Eton End Prep School
Don't judge a book by its cover, Eton End School in Datchet, for ages 3-11, is traditional on the outside but leading the charge when its come to equality and growth mindset.
Eton End School is a small co-ed prep and nursery in the village of Datchet. Set in six acres – sandwiched between Eton College and Windsor Castle – this nurturing prep has a total of 241 pupils, aged 3-11. Don’t be fooled by the cute uniforms of boaters and caps, this is a school with traditional values but a very modern ethos that’s truly inspirational.
No sweeping drive, but the main building is a handsome Victorian villa with modern additions bolted on over the years. Founded in 1936, the school was created to teach the kids of Eton College masters. It later became a girls’ school and became fully co-ed in 2017 (previously boys moved on, aged six). Today, it’s a warm, welcoming place with a thriving community spirit.
The outdoors is clearly a big deal at Eton End. The pupils can let off steam on the colourful hard court for tennis and netball and hit the playing field for athletics, cricket, football and rounders.
No swimming pool? I hear you cry. Why have your own when you can use Eton College’s pool for weekly lessons. Not many prep schools get to use a competition standard 400m running track, but Eton End pupils pop down the road to Thames Valley Athletics Centre for track and field athletics and the annual sports day is held here too. Can you imagine? It must feel like the Olympics. Go Team EE.
Dive into the woodland and you’ll spot dens built by the children during break times. Just mind the stingers. The lack of little feet pounding them down during lockdown means they’re deadly. The fun doesn’t stop there, there’s also an impressive adventure trail and climbing frame. Plus lessons can go outside to the al fresco stage, get scientific at the pond or their hands dirty in the veg patch. Oh, and a new Outdoor Learning Centre will be ready in time for September.
The usual roster of activities – football, netball, tag rugby, athletics, rounders, and swimming. But what I was most impressed with was the school’s commitment to gender-neutral sport. Mixed teams have become the norm here and they play competitive matches against other schools. Although, it can be tough to find mixed teams to play against. Let’s be honest, it’s a good start.
If you’re looking for a more alternative list of physical activity, extra-curricular fun includes gymnastics, street dance, Tai Kwando and more traditional sports.
MUSIC AND DRAMA
Music is a much-loved part of school life. There are multiple choirs – pre-prep, pop, chamber, and the cantabile singers – who recently won the Heathfield Choral competition and took part in the Young Voices Zoom performance of Power In Me. Currently, the usual instruments are taught by peripatetic teachers from guitar and violin to flute and piano. If a child was deadset on learning the harp or bassoon, providing they can find a specialist, they’ll get the green light.
Christmas is a pretty special time of the year, not only is the carol concert held at Eton College’s Lower Chapel – a gothic beauty built for Henry VI, but carols are also sung around the Queen’s blinged-out spruce at Windsor Castle.
Lockdown came as a surprise to us all but, after the initial shock, Eton End went full throttle offering live lessons, recorded messages, worksheets through Google Classrooms for the littlies, fun stuff like baking and photography competitions and the Head of Sport has channelled his inner Joe Wicks with online PE lessons and a series of challenges. They’re currently walking to Tokyo. My feet are squealing just thinking about it.
Go to any school, and they’re all talking about STEAM. It’s not a lot of hot air (sorry) but the future-proof learning of science, tech, engineering, art and maths. Pinning all our hopes on future generations to use creative thinking and technical know-how to solve the world’s problems, big and small.
Headmistress Sophie Banks is keen to create a dedicated STEAM building at Eton End to super-charge what they do already. Some of the children already take part in the First Lego League – a national STEM challenge that encourages kids to investigate a real-world theme, develop teamwork, design and programming skills. How cool is that?
Classes are small, so plenty of attention is lavished on your little ones. It’s obvious from visiting the school that the focus is very much on making learning fun to ensure each child thrives during their time at Eton End. ISI inspectors have rated Eton End ‘excellent in all areas’ – bigging up the high academic standards, the kids’ great communication skills and love of learning from an early age. Leavers tend to go on to St George’s Ascot, Heathfield, Pangbourne College, Reading Blue Coat, local grammar schools, and they have boys sitting the Eton College exam. As a passionately non-selective school that’s a big tick.
