Interview with Mrs Seagrove, Head Teacher of the award-winning Torwood House School

On a quiet, leafy street in Redland sits Torwood House School, an award-winning independent school for girls and boys aged 4 – 11.

With class sizes of between 8 – 12 and with just 40 children on roll, the school provides a safe, supportive environment with no child going unnoticed.

Today Bristol Mum features an interview with Torwood’s head teacher, Mrs Seagrove, who explains more about the school including its history, values, curriculum and activities.

Please tell me about yourself and about your educational and teaching background.

I achieved a first in B.Ed. with Honours degree from Cambridge University and have been teaching for 23 years.

I have worked in a variety of different independent schools around the UK. I became Headteacher of Torwood House School when I was 30 and am now in my 16th year.

My two children have lived, breathed and flourished at Torwood Lodge Nursery from 9 months and now at Torwood House School currently in Year 6 and Year 3.

I have continued to study whilst teaching and gained my M.Ed. in Management and Policy Studies and Certificate of Educational Development in Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education Level 6.

I specialise in teaching English, Expressive Arts and PSHE and taking teaching into the outdoors.

I have been accepted to train as an inspector by the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI) in March 2018.

What are the values and ethos of Torwood House School?

Torwood House School is not just a happy, safe and supportive community; it is a living organism that is a hive of activity and sings in satisfaction.

It is a place where children are encouraged to embrace new situations with confidence and flexibility. Staff strive to promote positive attitudes to learning, and assist children of all abilities to achieve their very best.

Our school is built upon positive reciprocal relationships between children, parents and staff. We encourage all children and staff to be independent, free thinkers; individuals who make a difference.

Please tell me a bit about the history of Torwood House School.

In 1936 the Dame school at 11, Howard Road was taken over by Doris Green and Dorothy Milne – known as Torwood House School.

In 1952 Mrs Green purchased No.27-29 Durdham Park for £2,500 at the same time as buying Mrs Milne out who was nearing retirement age.

Torwood House School was then moved to Durdham Park. Mrs Packer, the current Proprietor, purchased Torwood House School in 1996 from bankruptcy and has since added No.8 Durdham Park and built an Atrium which currently houses two classes.

Torwood Lodge Nursery now occupies No. 27-29 Durdham Park and Torwood House School No.8 Durdham Park.

How many children are there at Torwood House School and how many children are there per class?

Torwood House School currently has 40 children on roll.

We aim to have between 8-12 children in a class. We are like a rural village school and have mixed classes Year 1 & 2, Year 3 & 4 and Year 5 & 6.

Highly qualified and experienced teaching staff are supported by competent Learning Support Assistants.

What range of subjects and activities does Torwood offer?

Our priority is ‘the happy child’; a happy child is receptive to learning and teaching.

The curriculum is broad and balanced in addition to being flexible enabling teachers to incorporate and follow the children’s interests.

Every child’s experience is supplemented by a variety of expert visitors from the local community, regular trips both near and far using our fleet of minibuses, and active participation and involvement of parents.

Coupled with our small classes, this allows each child to build and develop their confidence, skills and talents whilst simultaneously working at their pace on their strengths and area to develop.

We have an intimate learning environment enabling us to tailor and cater to individual needs.

This year our annual theme is ‘That’s not Cricket!’ which will focus on British values and what it means to live in Great Britain.

English, Expressive Arts (Music, Drama and free Art), Maths, Science, Physical Development and Sports, Swimming, Humanities (Geography, History, Religious Studies), Art and Design Technology, Food Technology (Cookery), Computing, Personal, Social, Health Education (PSHE), French.

What sports do children enjoy at Torwood?

All Sports are taught by qualified specialist staff. Each child participates in 4 hours of sport a week excluding break and lunchtime activities.

Tag Rugby, Football, Hockey, Netball, Rounders, Cricket, Athletics, Yoga, Cheerfit, Steps, Circuits, Fitness and Stamina Building, Gymnastics, Dance and Movement, Aerobics, Swimming.

Is there any childcare provision for children before and after school? What activities can children do at breakfast and after-school club?

We recognise how important it is for career and child care to complement one another and have therefore developed the Breakfast, Afterschool and Holiday Clubs to meet the challenging needs of today’s parents.

Early morning care is provided from 7.30am in the form of Breakfast Club, and at the end of the school day our Afterschool Club comes alive to provide care for children until 6pm.

Things do not stop when term finishes either – we provide a Holiday Club that is open during every school holiday between 8am and 6pm.

Breakfast Club is run on school premises where children are offered an option of toast or cereal and a variety of table top activities, games and puzzles are available to play with before school begins.

As well as the wide array of activities on offer, children also have the option to have quiet moments by themselves on the cushions and beanbags. We all know how difficult it can be to wake up in the morning!

Afterschool Club allows the children to unwind after their busy day. A high tea is provided and can be anything from mixed wraps and homemade soup to pasta dishes.

A number of extra clubs are on offer within the Afterschool Club including Cookery, Dance, Football, Young Engineers to name a few.

Homework Club is open to children in Years 2 to 6 and is supervised by a qualified member of staff.

Torwood House School has received several exciting awards recently – please explain.

The ISA Awards are a celebration of the breadth of quality and provision across the country, celebrating the very best of independent school education in England.

In November 2016 Torwood House School won the ISA Prep School Award for Academic Excellence and Innovation.

We were delighted to be recognised for providing curriculum innovation where the positive impact on our children was and is clearly evidenced.

Our children have also driven the school to become environmentally friendly which has resulted in the Good for Green Schools Award being awarded by Sustainable Learning and our Green Flag awarded by Eco Schools.

Both of these involved being inspected by external agencies and the children showing and sharing the evidence of all their hard work.

The children are now constructing the school’s Eco Garden which our older children put together bids for various elements and presented them to a local company in an effort to secure sponsorship.

Please tell me about the school’s annual Roald Dahl birthday celebrations.

The whole school, including staff, will be dressing up as one of the many heroes that feature in Roald Dahl’s books and in the afternoon we will be holding a birthday tea party at which we will be sharing food and drinks made by the children from the Roald Dahl’s Completely Revolting Recipes and other Tasty Treats Book!

What links does Torwood have to the Independent School Association?

Torwood House School has strong links within the Independent School Association (ISA).

We collaborate with Cleve House, the only other ISA school in Bristol, and the children from both schools benefit from coming together for various activities and events – we are all looking forward to the live debate event in November as part of the national Parliament Week!

I am also the ISA Area Co-Ordinator for the South West region which means I visit schools that would like to join the ISA to ensure that they meet as well as assisting them to meet, the ISA standards.

Torwood House School enters many of the competitions that the ISA host including Art, Swimming and Athletics where we have had children qualify for the national finals!

Torwood House School is holding an Open Morning on Thursday 11th October for parents and children to find out more about the school.

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