Caversham Prep School, Reading
As a dedicated iPad school, this small co-ed prep offers an innovative approach to learning using tech and traditonal methods to achieve academic success.
Caversham Prep is a family-owned, co-ed school for children aged 3-11 years, perched on the hill in the buzzy suburb of Caversham. Founded in 1993, the school is set on a small site, in a residential street in an attractive period building with newer additions. The USP at Caversham is its nurturing, non-selective, all-inclusive family atmosphere. The school is brimming with positivity and a ‘can do’ attitude is encouraged – aim high and, with help, you can succeed. With just 53 kids each child is lavished with attention in small classes of 11.
It’s not unusual for a town-based school to have an issue with space, and Caversham gets around its acreage deficit with a decent playground with sports space with climbing frame, and use of Queen Anne’s schools’ facilities, including the swimming pool, theatre and playing fields.
Like all independent schools Caversham Prep knows it has to deliver academically, and it does: this year, 100% of Year 6 were offered places at their first choice of senior school, many on scholarships. The students are heading onto the likes of Leighton Park, Queen Anne’s, The Abbey, Cranford House and St Joseph’s College. Not bad!
Caversham uses an integrated/creative curriculum for all year groups, with specialist teachers for sport, music and languages. In fact, French, Spanish, Mandarin and Latin are all taught here. *Virtual round of applause, please*. I would say that Caversham, though hot on academics, is even stronger on the pastoral side of things – it’s a very calm atmosphere here.
That there are only three houses (Loddon, Thames and Kennet) is testament to the size of the school. There are clear advantages and disadvantages to small school numbers, but Caversham Prep is not lacking in ambition. Pupils compete in netball, tag rugby, football, crickets and rounders against other schools and attend sports events including the athletics competition in the summer. But I’d say Caversham Prep feels comfortable choosing inclusivity and joining in over raging regional success.
Musically, there’s one choir, peri lessons and all Y2s learn to play the recorder. Drama is also given a lot of attention at Caversham, seen as a way to boost confidence in the kids. LAMDA is also an extra-curricular option too. One pupil has already launched their movie career, appearing in the next Fantastic Beasts film as a Hogwarts Student.
Naomi Williams joined Caversham Prep in September 2020. What a time to start a new job? She was previously head of a large International prep school in Dubai and since taking the reins here, has increased pupil numbers by 30% and turned his small prep into a dedicated iPad school – something she is very passionate about. Before you start hyperventilating about screen time, it’s not replacing traditional learning methods, but enhancing them. Greater opportunity to collaborate, share ideas, get immediate feedback, tap into more digital resources and, from an eco perspective, it cuts down on paper. I liked her a lot. Down to earth, very stylish and not afraid to shake things up. She also spends half of her time teaching and can be found at the school gate each morning, making herself available to parents for a chat. As is often the case with small, family run schools paperwork isn’t always their strong point, but Naomi’s headship feels like a new chapter. She’s ambitious foe the school, keen to increase pupil numbers and make a positive impact.
Often it’s the smaller schools that have to think more creatively, and with little outdoor space of its own, Caversham Prep punches above its weight, offering 20 clubs a week, including – chess , debating, Shakespeare and Latin as well as yoga, tennis, dance, fencing, cookery and more. Small the school maybe, but full marks for ambition and opportunity.
Though it shouldn’t be called a quirk – more an environmental necessity – it’s great to see Caversham has a dedicated ECO council placing the pupils centre stage on the journey to getting the highly-coveted Green Flag for Caversham Prep.
You’ll never fail to spot a Caversham Prep School child, the red and grey striped blazer, caps and straw boaters are enough to make your ovaries twinge when you see them heading into school.
WRAP AROUND CARE
Surprisingly very good for a school of this size. You’re not going to be waving your kids off for 12-hour days. The day runs from 8.50am to 3.15pm, but children can attend Breakfast Club from 8am. Lots of the fun extra-curricular clubs run from 3.30pm-4.30pm but after school care runs until 6pm – brilliant for working parents who are scooping up their kids on their way home or those trying to coincide pick up with older siblings. They also offer holidays clubs. For parents juggling work and child care, this is a life saver.
The ISI inspectors last visited in 2019 and seemed happy with the improvements flagged up during the 2018 full inspection. There were issue with safeguarding procedures, recruitment and leadership, but changes were made swiftly. It was also a different a head.
Very good value comparatively at £2,850 per term for Foundation year. Reception to Year 6 is £3,475 per term. Before and after school care, individual tutoring, LAMDA and music lessons are all extras on the bill.
THE MUDDY VERDICT:
Good for: Children wanting a nurturing, pastorally strong school, with an absence of hot-housing. The school has a lot of warmth and a homely, lived-in feel that won’t please those seeking sweeping drives and mansion houses but I’m sure makes little people feel very comfortable.
Not for: Lack of space will not appeal to all and a small cohort will challenge super boisterous kids. Extra curricular is more about inclusion than super-success if medal hauls are important to you.
Dare to disagree? Be my guest! Book your place on one of the Spring Open Days.