The Downs Malvern Headmaster Andy Nuttall on the school’s long track record of providing a rounded education, with plenty of stretch and challenge – and fun – to prepare children for future academic and life success

Can you explain more about the history of The Downs Malvern and its development over the years?

Our school was founded in 1900 as a Quaker school for boys. Evolving over time, the school quickly expanded in size, then became co-educational. With a nursery and pre-prep being added by the turn of the century, it developed and retains a firmly family orientated ethos while also embracing a forward-thinking approach.  From its inception, the school had a strong ethos of co-curricular activities enhancing the formal curriculum. This is something which eventually became ubiquitous in prep schools countrywide, but we were ahead of our time.

One unique example of this is The Downs Light Railway, the oldest miniature railway in the world. Our children gain valuable first-hand STEM experience learning to maintain and drive the steam locomotives. The school has, over time, merged with two other preps – Hillstone and Malvern College Prep – and we still remain on our original site in Colwall. To bring us up to date, The Downs Malvern is now part of the Malvern College Family of schools, so we enjoy links with counterparts worldwide. We have a global outlook from our beautiful location rooted in the Herefordshire countryside.

The Downs Malvern / Building bright futures
The Downs Malvern was established in 1900 by the Quakers and has always had a forward-looking co-curricular approach to enhance the formal academic curriculum

How would you describe your curriculum and teaching approach?

Our curriculum is focused on constructing foundations to the children’s learning and understanding, culminating in success at 13+ Common Entrance and Scholarship level syllabi. One of the central tenets of our style of education is the engagement and progress of the individual Our children are involved and informed learners who share the responsibility of their learning with the staff from an early age, developing a balance of both knowledge and skills as they progress through the school. We aim to give the children as broad an experience as possible through a wide range of educational experiences, both within both the formal timetabled lesson and the many co-curricular activities that enrich their learning.

Magicof Science T D M
STEM adventures take place in the labs, but also in unique and very practical settings such as at the school’s amazing miniature steam railway (top)

We have introduced The Downs Malvern Baccalaureate in years 7 and 8 to challenge the children to achieve their highest academic goals, but also to recognise and reward their high levels of commitment and involvement in activities that fall outside the traditionally examined subjects. In this way, the Creative and Performing Arts, Sports, and our wide-ranging activities programme are also central to each child’s success and sense of achievement.  

The Downs Malvern / Building bright futures
With a wonderful location, sport and adventure take place both on campus and in the Malvern Hills

You have a demonstrable focus on eco and green thinking. Can you explain more?

We are situated in an enviable location, within the heart of an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in the Malvern Hills, so the school community has enjoyed a long history of embracing the outdoors. It is a natural next step for pupils and staff to move from enjoying the outdoors to preserving and protecting the natural resources around us. We have an active pupil-led eco-team who research and promote new initiatives for the school to adopt. The whole community comes together for ‘Eco-week’ – this highlights the work the children have been undertaking throughout the year and, in linking with local and regional partners, we continue to improve biodiversity, natural resources and opportunities to interact with the natural environment.

Sports, drama and the arts are celebrated – and with lots of opportunities for children to develop their skills and talents

Co-curricular, sport and clubs are all really strong – how do they enrich school life and support children’s development?

Children at The Downs Malvern exhibit boundless enthusiasm for a wide range of activities and there is a rich culture of participation alongside the pursuit of excellence. The ‘Skills to Thrive’ we extol are reflected in co-curricular endeavours as much as they are within the classroom. It’s important for children to be able to reflect on their successes and failures, developing an informed approach to all of their endeavours. This pays dividends in terms of their all-round enjoyment and involvement. It is gratifying that for a small school we have recorded national success in a range of sports. We see this as the result of a self-sustaining culture of inspiration, participation and success which encourages the youngest pupils to get involved and maintain the strong ethos.

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The Downs Malvern offers plenty of outdoor exploration for even its very youngest pupils – the school welcomes children from age 3

How do boarding and pastoral care work?

We are incredibly fortunate to have a team of highly experienced and dedicated staff who are attuned to boarders’ individual characters and needs. Each child has a personal Form Tutor who work within a team in each section of the school. If a child boards, either on a full, weekly, or flexi basis they are also under the care of the boarding Houseparents and their team of resident staff, each of whom oversees the pastoral care of a small section of the boarding community. It’s a holistic approach, so the boarding team work alongside both the form tutor and parents to ensure that boarders are fully supported in their personal and social development.

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Full, flexi and weekly boarding are offered – a popular option among both UK and international families – and with wraparound pastoral care

What about onward destinations for pupils at The Downs Malvern?

The majority of our pupils naturally continue their educational journey at Malvern College due to the links forged whilst at The Downs Malvern and the ethos and experiences shared between the schools. However, we do also have strong links with other senior schools in the local and regional area. We see children from The Downs Malvern thrive at their choice of school – and that’s thanks to the outlook they develop during their time with us. It is really important to us that our children develop the skills and character that will serve them well not only in the next stage in their education, but also their lives beyond. That is what a strong Preparatory education is all about!

The Downs Malvern / Building bright futures
The Downs Malvern is our Focus feature in the autumn issue of Absolutely Education Prep & Pre-Prep

The Downs Malvern

Further reading: Malvern College – delivering outdoor adventure