Philippa Cawthorne is leaving Bassett House after seven years. Here are her wise words on what makes a great prep school, and why in her view Bassett House School is so special.
“As I move on from headship at Bassett House, after seven wonderful years at the helm, I have been reflecting on what makes the school so special. I have shown many hundreds of families around, often with babes in arms, who want to know the answer to that question too. Well, there are many things that make a good school, and many good schools, but in Bassett House School I believe we have Notting Hill’s best small school!
We are small and so cannot accommodate masses of children, but like a boutique hotel, we have everything we need: wonderful facilities, excellent teaching and care, and most importantly, happy, energetic children with an infectious enthusiasm for learning. As a small school, we put the individual child at the centre of everything we do. I know from experience, happy, secure children learn more readily – and at Bassett House, we offer a warm, family atmosphere where each child’s talents are nurtured and challenged.
There are many things that make a good school, and many good schools, but in Bassett House School I believe we have Notting Hill’s best small school!
Children don’t get lost in the crowd at Bassett House: each one is seen and noticed every single day, and this builds confidence and self-worth. Opportunities to achieve and succeed also breed confidence and we encourage all our pupils to make the most of their natural abilities. Every child has the chance to shine in a way which sometimes isn’t possible in larger cohorts (where spots on teams, parts in plays are naturally limited) and to make the most of the enriching broader curriculum we offer. Whether it’s the satisfaction of tackling the maths problem of the week, pride in performing in a young musicians’ assembly or thrill of scoring a goal against another school, every personal success is recognised and celebrated. The whole curriculum is important at Bassett House – drama, art, music and sport, as well as emerging interests like coding – and through our motivational clubs and activities, every child is encouraged to perform.
Whilst we place great emphasis on academic prowess, we also teach the children the value of soft skills – resilience, compassion, communication – which we know to be essential preparation for senior school and life beyond. Our residential trips, such as Bushcraft, are selected to promote team-building, resourcefulness, decision-making and practical thinking, and to provide the children with experiences that lead to them growing into happy, confident and successful young men and women. Enrichment activities, such as debating, philosophy, graphic design, film-making and martial arts, help the children to develop the ability to communicate confidently, think independently and work towards a chosen goal – the key to success! Risk taking and a positive mindset are important for children both inside and out of the classroom– we promote the growth mindset approach at Bassett House and our children know that they are not allowed to say ‘I can’t do it’ but rather ‘I can’t do it, yet!’
Mental health is very important and pastoral care at Bassett House is outstanding. As our recent ISI inspection report – in which the school was judged to be Excellent in all areas’ – highlights: “pupils show great care and consideration for one another
within a community where relationships are warm and collaboration highly effective.” Small class sizes enable a close relationship between teacher and pupils – all the children are known by all the staff. Our bespoke, pastoral plan booklets include termly questions for the children to answer on their feelings about school and friendships, which allow form teachers to keep a weather eye on every child’s concerns.
And it’s not just the children who are known. Our size means we get to know all our families well too and we give them a really personalised service as a result. Our thriving parents’ association supports the school in many ways and is at the heart of our strong community. We offer wraparound care between 7.30am and 6.00pm – where the children are well fed and have fun.
Because of these firm foundations, Bassett House nurtures happy, independent, resilient children who take their next steps at senior school with confidence and ease. And as our latest ISI inspection confirms, children make excellent progress, with attainment rising overall as they move through the school. When they leave, our pupils go on to top London schools, with academic scholarships awarded in recent years to Latymer Upper, Francis Holland and Queen’s College; art scholarships to Emanuel and Queen’s College; and academic bursaries to Latymer Upper, Godolphin and Latymer, Notting Hill and Ealing and Francis Holland.
London’s size and scale make it one of the most bustling, vibrant cities in the world – and with the benefits of a small prep school environment, Bassett House children are poised to make the most of it.”