“We love to learn here” – words of a bright and confident pupil as she proudly conducts a tour of Cottesmore School.
Academic achievement is at the heart of school life in this beautiful Victorian pile set in the West Sussex countryside, less than an hour from London.
The Prep School has a two-form entry, 35 children per year; the top two years are often split into three forms. The most popular exit school this year is Eton for the boys and Benenden for the girls; other leavers are going to Harrow, Downe House, Winchester, Marlborough and Wellington.
Emphasis is firmly placed on ensuring pupils are fulfilled and content, without worries to distract them from study and academic achievement.
This ethos has seen the Prep School thrive with excellent results; its children are well prepared to go on to the nation’s top public schools, an impressive number with scholarships.
Firm foundations laid by this committed and caring team give pupils all the tools they need to succeed and become the leaders of tomorrow.
At the centre of the school is third-generation Headmaster Tom Rogerson, whose father and grandfather took the helm before him, and wife Lottie. They live in the main school building with their two young children.
The key, the Head says, is encouraging each child to shine in their own unique way. ‘Quisque pro ingenio’ is Cottesmore’s unofficial motto: ‘Everyone has a talent’.
The Head says: “We achieve very sharp results and we get those great results through a multitude of activities. The children gain confidence through their achievements and apply that to their academic studies.”
Whether children excel in the sporting arena, on horseback, in a chess tournament or in choir, their successes are shared and celebrated by the whole school. Music is something close to the Head’s own heart – as evidenced by guitars standing ready in his office.
Staff interact easily with pupils, happy to engage with young enquiring minds as they enjoy mid-morning break together in the wood-panelled hall.
Children bubble with energy and show the same sparkling enthusiasm for a wide variety of subjects, be it drama, art, maths or Latin.
Extensive grounds provide ample space for sporting endeavours, with various pitches, shooting, tennis courts, and indoor heated swimming pool.
“I love to ride, we go to a neighbouring farm for lessons,” a pupil explains, adding that they also enjoy squash at a nearby Olympic-level training facility ‘K2’.
Colourful art rooms and corridors show paintings by talented students. Some of this work has won scholarships, and is an inspiration for budding artists.
Cottesmore’s chapel underpins the Christian ethos and values embraced by the school, giving firm moral and spiritual direction.
Kindness is a word that keeps coming up, from staff, pupils and on notice boards. This is a place where inter-personal skills are strengthened and life-long friendships are forged.
Enthusiastic teaching team includes many long-serving staff members whose love for Cottesmore is warmly shared. ‘I left to work somewhere else but I just missed the place too much,’ one says.
A clear anti-bullying message is also evident. ‘It is not tolerated at all,’ a pupil says confidently.
Also displayed on panelled walls are names and photos of past pupils. ‘That’s my uncle, he loves coming back to visit’, a bright-eyed student explains.
A visit to the library reveals children engaged in curriculum chess lessons, learning strategy and technique, aided by computer programmes.
IT is used to augment lessons, and solidify learning – the school use iPads, Chromebooks, Windows laptops and PCs. Coding is introduced early, and is a popular part of school for many of the pupils. The 3D printer is used to great effect, sparking imaginative projects. But traditional teaching and values remain strong – face-to-face learning is paramount and use of electronic devices is used to serve that human connection. Personal devices are only for trips and journeys, and while social media is taught, children are protected from its invasive qualities.
“Although Cottesmore is full of the latest technology, we don’t want the children to spend all their time on screens,” says the Head. “We want them to play, make joyful dynamic and strong social connections, enjoy the outdoors, think, talk and climb trees.”
Snooker and table tennis provide indoor entertainment, and movie nights are always a favourite.
Whole school goes home for a weekend each fortnight, giving hard-working pupils a break.
On the other weekends a wide range of optional activities are offered with days out ranging from skiing, archery and laser quest to ice skating and theme parks.
Cottesmore has all the right ingredients to nourish a child’s curiosity and intellect, and set them on the path to success.