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Pinewood School
Pinewood School
Pinewood School
Pinewood School
top 200
Pinewood School Shrivenham, Wiltshire Visit
Pinewood School
400 pupils, ages 3-13
Day and Boarding

Pinewood School

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Our view

We left this popular Wiltshire co-ed prep beaming from ear to ear. Pupils are cheery, outdoorsy, unsophisticated in the best possible way and there’s a sense of merriment in the air – of doing all the important things very well while not taking life too seriously. Which is exactly what prep school should be.


On the borders of Wiltshire and Oxfordshire, in the pretty Cotswold-stone village of Bourton. Easy to find; easy to park. Pinewood is set on the top of a hill with sweeping views of the 84-acre grounds and the Wiltshire countryside beyond. The red-smocked nursery pupils start school life in the old stable block, before moving into the main house (more Cotswold stone, magnificent staircase).

Former head Philip Hoyland oversaw a raft of building work and developments in his 18 years here, but the brand-new crowning glory is ‘The Hoyland', a new teaching and learning block for the middle school, named in his honour and complete with a ‘Learning Street' and serious eco credentials. It was opened in May 2021 by the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall, for whom there was ‘a lot of shoe shining’, according to our charming pupil guides.

Pinewood shines outdoors too, with its magnificent grounds, super-duper treetop climbing frame, fairy garden, mountain-bike track, nature walk and 10,000 recently planted trees. Each class has its own vegetable plot in the old walled garden, and the ethos is firmly wellies-and-boilersuits.


Neal Bailey and his wife Nici arrived at Pinewood in September 2020 from Mowden Hall (before Mowden, Mr Bailey ran the Cothill Trust’s French outpost, Château de Sauveterre – his brother Duncan is head of Cothill School). They are an energetic, empathetic and united tour de force who champion confidence as life’s most valuable commodity – and we have no doubt they have the skills to ensure it is instilled in each and every Pinewood pupil. When asked what he’d like his legacy to be, Mr Bailey’s immediate response was ’an ethos of kindness which permeates every member of the school community – if you can start with that and bolster it with all these wonderful opportunities, then we’re setting children up for the future in the right way’.

As well as his focus on values and wellbeing, Mr Bailey also has an eye on improving the infrastructure at Pinewood, with plans to enclose the outdoor swimming pool, re-design the boarding space (to accommodate increasing demand) and add another Astro (as well as sprucing up the existing one). Insiders told us that he is wonderfully community-minded too, and he and Nici stand out on the drive every morning, come rain or shine, to greet pupils and parents. We have no doubt that Pinewood will flourish on his watch.


Unsurprisingly, Pinewood is a very popular place but will always do its best to accommodate children wishing to join – but register early if you can. It’s a proudly non-selective school, so there are no formal assessments although children coming into Years 3-8 will be gently assessed to help inform setting decisions and ensure the right level of support from the outset. Pre prep children come in for taster sessions following an offer, whereas children joining higher up the school are invited to a taster day first to give them an opportunity to get stuck into everything from classroom lessons to sport and extra-curricular activities. If your child has a curiosity about the world and a have-a-go approach to life, they will fit right in.

Academics and destinations

Pinewood has always been known as a properly holistic school, but it does a very good job at developing well-rounded individuals while achieving on the academic front too: two more senior school academic scholarships were announced on the very day of our visit. 

The prep school is divided into lower (Years 3 and 4), middle (Years 5 and 6) and upper (Years 7 and 8) schools. Lesson times were recently increased from 35 to 45 minutes to slow down the pace of the school day and to give pupils more time to engage with each subject, as well as factor in  five minutes for a brisk walk between classes where necessary. Prep can be done at home or in school. Pupils are taught both by class teachers and specialist teachers in science, ICT, French Latin, music and art. Setting begins in the lower school with maths, building up to additional subjects higher up the school. 

