HEAD OF DEPARTMENT Mr Martin Smith
At Merchant Taylors' Prep we recognise that English is the cornerstone of teaching and learning throughout the school. The understanding and enjoyment of language in all its forms enables the pupils to communicate their thoughts and feelings effectively and thrive as confident and independent learners.
The English curriculum focuses on the learning of fundamental accuracy skills and the development of an engaging and creative style, while fostering a lasting enjoyment of the spoken and written word. Sharing the wonder and power of the subject is at the forefront of our aims.
Reading and literature are given a high priority. The boys work through structured schemes but also explore a wide range of enrichment materials from the earliest years. Reading is celebrated and appreciated in a host of activities, ranging from the presentation of the boys’ work to the Literary Festivals and Book Weeks, which feature visiting authors, poets, illustrators and theatre companies. Recent authors to have visited include: Jeremy Strong, Chris Ryan, Caroline Lawrence, Chris d’Lacey and Marcus Sedgwick. The older boys enjoy listening to and supporting the younger readers. Years 7 and 8 have recently developed the Author Matrix: an online author reference system, which provides an ever-expanding wealth of information, recommendations and hyperlinks to author websites. Our thriving Learning Resource Centre is run by a professional librarian, ably assisted by Year 8 volunteer librarians, and is busy from early morning until evening.
Spelling, handwriting, vocabulary, grammatical accuracy and creative style are all developed to high standards. The boys’ writing is regularly shared and celebrated at Northwood Prep. As well as participating successfully in national poetry competitions, we also have in-house awards for ‘Purple Prose’. We are currently working on the production of an anthology of short stories by the boys to celebrate one hundred years of young authors at Northwood Prep. In addition to short stories and poetry, the boys have excelled in other forms of composition, winning both the ‘Times’ Newspaper and Website competitions in recent years.
SPEECH and DRAMA
Speech and Drama of a high quality are a longstanding tradition at Merchant Taylors' Prep and the addition of our purpose-built theatre in 2008 has raised their profile still further. Specialist teachers, regular Drama within the curriculum and award winning guest directors have lifted our dramatic productions to great heights. Boys enjoy meaningful integration within the curriculum as well as spectacular presentations throughout their school life here. Recent Senior School productions have included ‘Hiawatha’, ‘The Ragged Child’ and the ‘Prodigious Snob’. Our ‘Beale Clear Speaking’ competition for years 3-8 has been running for over seventy years and is a great favourite with boys and staff alike.
English, in all its forms, is taught with methodical rigour and enjoyed with open hearts. This is a combination which delivers outstanding results at Entrance and Scholarship examinations and hopefully lasts a lifetime.
HEAD OF DEPARTMENT Mr Bernie Westacott
We believe that, almost without exception, all pupils can do well in mathematics. Our teaching programme and our methods are based on the Singapore Maths programme, which is a ‘teaching for mastery’ curriculum - we adopted this approach almost a decade ago. We aim to ensure that pupils have a deep conceptual understanding and achieve mastery by following a Concrete-Pictorial-Abstract sequence in our teaching. Pupils master concepts through the use of manipulatives (concrete) and drawing representations of these (pictorial) before engaging in written (abstract) work. This approach commences from the very beginning in our Nursery and Reception classes. The Nursery and Reception children experience an introduction to a maths programme which follows the Singapore Ministry of Education Kindergarten curriculum, but which has also been further enhanced in order to reflect some key findings from worldwide educational research. We do not believe in hot-housing pupils, especially in the early years. It is vital that we dig deep and firm foundations in the formative years so that we can build higher when the pupils are older.
A key element of this approach is mastery learning: pupils are expected to master a topic at a level before moving onto a higher level or a new topic. Problem-solving is at the heart of our approach to teaching maths and an increasing emphasis is placed on pupils developing their critical thinking skills through the use of heuristics (problem solving strategies) including bar model drawing, systematic lists, working backwards, supposition, and looking for patterns – pupils are encouraged to look for connections and to identify relationships.
