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Papplewick School
Papplewick School
Papplewick School
Papplewick School
top 200
Papplewick School Ascot, Berkshire Visit
Papplewick School
210 pupils, ages 6-13
Boys only
Day and Boarding

Papplewick School

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Our view

We’re not surprised this Berkshire school that sends around a third of its leavers to Eton every year is currently oversubscribed. A Swallows and Amazons nirvana (without the boats), it’s a traditional all-boys country prep but with added quirk, fun and an extremely kind heart. Non-selective at intake but very strong academically, you won’t find in-your-face grandeur here, but you will find positive values, enthusiasm, humour and teaching beyond compare.

Where is Papplewick School?

Close to a number of other private schools in Berkshire, set on a 15-acre site on the edge of Ascot (with the racecourse so nearby, it’s possible to listen to the Gold Cup while watching your children play a cricket match), Papplewick is an easy hop out of London. The Papplewick Express minibuses ship boys in from Chiswick, Gloucester Road, Brook Green and Maidenhead, with west Londoners complementing the local contingent and a small cohort of overseas pupils.

There’s a smart entrance in the main building and plush sofas in head Tom Bunbury’s cosy study, and classrooms are a collection of slightly ramshackle buildings. But that’s all part of the charm – and touring the school feels more like exploring someone’s lovely home than an establishment. An exceedingly impressive newish boarding house has seriously upped the school’s game too. Outside, boys enjoy cricket in the Square (the heart of the school), whizz by on RipStiks, hang upside down on the adventure playground and race around climbing trees and getting scuffed knees.

Headmaster at Papplewick

One of the most popular heads on the prep-school circuit, Tom Bunbury is dynamic, genuine, warm, confident and, most importantly, believes in his boys. He has been in charge since 2004; before that he served as head of maths, housemaster and deputy head, arriving at the school way back in 1993.

Mr Bunbury is very clear and open about the Papplewick ethos: ‘kindness, kindness, kindness’. Yes, he has high standards and expectations for his boys but, above all, he believes prep school should be fun. ‘Papplewick is a million miles away from being in a pressure cooker; we provide a chance to hang onto childhood.'

Admissions at Papplewick School

The school is firmly non-selective, and doesn’t look for a particular type of child – just one who will fit in, get stuck in, and do well. There’s no entrance exam, and the school puts as much stake in reports from a prospective pupil’s current school and a friendly interview alongside their parents. Mr Bunbury wants to see the raw product of each boy, and prepping is strongly discouraged. All pupils are met individually during open days, and this struck us as a really special touch, a world away from the madness of some schools’ open mornings.

Boys who ‘get’ the Papplewick ethos and want to take part in absolutely everything will thrive here. Up to 16 children join in Year 2 from a mixture of local pre-preps and state primaries, with further intakes in Years 3 and 4 when the London boys arrive on the Papplewick Express. Plenty more join higher up the school, and as the pupils’ horizons expand, so do the year group numbers to match.

Academic and all-rounder Papplewick scholarships are up for grabs for boys in all year groups, alongside awards for those showing talent in sport and music.

Academics and senior school destinations

It’s the brilliant staff, says Mr Bunbury, that are so key to the success and ethos of Papplewick. There’s a wonderful mix of the young and energetic and more mature, with bucketloads of experience and character in tow. Here, it’s all about ‘challenging and stretching boys’, he tells us – but the support they receive from their teachers is nothing short of outstanding. Staff are full of joy, and totally adamant that boys should have fun while they learn (so much so that they aren’t aware of how hard they work to get such fantastic results).

Papplewick embraces CE for all subjects, and there is no sign of this changing. The curriculum is deliberately traditional and even includes ancient Greek. Streaming starts in Year 3, with a scholarship set created in Year 6.

Given the non-selective admissions process, Mr Bunbury is rightly proud of how well the boys do. Many parents choose Papplewick for its extraordinary hit rate to the big boarding schools – Mr Bunbury ensures he speaks to every parent in Year 5 for an hour to ensure their son is going to the right school. Eton takes the largest number of leavers (this year, 14 out of a cohort of 45 are heading there), with Rugby, Harrow and Winchester also popular. Every year, boys win a hefty number of academic, art and all-rounder scholarships – and a King’s Scholarship to Eton is an almost annual occurrence.

Co-curricular at Papplewick School

It’s cool to join in here, and although sport is huge (unsurprisingly for an all-boys prep), success in this area isn’t placed on a pedestal. Instead, pupils are encouraged to get stuck into art, music, drama, choir and everything else with just as much gusto.

