Eagle House School, Sandhurst
Looking for a co-ed day and boarding school (3-13 yrs) on the Berks/Surrey border with a strong all-rounder rep and first class facilities? Well, whaddya know!
Eagle House School is a non-selective co-ed prep for 3-13 year olds on the Berkshire/Surrey border. Set in 30 acres of playing fields and woodland on the outskirts of Sandhurst, the school offers places for day pupils, flexi and weekly boarders. Current numbers are 377 – 57% boys and 43% girls.
The main building of Eagle House was originally a 19th century hunting lodge built for a flashy doctor. It retains the grandeur with lots of turned wood, wall panels, impressive staircases, stained glass and Manor-house style gardens. A number of sympathetic modern add-ons have popped up over the years, with spinky-spanky £2.5m pre-prep delivering the wow factor right now.
The usual array of all-weather pitches, sports fields, 20m indoor pool, a huge modern sports hall and performing arts studio. Add to that a lovely bright library, modern science labs and a super-fly DT building with laser cutting machine, 3D printer and robots. It looked so much fun even I was tempted to pick up a soldering iron.
The extra-curricular activities come under the school’s Golden Eagle Programme that aims to develop the children’s have-a-go spirit and leadership skills. They can do everything from the usual sports, cricket, sailing, yoga, rollerblading, brain training, Lego, physical theatre, music, dance – there are many many more, I’m exhausted just thinking about them, but you get my drift.
Schools are always working through a long wish list of improvements, and Eagle House is no exception. A new dining room and kitchen, completed in December 2018, has made mealtimes much more relaxed and less of a feeding frenzy. The feedback on the food is always good – and having a bigger, brighter space to enjoy is going down well.
The pre-prep has had an almighty makeover. It’s unrecognisable. Previously in a separate building, the £2.5m investment has meant the space has been redesigned to flow better, physically connect the littlies to the Prep and give them lots of light, bright spaces to learn and play with techy white boards that can be adjusted to their height. The pre-prep library is particularly swish – mirroring the furniture design of the Prep library, just scaled down to suit the mini pupils. Work is almost complete on the new Music School, too – giving students eight new practice rooms, two large teaching rooms and a small concert space. It’s safe to say, you can start to appreciate where the fees are going.
What’s next? Well, the swimming pool is probably the next big project, but this is very much in the planning stages.
It’s worth noting just how good the arts are here with plenty of opportunities for budding Robert Pattinson’s and Carey Mulligan’s to perform on a professional stage. Before the pandemic, pupils regularly performed at the Wilde Theatre, South Hill Park and Edinburgh Fringe Festival. How cool is that? As long as Edinburgh gets the green light in 2021, there’s a play ready to be performed, The Merry Wanderers – based on A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Music is well catered for with the usual singing and ensemble groups. Over 70% of the kids play at least one musical instrument, including the harp, oboe, brass and even the bagpipes; and they have a healthy number taking LAMDA exams. The teaching is top notch (both are composers and musicians) and the list of peri staff is long. The brand new Music School is due to open next month.
The school’s Latin motto is Sublimiora Petamus. A quick Google and I discover it means, ‘Aiming high’ and there’s a lot of that going on. An ISI inspection at the end of 2017 reported excellence across the board. The results speak for themselves with a record 24 scholarships awarded to Y8 children to 11 different schools, including Wellington College, Radley, Bradfield College, Queen Anne’s, Charterhouse and Millfield. For a non-selective school, that’s impressive.
The son of a clergyman, Andrew Barnard is undeniably a kind, considerate head who knows the Eagle House inside out. He’s one of only 12 in the school’s 200-year history (and one of them only lasted a year!) You might worry change could be afoot. But, the impression I get is that there’s always more to be done. Andrew’s front-loaded the school day with four lessons in the morning, and two in the afternoon with activities and games when the kids are more tired. He’s also one of the few heads leading the charge in dropping Common Entrance – replacing it with an exciting new curriculum that’s rich, robust and assessed to fuel the older children’s love of learning. No more bored kids, switching off and flicking bits of rubber.
