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Prestfelde Prep School, Shrewsbury

A nurturing and aspirational Shropshire co-ed option, Prestfelde Prep School boasts outstanding academic results, strong music and art, and elite sports.

WHAT? WHERE?

Prestfelde is on the edge of Shrewsbury, Shropshire’s county town that’s home to more than 650 stunning listed buildings, the River Severn, and a vibrant cultural scene.

An independent co-ed non-selective day and boarding school, with 349 pupils on roll aged 3 to 13, Prestfelde was founded in 1929, and is set in 30 acres of verdant parkland. Originally a boys’ school before girls were introduced in the late 1990’s, the current role call is 146 girls to 203 boys. Average class sizes are 15 with no class size exceeding 20.

Operating a Christian ethos (though welcoming all faiths), Prestfelde is based around a handsome Victorian family residence Prestfelde House, and two other period buildings: Beckbury Villa, an office, and Highfield House. The site has a rural village feel with a cluster school design. Three separate learning environments sit close by – the Little Prestfelde (Pre-School to Year 2); Middle School (Years 3 to 5); and Senior School (Years 6 to 8). It’s evident the school has heavily invested in these lovely buildings, facilities and surrounding play areas, and it’s well-designed and thoughtfully laid out for a smooth transition.

Prestefelde has an impressive Early Years programme and was shortlisted for Pre-prep School of the Year in the TES IS Awards 2021. The school is also nationally recognised for sporting achievements, particularly in girls’ and boys’ cricket, football, and swimming.

FACILITIES

Facilities include a purpose-built combined 300-seater modern chapel and theatre, specialist modern Music School, a two-storey Art & Design Technology block, a new pristine Cookery School, drama studio, two science labs, two ICT suites, library, gym and a beautiful new swimming pool.

All meals at the large and pleasant Lambert Hall dining hall are included in the fees and prepared by an award-winning chef and catering team, with all diets catered for including GF, vegetarian and vegan. All children are encouraged to try a variety of dishes from around the world at regular themed dinners.

The extent of the beautiful outdoor space comes as a delightful surprise and includes sports fields, Forest School, bird hide, cricket pavilion, tennis and netball courts, adventure playground, wildflower garden and pond. The grounds were significantly enhanced in 2020. Fun additions include outdoor ping pong and table football.

Prestfelde House itself is home to flexi- boarding, the school office, Matron, the school shop, marketing & admissions, and the Head’s Study.

SPORTS

Impressive. Prestfelde featured in the Top 50 The Cricketer Magazine School Guide 2021.The U13 boys won the David English Bunbury Tournament to become National Cricket Champions in 2019 beating Millfield Prep School at Oakham. And U13 girls reached the regional finals of the Lady Taverners Cricket in 2019, finishing third at Edgbaston.

The U11 boys reached the English Schools National Football Finals in 2019 – coming seventh in the UK. Prestfelde is also a Schools Games Gold Award holder and Prep School Swimming Gala trophy holders.

Prestfelde is recognised nationally for elite sports, but the school’s big aim is to make sure every child enjoys sport. There’s a huge range of sports on offer including rugby, tennis, lacrosse, rounders, netball and athletics.

THE ARTS

Senior school pupils receive 80-minute lessons a week in art, music, design technology and IT by specialist teachers. Pupils also enrol for LAMDA. Musically, there’s a school choir, chamber choir, after school singing club, training band and orchestra, and Prestfelde’s Director of Music, Mr Kindred, also plans to introduce a rock and jazz band.

Over 35% children are given music lessons across 14 instruments each week by peripatetic teachers.

The white-washed modern Music School offers an ABRSM performance grades exam suite and airy music hall. It’s soon to be adorned with old musical instruments which have been donated to the art department for pupils to upcycle and paint bright colours as works of art.

Standards of pupil’s artwork is excellent, with many of the older Y7 and 8 at GCSE standard already and the facilities in the art and design block are top-notch – the school has also just invested in a new pottery kiln.

LITTLIES

This is an area in which Prestfelde excels. Early Years pupils have plenty of space, a huge classroom and separate covered area with various fun learning stations from a puppet theatre to car track, dressing up areas, easels and mark making areas as well as blocks for creating and role play. Throughout the school there’s excellent wall displays but in Little Prestfelde classrooms are decorated with twinkly fairy lights and there’s chilled out music playing on a sound system.

The Early Years’ revamped outdoor play area has blooming garden borders where the children have been planting flowers and vegetables, a bicycle track, wooden adventure playground and a separate pond. Next door is the enclosed indoor swimming pool.

PASTORAL CARE

Wellbeing and pastoral care are excellent. Staff here are very caring, friendly, and approachable. Every morning the Head stands at the entrance to welcome pupils into school. Staff go out of their way to make sure new children, and their parents, settle in well with regular phone calls and maintaining strong links with parents. The school has a strong, supportive pastoral team of teaching and non-teaching staff, providing one-to-one tailored support.

In 2019 Prestfelde celebrated its 90-year anniversary. To mark the occasion a new sensory garden was opened in memory of a former Old Prestfeldian who lost his father at sea and wanted pupils to have a contemplative space if ever they need time-out.

