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You'll find answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about Berkhampstead below, if you have one that is not on our list, then please do contact us directly - we are happy to help!
WHY WILL BERKHAMPSTEAD SCHOOL OFFER A BETTER EDUCATION THAN A STATE PRIMARY SCHOOL?
Subject specialist teaching for PE, Music and French from age 3 and for all subjects from age 7 makes for inspired teaching and excellent learning opportunities.
We are able to care for each child at Berkhampstead. Our small class sizes, longer school day and range of activities mean that staff and children can have time and space to get to know one another well. We have positive and trusting relationships and have an environment that promotes confidence and facilitates learning.
Children are involved in decision making, they develop independence and are allowed to make, and learn from, their mistakes. The attention we are able to give means that children achieve their potential and discover talents across a wider range than they might in a primary school.
HOW MUCH HOMEWORK WILL MY CHILD HAVE?
In the Pre-Prep, all children are encouraged to read or share a book with a parent every night. They are occasionally set tasks that extend the topics studied in class, often involving research into an area of study or gathering items to bring into school. As they get older, they learn spellings and do some maths at home as appropriate to their ability.
In the Prep department (Years 3-6), children are set work most evenings, excepting Wednesday due to games commitments. Tasks are varied and designed to reinforce or extend what has been studied in class. The use of art, drama, design and ICT to supplement the more traditional Maths/English tasks is common. Homework is designed to be interesting and enjoyable.
HOW BIG IS BERKHAMPSTEAD?
Currently, there are approximately 265 boys and girls at Berkhampstead School, with ages ranging from 3-11. It is a close-knit and friendly community, big enough to offer a wide range of experiences and to be a good social mix, small enough for everyone to be well known and for their needs to matter.
WHAT IS THE YOUNGEST AGE MY CHILD CAN START?
Berkhampstead School welcomes children from the age of 3 into its lovely Kindergarten. Our bright and spacious Day Nursery cares for children from the age of 3 months and provides year-round care in a home-from-home environment. It is a wonderful facility with a relaxed and happy feel and lots of love and care.
It complements the Kindergarten and many babies move on to Kindergarten once old enough. We are very proud of our Day Nursery - it has been a super addition to the Berkhampstead community, providing the excellent pastoral care for which the school is known to the very youngest children.
We both feel very lucky that Hugo has had the opportunity to have such great start to life in a great nursery. We are very much looking forward to many many years of Hugo developing at Berkhampstead.— — Day Nursery parent
WHICH SCHOOLS DO CHILDREN TRANSFER TO AT THE AGE OF 11?
Being truly independent, Berkhampstead prepares each child for the school that is right for them - we have no ties to any senior school, but have very good relationships with them. All local Heads are invited to visit Berkhampstead each year; most take up the offer and lead a Prep assembly before joining parents for coffee and questions.
We are extremely fortunate to be surrounded by excellent schools, both state and independent. An average of 98% of those who take the Grammar School entrance test pass, going on to Pate’s (a co-educational grammar in Cheltenham) or the Gloucester grammar schools (single sex).
A significant number move to independent schools at age 11; our scholarship board shows the splendid record Berkhampstead has of winning scholarships to the leading schools. We hold an annual forum which enables parents to gather information and advice on the choices available. We will offer advice and work with your child to secure a place at the best school for them.
DO YOU TEACH VERBAL REASONING (VR) OR CRITICAL THINKING?
Both! Verbal Reasoning forms the basis of many Entrance Tests and forms part of the test used by the grammar schools. All children from Year 3 have regular Critical Thinking lessons including VR and non-VR. They have fun with quizzes and puzzles, learn how to break codes and enjoy word and number games in a non-pressurised way. The lessons are stimulating and interesting and will stretch young minds. Our pupils relish the challenge and benefit from learning to examine problems using a range of skills. A mock exam, taken prior to the grammar schools test day, means that our children are well prepared.
WHAT PROVISION IS THERE FOR BEFORE AND AFTER SCHOOL CARE?
Children may arrive at school from 8.10am and will be cared for here until 5.30pm. The normal school day finishes at 3.30pm (Pre-Prep) and at 3.45pm (Prep); however, there are activities after school most evenings and the Running Club on a Friday morning – often themed just for fun. Trainers on and jogging along by 8am - our early-risers love it!
After school clubs allow homework to be completed and give time to relax and play. For those children staying beyond 4.30 pm a light tea is provided to sustain children until their meal at home.
WHAT IS THE SCHOOL UNIFORM – WHERE IS IT STOCKED?
