Stroud School, Romsey
With its focus on outdoor learning and a wholesome approach to education, non-selective co-ed prep Stroud School has a family feel parents and pupils will love.
Set in 22 acres of countryside in Romsey (25 mins from Winchester and Southampton), is Stroud School, a well-respected, non-selective co-ed prep school, housed in a grand Victorian manor house with wisteria-covered stone porch. Founded in 1926, Stroud has 308 pupils with a 55/45 boys/girls split, with most pupils heading to Southampton partner school King Edward VI after Y8. With most year groups averaging 16-18 per class, there’s no absence of attention here.
Stroud is not in the arms race for facilities – but there is plenty to please here. The school has expanded beyond the traditional building, with modern wood-and-glass classrooms in blocks around the site for Nursery and KS1. A new KS2 building opened in 2020.
Additionally, there’s an outdoor pool (weekly swimming lessons for all year groups April-Sept), huge sports hall, riding paddock, dance studio, music practice rooms, a science lab, dedicated ICT suites for both KS1 and KS2/3 plus a brand new Masterchef-style food tech kitchen and a newly-expanded Wellbeing centre.
If you’re looking for a more unusual addition, how about an on-school farm? It comes complete with chickens, pygmy goats, beehives and two resident ponies. Outdoor learning is part-and-parcel of this establishment and this is reflected in the farm, alongside the woodland forest school behind the main site.
Sport assumes an inclusive approach at Stroud – definitely a case here of the taking part that counts. Traditional sports are part of school life – boys play rugby, football, hockey and cricket, while girls take on netball, hockey and cricket.
Stroud was, in fact, one of the first schools to offer cricket to all boys and girls from Year 3 upwards, suggesting a willingness to embrace new ideas. Certainly, alternative sports play a big part in the curriculum, such as handball, ultimate frisbee and lacrosse, alongside athletics and swimming in the summer term.
‘Stroudies’ are particularly competitive when it comes to sailing (producing an RS Tera World Champion), girls’ cricket and cross-country, with the U11/12 boys and U13 girls both winning first place at a Bedales inter-school competition.
Stroud responded quickly to challenging lockdowns with a full remote curriculum. During COVID, it launched Stroud@Home, blending Google Classroom with Zoom to effectively continue the curriculum, deliver online face-to-face lessons and provide critically important social interaction.
The Stroud Sports Team had pupils and staff running around doing exercises and challenges and music pupils still had their lessons remotely. Even a selection of extra-curricular clubs were run virtually like golf, Lego construction, Digital Leaders, art and dance.
True to their motto, “Forever Undaunted”, the school reunited stronger, more positive, and even better equipped to deal with new challenges.
Stroud is non-selective, but all independent schools know they have to deliver academically, and Stroud of course takes it seriously. In the most recent ISI report of November 2019, Stroud received ‘Excellent’ status, noting the children’s ‘outstanding linguistic and mathematical skills’. English and Maths are set by ability from Year 4 upwards. Public speaking is a real focus at Stroud, all children take part in their school competition from Year 3.
Subject specialists teach throughout the school. All children from Nursery are taught ICT, Music, French, PE and Forest School by specialists, while Year 3 to Year 5 gain more specialist teachers in French, PE and Art/Design, before the secondary school-style experience of separate teachers starts in Year 6.
While the majority of leavers move onto King Edward VI, children have been accepted into other top schools, including Bedales, Royal Hospital School, Charterhouse and Winchester College, reflecting the academic standards here.
MUSIC, ART & DRAMA
Art and drama are strong at Stroud. I was particularly impressed with the enthusiastic Head of Art who teaches painting and drawing, alongside ceramics and glasswork, using the on-site kiln.
Performing arts is encouraged through the annual school performances. Rumours were whispering around that it might be ‘Shrek’ next year. Budding actors can also join the school’s link to The Performing Arts Academy for extra stage coaching.
There’s a strong feeling that nurturing, pastoral care is good at Stroud. I noticed a real friendliness between staff and pupils – what they call the ‘Stroud Spirit’. There’s no full-time counsellor on site (they share one with King Edward VI) but they’ve just expanded their new Wellbeing Centre to include a cosy space for children to come when they need a breather, with the Emotional Literacy Support Assistant (ELSA) always on hand.
