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Yateley Manor School, Yateley

This co-ed nursery and prep school in Northeast Hampshire combines strong sport, drama and academics with nurturing, confidence-building teaching.

WHAT? WHERE?

Yateley Manor School Hampshire

Situated on the fringes of suburbia, in the Northeast Hampshire town of Yateley, Yateley Manor is a co-ed nursery and prep school with 320 pupils aged 2 to 13.

Close to the major towns of Camberley and Fleet, and under 30 minutes’ drive from Basingstoke, Guildford, Bracknell and Reading, the Church of England school draws in pupils from a wide catchment area. A confident cohort go on to secure places at an equally wide range of senior schools around Hampshire, Berkshire and Surrey – including the likes of Salesian College, Lord Wandsworth, Wellington, Sherfield School, Luckley House, Guildford High School, Farnborough Hill, Bradfield College and Eton.

Established in 1947 as a small boarding prep for boys, Yateley Manor became a day school in 1982 and went fully co-ed in 1986. In the late 1960s, the school’s 14-acre site was carved-up when Hampshire County Council compulsorily purchased half of the school’s land to build a junior school, St Peter’s. It closed in 2010 and the site was rebought by Yateley Manor’s charitable trust in 2015, giving it space to add facilities and grow pupil numbers. Class sizes from the pre-prep upwards run at a manageable average of 15.

FACILITIES

Yateley Manor School Swimming pool

Built in the 1980s and on the radar for future light refurbishment, the school’s light, functional glass-ceiling 16-metre indoor heated swimming pool is nonetheless a major boon for the school – how many of us struggle to get our kids in the pool every week? The bright new changing block with energy-generating solar panels on the roof also makes it more sustainable to run, too.

A couple of years after the re-acquisition of the St. Peter’s School site, in 2017, Yateley Manor cut the ribbon on a spacious new building and creating space for a new art and textiles room, a bigger library, a dedicated parents’ ‘hub’ and a woodland learning space. The new Manor Place building houses well-equipped music, arts, technology and language classrooms and smaller practice rooms for the decent number – approximately 50% – of pupils who take individual music lessons.

Yateley Manor opts not to field a full orchestra to allow for more intensive, specialised instrumental tuition in the 16 musical ensembles, which include Manor Rocks, a Wind Band, three strings groups, Manor ‘Cool Keys’ (for keyboard and piano players), Clarinet Group, Ukulele Group and Percussion. Singing is popular too – four school choirs are all taught by an ex-professional opera singer.

The outdoor stage, in front of a dedicated clubroom-style area for parents and guests, is used for smaller drama events, Speech Day and Harvest. Concerts and whole-school assemblies move to the large indoor sports hall, which seats around 400. The historic, stained-glass Studio, a chapel for the original boarding school, is used as small theatre, with great church-like acoustics.

Drama is fast becoming a real calling card at Yateley Manor and in the near future, the school hopes to add a large, purpose-built performance hall, although there are no firm plans as yet. Of the 75 LAMDA exam entrants in 2021, all passed, two achieved merits and 69 were awarded a distinction. Worth noting too that, in 2021, four leavers took their next step with a drama scholarship in the bag.

SPORTS

Sport Yateley Manor School

The sports ethos at Yateley Manor is very much ‘have a go’ which the cohort respond well to. Swimming is a big deal and starting them early in the nursery has clearly paid off: Yateley Manor pupils have turned out five National Swimming Champions in The Independent Association of Prep Schools (IAPS) competitions.

U11 and U13 basketball teams and individual athletics champs have also brought home silverware in IAPS competitions, with finalist teams in football and netball. Played indoors and out, cricket is popular too, with champion-winning sides in U11, U12 and U13 team Hampshire County events. Impressively, some Year 8 leavers have already passed their GCSE PE before going on to Senior school – including a handful of A* equivalent grades.

