Once out of the city the motorway flowed freely and we found our way to the gorgeous hillside village of Sutton Valence. Finding a coffee and something to eat was slightly more difficult at that time of the morning so I settled for the service station offering down the hill – which wasn’t too bad, although that could have been indicative of my need for coffee rather than the actual standard!We found the senior campus and asked a young lad there if he could direct us to the Junior School – which he did. Unfortunately it was the primary school across the road that was completely unrelated. I assume the lad had started in secondary school and possibly knew nothing of Sutton Valence Prep, which we finally located down a long windy lane in the prettiest of rural settings. We arrived dead on 9.00am – so not late but not early as I always prefer.
The main school building is a gorgeous old manor. We were greeted warmly by the Headmaster’s Secretary and then met Richard Johnson, the Head, with whom I had been corresponding. He was very welcoming.I talked to the Year 3 and 4 students first and then to the Year 5 and 6’s. Attentive, smart and great fun, I have to say that the children and staff seemed a very happy and contented bunch.
We were then given a tour of the school by two of the students, Lucy and Izzy, who showed us the classrooms and facilities. Big by English standards, the classrooms were amazing. Stimulating displays, vibrant work samples and an extraordinary level of care – the rooms and teachers were impressive, as were the children.The school is well resourced with a gym, various specialist teaching spaces including for Science, Music and Languages and there is a small but perfectly formed library. The grounds are quintessentially everything I imagined an English prep school to be – with an adventure playground and fields – and the most tremendous view over lush rolling pastures.
Richard Johnson clearly enjoys his work and the staff seem to be a highly professional and dedicated group. I love that schools give me certain feelings. Sometimes things will look perfect and yet, you can tell there’s an uneasiness which you can’t quite work out. Sometimes schools look scruffy but there is such dynamic teaching and great students and a real feeling of love and care. Neither applies here. Sutton Valence is every bit as good as it looks! The teachers, students and grounds are amazing – I loved visiting and would go back again in a heartbeat. In fact I rather hope to in 2013.