As well as using real manipulatives that they can physically handle, with access to online apps, pupils can also use virtual manipulatives that help to deepen their understanding and to master the topics they are studying. We are continuing to develop the use of IT in maths across the school because, when used appropriately, it can be a powerful tool for learning.
Pupils are encouraged to be independent learners but also to work collaboratively – working collaboratively helps to develop their ability to explain, reason and argue, whilst also promoting the personal qualities of resilience, perseverance and self-regulation. However, with a suitably challenging course most pupils will need support and help at some stage, and we provide intervention sessions where necessary.
Singapore Maths to Y6 and beyond
From Y1 to Y6, the pupils follow the same maths scheme as that used by most schools in Singapore, and which is now being adopted by many UK schools. Unlike pupils in Singapore, our Y6 pupils do not have to spend a lot of Y6 practising for a leaving examination at the end of the year, and so in Y6 we move ahead of the Singapore Curriculum. The teaching of critical thinking skills and heuristics (strategies for problem solving) is embedded into the programme – one of the strengths of Singapore Maths is the use of the bar-model drawing method to represent word problems. This method enables pupils to solve problems that would be considered years ahead of them in the UK.
In Y7 to Y8 we have designed our own maths programme tailored to the needs of boys preparing for entrance and scholarship examinations at 13 plus. However, this is still very much based on the Singapore Curriculum and approach. External examination results confirm the success of this pathway.
A proven method
Since introducing Singapore Maths to our school almost a decade ago, we have seen an improvement in the standard of maths for all pupils. When sitting the most demanding scholarship examinations, our more able pupils have consistently achieved A* results in maths, and they have also been awarded a string of medals in the UKMT Junior Maths Olympiad competition. Equally, pupils who have found maths challenging in the past are now achieving a standard well beyond what we might have previously expected.
Use of Technology to Support Learning
The use of appropriate technology can enhance the teaching and learning process. All the pupils use our Computer Aided Maths Instruction (CAMI) system installed on the school network. The system contains practice material in mathematics from Reception to Y8, and well beyond. It keeps individual and class records, which enable teachers to monitor the development of pupils. There is a CAMI reporting system, helping teachers with their assessment and planning. Every pupil up to Y7 spends at least half an hour a week on the system as part of the normal timetable. We have many interactive resources on the network, and through the use of interactive whiteboards we are able to bring this technology into the classroom.
Meeting the needs of all
If a pupil is finding some aspect of maths to be difficult, we provide support and intervention. For those able pupils who need extending, we run a Key Stage 2 Olympiad Maths Club (Y5 and Y6) and a Key Stage 3 Olympiad Maths Club (Y7 and Y8) once a week after school. In these clubs pupils have the opportunity of engaging with the sort of content and level of maths that will help prepare them for national and international competitions.
HEAD OF DEPARTMENT Mr Hans DeVynck
Science is a key component of the curriculum at MTP. We aim to develop a sense of curiosity and stimulate interest in the natural world. Our syllabus covers Physics, Chemistry and Biology as well as some aspects of the Earth Sciences and Astronomy. It is taught inside and outside the classroom.
We make use of our extensive site for our studies and we organise trips to other centres of excellence in order to enhance the learning experiences of the boys. There is a field trip in year 7, where the boys have an opportunity to examine the biodiversity of an area in a distant locality. Each pupil from Year 3 to 8’s progress is monitored and assessed at regular intervals and we use this information to make provision for the differing needs of each boy.
Every opportunity is taken to allow the boys to experience the practical aspects of Science and to develop an investigative and thinking approach to the solving of scientific problems. Through a differentiated approach we aim to pitch the work so that it is achievable, as well as stretching each pupil so that they achieve their full potential. We seek to create an atmosphere in which the pupils learn and enjoy science and come to appreciate that it is a vital area of knowledge for them as future citizens.
