Part of the Bellevue Education group, this Sussex school, which is celebrating its 125-year milestone, is small, nurturing and has a wonderful, family-like atmosphere. Teachers know all the pupils very well and everyone is given the room and encouragement they need to thrive. Formerly all-girls, it began welcoming boys in 2018 and will be taking boys into each cohort in 2021 – making it the only all-through (ages four to 18) co-ed day and boarding school in the Horsham area.
Not far from the market town of Horsham on the Sussex/Surrey border, the prep shares 33 acres of rural parkland and pretty woodland (stunning bluebells in spring) with the Little Barn Owls nursery as well as Farlington senior school. There’s such a lovely relationship between the older and younger students that it is very much one cohesive entity rather than two separate schools – aided by the fact that everyone has lunch in the same hall. The prep and pre-prep buildings are modern, and noteworthy on-site facilities include a drama studio, music rooms, science labs and a forest school. Good connections to Gatwick (25 minutes) and London (under an hour).
Louise Higson has been at Farlington since 2005, so she knew the school inside out before taking over as head in 2012. Previous schools she has taught at include Calday Grange Grammar School for Boys in West Kirby, The Sir James Henderson British School of Milan and Croydon High School for Girls. She played an instrumental part in Farlington’s recent decision to switch from girls-only to co-ed. Her black Labrador, Darwin is - understandably - hugely popular with pupils.
All parents and prospective pupils are invited for a tour of the school and to meet the head before applying for a place. For pre-prep, there’s an informal assessment and a report from their current nursery or school; for the prep, pupils complete written assessments in maths and English, and have an interview with Sara Povey, Assistant Head (Prep School).
Whilst restrictions are in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a face-to-face visit might not be possible. If this is the case, the school would be delighted to arrange a virtual tour for you, as well as a Skype meeting.
Academics and senior school destinations
One of the biggest advantages to having the senior school on the same site is that children are taught French, sport and music by specialist teachers from an early age. Pupils learn French from Reception, Spanish from Year 3 and Latin from Year 6. Pupils do weekly forest school sessions up to Year 2, with leadership and teamwork days offered to the older prep years.
Lots of praise from parents for setting up a ‘Virtual School’ during Covid closures so that children can access all lessons on their Chromebooks (everyone from Year 3 upwards has one). There’s a tracking and monitoring system in place so that any gaps in prior learning are swiftly identified and plugged, with learning support offered where needed.
All pupils in the prep gain automatic entry into the senior school – meaning no need to prepare for the 11-Plus – and the majority choose to stay on, transitioning up seamlessly.
Music and drama are a particular strength throughout the school and, in the prep, over 80 per cent of pupils learn an instrument. The majority also take part in a choir; speech and drama lessons are available, with a focus on LAMDA exams. Opportunities for budding performers include form assemblies, ukulele group and the annual prep drama production. Extracurricular clubs include ballet, judo, tennis, trampolining and riding, which is especially popular. Competitive sports matches against other schools start in Year 3.
Throughout the school, the majority are day pupils but there is capacity for 55 boarders on a full, weekly or flexi basis. Boarding is offered from Year 4 in two boarding houses: Fishponds for the boys and Mansion House for the girls. Both offer a home-from-home where the youngest pupils sleep in cosy dorms.
It’s not just in the UK where this school’s reputation is growing: it’s also making a name for itself on the international scene and is becoming especially popular with families relocating from places such as Hong Kong, Middle East and South Africa.
For those wanting an all-through education in a caring environment, this is a serious contender.