This Upper East Side private school combines academic rigour with a strong sense of community and building children’s social-emotional skills.
By Katelin Walling
“Whilst setting high educational standards Wetherby-Pembridge also focuses on inspiring the individual to gain confidence and reach success,” reads the school’s website. The Upper East Side private school is popular among parents because it offers an academically rigorous program, but the “whilst” is one clue children will have a charmingly British-influenced education. Wetherby-Pembridge School New York is the American outpost of Alpha Plus Group (a network of 19 independent schools throughout the U.K.). “With our renowned focus on individualized instruction and rigorous academics, we continue to successfully marry the distinguishing strengths of U.S. and U.K. education and school traditions,” says Kate Bailey, head of school.
But don’t confuse British with stuffy. “A family school in the heart of the Upper East Side by Central Park, we pride ourselves on our strong sense of community, with its focus on well-being and strong personal development and confidence,” Bailey says.
For the 2021-2022 school year, Wetherby-Pembridge serves students in nursery through fourth grade. It will add fifth grade for the 2022-2023 school year. Then, each year after, the school will add another grade until it serves children in nursery through eighth grades.
5 Ways Wetherby-Pembridge Stands Out Among Other Upper East Side Private Schools
So, what sets Wetherby-Pembridge School of New York apart from other Upper East Side private schools? First and foremost, “the academic rigor is something that we hear from parents over and over again,” says Jean Monaco, the school’s director of administration.
But that’s just scratching the surface of what Wetherby-Pembridge offers its students and families.
Virtually everything is available at the school.
Once parents drop their children off for the day, they’ll get everything “from soup to nuts” at the school, Monaco says. That includes after-school programs like music lessons, seasonal sports, chess, musical theater, drama, STEAM, ballet, arts and crafts, cooking, construction, fencing, and debate. This is something that is especially beneficial now, Monaco says; she thinks a lot of parents now are considering how many different communities they’re putting their children in as far as COVID is concerned.
Children receive a “proper” hot lunch every day.
This is one charmingly British-influenced aspect of the day. Children are served “a proper sit-down hot meal” with actual plates, cutlery, and glasses. And the menu, prepared by Chef Nancy Burgos-Jackson, isn’t like what many parents remember from their school days. One example of a meal served by Wetherby-Pembridge’s in-house catering team included ropa vieja, stuffed portobello mushrooms with spinach, black beans, cilantro lime rice, and fiesta corn and peppers. In fact, it’s the rare occasion that the school serves pizza for lunch.
The Upper East Side plays an important role at the school.
In addition to having recess and team sports in Central Park, students visit 92nd Street Y for swimming, gymnastics, and basketball. Plus, the school schedules field trips to the neighborhood’s museums, including the Guggenheim, Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Jewish Museum.
Students are divided into houses.
If Hogwarts is the first thing that comes to mind when you read that, you’re on the right track. Students and their families are sorted into three houses: Braeburn, McIntosh, and Russet (in a nod to the Big Apple). Over the course of the year, each house accumulates points, which are given in recognition for things like good manners, enthusiasm, kindness, and hard work. This system “allows children of different ages to mix and cooperate and provides an outlet and a place for children to shine,” according to the school’s website.
Wetherby-Pembridge has partnerships with various institutions across the city.
“Whilst old traditions will make a comeback, new and invigorated partnerships are also planned,” Bailey says. This year, “the school will welcome musicians and workshops from the team at the Louis Armstrong House Museum, students will delight in new educational opportunities provided by Little Island NYC at Hudson River Park, and with a new Director of Music, extensions to our well-established music program will be available this autumn.”
Other partnerships include Jazz at Lincoln Center, Play Rugby NYC, and Tiger Strong.
What’s more? The school provides all students opportunities to give back to the community, help fundraise, and support local charities to make a difference. Whether it’s planting daffodil bulbs as part of the NYC Daffodil Project, volunteering on the weekends, or making sandwiches and packing food for individuals experiencing homelessness, the school promotes a strong sense of community and empathy for others.