The new edition of The Good Schools Guide has been published and The Roche School is included once again. Following a visit from one of their specialist writers last term, there is a new review of our school in the publication’s trade mark unbiased, informative and candid style.
The UK’s number one school guide has been trusted by parents for over 30 years and their verdict on The Roche School is a ringing endorsement of our whole team’s achievements,
“We simply wish that schools like this, where children hug the headmistress and the more academic move on to starry academic senior schools, had been around when we were young.”
Uniquely, each school is selected on merit alone for the Good Schools Guide. No one can buy their way into the GSG’s good books. And from famous names to local treasures, their writers visit every single school, interview the head, speak to pupils and parents, analyse academic performance and challenge the marketing hype. Result? The fearsomely frank and funny reviews for which they are famous.
Please read below for an extract:
Since 2010, Vania Adams (50s). Another example of the educational gene with both her siblings university lecturers, she worked in broadcasting and publishing but decided to swap the office for the classroom. She still teaches 11+ English and loves ‘getting stuck in’ but also ‘pops into’ classes to spread her love of reading. She is also heavily involved in the annual production for the Shakespeare Schools Foundation, a major feature in the school’s calendar. A warm, articulate, approachable woman with whom her pupils are totally at ease, this is definitely a carrot not stick headmistress.
The majority of pupils move to selective London day schools: Emanuel, King’s College, Wimbledon, Dulwich College, Ibstock Place School, Latymer, Wimbledon High, Putney High, Epsom College, Alleyn’s Woldingham and St John’s Leatherhead. Nineteen scholarships in 2021. Head says that she makes a huge effort to ‘manage parental expectations’, starting in year 4, ‘encouraging parents to trust us’.
The nursery, housed looking onto a modest playground, contains puzzlers who look up politely and pirates who are too engrossed in their adventures to notice a strange visitor. One tidy tot puts away her toy on a shelf whilst a cheerful boy digs messily for treasure in a fake blue sea, all encouraged by smiley, qualified staff. Forest school is also part of the curriculum, taking place in Wimbledon Park or occasionally in more rural Richmond Park where one small, wise person pointed out to the teacher that the mushrooms were ’yellow, so they’re probably poisonous’.
Once up the stairs (no barrier for one small girl moving up from nursery to reception: ‘I’m going to do this on my own’), you find yourself in what is palpably the heart of the school. This is a space dominated by a library (complete with two librarians, albeit stuffed into a very small corner) and surrounded by classrooms with eight to 10 pupils in each, all heavily involved in either maths or English. The numbers are small because they group them in these subjects from year 1 although it is a flexible system and pupils move up and down regularly to make sure that the pace is correct for each child and extra support is available if necessary. The library is well stuffed with classics and modern authors, unsurprisingly, as reading is a ‘big thing’ with reading diaries, voluntary Book Club and even participation with 10 other schools in Battle of the Books.
The top floor holds the multi-purpose hall and, although a non-denominational school, we were treated to the whole of year 6’s rendition of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah (complete with majorly enthusiastic synchronised waving), nearly reducing one not particularly religious GSG hack to tears but which, on a more positive note, had been the winner at the Woldingham choir festival. The room also metamorphoses into the dining hall, served by a minuscule kitchen, a source of worry to one pupil who wished that chef had more room to work in. Year 6 lives up here too, engaged on our visit in a Philosophy for Children class on religion; lower down the school P4C is incorporated into topics in history, geography and RE.
The last word
We simply wish that schools like this, where children hug the headmistress and the more academic move on to starry academic senior schools, had been around when we were young. The Roche Approach (Respect, Open-mindedness, Compassion, Humour and Effort), which might sound a tad jingoistic elsewhere, seems to be working beautifully.