Early on a fresh, but bright, November Friday morning, I arrived at the front entrance to Marlborough House and manoeuvred my car into the very efficiently reserved parking slot waiting for me. Once into the main building through the front door I was greeted warmly by the reception staff and escorted into the inner hall to be introduced to the Registrar Mrs Fiona Wooley. The opening half hour of my visit was to be with the Headmaster, Martyn Ward, so Fiona took me to meet him. Martyn has been at the school now for 3 years, and his 2 daughters are at the school. We chatted for more than our allotted time over coffee in his study and it became very clear that this medium sized country Prep School knows its children, parents and families well, and that this is the key to its success. It is certainly a very popular choice in the area and there are often waiting lists.
Fiona returned to take me on my comprehensive tour of the school. Nothing was too much trouble, and she readily answered my questions and more. Starting in the Pre Prep, followed by the Nursery, I was already impressed by the warmth and welcome of the staff and they chatted, clearly very proud of their school, as opportunities arose. A popular toddler morning was underway during my visit, encouraging young families from an early age and this was clearly a winner in the local area. Moving on, the main classrooms of the Prep school are divided geographically into buildings for the Junior, Middle and Senior parts of the school adding a sense of security and belonging at each stage. Other facilities including the Sports Hall, Music and Art departments, ‘family style’ Dining room and Chapel are all close to the centre of the school. The Library is particularly impressive and well used. There is a Christian ethos here, with both formal and informal chapel services held, but the school remains non-denominational. There is also a strong sense of ‘valuing self and others’ put across to the children and they visibly practise this in their behaviour.
In 34 acres of grounds, all traditional sports and more are catered for. All children have the opportunity to represent their school and sport is taught by specialist coaches. Many clubs and activities are also offered and music, drama and art are all of a high standard. Boarding is a popular ‘club’ and this is offered on a flexi arrangement to those over 8 years old. Only around 20 might be boarding on any one night (Monday to Thursday – no Saturday school) and most will try before boarding at a senior school. Facilities are homely and fun activities are on offer.
There is formal Forest School learning from Nursery to Year 5, conducted by fully accredited leaders, of which the school is notably proud. This is very popular and provides a wonderfully magical place to learn and build life skills for the future. A welcoming doorway at the edge of the playing fields marks the entrance. SEN provision is all inclusive, meeting a variety of needs mostly in groups. But the door is always open for those who want a chat. The school curriculum prepares for both the Common Entrance and 11Plus, with quite a few children heading for Cranbrook down the road, or Tunbridge Wells grammar schools. For others the local Public Schools are usually their destination – Eastbourne, King’s Canterbury, Benenden and Tonbridge are popular – although Eton, Harrow and Winchester have been joined in recent years. The school has an impressive scholarship record across all disciplines to many of these schools.
In short, Marlborough House is strong on whole community, very parent-friendly and all inclusive, and every child soon embraces the values of the school and its caring ethos, and wants to achieve and succeed.