With a new Head, Victoria Harding, joining Repton Prep this September, we find out more about her approach and the school’s central place within the wider school family

Words Libby Norman

Repton has always been a destination school, with its UK and international reputation built on academic rigour and that finely balanced approach that turns out well-rounded pupils ready for the world. Its setting adds allure – ‘heart of England’ Derbyshire turf, convenient for key airports and roads but far enough away from big cities to provide fresh air and room to grow, all the way from 3 to 18.  The setting may be rural idyll, but it’s always been an outward-looking place. Repton was, after all, a pioneer in going abroad, with schools within the family now numbering seven across the Middle East, China, Malaysia and mainland Europe.

C Repton Foremarke
Repton Prep is located at Foremarke Hall, a short distance from Repton Senior and set in glorious grounds

Back on Derbyshire home turf, Repton Prep and Repton Senior inhabit distinct (and equally glorious) sites. The Prep is a relative newcomer compared to its 16th-century sibling, having been founded by Repton in 1940 and then moving to Foremarke Hall a couple of miles outside the namesake village in 1947. There’s always been a strong tie, cemented in 2020 when Prep and Senior formally merged under the Repton name. This was to maximise opportunities, both academic and extra-curricular, and ensure a cohesive experience for those Prep students and parents who choose the through-school route (and some 90% do). Of course, the pupils who go elsewhere are welcomed equally, and equally well prepared for the onward journey.   

The imminent arrival of Victoria Harding as Head of Repton Prep this September brings a fresh face at the helm, and much excitement. With good reason, for Harding comes with stellar credentials. She’s a trained musician (Royal Academy of Music) and headed up the music department at Dragon School, Oxford before top leadership roles in London, including Sarum Hall. Repton Prep will be her third headship. She has a teacher’s perspective on what makes the pre-prep and prep stage so rewarding. “I love this age group because you really see such a huge journey for each child, right from the foundation through to when we move them on to their senior school years.” She also appreciates the diverse teaching skillsets. “It affords you a wide range of staff and teaching abilities – those top two year groups, as well as the starting out point.”

Focus on Repton Prep / A rounded vision
Victoria Harding was appointed last December and has been getting to know Repton Prep, and the wider Repton family

Since her appointment last December, Harding has been busy getting to know Repton Prep inside out, and also immersing herself in the wider strategic vision of the whole family of schools. What she is not doing is setting anything in stone until she has: “lived and breathed it” for a while. “A huge part of informing my strategies will happen when I’m there, speaking to the staff and putting those ideas together with that wider vision.” What Harding can say now is that she sees the main goal as to “refine and improve” rather than lose any elements that ensure Repton Prep’s unique identity. “I’ve been really thinking about the school values: respect, wholeness, truth and excellence. That’s really at the heart of what I’m planning; making sure that these are evidenced in all aspects of school life. Also thinking about how we best promote those values.”

“Through schools offer a consistent approach and that ability to shape education in a way that works for the benefit of the pupils”

Harding counts Repton Prep’s 55-acre setting in splendid Foremarke Hall as one huge USP. “That’s where Repton Prep has a huge appeal, and a huge appeal to me – there is just such opportunity for hands-on learning,” she says. “Lots of schools talk about it, but there is the genuine opportunity to deliver that here.” Hands-on learning is a keystone of what she believes creates a well-balanced curriculum. “I often talk about transferable life skills and using the curriculum to create those, but when you’ve got the space we have, I don’t think you can underestimate the power that brings.”

Repton U S E
Boarding is an essential part of school culture and at Repton Prep there are a variety of options to suit modern family life and international lifestyles

Then there is Repton Prep’s boarding offer, an inextricable part of the culture and life of the whole school and a key area of focus. Repton (both Prep and Senior) do boarding extremely well, and the options from Year 3 – before full boarding kicks in at Senior – fit in with family life, as well as international lifestyles. Currently, some ten per cent of Prep boarders are full boarders, with many more opting for flexible options. There’s a strong local demographic – the Prep draws in plenty of boarders from across the region – plus full boarders from across the UK and internationally. 

Weekly boarding (where children go home after school on Saturday) is often used as a stepping-stone for full boarding. Then there’s ‘Home and Away’, where children go home on Wednesdays and Saturdays (although Wednesdays is tuck night after sports fixtures so staying at school often trumps going home). Flexi-boarding is also offered; often younger pupils, these boarders have their own boarding house but still get to feast on the award-winning food and tap into the huge number of clubs and extra activities after hours – from girls’ football and Warhammer to backgammon, sailing and chemistry club.

