Sidcup’s longest established Preparatory School, Merton Court came to life through the dedicated and altruistic vision of John Pearce and his wife Irene in 1899. For over a century, Merton Court School has held true to both its roots and its motto, Omnia Strenue (‘Strive above all’), enjoying a strong history of family leadership to create outstanding life chances and remaining a constant in an ever-changing world.
The School has always been a Proprietor-run School – do look at our book: A Century in the Life of Merton Court School Sidcup. Since 1979, when Mrs. Elizabeth Price bought the school, with 78 pupils, Merton Court has been owned and run by the Price Family, with her sons. Christopher and Dominic who joined the school along with his wife Sarah in 1988. Dominic was appointed Head in 1993 and Senior Partner/Proprietor in 2016.
Proprietorial owned and run schools make up fully a quarter of all mainstream independent schools, educating 16% of the pupils in this sector.
A study by the Adam Smith Institute concluded that proprietorial schools, as a group, performed more consistently, and by a significant margin, than charitable trust schools, as a group, on all key teaching and learning related criteria.
Schools owned and run by proprietors have, there is no doubt, learnt that putting quality first is the most important condition for the possibility of a successful school business.
Its ’20:20 vision’ (a three-year development plan) has now been completed.
From a curricular perspective, we have now comprehensively reviewed our curriculum provision, mapping it carefully for improvement and sharing it with Parents, so that they also, may fully support their children with learning at school and at home.
Recently completed provisions include:
Merton Court School prides itself on four core strands for success.: Quality, Agility, Independence and Value.
Following an extraordinary two years, we have had time to reflect on the positives that have come out of the Pandemic:
After the incredible experience of living and working through the challenges of COVID, here are the Top Ten key things that we have embraced and will continue to use post-COVID……
These are our TOP TEN ‘COVID’ KEEPERS:
Goodness me – didn’t we learn quickly? Now we are all comfortable using the google drive for work, photos and important information and using zoom for teaching and learning and what’s more we will never have a ‘snow day’ again….
We have got used to zoom meetings for full staff meetings, Advisory Board meetings, Curriculum Phase Meetings and Friends of Merton Court meetings.
CPD has become cheaper, especially as staff do not need to travel and no lunch is provided. This means teachers and other staff have had the benefit of more CPD for their personal and professional growth. We think this will continue.
We have run Transition meetings, Forums, ‘How’s It Going’ zoom sessions and Parents’ Evenings, along with Parent Surveys (post-lockdown).
Rather than seeing a relatively small number of parents as we did at ‘live’ meetings, now parents have been able to attend in a virtual way, therefore attendance has been even better than usual. Let’s keep this.
And we now have ‘blended’ live and virtual parents’ evenings.
We have discovered the benefit of online resources, particularly ‘Atom’ for Maths, English and Science in the Senior school, EPIC as an ‘add on’ reading scheme, particularly in the middle of the school and ‘My Maths Portal’.
Form google drives have stored information and homework items and the School website (Parents’ section) has been fully redesigned and updated. This is a great addition, to be kept for children, parents and staff.
Children have really enjoyed playing in separate, discrete areas of the School. We are lucky to have the space for all eight of our yeargroups to have their own areas.
Behaviour has on the whole been better.
So this is something we will keep, particularly when the weather is better in Spring, Summer and early Autumn.
There has been wider issue, and use, of ‘Walkie Talkies’ for all key staff. This has really helped all aspects of school communication, day to day.
We divided the School into ‘Phases’ – EY/J1 (EYFS), J2/J3 (KS1), S1/S2 (Lower KS2), S3/S4 (Upper KS2) along with a KEO Team (Kitchen, Estates and Office) and a ‘Subject Specialist Team’ for better communication and more direct administration. Greater autonomy has also been achieved, along with strong devolved leadership skills being shown by Phase Leaders. We will definitely keep this going – in future these will be called ‘Leadership Groups’
We now have clear signage, traffic bollards and ‘slow down’ signs in our car park. This has been a great opportunity to review where, when and how the children come into school and leave the school.
A new morning and evening gate rota for staff, and particularly our Leadership Team, means we have a much stronger ‘meet and greet’ opportunity with parents, along with greater security of our site.
We have instituted a new Rectory Lane car park one-way system, which is working really well and we have widened our lower Rectory Lane gate for easier turning, both to the left and to the right.
We will definitely be carrying on with these things – and how fantastic have our children been about coming into school without fuss or bother!
