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Old Buckenham Hall
Old Buckenham Hall
Old Buckenham Hall
Old Buckenham Hall
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Old Buckenham Hall Ipswich, Suffolk Visit
Old Buckenham Hall
242 pupils, ages 3-13
Day and Boarding

Old Buckenham Hall

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Our view

This small, charming, deliciously traditional and ‘proudly muddy’ co-ed is a pinch-me-perfect place for children to grow up – and has a glittering reputation both locally and further afield. 


Old Buckenham Hall is located near Lavenham in the heart of rural Suffolk. The school has a long tree-lined driveway and 80 acres of a beautiful parkland-like setting – cue much climbing of trees and muddy knees. There has been a lot of smartening up inside and out with new tennis courts, a dance and recording studio and an overhaul of the boarding houses.

OBH has an admirable environmental ethos: every child starting in Reception plants an oak tree in the grounds. Plus, there are beehives, owl boxes, three ponds for ducks and pond dipping. It’s within easy reach of Cambridge, Colchester and Bury St Edmunds, and five school bus routes offer pick-up and drop-off.

The pre-prep is separate from the main school, but close enough to share the dining room and other facilities – it has a gorgeous old walled garden too. A very popular baby and toddler group takes place once a week.


New head James Large took over the top spot in September 2023. Previously principal deputy head at Norwich School, he’s joined at OBH by his wife Harriet and young son Albie. A keen sportsman (he’s represented GB in sailing and England in touch rugby) and big on creative arts, Mr Large grew up in Suffolk, so his move to OBH represents a return to his old stomping ground. 

Heading up a rural prep school has been something of a dream for both James and Harriet who are both keen to build on OBH’s existing love of boarding, and maintain the warmth and family-oriented feel of the school. They feel a healthy dose of academic rigour is important, but also want to help every pupil become the best version of themselves. 

The school’s successful marriage of tradition and modernity is completely endorsed by its new head who highlights the impressively high standard of co-curricular provision as one of OBH’s defining features. His aforementioned sporting credentials have perhaps underpinned his aim to host a major tournament at OBH every term – and plans for the first one are already well and truly underway.


OBH has an inclusive admissions policy, as long as the school feels that they can support the needs of the child. Pupils come from a variety of professional and farming backgrounds with the vast majority hailing from the Suffolk, Norfolk and Essex regions – although there are a handful of French and Spanish children who come to OBH for either a term or a whole year, bringing an extra little cosmopolitan splash. All potential joiners have a taster day and are tested in maths and English by the head of SEN.

Academics and destinations

This is a school that caters for a wide range of academic ability, with the capacity to nurture those that need support and stretch those that are more able. There are no regular weekend sports fixtures but there are Saturday morning lessons for Years 5 to 8 and prep sessions are worked into the timetable so that ‘home time is home time’. Parents tell us they like the fact that this is still a largely no-device school, both in the classroom and during free time.

The SEN department (brilliantly called Learning Success) is overseen by Mrs Gemma Gillott who monitors all children as they move up through the school from pre-prep. Those who need support are given individual lessons which are coordinated with the child’s teachers. In addition, there are two part-time Learning Success teachers who provide, among other things, robust speech and language support.

We loved the routinely scheduled post-lunch DEAR time (Drop Everything And Read) for Years 3 -8, which provides pupils with a calm bridge between outdoor break and the wonders of afternoon lessons. 

Common Entrance is only now taken in the core subjects of English, maths, science, French and Latin, allowing for more immersive and cross-topic learning in other subjects. A new director of senior school admissions will formalise the process of preparing for scholarships in Years 7 and 8, but around a third of pupils already bag scholarships to top senior schools. The majority are academic, but they are also awarded for sport, art, drama, music and for all-rounders.

Almost 95 per cent of the children go on to boarding schools with around 15 different schools cropping up on the list each year. There’s always a cohort that heads off to Rugby, Oundle, Uppingham and The Leys but many go further afield too, to places such as Eton, Harrow, Wellington and Wycombe Abbey and we are reliably informed that senior schools love an OBH pupil.