Football kicks off Michaelmas term (there's a tour to Spain this Easter), with rugby taking over after half-term and continuing through to Easter. Cricket is the major summer sport, but many other sports are on offer too: golf, basketball, polo, shooting, rowing, croquet, futsal and American football, each with its own fixtures. Parents (and dogs) flock to the sidelines on Wednesday and Saturday match days.

Art takes top prize, with GCSE-standard (and higher) artwork and ceramics on display. Drama and music are up there too, with a good number of pupils winning creative and performing arts scholarships to senior schools. There’s a main school production every year, and a recent performance of Pirates of Penzance was, by all accounts, superb. Boys can also join one of the three choirs, or flex their musical muscles in the jazz and string ensembles or the saxophone quartet. The annual Spring Arts festival is much-anticipated, with public speaking, poetry competitions, debates, house shout and music performances galore.

All boys take part in PALS (Papplewick Activities and Leadership Scheme) – the school’s own DofE, encouraging self-esteem, goal-setting and good leadership. There’s also an annual ski trip for families, a Stag Challenge adventure tour to South Africa, and a leavers’ camp in the South of France, which we hear is a total blast.

There’s no shortage of clubs for boys to sink their teeth into, but the standout has got to be herpetology, or ‘Snake Club’. The science lab is a slithery menagerie of serpents, bearded dragons, spiders, newts and frogs – oh, and the crickets and baby chicks they have for lunch. Boys take responsibility for particular snakes and club members earn a herpetology tie emblazoned with coiling serpents – a great talking point at senior-school interviews. Rather charmingly, Papplewick also has Britain’s only prep-school antique booksellers, collecting and selling rare books.

Boarding at Papplewick

Papplewick is all about boarding, and everyone has to board from the summer term of Year 6 (although many further down the school do too, and occasional boarding is popular). Saturday school is important, and from Year 3 onwards, there are lessons in the morning, followed by a chapel service, lunch and afternoon sports fixtures (with an extremely impressive spread at teatime). Parents can, and do, join in from chapel onwards, which one parent tells us 'makes for a big family feel’. Boys can head home on Saturday afternoon and return on Sunday evening or Monday morning, but many stay for the weekend to enjoy the fun stuff – all-you-can-eat Chinese, socials with local girls’ schools and exclusive use of the local slide-and-waves pool.

It is all helped, of course, by the fabulous boarding house and what the school calls its ‘modern, family-friendly’ approach, with parents welcome to drop in at (almost) any time, including Monday mornings rather than Sunday nights after a weekend at home. While there are undoubtedly a few wobbles, a fortnight of full-on activities at the beginning of the boarding programme usually wards off homesickness. Two-thirds of staff, along with their families and pets, live on site, which really bolsters the community feel.

Papplewick school community

From Year 6, boys are allocated a tutor who will see them right the way through to graduation. We loved the way everyone sits down together for lunch each day, with a member of staff on each table, family-style.

Pupils have got each other’s backs – and while they have heaps of fun, they all have firm boundaries too. The most coveted leavers’ prize goes to the boy who has shown the most enthusiasm for school life, the biggest contribution to the community and, above all, the most kindness to others – which says all you need to know.

We hear high praise for the exceptionally warm and welcoming parent community and the very well-organised PTA. All are welcome at Papplewick, and parents are a mix of millionaires, bankers, two-income households and those with grandparents fronting the fees. The joy of Papplewick is that you won’t know, or care, which is which. The car park isn’t overrun with Teslas, and the chat on the sidelines is refreshingly down to earth and modest.

And finally...

This is a thoroughly wholesome, successful school, with a big, big heart. With pupils hailing from a wonderful melting pot of locals, Londoners, internationals, new-to-the-school parents and alumni, there’s a great un-cliquey atmosphere where everyone is embraced equally. We’d send our sons here without missing a beat.

