WORK HARD, PLAY HARD – Two independent, single-sex day schools in Surrey – Cumnor House School – are proving to be a big magnet for parents in South-West London.
Drive along an unpretentious urban road in South Croydon and you could almost miss the large cream building, unremarkable save for the red sign declaring that it’s Cumnor House School for Boys. The school’s large sports fields are practically opposite. Cumnor House School for Girls is located in a beautifully tranquil setting, behind automatic gates on a private road off another surburban street, this time in Purley. The boys’ school dates back to the Thirties, and is three form entry. The girls’ school is a more recent addition to the fold, having opened in 2010. While it began life as a one-form entry school, by 2018 it will be two form throughout.
School buses find their way to both locations every day – from Streatham, Balham and Clapham – unloading children in their smart red blazers, caps and boaters. Both schools, and two outstanding nurseries, are part of the 65-strong Cognita Group of schools worldwide and Robin Davies, the company’s Assistant Director of Education and a governor, explains their appeal for local children.
“These are highly effective schools. Boys go on to a range of top schools including Westminster, Dulwich, Charterhouse, Whitgift and Trinity when they leave, yet we are a mixed-ability school.” Girls leave for Woldingham, Caterham, Royal Russell, Roedean and the grammar schools of Wallington and Nonsuch.
Davies believes that the combination of a broad and balanced curriculum, mixing academic subjects with music, arts and sports, and quality teaching is key. “We have two focuses,” he says: “Getting the child into the right school and preparing them for life.” Cumnor House School for Boys’ sporting heritage is a particular lure for some. The under 11s are currently ranked number one in the country for cricket, and the school’s swimming team had got through to the national finals at the time of writing. There was a cricket tour to South Africa in the offing and palpable excitement at the prospect of former Saracens player Floyd Steadman joining as the new Head of the boys’ school this September.
“THE COMBINATION OF A BROAD AND BALANCED CURRICULUM IS KEY”
Cumnor House School for Girls’ new Head Dina Mallett is very excited about the rapid expansion of the girls’ school. “What we do is something quite special,” she says. With a waiting list for year 4 places, that seems to be the case. Cumnor Girls develops super-confident girls: year 3 girls gave a (harmonious) music concert only three months after choosing one of five instruments to learn; year 5 independently staged a Brexit debate for assembly, while the same year group chose the theme of successful women to rename the four houses in the school. ”These are the women of the future,” says Mallett proudly.
Cumnor’s ethos is “work hard, play hard”, and each new four-year-old who walks through the doors is inculcated in the Cumnor Way, eight values that underpin their teaching. They include listening, sharing, kindness and to do your best to be yourself. Cumnor also prides itself on its match-making skills in suggesting the right senior school, even if it doesn’t meet parental expectations.
“We look at the DNA of the child, we write truthful reports and we target the school which is right for them,” explains Davies. “Some won’t be right for Westminster, for example, but we prepare them for their next journey.”