Sign up now for FREE to read our insider reviews in full Sign Up Now
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

Open all

Our view

A Swallows and Amazons nirvana (without the boats), this traditional all-boys country prep school is quirky and fun with an extremely kind heart. It is non-selective at intake but very strong academically: a whopping number head for Eton, Harrow and Winchester. You won’t find in-your-face grandeur here but you will find positive values, enthusiasm, humour and teaching beyond compare.

Around 15 per cent of the 210 boys are from overseas and boarding is key. Day pupils start aged six – with a fleet of minibuses from west London complementing the local contingent – and build up to weekly or full boarding by the summer term of Year 6.

This is truly a scuffed-knees/climb-trees place for happy boys, where eccentricity is not discouraged and everyone is a team player.

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 nearby it is possible to listen to the Gold Cup while watching your boys play a cricket match), it is an easy hop out of London. Boys enjoy cricket in the Square (the heart of the school), whizz by on RipStiks, hang upside down on the adventure playground or play ping-pong for hours.

While the main building has a smart entrance/exhibition hall, classrooms are in a collection of slightly ramshackle buildings and a few of the facilities are a little worn. But an extremely impressive new boarding house has upped the school’s game.

Headmaster at Papplewick

One of the most popular heads on the prep-school circuit, Tom Bunbury is dynamic, genuine 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 (he arrived here in 1993). 

Mr Bunbury is a holistic educator, instilling values ‘required to be a really good human being’ and turning the boys into ‘leaders… but compassionate ones’. While he has extremely high standards and expectations, he believes prep school should be fun: if boys eat well and exercise often, everything else will fall into place.

And Mr Bunbury is known for going the extra mile, quite literally – a few years ago, he joined 20 other headmasters on a 65-mile hike, bike and canoe through Pembrokeshire in support of children's mental health charity Place2Be, who work tirelessly to provide dedicated mental health support in schools. 

Admissions at Papplewick School

The school is firmly non-selective and ‘character counts’, says Mr Bunbury, who is looking for everyone from future Eton scholars to boys for whom 50 per cent in Common Entrance would be a triumph. Papplewick School puts much stake in reports from prospective pupils’ current schools, and boys are interviewed alongside parents (so it's worth preparing for interview success). 

Boys who 'get' the Papplewick ethos and want to take part in absolutely everything will thrive here. Up to 16 boys 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.

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

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. 

Saturday school is important, after which is a chapel service, lunch and afternoon sports fixtures (with an extremely impressive spread at tea time). Parents can, and do, join in from chapel onwards, which one parent tells us ‘makes for a big family feel’. 

Many parents choose Papplewick for its extraordinary hit rate to the big boarding schools. Eton takes the largest number of leavers, with Harrow and Winchester a close second and third. Others go to Wellington, Bradfield, Radley, Tonbridge and St Edwards, Oxford

Every year, boys win a hefty number of academic, art and all-round scholarships to senior schools. A King’s Scholarship to Eton is an almost annual occurrence.

Co-curricular at Papplewick School

Unsurprisingly for an all-boys prep, sport is huge. Football kicks off Michaelmas term, with rugby taking over after half-term and continuing through to Easter. 

Cricket is the major summer sport, and the school’s South Africa tour is legendary – we met one family who chose Papplewick expressly for this. But many other sports are on offer too: golf, basketball, polo, shooting, rowing, croquet, futsal and American football, each with its own fixtures.  

Art takes top prize here, with GSCE-standard (and higher) artwork and ceramics on display. Drama and music are up there too, with a good number of boys winning creative and performing arts scholarships to senior schools. Three quarters of the school learn a musical instrument, and the choir here is truly superb. There are numerous productions every year, plus the well-supported Papplewick’s Got Talent. 

All boys take part in PALS (Papplewick Activities and Leadership Scheme) – the school’s own DofE, encouraging self-esteem, goal-setting and good leadership.

The standout club has got to be herpetology: ‘Snake Club’, in Papplewickian. 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. Club members earn a herpetology tie emblazoned with coiling serpents – a great talking point at senior-school interviews. 

Charmingly, Papplewick School also has Britain’s only prep-school antique booksellers, collecting and selling rare books.

Boarding at Papplewick

Papplewick is all about boarding – everyone has to board from the summer term of Year 6 (although many further down the school do too). Boys may go home after sports on Saturday afternoon and return on Sunday evening, 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. 

