Reddam House, Wokingham
Reddam House in Wokingham is more than a grand building, it has a progressive curriculum, wow facilities and a clutch of brilliant results. Impressed.
Reddam House is a co-ed day and boarding school for ages 0-18 years – perfectly positioned for anyone living in Wokingham, Reading and the surrounding areas, but if you don’t mind whizzing along the M4, it would suit anyone in Berkshire and beyond. Superb train links to and from London, Birmingham and the south. And with Heathrow less than 30 minutes away, it also has global appeal.
Co-educational with a 50/50 split of boys and girls this year – just about capacity, 125 littlies with 546 pupils in the main school. The school is set in 125 acres of frankly gorgeous grounds. The main building has film star good looks and has appeared in The Crown (S4), Midsummer Murders and Endeavour to name a few and when you go inside your jaw will drop at the ornate wood panelling, elegant fireplaces and the rare round radiator is a talking point. But following a huge refurbishment, it’s the classrooms that really sing – light, bright contemporary spaces.
If you like your schools with a feeling of informality and intimacy, you’re in the right place. There’s a harmonious blend of old and new, which is rather poetic given that Reddam House has only been open for six years, having taken over the site of the historic boarding school Bearwood College (originally the family home of The Times newspaper owner John Walter).
You’d expect any school charging nearly £33K a year to have decent sport, drama and music facilities, and Reddam House has invested heavily to ensure everything is top notch (and if it’s not up to scratch, it’s on the list to be refurbished).
It has the obligatory rolling playing fields, sports courts, a superb 350-seater Performing Arts centre, a new state-of-the art sports hall with sprung floor (several of the students compete nationally and internationally at gymnastics), dance studios, an impressive drama and music school with dedicated practice rooms, spingly spangly Early Years play area, a shooting range, and, as luck would have it, the school neighbours the famous Bearwood Lakes Golf Course, so the kids can go there too. All that’s missing is Larry Grayson as your host, a cuddly toy, 48-piece dinner service and a food mixer.
The changing rooms, science labs and classrooms have all been given a makeover and the sixth form bunker is a cool, grown-up space for hard-to-impress teens to hang out and study. On the development wish list is a spinky spanky new sports hall to add to Reddam’s crown jewels. The school has a number of elite golfers, swimmers, athletes, rugby and football players, but everyone gets to play on match days and they’re on a mission to get some silverware in the trophy cabinet.
DRAMA AND MUSIC
If you’re not impressed by the pro theatre, you’ll be bowled over by Head of Drama and Music, Tiffany King. Tiffany’s an actor, writer and choreographer who has worked in the West End as have most of her team. That real-life stage and screen experience is invaluable. The kids get to learn so much more than the curriculum. Every project is completed with a veneer of real life professionalism and the children love it.
Audiobooks (The Gruffalo, Matilda and George’s Marvellous Medicine) have been recorded in the studio; They’ve secured the rights to perform School of Rock, the school panto was filmed at the end of last year and a drive in cinema set up for parents to watch it in a Covid-safe way. Oh, and they have a couple of talented kids who are already auditioning for TV roles.
Jazz handers will be in their element, everyone else will get a confidence boost and enjoy riding the wave of creativity. The majority won’t be practicing their Oscars speech in the mirror, but they’ll all come away with the courage to speak well in public.
It’s the teen dream. Smart rooms, common room with slouchy sofas, massive telly and a PS5. In the evenings staff supervise a two-hour prep sesh, providing tutoring that the kids really appreciate. In fact, many day students want to tag along for supper and study, to take full advantage of the additional support. Once the work is done, there’s plenty of opportunity to kick back with extra-curricular activities and planned trips to places like Windsor Castle, Oxford Uni and Harry Potter Studios. Weekly and full boarding is currently available from the age of eight. Flexi-boarding (which has been hugely popular) is currently on hold due to Covid restrictions.
Although not highly selective, Reddam performs its own assessment on taster days. I wouldn’t call it a pressure cooker, but there’s a healthy simmer as the students are encouraged to strive for excellence, with weekly testing the norm. Obviously, it’s not going to suit everyone, but the results are impressive and waaaay above national average – 2021 GCSE results were the school’s best ever 48% achieved grades 9-8 with 63% 9-7 (A*-A). At A Level, 77% of pupils achieved A*-B. Many students go on to study at top universities, but apprenticeships are hugely popular and many are hunting down golden ticket opportunities at some of the world’s biggest firms.
