Swanbourne House School: A New Chapter for the Littlest Learners

Posted 11th January 2024

Nestled in the 55 acres of Buckinghamshire countryside near Milton Keynes, Swanbourne House, an independent day and boarding prep school for children from 3 years old, looks back on a new chapter in its rich history with the recent launch of its Pre-Reception class in September 2023.

Nick Holloway, Head at Swanbourne House, said “Looking back at our first term of our Pre-Reception class, we have seen our youngest Swanbournians achieve so much. They have started Music lessons, began PE lessons with our specialist Games staff and taken part in Forest School. Academically they have begun their reading journey and we’re seeing pupils increase their confidence across the curriculum.

“When we launched our Pre-Reception, we wanted to give families more than just a traditional nursery setting for their little one. Recognising the importance of laying a strong foundation, we go beyond conventional nursery offerings. Our young learners have access to state-of-the-art facilities across the school, providing a seamless transition into their first Reception school year.

“Our Pre-Reception sets the stage for a really special learning experience, ensuring that each child is not just prepared for school, but primed to thrive in the years ahead. We envisioned more than a nursery; we envisioned a nurturing starting point for a lifelong love of learning.”

Ruth Nicoll, Head of Lower School at Swanbourne House continues, “High-quality phonics learning takes centre stage in our Pre-Reception, with explicit teaching that integrates seamlessly into a broad, balanced, and engaging curriculum. Teachers utilise phonics sounds as a foundation for planning, and our cross-curricular approach ensures that phonics isn’t just a lesson but an embedded aspect of every subject, with an emphasis on revisiting sounds to ensure a deep and lasting understanding. For example, as we discover more of the alphabet, the letter K becomes a vessel for different experiences, from kicking balls to making kites, reinforcing the sound in various contexts.

“Creativity and curiosity is really at the heart of our Pre-Reception. We use the example of a simple pine cone and how it has boundless possibilities. As children explore, the pine cone could transform into a crucial components to fix an imaginary cars, or be a key ingredient in a creation within the mud kitchen. The magic lies not just in the object itself but in the imaginative journey our youngest Swanbournians are encouraged to take.

“We know the importance of a balanced day, and as such families have a rich array of co-curricular activities, including yoga, multi-skills, balance bikes, cricket, football, and performing arts, to choose from. Our wraparound care, from a welcoming breakfast club to the cozy Cabin Club, ensures that children feel at home and supported beyond the school day. Meal times are more than just nourishment; they are a family experience, with children sitting at tables with their teachers, enjoying freshly cooked meals prepared on-site, from weekly roast dinners to a chance to try international cuisine!

“It’s important to note our learning isn’t confined to the four walls of the classroom – there really is a blurred line between the indoors and the outdoors in our Pre-Reception. Surrounded by the fall of leaves and birdsong, eucalyptus trees and adjoining farmland, we make the most of our location here in Swanbourne and ensure every pupil has access to outdoor adventure.

“Pre-reception pupils have their own garden, sandpit and play equipment. Across the school, we have an Outdoor Learning Classroom and a new play structure, The Fort (which is already the stuff of Swanbourne legend!). With around 55 acres here at Swanbourne House, much of which is woodland and parkland, it’s not surprising that our pupils pupils form a connection with the outdoors from a very early age.”

Nick Holloway continues, “We’re a proud member of The Stowe Group and our Pre-Reception children are the very youngest pupils in the Group. As the children progress through the school – whether they eventually move on to Stowe or elsewhere – they will benefit from the huge array of opportunities that being part of the Group offers.

“In recent years, Swanbournians have had access to the incredible facilities and opportunities available at Stowe, including music workshops with West End stars, science days in Stowe’s Science Centre, increased specialist sport lessons (including the introduction of lacrosse), art workshops and much more. This on top of significant investment into the Manor House Pre-Prep, sport facilities and boarding house. It’s an exciting time ahead for our Pre-Reception pupils as part of The Stowe Group!”

To arrange a private tour and meeting with Mr Holloway to discuss admissions in Pre-Reception, Reception or across the school, please email admissions@swanbourne.org