THE sense of joy and ‘being somewhere special’ embraces you at Pennthorpe.
Happy students, encouraged to be innovative and to explore, are absorbed in their lessons, appreciative of the opportunities this Rudgwick co-ed prep school offers.
Belonging to a community lies at its heart – pupils, staff and parents are key elements in the Pennthorpe family. Friendship, kindness and consideration of others are values that prevail in line with the school’s motto Non Nobis Solum Nati (“Born not for ourselves alone”).
“There is a wonderful sense of joy, purpose and fun at Pennthorpe yet our children are pushed and challenged here; they have high expectations for how they are meant to be as a Pennthorpe pupil,” explained Headmaster Neil Jones. “It is that sense of joy and purpose, which go hand in hand, that enables us to achieve exceptional outcomes.
“Pennthorpe is a school with a rich legacy. Former pupils love returning and speak with enthusiasm and passion about their time here, the happy memories they have and the friendships they made.”
Whilst from the outside Pennthorpe appears to occupy a small, village location, the school has a fabulous 15 acres of outdoor space available to pupils. A footpath leads to the sports pitches – a vast green open space with picturesque rural views, complete with cricket pavilion and netball and tennis courts. A unique, larger-than- life-sized carved wizard casts his spell over climbing frames, an amazing tree house and sports facilities that sit next to the school’s own mature woodland, used extensively for both learning and play. This tranquil, calming space is a hidden gem.
Pennthorpe has its origins in South East London in 1930 and moved to its current site in 1948. Mr Jones is only the sixth head, testament to the school’s stability and wonderful atmosphere and ethos.
Pennthorpe currently has 265 pupils aged from two to 13. The old house remains at the heart of the school, complete with a chapel overlooked by the school’s patron St Francis, yet nearly all teaching takes place in modern additions; wonderful spaces in which to learn.
Honeypot Nursery, for two to three year olds, is housed in its own building with large playroom, quiet room and secure outside play area. Beehive is for three to four year olds and is contained within the purpose built Lower School. It has spacious, well-designed rooms and its own adjacent playground. Both Honeypot and Beehive regularly use the woods and outside space.
Reception, year 1 and 2 classes are housed within the Lower School also and specialist teachers enhance learning in French, music, performing arts and PE. Across the way in The Clock Block, years 3 and 4 begin to move around from their classroom base, developing more independence in preparation for Upper School. Here subject specialists, in inspiring subject specific classrooms, teach children in years 5 to 8. Here the challenges of taking responsibility for oneself begins in earnest, in preparation for life beyond Pennthorpe.
All children at Pennthorpe benefit from the Art and Design centre, computing facilities, a fabulous science lab, a huge sports hall with indoor climbing wall, and a dedicated performing arts studio and music rooms. They also enjoy home cooked hot lunches every day.
Charming, polite and, most importantly, happy pupils greet you throughout the school. Year 8 pupil Sam spoke eloquently of his affection for Pennthorpe: “I love the feeling of community throughout the school and how everyone bonds together with everyone. The friendships I have formed here are special.”
He also spoke of the breadth of opportunities available: “Be it music, sport or academic, there are lots of opportunities to do new things.” A sentiment shared by Tiggy: “We get to do amazing things, like use the woods at break, or try new hobbies that we might not have considered. I have helped in the reception classes and this term we are developing our team work, leadership and community skills in TLC sessions.”
Whilst pupils excel academically, the arts, music and sport are just as important. Sport, including rugby, football, netball, hockey and rounders, is played by all. Music features strongly, with more than 100 pupils learning a musical instrument. The tenor horn is currently being learned by all of year 3. Everyone is given an opportunity to shine and feel valued.
“We embrace the range of abilities and range of personalities and characters that make up a school community,” said Mr Jones. “Diversity is what life is about and we welcome that. Our support for learning is exceptional and it is testament to our approach that around 50 per cent of our pupils gain scholarships at 13+ each year.”
When Pennthorpe pupils leave they are well prepared, emotionally and academically, for what lies ahead at much larger schools.
The last word has to go to Sam who summed up Pennthorpe perfectly: “I do not think there is another school like this. It is one of a kind.”