MEET THE HEAD
A brand new Principal joins Reddam House from September 2021. Rick Cross joins from Bedales School where he was Deputy Head (Pastoral and Academic). I have yet to meet the new boss on the block, but he joins Reddam with a wealth of experience. The school also has a fantastic team of school heads – Georgina Tait (Early Years), Cassie Morris (Junior), Natalie Holsgrove-Jones (Middle) and Mike Milner (Seniors), so expect a smooth transition. They’re all very different, but united in squeezing out the potential out of ever pupil and a love of educational innovation. For instance, CHEX (Challenge and Extension programme) is an initiative to challenge and stretch children’s learning in all subjects. The result? Greater depth of knowledge and understanding and a cohort of free thinkers. If you’re looking for value added learning, you’ll find it here. The senior team set the tone and execute Reddam’s ethos with gusto – innovation, academic rigour, opportunity and self-discipline. Just like the Team GB, it’s all about marginal gains.
Little people can start at 3 months in the Early Years School and it is waaaaay superior to the various nurseries I’ve used for my kids over the years. Housed in the old coaching house, a short stroll from the main building, it’s big and bright, with creative and messy spaces, a hall and great outdoor space. You notice the lack of plastic and clutter-free rooms. It’s all very deliberate and follows the award-winning Reggio Emilia philosophy. It’s a unique approach that puts the child in the driving seat of their learning. The staff are on hand to ensure they have the tools to explore, observe, hypothesise, question and talk about their understanding of the world. If you’re familiar with Montessori, it’s a bit like that but with bells on.
Early Years head Georgina Tait – judging by the hugs, much-loved by the kids – talked to me about how Reddam Reggio which gives children a limitless opportunity for them to express themselves, known as ‘the 100 languages of child’. It might sound a bit ‘out there’ but it feeds their spongey enquiring minds and teaches them to value joining in and responsibility. It fires up that love of learning and gives them the tools to grow with confidence. When they leave Early Years to go to Juniors, they get a teddy to take with them. The reception children lovingly wrap them up as a gift for each newbie, who then name them and take them with them for a bit of comfort and teddy-powered bravery. Gorgeous.
The uniform or rather the ‘multi-form’. Students can choose from a variety of items within the range. If your child is more comfortable in a polo shirt and fleece, then that’s what they can wear. Prefer a shirt tie? Crack on. Girls, won’t need to the roll their skirt up on the sly, the skorts are priddy short. Express yourself (within reason). The formal uniform must be worn one day per week, but, by and large your 12 year old won’t feel the need for a full pre-teen fashion strop.
The school runs the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme and has a strong Combined Cadet Force – a great leveller for kids regardless of whether they are sporty, arty or academic. But adds a few skills to the life skill tool box. It’s also worth mentioning that Reddam House is part of the Inspired Education Group, with more than 70 schools around the world – so lots of opportunities to collaborate and visit.
The school motto is ‘We shall give back’ and the scholarship programme is just one example. Available for children going into Years 3, 7, 9 and Sixth Form it’s designed to provide opportunities to talented kids whatever their family circumstances.
The scholarships cover up to 100% of the yearly tuition. If you haven’t considered independent schools but you have a child who’s got silky skills in sport, academics, music, dance and drama, then apply now. Scholarships are available for September 2021 and 2022 start dates. Email the registrar for further details and if selected, you spend the day at Reddam.
WRAP AROUND CARE
Excellent. The school is progressive and forward thinking. In the spirit of that and entirely flexible. Kids can be dropped off from 8am for breakfast and stay for tea, or after school clubs, or when Covid restrictions allow, kids can board at short notice (an extra cost). Flexi-boarding has always been incredibly popular. Weekly and full boarding is available right now and there’s plenty of fun to be had and the teachers are on hand to help with prep and tutor any problem areas.
WORD ON THE GROUND
There’s buzz about Reddam House. It’s progressive attitude and the academic rigour, global outlook and endless opportunities ticks a lot of boxes for parents. They were all clicking their heels too, when the school won the Boarding Innovation award last year for its creative, energetic, lockdown learning provision. It’s definitely has a very upbeat, ‘can-do’ aura. Embracing individuality and giving the kids the physical and mental tools to run with it.
FEES: Early Learning: from £64 per day; Junior: £3,830-£4,818 per term; Middle-Senior Day: £6,140 per term; Boarding: £9,327-£10,748
THE MUDDY VERDICT:
Good for: The vibe is informal 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 fully participate. Good flexible after-school care in mind is particularly helpful for busy working parents.
Not for: If you don’t prescribe to regular testing the cycle of academic testing then Reddam’s not for you. Its progressive ethos may not fly with traditionalists.
Dare to disagree?! Be my guest. Have a nose around for yourself at the next Open Day on 18 September, 9.30am – 12pm. Be organised and book in.
Reddam House, Bearwood Rd, Sindlesham, Wokingham RG41 5BG. Tel: 0118 974 8300