The ethos at this prep school on the edge of Hampshire’s New Forest is very much one of living life to the full; history lessons involve re-enactments of the Battle of Hastings on horseback or the Battle of Trafalgar on a lake. Every year pupils go to ‘camp’ for a week at the end of the summer term; activities include day trips to RNLI stations, visits to local historical sites and a week on the Isle of Mull. Horse riding is also part of the curriculum, with a stable-full of ponies available for lessons. Walhampton describes itself as encompassing the ‘Swallows and Amazons spirit’, and aside from its fantastic location, it’s easy to see why. While outdoor activities and sports form a vital part of school life, academic studies are important, too. Being in Hampshire doesn’t mean Walhampton is only for children who live nearby, either; is dedicated train service, the Walhampton Express, makes it that much easier for London-based parents.
This central London GCSE and sixth-form college is well-known for its small class sizes and excellent tuition. Initially founded as a tutorial college in 1975 by former Eton housemaster and Old Etonian John Marsden, Collingham still offers A-level and GCSE tutoring services, including Christmas and Easter revision courses. Its location in the middle of town means it has typically been home to students who found boarding school wasn’t for them. Not all of its pupils fall into that category, though. The school’s small size (there are around 250 children, with a maximum of nine pupils per class and an average of five) allows great flexibility in courses and timetabling. This is also attractive to many pupils, as is the range of subjects on offer. The fact the college is non-selective is not seen as a negative either; last year more than 40 per cent of its leavers went on to Russell Group universities, with others studying at arts and business colleges.
Prep schools are two-a-penny in the home counties. The problem isn’t finding a suitable one for your child; it’s choosing between the countless options. Up north, it’s a different matter. Aysgarth School in Bedale, North Yorkshire, caters for boys from ages eight to 13, making it the only all-male prep boarding school in the north of England. The school’s focus is on allowing boys to be boys, and 90 per cent of the 150 or so pupils live at school, which helps to create more of a family environment. With 50 acres of grounds as well as a shooting range, cricket, football and rugby pitches, and even a climbing wall, muddy knees are a common sight. But Aysgarth’s main aim (the same as when it was founded in 1877) is to prepare boys for life at some of Britain’s top schools. Top hats are no longer part of the Sunday uniform, but pupils still go on to Eton, Harrow, Winchester and Radley on
a regular basis.
The British Racing School
Newmarket bills itself as the spiritual home of horse racing, and it’s easy to see why. Nearly 3,000 racehorses live here (compared with the human population of 15,000) and the town revolves around racing. It makes sense, then, that the British Racing School has also made Newmarket its base. Originally set up to encourage young jockeys, the school is a training site for the racing industry as a whole, with courses ranging from free, fully residential apprenticeships for students aged 16 to 22, to training courses for racing secretaries, jockeys, and even a course for riders looking to perfect their falling technique. It is one of only two racing colleges in the country, and is both Ofsted-inspected and accredited by the British Horse Society. Its costs — of around £3 million per year — are raised through government funding, charitable donations and a small income revenue from its conference facilities. For anyone interested in a career in racing, there’s no better place to go.