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Thorpe House School, Gerrards Cross

A small, friendly day school for boys aged 4-16 between Gerrards Cross and Chalfont St Peter, set in seven acres and high on inclusivity.

WHAT? WHERE?

Thorpe House School is a boy’s day school in Gerrards Cross, South Buckinghamshire, for 330 children from 4-16 years. The school was founded in 1923, and boasts former Poet Laureate, John Betjeman, as a former Cricket Master (he failed his Oxford University divinity exams and came to teach here for the year).

Set in 5 compact acres on a road lined with expensive houses in this most rarified of South Bucks neighbourhoods, the Senior School at Thorpe House (Y6-9) looks more like a banker’s mock-Tudor house than a school if you ignore the separate traditional-looking Junior School (Y1-5) to its right. Whichever building your eyes settle on I doubt you’ll be sending your child to Thorpe House School on the basis of its aesthetics (though internally it’s much improved) – more likely that the exam results, small class sizes averaging 12-15 and the highly driven head teacher will swing it.

FACILITIES

There’s been a flurry of investment in Thorpe House school over the last two years – around £3 million in fact –  with 2020 the recipient of a brand new multi-purpose hall (basketball, trampolining, futsal, indoor cricket nets and badminton were added to sporting programme, pre-Covid) along with changing rooms, and three shiny extra classrooms. Last year also saw in a new Junior Physics lab, a Lower School library, a black box theatre space in the Lower School, and in the Senior School an extended DT classroom and workshop. The bright reception area, a huge improvement on its dingy, cramped predecessor that was an affront to feng shui; a spruce up and paint job on the play area. Even the dining room has had an overhaul.

There’s a covered swimming pool adjacent to the site, plus a seven acre playing field site two minutes drive away (the school minibuses take the kids down to the field) with four full sized pitches, a hard tennis court and a large pavilion for changing and after match entertainment.

MUSIC

Music wise, there are the usual peri-teachers, plus prep and senior choirs and various ensembles. No full school orchestra which is a shame, but on the plus side there is a rock band so, you know, swings and roundabouts. The current head is an ex chorister and passionate about music, but with Covid it’s been a difficult year to encourage music provision, so I’ll report back more on how this develops as 2021 progresses.

LOCKDOWN LEARNING

Thorpe House has maintained a comprehensive online teaching programme during lockdown, utilising AI platforms such as Century Tech, as well as focusing on giving boys time away from screens. The school has also continued its programme of investment to enhance facilities in the students’ absence including a new classroom block, design and tech classrooms, physics lab, library for the lower school, plus improvements to the sports hall, dining hall and the refurbishment of an old school hall into a black box theatre.

THE HEAD

Nicholas Pietrek started in Sept 2019, coming from independent Birkdale School (pre-prep through to sixth form) in Sheffield, where he was Acting Head. He’s a calm, gently-spoken character with a penchant for neat suits and an eye for detail – to have powered through the number of improvements he’s made in just over a year is quite phenomenal, and word is clearly getting out, with numbers at the school are increasing.

Pietrek, it’s clear, has high ambitions for Thorpe House School – he has already trimmed down the numbers of GSCEs to 9 so that boys can concentrate on quality and grades, moved Y6 children into the ‘Senior’ School as he’s (rightly in my opinion) clocked that Y6 for many children in the grammar school system is a ‘lost’ year in the top year of primary school, where nothing happens. Better to integrate them with the bigger boys, and give them a secondary school experience with proper expectations. Next up is, he hopes, the introduction of A levels in 2023, making Thorpe House the only through boys’ school in Buckinghamshire from 4-18 years.

ACADEMIC RESULTS 

There is a much higher emphasis on academic success under Pietrek – 2020 saw the second highest ever GSCE results with 38% of all grades 7-9 (the national average is 26%). The children now take one hour lessons, with less moving around time necessary and more focus, an extra 30 mins of teaching time has been added to the day – but also an extra hour of sport has been added to the curriculum, and homework has been kept to a minimum of 15 minutes consolidation of the lesson that day with an eye to not overloading the children and allowing them to unwind at home. Also added to the curriculum is Mandarin, First Aid and Cooking.

QUIRKS

Former quirky features like the horrific lime green office chairs of Pietrek’s predecessor and the teeny tiny dining room previously used by The Borrowers are long gone. The nearest you get to quirky here is the school uniform – almost indecently natty with its stylish, sharp collared  blazers.