ACADEMICS

Prestfelde’s online Firefly learning, developed over 4 years, came into its own during lockdown, allowing children, and parents, to access their timetables and school lessons remotely. Now all Senior pupils in Years 6-8 have their own laptops, Middle school pupils work on Chromebook and in Little School children are on the Seesaw classroom app and Kindles. Special events for parents are now filmed using a green screen and under the Director of Music Mr Kindred, the department has its own recording studio.

Academically, it’s happy days at Prestfelde – last year’s cohort were awarded 35 scholarships to the likes of Shrewsbury School, Concord, Malvern College, Wrekin College and Rugby, and all were offered their Senior School of choice. There’s also a 100% pass record for Y8 Common Entrance exam.

All pupils take French and religious studies older pupils also study Latin and Spanish, and there’s a big investment in high quality staff – all Year 7 and 8 teachers, for example, are trained up to GCSE and A level standard.

THE HEAD

It is Fiona Orchard’s seventh year as Headteacher, though her relationship with the school actually goes back 20 years, as three of her four children were pupils here.

Fiona studied for both a degree and performer’s diploma from Trinity College of Music before taking a postgrad in education. The school’s first female head, she first joined Prestfelde Prep as Director of Teaching & Learning in 2009, later appointed Deputy. One of her first educational initiatives on taking the Headship was her SECRET skills programme: promoting skills for lifelong learning such as empathy, resilience, and teamwork – a response to what she sees as too many children at independent schools learning passively, rather than questioning and participating, and becoming independent, confident learners. I saw this in action on my tour of the school in a primary science class on plant life where children were super engaged. Whenever a teacher asked a question, they responded so articulately. Also, in a lively senior year French class where the teacher expertly facilitated the learning.

Fiona’s ambition for Prestfelde children, is that they experience many different learning opportunities, to enable them to ignite their passions. Innovative and receptive to individual needs, Fiona is focused on the continued development of innovative learning environments that support individual needs in the fast-changing world that we are in. Working in partnership with parents, Prestfelde aims to create those treasured childhoods that are so foundational in a child’s life.

QUIRKS

For special occasions, the school has its very own signature bake – a Mars Bars cake. I had a slice with coffee, it’s pretty good!

Not exactly quirky but certainly innovative is a special school Awards introduced in 2020 in collaboration with Shropshire Wildlife for older children, building on Little Prestfelde’s forest school. A bit like the Duke of Edinburgh Awards, this nationally recognised environmental scheme provides in-depth outdoor learning experience in local wild places from finding out about owls and dissecting owl pellets to cutting down self-sown Christmas trees to exploring the Llangollen Canal and Dinas Bran hillfort.

There’s also a national History Day – a themed dress up day, with banquet and immersive learning and a themed Christmas dinner for kids ranging from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to Harry Potter.

WRAP AROUND CARE

A big plus for parents with busy jobs and evening work commitments is a full complement of wrap-around care from 8am to 8pm with supper at 6pm – that’s a later pick-up than many of the boarding preps I’ve come across.

After school activities include chess, conservation, cookery, fitness fun, drama, music, swimming, ballet, athletics, comic art, Minecraft club and Playdoh modelling. The majority of these are included in the school fees.

Children from Year 3 to Year 8 also have the option of flexi boarding at any stage of the term. Themed, fun flexi-boarding nights are extremely popular and include paddle boarding, kayaking, dry slope skiing, cookery, trampolining and a school disco.

ISI REPORT

The most recent full ISI report, in October 2015, found the school to be ‘Excellent’ in all key areas.

MOBILE PHONE POLICY

There is a no-phone policy across the school.

TRANSPORT

There are three minibus routes to the school every morning from Welshpool, Market Drayton, and Telford. The buses collect from various points from 7:30 am and aims to arrive at school by 8:15 am. The pick-up from Prestfelde at the end of the day is 5pm, with drop off home no later than 6.10pm. Full transport details here.

FEES

Presfelde’s school fees are competitive – Reception £3,300, Y1-3 from £3,355-£4,490, Y4-5 £5,250-£5,460, Y6 &Y7 £5,530 and Y8 – £5,560. Details of bursaries and three main senior scholarships are available here.

WORD ON THE GROUND

The school’s reputation has grown primarily through word-of-mouth with parents loving the family feel – many of the parents were themselves at Prestfelde and want the same experience for their own kids. It’s also known for superb hospitality (the strawberry and cream teas at sports matches are legendary). The children I spoke to were grounded and happy, and talked about amazing overseas trips, their personal confidence growing, and the opportunities across the board in sports, music and the arts.

THE MUDDY VERDICT

Good for: Parents looking for a small, happy school with strong but non-pushy academic provision and an all-rounder ethos, where even the most quiet, sensitive children can be brought out of their shell. Prestfelde hits the sweet spot in Shrewsbury – a school in the middle of town, without the freneticism of a city or the out-of-touch ‘bubble’ mentality often aimed at more rural settings.

Not for: The cohort here is small, intimate and familiar – but the flipside of that is that some children might just want a bigger pond to swim in. Dare to disagree?! Be my guest! Check out the official school video and book a guided tour or personal visit here.

Prestfelde School, London Road, Shrewsbury, Shropshire, SY2 6NZ

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