Falcons School for Girls and Peregrines Nursery gives pupils space to grow with its focus on the links between emotional wellbeing and academic achievement

Set in a leafy conservation area in Putney and housed in four grand Edwardian buildings, Falcons School for Girls and Peregrines Nursery was lucky enough to have ample indoor and outdoor space to welcome back pupils after the first lockdown.

It was a busy year for the Prep School and Nursery. Staff at Falcons embraced online learning and provided pupils with a detailed timetable, including daily live lessons through an online platform, recorded lessons and additional tasks. Headmistress Sara Williams-Ryan is particularly proud that Falcons pupils did not fall behind in their studies. She says: “Shortly after returning, all Year 1 to Year 5 children sat a standardised assessment and it was reassuring to see that their academic level had not been impacted by lockdown in the way it could have done”.

Falcons School: Space to grow
Falcons School for Girls puts great emphasis on emotional wellbeing

Sara Williams-Ryan joined Peregrines Nursery and Falcons School for Girls in 2018 from Emanuel School, where she spent 16 years in senior roles, both academic (Head of the Modern Foreign Languages faculty) and pastoral (first, Senior Tutor for Girls and then Assistant Head Pastoral). Her own twin daughters attended Emanuel and once they had left for university she decided she wanted a change of direction. Whilst at Emanuel she had become a Governor at Christ Church Primary School and, inspired by its Head, she applied for the position at Falcons. “Here I am three years on, loving every minute of my job.”  

She is very much involved in the day-to-day life of the school, including teaching. She says: “I feel lucky to be in a position where I can lead on changes and initiatives that benefit our pupils and in that way influence for the better their educational and personal outcomes.” The School puts a huge focus on the close links between pupils’ emotional wellbeing and their academic achievements and Williams-Ryan believes that developing a child’s emotional intelligence is as important as teaching them about maths and English. As well as setting clear academic goals, staff focus on delivering high levels of pastoral care – knowing the pupils and their families well and understanding and addressing their individual needs. The success of this balanced approach is shown in Falcons’ track record with 11+ results.

“Teaching follows the Thinking School approach, which encourages children to think critically, creatively and collaboratively”

Pupils at Falcons have access to a lively and broad curriculum. Alongside the more traditional lessons, the school teaches debating from Year 1, reasoning from Year 2, Classics from Year 3 and Latin from Year 4. There are a number of specialist teachers working across the year groups to deliver Music, Dance, Drama, Spanish, Art, PE and Coding. Extra-curricular clubs – from street dance to film-making – help to support pupils’ transition into senior school and help them nurture or discover their passions.  

Teaching follows the Thinking School approach, which encourages children to think critically, creatively and collaboratively, reflecting on their learning, developing informed opinions and building understanding of the world and their place within it. Sara Williams-Ryan says Falcons girls gain “a range of study skills and an ability to discuss all sorts of subjects in an articulate, thoughtful manner”. She also firmly believes that girls and boys learn differently. Boys make great partners and friends and co-ed playdates or activities are organised on a regular basis. However, she adds: “Being a single-sex school enables us to focus solely on the way girls learn, encouraging our pupils to question and challenge themselves and others, and find their own, unique voice”.

Falcons strongly encourages its girls to take risks and not to place limitations on what they can achieve. “No pupil follows a linear learning flight path; dips and highs are normal throughout a child’s education and our role is to support and encourage, and be the children’s champions, never labelling them but guiding instead so they can give their best at all times. Falcons girls leave with solid values and a sense of self-worth,” adds Williams-Ryan.  

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Peregrines Nursery is co-ed and takes a play-based approach to learning

The school shares the same ethos and values from Nursery to Year 6. Peregrines Nursery is co-ed and takes a play-based approach to learning with a big emphasis on having fun. Children benefit from the same specialised classes as the rest of the school, which allows them to become familiar with the staff who will teach them as they move up. The Early Years (Nursery and Reception) work very much as a team, with lots of shared experiences such as Forest School, performances and trips. Nursery children are also given opportunities to play with older pupils, whether it is in the Peregrines Garden or at the school’s holiday club.

Falcons is lucky to have facilities you might not expect at a standalone London prep. There is a bespoke science laboratory, a state-of-the-art IT suite complete with Apple computers and Music Technology software, and a ballet and drama studio fitted with full-length mirrors, a barre and lighting for productions. The school also benefits from outside space on both the pre-prep and prep side of the road, so that pupils can play in the fresh air. More than an acre of gardens include an area for forest school sessions to take place. Pupils also have access to the sports facilities at Barn Elms Sports Ground.

Inevitably, remote learning during 2020-21 led to increased screen time, but physical and mental wellbeing became the School’s number-one target. “Throughout the year staff and pupils have engaged in a range of individual, class and whole school mental and physical wellbeing activities, recorded in our personal Falcons Feelgood Journal,” says Williams-Ryan. The phrase ‘feel-good’ pretty much sum up the school spirit. In the face of the pandemic, Sara Williams-Ryan says that pupils developed both their empathy and their resilience.

Falcons School for Girls falconsgirls.co.uk

Further reading: Why girls are turning to boys’ sports