Tuesday 18 August 2020

Norfolk House School – the next step in your child’s learning journey

There are many milestones to look forward to when you have a baby, and as they grow into a toddler and a child, you’ll enjoy seeing them change and develop into the little person they are going to be. Sometimes the next step can seem a bit daunting at first, particularly when it comes to their learning, but the transition between nursery and school is an important and exciting time. Choosing the right school and being informed about what to expect is so important, so if you are a parent of a young child and are thinking about what will happen next, this post might give you some reassurance and some ideas.

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Established education leaders

Norfolk House School can be found nestled in leafy Edgbaston, Birmingham, and for over 80 years, has earned an enviable reputation as a leading independent preparatory school in the city but also in the Midlands, such is its recognition. Built on the ethos that each child is an individual to be nurtured, Norfolk House School provides a happy and caring environment where young children can flourish.

I visited the school this past week as I was keen to take in the beautiful surroundings and explore the classrooms for myself, to learn more about how this small yet perfectly formed school offers such an enriching experience for pupils. Having been through the process of finding a school for Ethan, and seeing him go through the Transition (pre-school) years, I understand what other parents might be looking for when selecting the right place for their child.

 Start as you mean to go on

We knew that the time when Ethan went from nursery to pre-school and beyond was going to be a big change for us all, and that it was important to be prepared and do our research so we knew what to expect and how to make the right decisions for him.

It’s such a critical time and Norfolk House School recognises that there is much that can be accomplished at the start of your child’s school journey. The Early Years education in Transition (ages 3-4) offered at Norfolk House School provides a structured approach to learning, all in a friendly, secure and caring environment. Pupils join the school full-time and enjoy access to a complete curriculum experience which helps them to develop their confidence and independence.

When I visited the school, I was impressed by the grand building and spacious outdoor play areas, and I discovered that the experience of students in Transition is full and well-rounded. There is an emphasis on structured learning, with teacher-led lessons tailored to deliver key skills in maths, English etc., but there is freedom too, for expression and experimentation, with free play encouraged and a secure space just outside the classroom door for children to take advantage of whenever they wish. The best of both worlds, really.

Tailored learning

I was encouraged to learn that Norfolk House School focuses on small group sessions, with just 20 pupils in a Transition class. The aim here is for children to have the space as well as the teacher attention so they can develop their communication and social skills with confidence and learn early reading and number skills to help establish a good foundation. Benefiting from this personalised learning approach, I heard how pupils can both learn the important skills and knowledge needed at their age, but also find ways to express themselves.

There’s also a real focus on outdoor learning in Transition – something which in my experience is so beneficial for children – and the Forest School section of the School’s outdoor space is just a child’s dream! The School believes that this helps to produce rounded learners as their pupils can begin to explore through play-based activities and reinforce their understanding of the world around them through hands-on experience, and I have to agree. I would have loved to have got involved myself, and hearing about the bug hotel and hunts, nature art activities, mud kitchen and den building made me envious. There’s even a vegetable patch with leeks and carrots! Ethan would adore spending time here, and the whole area felt like we had stepped into a secret garden, with everything designed for learning through play.

Aiming high to achieve for all

In preparing children for a happy and successful life, Norfolk House School works to the following aims:

● To provide all our children with opportunities to achieve their academic potential;
● To develop an enquiring mind within a family environment where they feel valued and which addresses all aspects of the children’s spiritual, moral, social and cultural development;
● To promote an atmosphere where they feel fulfilled, confident and emotionally literate;
● To equip our pupils to grow as caring and responsible citizens who will accept responsibility and make a positive contribution to the community and society;
● To encourage a lifelong enthusiasm for learning;
● To understand the importance of manners, respect for each other and the value of working and living together productively.
● To maintain an environment in which children are safe, happy and motivated.
● To encourage mutual respect, tolerance and understanding.

In speaking with Susannah, the Headmistress who herself has gone to school and worked in this stunning corner of central Birmingham, I learnt that there is always something new to look forward to at the school. Rather than sticking to one way of doing things, year in and year out, Norfolk House believes in ongoing development of the curriculum. This is often in the form of new and enriching features, be it a new science building in development, to offer further STEM teaching from Year 3 upwards, or updating materials and resources, providing music lessons and getting pupils involved in a daily mile challenge or tennis and swimming lessons.

It was amazing to learn how vast the breadth of opportunities are at Norfolk House and treading the solid wood floors for myself, I couldn’t help but be inspired by the characterful surroundings myself. Oh to be young again - what a place to learn!

Dream, Believe, Achieve

I spotted on one of the many display boards around the school these three words and the really echo the goals I have for our sons and their education. During the coronavirus situation, I haven’t been as pleased with the way my son has (or hasn’t) been supported in his learning journey, but the approach Norfolk House School took and still takes is miles away. As Susannah said to me, they are there to look out for every single person at the school and it was important to remain as a close knit community and to provide consistency for the children. The majority were able to stay in the school itself, whilst daily calls and online classes and activities ensured pupils at home kept connected. Norfolk House really didn’t miss a beat, even delivering the end of year play via Zoom for parents to watch at home, and the Year 6 Enterprise Fair and leavers’ assembly running in a similar way.

The pupils wanted to learn, and the School found a way to make this work. Having seen their strict adherence to guidelines upon my arrival – I provided my contact information, was asked if I had been unwell and sanitised my hands before being allowed beyond the reception – I am assured that the best safeguarding practices are in place. Through hearing about their strategic approach to remote and flexible learning, that are also very prepared for any future developments, as are their pupils.

See for yourself

It’s important to do your research, and the Norfolk House School website contains detailed sections on all aspects of their approach to teaching and learning, to help inform and reassure parents at every level. You can take a look around the facilities and find out about life at all the stages, but of course, if you can go and see the School for yourself, then you really should as seeing things first-hand will make all the difference when making a decision for your child.

Prospective parents are keenly invited by the School to arrange a visit, which will include a meeting with the Headmistress and various members of staff. At this time, such appointments can be scheduled for evenings, after 4.30pm, or at the weekend and will involve a thorough tour of the school, from top to bottom, inside and out; whatever you would like to see and with an opportunity to ask in-person every question that you may have.

I highly recommend this; you need to see any school with your own eyes but in seeing Norfolk House for myself, it aided my understanding of just how inspiring the environment is for young minds, and the family-like feeling they create for their pupils.

Exploring the rooms and grounds for yourself will not only show you the range of learning opportunities that are presented to pupils throughout their learning journey, but it’ll also go a long way in helping you picture what life would be like for your child. With the emphasis on creating a structured yet caring environment for all 145 pupils, you will really be struck by the homely feel of the School and of the warm welcome you can expect as a parent throughout your child’s time at Norfolk House.

Know before they go

My key advice to any parent looking at the next steps from nursery to Transition and beyond is to do your research, ask lots of questions and see it for yourself. You need to get a feel of things for yourself, and visiting a school and hearing and seeing what they are all about will help you make an informed choice.

You do get a feeling about a school and my feeling from visiting Norfolk House was that every child is respected, that the school emphasises respect and takes great care in supporting every pupil and that it really is like a family away from home, creating a safe and rewarding environment for learning. Experiencing this first-hand is the best way to find out all you need to know about what Norfolk House School can do for your child, so you have the confidence in taking that next step on their learning journey.

Norfolk House School has the last few places remaining for Transition September 2020 admission, so don’t delay and contact the school today!

Norfolk House School Ltd.
4 Norfolk Road
B15 3PS

Tel: 0121 454 7021


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