A tiny school in leafy Warfield offering a bespoke education. I've never reviewed anywhere like it!
MEADOWBROOK MONTESSORI SCHOOL, WARFIELD
This is the first Montessori primary I’ve reviewed – and they do things a bit differently. Meadowbrook Montessori is a unique, independent co-ed school for children aged 18 months to 11 years. Set in 6 acres, it’s slap bang in the middle of the countryside, surrounded by farmland, but near to the village of Warfield, just 10 minutes from Bracknell and Ascot. It’s a small school, providing a bespoke education for each child based on respect, kindness, individual needs and a desire to learn. But don’t be fooled into thinking it’s all a bit hippy dippy, it’s far from it…
Established in 1989. the school is purpose built with two large classrooms, a few smaller study spaces, a light, bright atrium, outdoor school and playground and feels tardis-like. No sweeping grounds and Highclere-like mansion buildings to slap on the front of a prospectus, but there’s good school-room provision for its 55 Primary pupils with a playground and the 25 Pre-Primary kids are currently based on a different site. Although work is due to start to extend the school and bring the littlies back to the ‘mothership’.
Like a tailor-made Savile Row suit, the time and money goes into the expertise, the quality of the product and the time it takes to make the finished article. That’s Meadowbrook! The teaching, planning and structure is as robust as the Italian Merino wool and hand stitching you’ll find on that one-of-a kind jacket. The aim here is that a lust for learning, free thinking, problem solving and positivity sets these kids up for life. You’re not getting a one-size fits all education. The National Curriculum provides the framework, but each subject is drilled down. Once they have ‘mastered’ a task, then they can move onto the next. A bit like junior Jedis.
The school is kitted out with Montessori learning tools, has acres of playing fields and meadow with stream, a forest school, there are laptops and iPads dotted around and specialists come in to teach music, sport and foreign languages. It also has its own minibus, to visit other schools for rugby, football and netball, weekly swimming lessons and school trips. The big headline news will be the new extension next year – creating a sports halls, canteen and additional classroom space for the Pre-Primary kids.
New to Montessori? Here’s the lowdown. Educational trailblazer Dr Maria Montessori developed the ethos based on the fact that each child is unique. In order to fully develop physical, intellectual, emotional and social capabilities, she believed kids require freedom, achieved through order and self-discipline. For this reason, a comprehensive and stretching curriculum was designed. At Meadowbrook, the Pre-Primary Montessori application of the curriculum is to the letter whilst at Primary there’s a Montessori-mainstream mash up to prepare kids for secondary school.
There’s only one school rule: Treat everyone and everything with respect. I must use that one at home, easy to remember and covers all bases. The freedoms the kids have are considered to be a privilege and if you don’t abide by the school rule, you lose that freedom. Simple
The end result? A bunch of happy, inspired, nurtured and ambitious kids who want to reach their potential. Who doesn’t want that? No more nagging about school work. Job done! It’s an education of life – and seems to have worked for the likes of award-winning artists Beyoncé and Taylor Swift, Google founders Sergey Brinn and Larry Page, nobel prize winning author Gabriel Garcia Marquez, to name a few.
It’s worth noting that, although Meadowbrook is not a specialist dyslexia school, the child centred approach has benefited many kids who have been identified as dyslexic. Good to know.
Once a week, parents can attend Meadowbrook’s excellent Parent and Toddler sessions for a couple of hours. If the kid can walk, they’re in. The room has only child-sized furniture and Montessori activities and materials. Seeing is believing – the ankle biters crave independence and are naturally inquisitive. It’s hard not to helicopter but try. You will be rewarded with a hot cuppa and all the feels when your littlies grow in confidence – emotionally and mentally.
At Pre-Primary, the Montessori curriculum takes into account the Early Years Foundation Stage framework. From rising 3, lessons are introduced simply and repeated several times during the following years at increasing degrees of abstraction and complexity. It’s not an academic pressure cooker, there’s lots of warmth, support and a big emphasis on positive behaviour, grace and courtesy.
All of the children are expected to get into their 1st choice schools – be it independent, grammar or state. Prep for the next chapter starts in In Y3/4 when suitable schools, scholarships and Grammar school application are discussed. Parents are encouraged to shortlist 3, visit them (staff will tag along if need be) and then a tailored plan is put in place. From 11+ tutoring, portfolios or interview practice and techniques. Meadowbrook covers the lot. In addition to the continual assessment they know each child’s strengths and where they need support.
Serena Gunn has been in the hot seat for the last 27 years as Director of Education and Meadowbrook Montessori School and benefitted form a Montessori education. You’ll like the fact that she’s a former school inspector and lecturer. So confident is she in what they do at Meadowbrook, she’s loves being inspected and is happy for anyone to come in and get under the school’s skin. Serena’s also a big believer in regular assessments to monitor progress, keep parents in the loop and for the pupils to see how they’re progressing. You’ll also like the way she handles the kids – with two of her own, she knows how to tiptoe the line between kind and stern rule-enforcer.
No Miss, Mrs, Mr or Sir here… teachers and children refer to each other by their first names. The kids also have a say. They chose the colour of their uniforms. They successfully argued and problem solved for a regular school trip to the Lookout Discovery Centre. There’s a real sense of community and a democratic system for change that the children are very much involved in. Give these kids a few hours and I reckon they could thrash out a Brexit deal.
Every year, Year 3 & 4 and Year 5 & 6 go on their own residential excursions. This could be an Outward Bound Activity Trip, a residential visit to Ufton Court or an overseas trip involving immersion into the culture and language of the region. What I love is that the children plan their trip and raise funds towards the cost, learning about simple business plans and profit and loss accounts.
Wrap around care:
Not bad. The school opens at 9am and kids can stay past 3.30pm to take part in after-school clubs until 4.30pm. The Pre-Primary has after-school provision until 5pm. A wide range of clubs are available: football, drama, chess, street dance, cookery, netball, art, study skills, needlecraft and knitting, board games, debating, calligraphy, bike club and road safety, rollerblading and ICT, homework and hot chocolate, hockey, judo, cross country running and tennis. Phew. Thank goodness they’re not all running at once, you’d be exhausted (topics are rotated termly). For such a small school, there is no shortage of opportunities. Pick up is 4.40pm.
Fees: £3,583 per term (Y1-2), £3,615 (Y3-6); reception and nursery from £1,328 for mornings to £3,270 for 5 full days, so less expensive than many of the other prep schools I’ve been to.
Word on the ground: Parents and past pupils rave about Meadowbrook. They love the fact that the kids are not one of the herd, instead celebrating their individuality and producing confident and kind children who feel they are valued and listened to.
THE MUDDY VERDICT:
Good for: Anyone looking for a small, intimate school where your child’s needs are put first. This is not a one-size fits all education, it’s top notch and personalised. The nurturing ethos has great appeal as does the emphasis on free thinking.
Not for: Those looking for bucolic grounds and grand buildings. Small will suit some, but it could frustrate knee-scuffing sporty types.
Dare to disagree?! Don’t take my word for it! Have a look for yourself, and as ever, let me know what you think.