Lambrook School, Winkfield Row
A top co-ed school for ages 3-13 set in 52 acres of beautiful Berkshire countryside, with a phenomenal reputation for sport and extra-curricular activities.
LAMBROOK SCHOOL, WINKFIELD ROW, BERKSHIRE
Lambrook School is a bucolic day and boarding prep school near Ascot that definitely has the wow factor. Co-educational with 560 pupils (56% boys/ 44% girls) – just about capacity – the school is set in 52 acres of stunning grounds, giving plenty of fresh air and fun to free-range kids. The main building is a grand white manor house and, when you go inside, it’s light, spacious and absolutely pristine. If you like your schools homely yet polished, you’re in the right place.
The school dates back to 1860 and was set up to educate the sons of Windsor Castle courtiers. But those days are long gone. It’s now a buzzy co-ed prep for 3 to 13 year olds, that has Berkshire and London parents clambering to get their children on the waiting list. Yes, there is one and you need to be thinking about a year ahead.
You’d expect any prep school charging around £20k a year to have top notch sport, drama and music facilities. Lambrook’s stepped up to plate, having invested heavily with the requisite high-spec performing arts centre, a 25m indoor pool, full-size astroturf pitch, nine-hole golf course, outdoor adventure play area and nursery and pre-prep areas. An impressive new £6million Art, Design and Technology building opened a few years ago which looks super fly.
The building provides a bright spacious art studio, science labs, an exhibition/meeting space with dreamy outlook across the playing fields (take cover here on rainy match days, parents), two large computer suites, a design and tech suite, digital learning centre, rehearsal studio, new changing rooms and classrooms. I mean, they’ve thrown the kitchen sink at this project. I’m the least arty or techy person on the on the planet and even I wanted to get stuck in.
For those more interested in green space than science, the grounds offer epic views out onto the fields, with woods for den building and outdoor learning. Just looking across all this greenery gives you a double-shot of wellbeing. That was just me though. While I was drinking in the view, Lambrook pupils, who at break times make like a herd of buffalo to enjoy the fresh air, are climbing trees, swinging from tyres and playing games.
There’s a real sense of fun and freedom among the pupils. It was good to see them all letting off steam without the health and safety police running a risk assessment every time a child approaches a tree – albeit in their new Covid-safe bubbles. This magical space is also an extension of the classroom. I’ve seen pre-prep going on a bear hunt and art and science lessons taken outside. Having space for al fresco decompression is a great asset, especially when life throws you a pandemic curve ball.
Music is big here and the new Diamond Jubilee Centre, opened by the Earl of Wessex, provides a 250-seat theatre, classrooms and practice rooms for pupils having individual music lessons ranging from piano, violin and flute to trumpet, guitar and singing. The 25-strong chapel choir sings at all chapel services, as well as public performances at Eton College Chapel. Jazz handers are also well catered for with year groups creating plays in just two days, putting on musicals and LAMDA lessons and regularly perform at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Cool credits, right there.
What’s next? Well, an extension to the Dining Room to ensure an easier flow at mealtimes, they’re looking to expand the boarding provision, plus add an all-weather pitch and multi-sports pavilion. Judging by the standard of work that has been completed in recent years, they’ll be glossy additions to the already first class facilities.
Lambrook is your flexible friend. Boarding is hugely popular here, offering weekly, flexi or occasional (there’s no termly option here). The two boarding houses (the girls are in Lambrook House, boys in Westfield) offering 50 beds, are well above average. I particularly love the online booking system, allowing parents to organise a school sleepover w .
100 per cent of children at the school pass the Common Entrance exam – as a non-selective school that’s a big academic tick. Headline news is that this Junethey achieved 13 Scholarships out of a year group of 43 children – 11 boys secured places at Eton, while others are skipping off to Downe House, Wellington, Bradfield and Charterhouse. There’s a lot to be said for small class sizes and quality teaching staff.
Lessons are also just 35 minutes long! That’s right, 10 periods of 35 minutes, although there are doubles thrown in for older children. In my experience, most kids have the attention span of a goldfish, so this has got to be good, right? Efficiencies of learning, I like it. The children are also currently working in bubbles based on ability. *Gulp*. It sounds punchy, but it’s the most efficient way to teach them right now – and a great opportunity for new friendships to be formed.
Jonathan Perry has been head since 2010 and is charm personified. He is ambitious for the school, but feels a duty to give the children in his care the ‘feathers to fly’ and give them the tools to spread their wings and soar when they leave. It might sound cheesy, but Jonathan is passionate about producing well-rounded, world ready children – confident, community minded, well-mannered, with a lust for learning.
