As a progressive school, we hear a lot of funny things being said about the way we tick. No structure. No discipline. No rules. These are the main misunderstandings. We may be different than a lot of very traditional independent schools, but we have classes and timetables and very solid expectations of everyone here. We don’t have uniforms, prefects, head boys and girls or Saturday school, but we do have a diverse curriculum, a lot of outdoor learning time and a very nurturing community. We’re not sure where the confusion lies so it’s best to come and have a look for yourself.
Listen to Nick, our Head of Junior School, Jade, our JS Assistant Head of Teaching & Learning, and some of our Year 6 children talk about life in the Junior School.
JUNIOR SCHOOL: YEARS 1 TO 6
If you've ever worried that your child might be losing that natural love of learning or worried that their special spark might be fading, then we might just be the school you're looking for.
We are passionate about keeping that childhood sense of wonder alive. Young children are fascinating. Their ideas are inspiring. Full of an optimism, creativity and open-mindedness that rivals a super power. Their huge imaginations and confident creativity are the basis for an amazing life, an amazing world. These things should be nurtured, encouraged and strengthened, but it's only when you acknowledge that each child shows these things differently - some when they're older, some younger - some visually, some physically, some verbally - only then can you support each child on their own educational adventure.
By championing individuality and building a firm basis of mutual respect, our Junior School teachers and children learn together, discuss together and grow together.
TEACHING & LEARNING
Sometimes, when people don’t know us very well, they assume we’re an art school. That our main focus is on the creative and performing arts. We’re quite flattered and we do all of that exceptionally well, but we’re actually a very balanced school. We don’t sway more towards the arts just as we don’t sway more towards traditional academic subjects. Both are essential. A scientist will be stronger for having learnt about colour and texture. A dancer will excel with a good knowledge of geometry and physics. Everyone will benefit from having performed on a stage from an early age. Most independent schools sway heavily towards academics, but you can, and should, have your maths and do a bit of dancing too.
Our class sizes are small allowing for a lot more discussion, flexibility and personality. The maximum class size for Year 1 is 10 and for Years 2 to 6 is 16-18 children. We have one class per year in Years 1 to 3 and two classes per year in Years 4 to 6. We welcome children to join at any year group where there is space available.
At Frensham, we treat academic and creative subjects equally and within the younger years particularly, our aim is to offer a very broad curriculum allowing each child to find their own strengths and passions.
The core academic curriculum of Maths, English, Science and Topic happens with the year group teams, mainly in the classroom. Due to the small class sizes and our informal relationships, teachers get to know the children really well and really understand what makes each one tick. They can differentiate the work across all subjects to make sure each child receives the support or challenges that they need. We have a team of Teaching and Learning Assistants who support our Junior School, they work with the class teachers during core lessons to make sure all children are making progress. Each year group is different - we look at the children in front of us each year and provide the relevant support to meet their needs, as a group and as individuals.
SUBJECT TEACHER LESSONS
Our Junior School children have their core classes with their class teachers, but in order to experience a truly broad curriculum, they also have regular classes with subject teachers who teach up through the school - Dance, Drama, Music, IT, PE, Outdoor Ed and Modern Foreign Languages.
For the most part, we stick to our timetable, but class teachers do have the flexibility to extend activities if the children are really engrossed and makeup missed time in another subject later. Lessons are 30 minutes long and the weekly breakdown is shown below.
English: 9 lessons
Maths: 9 lessons
Topic: 4 lessons | Yrs 5&6: 3 lessons
Science: Yrs 1-3: 3 lessons | Yrs 4-6: 4 lessons
Personal, Social, Health Education: 1 lesson
Philosophy, Religion, Ethics: 1 lesson per week
IT*: 2 lessons
French*: Yrs 1-3: 1 lesson | Yrs 4-6: 2 lessons
PE/Games*: 4 lessons per week
Art: 2 lessons per week | Yr 5: 1 lesson
Creative Design Tech* Yr 5: 1 lesson
Music*: Yrs 1-3: 1 lesson | Yrs 4-6: 4 lessons
Dance/Drama*: 2 lessons per week
Forest School*: Yrs 1-3: 4 lessons per week
Outdoor Education*: 2 lessons per fortnight
* indicates subject teacher
OUR SCHOOL DAY
We have classes Monday to Friday.
Years 1 to 3 start at 8:30am and finish at 3:20pm.
Their day is split into five class periods with morning and afternoon breaks and lunch. There are extracurricular activities available at lunchtime and after school.
Years 4 to 6 start at 8:30am and finish at 3:30pm.
They have five class periods with a morning break and lunch. A range of extracurricular activities run at lunch time and after school.
We are a progressive school, but that doesn’t mean we have no structure, no discipline, no rules. That’s not what progressive means. It means we’re forward-thinking, we’re open-minded. We help our children grow in their own unique ways, to develop their own skills and passions. This sets them in good stead for a future world we cannot yet know.
We are a modern school, after all the world moves onwards not backwards. We don’t mind a bit of looking backwards, we’re very proud of our heritage, but there’s no point teaching children to mirror long-gone cultural and social ways. Teaching them to live in the past doesn’t make them stronger, it leaves them behind.
If you ask someone who’s never visited Frensham, they’ll probably just say we’re a school that uses first names and doesn’t have uniforms. It might be said with a hint of doubt. That’s a bit weird, right? But, if we look around at our modern society – the workplace, family life – is it really so strange? These are actually very simple things, very natural things and their effect in a school setting is quite refreshing – ultimately by taking away that hint of doubt about doing something differently.
We stand firmly on a base of mutual respect. Teachers don’t demand respect, they earn it. As do the children. We aim to treat each other as we want to be treated. With respect. With compassion. With empathy. With our small class sizes and close relationships between children and teachers, bullying and other behavioural issues are rare and tend to be handled before they can become a problem. If problems do arise, they are handled through calm discussion with each child being given the chance to listen, talk and learn.
We have boundaries, but not rules for rules sake allowing children to question, develop self-awareness, awareness of others and take responsibility for their actions.
We seek out innovative teachers - those who aren't afraid to push boundaries, be brave and think outside the box. Teachers who are excited about their lessons and love learning. They inspire that passion in their students putting them in a great frame of mind for their primary education and beyond.