We chat to the head of Forest School’s Preparatory School, Andrew Noakes
Can you tell us a bit about the school’s history?
Forest officially opened as Forest Proprietary Grammar School on 1 October 1834. Five days later, 22 boys joined the school under the headship of Dr Thomas Dry. By the end of its first year, the school had grown to 80 pupils. In 1924, the school introduced the house system, which is still in place today. Over the last 50 years, the school has expanded with the opening of the Gloucester Building, which houses the Prep School, a science block, music school and sports hall. In 1981, girls officially started joining the school and in 2001, the Pre-Prep opened.
What do you see as the school’s main strengths?
In my opinion there are three very distinct strengths of Forest. We are an all-through school, educating pupils from the age of four to 18, which means we can afford to take a long-term view of a child’s learning and provide them with opportunities at a young age to help them better succeed in senior school, university and beyond. I am also a strong advocate of the school’s ‘diamond’ structure; teaching boys and girls separately from the age of seven enables us to do more for them. Thirdly, it’s a truly rare thing to find a school with such an impressive balance of academic, arts and sport, as demonstrated by our pupils.
How do you ensure every young pupil achieves their full potential?
We monitor each individual in terms of their academic progress, their involvement in school life and their wellbeing. We achieve this using our own experience, professional judgments, the evidence around us and the opinions of independent third-party educational organisations. We share this information with parents as often as we can, and teachers are always available for parents to discuss any aspects of their son or daughter’s progress.
Do you offer any extra-curricular programmes?
We offer a vast array of activities; they are so important to an individual’s development. It is through many of these activities that we can help pupils to appreciate the importance of teamwork, perseverance and the chance to experiment to succeed and to fail. So important do I believe an extra-curricular programme to be, that within our school week we also offer an activities programme allowing us to teach children a variety of life skills. These include our Debating Society, Young First Aider and Money Awareness classes. We also run clubs such as musical theatre, music theory, fencing, hockey and football.
What kind of feedback do you receive from parents and pupils?
Parents seem very happy, mainly because of the happiness of our pupils. Our parents liked to be involved and there are plenty of opportunities for them to be, so I regularly hear back about all that their daughters and sons have come home and said!
How do you see Forest School progressing?
Forest is already an innovative school and has considerable momentum. It has always been a very happy school, and initiatives such as the Forest Portfolio, Forest Diploma, the adoption of Mandarin as a core modern foreign language, mindful ness, and the aforementioned life skills place us very much at the forefront of education. I am quite certain we will not cease being innovative for years to come.