Team sports are fantastically popular and inclusive, and a charismatic new director of sport is keen to push OBH’s sporting ambitions ‘to the next level’ with a particular focus on boosting the peripheral sports such as cross country and swimming. High level specialist coaches come in to teach football (including from Ipswich Town Football Club once a week), rugby, hockey and netball. Sport is outstanding at county and national level too: tennis is particularly strong with one child in the National Tennis Association programme and three more representing Suffolk. A number of pupils also play hockey, netball and cricket at county level. Gymnastics, skiing and equestrian sports are excellent as well. There’s a heated outdoor pool which is used in the summer; in the winter, the local pool is used for lessons.

Director of music Mr David Mitchell has really shaken up the department and we hear that it has never been better – since he arrived a few years ago, the percentage of pupils learning an instrument has risen from 55 to 75 per cent. Drama teacher Mr Nick Paley is praised for his innovative teaching methods, and a recent highlight was a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, performed outdoors in the woods with children playing instruments and dressed as dancing fairies, leading audience members to their seats.‘

Old Buckenham Explorers’ is the OBH equivalent to DofE and the pupils learn teamwork, outdoor skills such as navigating and bushcraft, and regularly camp out in the grounds overnight (they also take part in the house mud-run obstacle course). Spurred on by the success of its older sibling, the newly launched ‘Mini Buckenham Explorers’ now offers age-appropriate outdoor challenges to pre-prep adventurers in their own dedicated woodland. 

Thursday afternoon clubs are a brilliant opportunity to try something new with a dazzlingly diverse range of options from debating to cross country (run by the headmaster), sculpture, journalism and ballet – available from Nursery to Year 8 and held in the school’s new dance studio. Optional Saturday afternoon activities include clay-pigeon shooting, golf and rock climbing. Gardening club is popular because children have complete freedom to grow whatever they choose, with some delightful results. The new headmaster also plans to open an ‘OBH Farm’, complete with chickens and beehives.


Flexi, weekly and full boarding are all offered from Year 3 upwards. Numbers steadily increase as pupils get older, and by Year 8, the majority of pupils are soaking up the advantages of this very home-from-home boarding. As with many prep settings, numbers aren’t massive at weekends, but OBH brings in a dedicated weekend housemaster who runs things with an inclusive, family atmosphere. During the week, boarding is overseen by Mrs Emma Easdale, who is also the school nurse. All boarding is in the main school building, with the top floor dedicated to Years 3 to 5 and the second floor for Years 6 to 8. It has the feel of a traditional yet very comfortable boarding house with modern beds and bathrooms all grouped around the lovely old wooden staircase.

School community

Parents praise the ‘lovely ethos’ and ‘emphasis on kindness and politeness’ – something that stems from the ‘OBH Way’, a set of moral values created by the pupils. They are courage, kindness, pride, respect, responsibility and community; all are colourfully displayed in every room across the school. Pastorally, everything relates back to these values and there is complete buy-in from the children.

Parents get equally stuck in with the lively ‘Friends of OBH’ group, which hosts a plethora of events including Bonfire Night and the Christmas Fair (last year’s inaugural parent Mud Run was so successful that it will now become a become an annual fixture).

‘There is no OBH stereotype to live up to – each child is treated as an individual,’ says one happy parent. Day pupils can stay on after class for prep, extracurricular activities and tea before whizzing off home. The school also has a small number of Spanish and French children that come for a year and are a great addition to the community.

And finally....

This really is a rural idyll and a nurturing, confidence-building environment where pupils more than meet the high expectations of achievement and good behaviour. A very happy, well-rounded school.

