Pitsford School, Northants
Muddy says: A very caring, child centred school with a balance across academic and pastoral care. With friendly teachers, happy kids and great grades.
What, where and quick precis?
Pitsford School is often referred to as a well-kept secret and this hidden gem is the smallest Northamptonshire school I’ve been to so far, but what it lacks in size, it makes up for in character. An ISA co-educational, 4 – 18 independent school, established in 1989, it sits in Pitsford, a picturesque village a few miles north of Northampton (lovely little winding roads, although I feared for my wing mirror).
There are 26 acres of beautiful parkland waiting to be explored and the new multi million pound Junior school building is set amongst the trees and orchard within the grounds (gorjus). Further into the rather impressive surroundings rises the historic and beautiful Pitsford Hall which forms the hub of the senior school (brief history at the bottom of the feature). With a caring and friendly attitude, Pitsford takes the serious job of educating children and makes it fun (you can feel that vibe as you walk through the school). Every child is treated as an individual and is given the opportunity and support to discover their own brilliance (whatever that may be) and be the best that they can be. With extra-curricular activities from Sailing and Rock climbing to Marvel and Board games club, I reckon the kids probably don’t want to rush home and wrap around care from 8am to 5.20pm works well for busy parents too. Speaking to one of the lovely staff members, I found out the board of governors’ guiding principles are – Opportunity: Excellence and Understanding.
The school is set in tres beautiful countryside (the first image below is actually a listed view).
It has a very impressive new sports centre with sports café and fitness suite that can be used for physiology and anatomy classes, PE and cardio club plus the 6th formers can use the facility (once inducted) as part of their 6th form privileges. It’s all very swish, like a private gym, and something I would have loved as a sporty teen.
There’s also a chapel and various common rooms for the kids to kick back and relax and plenty of outdoor space.
The school has children from the age of four (to eight), a big focus for the school, with the Pre-Prep beginning at Nursery and going up to Year 3. It’s separate from the rest of the school but the children still bump into other age groups throughout the day. When I visited there was lots of smiles and engagement, and the teachers had a really good rapport with the kids. The small class sizes create a caring environment in which every child is known and supported, and is encouraged to develop self-confidence, resilience and most importantly of all, happiness.
Wrap around care & extra-curricular?
The school is open from 8am (juniors) and 8.30 am in the seniors, till 5.20pm In the juniors the children can come in and have supervised free play before registration, and after school from 3.40pm -4.00pm they can have tea and then from 4pm till 5.20pm they have clubs.
At break snacks and drinks are provided in the “Pit Stop” – with warm options such as Crumpets and Bacon Rolls through to fruit or porridge and flapjacks (beats my packet of space invaders back in the day). Senior clubs start at 4.20pm -5.20pm and range from Prep, Sports, Marvel Club, Shakespeare, Duke of Edinburgh, Radio club and Journalism. Through the year the pupils have over 60 clubs to choose from.
What about the pupils and what do they do when they leave?
There appeared to be quite a few talented pupils across the board; from completing grade 8 piano or qualifying for the Horse of the Year show, there were loads of stories of achievements both academic and creative. Most aim for the good universities and this year all A level students achieved places at their chosen Universities (IMPRESSIVE, WHAT!). Many go on to both Oxbridge and the wider Russell Group Universities with a percentage also choosing to defer and take a year out in either industry or for travel.
Pitsford is consistently one of the county’s top performing schools and whilst results are important the school helps pupils on an emotional level to develop into well rounded individuals. It’s more about kids reaching their own potential during their time there.
Pitsford School GCSE pass rates are high with a 97% pass rate in Maths and 94% in English Language. In Mathematics 42% of pupils achieved grade 7 or above, broadly in line with the A/A* grades of the old syllabus and three pupils gained the elusive grade 9. Over 25% of all exams sat achieved an A*/A grade. The A-Level results are even more impressive with a record 18% of all A Level examinations being awarded A* grades and over a quarter of our Sixth Form Students receiving at least AAB grades.
Scholarships – Scholarships are offered, with more details on the website.
Following the retirement of Noel Toone as Headmaster, Dr Craig Walker is the man in the chair. A History graduate from the University of Glasgow and the University of Oxford, Craig Walker was Deputy Head of Loughborough Grammar School, where he also was Head of Sixth Form for ten years. As a school leader, he has an exceptional track record in improving academic outcomes and university admissions and is passionately committed to the importance of community in schools, where a friendly, safe environment creates the conditions to support the development of girls and boys into happy and successful adults. He has a career-long dedication to developing literacy in boys and girls and has lectured extensively, including a joint lecture with the former Poet Laureate Andrew Motion (we are pretty impressed with this bit).