As a non-selective school, it is fully understood that some children will struggle with certain subjects (and there is plenty of support for these young learners) but it’s equally appreciated that these children will be the ones who go on to be the very best creative thinkers, designers, chefs or whatever else takes their fancy – and Pinewood aims to grow provision for exploring practical skills which are increasingly valued by secondary schools. The curriculum has also evolved to reflect the changing life of a prep school child (who now has to ‘peak at least twice’, according to the head – both in the Year 6 pre-test and then again as they exit at Year 8). It’s a case of discreetly preparing pupils to give the best account of themselves at 11+ and then continuing to motivate these young minds by making learning as relevant and interesting as possible.

As pupils reach the top years of the school, the emphasis is firmly on finding the right senior school for the child rather than meeting parental aspirations. Pupils go on to a wide range of schools, with most choosing co-eds: roughly half head for Cheltenham College or Marlborough, and last year’s 52 leavers went to 19 different schools.


Outdoor pursuits rule at Pinewood, and everyone from Year 4 upwards heads off on an annual Pinewood Adventure weekend to let off steam in Somerset, Wales, Chichester or France. Clubs and extras include everything from riding to archery, fly-fishing and clay-pigeon shooting. 

Expect plenty of sport. Top of the agenda is hockey, netball, rugby and football – and thanks to the imminent arrival of a new Astro, there’ll be a bumper twelve tennis courts by the summer, plus grass pitches galore, a nine-hole golf course and an outdoor swimming pool. Participation is the priority but there are some pretty excellent performances too – the U13 girls recently reached the IAPS National netball finals. Wednesday afternoons are dedicated to fiercely contested house matches.

Drama, music and art are all thriving. Annual musical highlights include the bumper summer concert and the hugely successful rock show (this lot sure know how to raise the roof), and there are a number of more informal opportunities for soloists to perform throughout each term. Drama productions here are some of the most professional-looking on the prep-school circuit, and one pupil won Pinewood's first ever art scholarship to Bedales last year, with another bagging the top art scholarship to Marlborough. 


Although home isn’t far away, Pinewood pupils love their boarding. It’s on offer for Years 5 to 8, and 65 per cent stay at school on either a weekly or regular basis (‘weekly’ here means Monday to Friday or Saturday, depending on the weekend; ‘regular’ means committing to set nights each week). There are no full boarders; everyone goes home on Saturday nights, so this isn’t a school for the international crowd.

In response to the evolving needs of parents and pupils alike, Pinewood now offers flexi boarding – which has been almost too successful. Dedicated house parents run this very ‘extended family’ style boarding house, (duties involve making pancakes for seventy-five children on Shrove Tuesday) and generally making it into something that most kids want in on. Dorms are smartly decorated and picturesquely named after places near the school’s Devon roots: Happy Valley, Cherrybrook and Dartmoor.

There is an exeat every other weekend and school finishes at 4pm on Fridays. On ‘in’ weekends, children play matches in the morning and then head home in time for lunch.

School community

It’s not every day that we come across a school that tackles wellbeing in such a positively all-encompassing way. Pinewood has its own head of wellbeing and emotional support whose bright, cosy calm office is centrally located on the ground floor and whose day is dedicated to being there for pupils, parents and staff members alike. There are regular drop-in sessions for pupils and staff members, as well as scheduled one-to-ones with coffee, hot chocolate, Lego and tissues all on hand. Nici Bailey, in her role as safeguarding lead, is a huge driving force in this aspect of the school’s direction and places wellbeing at its heart. Children take part in termly wellbeing surveys to keep an eye on morale, and to help the school establish what pupils are and aren’t enjoying.

Everyone from nursery upwards eats in the central dining room and we love Pinewood’s spirit of relaxed equality (no head boy or girl; no prefects) and pleasantly informal uniform.

Families are local: most live within a 40-minute radius of the school, with a handful from London. Parents praise the sense of community and the warmth of the welcome they received.

And finally...