Our uniform is smart, practical and durable, with cosy coats for winter and cool dresses and shorts for the warmer months. The school colours are blue and red. Uniform is stocked at John Lewis and can be ordered online. Academy Sports in Cheltenham supply the PE kit.
We have a super second-hand uniform shop in school, run by the ‘Friends of Berkhampstead,’ which is a model of organisation and friendliness.
WILL MY CHILD LEARN AN INSTRUMENT?
Most children here do, inspired by the way in which music is a huge part of Berkhampstead life and the way it is incorporated into the school day from the very youngest age. Children receive specialist teaching from age 3; peripatetic teachers offer individual lessons and two highly skilled and inspirational specialists take timetabled lessons and run clubs in school. Music is used to stimulate art, drama and dance work and a range of styles is enjoyed.
From the toddlers’ Berky Bear sessions, where music-making begins, through to the final Leavers’ Concert in Year 6, there is opportunity to create, learn and compose music. Well over 90% of children aged 7 and above learn an instrument with many younger children attending the superb, fun and really rather loud ‘Crash, Bang, Wallop’ percussion sessions and ‘Strum It’ for the many ukulele players. Music thrives here and your child is very likely to ask to learn to play something.
WHAT ARE THE SPORTS RESULTS LIKE?
We punch above our weight in sport and regularly hold our own against much bigger schools. We enjoy winning but playing the game well matters most.
Participation for all is important and every child will represent the school across a range of sports during their time here. Matches are invariably played in good spirit and the training sessions are popular. Children adopt the habit of being active, become competent across a range of sports and games and go on to have active lives.
WHAT ABOUT TECHNOLOGY?
Recent reports in the press re: a lack of programming skills hampering the UK’s competitiveness are being addressed here at Berkhampstead! Our Computing lessons equip children with the core skills required for today’s world, but we go further. Basic programming starts in Kindergarten with the lovely BeeBots - the children so enjoy using code to make them move. More complex programming skills are taught from Year 3, using MacBook Air laptops and the children relish the challenge of coding.
The introduction of iPads has revolutionised Computing teaching. The iPads’ versatility and the children’s enthusiasm for them are allowing the use of technology to become genuinely cross-curricular; and a real tool for learning.
WHAT IS THE FOOD LIKE?
The food is excellent. School lunches are cooked on the premises from scratch and include a daily choice of hot main course and a dessert or fresh fruit. Regular, ‘themed’ lunches are arranged to tie in with the children’s studies. We encourage all to eat a well-balanced and varied diet.
We operate a ‘family-dining’ system, with a teacher or senior pupil serving. Lunch is an occasion where good manners are promoted and it is an opportunity to socialise and exchange stories. Any special diets can, of course, be catered for.
How is my child kept safe at school?
We have a thorough procedure for ensuring the safety of the children in our care. The school bursar and maintenance manager are in charge of Health and Safety and carry out regular checks on procedure and policy. The staff are kept up-to-date with First Aid training, Child Protection training and carrying out risk assessments. The safety and happiness of the children is our highest priority.
Is there a Parents’ Association?
The ‘Friends of Berkhampstead’ is made up of an extremely active team of parents and staff. They have enormous energy, a diverse range of skills and plenty of imagination. Their drive and commitment mean that the school benefits from regular fund-raising and super social events. School is a welcoming place with a warm atmosphere, made more so by the parent class reps and other members of the Friends.
Is there an Alumni Association?
Our fledgling Alumni Association has held reunions during the past few summer holidays. What could be nicer than a barbeque in the school grounds, tours of the old place where you can remark on how much has changed, how much is the same and how much smaller everything seems than you remember! We are building a database of alumni and plan more events. Jo Simons, teacher and parent at Berky for many years, is spearheading the Alumni Association and cataloguing photographs.
Do you cater for children with special needs?
Each child’s progress is monitored closely and we would advise you if we felt that your child would benefit from additional curricular support from our specialist teachers. The SENCo (Special Education Needs Co-ordinator) has overall charge of any learning support that your child might need.
All staff at Berkhampstead are skilled at delivering lessons in the most effective way for their pupils and will differentiate tasks to suit - stretching or supporting where necessary. All children are given opportunities within lessons and through extra curricular activities to use and develop their gifts and talents.
When can we visit the School?
We hold Open Mornings several times a year, but can easily arrange appointments at other times - do please contact the School Office on 01242 523263. Mr Cross, the Headmaster, is always pleased to talk to prospective parents and to show them around the school.