Speaking to Muddy he said: ‘Pitsford School is a perfect fit for me. It is a happy, thriving, lively school, in spectacular grounds where every child is known and cherished and supported to become the very best version of themselves. I look forward to working with all of our students, teachers, parents and community over the coming months to confirm Pitsford as the school of choice for ambitious girls and boys from ages four to eighteen.’
The fun stuff – Trips and visits and other boasty bits?
Every year the kids enjoy plenty of visits and trips with most recent trips to Barcelona, Iceland and Germany. Day trips include galleries and museums along with trips to rather colourful places like butterfly farms and living rainforests. Every year there are activity camps across the school with the smaller children having picnics or going to visit a country park for the day and then Yr 5 & 6 going on residential camps where (judging by the pics), they do all manner of outdoor activities during the summer term.
In the senior school they have Expedition Day which is where all seniors get to choose from a range of activities such as ski-ing, paintballing, wake boarding etc for the day. Throughout the year there are House competitions ( Wake, Robinson, Hesketh – after the founders) throughout the year and they are used to raise money for charities as well as to earn points for the House trophy at the end of the year – activities like pancake races, bake sales, singing, music and the annual cross country Pitsford run seem to put a smile on their faces. The House Captains regularly meet with House reps from each year group so that the pupils voices are always heard.
In the 6th form students are encouraged to look outside of school and help within the community and have recently teamed up with Elsie’s Junk Food project in Northampton. The Real Junk Food Café was initially set up when students identified that there was a lack of fresh food available for the pupils both first thing in the morning and straight after school at 4pm. They sourced food from the café and ran their own tuck shop in school with all the money raised going straight back to Elsie’s to help them fund their work in the community. Starting in Lent term 2018 the team raised over £1,500 by July 2018.
School bus service/travel etc?
The school catchment area extends around 15 miles from Pitsford in all directions and there are several bus services running across the county: Kettering via Walgrave, Market Harborough, Northampton Town Centre, Towcester via Mereway, Cogenhoe via Moulton and Weston Favell. The school has a strong reputation within the area, so a lot of the locals attend (since 2005 a number of Chinese pupils have joined the school for the Sixth Form, using a homestay arrangement).
c£2700 for Squirrels, £2900 to £4700 for J1 to J6 and £4620 for senior. Bursaries and scholarships are available.
Word on the ground? What do the parent’s say…
Children are friendly and the staff very enthusiastic. There is a remarkable ‘can do’ attitude at the school where pupils and staff work closely together with parents. Because it fosters independence, pupils are encouraged to have a go at everything, finding out their strengths and weaknesses for themselves.
‘There’s a real family atmosphere and my child is really happy and proud to be part of the school community.’
‘The teaching staff AND support staff are incredibly caring and thoughtful.’
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for? Those who want a smaller school environment (especially kids who would feel more secure amongst 300 pupils as opposed to 1000). It’s a very caring, child centred school that definitely looks to strike a balance across academic and pastoral care. The teachers are friendly, the kids look happy and the grades are good (the A Level grades especially).
Not for? Parents who want their kids to board or who want a large, overly formal school. Pitsford has a lovely community feel that you don’t get everywhere, but it may not be for everyone.
The next School Open Day at Pitsford School will take place on Saturday 29 Sep 2018 between 10.30am and 1pm. For more information, contact the lovely staff on 01604 880306 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Brief history of the school…
The school was founded by Malcolm Robinson, with support from Lady Hesketh and Sir Hereward Wake in 1989, making it a relative teenager to some of the older Northants schools. Set in 26 glorious acres of Northamptonshire countryside, the focus of the school is Pitsford Hall, a beautiful Georgian building built in 1764. Can you imagine the parties they had in the hall! In the 1920’s it was bought by Captain Drummond, and among visitors to the Hall for the Pytchley Hunt were the then Prince of Wales, later King Edward VIII, with his brother the then Duke of York, King George VI, and the young Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret (rumour has it that the old Music rooms at the very top of the House were the nursery where the young Princesses used to sleep and play when they visited and that the Queen used to learn to ride on the front lawn – uncorroborated, but adds a bit of colour no?). In 1940 Drummond was exiled to the Isle of Man by the intelligence Service as a suspected spy and Nazi sympathiser (he is reputed to have held fancy dress parties with everyone dressed as SS officers – again, uncorroborated but in some texts show that visitors had to do the Nazi salute). The house was then a private estate until it was sold to the Polish order of the Holy Family of Nazareth in 1947 who set up the Holy Family of Nazareth Convent School. That school closed in1 1984 and the estate was bought by the Northamptonshire Independent Grammar School Trust who opened a new school on 6th September 1989. Initially it was set up as a boys’ school but, due to parental demand, became co-educational in 1999.