HEAD OF DEPARTMENT Mr Raphael Kopel
- Modern Foreign Languages have an important place in the school curriculum here and we are pleased to be able to offer a range of languages to our pupils, namely French from Nursery to Year 8, Spanish and Mandarin as part of the Life Skills carousel of activities in Years 5-8 and a foundation course in German and Spanish after 13+ exams in Year 8.
- The MFL Department is fully and firmly committed to the practical use of the language. Pupils learn how to communicate in the language in both spoken and written forms.
- This approach means that the target language is used predominantly and that pupils speak French etc. from day one. The underlying philosophy is that Modern Languages are both fun (fun to learn and fun to teach!) and functional.
- Pupils are fully prepared and equipped to tackle GCSE courses and examinations in their next school.
There is a strong team of four members:
- Mr Kopel, Head of Dept, is a native French speaker who teaches French in Years 6/7/8 to Entrance & Scholarship levels. He also offers a foundation course in Spanish in Year 8 and a Spanish language introduction in our programme of Life Skills.
- Mr Crook, Deputy Head, teaches French to Years 5/7/8 and offers a foundation course in German in Year 8.
- Mme Lad introduces French to our pupils in Nursery and Years 1/2/3/4 and imparts a love of languages.
- Mme Pollock is a native speaker and works with the older boys on their conversational French.
Junior School French Club for Years 1 & 2 two afternoons a week.
- French as a curricular subject (oral approach) from Nursery - five years before the mandatory age (Y7) in state schools.
- Development of listening, speaking & reading skills and introduction of writing in Year 3.
- Reinforcement of the four core skills through more formal study of a course book from Year 4.
- A Year 3 and 4 French day with a French breakfast & language/cultural activities.
- French is studied in greater depth & breadth on a daily basis from Year 5 when pupils are set by language ability.
The modern and best-selling Studio course is followed & supplemented by a range of audio-visual & ICT resources.
- The four skills of listening, reading, speaking and writing are accorded equal importance in line with the National Curriculum & Common Entrance. Skills are regularly practised & assessed through a mixture of assignments (classwork/homework/unit tests/exams) from Year 3 onwards. By Year 6 pupils learn to express themselves more fully and use the language for real on a residential French Language Visit to Northern France (Normandy 2014).
- A third Set (formerly called the scholarship set and now called E*) is offered by the School in Year 7 and this allows thorough preparation in small tutorial sets for 13+ exams. Our Year 8's have a command of past, present and future tenses and can express themselves more fully and freely. The syllabus is finished in good time to focus on past papers and examination technique. Pupils sit Entrance and Scholarship exams to a range of academically selective Independent Schools. Results at 13+ have been consistently outstanding with most grades being A*'s and A's.
- Year 8 pupils then follow a foundation course in German or Spanish to give them a taste of another Modern Foreign Language before language options at their next school.
- There are further language learning opportunities in Assemblies and other school events.
It is hoped that the pupil's experience of a first foreign language and of other modern languages at Northwood Prep is positive, enjoyable and rewarding. For further information, please contact the Modern Languages Department.
HEAD OF DEPARTMENT Mr Richard Bowman
With the increasing global interest in environmental studies Geography has never been a more diverse or relevant subject, something which is being reinforced here at Merchant Taylors’ Prep.
Topic work in the Junior School provides every child with a concrete sense of place and a growing understanding of the diverse environment around us. This work then becomes the foundation of the boy's studies in Year 3 and Year 4. Here they begin to extend their mapping skills and start to look more closely at the human and physical processes at work around the world and the ways in which they are related. The subject also reinforces the idea of a global community in which we must show a moral and social understanding of each other.
