The year 2022 was a good one for Greenfield School. And to those who are only hearing of it now, it may seem a somewhat predictable winner of the TES Prep School of the Year Award. After all, it has impressive facilities, a modern approach and plenty of “bums on seats”.
But Greenfield is actually something of an underdog, and with that comes a certain charm and whimsy that continues to set it apart from the average Surrey prep school.
Back in 2010, when I joined, Greenfield was a small, one-form entry school occupying a beautiful but somewhat cramped Victorian property. Nothing so unusual there, but Greenfield was suffering from the stigma attached to its academically non-selective entry process. In short, it was the school you went to if you couldn’t get in anywhere else – and numbers were not where they needed to be.
Many well-meaning advisers told the school that it must become selective in order to survive, to which the headmistress replied “over my dead body!” and thus a renewed passionate and unapologetic era of Greenfield was born.
“Greenfield is actually something of an underdog and with that comes a certain charm and whimsy.”
Fast-forward ten years and Greenfield was bursting at the seams and the only thing holding it back was the undeniable lack of facilities, particularly outdoors. A school site, only a mile or so away, became vacant. Greenfield finally had its green fields and the children and parents who had supported the school in its metamorphosis were rightly prouder than ever to be Greenfieldians.
During the ten years prior to relocation, the teaching and learning had been developed to such an extent that the school was way ahead in terms of approach and curriculum development. In particular, the school had curated a unique approach to responsive, differentiated teaching and flexible, ability-based groups which saw children of all abilities make rapid progress in their core subjects. In turn, the broad curriculum saw huge advancements in so-called “soft skills” and the children were achieving better examination results than ever before.
“Greenfield was bursting at the seams and the only thing holding it back was the undeniable lack of facilities.”
But Greenfield is not void of academic excellence. Far from it in fact, pupils are offered places to some of the most selective senior schools in the country and there are many with academic scholarships. But you won’t find “being bright” is a free ticket to glory at Greenfield.
Instead, success, progress and passion in all subjects are celebrated with equal fervour. A Greenfield child is as likely to achieve a coveted place at Sylvia Young Theatre School as they are to earn an academic scholarship to the RGS or be signed to the development squad of a premier league football club.
Therefore, the children understand that the value in all of these achievements is deserving of equal recognition. Increasingly, we hear that highly academic graduates are falling short in the workplace when it comes to adaptability, resilience, creativity and originality, and Greenfield is working hard to ensure its pupils develop these skills at the youngest possible age.
“You won’t find ‘being bright’ is a free ticket to glory.”
Humility is part of the Greenfield DNA, thanks to a strong humanitarian influence from proprietors Ruth Hicks and Joyce Pearce MBE who ensured the school had compassion and kindness at its heart. These values are partially responsible for the school’s natural inclination toward inclusivity. This has been further developed in recent years to drive out any unconscious bias and ensure all Greenfield pupils feel represented by the resources and language used around school.
An inspector once commented that they had never witnessed so little entitlement at an independent school as when they visited Greenfield and this is an aim the leadership team continues to strive for.
Thanks to a very persuasive letter from a Year 6 pupil, Greenfield no longer has “boys” and “girls” uniform and instead offers a single list from which children can choose. They also wear their PE kit as often as their day uniform; a switch that came about during Covid adjustments and the parents and children asked to keep.
“An inspector once commented that they had never witnessed so little entitlement at an independent school.”
Naturally, questions were asked about standards and neatness. But the decision was met by a resounding “thank you” from the parents and, thanks to fewer items of lost property, standards have arguably risen. The true marker of success, however, is that less time is spent changing in and out of uniforms and instead more time spent on the playing fields – something welcomed by staff, children and parents.
It could be assumed that recognition in the form of Prep School of the Year might mark a plateau of ambition. But rather than rest on these new-found laurels, the leadership team continues to approach each new day with the enthusiasm and tenacity of the underdog.
To find out more about Greenfield’s win at the Tes Schools Awards 2022 click here.