As well as the usual array of sports pitches and halls, outdoor facilities also include a climbing wall and a brand new ‘laser run’ shooting range. It’s part of Modern Pentathlon training which has also brought fencing to the school – en garde!

LITTLIES

Yateley Manor School

Adjacent to the main prep building, Yateley Manor’s popular nursery has a plenty of outdoor space – when I visit, they’re zooming around on trikes and playing happily in the mud kitchen. A small, fenced-off area is also kept aside for chickens, reared from eggs by the older children and watched avidly by the littlies. Like the rest of the Pre-Prep, Yateley Manor’s nursery children also spend time exploring a little further afield on the site in the Woodland Learning Area.

The nursery has 1:4 teaching ratio for 2 year-olds and 1:8 for older nursery children, which includes male staff. It opened up to two-year-olds in 2019 – and with good facilities, energetic staff and a small number of places, it’s easy to see why a waiting list quickly sprang up. Nursery children learn French and also get to swim in the school’s pool and take ballet classes.

ACADEMICS

Yateley Manor School science lesson

Strong. Conversations with parents about next schools happen early and staff are very aware of pupils’ abilities, all of which is backed up with low-key testing and individual support for trials and scholarships. Pupils can sit ISEB Pre-Tests at the school, a less stressful alternative to doing it off-site and, as Yateley Manor is a member of the Pre Senior Baccalaureate (PSB), they’re awarded PSB certificates at 13+. In 2020 – 2021, 20 pupils secured a pretty broad range of scholarships including six in sport, five academic, five in drama, two each in art and music and one all-rounder.

PASTORAL CARE

Yateley Manor Pupils Teacher

Speaking with pupils and seeing them interact, a mutual respect with teachers is clear. These strong relationships were highlighted in a recent ISI inspection, which describes pupils’ personal development as ‘excellent.’ One pupil tells me she was generally feeling a bit low recently which was quickly picked up on by her teacher before she had scarcely realised it herself.

The Learning Support Department has a ‘Blue Room’ for dedicated support while twice-weekly ‘chill and chat’ sessions are open to all on a drop-in basis. There are also regular mindfulness clubs, attended by Learning Assistance Dog Jess, a black Labrador (who’s absolutely adored by the kids). As well as the qualified Cognitive Behavioural Therapist and sympathetic full-time Matron on the staff roll there’s an off-site councillor. Headteacher Robert Upton is also currently studying for a Level 3 Qualification in Counselling Skills.

THE HEAD

Robert Upton Headteacher Yateley Manor School

Robert Upton has been Headteacher at Yateley Manor since 2015 and has made his mark with a quiet confidence that has filtered down to his young cohort. Joining Yateley Manor from St Bede’s Prep in Eastbourne, where he was Director of Studies, he started his career outside of education in estate management but struggled to progress in a tough property market.

After a further unfulfilling stint in hospitality and encouraged by a friend, Upton volunteered in primary schools then retrained for teaching and achieved a PGCSE and MA in education, before being installed as Headteacher at two state primaries in Sussex – one of which he inherited as a failing school and, impressively, lifted out of special measures within a year. While he was proud of his achievements, Upton was frustrated by limitations. Moving to the independent sector, he found his niche.

Motivated in part by his own experiences as a timid child who grew in self-confidence through sport, Upton has made it a priority to give the cohort more opportunities to shine in areas like sport and drama, even stepping up to plug a skills gap by training in archery. He also champions public speaking in assemblies, presentations and interschool competitions.

QUIRKS

Textiles pupils at Yateley Manor School

Music and drama are taught in tandem between Years 3 and 8 at Yateley Manor. It’s a recent development which seems to be working well. Chess is tutored from Year 1 upwards and taken pretty seriously, as proven by numerous individual and team successes in IAPS and English Primary Schools’ Association competitions, as well as the South of England Chess Congress, which Yateley Manor hosts annually.

Unusually, textiles is timetabled as a curriculum subject from Year 5 onwards, covering everything from sewing and ironing (handy) to material composition and storytelling through tapestry.