In Y5-Y8 practical work, independent learning and superb resources cover a wide range of geographical themes ranging from the physical (volcanoes, coastal processes, rivers) to the human (population growth, industry, development) as well as interactions between the two (natural hazards, pollution). In Year 7 all boys take part in a field study week designed not only to give them experience of fieldwork but also to extend their geographical skills and apply their learning to real situations.
Having studied such a wide variety of themes and topics, as well as the most recent geographical news, the boys are able to leave Merchant Taylors’ Prep with not only an excellent academic preparation for their next step in education, but more importantly a sense of place and a firm understanding of what a rich and restless world we live in.
HEAD OF DEPARTMENT Mr Antony McConnell
History at Merchant Taylors' Prep is taught to all boys as a distinct subject throughout the school. In Junior School and Year 3, the boys are taught by their form teachers, while in Senior School the subject is taught by a History specialist.
The National Curriculum forms the basis of the courses the boys follow, but as they move up the school their work is increasingly tailored towards their individual needs as examinations become important.
Throughout, the emphasis in teaching is on making history relevant in the modern world, using ICT for research and showing how today's world has been shaped by what has happened in the past.
History is important at Merchant Taylors' Prep because the site is of great historical interest and of national significance. Over the years the school has invested in a range of ICT programmes DVDs and historical artefacts to help bring the subject alive.
Regular visits to places of historical interest for each year group and visits from historical re-enactors also help to keep our boys interested in what we hope is a purposeful and enjoyable course of study at NP, enabling boys to appreciate their place in the history of the world and to develop a love of the subject that will stay with them throughout their lives.
HEAD OF DEPARTMENT Mrs Babitah Hibbert
Children from reception to Year 8 have timetabled IT lessons which take place in our IT suite. Younger children use laptops in their own class. There are many opportunities for children to use the IT facilities to support their learning across the curriculum.
A high-quality computing education equips pupils to use computational thinking and creativity to understand and change the world. Computer Science and IT have deep links with Mathematics and Science and provide insight into both natural and artificial systems. The core of Computer Science is teaching children the principles of information and computation, how digital systems work, and how to put this knowledge to use through programming. Using this knowledge and understanding, pupils are equipped to use information technology to create programs, systems and a range of content. Computer Science also ensures that pupils become digitally literate able to use, and express themselves and develop their ideas through, information and communication technology – at a level suitable for the future workplace and as active participants in a digital world. Cyber security and e-Safety are embedded in the course, allowing discussion and development of safe transferrable practise when using all types of digital technology.
HEAD OF DEPARTMENT Mr Richard Waddington
Our boys begin studying Latin in Year 3, using the media-acclaimed Minimus course by Barbara Bell. The boys deepen their knowledge of their language and culture through using Latin word games, cartoon format narratives, Greek myths and the historical setting of Vindolanda, near Hadrian’s Wall. Since over half of English words are derived from Latin, the boys build up their everyday vocabularies. Languages such as French borrow also heavily from Latin. The boys bury an artefact each in the School grounds, digging it up in Year 4 to observe the changes which have taken place. They visit Verulamium Museum to see and handle Roman artefacts close at hand. The boys learn about Roman Britain in Year 3 History lessons, enriching their understanding of a context in which Latin was spoken. The boys also study the Greeks in Year 4 History lessons, and are visited by a reenactor from Portals to the Past, dressed and armed as a hoplite.
Our Year 5 and Year 6 boys use Cambridge Latin Course, Book I. Here they meet a real Roman family which lived in the Pompeii famously destroyed by the volcano Mt. Vesuvius in AD 79. Through meeting Caecilius, Quintus, Metella and others, the boys develop their appreciation of the Roman society which has defined many aspects of our culture. They also begin to develop a much stronger grasp of the grammar rules governing languages. They are encouraged to problem solve, prioritise and think systematically as they encounter challenging linguistic puzzles. In the information age, where we are confronted by endless amounts of data, the ability to think deductively and logically is essential. Our studies are fully supported through the use of the course DVD in the classroom on the interactive whiteboard. Here the boys have access to grammar summaries and documentaries (by experts on Pompeii). They can also see stories from their books acted out on screen! Year 5 boys revisit Verulamium to reinforce their existing learning and to extend their knowledge to include the theatre, hypocaust and city walls. Year 6 boys visit The Museum of London, to learn about the City’s ancient past.
