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Cumnor House Sussex
Cumnor House Sussex
Cumnor House Sussex
Cumnor House Sussex
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Cumnor House Sussex Haywards Heath, Sussex Visit
Cumnor House Sussex
Haywards Heath
362 pupils, ages 2-13
Day and Boarding

Cumnor House Sussex

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Our view

Non-selective, wonderfully community-minded and small enough for every parent and pupil to be known by name – the ethos at this peppy, broadly local co-ed Sussex prep is a celebration of childhood, which our return visit once again confirmed in action. Packed with happy, charismatic children, Cumnor House Sussex has long been a draw for families seeking life outside of the capital – and those with their eye on a highly successful senior school too.


Arriving at Cumnor feels like stumbling across a delicious secret. Tucked away off a country lane outside the village of Danehill, near Haywards Heath, it sits on an idyllic 60-acre smallholding on the fringes of Ashdown Forest. The school moved here from its original site in Croydon 80 years ago, and while the main house may not be a history-stoked beauty, it has grown organically ever since and is wonderfully fit for purpose.

Terrific add-ons include the Peake, with its pink, lime-green and turquoise science laboratories and DT classrooms, and the nursery, which opened three years ago, giving the lower end of the school a renewed vigour. The dining room has also had a recent refurb, and the Bistro serves as both the common room/café for Year 8 (to their delight) and a space where parents pop in for coffee, croissants and a chat with the head after drop-off. There’s heaps of space, pitches galore, a bluebell wood, rope swings and even a lake for launching rafts.


Dynamic head Fergus Llewellyn joined in September 2020, after upping sticks from his previous post at St Andrew’s Prep in Kenya (before that, he did stints at Cheltenham College, King’s Bruton and Haslemere Prep). Married to Tamsyn (whom he describes as the school’s ‘social glue’), his three young children are all pupils here. Exuberant and hugely energetic, the Llewellyns personally conduct school tours, ensuring that prospective parents see what a close-knit community they will be joining.

Mr Llewellyn quickly made a significant impact – particularly on the pastoral front and the school’s new ‘Chapter’, (more on that below...) a truly impressive new initiative for the 2022/23 academic year which weaves together threads of pastoral care, parental involvement and education, and is packed with research-laden strategies for understanding exactly what makes each and every child tick.


With plenty of relocating families putting Cumnor on their list, children are welcomed into all year groups here. Those with their eye on a place in the main intake years (4+, 8+ and 11+) are encouraged to register at least two years in advance. All children from nursery upwards attend a taster day, during which an informal assessment will take place and previous school reports requested where appropriate. Cumnor is on the lookout for those who would make a positive contribution to the school – so a good reference goes a long way.

Cumnor’s award-winning nursery has proved so popular that they’ve recently opened The Hive, which takes children who are rising two. Superb wraparound care, Early Years funding and competitive pricing all add to the appeal, so it pays to register as early as possible. There’s no need to commit to staying on and moving up the school, but around half leap straight on to the pre-prep.

The school’s own fully-funded bursary initiative, The Cumnor House Foundation, works with 16 senior schools that commit to providing 100 per cent bursary places for two pupils every academic year. Aimed at bright local primary pupils, children join Cumnor in Year 4, and are appointed a mentor to help them and their family navigate life at Cumnor. It’s a brilliant initiative, and the proof is in the pudding: the scheme’s first recipient has just left with a fully-assisted place and an academic scholarship to Hurst.  

Academics and senior school destinations

The pre-prep – set right in the heart of the school and run by the delightful, hugely energetic Mrs Freeman – lays strong foundations for the pupils interwoven with fun initiatives like Wake & Shake (a joyous and quick aerobic routine to uplifting music in the playground). Year 3 is a gentle transition from the separate pre-prep to the main school but where the pupils keep a form tutor.

Cumnor is passionate about the broader curriculum, so there’s masses of music, art, languages and drama for all throughout their time here. Since arriving, Mr Llewellyn has upped the ante on pre-test preparation, and appointed a new deputy head pastoral from the Dragon – and when it comes to securing a spot at their senior schools, this lot are seriously high-achievers.