Gallery See All

Boys in white playing tennis on a blue court
Swimming lessons
Boy in blue dressing gown being given medicine by matron
Boys in grey jumpers on the floor playing with a red and grey lego boat
Boys pushing go-karts outside on green grass
Boy in blue shirt sitting in class
Boys in pale blue shirts all leaning on a wooden bar with blue sky behind
Boys in pale blue shirts on the wooden monkey bars
Boys in white polo shirts outside by lavender and green grass
  • Senior school destinations

    Senior school destinations

    Eton- 8, Harrow - 3 , Winchester - 3, Radley -2, St Edward's Oxford - 2, Marlborough - 2, Monkton Combe - 2, Westminster - 1, Wellington - 1, Bradfield - 1, Tonbridge - 1, Uppingham - 1, Oundle - 1, Cheltenham - 1, Haileybury - 1, Framlington - 2. Others - Spain - 2

  • Scholarships for senior schools


    Academic7Eton College, Westminster School, Winchester College, Harrow School
    Music3 Westminster School, Sherborne School, Tonbridge School
    Drama1 Harrow School
    Art1 Harrow School
    Other4 Academic Exhibition - Sherborne School, Music Exhibition - Tonbridge School, Winchester College & Eton College

  • Fees and bursaries

    Day fees per term

    Year 1-
    Year 2£6,690
    Year 3£8,765
    Year 4£8,765
    Year 5£9,290
    Year 6£9,290
    Year 7-
    Boarding fees per term

    Year 1-
    Year 2-
    Year 3 -
    Year 4 £12,095
    Year 5 £12,095
    Year 6£12,095
    Year 7£12,095
    Year 8 £12,095

    Full time weekly boarders taken from year 5, but part time boarding offered (where space available) in years 3 and 4. 

    Boarding Fee International (Child Student Visa): £13,520 per term

    Although Papplewick does not have a specific annual bursarial pot, the school offers bursaries in conjunction with scholarship awards. A combined scholarship and bursary award can be worth up to 50 per cent of full fees (15 per cent on scholarship merit, with up to an additional 35 per cent via a means-tested bursary) throughout a boy’s time at the school. The aim is to attract boys who would not otherwise be considering private education. Armed-forces bursaries are also available.

    Bursary contact:
    Registrar Mrs Rebecca Lindley
  • SEND

    This school currently supports the following kinds of learning needs, health needs and physical disabilities:
    Specific learning difficulties: dyslexia, dyspraxia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, ADHD, study skills support, anxiety, vision and hearing impairment, sensory issues, speech and language.

    This school currently delivers the following interventions to pupils in class and outside class to support their learning, health and/or physical needs:
    Weekly 1:1 extra support in literacy and maths, Support with ADHD, speech and language and occupational therapy in 1:1 or small group setting. Small group handwriting interventions in year groups. Regular opportunities to see the school counsellor and an 'open door' policy for pupils in the Learning Support Department. Some teaching assistant support in year 2 class.

    This school currently provides the following support for pupils' mental health needs
    They have both a School Counsellor and use AS tracking.

    Co-ordinator: Mrs Tania Hynard
  • Transport links

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

    Public Transport
    Nearest mainline train station: Ascot
    Nearest London Overground station: Waterloo
    Journey time to London by train: 50 minutes
    Nearest international airport: Heathrow (11 miles)

  • Parents tell us

    ‘We chose the school because it has a track record of happy boys and parents (via word of mouth), achievements of sending boys to top senior schools, the right number of boys, staff and boys mingling on campus like a big family plus charismatic, engaging and down-to-earth leadership.

    The admissions process was easy and people were welcoming and informative. 

    The headteacher was the most influential factor in our choice of school. He's charismatic, game for a laugh, strong and effective, old-fashioned yet down to earth. 

    Papplewick is very well balanced – exactly what one would expect from a first-class English prep school in modern times. 

    Mr Elke, the science teacher, has made a particular difference to our child’s time at school. He talked about him a lot – being funny and making the lesson very interesting. The boys are learning while having fun. 

    The communication with parents is very effective – the school is reachable and responsive whenever needed. 

    We are involved as much as we would like to be. Papplewick is very open and we are happy with the right balance. With the family feel at school, boys are close to each other and the teachers. Everything is pretty much under one roof and the boys are well looked after. 

    There are plenty of sports at school and lots of teachers looking after different teams on the fields – another great opportunity for them to know and influence the boys. 

    There is a great mixture of support. The current system – such as tutoring, boarding and sports – exactly suited my boy for the next stage. Generally, the school community is very open, cosy and welcoming. 

    There is an active PTA, with regular social events among staff, parents and the boys. I absolutely enjoyed the pub quiz, ski trip, ball and hog roast. The events created a great atmosphere for the whole school community.

    Papplewick has indeed lived up to our expectations. We are among the most contented boys and parents.’
  • FAQs

    Does Papplewick School have any religious affiliation?  
    The school is open to boys of all faiths or none, but it is affiliated with the Church of England. Pupils gather daily for a short service in the school chapel. 