In Key Stage 3, the boys use an in-housecourse, called Emilia, to develop a deeper understanding of Latin grammar. Each boy has his own Vademecum. This provides a useful summary of the grammar, syntax and vocabulary required as part of the Common Entrance syllabus. Some boys also study Greek for their 13+, using our own Marina (Marina) course. To support our Greek language work, Y8 boys visit the Parthenon Sculptures at The British Museum.
Our boys have also travelled abroad. We visited Rome, Tivoli and Ostia in 2012, and Greece in 2014. We are planning to return to Italy in 2017.
HEAD OF DEPARTMENT Mr Daniel Roach
Time spent in the art department allows the boys the chance to go on an artistic journey and experience the visual world in new and exciting ways.
Pupils will practice skills with which they will record and respond to their own experiences, using observation and imagination.
The boys will learn to use of a range of media and techniques, gaining confidence in the artistic elements of line, shape, tone, form, colour, texture and pattern.
They will take a walk in the shoes of artists, past and present. They will experience creative work from ancient times and other cultures, and use what they discover to make progress with their own artwork.
Projects undertaken include subjects such as: self-portraiture, still-life drawing, painting, sculpture, ceramics, computer aided design, block printing, lino cutting, and collage. Many of these activities are supported by visits to galleries and the opportunity to attend art clubs and workshops and take part in exhibitions.
In Nursery and junior school Art is linked to the themes being studied, and is taught in classrooms by nursery and junior school staff. There is also a specialist led Art club offered to years 1 and 2. In the senior school art is taught in a purpose-built studio, by an Art Specialist.
While studying art the boys will tap into their creative side and be enriched by the experience with a sense of enjoyment and personal satisfaction at what they have achieved.
HEAD OF DEPARTMENT Mr Daniel Roach
Design and Technology prepares boys to participate in tomorrow's rapidly changing world. They learn to think and intervene, to improve the quality of life. The subject calls for boys to become autonomous and creative problem solvers, both as individuals and as members of a team. They must look for needs, wants and opportunities and respond to them by developing a range of ideas and making products and systems. They combine practical skills with an understanding of aesthetics, social and environmental issues, functions and industrial practices. As they do so, they reflect on and evaluate present and past design and technology, its uses and effects. Through Design and Technology, all boys can become discriminating and informed users of products, and become innovators.
Our aims in Technology are:
- To stimulate the boys' interest, enjoyment, curiosity and concern about, technological aspects of their environment, both local and globally, in Design and Technology;
- To enable boys to be familiar with a relevant body of knowledge, skills, principles and vocabulary, e.g. boys should become competent and confident in conceiving, designing, and producing a range of technological products 'of good quality';
- To evaluate and improve upon their own technological products and those designed by others.
To enable boys to perceive Design and Technology as:
- A major cultural feature;
- Part of a wider body of knowledge and skills, e.g. to be able to work both independently and co-operatively.
The boys will have opportunities to:
- Understand the nature and range of products embraced by the term 'technology', including artefacts, structures (fabricated, textural or edible), environments, and control systems (electrical, electronic, mechanical or pneumatic);
- Enhance their abilities to generate ideas for designs in response to a wide range of real or realistic technological problems. Boys should explore, develop, clarify and communicate those ideas by a variety of constructional and graphic means, with and without the aid of computers;
- Seek out, and draw upon, a range of information sources in order to help them generate, develop or realise their designs;
- Understand the characteristics and properties of a variety of materials, and to manipulate those materials by the accurate and effective use of appropriate tools, equipment, techniques and processes in order to produce an intended outcome;
- Appreciate the health and safety issues associated with working with certain materials, tools, equipment and processes, and to take such matters into account when designing their own products and in their capacities as critics or consumers;
- Understand some of the different criteria by which products of Design and Technology from both western and non-western cultures can be criticised and evaluated with respect to both their design and functionality;
- Refer to work in other curriculum subjects when appropriate, e.g. link to Science when referring to the physical and chemical properties of materials.