Gallery See All

little boy in a pale blue sweatshirt using a pestle and mortar
aerial view of Old Buckenham Hall
Girls in blue shirts playing outside
Boys playing rugby
Old Buckenham Hall
Girl playing tennis with the school main building in the background
Girl tying an orange rope onto a tree
Boy and teacher in class sitting at a wooden table
Girl and boy in science lab with white coats and goggles on
Outside play in the Old Buckenham Hall walled garden
girls playing hocking in navy blue sports kit on a green astro turf pitch
boys and girls outside Old Buckenham Hall wearing blue striped blazers
  • Senior school destinations

    Senior school destinations

    4 to The Leys, 1 to Stamford High School, 1 to Monkton Combe School, 3 to Gresham's, 4 to Rugby School, 2 to Uppingham School, 3 to Royal Hospital School, 2 to Oundle School, 1 to Shrewsbury School, 2 to Eton College, 1 to Downside School, 3 to Oakham School, 1 to Ampleforth College, 1 to Sevenoaks School, 1 to Framlingham College, 1 to Gosfield School. 2 returned to Spain.

  • Scholarships for senior schools


    Academic3The Leys, Rugby, Sevenoaks,
    Sport4 Oundle, The Leys, Downside, Oakham
    Art4 Monkton Combe, Gresham's, Oakham, Uppingham
    DT1 Uppingham
    Other1 The Leys

  • Fees and bursaries

    Day fees per term

    Year 1£3,848
    Year 2£3,848
    Year 3£6,185
    Year 4£7,339
    Year 5£7,475
    Year 6£7,805
    Year 7£7,805
    Year 8 £7,805
    Boarding fees per term

    Year 1-
    Year 2-
    Year 3 £9,335
    Year 4 £10,489
    Year 5 £10,625
    Year 6£10,956
    Year 7£10,956
    Year 8 £10,956

    OBH offers bursaries to gifted children who could benefit from an education at the school. There is no need for a pupil to win a scholarship in order to be considered. The school aims to offer one new full bursary each academic year, and also has a hardship fund that is designed to help support families experiencing short-term financial difficulty.

    Bursary contact:
    Registrar Kate Walmsley
  • SEND

    This school currently supports the following kinds of learning needs, health needs and physical disabilities:
    SPLD including Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, Dyspraxia, Non Verbal Learning Difficulities, processing difficulties. ASD including Sensory Processing.

    This school currently delivers the following interventions to pupils in class and outside class to support their learning, health and/or physical needs:
    1:1 teacher lead sessions specific to the child's needs; in class mentoring time; differentiated work. Small group work - particularly for supporting spelling skills. Working with independent Speech and Language Professionals. Regularly update IEPs based on a Pupil Passport model. Support tracked on individual provisional maps for each child.

    This school currently provides the following support for pupils' mental health needs
    PSHE programme. Strong pastoral care system in place with the form tutor integral to this. Registered School Nurse is Head of Boarding and DSL. Independent school councillor and GP visit once a week. Families can self refer or school can recommend. There is regular contact with the local church and the Reverend is also their independent listener.

    Co-ordinator: Gemma Gillott
  • Transport links

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

    Public Transport
    Nearest mainline train station: Stowmarket
    Journey time to London by train: 90 minutes
    Nearest international airport: London Stansted (40 miles)

  • Parents tell us

    ‘We loved the school straight away when we looked around. The grounds are wonderful and it is a beautiful school, but more importantly it has such a lovely ethos. The children are encouraged to be children and to play outside and have adventures. 

    The academic side is extremely good, the school is nurturing and there is a strong emphasis on kindness and politeness – and above all the children are visibly happy. 

    The admissions process was painless. We looked around a few times, met the headmaster and had a tour of the school. It was all friendly and welcoming. 

    Lucy Lee is a lovely teacher and her commitment to support the pupils, smiley presence and wonderful feedback on their work has been extremely impressive. 

    The school keeps in touch well with the parents. 

    There is good and easy communication between class teachers and parents and also with the school itself. I feel closely involved in my children’s education and there is always an opportunity to chat to the form teacher at the beginning or end of every day, as well as contact through email. 

    The school is nurturing and has very good pastoral care. In the only instance we have needed to involve the school in a pastoral issue, the school dealt with the situation quickly and appropriately as soon as they were aware of it. 

    I feel the school knows my children well. It is a small and very friendly school and their class teachers know them extremely well, but they are also known to most of the other staff in the school as well.