London boys can catch the Monday morning bus in from stops in Chiswick, Brook Green and Gloucester Road, and we hear that this offer might soon extend to local boarders too (watch this space to see if the rules relax further). Occasional boarding is popular.

It is all helped, of course, by the new boarding house (complete with pool tables) and what the school calls its ‘modern, family-friendly’ approach, with parents welcome to drop in at (almost) any time. 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 and, from Year 6, boys are allocated a tutor who will see them through to graduation. Pupils have got each others’ backs – kindness counts here.

Papplewick school community

All are welcome at Papplewick, from sports jocks to brainiacs, and they jolly along nicely. Parents are a mix of billionaires, bankers, two-income families 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 by Teslas, and the chat on the sidelines is down to earth and modest.

And finally...

The staff, the staff, the staff. This is where the (eye-watering) fees go: energetic, inspiring staff who stay the distance. 

One way of summing up Papplewick: 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.

Gallery See All

  • Senior school destinations

    Senior school destinations

    Eton- 5, Harrow - 4 , Winchester - 5, Westminster - 3, Radley -2, St Edward's Oxford - 1, Bradfield - 2, Tonbridge - 1, Marlborough - 1, Uppingham - 1, Oundle - 1, Monkton Combe - 2, Framlington - 2. Others - Spain - 2

  • Scholarships for senior schools


    Academic2 Winchester College, Tonbridge
    Music4 Eton College, Winchester College, Westminster School, Uppingham,
    Sport1 Charterhouse School
    Art2 Harrow School, Tonbridge School,
    Other2 - Music Exhibitions Eton College, Cheltenham

  • Fees and bursaries

    Day fees per term

    Year 1-
    Year 2£6,225
    Year 3£8,155
    Year 4£8,155
    Year 5£8,645
    Year 6£8,645
    Year 7-
    Boarding fees per term

    Year 1-
    Year 2-
    Year 3 -
    Year 4 £11,255
    Year 5 £11,255
    Year 6£11,255
    Year 7£11,255
    Year 8 £11,255

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

    International (Child Student Visa) boarding fee (Year 5 and up): £12,580 per term

    Papplewick offers supplementary means-tested bursaries as a part of its existing scholarship scheme, with the potential of a 50 per cent fee reduction split between a scholarship (up to 15 per cent) and a bursary (up to 35 per cent). These awards are for boys between six and 11 who excel at art, music, sport or another discipline that would likely qualify them to apply for a similar scholarship at senior school.

    The school also offers limited support for children of personnel in the armed forces.

    See below for further details:

    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's Eco Representative joins Queen's Green Canopy initiative to mark the Platinum Jubilee and to enhance the environment

    Papplewick's Eco Representative joins Queen's Green Canopy initiative to mark the Platinum Jubilee and to enhance the environment
  • Papplewick community walks for two charities in memory of a dear colleague

    The whole Papplewick community - boys, parents, staff, families and friends took to the sunshine in Windsor Great Park recently for a sponsored walk in remembrance of a dear, much loved colleague, teacher, and friend - Lesley Jarman.
    Papplewick community walks for two charities in memory of a dear colleague
  • Papplewick Lower School dress as favourite characters for the day

    Papplewick Lower School dress as favourite characters for the day
  • Spring Scholarship success for Papplewick Boys

    Spring Scholarship success for Papplewick Boys
  • Success for Papplewick pupil at Stratford and East London Music Festival

    Success for Papplewick pupil at Stratford and East London Music Festival
  • Papplewick Choir Goes on Tour

    The chapel choir at Papplewick School, Ascot enjoyed a successful and fun three-day tour to Yorkshire at half-term.
    Papplewick Choir Goes on Tour
  • Papplewick First Choir sing at Sonning church service dedicating new organ unveiled by former Prime Minister Theresa May with preacher Lord Carey former Archbishop of Canterbury

    Papplewick First Choir sing at Sonning church service dedicating new organ unveiled by former Prime Minister Theresa May with preacher Lord Carey former Archbishop of Canterbury
  • WATCH: Hear a parent talk about their experience of Papplewick

    WATCH: Hear a parent talk about their experience of Papplewick
  • WATCH: Talk Education's Country Preps Focus - Papplewick

    WATCH: Talk Education's Country Preps Focus - Papplewick
  • See Papplewick 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 Papplewick in our Country Preps Focus


Windsor Road, Ascot, Berkshire SL5 7LH

01344 621488


ISI Report


Term Dates

Open Days

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

Open Morning
05 November 2022

Click for a larger version of map

Need help?

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.

Talk to our team