Still, there’s no written prep until Year 7, leaving time for tasks that can be done in the car or in the bath instead (spelling, vocabs and times tables, for example), as well as for enjoying the super library, the cool reading cave and the secret garden for lessons in the sunshine. Children are set for English and maths, and although CE is still firmly on the agenda for now, the school is keeping its options open for the future.

The newly refurbished prep library is now even more of a quiet place for children to come during break and play time if they want to get away from the hustle and bustle of school life. As you’d expect from a non-selective school, a number of pupils have additional learning needs – a brilliant Learning Enhancement Department is on hand to help with one-to-one breakout sessions or group work in the classroom.

Compulsory Saturday school is a thing of the past; instead, there’s a timetable of fun activities and academic clinics – with the term made very slightly longer to make up for it all.

Parents are increasingly opting for great local senior schools like Hurst, Brighton College, Ardingly and Eastbourne, but the school’s strength is the range of destinations it feeds to, which is wide – many pupils move on to King’s Canterbury, Benenden, Eton and Marlborough and Wellington. Last year’s leavers went to 16 different schools and secured an impressive batch of scholarships too, reflecting the dedication put into finding the right school for each child and their talents.


Plenty of sport for all. Matches take place on alternate Saturday mornings, and all the usual major sports are on offer, including athletics, swimming and football. It’s all delightfully co-educational too: Cumnor was the pioneer of girls’ cricket matches on the Sussex prep-school circuit. In recent years, the calibre of coaching has skyrocketed to match the top-notch sports hall, courts and new Astroturf – and of course the legendary match teas.

There’s a hugely impressive STEM building, where pupils are taught a range of skill including electronics, CAD and laser cutting – and the annual build-a-go-kart competition sounds like serious fun. All children have a timetabled weekly lesson of art, and those with potential are encouraged to join art club and on-site holiday courses.

The performing arts are huge, and from September 2024, Year 7 pupils will be able to snap up a dedicated scholarship aimed at those showing exceptional talent in music, drama or dance. The results speak for themselves; in the last five years, pupils have bagged 34 performing arts-related senior school scholarships. There’s a smashing theatre, annual plays for all in the lower years (which gradually get more audition-based in the upper years in readiness for senior school) and a plethora of choirs, groups and the Summer Gala Concert – a real highlight of the school calendar. The new on-site ballet studio is every dancer’s dream and has been a tremendous hit, and music lessons take place in a 17th century barn (around 65 per cent of pupils learn an instrument.

Each afternoon, there’s an hour set aside for clubs (or ‘occupations’, as they’re known here), with everything from theatrical make-up to weaving up for grabs.


Pupils in the top years can opt to weekly or flexi board – and numbers soar in the summer term, when there’s ample opportunity to run riot in the grounds and enjoy extra evening activities and barbecues. Dorms are reassuringly scruffy (girls get full marks for their homely decorations) but come with seriously special views over the South Downs. The recently refurbished common room gets a big thumbs-up.

School community

There is a tremendous sense of community here. Families are a mix of local Sussex and London escapees from pre-preps and preps, on the whole living within a 20-mile radius of the school. All are welcome to pop into the onsite Bistro for a coffee after morning drop-off – and there’s always a member of the SLT around to chat to parents if needed.

Kindness has always been key at Cumnor but the new academic year has brought a new ‘Chapter’ – a dynamic and energetic wellbeing programme which seamlessly brings together a fully comprehensive pastoral safety net for every pupil. Children’s ability to self-disclose, to trust themselves, to trust others and their appetite for seeking change in different situations is carefully tracked and assessed so that staff can fully understand how each child is feeling and the environments in which they will thrive best.

The Chapter also draws on leading wellbeing experts, either as needs arise or as regular contributors to the weekly newsletter – which educates parents about everything from communication techniques to popular Tik-Tokers who can potentially undo children’s perceptions of values and appropriate language with two clicks of a mouse. Deputy head pastoral, Mike Matthews is leading the initiative and is an impressively knowledgeable and articulate man with experience in spades. Understanding that children need consistency is paramount and Cumnor House is educating and empowering parents to set boundaries which they may otherwise feel uncomfortable to do. Future plans even include a democratically-constructed, age-specific parents' charter, which would set out helpful and peer agreed expectations for parties, sleepovers, homework, gaming and social media to ensure that parents don’t have to feel that they are ’the only ones’ who want to lay down a few ground rules.

