Quinton House School, Northampton
A forward-thinking close-knit, co-ed day school for ages 3-18, in a Grade I listed, 31 acre setting.
A non-academically selective, mixed day school for 3-18 year olds, set in 31 acres of beautiful grounds, Quinton House School is tucked away at the semi-rural edges of Northampton and is a short hop to the M1 motorway J16. Pupils mainly come from Northampton and nearby villages with some also making the journey in from Bucks and Warks, with 420 pupils attending across all year groups, so it’s a small and close-knit school community.
Certainly one of the oldest school buildings I’ve explored, with some parts dating back as far as the 1200s, Quinton is all gorgeously harmonious frontage and tree-lined approach but, tellingly, it was converted from a family house to a school in 1946 and there remains an air of relaxed charm – you get the impression that the children and staff are now the residing family here. High ceilings and large windows lend the main building a bright and uplifting air. There’s a young (ish) and enthusiastic staff cohort too, with plenty of ideas and energy. Class sizes are pretty small at around 18.
Having become part of the Cognita Schools group in 2004, 2008 saw the opening of an impressive new purpose built sports hall (kudos for the 2-storey height climbing wall, you don’t see too many of those), which also houses a drama studio and further classrooms, plus there’s an astro pitch and tennis courts outside. Because of the school’s Grade 1 listing, making dramatic changes to the grounds is a big no no, so there’s a limit to the number of sports pitches here. This being the case, the kids often head to nearby Bugbrooke to use the Rugby Club pitches for football and rugby.
Did your school have it’s own ballroom? Didn’t think so. But this one does. Think portraits adorning the walls, beautiful tiled fireplaces and ornate plasterwork. It’s currently being used as a music room but will be transformed into a library over the 2022 summer break, with the music dept heading to a different space within the building. There’s also a well-equipped drama studio here, with drama also offered at A-Level.
The dining room occupies a huge orangery, which has a lovely clean and open feel and I was impressed by the little touches around the school that help to embody the Quinton House ethos, in particular labelling the Prep School building as ‘The Home of Discovery’ and the sports facilities as ‘The Home of Team Spirit’, which seem to add a real sense of purpose. Whilst many of the teaching spaces are hundreds of years old, everything feels fresh, clean, well-cared-for and geared towards its intended purpose.
With a separate entrance to the Senior School, the Nursery, Reception and Prep are situated in the elegant former Coach House, a gorgeous and spacious setting with large, lofty rooms. Nursery takes children from rising 3s, with a gentle, homely approach and emphasis on social skills and emotional development. In addition to core early years subjects such as music and movement, constructive play, singing, gym activities and story time, children also take extra-curricular yoga, Tai Kwan Do and ballet. Modern languages, including French, German and Spanish, are part of the curriculum from Nursery.
There’s a woodland ‘classroom’ outside (also used by the Senior School), complete with a qualified Forest School Lead, as well as a play area, paddock and a veggie patch that the children can help tend. When I visited, I was rather taken with a little clutch of ducklings were being cared for by some of the Prep School children (don’t worry, they’ll be moved to a lovely pond when they’re big enough), and it’s these little touches that help bring to life that kind and caring Quinton outlook.
Following a short hiatus, Sixth Form at Quinton House has been back in action for two years and the 2022 leavers will be the first of the new wave to graduate with qualifications in 20 available subjects.
There are currently 64% boys to 36% girls in Sixth Form and a steep rise in students within the senior school over the years meant Sixth Form facilities needed to be redeveloped to accommodate the growth in demand of Sixth Form places, with that now complete, one of the big selling points for Quinton is undoubtedly the fantastic new facilities in the form of its own Sixth Form Village, a collection of studios (known internally as Pods) containing the study and teaching spaces as well as a common room. The idea of the Sixth Form Village is to give the older students their own space and an almost uni campus vibe, allowing them a taste of independence and responsibility.
There’s also an outside seating area, big raised flower beds dotted about and a street food van called the Food For Thought van, which caters specifically for the Sixth Formers – when I visited it was Waffle Wednesday but sadly I was whisked away before I had the chance to try one!
This year’s grads have offers from top unis including Imperial, Manchester, Durham and Liverpool, but being a non-selective school the emphasis here isn’t solely on getting into the top universities, so if your child isn’t leaning towards a purely academic higher education, they’ll have plenty of options here. One student, for example, is heading to the University of Worcester to study Cricket Management and Development.
With a non-academic entry and a determinedly non-hot house approach, you’ll find there’s a huge emphasis on individual care as well as experiential learning at Quinton House, meaning that children are encouraged and expected to acquire a holistic understanding around the wider contexts of their academic studies. A key example of this is the strong KS3 STEM curriculum, which is geared around bringing STEM to life, combining academic rigour with practical application in the ‘real’ world. Studying Motorsports and the Automotive Industry is a key methodology, which is hugely enhanced on the ground by the school karting team, which is almost integral to the STEM project. The team go all around the country to compete at weekends and take regular visits to the local karting track at Whilton Locks, with the ultimate goal being to give the students a hands-on experience of the classroom STEM learning.
