1.         A strong tradition of history and heritage alongside modern teaching. SONY DSC

2.         Pool tables, ping pong and table football in common rooms stuffed with comfortable sofas and bean bags.

3.         Cross country runs in the dark with frontal headlights, the Headmaster leading the way (somebody’s got to).

4.         Camp fires on summer evenings (and film nights on winter ones).

5.         Headmaster’s cultural quizzes: who needs the internet?

6.         Week-end breakfasts in pyjamas.  Does your mother let you do that?

7.         Dormitories full of posters ranging from galloping horses to football heroes  (pink and blue, suprisingly enough, are the dominant colours)

8.         Trips to the Houses of Parliament (see 88).

9.         Camp weeks in Cornwall, Wales and Scotland.

10.       Kitchen gardens, tended by the pupils, producing vegetables enjoyed by all the school.  Sustainability is the word.

11.       The Shackelton organisation for budding explorers (and those who didn’t know they were).

12.       EAL (English as a Foreign Language) for those arriving from overseas – and the chance to pass the Cambridge exams.

13.       A welcome absence of mobile ‘phones & personal computers during school hours.

14.       Pets’ corner: who said you had to leave your hamster at home?  (see 56a). HAMSTER15.       Singing and music of every variety (see 97).

16.       Acres and acres of unspoilt parkland (600 acres at one particularly staggeringly-beautiful prep school).

17.       Ranulph Fiennes (“the world’s greatest living explorer”) giving a talk.  Lucky children.

18.       The Headmaster’s black labrador wandering around with a discarded slipper.

19.       A motherly team of nurses & matrons taking care of everything from tummy aches to name tapes.

20.       Tessalation made interesting.

21.       Buschcraft.  Lots of it.

22.       A 1956 model railway track in the cellar: not sure who is keener – pupil or teacher.

23.       Book-lined libraries which, happily, still exist in today’s technological age.  And real children, sitting in cosy chairs, reading books.  Can this be true?

24.       The re-enactment of various wars on horseback (please see photo for proof).

Walhampton school

Walhampton school

25.       Sensational views on the sea.  Ditto sublime countryside, rolling hills and meadows.

26.       Roaring fires and welcoming, wood-panelled halls.  Clock towers, stable blocks and former private mansion steeped in history – and now filled with energetic youngsters.

27.       Morning assemblies for the whole school: some formal – others less so.

28.       9 hole golf courses.

29.       DT (Design Technology) departments to make a grown man (or woman) weep.

30.       Circuit boards, light electronics, metal-cutting aparatus and 3D printers (the Old Garden Shed on a somewhat larger scale).

31.       The Blood hound supersonic car project: designing, building – and driving – a full-scale sports car.  Vroom vroom….

32.       Astroturfs: it’s almost embarassing if a school doesn’t boast one.


33.       Turrets, castellations and secret passages: no guessing where J K Rowling found her inspiration. 18244478_s

34.       Enthusiastic children.  Polite children.  Laughing children.  Busy children.  Ditto the teachers.

35.       Green monsters – on occasion. (Dress reharsal for the mega musical: Return to the Forbidden Planet).  SOLD OUT.

36.       Charity cake sales – and lots more besides.

37.       A Y7 boy, freshly arrived from Spain who – when asked “What do you like about boarding school?” – replied “Everything”.

38.       Swimming in the outdoor pool on summer evenings.  Mallory Towers brought to life.

39.       Mandarin lessons for 10 year olds.

40.       Cooking: taking over the Headmaster’s private kitchen, hot competition in the Bake-Off, producing the biggest bowl of popcorn.   Hot chocolate and toast at bedtime.

41.       Music, music and more music: optional practice before breakfast, lunchtime concerts, evening recitals.  And lots more in between (see 97).

42.       Camp-outs in the school grounds.

42a.     Boating on the lakes.  Sailing on the sea.  Fishing in the rivers.

43.       Art, art and more art.  Stuff you really would want to hang on your walls.  And art rooms brimming with creation (obviously) but also wacky inspiration – and often loud music and general COOLNESS.

44.       Participation in the Shakespeare School’s Festival.  (And winning, of course).

45.       Morning chapel.  I mean, Morning Chapel which isn’t a bore, but a joyful start to the day.

46.       Sport 6 times a week  (see 93 for just a few examples).


47.       Outdoor lessons: swop a desk for a tree trunk.  Change of scene: change of view.

48.       Bee-keeping…..therefore honey-making….therefore more excuses for delicious. food

49.       University challenge junior national champions.

50.       Tree houses (and lots of wonderfully big trees to climb: see 84).

51.       Walks down to the beach (if there is one – and sometimes there is).  If not, refer to previous point.

52.       Class sizes ranging from 10-18 pupils (see 96.)

53.       Preparation for participation in The Festival of Music & Literature.

54.       Wellie-clad children charging through the puddles at morning break time to visit the…..

55.       ….pigs (and piglets) in the school farm.  And cattle, chickens, duck, guinea fowl, quail….

