Coworth Flexlands, Chobham
A caring, inclusive and incredibly family-focussed girls prep school and co-ed pre-prep set in an idyllic countryside location in the Surrey/Berks borders.
COWORTH FLEXLANDS SCHOOL PREP AND NURSERY, CHOBHAM
Coworth Flexlands Prep and Nursery is an independent school for girls, with a co-ed nursery and pre-prep. It’s a small school, with just over 130 pupils – the product of a merger back in 2004 between Coworth Park School and Flexlands School. The school is part of the United Learning family.
Nestled in 13 acres of beautiful grounds, it’s perfectly located between Chobham, Windlesham and Sunningdale. First impressions are – well – pretty impressive. Turning into the school’s gate there’s a circular driveway with a carpark and a stop-and-drop section which makes school drop off and pick up pretty easy for parents. There are no school busses, so all students are driven to school and this no doubt contributes to the school’s strong community spirit.
It might sound like a cliche, but this is a small school with a very big heart. The school is not academically selective, and believes in bringing out the best in each child so they are able to learn and thrive – and indeed, the results demonstrate this. The school prides itself on nurturing students with a focus on finding what makes them happy. They aim to inspire each student to be curious and confident and have a love of learning without fear of failure.
Kids come here from a pretty wide catchment that takes in Ascot, Woking, Virginia Waters, Windlesham, Sunningdale and Chobham.
There’s plenty of space here – and that extends from the grounds to the classrooms which are light, bright and airy. Walls and ceilings are painted a crisp white, and floors are mostly laid with a light hardwood which gives it a lovely contemporary feel. Many of the classrooms are decorated with pretty bunting, as well as the children’s school and artwork, which was a lovely touch. I also loved the traditional style school desks.
The school’s main building is very pretty – it’s a former residence, which has been sympathetically extended over the last decade or so. There’s everything you’d expect including an art room, IT suite, performing arts block, science labs and gymnasium, plus another hall, where assemblies are held and school lunches are served.
Outside, there’s a large playground which extends out to three playing fields, netball and tennis courts and a large forest school with its own outdoor classroom. There’s also a Peace Garden, where kids can go for quiet time, and an outdoor gym. Coworth Flexlands a strong focus on outdoor learning, and the forest school plays a large part in this – it’s taught to all year levels. The outdoor classroom, too, is used widely – not just by the forest school, but by other subjects looking enhance learning with the outdoors. There’s a strong belief that being outdoors adds a different perspective to learning and improves wellbeing.
MUSIC AND DRAMA
Both are strong at the school, helped by the fact the head of drama is an actual professional actress – Janine Pardo – who still performs on stage. Of course, the facilities are lovely too – a large performing arts block, music rooms and a gymnasium where school productions are held.
There’s a strong music programme – taught from nursery all the way through to Year 6 – as well as specialist peripatetic music teachers. School plays are also staged each term with every year group involved and the school also takes part in external music and drama events, sometimes with other United Learning schools.
Like the music and drama programme, there’s also a strong sports programme with an emphasis on developing skills and inspiring the children to be active. The kids take part in a range of sports that includes tennis, netball, hockey, volleyball, gymnastics, dance, rounders, cross country running and athletics. The students are bussed to a local senior school for swimming lessons.
There’s a particularly strong interest in girls football as Coworth Flexlands has strong links to the Berkshire County Football Club. The school’s Sports Director Lisa Phillips, who is also Director of Women’s Football for the Berks Football Club, and GK for Ascot Ladies’, runs additional football clinics at the school (which are open to the whole community).
The STEM subjects are an important part of the school’s learning project and this is enhanced with additional programmes. This includes a biodiversity research project – learning about wildife and habitats – with the nearby Royal Holloway University.
There’s also a strong focus on health and wellbeing – and the whole school has been involved in a healthy minds and body project, taking part in various activities, carrying out research, and learning about sustainability and healthy eating.
Nicola Cowell has been head teacher at Coworth Flexlands for a year, coming to the role from Surbiton High Girls’ Prep School where she was Deputy Head. She’s worked in both the state and independent sector at schools in Oxfordshire, Dulwich and Germany. Miss Cowell is warm and friendly and very accessible to both families and students. I love the fact that every morning she greets every student with a hello and a hand-shake as they arrive at school.
Girls do well here and last year all Year 6 girls went on to their first choice of senior school – pretty impressive considering the school is not academically selective. There’s supportive process in place – that starts when the girls are in Year 3 – to help guide families in their search for the right senior school. It’s all about matching the right school to the girl. This year girls went on to St George’s in Weybridge, The Marist School in Sunninghill, Sir William Perkins’s School in Chertsey, St Mary’s Ascot, St George’s Ascot, Tormead School in Guildford, Lady Eleanor Holles in Hampton, and Heathfield School in Ascot. Nine scholarships were offered among the 20 students.
The nursery and pre-prep are separate and yet still a part of the main school – which basically means they have their own wing with big doors that open from each classroom onto their playgrounds. The nursery and pre-prep are co-ed, with about two-thirds girls to one-third boys in the nursery and just over three quarters girls in the pre-prep. There are no plans to expand boys numbers – the co-ed offering up to Year 2 works very well for families at the school with boys going on to nearby boy’s prep schools such as Papplewick in Ascot, Sunningdale School and Woodcote House School in Windlesham.
The size of the school – whilst not exactly a quirk – affords many advantages. As well as creating a really strong community among families at the school, it also means that every single child is known really well by all staff. And that close relationship is invaluable in helping to bring out the best in each child.
The school has set up a Captains programme for the Year 6 girls, with each girl assigned a Captaincy based on their own interests and passions. Two of the Year 6s showed me around the school, and they were clearly very proud of their leadership roles within the school.
WRAP AROUND CARE
There’s a Breakfast Club from 7.30am until the start of school at 8.30am and an after-school Care Club which runs until 6.30pm – which is available to all children from nursery through to Year 6. As well as a range of after-school extra curricular clubs there’s also an optional homework club. There are also holiday camps during the half term and school holiday breaks.
A full week in the nursery is £3,056 per term. In Reception, fees are £3,448 per term, rising to £3,651 per term for Year 1 and 2; £4,467 for Year 3 and 4; and £4,707 for Years 5 and 6. The fees include lunch, milk, snacks, swimming lessons and day trip outings. Sibling discounts are available.
Wrap-around care costs from £150 – £450 a term, and peripatetic music lessons are also extra.
WORD ON THE GROUND
Parents value the high levels of pastoral care, the intimate feel of the place and the balance between academic focus and sport, drama and music. They also love the strong sense of community.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Girls who are better suited to a smaller, nurturing environment and a classroom free of boys. Academic standards here are fairly high, without being at all ‘pushy’ – the emphasis is very much on a rounded education.
Not for: Clearly you’ll be opting for single-sex education here from Year 2 upwards, so if you don’t think that would suit your daughter, this is not the school for you.
Dare to disagree? Check it out for yourself. Coworth Flexlands has an open day on Fri 8 Nov. Book here.
Coworth Flexlands, Chertsey Road, Chobham, GU24 8TE. Tel: 01276 855 707. coworthflexlands.co.uk