Crosfields School, Reading
This unique co-ed day school (ages 3-16) in Reading is a superb all-rounder that's big on wellbeing, sport, Forest School, with a progressive approach to learning.
Set in 40 glorious acres on the outskirts of Reading, Crosfields School has been transformed in recent years from co-ed prep to a modern, diverse and exciting all-through school for ages 3-16.
The Grand Design new buildings are big, bold and pack an architectural punch. Behind the fancy new facade, you’ll find the Junior School (Nursery to Y6) and Senior School (Y7-9), with an abundance of green space and impressive facilities.
Founded in 1957 it was originally a boys’ Quaker school of just 100 pupils. It eventually went co-ed in 2007 and the Senior School opened in September 2021. Pupil numbers have risen to 636, but class sizes remain small (15/20).
Lots of investment across the school and many big ticket projects completed. To name a few, the new Senior School, huge all weather pitches, refurbed theatre and music rooms, plus a state of the art swimming pool, brand new science labs and extensive Forest School facilities.
With 15 sports on offer and a packed schedule of competitive matches, it’s fair to say Crosfields is a sporty school, so no surprise the facilities are very good. The jewel in the crown is the 25m indoor pool. The floor of the pool can be raised or lowered, allowing littlies to take part in weekly swimming lessons safely and build confidence.
The floor can be dropped for the older kids. Unsurprisingly, the competitive swim squads do very very well, winning multiple medals at IAPS Championships. On dry land, there’s all-weather pitches, playing fields, a huge sports hall for badminton, basketball, cricket, netball, hockey, fencing, tennis and volleyball, climbing wall, dance studio and Ergo rowers.
It’s not all about sharpening your competitive edge and raising your heart rate, Forest School is huge here, with dedicated sites that include a pond, woodland habitats and a purpose-built outdoor classroom. Kids love it, they learn loads and all that fresh air is good for their wellbeing and sleep. Happy happy days.
MUSIC, ART AND DRAMA
The arty aspects have been beefed up – and they’ve only just started. The theatre and music rooms have been enhanced to reflect the school’s strength in performing arts, if you have an enthusiastic jazz hander, opportunities to perform don’t just happen in the end of year shows but consistently throughout the year. There are also four choirs, an orchestra, several instrument ensembles and roughly 10 extra curricular creative and performing arts clubs per year group, per term. Impressive.
Next on the development list is the expansion of the art and DT rooms, to give the Juniors and Seniors their own spaces. STEAM is such an important area for kids to develop, it’s good to see investment in the creative, tech and engineering subjects.
It’s an incredibly nurturing school and I get the impression that wellbeing is a top priority. Talking is something we might take for granted, but if you need to get something off your chest, there’s always someone to listen here. They have appointed a top team of Pastoral Heads, a medical team, trained counsellors offer appointments and drop-in clinics. The kids are the best eyes and ears and the older children become peer mentors and wellbeing ambassadors. Prioritising wellbeing is not just a ‘nice to have’, it’s become a key part of school and an essential life skill.
Very good. It’s not an academic hot house, but is producing superb all-rounder kids, with a rich global outlook. The organic growth of the Seniors means that pupils are yet to sit GCSE exams, but in the run up to that day, there’s a focus on metacognition – the ability of learning to learn. The seniors follow a tutoring programme based on vision, effort, systems, practice and attitude. It’s a melting pot of ideas from the worlds of psychology, business and sport to generate marginal gains to reaching each individual’s full potential and helps with revision. I like it, and sounds pretty cool which always helps when trying to get tricky teens to engage. The GCSE options are pretty academic, so you won’t find quirky subjects being taught at that level.
It’s not to say the academic innovation is purely focused at the business end of Crosfields. The scaffolding starts at in the Early Years where they have taken bits of the Montessori and Reggio Emilia approaches, and other education research to develop a programme that works for Crosfields children. The foundations are laid from Early Years where there’s a lot of focus on language development, imagination and storytelling with children building a Tales Toolkit and they also work on improving physical strength to help with stamina, handwriting and learning to sit for longer periods of time. Specialist teachers for sport, music and languages are used throughout, and for most subjects from Year 5.
