Nestled between the sea and the Downs, in the smart Meads area of Eastbourne, St Andrew’s Prep enjoys its unique position and all the advantages that this brings. On the day of my visit the sun was shining beautifully and I reflected on another of the advantages of being here – this town is officially the sunniest place in Britain! I was soon to learn how much the children benefit from being in this coastal location as my first meeting was with Headmaster Mr Gareth Jones, who outlined the nature of the school he leads. Over the last three years in post, he has ensured a more inclusive approach to the children’s participation in all that is on offer, and encourages all of them to ‘have a go’ at anything new from all the possibilities available both on and off the curriculum here. And this has been thoroughly welcomed by parents. He also reminded me that St Andrew’s now works closely with Eastbourne College, having amalgamated their respective charities in 2010. This now ensures that the most effective use of resources can be applied to both schools, and that although independent of each other, both Headmasters encourage the same values and ethos.
I then went on to spend the remainder of the morning with Catherina Ashford, the Registrar here, and we toured the facilities on the campus as I learnt about the many aspects of an education at St Andrew’s. The school is non-selective, but it does ensure that a child’s needs will be met before offering a place. Some scholarships (Yrs 3-7) are available for outstanding potential in art, drama, music or sport. The day can be long for day pupils, with many using the comprehensive minibus service to and from school, but there is no Saturday school – instead a popular programme of activities is offered. A healthy sized boarding community enjoys very comfortable facilities at the heart of the school with any option catered for from full time to occasional overnight ‘sleepovers’.
The facilities offered here include the traditional sports hall, swimming pool, pitches, netball/tennis courts all on site, as well as a much valued dance studio and a shooting range. St Andrew’s also has a Fives court (and continues to teach the game) and makes daily use of Eastbourne College’s astro pitches just up the road. In keeping with the environment, the Pre-Prep enjoy Forest school, and the juniors a regular ‘Beach school’. There is also excellent provision for art, music and drama across the school. Performing Arts is a growing strength here, and every opportunity is offered for participation. Indeed, preparations were being made for a production of The Little Mermaid at the time of my visit, which all looked very exciting. Sport is strong, but inclusive, and worthy of particular note is the current strength and popularity of table tennis where St Andrew’s has won a run of competitions recently. The school has a beautiful chapel which holds a range of weekly services, and the occasional local community event. Pastoral care is highly regarded and positive relationships for the children with all adults are encouraged, with a tutor system designed to link school with home life. Regular ‘Mind Matters’ sessions are held in class, and a ‘listening lounge’ is available for children with any worries or concerns.
All children are well supported to achieve their full potential academically. Enrichment programmes are put in place for the more able, and individual help is scheduled where required, including English for international students. A new initiative, about to be launched by the Headmaster (developed and very well received with senior schools), is a ‘Bridge Curriculum’ for Years 7 and 8 to offer more academic focus now that there is less reliance on the Common Entrance exam for selection to senior schools (more testing and selection now undertaken in Years 5 and 6). 37 scholarships (of all disciplines) were attained by leavers in 2018 to a variety of senior schools. A number do go on to Eastbourne College, but several join other local independent schools too. Gordonstoun, Millfield and Harrow have been the more distant in recent years.
This school is undoubtedly thriving, and has a very happy community of parents in strong support. The fully inclusive, all round offering here is much valued, ensuring that all children leave well prepared for the challenges of the next stage in their lives. March 2019