Sompting Abbotts successfully blends traditional values with the excitement of embracing the modern age. At heart it remains a place of family values. Teachers and support staff are long-serving and extremely loyal to this family-owned prep school. Several teachers including headmaster Stuart Douch are former pupils, pleased to return and work in a place where happy memories were formed in their youth.
“The school’s ethos is about giving children hope for their future,” said Mr Douch. “We give them the best care and the best education. It’s like an extended family here and the children really benefit from that. The modern world is waiting for them and they need to be prepared, but at the same time we let them enjoy their childhood and be children for as long as possible.”
School takes its name from Sompting House, the striking Victorian manor it calls home, from which it enjoys stunning views across Sussex to the sea. The long-established school was closed briefly in 1942 when the Headmaster of the time died. The Sinclair family revived Sompting Abbotts after the War and successive generations have helped guide its course ever since. The Principal, Patricia Sinclair, oversees pastoral care and knows every child by name. Her sons have also played key roles in the school – David Sinclair is a Director and Bursar and his brother Timothy was Headmaster until his untimely death last year.
Pre-prep is based in the ‘Old Stables’ and enjoys its own walled garden and adventure playground, giving younger pupils a sense of safety and security. It has self-contained facilities but pupils enjoy the benefits of the main school’s ICT suite as well as sharing lunch with their teachers in the beautiful dining room each day. Specialist teachers are introduced in Year 2 for Art, French, Music, PE and Religious Studies.
Nursery children feel part of the school from day one, wearing miniature versions of their elders’ uniform and donning matching red track suits for outdoor play.
Children have the chance to learn an instrument from the age of three and gaining music scholarships is a great strength and source of pride at Sompting Abbotts. Informal lunch and tea time performances are given on a regular basis, culminating in an evening concert for parents at the end of the Summer Term. A large drama production is staged each year and older pupils help create costumes in their well-equipped art room. Examples of the children’s artwork are displayed throughout the school.
The Science teacher inspires pupils enormously. She has introduced Science Week during Spring Term which is very popular. She also devises science based competitions and puzzles for the children and organises both scientific and outreach visits throughout the academic year. Every year, using PowerPoint, her Form presents a week of assemblies featuring inventions which they feel have had a particular impact on life.Pupils take part each year in the Science Challenge held at nearby Lancing College.
Through school clubs, children can experience a range of extramural activities from ballet and gardening to cooking and nature. Older pupils can try their hand at shooting in the school’s own range and Mr Douch runs a debating club which has proved a great success.
“When their children move on to senior schools they say to us ‘it’s great, but it’s not Sompting’,” said one teacher, “there’s something about this place that’s hard to describe, but it’s wonderful.” Parents and staff comment on the strong sense of community and the personal touch given to every single pupil. “We all know each other’s qualities and foibles. We know the children inside out, we know them at their best and at their low points. You can prepare a lesson plan with a particular child in mind,” said one teacher, “that strong relationship between us and the children means we can work to make sure every single one achieves their full potential.”
The countryside location is well exploited, offering large fields for the wide-ranging number of sports taught at the school. Woodland is used for cross country running and pupils head out into the trees to climb and play games at break times. Making use of the ‘outdoor classroom’ provides engaging environment for lessons. Heated swimming pool is used whenever the weather allows.
“Our children are achieving great things. They have fabulous grounds to play and learn in and they do well here.”
Former dormitories on the top floor have been converted into music rooms, study and library area for older pupils and quiet room for extra learning support. Mr Douch said staff are determined to give every child as much individual support as they need throughout school, but particularly in the run-up to exams. “Our children are achieving great things. They have fabulous grounds to play and learn in and they do well here. Parents choose us because of that.”
Victorian building, furniture and portraits are contrasted by the use of Smartboards. Mr Douch said: “We are traditional but we’re determined to be a school that is up to date with every kind of modern teaching technique. It’s not about chalk and talk, but about inspiring children and using the latest technology. Our children start using the ICT suite early on, learning how to be safe online. They learn about cyber bullying and safeguards on the internet. We encourage children to love books but know they’ll also use their Kindle. We’ll soon be bringing in iPads. You have to embrace all of these elements.”
There’s no doubt children at Sompting Abbotts work hard and excel academically. But it’s comforting to know that when past pupils look back, things remembered most clearly are their happy days at Sompting Abbotts – and climbing trees!