Visit to Brambletye, East Grinstead
Our team has paid two visits to Brambletye within the last year, and my visit recently was the second of these as I was personally keen to catch up on the latest developments and initiatives to be driven by the new Headmaster Will Brooks and his wife Amelia. With my own children having been pupils here until only 6 years ago, I have an inherent fondness for the place, but had the school retained the ethos and atmosphere that I recalled?
I swing through the familiar gates of the school and follow the drive down past the top pitches and Pre-Prep department to the main entrance of the school, in the old gothic style house. I am then shown through the panelled entrance hall to the now very welcoming ‘Walnut’ room, with its outlook over the terrace and beyond, and comfortable seating . A moment or two later Amelia appears, offering me coffee, and we chat through the latest Brambletye news and developments. Living in the grounds of the school, and having 3 children here, the Brooks have swiftly cottoned on to the desires of the high achieving and more modern parent base. They have introduced a number of ideas and changes to the school in their first year of incumbency, and numbers have increased, but none of this appears to have detracted from the fundamental character of Brambletye with its deep rooted family ethos. This has always extended across the whole school community and been widely and keenly felt by all, with decent personal values highly regarded.
Brambletye is beautifully situated in 140 acres, with magnificent views, and here the traditional sporting calendar is catered for well. Golf and 2 squash courts are also present, and a splendid sports hall includes a shooting gallery, fencing track and climbing wall. An assault course, zip wire, space net and large wendy house, with swing seat beneath, can also be enjoyed in the grounds. The Art, Music and Drama departments offer even more wonderful opportunities for children to fulfil their potential, with inspirational art courses, plentiful music groups and concerts, and all inclusive drama performances – notably the highly anticipated, and incredibly professional, Musical production put on every other year. ‘Oliver!’ and ‘South Pacific’ in recent years and ‘Guys and Dolls’ to come in 2017.
Boarding in the last couple of years has always been encouraged as children prepare for life at their senior schools. But there are now more flexible arrangements available across the school, and more opportunities to spend time with family at weekends. These arrangements have been welcomed by parents. Chapel has now also been moved to Saturday mornings, and boarders may stay at home on Sunday nights too if they wish. Many new activities are also now on offer at Brambletye – open to both day and boarding pupils – and recent additions are horse riding, sailing, clay pigeon shooting and ballroom dancing.
A wide spectrum of abilities is catered for in the classroom. The majority of children move up from the impressive Pre-Prep and Nursery department, but those joining later have a brief and informal preliminary assessment for suitability. If it is felt a child would really not be happy at the school, further discussions are held. Good learning support is offered throughout the school and end results from Brambletye are impressive with a high number of scholarships achieved in all disciplines. Leavers head for a wide range of prestigious senior schools locally and nationwide.
In short Brambletye remains a prime traditional country Prep School with boundless opportunities, yet there is no doubt that it has its eyes firmly to the future and the modern world that it prepares its children for. Most importantly, it was clear from my visit, and the warmth of welcome from both children and staff, that the truly family ethos continues to support all its endeavours. Oh, and they remain fiercely proud of their Pink colours!