What is Pennthorpe’s philosophy and culture?

Our culture is encapsulated by a clear set of values, which together form the Pennthorpe Purpose; the representation of how we make a positive difference to others. The Pennthorpe Purpose, along with our motto, ‘non nobis solum nati – not for ourselves alone’, expresses that our reason for being is not selfish, but for the goodness of humanity. We do not exist just to serve our own intentions, but have a duty to positively contribute to the lives, and benefit, of others.

The culture that the Purpose creates is one of happiness. Children, parents and staff are more likely to be successful at school and work, and in their family lives, if they are happy and proactively managing their own wellbeing. When you get this right, the learning takes care of itself.

At what age can my child join Pennthorpe?

Pennthorpe is a school for children aged between 2 and 13. The majority of our children join our Honey Pot aged 2, but children can join other year groups if there are spaces available.

We typically have new joiners at key transition points, such as joining Reception aged 4 or our Prep school aged 7. We also attract new joiners at Year 7, often those who feel they are not quite ready to experience the much larger environment of a secondary school, and will benefit from the nurture and bespoke teaching enabled through our smaller class sizes.

Pupils leave us at the end of Year 8 aged 13, ready for their chosen senior school.

How is the school structured?

Our Nurseries are made up of our:

  • Honey Pot (ages 2-3)
  • Beehive (for the pre-Reception year for children aged 3-4).

The Pre-Prep is for children aged 4-7, and comprises:

  • Reception
  • Year 1
  • Year 2.

The Prep school is for children aged 7 – 13, and comprises Years 3 – 8. It is broken into two stages:

  • Middle Years (Years 3, 4 & 5)
  • Senior Years (Years 6, 7 & 8).

Will I fit in with the other families?

Some of the best friendships are built around our children, and having common interests as a family. That is why, for many people, choosing a school is as much about how the whole family will fit in, as it is about the child.

Turning up at the school gates doesn’t necessarily guarantee you will walk into a readymade set of friends however, and unfortunately some Prep schools have a reputation for parents needing to ‘keep up with the Joneses’.

The Pennthorpe community is hugely varied, and the reason that this variety works is because of our very down-to-earth atmosphere. You’ll more likely catch sight of our Head getting muddy in the woods than sipping tea in the Head’s Office!

Many of our children come from homes with two working parents, who have prioritised their children’s education over expensive family holidays and cars, and we also have many ‘Stay At Home’ parents, who often meet up at the school gates for a dog walk in the beautiful surrounding countryside. We have children who make full use of our wraparound care options as their parents commute to the city each day, and others who are just here for the core school day and walk to homes within the village. You may occasionally pull up in the car park next to super car, but more often it will be a people carrier!

As a day school, with no boarding, one thing all our parents share is that they are relatively local to Rudgwick, with the main feeder towns being Horsham, Cranleigh and Billingshurst. Of course the other commonality is them all wanting the best for their children!

The community atmosphere is genuinely friendly; our Friends of Pennthorpe (FoP) is our formal parent group, but there are plenty of others, such as book groups, sports teams and coffee clubs.

What are the key differences between the state and independent sector?

Of course, there are good schools and bad schools, and choosing a school based solely on its funding source is risky. It is clear, however, that in this area of the country our state schools are underfunded by the government, and this, coupled by the relentless focus on SATs in our primary schools, means children in the state system are being let down.

Pennthorpe is a rare breed. We are a truly independent school; independent from the government as well as from a senior school. In practice that means:

  • We have a broad, and skills based, curriculum that teaches our children how to learn, rather than how to pass exams. 
  • Our children can be authentic to themselves and choose a senior school that is aligned with the person they are becoming, rather than one determined by the school that they are at.
  • Pennthorpe is well funded, enabling our children to be taught by subject experts, in small classes with excellent facilities, so their learning is engaging and challenging, as well as tailored to their needs
  • The children’s timetables are varied, and allow time for them to learn and enjoy subjects that cannot be squeezed into timetables at state schools, where the emphasis on core subjects is weighted so heavily to satisfy league tables which are driven by SATs results.

We believe that these differences combined mean better outcomes for our children. Better academic achievements, better mental health, better ambition and better contribution to our society.

How should I decide whether single-sex or co-educational is best for my child?

This is a question that many parents ask, and one to which there is no right answer. Our view is that a co-educational environment is the healthiest environment for children to grow up in; it is the reality of the world, and the friendships that exist between boys and girls are very special. We believe that ultimately, boys and girls have a more enriching educational experience when they learn together.

In a co-educational environment children learn from, and are inspired by, each other. They learn to work together productively, which is what they will be expected to do throughout their lives. We also believe that enabling interaction between boys and girls isolates some of the less desirable behaviours of both!

The bespoke teaching at Pennthorpe, enabled through our smaller class sizes, means that we are able to respond individually to each child’s learning needs, whatever their gender.

Why should I choose a Prep school rather than an all the way through school?

The criteria by which you will choose the right school for your 2 year old child are not the same as those you’d use for your 13 year old child. Taking into account the needs, passion and talents of a child at 2, whilst also trying to imagine how these things might have developed and changed by the age of 13 is challenging, and probably impossible. At Pennthorpe we believe a better approach is to choose a school that suits your child for the stage they are at now. Let them flourish at a Prep school, find out about themselves and determine their own strengths, weaknesses and convictions, and give them the best chance of choosing a senior school that will be one in which they’ll thrive. The fact that over the last 5 years our pupils have gone on to 40+ senior schools shows the variety in our children’s talents and passions, and is testament to the need to tailor the options we give our children as they become young people.

All through schools often highlight ‘benefits’ that are questionable, such as the child remaining settled or avoiding sitting an entrance exam. However, this is failing to recognise the great learning opportunities, such as in leadership, confidence and maturity, that children get from being ‘top of the school’, which they won’t get to experience until they are 16 or 18 at an all through school.

A word of warning – all through schools are sometimes guilty of using their senior school opportunities, facilities and staff to entice younger pupils, however most often these are reserved for their older children and not available to their Prep aged pupils. At Pennthorpe, what you see is what you get!

What religious denomination is Pennthorpe?

At Pennthorpe we don’t follow a single religious denomination, but rather teach Religious Studies and Philosophy covering a wide range of faiths and cultures to all our pupils. Many of the school’s traditions are founded upon Christian principles, and we inclusively celebrate the Christian events of Christmas and Easter.

We have children and staff members from a huge range of religious denominations (as well as of no religion), and our children learn respect of, and tolerance towards, these differences as part of the Pennthorpe Purpose.

What is the ratio of boys to girls at Pennthorpe?

We have approximately half girls and half boys throughout the school, but of course, this varies in certain year groups due to the ratio seen in the local birth rate.

Please just ask if you are interested in the boys to girls ratio in the particular year group of your child.

When was Pennthorpe founded?

Pennthorpe was founded in 1930 by Herbert and Sidney Braby, brothers from Hampstead. The school was originally based in Chislehurst, Kent, but moved to Rudgwick in 1939 at the outbreak of WWII. It’s present home, on Church Street, was previously a large house ‘Gaskyns’.

Pennthorpe was originally a boarding school for boys, but began admitting girls in 1977 and closed its boarding facility in 1995. Today, and since the 1990s, the school has approximately 280 pupils.