Stroud School, King Edward VI Preparatory School, Romsey
With its outdoor learning focus and wholesome approach to education, gently-selective co-ed prep Stroud School has a family feel parents and pupils love.
Set in 22 acres of countryside in Romsey (20 mins from Winchester and Southampton), is Stroud School, King Edward VI Preparatory School, a well-respected, gently-selective co-ed prep school for children aged 3-13, housed in a grand Victorian manor house with wisteria-covered stone porch.
Founded in 1926, Stroud has 330 pupils with a 55/45 boys/girls split. With most year groups averaging 16 – 18 per class, there’s no absence of attention here. Most pupils head on to Stroud’s senior school, King Edward VI School, in Southampton.
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 three 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, volleyball and lacrosse, alongside athletics and swimming in the Summer Term.
There’s a busy sports programme too – in 2022, over 1,000 pupils from other independent and state schools will compete in festivals and tournaments hosted at Stroud, including The Independent Association of Prep Schools (IAPS) rugby, cross country, football tournaments , a netball festival and a cricket festival.
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 5 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 to Year 2 are taught ICT, Music, French, PE and Forest School by specialists, while Year 3 to Year 5 gain more specialist teachers in Art and Design Technology, before moving up to the secondary school-style experience of separate teachers in Years 6 – 8.
While the majority of leavers move onto King Edward VI, children have been accepted into other top schools, including St. Swithun’s, Canford, Lord Wandsworth College and Winchester College, reflecting the academic standards here.
MUSIC, ART & DRAMA
Music, 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 are encouraged through the annual school performances, Speech and Drama lessons and lots of co-curricular activities like ballet, choirs, orchestra and performing arts.
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’. An Emotional Literacy Support Assistant (ELSA) is on hand in a brand-new Wellbeing Centre that offers a cosy space for children to come for personalised support, or just to take a breather.
Currently, children can join the nursery from age 3. Younger pupils have their own modern, light Early Years building with the usual free-flowing space between classrooms and the outdoor areas. On my visit, children were whizzing around on bikes and I spotted a free play outdoor courtyard with a Fort, workshop and mud kitchen and a covered outdoor classroom area for rainy days.
Rebecca Smith started as headmistress 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 in Winchester.
Looking ahead, Smith’s vision is to strengthen the 3 – 18 educational journey with King Edward VI School and ease the transition from the prep to the senior school. She’s also focused on balancing the school’s strong academic provision with outdoor activities, making the most of the woodland, stream, orchards and paddock here.
Other plans include adding Engineering to the prep school curriculum to help pupils develop their creative problem solving skills, with a new STEAM building (for Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Maths) now in the pipeline.
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 continues to prioritise sustainability.
Early Years up to Year 2 take Forest School every week and Beach School, where, yes, they go to the beach. Stroud has also hired a new Outdoor Ranger who will focus on making the most of the school’s extensive natural areas whilst developing learning outside the classroom across all year groups.
Horse riding is very popular here, thanks to the 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.
Smart, modern 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. Part-time nursery places are available with 15 hours per week of EYE funding. Pre-Prep (up to Year 2) is £3,838 per term. Middle School (Years 3-5) is £5,654 per term and Senior School (Years 6-8) is £6,159 per term. Breakfast Club and after-school Tea Club is offered 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, 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.
Good for: An all-encompassing, wholesome approach to education with great academics, a good dose of outdoor learning and a family feel. Those that love horse riding will fall in love with ponies, Tully, Clippy and Buttons.
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.
Don’t take our word for it: Individual tours for prospective parents are available by arrangement. Register your interest by emailing the Registrar, Julia Harrington: email@example.com. Book now for the next open morning event on Wednesday 9 March 2022 at 9.30am.
Stroud School, King Edward VI Prep School, Highwood House, Highwood Lane, Romsey, Hampshire, SO51 9ZH. Tel: 01794 513231. stroud-kes.org.uk