Long Close School, Slough, Berks
Muddy says: A highly-regarded co-ed day school in the Slough suburbs with fantastic SIS reports (excellent across the board) for 3-16 year olds. Fancy a nose around?
Long Close School is a multi-cultural co-ed day school in the ‘burbs of Slough for children aged 3-16. Originally founded in 1940 for evacuees escaping the London bombings, Long Close is now a buzzy all-through school, with 356 pupils, 205 boys and 151 girls (65 of which are in Early Years). Class sizes are a maximum of 22, though the current average is a lip-smacking 18.
It’s on a compact site that is dominated by a grand cream Victorian mansion house (previously owned by Queen Victoria’s dentist for all you pub quizzers), with more recent additions bolted on over time. The main building is handsome rather than knock-out, and is mostly used for admin, the Headmaster’s office and music lessons. Split into 3 – Early Years, Junior and Senior –they each have their own buildings within the grounds but all within close proximity which gives it a family feel.
The grounds are not huge, but the space has been well thought out with several outside play areas divided into sections for kids of different ages. There are 2 astroturf pitches, cricket nets, a bowling machine and long jump pit. The school uses Upton Park next door for football, hockey and rugby, while they use of an off-site pool for swimming.
You may think that the lack of rolling acreage suggests a lack of sportiness. But don’t be fooled. All the boxes are ticked with the kids enjoying rugby, football, hockey, netball, athletics, rounders, basketball and cricket played in lessons and fixtures. In fact,Long Close School is one of the best cricketing schools in Berkshire – winning 2 county cups (U11 and U12), and reaching the final, semi-final and quarter-final on 3 occasions and 7 pupils currently play at county level.
Music and drama are an integral part of school life and all pupils, big and small, take part. There are individual instrumental lesson rooms, where kids can learn violin, trumpet, piano, recorder, flute, saxophone, classical guitar or singing plus larger music spaces, and a hall that doubles as the theatre for school performances. Y3-9 even get to wave their jazz hands during lessons from the pros at the Everyday Theatre Company, culminating in showstopper productions like Bugsy Malone and Porridge.
Take one school, deliver small class sizes – no more than 22 per class in Seniors – and you deliver cracking results. In 2017, it reported above average SATs and the GSCES results were A*-A (46%), and A*-C (97%) – some of the best I’ve seen. Many kids stay on to study in Seniors, but scholarships have been awarded to pupils from Eton, Hampton School and Millfield, with many Y11 leavers going onto Langley Grammar and Herschel Grammar to do their A-Levels. Long Close has been judged ‘Outstanding in every area’ and so academically and pastorally the kids are in very safe hands.
There’s definitely an inclusive, family atmosphere here. The ethos is strongly anti-hothouse – happy kids, thrive. A few years ago I’m sure that view was unfashionable, but in the light of today’s stressed anxious children it’s becoming a selling point for the school.
Melissa McBride is new to Long Close School, having taken up her post in September 2017. She’s the youngest head of an independent school at just 33, but her experience is extensive. Melissa’s a superstar, having taught at Thomas’s prep in London (Prince George’s school, no less); was head of Wandsworth prep, and has worked overseas opening schools in the Middle East. Clearly it’s too early for her to make great pronouncements on any improvements but she believes a happy school is the key to its success – where pupils, teachers and parents are pleased to be there every day. Yes, the academics are superb, but the overall buzzy vibes here give you a sense of ambition and personal fulfilment. She has every reason to be happy herself, having stepped into a high achieving, family-oriented school.
Little people start here at 3 years old, and seem very safe, secure and content. They reside in their own self-enclosed area, with the the usual accoutrements of sandpit, outdoor space, good staff ratios, all the crafty stuff you can imagine, and happy kids. The classrooms are big, bright spaces, free flowing with lots and lots of outdoor space, to ensure they get their daily dose of fresh air. At this age, that’s all you want really. The Latin classes can wait.
It may sound a bit strange but one of the biggest quirks is its diversity. There is a normality and genuine reflection of real life, that can only be a good thing for kids to be a part of as they look beyond their education. I am acutely aware of the Berkshire bubble with my own kids, so to mix with people of different faiths and backgrounds can only a good thing. Part of Cognita (a worldwide group of 68 schools founded by former head of Ofsted Sir Chris Woodhead) there are many opportunities for the schools in Europe, Latin America, Asia and the Middle East to tap into their global community.
For a school judged Outstanding in every area (not something many other schools can claim if you look closely at SIS reports) there’s a lack of pomp or show-offness about Long Close – no Palladian mansion blocks, or scenic woodland driveways. The entrance is a bit meh off the main road, and many of the school buildings are functional in that Eighties brick institutional way.
But having been to many gorgeous-looking schools that don’t flow very well because you can’t knock through the Grade II listed walls or mess with the antique plumbing, I really liked seeing a school where classrooms are built with kids in mind. They’re warm, clean, light, and facilitate learning.
Slightly under the Berkshire average I’d say. Full time nursery is £2,750 per term, including lunch; £2,995 (Reception); £3,440 (Y1-3) £3,610 (Y4-6) and £4,770 (Y7-11) – pretty exciting given the top notch academic results and pastoral care.
WRAP AROUND CARE
Good actually. Long Close School offers supervised homework sessions and after school clubs and care until 6pm. Cue grateful, overstretched parents everywhere. Children 3+ can attend Early Morning Club from 8am and you can book them up and boot them out into holiday clubs too. Phew!
WORD ON THE GROUND
Long Close School has a well-earned reputation for pastoral care along with its academic and extra-curricular success. My feeling on walking around was that it was a very warm, welcoming, nurturing school. It doesn’t have that sense of old-fashioned freedom that some schools offer – the kids aren’t left to roam or whack each others’ eyes out with conkers, for example. Instead, there are zones for each age group, and permission is needed to run off into the grounds, which may not appeal to the romantic in you but may speak to the pragmatic parent in you.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Those looking for a superior all-round option, kids nurtured, brains engaged, opportunity to get involved in loads of different activities in a caring environment that has been judged Outstanding in every possible area. Anyone looking for great comparative value for money.
Not for: Those who like pomp, grandeur and a bucolic setting. This is a town school, just off a main road, that has creatively carved out the space it needs.
Dare to disagree?! Have a look for yourself at the whole school. The next open day is Wednesday 25 April, but make an appointment and you will be shown around anytime.
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