Long Close School
Muddy says: A highly-regarded co-ed day school in the Slough suburbs, rated excellent across the board, for 3-16 year olds.
Long Close School is a multi-cultural co-ed day school in the ‘burbs of Slough for children aged 3-16. Originally founded in 1941 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 three – Early Years, Junior and Senior – each group has its own buildings within close proximity, giving 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 two 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 go 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 two county cups (U11 and U12) and seven 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 get amazing results. In 2018, they smashed their SATs and GSCES. A whopping 92% of kids achieved grade 5 and above in English and Maths (82.1% getting that ‘strong pass’ across the board) – outperforming the local grammars. That makes Long Close the best-performing non-selective school in the area. That’s not all, the Juniors is also ranked 44th in the UK the Sunday Times’s Parent Power List and the school as a whole has been judged ‘Outstanding in every area’. 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.
Kam Nijjar is brand new to Long Close School, having taken up her post as interim head in September 2018. She brings a wealth of experience from her previous post as Deputy Head at Hydesville Tower in Walsall – another high-achieving Cognita school. Its safe to say, she knows the drill. Kam loves the warm, caring atmosphere at Long Close School and plans to build on that so that each child can grow academically and as individuals. Those buzzy vibes, sense of ambition and personal fulfilment are what make this school stand out.
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 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 your kids 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 is a real positive. 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 there’s a lack of pomp and peacocking 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 buildings are functional in that Eighties brick institutional way. But having been to many gorgeous-looking schools that don’t always flow 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 spacious, light and facilitate learning.
FEES: Slightly under the Berkshire average, I’d say. Full time nursery is £2,950 per term, including lunch; £3,175 (Reception); £3,646 (Y1-3); £3,827 (Y4-5); £4,021 (Y6) and £5,006 (Y7-11) – pretty exciting given the top notch academic results and pastoral care. Sibling discounts are available.
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
The mums I have spoken to love the friendly vibe here, great teaching and said their kids were happy, engaged and making great progress. 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. That might not appeal to the romantic in you but may speak volumes if you’re pragmatic parent.
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. The next Open Day is Friday 8 March, but make an appointment and you will be shown around anytime.
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