Full of enthusiasm, you can feel Perry’s ambition to build on Lambrook’s success, but where do you go from here? With all prep schools promising good academics and extra curricular delights, Lambrook has certainly invested heavily in facilities and quality teaching. Maintaining that requires good leadership and a clear vision.
The fear, of course, is that after 10 years in the job, could he be lured elsewhere? ‘Not just yet, and certainly not another prep school,’ Perry tells me. Lambrook parents can breathe a sigh of relief – Jonathan and his wife Jenny are much loved. It helps that he has the extraordinary ability to never forget a name – pupil or parent. Worth testing, non? Is out every morning to greet parents and children, which is like getting a socially-distant hug. Much needed right now.
Little people can start at three in the nursery and it’s waaaaay superior to the many of the nurseries I’ve used for my kids over the years. The nursery is spacious, bright, with a great outdoor space. They also wear the cutest gingham aprons, which made my ovaries ache. So cute. The Pre-Prep is next door (to help transition up the school) and just as lovely, and as you go up the school, it’s more of the same. In fact, Lambrook goes to great lengths to ensure the transitions are silky smooth. It’s worth nothing, the children make full use of the 52 acres, spending lots of time outside everyday – rain or shine – waterproof boiler suits and wellies at the ready. They have weekly swimming lessons and there’s after school care available if you’re struggling to fit a mid-afternoon pick up into your working week.
Shall we start with the bees? Lambrook has its own hives and bee-keeping is just one of the gazillion extra-curricular activities here – Lambrook honey anyone? Yum. Head down to Elisabeth’s Orchard and you’ll also find chickens (eggs collected for brekkie every day by the borders) and pigs. Not your bag? No problemo, there’s film making, animation, scuba diving, Mini Masterchef, polo (it’s near Ascot and horse riding is practically the law), skiing, survival, recycling, fencing, trampolining, debating, recycling. The list is long… very, very long.
You’ll never have to wash a muddy sports kit… EVER! The children’s laundry is all taken care of at school from sweaty socks to wet towels. Giddy with excitement at the thought of it.
There is a bit of trend for schools to blur the sporting gender stereotypes. With so many brilliant national role models in women’s football, rugby and cricket, it’s great to see Lambrook girls regularly playing football and cricket competitively, with touch rugby played as part of activity programme. On the flip side boys can do ballet and dance. More schools are taking the leap, so matches schedule is improving, but there’s room for improvement. Come on, let’s make this happen, people.
In other news, I love the school’s Spidey senses for teaching the children to give back – ‘With great privilege comes great responsibility,’ Jonathan Perry told me. And they practice what they preach. An annual trip to Sweden, requires each pupil to raise £500 each to provide the same opportunity for a disadvantaged child. Car washes, bakes sales, sponsored anything and everything and they all hit the target. Now 12 children via the Teenage Wilderness Trust will enjoy the same adventure. Amaaaazing!
And the altruism doesn’t stop there. During Lockdown, the children continued to raise money for the NHS to buy essential health care products, something hospital staff craved after a long days treating patients
WRAP AROUND CARE
It’s very good. For starters, buses whizz around collecting children from Eton, Henley-on-Thames, Maidenhead, Reading, Virginia Water, Windsor and London. No stressful school runs, YESSS!! Plenty time for a leisurely double shot latte in the morning. Breakfast club runs from 7.30am, kids can stay for tea, after school clubs (all year groups), or even board at short notice (an extra cost). Flexi-boarding is the norm; kids can book in for as many nights as they like and weekly boarding is also offered.
WORD ON THE GROUND
Gushing – particularly during Lockdown. Learning pivoted online to offer a full timetable of live lessons and offline activities like cookery, Lego construction, creative media projects. Nobody was missed. Much to the relief of busy, home-working parents. It’s hard to find a parent who doesn’t love the facilities, the ridiculous choice of clubs and after-school options and the head gets a glowing approval rating. Their children are happy, enjoy school life and are well prepared for their next chapter. There’s a lot to love.
FEES: Nursery (full time) – Y2 £4,223; Prep £6,232-£6770; Boarding (Y3-8) £7,580-£8,118. I’d say that’s on the upper end for Berkshire, but you get a lot of bang for your buck.
THE MUDDY VERDICT:
Good for: Well-rounded, confident kids. The vibe is inclusive, fun and friendly, but academically strong – not an easy mix to pull off. The superior sport, drama and music facilities are impressive and all children get to participate fully.
Not for: Those who require full-boarding or parents who prefer a more ‘starchy’ or edgy approach to schooling – you’ll either love or hate the wholesomeness of the place.
Dare to disagree?! Have a look for yourself. Have a nose at Lambrook’s Virtual Open Day, then make an individual appointment to meet the head.
Lambrook School, Winkfield Row, Nr Ascot, Berkshire RG42 6LU. Tel: 01344 882717