The Design Technology Workshop at Northwood Prep is located in the Sir Christopher Harding Science and Technology Building. This purpose built, fully equipped workshop is a truly magnificent resource for the practical application of this subject. The boys from Year 3 upwards are taught here by a specialist teacher with full time support from a workshop technician. Facilities for drawing, Computer Aided Design and Manufacturing (CAD/CAM), machine tools, vacuum former as well as a full range of hand tools are available for use by the boys, using a wide range of resistant materials during their time at MTP.
P.E. & Games
DIRECTOR OF SPORT Mr Dominic Todd
At Merchant Taylors' Prep Physical Education and Games Department we have a strong commitment to inclusion and ensuring that all boys benefit from their experience in sport. Pupils experience a diverse curriculum, offering opportunities for both team and individual sports. The vision of the department is firmly embedded in the idea of every pupil being provided the opportunity to reach their potential, and develop at a pace which suits the individual. Our aim is to provide a range of sporting experiences at all levels of development and encourage boys to achieve in a safe and supportive environment. The overriding goal of lifelong participation in physical activity and the understanding of a healthy lifestyle is one which we hope to have instilled in all our boys as they move into the Senior School.
To this end, the curriculum is delivered by a department of highly experienced teachers and coaches, each with their own fields of expertise. Our broad and balanced curriculum is not limited to the statutory requirements of any National Curriculum, and offers additional choice and depth. Pupils also have the opportunity to play in competitive matches, either through fixtures against other schools, or through our extensive House Competition System and inter-year group matches. We celebrate the occasions when we are successful and understand that enjoyment and sportsmanship are key factors in sporting development.
In our Pre-Prep, pupils participate in a variety of activities with a focus on movement, enjoyment and participation. Individual creative developments and co-ordination are further fostered within the Dance and Gymnastics program. In addition, the fundamentals of working with a group underpin the curriculum through a variety of modified games activities.
In addition to the Physical Education Curriculum boys participate in two games afternoons each week, significantly increasing their exposure to physical activity. Games are played seasonally with Rugby and Hockey being played in the Autumn term, Football, Cross Country and Hockey in the Spring term, and Cricket, Tennis and Athletics in the Summer term.
Our sports facilities are extensive and timetabled in such a way that weather conditions rarely interrupt sessions. Our boys benefit from a fully equipped sports hall, a floodlit Astroturf and several acres of playing fields, enabling numerous activities to be run simultaneously. Our facilities are fully utilized through our extensive extra-curricular program and use at both evenings and weekends when required.
Please join us at https://twitter.com/MTSPrepSport and follow the latest news from Merchant Taylors' Prep School Sport as it happens. A chance to keep up-to-date with all things Sport including results and photographs of the latest events and future activities.
With sport playing such a major part in the life of the school, the only problem might be deciding which ones to choose!
HEAD OF DEPARTMENT Mrs Carolyn Hawkes
Music at Merchant Taylors' Prep is an inclusive activity for all boys from Nursery to Year 8. Pupils receive an hour of specialist tuition in the subject from either the Director of Music or the Assistant Director of Music. The scheme of work provides children with the opportunity to compose, perform, appraise and develop their appreciation of this subject.
Facilities are of a very high standard with two well resourced teaching rooms and practice facilities for instrumental tuition. Music technology has a high priority in the curriculum and children are taught to use dedicated Music PC's to sequence, compose and score out their work using Cubasis. Standard notation is taught as part of the curriculum from the outset and boys are encouraged to take instrumental studies from Year 1.