Currently, children can join the nursery from age 3. Younger pupils have their own modern, light building – Nursery and Early Years – with the usual free-flowing space between classrooms and the outdoor areas. Children were whizzing around on bikes, there was a small adventure playground at one end with a pirate ship and a covered outdoor area for rainy days.
Rebecca Smith started as the head teacher in September 2020, but has actually been a teacher at Stroud twice before – once as Head of English and again as Deputy Head. Before returning to the school, she was Head of Prep at St. Swithun’s. Smith’s vision is to utilise the woodland, stream, orchards and paddock to give Stroud a more untamed feel than your regular prep school. Despite starting in 2021 with a nationally imposed lockdown, she is optimistic for the future, with plans in the pipeline for a new Wellbeing Centre and outdoor learning facilities.
Well, I don’t come across that many school farms! Chickens (fed by the little ones), bee hives (so great to see that – I had one at my school and loved it) and pygmy goats live alongside two ponies. There are large ponds used for pond dipping and ecology studies. Veg boxes sit just outside the KS1 classrooms and the school has held an Eco School Green Flag for 10 years, recognising their commitment to sustainability.
Early years up to Year 2 take Forest School every week and Beach School, where yes, they go to the beach. Currently this doesn’t continue beyond Year 3, but plans are underway to embed more outdoor learning into the older years too.
Horse riding is very popular here, thanks to the two resident ponies and on-site paddock. It’s not only encouraged as a sport but also for pastoral care. I’m told when a child puts their chin on the gate, the ponies intuitively know to comfort them.
In addition, the brand new cooking facilities are used from Year 3 upwards. In Year 8, children design menus (literally) as well as plan and cook a three-course meal for their parents as an end-of-school celebration under the watchful eye of a professional chef.
Reasonable I’d say compared to other Hampshire schools. From the summer term 2021, Nursery and Pre-Prep (up to Year 2) is £3,730 per term. Part-time nursery places are available, and they are part of the EYE scheme, offering 15 hours per week of free education. Middle School (Years 3-5) is £5,495 per term and Senior School (Years 6-8) is £5,985 per term. Breakfast club and after-school care is offered for all year groups for an extra charge.
WRAP AROUND CARE
The school day kicks off at 8.40am for Years 3 to 8, and 9am for Nursery to Year 2. Car park traffic is reduced by a staggered finish with Nursery and Reception ending at 3.30pm, Year 1 and 2 at 3.45pm, and Year 3 to Year 8 at 4.30pm.
Siblings in pre-prep are offered free after-school care from 3.30pm to 4.30pm, while they wait for older siblings to finish, which is a lovely (and unusual) touch. All children can stay to complete prep – or take part in the many varied after-school activities – from 4.30pm to 5.45pm every day, for an extra charge.
Activities include gymnastics, cricket, swimming, performing arts, Classics, debating and the intriguing Forensic Science among others. Farm Club is a real favourite among the younger years.
WORD ON THE GROUND
Stroud is known among parents for its warm, inclusive vibe. Pupils were working from portacabins for a long time, which was wearing a bit thin, but now there is a new KS2 building the ‘huts’ are on their way out. Parent feedback about the lockdown home-learning provision has been very positive.
Good for: An all-encompassing, wholesome approach to education with a good dose of outdoor learning and a family feel. Those that love horse riding will fall in love with ponies, Clippy and Button.
Not good for: If you want to focus your child solely on academic success without other curricula distractions, then Stroud might not be for your child. The impetus here is on cultivating interpersonal skills, just as much as academic ability. There’s currently no boarding.
Don’t take our word for it: Stroud has its open week on 21 – 24 June, with individual tours for prospective parents by arrangement. Register your interest by emailing the Registrar, Julia Harrington: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stroud School, King Edward VI Prep School, Highwood House, Highwood Lane, Romsey, Hampshire, SO51 9ZH. Tel: 01794 513231. stroud-kes.org.uk