It’s no secret that Americans have long had a fondness for and fascination with British educational traditions—just look at the widespread adoration with Harry Potter and the Hogwarts way of life. Now, the spirit of British-American cultural exchange rises to a whole new level with the debut of the Wetherby-Pembridge School—a new outpost of the Alpha Plus Group’s London-based Wetherby Prep (established in 1951 for boys) and Pembridge Hall (established in 1979 for girls)—on the Upper East Side this coming fall.
Built on British educational traditions and sensibilities (they have a House system, in the vein of Hogwarts, for example, as well as weekly “politeness challenges”), Wetherby-Pembridge will be infusing strengths from the spirit and curriculum of NYC’s best schools to offer an educational experience for children ages 3-11 that’s as warm and nurturing as it is academically rigorous.
“We’re very fortunate to be bringing [Wetherby-Pembridge] to New York. We’re very much a first-of-its-kind, independent school for boys and girls from 3-11, where we will be marrying the very best of the British and the American school systems together,” explains Head of School Kate Bailey, who comes to the NYC location after five years as the Deputy Head of Wetherby Prep in London. “We’ll be following the British national curriculum in math, literacy, and science, and marrying the very best of the American school system provision for world history and social studies.”
In terms of standing out in New York’s education landscape, Wetherby-Pembridge has a number of truly exceptional features that go beyond high standards and top-tier educators. For one, the school will follow the British National Curriculum in the “early years stage”—so from age 3 through pre-K—which will put young learners about one year ahead of the American system in terms of numeracy and literacy. The school takes care to match the emphasis on academic growth with social and emotional growth.
“It’s a wonderful, balanced, traditional curriculum—it’s full of academic rigor but it very much develops the child in a holistic development as well,” Bailey says. She also notes that the NYC school will very much maintain a healthy relationship with its UK sibling schools, aiming to implement pen pal programs as well as exchange programs in the future.
Another unique aspect to Wetherby-Pembridge’s design is the fact that it brings together the best of both worlds when it comes to single-sex and co-ed learning environments. Mirroring their single-sex UK counterparts of Wetherby Prep and Pembridge Hall, the new Wetherby-Pembridge will have co-ed classrooms for preschool students, but will then separate them into single-sex academic classes through grade 5, while also providing ample opportunities for boys and girls to socialize together.
“In the preschool…students will be together in a co-ed classroom setting, then from Kindergarten through to grade 5, they’ll split into single-sex academic classes for all their academic subjects and they’ll come together for recreational occasions and sporting activities, and dramatic activities,” Bailey explains.
One standout feature of the co-ed activities that Wetherby-Pembridge students can look forward to—and one that Bailey feels particularly proud of—is called cross-curricular Fridays, where students break from the formal academic schedule of the week to work on project-based learning in a co-ed setting, before breaking for a rolling program of extracurricular clubs.
“We’ll blend the curriculum together and there will be community-based projects for the children to research as well,” Bailey says. “Then on Friday afternoon, students will go into a rolling program of clubs… These could be anything from chess to fencing to art and design to crafts to cookery or music.”
And it’s worth noting that all of the innovative learning in Wetherby-Pembridge’s pipeline will be set again a beautiful backdrop of a top-notch facilities on East 96th Street. When the doors open for the school’s inaugural year in September 2017, Wetherby-Pembridge will be housed in a stunning Ogden Codman Beaux-Arts mansion from 1913 (which is currently under renovation to outfit it with the necessary trapping of academic life). “[The school] is on six floors, and it will be fully renovated with all the classic features, but each of the classrooms are tall, light, airy, and they’ll be fully furnished with technology and all the state-of-the-art resources,” Bailey notes, adding that a two-floor library, an outdoor gallery space, a fully provisioned dining suite, and a multi-purpose hall on the first floor will round out the amenities offered.
It’s easy to see what makes Wetherby-Pembridge an excellent academic atmosphere, but, according to Bailey, what truly excites her about being at the helm is the fact that she hopes to continue the tradition of warm community and close relationships with parents that she experienced in the UK location. “The parents are as important to us as the children. That warmth and open lines of communication that we provide are things that we really do trade ourselves on,” she says. “It’s not just the academic rigor—it’s also social awareness and citizenship and manners.”
To learn more about Wetherby-Pembridge, visit wetherby-pembridge.org.