Classes are streamed to meet the needs of the more academically gifted and also those they feel will benefit from a different approach.
Whilst Quinton’s new wave of Sixth Formers await their results for 2022, the GCSE results in 2021 saw 45% of students achieve Grade 8-9, 52% of students achieve Grade 7 or above, 85% achieve Grade 5 or above and 97% achieve Grade 4 or above. BTECS are offered for those looking for more vocations qualifications too, including one in PE and Sports.
Large scale photo canvases of the pupils on the walls give a sense that the children are the most important people in the school. It may sound obvious to say that but it’s easy to forget when there are so many boxes to be ticked.
The current Learning Support space has an open door policy, located in a spacious room with separate areas for study and relaxing, catering for any pupils with additional needs in terms of study or emotional support, though it’s also about to relocate to an even bigger space and there’s also a counselling room for more privacy if needed. Talking about and addressing mental health is not shied away from, it’s considered a central tenet of education here. At the time of writing the school has 80 SEND students on the register, and this level of inclusivity is a huge draw card for many families.
Head Tom Muskin has been at Quinton House for over a decade, initially as Assistant Head and Director of Sport, then Vice Principal Pastoral, with 2021/2022 being his first academic year as Head. Muskin taught at Wrenn School in Wellingborough, with the leap from state to the independent sector giving him a really broad educational grounding, which feels refreshing and unfussy. He’s also spent time as an EPDG (Elite Player Development Group) Coach for U16s at Northampton Saints alongside his academic career, and still teaches the occasional PE lesson to keep his toe in the water.
He has a modern outlook and is clearly enthusiastic about giving the pupils the best opportunities at Quinton, he’s definitely someone you’d want on your team. Having been at the school for over a decade, Muskin knows the intricacies of the school both in terms of the physical buildings and the inner workings, and that familiarity means that he can implement change (such as the installation of the new Library and upgrading the Learning Support space) fairly seamlessly and, hopefully, without it having a detrimental impact on the family atmosphere of the school.
Muskin’s focus is on on creating a culture of inclusion and a space where the children want to participate as much as possible outside of the school curriculum, plus trips and guest speakers also a key element. There’s a consistent message being pushed here: the academic journey is one thing, but character development is the star of the show.
One of the teachers told me I’d need a long section to list all the quirks of Quinton House! Certainly, one of the great charms of the school is that they are always trying to think differently. The Sixth Form Village, especially the Food For Thought Van, really stood out to me.
The buildings and grounds offer elements dating from the Middle Ages including a secret ‘Monk’s Room’ in the attic, a stone archway in the grounds and the pretty St. Michael’s Church, which is occasionally used by the school for services.
Staff job satisfaction is a biggie here (not as commonplace as it perhaps should be), with regular staff quiz nights and badminton games outside of school hours, to support team-building and helping to nurture a close-knit staff cohort.
WRAP AROUND CARE
It’ll be music to many a parent’s ears to hear that the school is very sympathetic to home and work commitments, with pre-and after-school care, including breakfast club, after school tea and extra-curricular clubs being are a major strength at Quinton House. They offer over 100 different activities and clubs each week, and the vast majority are included in the school fees (in line with the holistic education they pride themselves on). Kids can choose from Softball, Globetrotters Club, Girls’ Rugby, Music Production , Senior Singer, Cookery Club, Cricket, the lauded Kart Club and a vast number of other extra a co-curricular clubs.
Quinton House was inspected by the ISI in April 2018. Read the report here.
MOBILE PHONE POLICY
Fairly sensible, each student has their own dedicated electronic device to complete their work, with internet access for the relevant study sites, though mobile phones and access to social media are restricted during school hours.
There’s also an extensive school bus service with 10 routes, picking up kids from Northampton, surrounding villages and beyond. Find out more here.
Reasonable, from £3,500 a term in Reception to £4,870 in Sixth Form.
WORD ON THE GROUND
Parents I spoke to about Quinton House couldn’t have been more positive, with the general consensus being that it has a real family feel, the children known and treated as individuals. The range of extra curricular activities and trips are huge draw cards.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: If pastoral care is your number one priority make sure Quinton is on your radar -the small school cohort means individual care and attention is a given. The Northampton location means that Quinton kids avoid the common criticism levelled at so many independent schools of being in a rural ‘bubble’.
Not for: Though Quinton can and does stretch its able pupils, those who are looking for an academics-first, second and last approach need not apply.
Dare to disagree? Be my guest! There’s Whole School Open Day on Sat 1 October 2022 – 10am-1pm, so check it out and let me know what you think!
Quinton House School, Upton Hall, Northampton, Northamptonshire, NN5 4UX. Tel: 01604 752050