Craig Watson has been in the hot seat for seven years, overseeing some huge changes at Crosfields – notably the new Senior School. But having taken the school this far he’s passing on the baton to someone new and retiring in 2023. It’s safe to say, Craig has a created a top down culture where it is cool to be kind, there’s a strong moral code and staff and pupils are encouraged to share their thoughts. The result is a place where everyone feels invested in the future of the school. For example, when the Seniors canteen was built the pupils were consulted on the design and what food would be offered. Encouraged to look at the latest educational research, staff have also been given the freedom to apply new teaching methods in the classroom. So often there is a fear of saying the wrong thing. But that openness to listen is refreshing. Craig continues to drive through improvements to communication, academic rigour, wellbeing and sustainability. He will leave a cracking legacy. As cheesy as it sounds, he told me he’ll miss the children but not the endless meetings. No judgement here. The next head will start an exciting new chapter but certainly has big shoes to fill.
In the Nursery, classrooms are pared back and very neutral to avoid overstimulation. This is becoming more common, and there’s a ton of evidence to prove that an explosion of colour, although pretty for parents stunts creativity, communication and imagination.
Head of Pre-Prep Janey McDowell talks passionately about language and physical development. Dough Discos, where they squish dough to music, help with fine motor skills and ‘Squiggle While You Wiggle’ improves core strength, so kids can sit still for longer periods of time. It’s a skill often lacking because babies don’t crawl for very long or have to reach for toys out of their grasp. The science behind all this absolutely blew my mind. The youngest kids have access to their own outdoor space with wild garden and adventure playground. Specialist teachers come in to teach French, PE, Music/Drama and Swimming.
As you move into the older year groups of the Junior School the ethos is the same (good manners, tolerance) but the opportunities open up. More sport, more trips, more enrichment and more subject specialists. It jars a little that Nursery is so separate from Reception and beyond, but at the end of the day it’s just geography.
It’s global outlook for starters. There are roughly 40 languages spoken at Crosfields, with connections to almost every country in the world. Those cultural differences have become the school’s superpower – a true representation of diversity, tolerance, and a celebration of culture.
It’s fair to day, 90+ extra curricular activities is a lot. But it does give kids the opportunity to find their passions and try things out of their comfort zone. From Year 9, Duke of Edinburgh, Model United Nations (MUN), European Youth Parliament. Answers on as postcard to solve the polItical problems we’re facing home and abroad.
Nala the wellbeing dog. She’s a loving labrador and adored by the children. Come on, who doesn’t love a furry cuddle when you’re having a bad day?
Average for this part of Berkshire I’d say. Per term from September 2021: Nursery £3,802, Reception £4,059, Y1 & Y2 £4,213, Y3 £4,855, Y4 £5,117, Y5&6 £5,549, Y7&8 £5,600 and Y9 £5,750.
Most the kids live within a 15-mile radius. Pupils can hop on the bus from as far afield as Maidenhead and Henley to Wokingham, Grazeley and Winnersh. Naturally, lots of parents prefer to drop off and pick up themselves (lots work locally), but the bus is an option when you’re happy for your kids to have a bit more independence.
WRAP AROUND CARE
School runs can see stress levels tip into the red, so parents will love the 7.30am breakfast club (available to all year groups), with normal drop off from 8am for an 8.30am start. At the other end of the day, you can extend to 4.15pm or 5.50pm for littlies. Seniors day ends at 6pm, with supervised prep and 90+ co-curricular activities to sign up for – many included in the fees. I’d say, it’s a pretty standard offering for a Day School, but breadth of activities on offer is outstanding.
WORD ON THE GROUND
The view from parents is that it’s strong across the board, academically (as you’d expect if you’re paying good money) but also across the art, music, DT and drama are seen as just as ‘cool’ as sports. They all rave about the seemingly endless amount of opportunities.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Parents looking to turn out modern, independent, outward-looking ‘all rounder’ kids in a nurturing environment. It can cater to bigger personalities whilst still being small enough to nurture the less extrovert.
Not for: If you like your schools to look like stately homes on endless rolling hills, start squinting now.
Dare to disagree?! Be my guest! Book a personal tour or register for the Early Years Stay and Play on 22 June. To book an appointment, please click here.