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Holme Grange School, Wokingham

This progressive school for ages 3-16 offers a unique approach to learning, where wellbeing, a challenging curriculum and the outdoors are key to its success.

WHAT? WHERE?

Holme Grange is a non-selective co-ed day school for kids aged 3-16 nestled in 21 acres of woodland on the outskirts of Wokingham. It takes an individualised approach to learning, putting wellbeing at the centre of school life, as well as a challenging curriculum and the outdoors is a very big deal.

The school dates back to 1945 when 40 boys transferred from London to the beautiful Grade II Listed red brick building that greets you today. Of course the school has grown over the decades, buildings have been added to accommodate the 660 pupils – 120 in Pre-Prep; 216 in Prep and 324 Seniors (Eaton Grange). The cedar clad purpose built Pre-Prep melts into its woodland setting and the two storey eco-friendly, carbon neutral Senior school building is impressive.

FACILITIES 

Holme Grange School outdoor classroom

With a leafy site, there’s a lot of emphasis on getting outdoors and connecting with nature – five forest school sites, three outdoor classrooms, with firepit and pizza oven giving off civilised Bear Grylls vibes, a willow village, small farm, a pastoral hut and there’s even a First World War trench. Lots of schools embrace their rural location, but Holme Grange is fully immersed.

SPORT 

Holme Grange School rugby

It ticks all the sporting boxes: a large sports hall with Olympic-sized trampoline, outdoor heated swimming pool, all-weather astro, grass pitches and an athletics field. There’s plenty of team and individual sports on offer, and the emphasis is on opportunity and giving it your best shot. The School offers an enrichment programme in Senior school as an option in addition to traditional sporting fixtures.  My impression was more on winning and losing well rather than filling the trophy cabinet although saying that they have just won the U16 Hockey Berkshire County Championships!.

Holme Grange Wokingham hockey team

THE ARTS

Holme Grange School theatre

Fire up your creativity, literally. The science tells us Music, Drama and Art boosts the creative right side of your brain, so whether you’re a passionate jazz hander or not, it’s good to get stuck in. Performing arts-wise, the new state-of-the-art 300-seat theatre with retractable tiered seating provides a flexible space for shows, concerts and talks. All kids from pre-prep up get the opportunity to perform or be involved in a drama production and older children are taught technical lighting and sound projection as well as stage management skills as part of the curriculum.

Holme Grange Wokingham theatre

Music is a bit rock ‘n’ roll here, and I like it. Yes you can learn to play all the traditional instruments, but electric guitar, drums, a recording studio sound even more fun. They also have all the techy software and ICT kit for your wannabe stars to compose their own material. Very, very cool.

ELECTRIC GUITARS AT HOLME GRANGE SCHOOL

SCHOOL

STEM is big. It’s good to see science is taught from a young age and purpose built age appropriate labs are used from Reception to Y11. The littlies get to wear mini lab coats and goggles too. Sweeeeet. The Imagineering Studio is awesome. A playground for older pupils to research and develop their creative, design, engineering and scientific ideas. The end results are very mind blowing.

ACADEMICS 

As a non-selective school with a strong reputation in helping all pupils reach their potential, the value added is impressive and the exam results are excellent. The GCSE results for 2021 saw 99% achieve 9-4 (A**-C); 59% 9-7 (A**-A) and 40% hit the top marks jackpot with a glittering array of 9-8 (A**-A*). Quite the haul for a school that has a broad spectrum of abilities. Academic stretch is fundamental to the Holme Grange’s success. All schools will talk about tailoring education to the individual, but I have never seen it applied to such an extent as they do here – from Early Years right up to Y11.

Holme Grange is one of only three schools that NACE-accredited regional hubs (National Association for Able Children in Education), so super-bright kids do well. Meanwhile the Accelerated Learning Centre which is staffed with specialist teachers are brilliant at supporting SEND children. The curriculum goes way beyond pure academics to stretch the pupils in their lessons, experiences, personal growth and character development – regardless of their start point. You’ll hear a lot about ‘Challenge For All’ – it’s integral to school culture and sets a tone for the whole community to strive for greater things.

THE LITTLIES

Holme Grange Pre prep

Cute as a button in their jumpers and blazers, the pre-prep is enveloped by the trees, the children spend a lot of time outdoors – regardless of weather. Using a combination of child initiated learning and teacher-led activities, literacy and maths are the daily priorities, with weekly Forest School, ICT and music lessons and cookery. They’ve also added 10 minutes of Motor Movers each day too, which is a very successful neuro-development of fine and gross motor skills.

Holme Grange Wokingham PRE PREP

PASTORAL CARE 

Holme Grange Wokingham wellbeing dog

Wellbeing is Holme Grange’s calling card and the needs of each individual child are gold plated. Enjoying childhood is a bit of a badge of honour, whether you love climbing trees, playing on the swings, petting the animals or being goofy with your mates – pupils big and small embrace it.

