Review of Junior Boys
A unique 'diamond model', Claires Court is a non-selective, family-friendly Berkshire gem for ages 2-18 that's big on values and individuality.
We were delighted to welcome the Editor of Berkshire's Muddy Stilettos to review both our Junior Boys and Junior Girls divisions. Please see the full review below and to comment directly onto the Middy Stilettos site, please click here.
Claires Court Junior Boys is part of a unique three-site all-through day school for ages 2-18. It’s one of only a handful of schools in the UK with a ‘diamond’ model which means, the Nursery and Sixth Form are both co-ed, while Juniors and Seniors are single sex. The sum of all its parts make it a pretty big cohort, but each school at Claires Court has 200-350 kids, giving it a small, family vibe. As I said, unique.
Founded in 1960 by the current Principals’ parents, Claires Court has roots in Maidenhead stretching back to 1861. Starting with just 19 pupils, it has grown to become the largest private day school in the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead with 55% of children on roll living locally. The Junior Boys School is on a large leafy site in Woolley Green, surrounded by National Trust land. It’s got the sweeping drive, playing fields and wooded areas you’d expect from a countryside prep.
The classrooms can be found in the main Victorian house; Early Years have the luxury of a light and airy modern addition complete with dedicated play area. Period properties don’t always lend themselves to classrooms, but they seem to make it work and as a Google Lead School, interactive whiteboards and Chromebooks are the norm.
There’s also a large sports hall, swimming pool, playing fields, running track, cricket nets and play equipment. There’s an emphasis on joining in, playing both state and private schools, by fielding teams that rattle down the alphabet. For those quieter moments, the school also has its own vegetable and herb garden where the kids can learn gardening. You’ll also find a music studio, art and science rooms albeit in a rather rustic block.
MUSIC, DRAMA AND THE ART
The arts are big. Whether you have an enthusiastic jazz hander, budding musician or the next Tracey Emin, Claires Court will fire their creativity, imagination and confidence. There’s plenty of opportunities to flex their creative muscles from end of term showstoppers and talent shows to assemblies. From the summer term, boys will be able to part in LAMDA – perfect for honing those public speaking skills.
Art is hugely important here and the school recently hosted the ISA Arts Competition at Norden Farm – Maidenhead’s award-winning arts centre. With over 200 entries, they only won the top prize. Next stop Turner, perhaps?
The list of clubs, activities and trips is long and throughout the year there’s a carousel of trips to jump on. When it comes to clubs, there’s something for everyone – unusual sports like paddle boarding, plus ‘Become an Author’, gardening, supersonic reading, Warhammer, songwriting and ‘Fun with Food’ are all up for grabs.
Pretty darn good. With maximum class sizes of 20, the calling card for Claires Court is individual attention and the teachers are clearly highly-invested in helping the children – the kids I spoke to couldn’t praise their teachers enough.
Progress is tracked throughout the year and support is available to pupils who need ad hoc or long term help. Proudly non-selective, there are high levels of expectation and Claires Court takes pride in its focus on preparation, not pushiness.
Leanne Kirby has taken on the role as Head of Juniors covering both boys and girls. She brings a wealth of experience and knowledge, and is a familiar face to many having been Head of Nursery and Junior Girls. The new role is a logistical headache for her no doubt, flitting between two sites, but the move has been incredibly positive for the children, staff and parents. Communication has been simplified, inset days are aligned and, with her beady eye on the bigger picture, Leanne has been able to create overarching opportunities. For instance, a trip to Winchester Science Museum was on topic for both boys and girls so they coordinated a joint trip enabling the divisions to socialise.
Leanne is warm, welcoming and laser focused on making improvements that offer equal opportunities for both Junior schools. She has the kind of no-nonsense energy and sense of fun that we like here at Muddy. In terms of development, right now it’s about improvements to the curriculum – particularly in modern languages. A language development programme has been introduced in French, Spanish and Japanese, which is now being filtered down the year groups.
Claires Court’s secret weapon? Strong values, for starters. Responsibility, respect, loyalty and integrity are the qualities of the entire school community with the older children mentoring the younger ones. In a word, they’re turning out charming, caring young people who are a pleasure to be around.
Wellbeing is also a high priority. Mindful of the screen time clock doing overtime during lockdown, they are looking for balance – learning outside, reenacting historical events, traditional teaching methods, as well as the benefit of the IT. It’s worth noting that although a big school on paper, each division is like a small school. Teachers know the kids well and spot any issues brewing.
The diamond shape – blending co-ed and single sex – makes it stand out. It means teaching is tailored to suit boys and girls’ strengths and without embarrassment, boys and girls are more inclined to take risks and try things outside of their comfort zone in a single sex setting.
Chess is huge! Long before we all became obsessed with The Queen’s Gambit, Claires Court was enjoying the tactical warfare of chess. There’s the chance to play several times a week in clubs and they’ve even had pupils play for England
The physical set-up of the schools is unusual, very higgledy piggledy. It’s not unusual when you start with a period building and bolt on to accommodate growing numbers and new facilities. Claires Court’s calling card of pastoral brilliance, nurture and personal development is right on the money now – mental wellbeing is a huge issue at schools and they seem to be nailing it.
WRAP AROUND CARE
Excellent. In fact, as a family school it is hell-bent on making life as straightforward as possible. Breakfast Club (from 7.30am) and After School Care (until 6pm) are there for the taking. And conscious of the logistical nightmare of three sites, you can drop off and pick up from one site, the school will whizz anyone who is based on a different site by bus. There’s also a Holiday Club – a godsend for stressed out working parents juggling those looooong breaks. As far as wrap around care goes, Claires Court has pretty much got your back.
View the latest inspection and compliance reports here.
WORD ON THE GROUND
Parents are pretty chuffed with how the kids turn out – well-rounded, confident and with a good work ethic. One mum pointed out the school’s wizardry in recognising each child as individuals and nurturing their strengths. Extra support is there if you need it, the teachers form strong bonds and it is pastorally strong.
FEES: Definitely competitive and below average for the area. For full fees, see here
THE MUDDY VERDICT:
Good for: Those looking for an unpretentious, friendly school that won’t ‘hothouse’ children, set in idyllic surroundings. The small numbers are great for kids who thrive on individual attention. Anyone wanting the ease of keeping their kids at the same school from 2-18.
Not for: Claires Court’s non-selective cohort might not suit overly ambitious parents.
Dare to disagree?! Be my guest! The Junior School Open Morning on 29 April. To book an appointment, please click here.
Claires Court Junior Boys, The Thicket, Maidenhead, SL6 3QE. Tel 01628 327700