POWER HOUSE PREP – “I started the school for my children because I wanted the best for them; now my grandchildren come here and I want the best for them too,” explains Mary McCahery, Principal and founder of The White House.
Mary’s vision permeates every aspect of this small, independent prep school and nursery, but don’t be under the illusion it’s remained where it was when she opened the doors 30 years ago – with recent investment in ICT, including a new suite, and a cutting edge science curriculum (years 5 and 6 recently made their DNA into necklaces), The White House is a power house on the local private education scene.
“We see our size as a positive attribute,” says Headmaster Dan Cummings. “Standards are high and our children benefit from the individual attention they receive due to our adult to pupil ratio.” Dan’s son in year 6 knows all the children well, even those in the day nursery. “While big schools can be intimidating, ours has a supportive, enjoyable and fun atmosphere which leads to an exciting, dynamic environment enriched with outdoor learning.”
“STANDARDS ARE HIGH BECAUSE OUR CHILDREN BENEFIT
FROM THE INDIVIDUAL ATTENTION THEY RECEIVE”
Whether they’re from the affiliated Woodentops day nursery, the kindergarten for three- and four year-olds, or fresh in aged five for reception, every child learns The White House work ethic and ethos from day one. There is a gradual process of having high expectations and keeping that trajectory of progress on track throughout their education. “We focus on continued curriculum development to remain at the forefront of teaching and academic excellence,” Dan continues. “There is no glass ceiling – we give every child the opportunity to keep growing and excelling. Their development is not capped – we help them discover the things that interest them and ignite their passion for learning. This helps develop their inner confidence in preparation for ‘big school’.” All this takes place in an exceptionally nurturing environment. “This is a living, breathing family school,” says Mary’s daughter Sarah, who is Principal of the Woodentops Abbeville day nursery (her daughter Cora also attends The White House). “We have excellent relationships with our families and help them to settle in quickly.” Parents and children alike are encouraged to get to know their peers and to meet the parent association reps, who help organise play dates and social engagements with other parents.
Every element of the school is celebrated equally – music, drama, sport and more – so all pupils can shine, and the rites of passage along the way help young minds to become confident and honest, retaining innocence and avoiding arrogance. “From the day they wear the uniform to becoming part of a house, graduating to real desks and pens, becoming prefects, having bigger roles in plays and finishing with a trip abroad, every child completes a journey here,” reflects Mary. “Our job is to draw them in with everything that inspires them about school life and then deliver the results.” With leavers going on to the top London day schools, such as JAGS, Dulwich Collge, Alleyn’s, Graveney, Whitgift and Putney High – many on scholarships – Mary and her team have created a unique school whose size is its secret weapon. “A small school doesn’t have to have fewer opportunities,” she smiles. “Here, children get to be children.”