FEES

Average prices for Reception to Y6, and then moving to very good value for Y7 – 11, no doubt based on the small acreage on site. ,A stepping scale starting at £3,940 for reception, £4140 for Years 1-2, £5150 for Years 3-6, then £6035 for Years 7 – 11.

WRAP AROUND CARE

I write this in the third lockdown so we’re all currently wrapped around each other at home, but in ‘normal’ times you can leave kids for Breakfast Club from 7.30am (for boys aged 5+) for a charge of £3/ day or £2/ day depending on whether they are having breakfast or just being supervised. At 8am the school gates open and boys can come into school and play in the playground under the supervision of Thorpe House’s gap year student.

There are after school clubs or supervised prep sessions for boys in Y3 upwards, plus a separate after school club for Seniors from 5-6pm. Basically, the safety net is there for those, like me, who are habitually running late or have to juggle work, school and home life and drop more balls than you keep in the air.

WORD ON THE GROUND

Nurturing and friendly are the words I keep hearing about this school. The head master has made a good impression during his short tenure. All parents agree that Thorpe House’s appearance (even with the improvements) is not one of beauty but this is largely shrugged off –  they are keen on the central location and its through-education from Reception to GCSE. Local fingers appear to be crossed for A levels to be added to the mix.

THE MUDDY VERDICT

Good for:  Those who prefer to be a big fish in a small pond – the teachers pride themselves of knowing every child individually, and creating a supportive, friendly environment that would benefit kids who need a confidence boost. I felt the teachers were very caring and interested in the children. The head teacher’s own children attend the school which is always a good sign!

Not for: Really big personalities. Some kids just need more physical and mental elbow room than Thorpe House School provides. The size of the school means that all kids get a chance to join in school teams, but the super-competitive may find that kind of inclusivity frustrating. That said, there’s a new confident edge to Thorpe House School that may persuade waverers.

Dare to disagree?! Check out the virtual open day video here, or explore the school virtually from the skies. Their next virtual open day is Sat 8 May, 10am – 1pm.

Thorpe House School, Oval Way, Gerrards Cross, Bucks, SL9 8QA. Tel: 01753 882474.

11 comments on “Thorpe House School, Gerrards Cross”

  • Anna March 31, 2018

    My son is in thorpe pre prep and it’s exacltly how you have described it. Everything is tailored on the single boy and you really have the impression to be in a big family. There is also the surplus of the forest school that boys love. I haven’t got enough words to recommend it!

    Reply
    • muddystiletto March 31, 2018

      Thanks for your feedback! And very pleased your son is happy there. Kindest, Hero

      Reply
  • Andrea June 18, 2018

    Couldn’t agree more with your review. Thorpe House has been wonderful for our eldest son who is quite shy and quiet. He has come out of his shell, gained confidence and achieved excellent exam results. We have been so impressed we moved his younger brother to Thorpe as well at Easter and he loves it too. The teachers are very caring and get to know the boys really well. Cannot recommend this school enough.

    Reply
  • E. Narshall July 7, 2018

    Much as we love him not an Essex boy born in Homerton and grew up to n Walthamstow only went to school in Essex xx

    Reply
    • muddystiletto October 9, 2018

      I stand corrected! x

      Reply
  • Pamela Connor January 22, 2019

    The school is in Gerrards Cross, bordering on Chalfont St Peter. It certainly is not in Chalfont St Giles which is about three miles away.

    Reply
    • muddystiletto January 22, 2019

      Six Chalfont St Peter’s and one St Giles slipped in. Glad you spotted it, thank you! Have now amended. Hero x

      Reply
  • Simon March 26, 2019

    Glad to see they finally covered the swimming pool – I still have terrible memories of freezing in winter whilst getting changed in the outside changing rooms. We also used to walk to the playing fields. They must have gone soft….

    Reply
    • muddystiletto March 26, 2019

      Feeling chilly just reading your comment! X

      Reply
  • Jai September 25, 2019

    My son started in September, and I decided to send him there after reading your review! He is super happy there and comes home twice a week with mud all over his uniform from the forest school with big smiles. They make their own porridge outdoors and climb trees! It is every boys dream.

    The head of prep is is an absolute asset to the school. She has a strong vision for the lower school, visits the children before they join and knows all the boys by name. The nursery teachers are amazing; my son comes home everyday shouting, “you won’t believe what we did today!”

    Reply
    • muddystiletto September 25, 2019

      OMG I’m so pleased! Thanks for letting me know and I’m so pleased your son is enjoying himself. x

      Reply

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