Lower School

Nursery to year 4

True education begins long before exams are even on the horizon: the way we are taught in our early years has a huge influence on our long-term love of learning and the person we will eventually become.

Instead of hot-housing, we give children the most precious thing of all – time. It’s only by having time to explore new concepts that a child is able to ask the questions that might not have occurred to anyone else, to make connections to their past experiences, and to become fully immersed in a subject.

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Our creative early years curriculum sees classes choosing a new topic every term or half term, with everything they learn during that time linking to the theme as much as possible. This makes learning far more meaningful for the children and, because they are involved in investigating the topic and have a say in what they will study, they become active rather than passive learners.

Some of the most valuable learning in these early years happens outside the classroom and we aim to provide as many opportunities as we can for children to explore the world. With this in mind, each class goes on a fact-finding mission when a new topic is introduced: for example our reception class recently visited the Historic Dockyards in Portsmouth to kick off their ‘Pirates, Parrots and Pieces of Eight’ topic.

Teaching in the Lower School is predominantly by class teachers except for PE, art, music, ICT and languages, which are taught by specialists. There is no formal homework – just regular reading, spellings and times tables to learn – and although we assess children regularly, there are no formal exams. Our aim in the Lower School is to create a lively and vibrant environment which promotes an independence of spirit, a willingness to ‘have a go’ and a determination to succeed.

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All children in the Lower School also have lessons in our Forest School – a dynamic and ever-changing outdoor classroom where they learn science, maths and literacy skills without picking up a pen, as well as having lots of fun in the open air. They also go further afield, visiting the nearby New Forest to build dams and create shelters, scaling the dizzy heights of White Horse Hill at Westbury, and catching crabs in Mudeford.

The early years are an incredibly exciting time to learn: a time for children to extend their horizons, develop new skills and explore their talents, before the pressure of examinations comes into their lives. We believe that giving children the time and space to learn freely gives them the strongest possible foundation for the years of education that lie ahead.