Waverley Prep School, Wokingham
A modern day school in Wokingham for boys and girls, aged 0-11 years. This family focussed prep is ranked highly in the Sunday Times Top 100 for its superb academic record.
Waverley is a non-selective independent day school for boys and girls, aged 3 months to 11 years old on the outskirts of Wokingham, Berks, that has featured in the Sunday Times’ Top 100 Prep Schools for an impressive nine years on the trot. There are 240 pupils (100 boys and 140 girls) with a maximum class size of 20. This is not your traditional Prep, it’s purpose-built with a modern approach – so a bit of departure from the Hogwarts vibe of traditional Preps.
The school started life in Crowthorne, teaching the children of Wellington College’s masters. It gained a reputation for providing a high quality education, with a particular focus on meeting the needs of individual pupils – a tradition that continues at Waverley to this day.
The grounds are not huge (13 acres) but the space has been well thought out. The school building in particular flows well with wide corridors to ensure smooth transition around the school, reducing the chaotic shoulder barging that you see in the narrow corridors of period buildings. Classrooms are light, bright, and dare I say it, TIDY! There are several outside play areas – and a seriously swish outdoor play area – divided into sections for kids of different ages, plus a forest school and huge playing field at the back.
Sports wise, pretty much everything’s catered for here, with tennis and netball courts, pitches for rugby, cricket, football, hockey, and rounders. A sports hall means they can offer dance and gymnastics, plus the children go off site for weekly swimming lessons.
A wedge of investment was put into the library, and the result is a cool hangout for the kids to enjoy quiet time during their break or finish the book they cannot put down. It’s a great space for kids to decompress, but they have to be speedy if they want to bagsy one of the cocooning hideaway seats.
MUSIC AND DRAMA
The creative industries are the UK’s fastest growing sector and add a whopping £76.9bn to economic slush fund. As a consequence the big biz cheeses are begging schools to take art, music, speech and drama more seriously. No fear of that at Waverley. Although academic success is at its heart, creativity flows through its veins.
Everyone takes part in school choir assemblies, many learn to play instruments or work towards speech and drama exams and they LOVE performing in the annual productions – which have included Wind In The Willows, Scrooge The Musical and Mary Poppins. Whether your child’s an enthusiastic jazz hander, musical maestro or simply having a go, the boys and girls embrace the opportunity to prove Waverley’s got talent. And little do they know, they’re banking important life skills, nailing public speaking and super-charging their confidence. Love it.
Squirrelled away on the first floor are the music rooms. There’s individual practice rooms, plus larger music spaces. Traditional woodwind, brass and string instruments are offered for tuition, and drama is a big deal here, with a dedicated Speech & Drama/music room with the main hall doubling up for the theatre productions.
Waverley goes like the clappers on extra-curricular activities – 75 of them are offered throughout the year, including music groups and ensembles plus more unusual ones such as yoga, cheerleading, chess, cookery, coding and Make and Do. I didn’t get a sense of teachers trying to push the children to do more-more-more in a negative way – that truly doesn’t seem to be the ethos of the school. It’s all about happy kids having opportunities.
Excellent! Waverley is proudly non-selective but manages a haul of scholarships every year and superb SATs results. It explains the accolades: Waverley’s 22nd in the Sunday Times‘ Top 100 UK Preps; 14th best UK primary school and the Best Prep in Berkshire. You don’t often see SATs taken in independent Preps, but Waverley feels it’s a measure that parents understand. Leavers tend to move onto The Abbey, Queen Anne’s, Reading Blue Coat, Leighton Park, Luckley House, Reading Boys Grammar, Kendrick School (Girls Grammar) and occasionally Wellington College, to name a few.
There’s a fantastic SEN unit supporting those who struggle as well as the gifted, talented and scholarship kids. If you have a child with specific needs, they’ll do well here, with specialist teachers employed and staff training given to ensure all pupils thrive.
Guy Shore, former Head of Middle School at St George’s Windsor Castle, has been in post since 2015. I’d describe him as a humble, quietly confident man – who is immensely proud of Waverley’s achievements. Guy and his team are laser focussed on nurturing each child to reach their potential. Aside from encouraging the children to be individually ambitious, the overwhelming feeling of respect and kindness towards each other resonates throughout Waverley School. He’s not particularly interested spending your hard-earned school fees on shiny new buildings, instead splashing the cash on quality teaching, a diverse range of extra-curricular opportunities and supporting families by offering wrap around care that extends waaaaay beyond term times.
Little people start here at 3 months old, and seem very safe, secure and content. They reside in their own self-enclosed area, with the usual accoutrements of sandpit, outdoor space, good staff ratios, all the crafty stuff you can imagine, and happy kids. At this age, that’s all you want really. During my visit, the youngest children were all snoozing soundly after a busy morning of play. The slightly older ones were running off for their break. There’s a lovely Scandi vibe to the Nursery – with natural materials used in all aspects of play and learning, they gets lots of fresh air, Forest School is a highlight and most of the toys are made of wood.
WRAP AROUND CARE
Waverley is super flexible about kids staying late. Although encouraged to book in advance, children can tell the teacher even on the same day that they need to stay on and, providing there’s space, they can be accommodated up until 6pm. Cue grateful, overstretched parents everywhere. Children 4+ can attend Breakfast Club from 7.30am and Nursery children are also welcome at Nursery from 7.30am. As if that wasn’t enough, working parents rejoice, because there’s Holiday Club and child care available 51 weeks of the year. No need to dread the long holidays, help is at hand. Phew.
It may sound strange, but I think its biggest quirk is its modernity and sense of normality. For a school judged to be outstanding there’s a lack of pomp or show-offness about Waverley – no mansion blocks, or scenic woodland driveways. The entrance is a bit meh at the end of modern housing estate, and the school buildings are functional rather than beautiful.
But having been to many gorgeous-looking schools that don’t flow very well because you can’t knock through the Grade I 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.
Parents are welcomed with open arms. Many schools don’t like mums and dads crossing the threshold, but that’s not the case here. There are lots of family events – family breakfast, puzzle night, Valentine’s disco, Christmas shopping – and the open door policy gives you the opportunity to voice any concerns on the QT. I think you’ll also love that money from fundraisers is spent on experiences for the pupils. In the past, it’s paid for athletics training; Reptile Day, panto and more. No excuse not to sign up to help out now.
The school was last inspected by the ISI in 2017. Read the report here.
Really good value in my opinion. Nursery £2,963; Y1 & 2 £3,310; Y3 £3,379 and Y5 & 6 £3,544. Fees include lunch and all sports activities including swimming. Breakfast and After School Club are extra.
WORD ON THE GROUND
Waverley has a well-earned reputation for pastoral care along with its academic and extra-curricular success. I know a few mums whose kids go here, and they’re absolutely ecstatic about it. 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 Prep schools offer – the kids aren’t left to roam in woods or whack each others’ eyes out with conkers for example. Instead, there are specific areas for specific age groups, 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 excellent. Anyone looking for great comparative value for money – Waverley is less expensive than some other schools I’ve reviewed in the region.
Not for: Those who like pomp and grandeur, or for anyone looking for a country idyll – the school is semi-urban..
Dare to disagree?! Be my guest! Have a look for yourself at the Open Morning on Friday 24 January at 9.30am.
Waverley Prep School, Waverley Way, Finchampstead, Wokingham RG40 4YD. Tel: 0118 973 1121