Sophie Banks was has been in the head hot seat since 2018. She has a Master’s in Educational Leadership and is big on growth mindset. With a cohort of girls and boys (a 60-40 split), equal opportunity is becoming more than just a buzz word thanks to Sophie’s efforts. She wants to change the language, give children choices that aren’t based on gender, culture or stereotypes. Work has only just begun, but with so much of this stuff being chewed over in the news, it gives Eton End a modern edge.
That’s not to say, the school’s producing a conveyor belt of woke kids. They’re laying the groundwork to respect individuality alongside a rock-solid commitment to high academic standards, excellent pastoral care and living by the school’s original motto: “I am, I can, I ought, I will”. I really liked her. I get the impression, Sophie’s a woman who gets stuff done. Whether it’s leading her staff to create virtual learning in lockdown, fully embracing gender-neutral sports or training for a half marathon (yup she did that), she’s a woman on a mission.
The nursery consists of big, bright rooms with artwork displayed everywhere. The rooms free flow with zones for messy play, focussed learning and creative activities, with their own outside play area. When the children move into pre-prep topics are set each term and applied to different subjects. French and Spanish are added to the timetable (handy while if you’re on your summer hols). Music and PE are taught by the school’s specialist teachers.
As the kids progress through each year, a little more is added to their week. From Year 1, they’ll start swimming at Eton College pool and the Year 2’s head to the Art Room for art and DT. Come rain or shine, they’re all kitted out in boilersuits, and tootle into the great outdoors. There’s not a hope in hell’s chance of them coming home and saying their bored. In fact, they should be exhausted.
WRAP AROUND CARE
It’s superb. Eton End is very family focussed and frazzled working parents will love the early drop-off and late pick-up that fits around work. Kids arrive from 7.45am and have breakfast if needed (or a second breakfast in my kids’ case). Lessons finish at 3.30pm and after school clubs, prep and a light tea are laid on until you swoop in and get them before 6pm. Plus there’s no need to fear the long school breaks, you can book ’em up and kick them into a fun holiday club – reducing parental guilt and fears of too much screen time. Virtual high five.
Eton End is embracing failure. What? I know. But growing brains need to make mistakes to learn cool new stuff. It’s early, days, but the school wants to change the culture to end that burning desire to produce perfect work, rubbers are starting to be exiled and failure is considered just as important as being right. Love love love.
Boilersuits are worn by all year groups. I told you the outdoors was important, and Eton End’s not going to let a bit of dirt or bad weather stop them from heading out. No excuses. Although optional right now for the older year groups, the gossip Eton End worms tell me it might not be for much longer. Yikes. Cue much eye-rolling from Y6 kids.
Ahh, remember the good ol’ days before hugging was banned and people socialised in bubbles, well at Eton End the teachers shook the hands of their pupils before they headed home. How very civilised! The how do you dos were modified to elbow taps and I’m guessing will have to be a wave or virtual high five.
FEES: Nursery fees start at £2,070 for five mornings (full days available, additional fees apply) – £3,323 per term (15 hours free provision available); Reception to Y6 is £3,422-£4,373. You pay extra for lunch, early and after school care, as well as some clubs and specialist music lessons. Sibling discounts are offered.
THE MUDDY VERDICT:
GOOD FOR: Parents looking from a school that reflects the world we live in and kids who dare to be different. Throw in the school’s excellent pastoral and academic record, and it’s an irresistible combination.
NOT FOR: Traditionalists may struggle with Eton End’s thoroughly modern culture, but there’s plenty of old school charm if you look hard enough.
DARE TO DISAGREE? Under current Covid19 guidelines you can’t have a nose in person, so arrange a video call with the head and a socially distant visit.
Eton End School, 35 Eton Rd, Datchet, Slough SL3 9AX. Tel: 01753 541075.