Head Emma Goldsmith arrived in September 2021 from Winchester House School – and she’s one of our favourite heads on the prep school circuit. Wonderfully charismatic, hugely approachable, a proper team player and hot on kindness and communication, Mrs Goldsmith is a stellar appointment for the school, and parents, pupils and staff are all delighted.
The door to Mrs Goldsmith’s bright office is always open (she even joins boarders for breakfast on Saturday mornings) and parents are already praising the renewed energy and vigour she’s injected into the school. She’s incredibly well respected on the educational circuit, too – she’s currently vice chair of the ISEB and an ISI inspector (although she limits the number of visits she makes to allow her to fully focus on her role at the Dragon). It’s safe to say we’re enormous fans.
The pre-prep is bursting at the seams, so get in quick for a place in Reception. It is broadly non-selective, so pupils on the list are invited to join a normal school day to meet staff and pupils and sit a very gentle assessment designed to measure potential rather than attainment. It’s much easier to bag a boarding place than a day one, so if the school is top of your list, changing tack might up your chances. Entrance in Year 7 is possible for those keen to experience boarding prior to taking up their 13+ place.
Studious hour-long lessons promote proper, knuckled-down learning (and less faffing in between), but there’s huge respect for a decent work-life balance (heads down in the week, chill out at weekends). Here, the focus is on nurturing natural curiosity: ‘if a culture of questioning is embedded at an early age, it will encourage an enthusiasm to lead a lifetime of learning’, says Mrs Goldsmith.
Classroom life is deceptively relaxed: teachers swish around in jeans; there’s limited setting early on (scholars aren’t singled out until Year 7); pupils get to scribble on walls with funky ‘ideas paint’; and Saturday school has been scrapped in favour ‘Dragon Quest’, an optional enrichment programme where pupils fling on their home clothes and do cool stuff like yoga, debating, animation and orienteering (more on that below).
Pupils are brilliantly prepared for senior schools, with thinking skills for Year 4 (great prep for the ISEB pre-test), drilling down in Year 5 (heaps of verbal and quantitative reasoning to pep up their brains) and bespoke interview practice in Year 6 to build up confidence. Mrs Goldsmith is a big fan of CE (‘it’s a really good curriculum’, she tells us’), and believes it’s a great goal for Year 8 pupils to aim for.
A handful of girls peel off at 11+, but as this is a standalone prep, the 13+ destination list is much more diverse, with Rugby, Headington, Wycombe Abbey, Eton, Marlborough, Cheltenham Ladies, Teddies and Wellington all proving popular next steps.
Don’t panic! We have more than ten years’ experience of visiting schools and advising parents, and we are all parents ourselves – we can make this easier for you.