The Accelerated Learning Centre is also a great asset. The staff and facilities go the extra mile to support anyone who needs help for short periods or the long haul. Its greatest asset is the much loved therapy dog, Hebe, plus the Pastoral Hut in the woods for quiet moments away from the business of school life, a Snug Room with soothing bubble lamp and sensory games; the Farm is a big draw with kids loving the opportunity to care for the animals and pet them. Personally I love the idea of releasing my inner Animal taking out my frustrations on the drums in the Willow Village. This schools’ wellbeing toolkit is really top notch and a great asset. Covid aside, our kids are under an immense amount of pressure. It’s good to know there’s a big safety net to catch them if they fall.

THE HEAD 

Holme Grange Wokingham Claire Robinson Head

Claire Robinson has been in leading the charge at Holme Grange since 2009. She‘s is passionate, stretching all children regardless of where they sit academically on their sliding scale. What I think is incredible is even the most stubborn reluctant learners manage to turn things around and enjoy learning. Claire’s razor sharp focus on academic and emotional intelligence, in and out of the classroom, is why each child excels. The value added scores are high here. She is kind and not afraid to do things differently if it is proven to beneficial to the children.

QUIRKS 

HOLME GRANGE SCHOOL FARM GOAT

It’s got a farm! It’s not as famous as Jeremy Clarkson’s Diddly Squat, but it embraces the same farm to fork ethos. You’ll spot the beehives nestled in the woodland as you sweep down the drive and bee juice, I mean honey, is available from the school farm shop. You’ll also discover chickens, geese, pygmy goats, ducks and pigs. Vegans close your ears, because they occasionally do eat their livestock. If nothing else, the kids develop a healthy understanding of where some food comes from. Oh, and there’s Holme-grown (*geddit?) vegetables and vines in the school polytunnels. Can we expect a Holme Grange wine soon? Cheers to sustainability.

Holme Grange kitchen garden

Sustainability and eco friendliness are buzzwords everywhere right now. Schools are no exception as they clamber for eco status and green accreditations. But there’s real momentum here to reduce the school’s carbon footprint. As a Sustainability and Climate Change Centre for Excellence The Grange building (built in 2016) is a net-zero building with 273 solar panels that supplies the building with all its energy. with more on the roof of The Hive pre-prep and Eaton Grange senior school building. A Head of Sustainability has been appointed, there’s a plastic shredding machine that creates plastic sheeting to be reused in DT and art projects. Where possible the food tech ingredients are from the school’s natural larder and waste food can be fed to the pigs. I think Greta Thunberg would approve.

HOLME GRANGE WOKINGHAM UNIFORM CUSHION
Get stuffed! Holme Grange’s cute recycled uniform cushions

WRAP AROUND CARE

It’s very good. Drop your kids off from 7.30am for Breakfast Club and pick them up is as late as 5.50pm from Pre-Prep up. There are a lot of after school clubs, with hot or cold tea provided. So if your six month old fish fingers look a little lacklustre, you’re golden until the Ocado delivery arrives.

As a day school the majority of pupils live locally, with buses running from Twyford, Sunningdale, Ascot, Camberley, Sandhurst and Wokingham. Buses whizz the kids in for 8.30am and leave at 5.30pm at the end of after-school club. There’s also a bus at 4.30pm for kids living in around Wokingham. Breathe deep, you’ll rarely have to play chicken with Wokingham’s level crossing. Honestly, you can get stuck there for 20 minutes.

ISI REPORT 

The most recent report is from 2015, where Holme Grange School achieved Excellent in all areas. See all the reports here.  

MOBILE PHONE POLICY 

It’s a common sense approach here, Y7 and Y8 hand their phones in to the form tutor at the beginning of the day for safe keeping, Y9 to 11 must keep them silent or they will be confiscated

Music and art collide in The Imagineering Studio

FEES 

The fees for the academic year 2021/22 are: Pre-Prep (nursery to Y2) £3,555-£3,860; Prep (Y3-6) £4,890-£5005; Senior (Y7-11) £5,225-£5,380. Incredibly good value and below the local average.

Holme Grange staircase with pupils' lockdown poem
A poem written by pupils during lockdown is now printed on each step of the staircase.

WORD ON THE GROUND

Parents rave about it. The overwhelming feedback is of a school that is warm, friendly and caring. The children regardless of age are nurtured, have lots of opportunities and leave as confident, well-rounded individuals. One mum told me she felt Holme Grange ‘got my child straightaway’. Others described how much their kids hated school before coming here and that the focus on EQ and IQ was Holme Grange’s USP.

THE MUDDY VERDICT 

Good for: Anyone looking for a school that doesn’t conform to a cookie cutter education. Holme Grange provides a low pressure but challenging environment, that manages to bring out the best in the children – especially those who are very academically gifted or have special educational needs.

Not for: Traditionalists could struggle with the differentiated academic approach (although the results are pretty enticing) and the all-inclusive format for sport.

Dare to disagree? Be my guest! Pop your name down for the next Open Day on Fri 4 February 2022. If you can’t wait until then, arrange an individual tour with registrar, Julia Braithwaite.

Holme Grange School, Heathlands Road, Wokingham, Berkshire RG40 3AL

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