Focus on Repton Prep / A rounded vision
It’s no surprise that so many students choose to board – it enables them to throw themselves into the full range of activities, and enjoy the amazing grounds at Foremarke Hall

It’s no surprise that many children choose to board at Repton Prep, since it offers scope to take full advantage of every element of its extracurricular smorgasbord, as well as enabling them to throw themselves into teams, rehearsals and all the other after-school activities that are part of a rich school life. Not that day pupils are ever left out. Core to the approach throughout both Prep and Senior is that day pupils are integrated into the boarding houses in what the school terms a ‘one community’ approach. By Senior stage around 70% of the Repton cohort are boarders.  

Boarding houses offer a home-from-home environment for both day pupils and boarders – the ‘one community’ approach is central to the pastoral vision of the Repton family

Boarding is definitely a key element of Victoria Harding’s vision for the Prep. Indeed, she sees it as central to the spirit and pastoral approach here. “I’m sure you know our ‘grounded, rounded, unbounded’ vision, and we need to ensure our outcomes support our commitment to that ideal. It’s such a good tag line because it really does encompass what Repton is about, both as a physical building and what we can offer, and in the spirit of the children. We want boarding to remain at the heart of that.” She sees a particularly essential role in the grounding for senior years that Year 7 and 8 boarding delivers. “It’s such a critical time for young people, so we are homing in on what we provide for them, how we’re preparing them and how we use those two years as a springboard.”

“‘Our rounded, grounded, unbounded’ tag line really does encompass what Repton is about – we want boarding to remain at the heart of that”

Young people’s wellbeing is always front of mind for parents and educators, and even more so since the pandemic. This concern is – anecdotally – being reflected in school choices. Parents’ desire to provide stability and constancy, and also take the ‘heat’ out of that leap between prep and senior settings is being cited. It’s certainly something that Victoria Harding sees as a factor in their decision-making. “Through schools offer that more consistent approach throughout and that ability to shape education in a way that works for the benefit of the pupils.”

Repton’s vision of ‘grounded, rounded, unbounded’ education is embedded in school culture – in and out of the classroom

The through-school setting at Repton is not about removing stretch and challenge – far from it – but about providing all of that within a stable environment. The structure of boarding houses across both Prep and Senior helps, as it is one of ‘vertical integration’. With 24/7 pastoral support from house parents within a family setting, this vertical design means familiar faces across age groups, helping pupils to belong, to expand friendship groups and also to learn from each other. It is rather like giving everyone siblings – boarding house inhabitants look out for one another.

Victoria Harding can’t wait to get started and relishes the exciting learning opportunities at Repton Prep come September. “Something I’m very big on at the moment is outdoor learning and independent learning,” she says. The opportunity to help children catch up on the experiences that are a normal part of life is a definite priority. “There were all those opportunities children missed during the pandemic to go out and about,” she says. “I’m not talking about those lavish school trips, but outings to bring learning to life.

“Another key area for me is about community and sustainability, and that outlook of considering who we are as a school and what we do in our community,” she says. “It’s important that the Prep is outward facing and that it remains part of that wider Repton and local community – also helping to deliver all those transferable and hands-on skills that young people need.” 

Focus on Repton Prep / A rounded vision


Repton Prep School

Founded: 1940

Head:  Victoria Harding, from September 2022

Gender: Co-ed

Number of pupils: 400

Day or boarding: Day; Boarding from 7+

Ages: 3-13

Points of entry: 3+, 4+, 11+ and in-year admissions

Admissions: Non-selective. Interview and early registration advised

Religious affiliation: Church of England, all denominations welcome and many festivals celebrated.

Fees: Pre-Prep Boarding, per term – £7,750; Day, per term – £5,662. Prep Boarding, per term – from £8,455; Day, per term – from £6,369.

Address: Repton Prep, Milton, Derbyshire DE65 6EJ


A Repton Sen
At Repton Senior, some 70% of pupils board – a cosmopolitan mix with pupils drawn from the UK and across the globe

Repton School

Founded: 1557

Head: Mark Semmence, since 2019

Gender: Co-ed

Number of pupils: 620

Day or boarding: Day; Boarding – !3+

Ages: 13-18

Points of entry: 13+, 14+, Lower Sixth and occasional in-year admissions

Admissions: Non-selective. Interview and early registration advised

Religious affiliation: Church of England, all denominations welcome and many festivals celebrated.

Fees: Boarding: £12,721; Day: £9,437

Address: Repton, Derbyshire, DE65 6FH


Further reading: Focus on Bassett House School