Golden Thread

The enlightening journey for young children starting out at Stonyhurst St Mary’s Hall Pre-Prep has been described as a ‘golden thread’ that leads them through the rich tapestry of school life at Stonyhurst and into the world beyond

In 2024, Hodder House, which is the home of Stonyhurst St Mary’s Hall Pre-Prep, celebrates the 20th anniversary of its opening back in 2004. Taking children from aged three to seven, the dedicated staff at Hodder House nurture the first gentle steps of the youngest children, as they begin their Stonyhurst journey. Sarah Gibson, Head of the Pre-Prep, who has taught at Hodder House for 16 years explains: “Hodder House is a very well established, warm and nurturing environment for children to start their journey with us – they are all known and loved by our close-knit team of teaching staff.”

Since it’s humble beginnings as a unit of just a handful of pupils in a renovated hall at St Mary’s Hall, which has offered a reputable preparatory education for over 200 years, the Pre-Prep has grown to be a very busy and popular Early Years and Key Stage 1 setting, where children can draw fully from all the wonderful resources of the magnificent Stonyhurst campus, while also benefitting from a modern fully refurbished and richly resourced teaching and learning setting of this ISI rated Excellent HMC and IAPS school.

The recent Excellent in all areas ISI report stated that ‘children in the EYFS (Early Years Foundation Stage), demonstrate excellent social awareness and respect for their peers’ and ‘children in the EYFS communicate clearly and with confidence.’

“Children become so knowledgeable because they have so many facilities on-site,” adds Sarah. “This takes them on an inspirational adventure that develops personal confidence, creativity and knowledge. We recently took them to the museum in the College, the oldest English-speaking museum in the world, where our curator showed them a prayer book that belonged to Mary Queen of Scots, and we also had Stonyhurst’s copy of Shakespeare’s First Folio on display to mark its 400-year anniversary. We are proud to hold over 35,000 artefacts and 75,000 historical books in these extensive collections. These precious artefacts inspire even the youngest of children and bring the curriculum to life.”

Having recently undergone its major refurbishment, Hodder House now has a number of large, bright open-plan classrooms and small class sizes. “In education, nothing stands still, and for our younger pupils we find that they enjoy a variety of engaging activities within a broad curriculum,” says Sarah. “They need to learn core skills that are also engaging and fun – children are far more engaged if they think it is their idea!”

As one of the oldest, continually operating, Jesuit schools in the world, the youngest pupils who are beginning their Stonyhurst education, are instilled with confidence and a deep sense of purpose, as they grow to become ‘men and women for others’. The distinctive Jesuit profile at Stonyhurst encourages enthusiastic learning, curiosity, eloquence, compassion, generosity and creativity as Fr Christopher Cann, Headmaster of Stonyhurst St Mary’s Hall, explains: “Even our youngest children are aware of our Jesuit values that underpin all our teaching and learning to bring out the best in our children.”

Creativity through music, drama and dance brings the children together at Hodder House, where from Years 1 and 2, specialist music and drama teachers are introduced to Pre-Prep. The on-site theatre is used regularly and even the youngest children all appeared in the recent annual nativity play. Fr Chris adds: “The three-year-olds soon develop confidence and each year their role grows bigger. It’s lovely to witness – this self-assurance will be an asset for life.”

Older pupils at St Mary’s Hall also play a part in the Pre-Prep school day through the recent Playtime Pals initiative, where the older children become role models for the younger children. “They teach the younger children to play traditional games and sing together,” continues Fr Chris. “The younger children learn some basic skills from this that are fundamental to a child’s development. Personal and social development are inextricably linked to academic development – this is very important as part of our child-centred learning.”

Having children start from the age of three, not only gives them an unrivalled education, it also presents the opportunity of a seamless journey that runs through the transition points in the school. From Hodder House to St Mary’s Hall and on to Stonyhurst College, all on the same campus and with the same ethos, pupils strive to live out the school motto, Quant je puis – As much as I can, to become ‘the best that they can be.’

“We like to think of their three to 18 journey as a ‘golden thread’ running through the rich tapestry of Stonyhurst – it is a constant through the school and it is always a very moving occasion when the 18-year-old leavers, who started in Hodder House return in June to say a final goodbye and thank you.”

Hodder House welcomes any children at any stage of their education where places are available and is part of the EEF scheme giving nursery school pupils aged three to five, 15 free hours.

Offering excellent value for money, pupils have an extended day with all meals and educational trips included, as well as specialist teaching and very much sought-after wrap-around care that includes a wealth of after-school activities such as dance, musical theatre, gymnastics and football.

Fr Christopher concludes: “We wish the Pre-Prep a very happy 20th birthday. It has always been, and very much continues to be a very happy, dynamic part of Stonyhurst that provides a rich educational environment for treasured memories for our future ‘young men and women for others’.”

Hodder House Pre-Prep
Stonyhurst St Mary’s Hall
Clitheroe BB7 9PU
01254 826242



Tedd Walmsley

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