We invested in three large tented structures at the start of the pandemic. They have been used for everything – from a lunch room, a parents’ evening space, a meeting place and an assembly hall to wet play areas.
These three structures will be kept and re-sited over the 2021/2022 academic year to provide further J2 covered space, J1 covered space along with an Indoor games space, adjacent to our two astros.
Reviewing what we wear, for what and when, has meant not as much changing, and therefore increased teaching time.
In swimming we have also created two new extra changing areas – these have worked very well, and can continue to be used for before school swimming clubs.
We have also taken out benches in the changing areas, that were cumbersome, which we will now use elsewhere.
With the addition of over twenty outside handwashing stations and four outdoor toilets, round the school at the start of the pandemic, children have got used to washing their hands as they arrive and before they leave school but also during the day. This has not only reduced COVID-19 infection spread but also, we have had less absence from coughs and colds.
Bringing in their own water bottles was something the children did previously. Using them for lunch as well, however, has made lunchtimes quicker, as we have no need for cups and water jugs, now the children bring their water bottles into lunch.
Following the children’s suggestion, we will also keep more space between children, with more spacious dining room tables.
It has been incredibly hard for parents to share in our community events and their children’s successes, as they haven’t been able to physically be in school.
Increased use of our website, in the News Section, in the Yeargroup Section of the Parent’s website and also using our form google drives, has really helped to keep families connected, enjoying all that we do here. We’ll keep this going.
Never before have we streamed Prizegivings live – the best number yet for a single yeargroup is 86, with grandparents and relatives tuning in from around the world!
Whilst the costs of live-streaming are very strong, we are sure that as technology improves and costs come down, this is something to really consider, for future prizegivings post-COVID.
It really has been a bit like a war, dealing with COVID-19 – just as we thought things were under control, the enemy got round the back!
Really good strategic planning by school management has been essential in order for us to endure COVID and deal with the threat and challenges it has created as we now emerge a stronger, more experienced and more cohesive team and a more resilient school.
Mindful of how hard hit some business sectors were, we put in place our COVID-19 Hardship fund – this has helped numerous families get through the difficult times.
The School’s financial systems have been thoroughly ‘stress-tested’ by fee reductions, discounted fees due to Government lockdowns, along with late or delayed payments by parents. With strong goodwill and support from parents and hard graft by staff, school has managed to exercise great financial discipline, to ensure the school has come out of the Pandemic with positivity and a very clear set of next steps in our development plan, formulating its ‘Project 125’ – a celebration of the school’s 125th birthday in 2024. This is a very positive thing!
In the safe hands of a passionate and committed teaching team, Merton Court, now more than 300 strong, continues to embrace a truly transformational ethos within a vibrant and caring community atmosphere.
Indeed the School is heavily involved in the local community, Sidcup and beyond and Dominic Price is Chairman of Sidcup Business Investment District (BID).
The School is an accredited member of the Independent Schools Association, a member of the Independent Schools’ Council, and is inspected by the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI).
Dominic Price was a co-opted member of the ISA National Finance Committee in 2019 & 2020 and in 2020 was voted onto the ISA National Executive. He is currently Chair of their Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee, and is also Area Coordinator for ISA London South.
Main Proprietors’ contact details:
Merton Court School
38 Knoll Road
Sidcup DA14 4QU
Tel: 020 8300 2112
The school telephone number has a 24hr messaging service, should you wish to leave a message out of school hours.
Our School Council is made up of form representatives from J3 to S4 (Year 2 to Year 6) and run by the Executive Committee (Head Boy, Head Girl and our two Senior Prefects). These form representatives are voted for by their peers and have to prepare a short presentation to their class if they wish to be considered. School council represents our Pupil Voice and takes up issues that are important to the children about their life at school. Ideas and suggestions are taken to the S4 committees, which are responsible for our virtual school newspaper, running charity events, estates and maintenance, pupil well-being/ guidance and safeguarding, digital safety, road safety, food & snacks wet break and also our curriculum. All these are opportunities for the children to build teams, share ideas, learn to work together and effect positive change. Our Yr 5’s and Yr 6’s also become school prefects, where they develop empathy and awareness and become role models for others. Pupil voice is always listened to, as it is a great way for the children to help form the environment they themselves experience from day to day.
This remarkable school continues to move forward with confidence.
A new development plan ‘Project 125‘ has begun, in order to keep pushing forward, providing ever-increasing provision to improve opportunities and outcomes for all the children in our care and to particularly prepare for the 125th Anniversary of the School’s foundation in 2024.
Our ‘Project 125’ (School Development Plan 2021-2025) includes: