Sompting Abbotts is a happy, high-achieving Sussex preparatory school for girls and boys of 2-13 years. This historic school is set in 30 acres of beautiful grounds in the South Downs National Park. Call us traditional – we are. But in a progressive way. We use all the opportunities technology creates for learning by our digital natives. Some might well become future programmers thanks to our Coding Club. But we still believe the best apps for children’s learning are their teachers ...
About the school
Knowledge, creativity, curiosity, agility, determination and insight. These are the qualities we inspire at West Sussex independent school, Sompting Abbotts. Sompting Abbotts Preparatory School is an independent school near Worthing and Steyning. Ours is a family-owned school set in 30 acres of open grounds, heated swimming pool, excellent sports facilities and woodland for forest school learning.The school prides itself on giving pupils a magical childhood while developing full academic potential and nurturing different talents.
Sompting Abbotts Preparatory School is proud of its strong record of scholarship achievement to leading senior schools. As an independent stand-alone prep school, the school has the freedom to prepare children for the educational path that best suits them. The school provides small class sizes (max 15), quality 'rounded' teaching with emphasis on IT and STEM skills, and an outstanding extra-curricular experience. Wrap-around care is free.
Sompting Abbotts recalls VE evacuation and requisition 75 years ago
Did you know that at this time 75 years ago, Sompting Abbotts’ pupils had been evacuated and the building requisitioned by the army. Or that Australian soldiers had installed a resident kangaroo?!
8th May 2020 — Like hundreds of other stately and country homes across the country, Sompting Abbotts was taken over by the Army.
During WW2, no house was exempt, with the grandest stately homes re-purposed to house everything from schools to maternity homes, from military hospitals to war supply depots. Nearby Roedean School has been requisitioned by the Admiralty as a depot and Lancing College by the Navy.
It was mostly Canadian Allied Forces (and a kangaroo!) that were billeted at the manor house of Sompting Abbotts for the duration of most of the war.
Headmaster, the late Nigel Sinclair, recalled in his memoirs in 1974: “Even now, we're often visited by men who were here in those days.
“Several Canadians have told me that they had a resident kangaroo here for some time. They found it wandering on the Downs. It was thought to have belonged to an Australian regiment, although they could not be traced. Eventually it drank some engine oil and unfortunately died, to be buried in the grounds with some ceremony.”
This is almost certainly true. Australian soldiers liked to smuggle kangaroos (and possums and koalas) as mascots and morale boosters during both world wars according to Australian Geographic and www.warhistoryonline.com
The pupils at Sompting Abbotts stayed at the school until the escalation of war in 1940 forced its temporary closure and the boys were moved to safe building in Wales.
The headmaster at the time, George Rutherford, who soon joined the RAF himself, wrote: “We stayed on for some time and even received boys from another prep school evacuated from Kent.
“Under instructions from the A.R.P. (Air Raid Precautions), we prepared our cellars for a retreat during air raids. We filled all cracks with sodden newspaper to keep out gas in case gas bombs were dropped. On the surrender of France, though, we decided that we had to evacuate.”
The soldiers left their mark. You can still see today where they engraved their initials in the render around the door frame of the Main School.
They were responsible too for the small missing parts of the great gilt mirror that stand today above the fireplace in the Dining Room. They sawed bits off and took them as souvenirs!
Soon after VE day, the Sinclair family would arrive to re-open the school in 1946.
Not that the army had left it good condition. Nigel Sinclair remembered: “Trenches had been dug in the grounds and tanks had been parked on the tennis lawn. In an effort to help, the army had painted most of the interior with a bright green paint, traces of which can still be seen today in various places.”
The Sinclair family resurrected the former manor house (now a Grade II listed building) as a thriving Sussex independent prep school for girls and boys aged 2 - 13 years.
Today the school is still run by Nigel Sinclair's widow, Patricia Sinclair, Principal, and their children David, Bursar, and Ruth, Director.
Worthing head uses 150-year-old tree to help children with ‘lockdown resilience'
The Head of Sompting Abbotts Preparatory School Stuart Douch has made a video lesson about resilience for children that has been widely shared by parents on social media. "We are very mindful of the stresses of lockdown confinement," he said.
4th May 2020 — Pupils are learning to build their resilience in lockdown isolation with the head of a Worthing school.
“The challenges of balancing home life and school work are tough for both children and their parents,” said Mr Douch.
His lesson, based on the poem Tree of Strength is set against the video backdrop of a great sycamore tree.
Thought to be over 150 years old, the vast tree stands in his school’s 30 acres of grounds, currently empty of children.
The poem is by child mental health expert and poet Dr Pooky Knightsmith.
Mr Douch is himself shielding and unable to be with the children at school.
So he filmed his part of the lesson in the churchyard of his own local church, St James the Less, in Lancing.
In it, he tells the children that resilience is not a ‘magic super power’. It is all about being positive right now and accepting that you can’t change everything.
“I know that many of you are missing your school friends and feeling lonely at home,” he said. “Some of you may be finding getting on with a sister or brother at home difficult.”
He urges all children to give someone in their family a hug each day and to tell them that they love them.
“That will make the difference between a day being a difficult day and a much better day,” he says.
Sompting Abbotts Preparatory School is providing all its pupils with a full programme of online learning. This is teacher-led, using Google Classroom and live Zoom video lessons.
Staff have created a virtual timetable from 9am to 4.30pm. It replicates the children’s normal school timetable and curriculum.
The children are in virtual school for registration, academic classes and sports, art and drama activities. They also enjoy lunch breaks and form time.
“It has been a learning exercise for all staff to get our online programme up and running so fast,” said Mr Douch. “But parents and children are really engaged.”
“We’re lucky that our low pupil-teacher ratio makes our remote learning provision very effective. It’s allowing us to continue the one-to-one attention that our school prides itself on. Our pupils are not falling behind and losing out on their education due to the pandemic.”
Parents rated the school’s online provision in a survey. On average they gave the programme 9/10. The survey resulted in comments from parents including these:
“You’ve all done an amazing job for our school. The work and care, together with information from you all, has been outstanding. We can’t thank you enough.”
“We are grateful for how quickly you have got this up and running. We appreciate how hard it is for all teachers to learn a new way to teach.”
“The quality and level of remote learning provision has been excellent. My child has felt supported, is engaged, and loves the Zoom meetings. I've been impressed by the attention to both academic and pastoral development.”
“You’ve done a fantastic job! My children are enjoying the Zoom lessons. I’m so happy the provision is there for them to keep on track with their learning, thank you.”
“I'd like to say that Sompting Abbotts’ staff have proved yet again how seriously they take their commitment to our children’s education. They've set up distance learning so quickly and effectively.”
Sompting Abbotts has remained open to children of its key worker parents.
Staff suspended classes for one minute's silence on Tuesday April 28 at 11am in recognition of the critical work that NHS staff are doing.
Sompting Abbotts children make virtual performance of Over the Rainbow
Our pupils can't be with their friends at this uncertain time. But they came together as a virtual choir for this beautiful recording of the song Over the Rainbow.
12th April 2020 — Using smartphones to record themselves at home, they followed the cello and piano instrumentals by their Head of Music Annette Williamson for their voice cues.
The song was chosen in recognition of the #chasetherainbow campaign, which has seen millions of UK children post their rainbow paintings in their front windows as a sign of solidarity and hope.
The video also featured colourful rainbow artwork from school pupils aged 2 to 13 who contributed dozens of rainbow paintings.
In a letter to parents, Headmaster Mr Stuart Douch said: "I am writing to you to thank you sincerely for allowing your talented children to showcase their skills in this lovely video. We greatly appreciate their hard work in making this possible.
Hearing your children sing beautifully and seeing them alongside pictures of our school was a very lovely experience; I felt very emotional. I thought they did a splendid job with their superb singing and please thank them very much from me.
It is hard for all of us, parents, pupils and staff, working through this strange time of isolation. Something I felt the film conveyed very well was the idea that this - our lovely school community - is what we have to look forward to returning to, as soon as things move closer to normality."
You can listen to the song on the school's Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/somptingabbotts/videos/534001997511755/
'Mind-bending' music education at Sompting Abbotts
Music is being cut from school curriculums nationwide. Not at Sompting Abbotts however where we're convinced of the bigger benefits of learning music for children's development of creativity and intellect
11th October 2019 — Sompting Abbotts Prep School has been abuzz with music this term.
A new Chamber Choir has been formed. Children have enjoyed a Trumpet Instrumental Presentation, a Cello Workshop and African Drumming Instruction.
Pupils also performed in the Prep Schools’ String Day at Lancing College. Many attended Glyndebourne’s Performances for Schools staging of Donizetti’s opera L’Elisir d’Amore.
More than 50% of children at Sompting Abbotts, from Years 1 to 8, learn an instrument in school. These include the piano, violin, cello, flute, clarinet, sax, drums, guitar, ukulele and trumpet.
Many are learning to sing with specialist staff. Students go on to take AEB grade examinations, achieving excellent results. The school is proud that its most able musicians gain Music Scholarships to the senior schools of their choice.
“We see exposure to all types of music as fundamental to children's development,” says Head of Music Annette Williamson.
All children at the school from Year 1 learn the recorder and to read music by Year 5 to the level of the Grade 1 ABRSM Theory Paper. By Year 8, many are composing their own music and performing it.
Mrs Williamson regrets that music is being cut from school curriculums. The BBC reported in March that schools in England saw a 21% decrease in music provision over the last five years.
“That's sad and wrong,” says Mrs Williamson. “Music offers children something that is emotional, imaginative, creative and fun. It's also scientifically proven that learning music helps academic results.”
Sompting Abbotts places strong emphasis on the performing arts. “In different ways, we try to boost our pupils’ confidence and communication skills. We know these will be invaluable to their lives ahead.”
Mrs Williamson believes that learning an instrument is ‘mind-bending’ for a child. “The student has to learn to read music notation. He or she has to develop eye-hand-mind co-ordination, keen listening and team skills for playing as an ensemble. They learn discipline to practice.”
A new study in the Journal of Educational Psychology shows the academic benefit of playing a musical instrument. Students score much higher in science, maths, and English exams than their non-musical peers.
Learning music is also linked to an improvement in the all-important STEM skills. Children will need these to fill the science, technology, engineering and science jobs of tomorrow.
So, if you're ever in any doubt of what the bigger benefits of learning music is to your child's development of creativity and intellect, there it is!
Sompting Abbotts Prep School is named winner at UK Content Awards 2019
Sompting Abbotts gains national recognition for its content outreach expertise and new website that have helped boost enrolment by 28%. It was runner up to the Open University in its category and described as a "small school with a big voice".
11th June 2019 — The prep school, in West Sussex, came runner-up against stiff competition of many well-known organisations in its shortlist category of 10 in which the Open University won first place. “It was a tough decision for the judges as they felt Sompting Abbotts was a strong contender in the category,” said the awards organiser Alex Rimmer.
Here’s the feedback the school received from Hannah Smith, UK Content Awards Judge: “The real-world results achieved by Sompting Abbotts are absolutely incredible, and a testament to the quality of the content being produced. Rather than seeking to 'sell' the school, instead, the school’s web and video content created addresses the very real concerns of all parents – from battles over screen time, to the value of outdoor learning, to STEM skills, to winning scholarships.
"As a result, it's reaping the benefits in the shape of social engagement, increased visits to the site, increased enrolment enquiries, and most importantly, increased pupil numbers. It has proved that it is indeed a small school with a big voice, producing content that is big on heart to demonstrate results. Fantastic work!”
“It’s just so fantastic for Sompting Abbotts to be recognised in this way and for people to see what our school has achieved,” says Stuart Douch, Headmaster Sompting Abbotts. “There’s a new buzz and feel-good factor about our historic school now thanks to our raised profile that is down to our new website and digital marketing efforts.”
To find out more about the school’s achievement, visit this link: https://www.connectedcopy.co.uk/sompting-abbotts-case-study
The UK Content Awards is a national competition open to all businesses in the UK. It celebrates excellence in content marketing and rewards agencies, charities and businesses for creating high quality, valuable content which attracts, informs, engages and retains an audience to ultimately deliver traffic and profit.
Each of the categories is judged by a panel of industry experts. The 2019 awards were presented at a gala dinner and awards ceremony at the Montcalm Hotel, London on Thursday 6 June 2019.
Sompting Abbotts Prep School stars in BAFTA-awarded director's new film Old Boys
Sompting Abbotts Preparatory School is set to hit cinema screens around the UK as the location for BAFTA-award-winning Director Toby MacDonald’s new film Old Boys.
26th February 2019 — Pupils at Sompting Abbotts in West Sussex are looking forward to going to see a film shot in their school to get a sense of what their school used to be like.
The school’s Grade II-listed Neo-Gothic building and well-preserved interior made it the perfect backdrop for BAFTA-awarded director Toby MacDonald's new film Old Boys set in a posh English boys’ boarding school called Caldermount during the 1980s.
The film which is showing nationwide has already received excellent reviews.
Today Sompting Abbotts is a co-ed day school but back in the 1980s it was a boys' boarding school and would have shared a resemblance to the fictional Caldermount. Headmaster Stuart Douch said: "They're looking forward to seeing their school on screen! Only our children over 12 years however will be able to see the film at the cinema as it's a 12A."
The Observer gave it 4/5 stars and said: “The first feature from Bafta-nominated Toby MacDonald manages a curious alchemy. It takes two elements – the story of Cyrano de Bergerac and a British same-sex boarding school – that have already been mined extensively by filmmakers over the years. And it somehow manages to create something fresh and distinctive. The 80s setting, distancing the story from the immediacy of the digital age, gives the film a lovely, scrappy, handmade aesthetic.”
Time Out, which also awarded it 4/5 stars, said: “This charmingly oddball rom-com exists somewhere between ‘If....‘ and ‘Rushmore’ in the canon of schoolboy eccentricity.”
The Independent described it as “a romcom that’s both sweet and satisfying”.
The film’s setting is a UK boarding school fuelled by cricket, rugby and the school’s trademark game – Streamers – a kind of British Bulldog in a river. In such an unlikely setting, a love triangle develops between daughter of the new French master, Agnes, sports star and handsome pupil Winchester, and unpopular scholarship nerd Amberson who is the go-between the two good-looking types.
The film’s lead is Alex Lawther, Screen International ‘Star of Tomorrow’ and BAFTA Breakthrough Brit for his role as the young Alan Turing in the Oscar-winning film The Imitation Game.
Sompting Abbotts’ Bursar David Sinclair said filming took place during the Easter holidays. The production team used various locations in the school including the beautiful high-ceilinged wood-panelled Assembly Room.
Mr Sinclair said it had been a thoroughly exciting experience having the film production company at Sompting Abbotts.
“They came in like a whirlwind and the scale of the operation was huge. The sound, lighting and filming people were all over the building with an immense amount of technical kit and there was a sense of strict organisation and energy.
“Actors and actresses were everywhere in dress, waiting to be called. It was fascinating to see how many people are involved in making a film.”
He added: “The first three days for preparation the Assembly Room was re-painted a different shade of blue, its Honours Boards and door removed, and another hung. The hall was stripped of our school photos and furniture. Many props were brought in.”
He said the filming team turned the car park into the ‘technical hub’.
“Enormous lorries with the sound and lighting equipment were parked and the biggest lorry was the ‘Panavision’ filming lorry, full of cameras, monitors and consoles. The lighting people fixed what looked like enormous search lights to the top of the fire escape outside a bedroom they were filming in.”
There was one multiple re-take in the Assembly Room, he remembers. “The director let rip. I have never heard anybody shout so loudly (the language was choice).”
Some parts of Old Boys were also filmed elsewhere in Sussex at Lancing College and Arundel.
Sompting Abbotts was also used as a film location in 2005 for part of the filming of the documentary A Canadian in Love (Golden Reed Productions) in which 15 Sompting Abbotts’ pupils also featured.
The prep school today is a co-educational day school for children aged 2 to 13 years. It was a boys boarding school from 1921 until 2008 and has been run by three generations of the Sinclair family since 1946.
The building was originally known as Sompting Manor and hosted the Princess of Wales, Caroline of Brunswick, wife of King George IV in 1814.
Can my child join the school mid-way through term? Yes, pupils can join us at the outset of the term or at any time during the school year, providing a place is available. We assign a 'buddy' for all new pupils joining mid-way.
Do you have any selections criteria? No. We're a small family-run school that aims to make all children, from whatever background, feel welcome and valued. We have a non-competitive policy. Our intake is mixed ability.
Is there an entrance test my child has to do? No, there's no formal examination. On your child's taster day, we'll give informal attainment tasks to assess general standards and potential. The Headmaster will conditionally offer a place based upon this and the teacher's observations and receipt of a report from your child’s previous school.