Every Opportunity…

Oakhill School, set in the heart of the Ribble Valley countryside is flourishing, giving pupils many and varied opportunities to learn in a unique environment

If ever there was a school in a perfect location it is Oakhill in Whalley. Surrounded by countryside, with numerous walking, running and cycle trails and located in extensive grounds, large enough for fun, full-school picnics and activities, Oakhill is a comparatively small, independent school, which nurtures a robust community spirit among pupils, parents and staff.

Principal Jane Buttery has, over the years, adopted and encouraged pupils to embrace the great outdoors in a concept that helps them develop concentration and hands-on learning: “If children see something or actively do something while they learn they tend to remember it much better.

“It stands to reason, that if pupils are in a maths class and they are measuring the angles of a flagpole outside, they will remember it. I ask all staff that if they are able, take a lesson or part of a lesson outside.

“Some of our younger pupils were recently in an outdoor Spanish class and they were asked certain colours in Spanish, they then had to run to an object in that particular colour. Not only was it great fun, they were getting exercise and fresh air while they were learning.”

The countryside surrounding Oakhill is filled with wildlife meaning science lessons see pupils embark on scavenger hunts for plants, insects and bugs using ‘pooters’ to capture and investigate. There is also a Forest School – not unusual for most schools these days – but at Oakhill there is a ready-made wood and natural stream right on their doorstep, where prep pupils go every week to explore nature, paddle and toast marshmallows.

Older pupils cook meals on campfires and learn how to pitch a tent on the top fields, where the school’s exciting BMX Club regularly rides.

“We have many clubs here at Oakhill that add to the community spirit – for example we started an Eco Club last year for younger pupils and senior pupils are starting this term. They are making feeding boxes for the birds from recyclable plastic bottles, apple feeders and providing bowls of water for wildlife.

“Eco Club member have also been making bird boxes – working as a team using hammers, nails and screwdrivers and putting them in the trees in the school grounds. Hopefully, they will be used this coming spring and, if we are lucky to have birds nesting, we will be putting a camera in there so all Oakhill pupils can watch nature right here,” adds Mrs Buttery.

Most Prep children have taken part in a nationwide Big Bird Watch helping identifying birds in specific areas with their findings sent to the RSPB to assist them in collating information about Britian’s wildlife: “The children were so excited when they spotted buzzards!”

A home-grown willow dome is used by the whole of Oakhill as an outdoor learning environment and den and recently, the Woodland Trust donated a number of trees to the school enabling them to create an on-site nursery where they will be nurtured over three years then planted within the grounds.

Mrs Buttery explains: “The trees have also been made available to parents wanting to rewild a little piece of their garden.”

Whole school events are very much valued at Oakhill – each year pupils along with staff and parents, embark on a walk through Spring Wood up to the Nick of Pendle while a Run the Lights event along Blackpool Promenade has also been a hugely popular and well-attended event. The school also has a Running Club and a weekly lunchtime wellbeing walk for staff and students.

Watching and learning is very much encouraged at Oakhill in terms of pupils going out into the local community and embarking on expeditions further afield.

“Again our location is ideal as pupils can go into Whalley and use the library and other facilities. An art class recently went to sketch the gargoyles at Whalley Abbey and when they returned they made 3D models. We have a History Club so pupils used the library to do their research and they also devised a questionnaire and spoke with local people about the area,” adds Mrs Buttery.

Because Oakhill is a relatively small school, this makes planning expeditions and educational outings easy.

Pupils recently travelled to a water purification plant to learn about the purification process: “Allowing children to see something in practice, makes a relatively dull topic come alive,” says Mrs Buttery.

Travelling in one of the school’s minibuses pupils recently took part in a residential activity week that involved abseiling, hiking, orienteering, water sports and camping: “These kind of activities often take pupils out of their comfort zone, but they return brimming with self-confidence.”

Oakhill is very much a school that brings pupils, staff and parents together, creating a tight-knit community through joint activities, where older pupils mentor younger ones, where friendships are forged and where each individual is valued: “We are very lucky to have a school in beautiful grounds surrounded by countryside, allowing pupils to learn and flourish in a fantastic environment.”

Oakhill School and Nursery
Wiswell Lane, Whalley BB7 9AF
01254 823546
01254 824880



Tedd Walmsley

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