Lunchtimes are a particular highlight (especially the puds, kids tell me) – no doubt helped by the fact that the Head Chef used to work in the kitchens of a Michelin-star restaurant in Berks!

WRAPAROUND CARE

Yateley Manor School pupils

Breakfast club starts at 8am with clubs and activities until 6pm for Pre-Prep and 6.30pm for Year 3 upwards. Holiday clubs and extended nursery provision for an extra charge, covering 49 weeks of the year.

ISI REPORT

The latest ISI Report was in 2021 and rated the quality of pupils’ personal development, academic and other achievements as excellent.

MOBILE PHONE POLICY

Mobile phones are not allowed. Pupils who travel to and from school on coaches can bring them but must leave them in School Reception during the day. Calls to parents if needed are made at the School Reception.

TRANSPORT

A good-sized car park at the immediate entrance to the school avoids too many hold-ups at drop-off. Many children use the schools daily bus services to and from areas including Odiham, Farnborough, Fleet and Camberley. Older and younger children mix on the bus and often form solid friendships.

FEES + SCHOLARSHIPS

Yateley Manor Pupils teacher

Comparable with other schools in the area and good value considering books, lunches, snacks, clubs and curriculum-based trips and residentials are all included. In the nursery, morning session are £432 per term, afternoon sessions are £352. Pre-Prep Year 1 and Reception is £3,974 per term; Year 2 is £4,204, Years 3 and 4 are £5,108 and Years 5 – Year 8 is £5,449.

WORD ON THE GROUND

The school’s academic reputation is deservedly high but it’s the imaginative lessons and nurturing culture that parents really prize. Kids in Years 7 and 8 absolutely buzz about pretty much everything, from the recent lesson where they extracted DNA from a banana to a lockdown assembly which saw the Headteacher dressed as one (cue giggles). Despite all heading off in different directions, pupils I spoke with felt ready for and excited about their chosen next schools.

THE MUDDY VERDICT

Good for: A good all-round education with especially good academics, drama and sport. Quieter personalities aren’t overlooked and will thrive alongside the more vocal in a supportive, community environment that builds confident kids that are comfortable in their own skins.

Not for: There’s plenty of outdoor space but the name could be slightly misleading – Yateley Manor is by no means the most bucolic setting, which will disappoint if you’ve a vision of a grand country estate. Families with siblings might find a through school a better fit logistically.

Dare to disagree? Be my guest! Individual tours of the school are available by appointment. The next Open Mornings are Fri 20 May and Fri 24 June 2022.

Yateley Manor, 51 Reading Rd, Yateley GU46 7UQ. Tel. 01252 405500

2 comments on “Yateley Manor School, Yateley”

  • Professor Eric Anderson January 28, 2022

    My husband and I researched 11 schools before choosing Yateley Manor. We have been at the school four years now, and confirm daily that we made right choice. Our children come home from school happy, every day. I often describe the school as a happiness factory. It begins with the always cheerful front-desk staff, and extends throughout the culture of the school: from the admin team to the support staff. But the stand-out strength of the school is the teaching staff. They are absolutely wonderful, upbeat, engaged, and supportive of the kids. They make learning fun. They have engendered a love of learning for all subjects between foreign languages to STEM subjects. The kids are also continuously excited about a new opportunity, event, or club. They have been exposed to a great variety of what life has to offer, culturally and physically (chess, fencing, musical instruments, pentathlon, cooking, gardening, rock wall climbing, skiing, aquesterian, aeroball, and a plethora of daily clubs from juggling to geography quiz club, that they have a hard time choosing between. What more could parents want in a school?

    Reply
  • Jo Haines January 19, 2022

    This is an excellent and very accurate review. Yateley Manor is a truly fabulous school. The staff are genuinely happy and always have the children’s best interests at heart. Staff happiness might seem an odd topic to highlight, yet it results in a warm and welcoming environment where the pupils have fun and learning comes naturally. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

    Reply

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