Visit to Dulwich Prep, Cranbrook
Not far down the lane out of Cranbrook, I turned into the main entrance of Dulwich Prep on a bright and sunny November afternoon. Following the driveway across the site, I was struck by the extremely neat, well signed approach and the immaculately kept playing fields and facilities surrounding me – enhanced by the beautiful weather I had been blessed with for my visit. Once in the reception area I met with Georgie Labram, the new registrar, who by chance knows us and our business well, so was keen to forge a relationship which would be beneficial to us both. Our initial chat renewed our acquaintance before we then toured the school, discussing what the school has to offer in every way as we went along.
There is no doubt that this school has superb facilities. The impressive John Leakey Hall was the first port of call, home to assemblies and many drama productions, followed by the magnificent new dining hall, with a light filled reception area used for special occasions. The school is divided into 3: junior, middle and senior departments – Nash House, Little Stream and Upper School. All are beautifully presented and offer every facility, and the transition from each to the next comes with a greater sense of responsibility and ‘growing up’ for the children. A nice touch are the ‘coffee hatches’ in strategic positions where coffee mornings are available for parents at drop off time, allowing them to interact and keep in touch. There are also allocated ‘Place2Be’ spaces giving opportunities for chats if a child feels unhappy, lonely or is dwelling on a problem. A welcome and very successful initiative by all accounts. Academics are strong here, and all aspects of learning support are catered for either in small groups or individually. The curriculum is broad, and languages are on the up. Latin and Spanish are available in senior years and French is taught from Year 1. IT is well integrated and students in Years 7 and 8 carry a personal iPad to aid their studies. Individual tutors are also allocated at this senior level. Also excellent is the library which is managed by a full time librarian.
Inclusivity extends to the games field as well, with excellent results. From Year 3, all children play in matches and many teams are fielded to accommodate this. Alternatives beyond the traditional are also offered, and there is specialist coaching in some areas. There are 2 swimming pools – both outdoor, but heated –one for the sole use of Little Stream. Drama, Music and Art are well embedded into school life, with the latter particularly noteworthy. Scholarships are achieved in all areas. A wilderness wood offers ample opportunities for outdoor learning (camping is popular here) and there are several dedicated, purpose built play areas in the extensive 50 acres of grounds.
The school day formally ends at 4.00pm, with options available after this at extra daily rates. Day care before and after school is offered, including breakfast club, supervised prep, late activities and tea. Boarding is available weekly or flexi, charged nightly, and is particularly popular before departing for senior schools. Facilities in boys and girls boarding areas are welcoming and cosy with dedicated staff. There is no Saturday school, but there are Saturday matches on a regular basis. Morning minibus routes are well used covering 3 local areas, but evening pick up is too varied for this option to be practical.
Roughly 25% of children leave Dulwich Prep for local grammar schools, and with Cranbrook (and others) now taking 11+ students, this could well increase. However, the school is up for the challenge of a more slimline top echelon, with maybe a ‘fatter’ middle school. Local independent schools remain popular and success rates for entry across the board are excellent, with an average of 27 scholarships achieved in all disciplines over the last 5 years – including top scholarships to Tonbridge and Benenden.
With all these achievements, and the impressive facilities clear to see, this school certainly seems deserving of its well earned excellent reputation locally.