The is possibly the smartest pre-prep I have ever seen! Having pumped £2.5m into the development, you can see where the money has been spent. Pre-Prep was previously slightly detached from the main school, but this project has brought them closer in every sense. The state of the art space has been tailor-made for their needs: light, bright, spacious classrooms, a stunning library with the same furniture found in the Prep, light, bright and spacious classrooms, with white boards that can be lowered to their height and smaller loos.
Most prep schools offer nurseries and pre-prep these days (and the ones that don’t are fast), but the attention to detail here is second to none. The little people at Eagle House can start at the term they turn three. There is no fair weather learning, Nursery and Pre-Prep are booted out every day – and they love it. There’s fab outdoor learning area, adventure playground, lots of green spaces and woodland to run around, have fun and experience nature first hand. They also use all the facilities of the main school – not least specialist teachers who teach ICT, French, music and sport to your little geniuses. It’s hard to find fault with it.
Boarding is available for 65 boys and girls and the rooms are upstairs in the main house – which is acts as a hub for all the homely bits (sleeping, eating and relaxing). The boarding areas are looking very smart having been redecorated a sophisticated, neutral colour. The girls’ rooms have a bit more personality, decorated with posters, pictures and bunting; while the boys’ are homely but a bit more functional. This is place to rest their weary heads after a long day, not to channel their inner Laurence Llewlyn-Bowen. It has a very home from home feel and the spectacular staircase leads downstairs to eat and hang out on the squishy fireside sofas.
The boarders common room, has the vibe of a London loft apartment. Large squishy sofas, table football, large screen TV, beanbags and an area to make drinks and snacks.
I’ve not come across a school yet that has its own Tudor House, but there’s one here. Built in 2003 by staff and parents, using authentic building methods, it’s become an invaluable and fun learning facility. I feel a Horrible Histories reenactment can only be a matter of time.
With a bit of luck, the Children’s Literary Festival will is back this September. It is held every two years and kids from local prep and primary schools join the bookish fun and meet the impressive visiting authors, like Marcus Sedgwick. Katherine Rundell, Ali Sparkes and Matt Dickinson, to name drop a few.
All children take part in the Learn For Life+ programme, a school initiative that encourages self-esteem, goal-setting, analysing personal strengths and weaknesses and becoming a good role model. I’m picking up this kind of initiative more and more at schools as they identify how central EQ is becoming to future employability. Travel wise, A daily minibus picks up from Sunningdale, Ascot, Windsor, Winkfield Row, Twyford and Wokingham areas and Greywell, Hants.
WRAP AROUND CARE
Once upon a time Eagle House School was a full-boarding school, but more kids using the nursery and pre-prep has meant that increasingly families come from the local community so it’s all about flexibility – early starts and a choice of end times to the school day. The kids can be dropped at 7.45am for the new breakfast club and nursery and pre-prep can head to The Hideout after school until 6pm where they will be given a light tea. Frazzled parents rejoice, because The Holiday Hideout runs during the school hols too. Phew!
Also worth mentioning is that Saturday school runs every other weekend for all kids in Year 5+, with optional Saturday activities for Years 3 and 4. It’s the best of both worlds. Enjoy a guilt-free coffee with a mate one week and the hang out with your angelic child the next. Everybody wins.
Fees: From £2,250 for nursery (5 mornings inc lunch); £4,010 pre-prep (Reception-Y2); £6,055 (Y3-4) to £6,270 (Y5-8 day pupil) and £8,425 (Y5-8 boarding) – I’d say that’s pretty average for this neck of the woods.
Word on the ground: The mums I’ve spoken to are very pro the school, happy with the academic side, and the music, drama and sport. There are loads of opportunities for all kids to take part in sports teams (the school regularly fields multiple teams). They have been particularly impressed with the lockdown learning and pastoral care – offering a full day of online lessons.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Anyone looking for a buzzy prep with positive values, but with all the extra curricular trimmings that feeds into all the top national senior schools. It’s also right up your street if you prefer the ethos of a non-selective school.
Not for: Parents looking for English eccentricity; starchy uniforms and a pressure cooker environment.
Dare to disagree?! The next Virtual Open Morning on Sat 27 Feb (from 10.30am) and, if conditions allow, the next IRL Open Morning is on Sat 8 May.
Eagle House School, Crowthorne Rd, Sandhurst, Berkshire GU47 8PH.
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