Specialist Music Technology classes are also offered in small groups for boys in Year 3 upwards, run by specialist Music Technology teachers from M:Tech. Each term the boys have the opportunity to compose using the dedicated PC’s, recent projects include composing music and adding sound effects to a computer game and creating Dance Music.
The Department has a team of extremely able and enthusiastic peripatetic teachers. Instrument specific ensembles are run by the visiting teachers, who also prepare and support boys as they work towards their Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music and Trinity Guildhall Examinations. Tuition is offered on piano, violin, cello, percussion (orchestral and drum kit), double bass, guitar (classical, electric and bass), flute, clarinet, saxophone, trumpet, trombone and French horn. We will always endeavour to obtain tuition for pupils who may wish to study instruments other than those listed here.
There are a number of ensembles and groups for the boys to participate in: Choirs, String Orchestra, Brass Ensemble, Guitar Ensemble and School Orchestra to name a few! These activities take place in non-contact time, either before or after school and opportunities to perform are provided throughout each term to develop confidence and musicianship.
In recent years we have been fortunate to perform in some spectacular locations including the Royal Albert Hall, St. John's Smith Square, London and York Minster.
The Music Department has strong links with local senior public schools and often join forces to take part in music festivals and recitals. A number of our pupils in recent years have won prestigious scholarships to Merchant Taylor's School, The John Lyon School, Aldenham to Wells Cathedral School in Somerset.
HEAD OF DEPARTMENT Mrs Nicole Pollock
Religious Studies is an important subject taught in all sections of the school.
In Junior School, the children examine and discuss their own place in the world through their understanding of themselves and their relationships with those close to them. The boys examine how ritual is used in their families to mark important events in their lives.
In Years 3 and 4, the boys examine each of the main world religions, focusing on buildings, festivals and rites of passage.
In Year 5, the boys study Christianity in depth, exploring the Bible and the main beliefs, festivals, ceremonies and places of worship. They visit a local church to bring their studies to life.
In Years 6 and 7, the boys study a selection of Old and New Testament narratives. They examine various ethical issues to develop their ability to explain their ideas about our complex world and to understand points of view different from their own.
In Year 8, the boys learn how to express their own ideas and how to argue their own points of view successfully. They continue to develop their study of ethical issues. They explore the six main world religions in greater detail, using their studies to analyse relevant historical events and current affairs.
Speech & Drama
HEAD OF DEPARTMENT Mr Spencer Hinton
At Merchant Taylors’ Prep, we celebrate the role every individual pupil has to offer in our progressive learning environment where ‘everyone is someone’. In line with recent developments in the new Primary National Curriculum, Speech and Drama has become an important part of our quest to develop well rounded and assured boys who will approach their future schools, lives and careers with confidence and high self-esteem.
Merchant Taylors’ Prep boys receive Drama tuition as early as Nursery and Reception, where they participate in a wide range of drama games and exercises to explore characters, to raise social awareness and to consider the emotions and challenges of the modern world. All Junior School boys also take part in school performances in The New Barn Theatre such as nativity plays and recitals in collaboration with the Music department. Recent Junior School productions have included ‘Santa's Little Helper’; ‘To Be Or Not To Be’; ‘The Boy With No Talent’; ‘A Donkey's Tail’ and ‘George and the Dragon’.
Years 3 and 4
As they move in to Senior School in Years 3 and 4, Merchant Taylors’ Prep pupils receive specialist Drama tuition from the Head of Speech and Drama. Weekly workshop sessions include physical and vocal exercises which help to build confidence and to remove inhibitions. The boys work together to promote a healthy atmosphere of teamwork, co-operation and trust towards future dramatic projects and everyday school life. There is a strong emphasis on storytelling in Year 3 as well as the exploration of characters to work alongside the English curriculum. We also focus on clear public speaking in the delivery of poetry, prose and dramatic text.