    I feel like my children are getting a good grounding for the next stage. The school community is generally fairly local, with a few international students. It is very welcoming and there is an active and friendly PTA. 

    There are regular parent social events such as a curry and quiz evening, as well as school events at which the parents are welcome. We have been extremely happy with Old Buckenham Hall and it has lived up to all our expectations so far.’

    ‘We chose Old Buckenham Hall due to its beautiful rural setting, committed senior leadership team, warm welcome, excellent outcomes and an action-packed timetable. 

    The admissions process is welcoming and informal. 

    There is no “perfect OBH child” stereotype to live up to, each child is treated as an individual, with an individual learning plan. The headmaster is approachable and popular among the children, but there is a good level of mutual respect in place too. 

    The English master, Dr Marshall, is everything you would hope a prep school English teacher to be. Known as “Doc” to all, he would have his pupils read books and write stories all day if he was permitted. He constantly inspires his children to go one better and often weeps over really good pieces of their writing. An absolute gem! 

    There are weekly letters from the head and speedy responses to my emails from form teachers mean I never feel out of the loop. Individual grievances are dealt with by phone calls or face-to-face meetings, rather than email. 

    The school has an “open door” policy and I would never hesitate to get in touch if I had an issue and I would do so with full confidence that I would be listened to and supported. 

    There is also an excellent, warm and very approachable school nurse and head of boarding who has helped me and my daughter with a number of things. Again, she’s very easy to reach via email and often around for a chat at drop-off. The form teachers would be the go-to person if I had any concerns. 

    Emails are always responded to and usually they take it from there. My daughter wouldn't think twice about talking to her teacher about a pastoral issue. 

    From Year 5, they do all their prep at school so by the time they leave they have long been in control of their books, files and timetables. In Year 8, there is an excellent post-exam programme to broaden the children's horizons before moving on. 

    Senior school heads visit the school regularly to talk to the children about the next stage. Also, senior school musicians visit and give performances. 

    The PTA is known as “The Friends”. They organise super events throughout the year: a dog show, quiz nights and a school ball. 

    In my experience, arriving at the school in Year 5 with my daughter, I found the parents extremely welcoming and helpful. Matches, music concerts, events and parent talks bring us all together regularly. It is a very friendly school. 

    My advice to new parents would be not to fear contacting the school with questions. I was worried I was being a pain, but actually the school was so receptive and helpful. 

    There is a big emphasis on being outdoors.’

School Updates

  • Talk Education's Town & Country Prep Schools Guide: Old Buckenham Hall

    Talk Education's Town & Country Prep Schools Guide: Old Buckenham Hall
  • Old Buckenham Hall Cricket Camps 2024 - Book now - Easter & Summer dates available

    Old Buckenham Hall Cricket Camps 2024 - Book now - Easter & Summer dates available
  • OBH Awarded LTA Suffolk School of the Year

    Suffolk Prep School Old Buckenham Hall has been awarded the prestigious title of LTA School of the Year for Suffolk.
    OBH Awarded LTA Suffolk School of the Year
  • WATCH: Welcome to Old Buckenham Hall

    WATCH: Welcome to Old Buckenham Hall
  • OBH Awarded – Eco Schools Green Flag Award with Merit

    We are delighted to announce that the school has been awarded an Eco-Schools Green Flag award with Merit. This is an internationally recognised prestigious award for excellence in environmental action and learning. Eco-Schools empowers pupils, raises environmental awareness and improves the school environment.
    OBH Awarded – Eco Schools Green Flag Award with Merit
  • WATCH: An introduction to Old Buckenham Hall

    WATCH: An introduction to Old Buckenham Hall
  • See Old Buckenham Hall in our Town & Country Prep Schools Guide

    From bucolic country preps to schools on the edge of buzzy market towns or slap bang in the centre of a city, there are a myriad of prep school options up and down the UK and within a daily minibus-ride of the Big Smoke. Use our guide to help with your search.
    See Old Buckenham Hall in our Town & Country Prep Schools Guide


Brettenham Park, Brettenham, Ipswich, Suffolk IP7 7PH

01449 740252


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