We came away from our chat with Mike absolutely sure that this is the way forward for every school. The pandemic has changed the way that children feel about the world; separation anxiety has spiked and even the youngest pupils need more reassurance, but models of care need to be replicated at home and at school for them to have the greatest impact. Cumnor’s inclusive and consultative approach as well as the very likeable and genuine Mr Matthews will have parents jumping on board with gusto and relief.

And finally....

This is one of the schools where its motto really shines through: ‘Aim High, Be Kind, Dare to Be Different’. Individual strengths are celebrated, particularly by the pupils themselves, who have a lovely sense of confidence, kindness and charm that sets them well on the path to adulthood.

Gallery See All

Boys and girls in red and black sports kit with their arms in the air
Girl in tartan dress and red belt by a wooden post
Three boys in red tops together outside
Girls in red cardigans playing outside on green grass
Girls in black leggings in the dance studio
Girl in red top reading a book with a blue wall in the background
Cumnor House main school building with cricket pitch in front
Pupils running on green grass dressed in red and blue with face paint
Pupils in costume acting in school play outside
  • Senior school destinations

    Senior school destinations

    46 leavers from Year 8 moved on to 16 different senior schools, securing a fantastic 21 Awards and Scholarships between them. Destination schools included Brighton College, Bedes, Charterhouse, Ardingly College, Hurstpierpoint College, Tonbridge and Eastbourne.

  • Scholarships for senior schools


    Academic9Ardingly, Hurstpierpoint, Tonbridge, Brighton
    Music1 Brighton
    Drama5 Eastbourne, Benenden, Worth, Ardingly, Bedes
    Sport4 Cranleigh, Hurstpierpoint, Milton Abbey
    All Rounder2 Hurstpierpoint

  • Fees and bursaries

    Day fees per term

    Year 1£4,170
    Year 2£4,700
    Year 3£5,950
    Year 4£6,850
    Year 5£7,790
    Year 6£7,790
    Year 7£7,790
    Year 8 £7,790
    Boarding fees per term

    Year 1-
    Year 2-
    Year 3 -
    Year 4 £8,050
    Year 5 £8,990
    Year 6£8,990
    Year 7£8,990
    Year 8 £8,990

    Launched in 2015, the Cumnor Foundation offers two fully funded scholarships each year to children in Year 3 at a Sussex state primary who are excelling academically and performing at the top of their class. This award is a continual award that lasts for 10 years and covers 100 per cent of independent-school fees from eight to 18. The children remain at Cumnor House until the end of Year 8 (aged 13+), when the school works closely with a number of senior-school partners (including Benenden, The King’s School, Canterbury, Tonbridge and Sevenoaks School) to orchestrate their move into the senior school’s own 100 per cent funded fee-assistance programme.

    Foundation Scholars are required to excel academically, places are always strictly means-tested and only awarded to families who could never afford a private-school education. The school works closely with a number of local state schools, community groups and sport clubs to raise awareness of the Foundation and support applications from as wide an area as possible.

    Bursary contact:
    Registrar Rebecca Bruce
  • SEND

    This school currently supports the following kinds of learning needs, health needs and physical disabilities:
    Cumnor House's Learning Enhancement Department can offer support to any child at any stage of the school by way of one-to-one or in-class support. Located in its own building dubbed ‘The Treehouse’ and supported by a team of fully qualified specialist teachers, their aim is to support growth and learning in a safe and fun space. The LED is a key part of the Cumnor ‘team around the child’, which places a high priority on the needs of all children and puts each child at the centre of a graduated approach.

    This school currently provides the following support for pupils' mental health needs
    The mental health, wellbeing and happiness of our children is at the core of the school's ethos and is why Cumnor led the way as the UK’s first school to introduce a unique curriculum called ‘iSpace Wellbeing’; an exciting, child-friendly approach to children’s wellbeing education.

