As William and Kate consider where to send George and Charlotte to school, our resident expert Catherine Stoker has some advice up her sleeve, from pre-prep upwards
As Princess Charlotte has celebrated her first birthday and Prince George has started his education at a local nursery close to the family’s country home in Norfolk, no doubt The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are beginning the inevitable discussions all parents have when it comes to planning their children’s future school choices.
Just as with all parents, there are many factors for The Cambridges to consider in starting out on the school research process. Having a boy and a girl sometimes complicates the decision making process. It’s a matter of weighing up the convenience of both children attending the same school against ensuring the environment is right for each child as an individual.
Coupled with this, the couple is also faced with many of the same dilemmas of other parents.
** School location when the family has more than one home-base
** Co-ed vs. single sex when you have a boy and a girl
** Transition pathway between schools at 7+, 11+, 13+
** If and when to board, full-time or weekly boarding
** Family connections to schools past and present
** Personal school experiences, both good and bad
** London vs. country school approach
** Traditional curriculum and teaching styles vs. less formal independent learning
** Focus on the individual talents of each child such as sport and the creative subjects alongside academics
** Nurturing environment with strong pastoral care, safe and discreet.
School planning starts with a timeline of decisions for what type of school fits the family circumstances, educational philosophy and ambitions at each stage. There’s pre-prep, prep and then senior schools to consider, as well as if and when to board and at what age – 8, 11, 13 or 16?
Once this outline plan is in place, there are many schools which will meet each family’s wish-list. It’s always worth throwing a spanner in the works with one or two schools which parents may not have on their radar.
When crucial school visits are made, it’s surprising how often pre-conceptions change. Schools are about people and atmosphere, not personal past experience or dinner party gossip, so until parents’ experience this first-hand, it’s impossible to come to an informed view.
However, all families need to start somewhere. So here are a few initial suggestions for The Cambridge family, as a starter for ten.
London pre-prep schools close to Kensington Palace
The walk to school approach is the most well-trodden path at this stage. Play-dates after school and in the long holidays are an important part of social skill development. A school close to home ensures involvement in the parent community of each school.
Wetherby pre-prep Boys. Age 4-8. Princes William and Harry are old boys. Non-selective entry via first-come, first served. Names down from newborn via a call from the maternity wing due to a strong academic tradition and leavers gaining access to highly regarded London preps.
Pembridge Hall-Girls. Age 4-11. Linked to Wetherby above, with a similar approach to academics. Strong in music and the performing arts.
Arnold House-Boys. Age 5-13. Again, this school has a strong academic tradition, and music is also a key component. Parents also refer to the top notch pastoral care and strong family ethos here.
The Hall Boys. Age 4-13. Day. The academic tradition and reputation are strong. Scholarships to top seniors are in abundance. The headmaster is committed to an environment of happy children learning skills to cope with a challenging, competitive future ahead.
Glendower Prep Girls Age 4-11. With a long-standing reputation for being an academic ‘hot-house’, Glendower also devoted more energy to pastoral care, and extra-curricular focuses have come more to the fore more recently.
Falkner House Girls. Age 3-11. A small family-run school with strong academics and an increasing fan-base amongst South Kensington mums.
Eton House The Vale Co-ed Age 3-8. Not just teaching towards excellence in exams, the school aims to inspire a love of school and learning via not just inspiring teaching, but also through strong pastoral care and providing a breadth of experiences.
Norland Place Co-ed Age 4-11. With its non-selective, happy, traditional approach to education Norland has a large following. Names are ‘put down’ from birth, so places are as rare as hen’s teeth.
Notting Hill Prep Co-ed Age 4-13. These teachers pride themselves on education as a partnership between school and parents. As well as academics, the reputation for the more creative subjects of art, drama, and music is strong.
Norfolk prep schools close to Amner Hall
As well as locally resident families, these suit London parents with holiday homes on the north Norfolk coast. The half-way house is 21st century boarding away from the London tutoring culture. Parents and children work hard in the week, spending quality family time together at weekends.
Gresham’s Prep – Co-ed. Age 3-13. (Boarding 7-13) Traditionally popular amongst Norfolk families, with a cracking headmaster. Feeds mainly into Gresham’s senior school which is going from strength to strength under its new Head Douglas Robb. Some children move on to other mainly co-ed public schools.
Beeston Hall Prep – Co-ed. Boarding and Day. Age 7-13. Five minutes from the sea, away from the ‘rat race’. There is a true boarding ethos, encouraging academic excellence alongside caring for others and getting involved in as wide a range of opportunities as possible. Extensive success in scholarships to parents’ chosen senior schools at 13.
‘Shires’ Country preps with easy access to parents’ London home
These schools have the ‘climbing trees, grazed knees, children shouldn’t to grow up too soon’, approach to education. Almost all achieve academic excellence without noticing. Your child will certainly sleep well.
Ludgrove – Boys age 8 to 13. Full-boarding, academic school. Strong extra-curricular opportunities for all-round education. Teachers inspire easily, as they understand how boys learn. Boys can be boys. This is a feeder for Eton and other top Public Schools.
Godstowe– Girls age 3-13. Day, weekly and full-boarding. A feeder for Wycombe Abbey and other well-known all girls’ and co-ed senior schools, as well as grammars through Bucks at 11+. Uniforms include cute red capes, and the institution has a strong reputation in sport and music. Ambitious parents like this school.
Elstree School – Boys Age 3-13 (Boarding 8 to 13) Girls Age 3-7 (day) is just up the road from The Middleton’s home. Since Sid Inglis moved here as Headmaster from Ludgrove, the school has seen a huge increase in enthusiasm for both weekly and full-boarding amongst parents and children. His wife, Olivia is fully involved in the school. The library is full of adventure, sport and superhero stories, inspiring boys to read. It feeds into a whole range of academic co-ed and single sex public schools at age 13.
St Andrews Prep, Pangbourne. Co-ed age 3-13 (Flexi boarding Mon-Thurs) Sporty all-rounders thrive here. It feeds into the well-known senior school names across the Shires. It’s mum’s old school and close to granny Middleton for help with the school run.
At this stage, it’s tricky to predict what sort of people Prince George and Princess Charlotte will become, and hence arrive at the right future school options at 11 or 13.
Parents’ experiences alongside royal family traditions imply boarding may well be the route they choose to follow. However, their caring, fully-involved approach to parenting implies their ideas of boarding may well be more of a flexible approach.
I would venture to guess they would choose co-ed, rather than single-sex and maybe more opportunities for family time at weekends either in London or their country home.
Here are a few options, from the many that will inevitably come to the fore as their children’s personalities, potential and interests emerge.
Eton– Following in Dad’s footsteps. For an academic high flyer, George’s peers could become the right network of friends and connections for a future King.
Marlborough College – Following in Mum’s footsteps and is co-ed, so both children could follow the same path. It’s strong on academics, sport and creative subjects. A very British school.
Gresham’s School – Many London parents with holiday homes on the North Norfolk coast choose Gresham’s. Its fabulous new headmaster, Douglas Robb, is hugely popular amongst parents and pupils alike. Weekly boarding leaves parents free to work in the week with quality family time, spending weekends at their local country home.
Strathallan School – close to great grandma at Balmoral, Strathallan is reassuringly safe and discreet. The Scottish system of Highers keeps breadth of subjects for longer. Since the parents met and fell in love at St Andrew’s university, they might retain a strong affinity with Scotland.