Great Walstead - Educating pupils to believe in themselves

Great WalsteadProud of its Christian foundations, Great Walstead School mixes high academic expectation with spiritual development.

Remains true to the ethos of founder RJ Mowll, who relocated it in 1927 to 260 acres of stunning countryside close to Lindfield and Haywards Heath.

Now a co-educational school, half of its Year 8 pupils leave on a scholarship, so it must have found the right recipe. Rolls of honour show scholarship pupils have headed off to a diverse range of independent schools, including many of its Sussex neighbours as well as Eton and Charterhouse.

Chris Calvey is an infectiously positive headmaster who strives for continuing improvement in all areas. “We must never never stand still, we are always moving forward,” he says. “We are proud of our scholarships. We work closely with our pupils to ensure they go to the school of their choice.”

This character of Great Walstead permeates its pupils, emphasising the value of manners, responsibility, kindness and compassion. Older students support the younger ones, who look up to and admire their peer mentors. Parents and staff work in close partnership.

“If our children are happy, they will succeed,” adds Mr Calvey. “We aim to give them the best mental and spiritual start in life.”

Chris Calvey

“If our children are happy, they will succeed,” adds Mr Calvey. “We aim to give them the best mental and spiritual start in life.”

Original buildings have been joined by additional facilities, creating a gentle flow of its 420 children from the nursery into pre-prep, and guiding them into the prep, middle and senior areas.

Light and airy atrium filled with plants lies at the centre, with birds nesting high in the eaves. The chapel is the focus of morning gatherings and group music lessons, and a warren of lively practice rooms house specialist teachers nurturing talents in a wide range of musical forms. Music scholarships are common.

School traditions are the source of much excitement. A lesson about the Great Fire of London culminates with a real fire (safely executed outside!) in which pupils watch their recreated city go up in flames.

Countryside setting

Good use is made of the scenic surroundings, as a Forest School, and with lakes and the river used in lessons and for sports including kayaking. Gardens offer pupils a chance to tend their own allotments. Tenant farmers work parts of the land and are also involved with school life, visiting classes with their tractors and harvesters. Many staff also live in the grounds with their families and pupils and parents are welcome to use the woods at weekends.

‘Q Day’ is legendary among the school’s community. Children from years 3-8 spend time camp-building in the woods in preparation for the big event which includes day and night activities and a sleep-over in pupils’ own camps – regardless of the weather conditions. “It’s up to you to make it strong and waterproof,” a Year 8 boy told me. “If it’s not, you’ll be getting wet!”

That this activity is prized above all others tells you a lot about the school. The idea that children are allowed to be children for longer rings true. Love of the outdoors is instilled with the same levels of passion as is evident in the classroom subjects.

Mr Calvey describes himself as the ‘lead learner’, and says he is still learning something new and fascinating every day.

Classes are small and supportive, with differentiated learning geared to the level of the individual. Additional educational needs are well catered for, including through the gifted and talented enrichment programme developed to provide extra stimulus to challenge pupils.

Sports teams and clubs compete at a high level, including in swimming – the school enjoys its own indoor pool.

National champions have been groomed in the chess club, and a new electronics club is proving a popular addition.

Fieldwork and school trips are an important part of school life, taking in historic sites in the Sussex area like Lewes Castle and Newhaven Fort. Further afield, there’s a trip to Wales and an annual visit to a chateaux in France where pupils are only allowed to converse in the native tongue.

Healthy minds and healthy bodies go hand in hand, and the high quality of the school’s food is frequently praised by staff, children and visitors. A wide range of tasty meals are prepared by the school’s long-serving chef, and kitchen staff keep an eye on pupils to ensure they are opting for a balanced weekly diet.

Working parents are well supported by Great Walstead School’s wrap around care. Flexible boarding during the week gives pupils a chance to stay at school overnight if their parents are away, if they attend an after-school club or just for fun at one of the popular Friday sleepover events.

The Keep also offers support for working parents, providing breakfast and after-school care from 7.45am to 6pm, including during school holidays.

The sense that this is a close and caring community is palpable. By the time they leave Great Walstead, Pupils are well equipped to take the next step on their journey through life.

Note from the Head

Great Walstead is an independent prep school for girls and boys from 2 ½ to 13 years of age, set in more than 260 acres of wonderful Sussex countryside close to the village of Lindfield, and within easy reach of the commuting town of Haywards Heath (40 mins to Victoria and London Bridge stations). Our School enjoys a 100% success rate for Year 8 leavers gaining entry into their preferred Senior School.

At Great Walstead it is as much about the journey as it is the outcome! For many years now 100% of our Year 8 Leavers have gained a place at the Senior School of their choice - many with scholarships and awards (a record 37 this year). However, it is the care and experiences they receive along the way that truly shape their future. A school with an outdoor learning ethos, we like to say that all our children engage in a good measure of love and mud. Our Christian foundations and core values guide our methodology which emboldens children to be tolerant, to demonstrate genuine empathy towards others, understand different opinions and respond in a thoughtful and caring way.

We reward children who are risk-takers, who show resilience and determination, and those who demonstrate that most important behaviour, curiosity. These qualities are seen in abundance in younger children - you only have to watch five year olds at play to see that they are naturally inquisitive about everything around them. Thereafter, it becomes increasingly important to lessen the 'fear of failure' phenomenon that often flourishes (if not kept in check) as children grow older, ensuring that they feel comfortable about putting forward their opinions and ideas, in an environment where mistakes are viewed as just one more step to success.

As we all know, learning is a lifelong process. Bestowing a genuine love of learning on our girls and boys (and the entire community) we feel that we are preparing them for a world that is dynamic and increasingly competitive.

If Great Walstead is the school for your family, then please do come and see us in action, attend an Open Day or call 01444 483528 and ask to speak with our Registrar, who will be more than happy to arrange a suitable time for you to take a private tour.

I look forward to welcoming you to our school.

Chris Calvey BEd (Oxon)


"Great Walstead school allows me to be the person I want to be. I have fantastic opportunities in sport, music, drama and art, as well as excellent teachers to help me academically. I am really going miss Great Walstead when I move onto senior school."
Current Year 8 pupil.

"Working at Great Walstead is a real privilege. It is such a unique school. Both the pupils and staff have so many amazing opportunities. For example taking the children out of the classroom and into our beautiful grounds allows me to really bring learning to life, something the pupils respond so well to."
Miss Bridges Year 5 Teacher.

"As a parent we couldn’t ask for more. Knowing our children are being so well cared for in a secure and caring enviornment, with dedicated staff who have a real passion for education. It really is the most wonderful school."
Mr Greg Lindfield.

School details

Address: East Mascalls Lane Lindfield, West Sussex RH16 2QL
Phone: 01444 483528
Head: Chris Calvey
Founded: 1927
Pupils: 433, Girls: 166, Boys: 267
Ages: 2 1/2 -13
Prospectus: Request a Prospectus