Muddy says: This leafy pre- and prep has a strong academic record, wonderfully quirky features and even its very own sailing lake.
Walhampton School in Lymington has 100-acres of prime southern real-estate right by the Solent, with an excellent view of the Isle of Wight and The Needles on a clear day. The school is a co-ed nursery, pre- and prep, with boarding facilities, and has just over 367 children, aged 2 – 13 within its student body. The school is non-selective and welcomes children of all abilities, with a maximum class size of 20 and the average being around 15, making sure that kids get lots of one-to-one care.
Space is key here with 100-acres of it, not to mention a lot of water with the Solent and three of its very own lakes. In fact, one of these is big enough to have its own sailing school and is often home to historic re-enactments (think Battle of Trafalgar, miniature-style) along with the odd spot of kayaking plus fishing on the smaller lakes.
There is woodland all over the grounds – you could spend forever exploring every nook and cranny and still find something new. And making the most of this, the school has both an outdoor classroom, which is used by the whole school for any lesson that would benefit from some fresh air and a change of scene, as well as a Forest School setting, which is used every week by the pre-prep classes.
For slightly more man-made facilities, the school has its very own riding stables (complete with New Forest ponies) and dedicated equestrian centre, a 17m outdoor pool (which is used during the warmer months) and the children also have access to the full-size 18-hole golf course next door. Absolutely perfect for getting that practice going for the US Open.
The school also benefits from a purpose-built theatre, separate music centre and sports hall, with plans to eventually re-do the theatre (though it’s in pretty good condition). Music and drama are a real strength. Lamda is open to pupils from Years 3 – 8 with a long waiting list and strong results. Of the most recent 39 entries, 40% achieved a Merit and 60% a Distinction. A new Director of Music has also just been appointed to support the orchestra, ensembles and decent 65% of pupils that take individual lessons.
Sports are huge at Walhampton, and the school can boast a lot of top athletes within its student body. Many of them compete at county and national level in disciplines such as sailing, rugby, dressage and hockey, with girls’ football a real strength and a new Cricket Academy just about to launch, in addition to the existing Netball and Rugby Academies. Many of the children go on to receive sports scholarships to some of the top senior schools.
Although there are boarding facilities here, you’ll find that the majority of kids are local day pupils, with space for up to 60 boarding at any one time. The school offers flexi-boarding with their very own Walhampton Express picking up and dropping off kids for families on the London trainline.
For those who do board, the rooms here are absolutely stunning, with epic views over the sea. They also have the unusual format of having the younger kids in smaller cohorts and putting all the older ones together in preparation for senior school.
The girls’ dorms, in particular, have incredible custom made bunk beds created by a local carpenter. The rooms have loads of storage space, plenty of personal touches as well as plenty of room for gallivanting (think of all those dance routines you could perfect in that space).
There are two couples that act as house-parents, so there is always someone on duty if any of them are teaching or escorting kids. They also run a tight ship in terms of mobile phones and social media, with set times (with adjustments for international kids) and a locked room where the tech gets put each night.
There’s plenty to keep boarders busy as well, with the grounds at their disposal and organised trips and activities in the evenings and weekends. When they aren’t studying they’re all busy climbing trees, roasting marshmallows at their al fresco Saturday suppers or spending time learning fun new skills such as zorbing, graffiti art or Quidditch.
If you’re looking for ‘next school’ results, you’re in the right place. In 2021, 14 of the 39 Year 8 Walhampton leavers (36%) were awarded scholarships to their chosen senior schools. Excellent, inclusive SEN support is on offer here too, with the kids included in the mainstream classes and helpers who rotate to give them additional support. Everybody learns together, which prevents any marginalising for those who need extra help.
Walhampton’s latest ISI inspection was in December 2018, rated ‘Excellent’ in all areas.
Jonny Timms joined the school as head in January 2021, with his wife, Sophie, and two young children Artie and Teddy, now enrolled in the school. He began teaching through the Teach First scheme at the Harris Academy in Peckham. After two years he moved to Merchiston Castle School in Edinburgh in 2010, where he taught English through to A’ level and ran a boarding house. Before Walhampton, he was Senior Deputy Head at Caldicott Preparatory School (a boys’ day and boarding prep school in South Buckinghamshire).
A year in, Timms has introduced a few changes to the structure of the day – lessons now start bright and early at 8.30am with core subjects taught before lunch when he feels pupils are at their brightest.
Mindful of making Walhampton more connected in the local community he has big plans for an inclusive programme of modernisation, which has already begun with enrichment-time beach cleans and other community projects, having open conversations about diversity and making entrance more accessible through bursaries.
OMG, loads! Kids climbing around in ditches pretending to be World War I soldiers; full-scale naval re-enactments on the lakes (see above) – it’s very much an immersive environment at the school.
In the summer evenings, they have campfires, climb trees (there’s a club for that too) and play games such as ‘Glade-iators’, where you’ll find the kids (and the staff) running around with torches trying to escape the guards in a Manhunt-style game. The school’s self-proclaimed ‘Swallows & Amazons’ ethos is bang on.
The grounds themselves are a brilliant mixture of ancient forest and stately home by the sea. You’ll find statues and fountains at absolutely every turn, with grand gardens you’d expect to see in a National Trust property. There’s a real element of storybook here as well with an old traditional caravan that pops up on occasion, the so-called Curly Wurly Mountain and Faraway Tree that the kids love to play on and even their very own ‘Hobbit House’ lifted straight out of Tolkien.
Some unusual subjects at Walhampton too – sailing is part of the curriculum here. And all kids are required to take classics and philosophy as standard. Yoga is also part of the syllabus, as well as an additional add-on activity. And maybe not so much quirk as a massive coup, one year, Bear Grylls popped in to give some extra tuition on their Bushcraft curriculum – how’s that for a celeb teacher? More recently – and no doubt inspired by the legacy of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, carriage driving has really taken off.
Walhampton’s breakfast club opens to all from 7.30 – 8.30am, when classes begin. Pupils from Year 3 onwards have the option to flexi-board and there’s also new holiday club programme. After school care runs until 6pm for nursery and pre-prep and 6.30pm for prep pupils, with supper for those staying late.
MOBILE PHONE POLICY
No pupils are allowed mobile phones during the school day. Any calls must be made from the school office. Pupils that travel to and from school independently are allowed to bring a mobile phone into school which must be switched off and handed into the School Office on arrival.
Reasonable for the area, especially in the earlier years. Fees start at £3,250 per term rising to £6,465 in later year groups. Boarding starts at 3 nights a week at £1,355 per term right up to £2,620, per term for full-boarding. There is also ad hoc flexi-boarding for £45 per night for day and boarding pupils.
WORD ON THE GROUND
Parents like that the school is part of the local community in the New Forest, and that there’s a grounded, intimate family feel to the school. Much delight too at the fact the school was shortlisted for Prep School of the Year 2018 by The Times.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Those who want an immersive experience for their kids while still having loads of flexibility and assistance when it comes to academics, boarding and general schooling. Also ideal for any child who is particularly keen on sailing and sports. The school prides itself on being a brilliant environment for individual, creative kids.
Not for: If your child hates the outdoors, sailing and animals, they probably aren’t going to be a big fan.
Dare to disagree?! Make your own decision and head to their next open events on Friday 11 Feb and Friday 6 May 2022. Or contact the school to request a private tour.
Walhampton School, School Ln, Lymington SO41 5ZG. Tel: 01590 613300. walhampton.com