By Year 4, the boys use Drama sessions to explore specific characters and scenarios from their English class readers. They also work more closely with play scripts and the spoken word, before moving on to experiment with the body including mime, tableaux and physical theatre. All Year 3 and 4 boys participate in a spring production in The New Barn Theatre as well as taking part in the annual Beale Clear Speaking Poetry Competition. Recent Year 3 and 4 productions have included ‘Blast Off – Mr Jones Goes to Jupiter’; ‘Treasure Island’; ‘The Keymaster’; ’Hoodwinked’; ‘The Pied Piper’ and ‘Daniel – A Hard Act To Swallow’.
Years 5 and 6
In Year 5 and 6, pupils investigate characters and dilemmas from novels in greater depth and detail, with more emphasis on improvisation, theatrical terminology and the evaluation of performance. All Year 5 boys take part in a mask theatre project during the Spring term, exploring the intricate demands of mask technique and devising their own scenes for public performance using the school’s collection of character masks provided by Trestle Theatre Company. There is also an opportunity for Year 5 pupils to write and perform their own dramatic scenes in the style of their English class reader, ‘The Boy Who Fell into a Book’.
Boys spend the first half of Year 6 rehearsing for a full-scale musical production in March. The production is auditioned, rehearsed and produced by a creative team of ex-industry professionals including the director, stage designer and lighting designer. Recent Year 6 productions have included ‘Seussical the Musical’; ‘Oliver!’; ‘Our Day Out’; ‘The Wizard of Oz’; ‘Bugsy Malone’; ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’ and ‘Grimm Tales’. Year 6 Drama lessons then return to more intensive study of characters from novels, preparation for the Beale Clear Speaking Poetry Competition and the devising of individual play scripts inspired by ‘Ernie’s Incredible Illucinations’.
Years 7 and 8 – LAMDA Examinations
As part of our world class educational outlook, Merchant Taylors’ Prep embraces LAMDA public speaking examinations within our progressive curriculum. All Year 7 boys receive individual tutorials in preparation for their Level 1 Grade 3 Communication exams in The Speaking of Verse and Prose. LAMDA examinations are globally renowned and highly regarded by future schools, boosting the boys’ confidence and self-esteem in readiness for next school interviews as well as their future lives and careers. The school is extremely proud of our impressive record of Merit and Distinction passes since the inception of LAMDA exams in 2010. Year 7 boys celebrate their exam success with ‘An Evening of Poetry and Prose’ in The New Barn Theatre for an invited audience of family, friends and staff.
Finally, with their next school places secured, Year 8 boys audition, rehearse and perform one final major school production in The New Barn Theatre as part of their farewell to Merchant Taylors’ Prep at the end of June. Recent Year 8 productions have included ‘Twelfth Night’; ‘The Prodigious Snob’; ‘Holes’; ‘The Tempest’; ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ and ‘The Treaty of the More’ for the Royal Visit of the Duke of Gloucester. The Year 8 production of ‘Ernie’s Incredible Illucinations’ was also made into an independent short film which was shot on location by a professional film crew in 2012.
The New Barn Theatre
Merchant Taylors’ Prep is fortunate enough to have its own purpose-built, 200-seat performance space, The New Barn Theatre, which was opened by Kevin Spacey in 2008. Spencer Hinton, our Head of Speech and Drama, is an ex-professional theatre director who has staged over seventy-five productions in the UK and abroad, working for such companies as the Royal Shakespeare Company, the National Theatre, the Almeida Theatre and the Peter Hall Company in the West End. Spencer was the Artistic Director of Brave New World Theatre Company for eleven years as well as running Manitou Children’s Theatre in Ontario, Canada. The New Barn Theatre hosts an annual Summer Drama Masterclass programme every July – an intensive series of theatrical workshops for 11 - 14 year old boys and girls from independent schools in the area. Please contact the School Office for further information.