During our visit, we sat in on a lower school assembly which pretty much summed up Pinewood. Children sprang up like jumping jacks with beaming smiles as the head gave out the week’s awards, before holding his audience enraptured and hooting with laughter with his assembly theme of ‘rules’. The children learnt, and they laughed – and that’s what they do by the bucketload at Pinewood.

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  • Senior school destinations

    Senior school destinations

    Co-ed choices are Marlborough, Stowe, Cheltenham, St Edward’s Oxford and Bradfield. Single sex choices are Sherborne Boys or Girls, Radley, St Mary’s Calne, Cheltenham Ladies College and Tudor Hall. Some day pupils to Abingdon or St Helen and St Katharine.

  • Scholarships for senior schools


    Academic5Magdalen Oxford, Rugby, Rendcomb and Cheltenham Ladies College
    Music2 George Watson's College, Dean Close
    Drama1 Cheltenham
    Sport6 Stowe, Cheltenham College and Clifton College.
    Art4 Marlborough College, Shrewsbury College, Bedales and Dean Close ( Headmasters award)
    DT1 Marlborough College
    OtherChoral Scholarship Cheltenham College

  • Fees and bursaries

    Day fees per term

    Year 1£3,210
    Year 2£3,410
    Year 3£5,760
    Year 4£5,760
    Year 5£6,565
    Year 6£6,565
    Year 7£6,565
    Year 8£5,760
    Boarding fees per term

    Year 1-
    Year 2-
    Year 3£7,360
    Year 4£5,760
    Year 5£8,165
    Year 6£8,165
    Year 7£8,165
    Year 8£8,165

    Pinewood offers comprehensive means-tested bursary provision, with entry bursaries open to all new students who qualify and hardship bursaries to support existing families whose financial situations have changed. These can both be up to 100 per cent of day fees, although the school stresses that its ability to offer support is heavily subject to the constraints of the bursary fund.

    For more information, please see the school’s bursary policy:

    Bursary contact:
    Bursar Lucy Robins
  • SEND

    This school currently supports the following kinds of learning needs, health needs and physical disabilities:
    Communication and interaction needs - this includes children who have speech language and communication difficulties including some autistic spectrum conditions.
    Cognition and Learning needs - this includes children who have learning difficulties and specific learning difficulties like dyslexia, dyspraxia and dyscalculia.
    Social, Emotional and Mental Health needs
    Sensory and/or Physical needs

    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 Learning Skills support sessions, group (booster) sessions, in-class interventions, in-class support.

    This school currently provides the following support for pupils' mental health needs
    Our Head of Well-Being and Emotional Support offers :
    - daily drop in sessions for the children to attend – every day of the week, with sessions at least 40 minutes long.
    - 1:1 sessions with children over a number of weeks before reviewing and checking if outside professional intervention is needed

    Co-ordinator: Hannah David-Ward
  • Transport links

    School Transport
    School daily bus network

    Public Transport
    Nearest mainline train station: Swindon
    Journey time to London by train: 55 minutes
    Nearest international airport: London Heathrow (63 miles)

  • Parents tell us

    ‘We chose the school on the basis that the school had a lovely atmosphere to it with a family feeling, and also amazing grounds which is what we wanted for our children moving out of London. 

    As part of the admissions process, there was a taster morning the term before they started which was good.

     The headmaster is great. He is very down to earth, relaxed and in touch with what a prep school should be like – he isn’t too restricted by health and safety boundaries! He has a great sense of fun, which is important. 

    A very supportive and enthusiastic sports coach has inspired my children to develop their sport. There are great form tutors who have looked out for the children and helped them to solve their own problems and feel confident in school. 

    There is relatively good communication with parents and the new parental portal is good. 

    There are lots of events for us to go to and good tutor communication. There was good pastoral support for my daughter during her scholarship. 

    If there was a major problem, I am sure it would be good but so far there have not been many issues where this has been necessary. 

    The children follow a very comprehensive life-skills programme (Jigsaw), which has helped them to think about how to deal with many of the common challenges faced. 