    Does Papplewick have any notable former pupils?  
    British rower and Olympic gold medallist Ed Coode and England rugby union member James Haskell both attended Papplewick. On the creative side, famous screenwriter Richard Curtis was educated at Papplewick.

School Updates

  • Papplewick boys combine adventure with fantastic challenge in Africa in partnership with the Ubunye Foundation

    During the Easter Holidays a group of year 7 and 8 boys with a passion for adventure and helping others were taken to the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa for the opportunity to help an impoverished community in rural Ciskei region
    Papplewick boys combine adventure with fantastic challenge in Africa in partnership with the Ubunye Foundation
  • Papplewick Climate Change Eco Week

    Boys at Papplewick addressed Climate Change Eco Week recently with The Green Stag kicking off the week with a Headmaster’s assembly on the devastating impact of climate change and litter affecting animals.
    Papplewick Climate Change Eco Week
  • Papplewick boys to enjoy adventure based trip to Africa 'The Stag Challenge' to raise money for Ubunye Foundation

    This exciting trip for 14 Year 8 boys who have a passion for adventure and helping others
    Papplewick boys to enjoy adventure based trip to Africa 'The Stag Challenge' to raise money for Ubunye Foundation
  • Papplewick Charity Club enjoys tour of Priory on their care home visit

    Papplewick Charity Club enjoys tour of Priory on their care home visit
  • Chitty Chitty Bang Bang flies into town and triumphs despite the Child Catcher's best efforts.

    Chitty Chitty Bang Bang flies into town and triumphs despite the Child Catcher's best efforts.
  • Papplewick Year 4 boys visit Royal Ascot Racecourse

    Papplewick is situated bang opposite this famous racecourse and shares a wonderful relationship with this historical course.
    Papplewick Year 4 boys visit Royal Ascot Racecourse
  • European Day of Languages

    On Tuesday 26th September, Papplewick boys were treated to varied workshops hosted by native parents from Spain, Austria, Ukraine and Russia in celebration of European Day of Languages.
    European Day of Languages
  • Papplewick receives prestigious Award for Innovation in Education alongside Saint Ronan's School

    Papplewick are the very proud recipients of the Alice Rose Award for 'Innovation in Education' together with Saint Ronan's School.
    Papplewick receives prestigious Award for Innovation in Education alongside Saint Ronan's School
  • Papplewick wins their International Green Award with Distinction

    Boys at Papplewick School have once again been awarded a coveted Eco-Schools Green Flag with Distinction.
    Papplewick wins their International Green Award with Distinction
  • A bumper year of Scholarship success for Papplewick

    A bumper year of Scholarship success for Papplewick
  • Papplewick boys meet Gareth Southgate

    After winning the ISFA Regional Under 11, 7 a side football tournament earlier in the year and with the opportunity to compete in the ISFA National tournament as the prize, the Papplewick Under 11 A team travelled up to St George's Park, the home of England football, to compete in the 24 team competition.
    Papplewick boys meet Gareth Southgate
  • Papplewick community charity walk for Alexander Devine Children's Hospice

    The Papplewick community - boys, parents, friends, relations and staff and families came together on Sunday 23rd April for their annual charity walk in Windsor Great Park in aid of Alexander Devine Children's Hospice.
    Papplewick community charity walk for Alexander Devine Children's Hospice
  • Papplewick Choir visits Rome and sings masses at St Peter's amongst other historic churches

    Twenty choirboys from Papplewick had the tour of a lifetime to Rome at half-term.
    Papplewick Choir visits Rome and sings masses at St Peter's amongst other historic churches
  • View from the Top: Tom Bunbury on why boarding schools have more relevance today than ever before

    View from the Top: Tom Bunbury on why boarding schools have more relevance today than ever before
  • Papplewick - Generous Scholarship Awards for 2023

    Papplewick - Generous Scholarship Awards for 2023
  • Papplewick Charity Club visit Larklands residential home in Ascot

    Papplewick Charity Club visit Larklands residential home in Ascot
  • Papplewick U11A team enjoy tournament victory

    Papplewick U11A team enjoy tournament victory
  • WATCH: Hear a parent talk about their experience of Papplewick

    WATCH: Hear a parent talk about their experience of Papplewick
  • See Papplewick 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 Papplewick in our Town & Country Prep Schools Guide


Windsor Road, Ascot, Berkshire SL5 7LH

01344 621488


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