55a.     …..or the riding stables (and perhaps the pony brought to school at the beginning of term)

56.       Letter-writing on Sundays.

57.       Shoe polishing. SHOES





58.       Entrance into top public schools, as well as…..

59.       …..scholarships into top public schools for everything from rugby to drama, music and overall academic ability.

60.       Children in the classroom standing up at the entrance of an adult.  Addressing the teachers as ‘Sir’ or ‘Miss’.   Respect without fear.  Teachers knowing each child by name.

61.       The chance to be a child. To roam around, socks down, getting grubby.  Yet remaining reassuringly civillised (at times).

62.       Bedtime stories.  Are we ever too old for these?

63.       Wood-panelled dining rooms (as well as state of the art modern canteens).

64.       Bridge & chess.

65.       National karate champions.

66.       Good manners: “Never feel shy about using good manners”.

67:      Kayaking, canoeing and rock climbing: OK, not always on the school grounds, but never too far away.

68:      Talent shows of every description (involving alot of dressing up: pack your wigs and face paint).

69.       The ultimate late-arrival excuse: sailing to school or arriving on horseback.  I kid you not.

70:      State of the Art science laboratories to entice even the most reticent scientist.

71:      Homemade cake. BISCUITS







72.       Poetry readings.

73:      Scottish dancing.

74:      School uniform: sometimes traddy, sometimes snazzy.

75:      The chance “for everyone to do what they do best”.

76.       Debating  – ie: “What is the point of history”?  Good question…..

77.       Preparation for the Outside World: OK, prep school sounds utopique (and it is) but it can’t last forever (unless you become a prep school teacher).

78:      Hotly-contested Inter-house competitions: everything from tug-of-war to raft building, debating to mathematics.


79.       Cross-curricular learning: why should the Battle of Hastings not be relevant to the Art room?

80.       Drama: for entertainment, obviously but also to build confidence and reinforce the importance of communication.  Musical extravaganzas play an important role in a school’s calendar (see No 35).

81.       A strong enforcement of Anti-bullying policies.  Thank heavens for that.

82.       Health & safety.  Dull perhaps, but very necessary for a children’s well-being and protection.

83.       Help for those with learning difficulties across the spectrum.  Concentration, dyslexia, dyscalculia – you name it, it’s catered for.

84.       Latin & Greek.  Of course.

85:      Creative thinking.  Lots of it.

86.       Former pupils such as Sir Ranulph Fiennes (see No 17), actor Hugh Laurie, author Dick Francis, many British (and foreign) Prime ministers, Prince Charles, tennis ace Tim Henman, biographer Lady Antonia Fraser.  The list is long… (and is not getting any shorter).

87.       Cups, rewards, certificates galore.

88.       Getting involved: everyone – in one way or another.

89:      Activity Clubs:  Dodgeball, clock making, water polo, model making, gymnastics, 1st Aid, fashion design, archery, kite-making, jewellry design.  Is this where the phrase “something for everyone” hails from?

90.       “Breathers”: the daily morning walk in preparation for the day ahead.  “Never get rid of Breathers” implores an old-boy.






91.       SPORT GLORIOUS SPORT.  Triathlon, cricket, polo, rugby, netball, rounders, swimming, squash, lacrosse, tennis, netball, hockey, athletics, basketball, volleyball, cross country running: there is every excuse to build up an appetite for….

92.       ….. FOOD: Generally copious and surprisingly tasty Oliver Twist, eat your heart out.

93.       Rural studies for those that way inclined.  Computer modelling for those less so (and various options in between).

94.       Fabadoodle computer rooms.

95.       A Gingerbread and Christmas pudding competition (once again, food is IMPORTANT).

96.       Ability streaming, adapting to every speed and capability.

97.       Chapel choir, concert ensemble, saxophone group, rock band, string quartet.  You name it: they’ve got it.






98.       Week-end outings: dry ski slope training, cinema trips, abseiling adventures….you get the picture?

99.       Ecological awareness: many prep schools wear the Green Flag logo with great pride,  and so they should.

100.    Looking after children less fortunate and including them in school life.

101.    Value for money.  All this for between £550 and £750 per week.

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