    Year 8 has been a good year of promoting independence, particularly in relation to study. The work they have done in life-skills lessons, particularly in relation to social media, sex and relationships has been very helpful for thinking about the next stages of life. 

    The best way to get to know people is through matches and supporting on the sidelines with the same group of parents each week. 

    There are a few events planned over the year. The school has a high percentage of local families, so many people know each other before joining.’
  • Pupils tell us


    ‘The best thing about Pinewood is the sport because the grounds are so well kept. Pinewood adventure is also so fun. We go to Wales and at the end of this academic year we go to France. The food is very good because the chefs are absolutely amazing.  

    When I looked around the school, I immediately felt like I belonged. Then I just got stuck in. I would tell new students not to worry – everyone was so kind to me and it didn’t take me long to settle in. 

    My headteacher is so nice, caring and very positive towards us all. My geography teacher is also so kind to me and will push me to learn.  

    Boarding is so fun! We get really good activities and are allowed to go in the pool too.  

    The food is all so amazing at Pinewood. I couldn’t pick the best thing on the menu because it is all so good.  

    The Fun Run is a great tradition at Pinewood.  

    I am going to Radley after I leave, and the school is preparing me really well for a sport and academic scholarship. Pinewood is also preparing me really well for later life.  

    I am really happy at Pinewood and it was the best decision that I have ever made.’

    'The three best things about Pinewood are the sport, boarding and school trips. 

    The admissions process consisted of coming in for a taster day and doing a short test.

    The advice I would give to a new pupil is that everyone knows how you feel so you will be included and will have great fun. It didn't take me long to settle in, everyone was so welcoming and kind.

    The headteacher is very positive and enthusiastic and is great at sport. The teachers have been so encouraging during Covid-19 and make virtual leaning more interesting.

    You can choose whether or not to board but if you do, we don't have boarding houses, but you are in a dorm with your friends.

    The food is amazing and the catering department always decorate the dining room on special occasions!

    There is a tradition that the year 8's are always the first to jump into the pool in the start of summer - its called 'Breaking the Ice!'

    If I was head for a day I would add more astros - because I love hockey!

    Pinewood has really prepared me for going to Marlborough, they are also helping me to hopefully get an academic and/or sports scholarship.  

    Pinewood is such a welcoming and friendly school and they make time at school so fun with loads of different activities outside academics, such as music, art, drama, sport and other fun trips.'

    ‘The three best things about Pinewood are the sport, Pinewood Adventure and the art department.  

    I joined the school because when I visited it, I loved it. I would tell new students to get stuck in and not to worry about anything. Everybody is very welcoming and kind.

    It really did not take long to settle in. I met some really lovely friends and teachers, and I never felt out of place because of that. 

    The headteacher is very sporty, inspirational and kind! My science and maths teachers have made a particular difference to my time at the school. They have really helped me to get more confident and braver. 

    I love the boarding facilities at Pinewood. You can do all sorts of activities and fun games, so it takes your mind off home if you are someone who gets homesick.  

    I think the food at Pinewood is very good. I love the chicken korma, it is so tasty! 

    Every year Pinewood does such a fun Bonfire Night and Christmas Fair. 

    After I leave, I would love to go to Marlborough. Because it is full boarding, I think I will be very happy there. Boarding at Pinewood has really helped me to think so positively about it!  

    I have loved coming to Pinewood. It has given me the support and independence that I need.’


School Updates

  • WATCH: Hear a parent talk about their experience of Pinewood

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

    WATCH: Talk Education's Country Preps Focus - Pinewood
  • See Pinewood School 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 Pinewood School in our Country Preps Focus
  • WATCH: 10 Questions with Neal Bailey, Headmaster of Pinewood School

    WATCH: 10 Questions with Neal Bailey, Headmaster of Pinewood School
  • WATCH: Welcome to Pinewood School

    WATCH: Welcome to Pinewood School

Pinewood School is
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Bourton, Shrivenham, Wiltshire SN6 8HZ

01793 782205


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