Guiding force in local education

Jane Thorpe is Head at Swanbourne House School and since her appointment in September 2018, has quickly made a name for herself as a guiding force in local education and the Independent Prep School market.

Originally from Yorkshire, this super charged career woman and mother of three has always had a life-long passion for children’s education and welfare. Jane read law at Cambridge and following a successful career as a Barrister, became the youngest full-time District Judge in the country, dealing mainly with family law cases. After 4 years as a Judge, and with a burning desire to be a hands-on figure helping to launch children into a bright and exciting future, she made a bold move

into Headship.

Upon her arrival at Swanbourne, Jane was determined to move the school away from the outdated education model followed by most Prep Schools and replace it with an innovative approach that not only ensures a high level of acquisition of subject knowledge and understanding taken from a collaborative, cross-curricular and relevant way of working, but also prioritises the qualities needed to thrive, adapt and succeed in a fast-paced, hi-tech, ever changing and uncertain world; qualities such as initiative, critical and lateral thinking, leadership, communication, collaboration, determination

and reflection.

“Progress in the digital and AI world is being made at such a fast pace,” says Jane, “that developing skills which are uniquely human is now at least as important as the acquisition of knowledge. To be sought after in the workplace of the future, our children will need to have skills which cannot be replicated by technology.”

“At Swanbourne, we are moving away from the outdated education model which measures ‘success’ almost entirely on the results of narrow, written memory tests. Instead we focus on the whole child and their wide- ranging capabilities and aim to unlock passion, self-confidence, lateral thinking and creativity.”

Jane has replaced Common Entrance examinations with an innovative assessment framework, the Pre-Senior Baccalaureate (PSB), which tests and assesses developing skills as well as knowledge-based learning in many different ways. It is a two-year programme of continuous assessment taken by pupils in years 7 and 8. The PSB includes some written examinations but also oral presentations, practical team projects and the presentation of independent research, which, aside from being a much more exciting and varied programme for children, allows those who don’t always show their best in traditional timed, written examinations to have ample opportunities to show their strengths and progress across every subject. When pupils leave Swanbourne at 13 with their PSB diploma, they don’t just get academic subject grades but a full 360 degree appraisal of all that they have achieved in every area of school life. They leave feeling good about themselves as individuals and excited about their future prospects at their senior schools

and beyond.

“For years, industry and commerce have been crying out for graduates who don’t just know how to revise and do well in exams but are inspired, energetic, innovative youngsters with ideas, confidence and creativity,” says Jane. “We support this aim by teaching children how to think, rather than what to think, and by encouraging them to come up with their own strategies to tackle a variety of challenges, indoors and out, and to reflect upon and adapt and improve those strategies themselves. Swanbourne pupils take ownership of their learning and are bold and not afraid to take risks.”

To further personal development and skill sets, an optional Enrichment Programme has replaced academic lessons on Saturday mornings and pupils now take part in a wide range of activities and workshops as diverse as Performance Car Design, Young Farmers, ‘Go Create’, Music Tech, Sports Elite Training, Forensic Science and Bushcraft.

Sport is strong under Jane who played Blues’ Rugby at Cambridge and cricket for Twickenham Ladies’ 1st XI. She was the school hockey captain and went on to play for Yorkshire as well as coaching at Stony Stratford Cricket Club. Swimming, equestrianism and speed-skating also form part of this sporty Head’s credentials! She has done much for sport since joining Swanbourne, not least introducing additional professional coaches across core sports, girls’ cricket and rugby, and creating county standard pitches and grounds. Children also have access to a wide range of non-curricular sports and compete at prestigious events like the IAPS Clay Pigeon Shooting Championships and Fencing Tournament. Jane is also taking a race team to the IAPS Ski Championships in Italy next year.

Pastoral Care and purposeful partnerships are also high on the agenda for Jane and Swanbourne have recently announced its collaboration with mental health charity, CALM. Together, they are creating a blueprint for positive mental health amongst primary school age children, which will be rolled out as a valuable resource for other schools. The first joint project is a music initiative called ‘Torch Songs’ which focuses on the power of music. Swanbourne House have created a Spotify playlist of torch songs and will hold a special concert next term where children will perform their songs live.

Swanbourne is a co-educational day and boarding IAPS Prep School for 3 – 13 year olds.

To arrange a visit go to or call Admissions on 01296 720 264