The English private school that educated princes William and Harry found a home in New York City this year.
Wetherby-Pembridge School, located on 96th street and the section of 5th Avenue deemed “Museum Mile,” opened a branch of the school in New York and currently enrolls children in nursery, pre-kindergarten, and kindergarten classes.
We visited the $A57,511-a-year private school on an October afternoon. Below, take a tour of one of Manhattan’s newest private preschools, which has ties to the royal family.
Wetherby-Pembridge is located on the upper east side of Manhattan, on 96th street and 5th Avenue -- just across the street from leafy Central Park.
We arrived at the school on a warm day in October and rang (what we thought to be) the bell at the front door.
We soon saw the signature uniform that all students wear. Girls wear plaid grey dresses and boys wear grey blazers. Boys wear a polo shirt under their blazers and then graduate to a shirt and tie in kindergarten.
What we thought was the school's front entrance opened into a vestibule that led into the true entrance of the school, a serene courtyard closed off from the avenue's traffic outside.
The building was originally constructed as the mansion residence of influential American architect Ogden Codman in 1913.
Codman had 'wanted to turn 96th Street between Fifth and Madison Avenues into an elegant Parisian ensemble,' and his own home was no exception. He designed the building in neo-French Renaissance 'Beaux-Arts' style, inspired by his childhood in Paris, according to Bailey.
The first floor of the school contains the nursery and prekindergarten classes. Students are in co-ed classes until kindergarten, when they split into single-sex classrooms for core curriculum.
We stepped into a pre-K classroom where students were playing their bells to the count of their music teacher's voice.
'Children are exposed to letters and phonics and numeracy a little earlier than they might be in other American preschools,' Bailey said.
In addition to their core curriculum, all students at the school take music classes and learn Spanish as a foreign language.
'Three values underpin the entire school: respect, resilience, and responsibility,' Bailey said.
But manners might be the most unique aspect of Wetherby-Pembridge's culture. The school stresses 'pleases,' 'thank yous,' and 'good mornings,' according to Bailey.
As we walked up to the next floor, Bailey explained why the school splits kindergarteners into single-sex classrooms so early.
Wetherby-Pembridge believes kids learn best in single-sex classes and points to results seen back in the UK to strengthen its argument.
It is the only school that offers single-sex kindergarten classes in Manhattan, to Bailey's knowledge.
The children work off the rest of their energy during weekly trips into Central Park, across the street. They also go to the 92nd Street Y to take swim lessons and other gym-type classes. Fencing is offered to students, and the school hopes to bring in cricket soon.
While there are some British families at the school, the majority are New Yorkers, according to Bailey.
The main dining facility is almost complete, so for now students eat in a temporary room. Once it's done, they will all eat on china and with real silverware 'to emulate that sense of decorum,' Bailey said.
Students eat their meals in a 'family-style model' and they learn table manners right from the start. Their food is served in courses, and they learn that the first course is cleared away before they are served the next course.
They 'respond really well to it,' Bailey said, noting they have well-developed tastes already. Kids ask for kale and greens with their lunch meals.
Students are brought in for a play session before the school meets with parents, so that the final determination is based on the individual child.
There are about 15 students in each of the nursery and pre-k classes, and about 20 girls and 20 boys in the single-sex kindergarten classes. The school aims to maintain that size going forward, so open slots will be determined each year depending on how many students return.
Our last stop was with Bailey in her office, where she explained how the school is the product of melding both British and American cultures and learning practices.
For instance, in an English practice that likely reminds many Americans of 'Harry Potter,' students enter the school and are allocated into one of three 'houses'called Braeburn, McIntosh, and Russet.
Students develop pride in their houses and compete against the students in different houses for points and to win certain awards.
'It really marries the best of the British and the American,' Bailey said.
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