. Sue Rich (01962 888000).
Prince’s Mead School, Worthy Park House, Kings Worthy, Winchester SO21 1AN. Tel: 01962 888000