    Developed by Paula Talman, the School’s Director of Compliance, Health & Welfare, the wellbeing curriculum offers a language and toolkit to help children, teachers and parents start the conversation about mental health. iSpace which stands for ‘I stop, I pause, I calm everything’ is themed around a galaxy of planets and is built on three core beliefs about what an effective wellbeing curriculum needs to be – preventative, consistent and fun to teach and learn. This approach aims to enhance confidence, capability and creativity and to boost emotional intelligence, resilience and self-worth. The children are taught that it is ‘okay’ not to feel okay, and that talking about emotions can help them to become more resourceful and overcome challenges.

    iSpace is incorporated into the daily routine for all children from Nursery to Year 6, supported by a staff Wellbeing Team and Ambassador Awards for those children showing a keen interest in wellbeing lessons and putting their learning into practice.

    The success of iSpace, which is now being adopted in schools across Sussex, Surrey and London has swiftly been followed by #iWonder, which has recently been introduced for Years 7 and 8 pupils, helping teens to understand their emotional, physical, social and mental health. Cumnor continually looks to support new innovations in wellbeing and they are now piloting the Wellbeing Compass app as part of the # iWonder curriculum. The app’s primary aim is to help young children to continually review their wellbeing, gather self-care tools and develop coping strategies both in school and at home.

  • Transport links

    School Transport
    Escorted train service to/from London
    School daily bus network

    Public Transport
    Nearest mainline train station: Haywards Heath
    Journey time to London by train: 45 minutes
    Nearest international airport: Gatwick (15 miles)

School Updates

  • Cumnor House Sussex announces new Performing Arts Scholarships

    Cumnor House Sussex announces new Performing Arts Scholarships
  • View from the Top: Bruno Shovelton on teaching prep school pupils lessons for life

    View from the Top: Bruno Shovelton on teaching prep school pupils lessons for life
  • Introducing Kudos

    Introducing Kudos
  • ISI Excellence

    ISI Excellence
  • Cumnor House Sussex Crowned IAPS U13 Girls’ Hockey National Champions

    Cumnor House School (CHS) triumphed against the odds to become the first stand-alone independent prep school to win the IAPS U13 Girls’ Hockey National Championship since 2016.
    Cumnor House Sussex Crowned IAPS U13 Girls’ Hockey National Champions
  • Community music day announced at Arundel Cathedral

    Cumnor House Sussex, is excited to launch a brand new community initiative with a large-scale performance of Britten's hugely popular community opera Noye's Fludde (Noah's Flood) taking place on Saturday 4th March 2023 at the majestic Arundel Cathedral.
    Community music day announced at Arundel Cathedral
  • View from the Top: Fergus Llewellyn on the importance of parenting partnerships

    View from the Top: Fergus Llewellyn on the importance of parenting partnerships
  • WATCH: Q&A with Bruno Shovelton, Deputy Head Academic at Cumnor House Sussex

    WATCH: Q&A with Bruno Shovelton, Deputy Head Academic at Cumnor House Sussex
  • WATCH: Q&A with Jacqui Freeman, Head of Pre-Prep at Cumnor House Sussex

    WATCH: Q&A with Jacqui Freeman, Head of Pre-Prep at Cumnor House Sussex
  • WATCH: Q&A with Michael Matthews, Deputy Head Pastoral at Cumnor House Sussex

    WATCH: Q&A with Michael Matthews, Deputy Head Pastoral at Cumnor House Sussex
  • Starting senior school: the eight pieces of advice you need to know

    Starting senior school: the eight pieces of advice you need to know
  • Cumnor House Sussex raises over £25,000 for Home-Start Crawley, Horsham & Mid-Sussex

    Cumnor House Sussex raises over £25,000 for Home-Start Crawley, Horsham & Mid-Sussex
  • WATCH: Talk Education's Country Preps Focus - Cumnor House Sussex

    WATCH: Talk Education's Country Preps Focus - Cumnor House Sussex
  • See Cumnor House Sussex in our Country Preps Focus

    Find your perfect country prep school. Whether you're contemplating a move for your entire family or want to explore the education options within a daily minibus-ride of the capital, we can help.
    See Cumnor House Sussex in our Country Preps Focus
  • 10 Questions with Fergus Llewellyn, Headmaster of Cumnor House Sussex

    10 Questions with Fergus Llewellyn, Headmaster of Cumnor House Sussex

Cumnor House Sussex is
linked with:


London Road, Danehill, Haywards Heath, Sussex RH17 7HT

01825 790347


ISI Report


Term Dates


Open Days

Open days and how to visit View Open Days Register for open Day

Open Week 13th-17th May
13 May 2024

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