Farlington School, Horsham
A small but growing former all-girls school with an intimate and thriving community, that has recently opened its doors to boys. Strong arts, music and sports credentials complement academic success.
Surrounded by 33 acres of parkland and founded in 1896, Farlington has just 261 pupils – it was previously all girls, but has begun opening its doors to boys. It’s ranked in the top one per cent of UK schools for value added (a measure of pupil progress from their start point). Farlington is also part of Bellevue Education, a group of 19 schools including Skippers Hill in Mayfield. While the school does offer boarding, the vast majority of pupils are day students.
Like many schools, Farlington has a real mix between the modern and the historic. Mansion House – home to the girls boarding wing, head teacher’s office and library – still retains Jacobean character quirks, like the original cobbled courtyard and clock tower. The prep and pre-prep buildings are more up-to-date with a colourful adventure playground and multi-purpose hall where everyone eats lunch.
Facilities include a drama studio, music building, science labs, an on-site Forest School and newly renovated boys boarding house.
All your usual expectations of sporting facilities are covered here – sports hall, Astroturf, sports pitches, dance hall, courts and an outdoor pool. Hockey and swimming are strong at Farlington, with pupils representing the county in both disciplines. Horse riding is also very popular here and students have raked in the gongs. But it’s not all about trophy chasing. Year 10s complete a Sports Leadership Award, organising a sports festival for Year 2 from several local state schools. Year 11s onwards have a wider choice of sports, including kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, golf, yoga, volleyball and pilates. The school ski trip to Italy is a big annual event for Year 7s up to sixth form.
At A-Level, you’re looking at 68% A*/A and 80% A* to B. Many pupils go on to top universities, including Cambridge, Durham, UCL, St Andrews, Exeter and King’s College London. At GCSE, last year 90% of pupils achieved 9 to 7 grades.
MUSIC, ART & DRAMA
Art is one area where the results really are are astounding, with A-Level pupils consistently gaining As and A*s. GCSE work looks more like A-Level standard. Many pupils have gone on to study at the Royal College of Art and other prestigious institutions.
Music is also a focus, especially among the younger children. From Reception, children are introduced instruments from baby cellos to violins. Lesson uptake is high – last year 100 per cent of pupils in Year 5 took one-to-one lessons. The Senior school holds termly charity concerts and have unusual music groups including world drumming and ukulele. There’s even a parent and staff choir if you fancy flexing your vocal chords.
Drama takes place in a hidden Harry Potter-style tower that used to be the school chapel, and extra provision for budding actors is provided through Stagecoach.
This is a small school which lends itself to a community feel, and the staff assure me everybody knows everybody. Class sizes are small too, allowing for plenty of one-to-one attention.
Wellbeing is a core part of the curriculum, including a Penn Resilience Programme to foster interpersonal skills throughout the school and weekly visits from a qualified counsellor. There’s certainly a warm, nurturing feel here and one Year 10 pupil said he felt the teachers here really cared.
Forest School sessions run on-site for children from nursery up to Year 2.
Louise Higson has been at Farlington for 15 years, becoming the head eight years ago. Most significantly, she has moved the school towards co-education, starting with reception a few years ago. Now pre-prep is fully co-ed and this year, boys have joined Years 3, 7, 9 and 12. She says this decision was a natural progression to allow the school to move with the times.
Dogs are a nice feature of the school – the head has a black lab called Darwin. There’s woodlands onsite, including spectacular displays of bluebells in the spring.
All children from Year 3 upwards are given a Chromebook – which came in very useful during lockdown.
More unusual academic options include art history at A-Level, a popular choice among pupils, and psychology at GCSE.
Reasonable for Sussex. It’s a sliding scale beginning at £1,800 per term for Reception, up to £5,890 for Year 9 onwards. Boarding starts in Year 4 from £7,735 per term , moving up to £9,950 for full boarding from Year 9 onwards. Scholarships include Fine Art, Drama, Music, Sport, Textile Design and Academic.
BOARDING & WRAP AROUND CARE
Farlington offers full, weekly and flexi boarding from Year 4 upwards. Mansion House is home to the girls boarding wing, with a new boys wing – Fishponds – opened in September 2020. Currently 34 pupils board with many from Hong Kong, USA, Sweden, Bulgaria and beyond as well as from the UK.
For Pre-Prep and Prep, there is breakfast club from 7.30am to 8.00am (extra charge) with free supervision from 8am until registration.
All pupils up to Year 11 can stay behind to complete extra-curricular activities or prep from 4.30pm – 5.45pm for no extra charge. If you’re going to be a little later picking them up, they can join dinner and activities until 7pm (extra change).
WORD ON THE GROUND
The small community feel at Farlington is a real selling point, although for some, it can feel a little too small. Parents have praised the school for its response to lockdown and seemed happy with the provision. Nearby all-girl state school Millais is known for its outstanding GCSE results, although it has no sixth form.
Good for: An all-rounder with a strong academic focus. Budding artists will flourish in the excellent Art department.
Not good for: Those looking for a large bustling, academic hothouse or solely focused on sporting achievement. The Sixth Form is very small, but the school says it’s growing in numbers, and its first male students were welcomed this September.
Dare to disagree? Book a space at the virtual open day on Saturday 3 October 2020 for pre-prep, prep and senior. A separate Sixth Form event will be held on Tuesday 6 October.
Farlington School, Guildford Rd, Strood Green, Horsham, RH12 3PN. Tel: 01403 282573. farlingtonschool.com
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