Hello, girlies,' trills head Helen Lowe on our high-speed tour; megawatt smiles beam back at her. The best thing, say the girls, is the staff. 'They teach us in a really fun way so it sticks in our minds.' It's firmly non-competitive: no setting, no streaming, no 'you're better than me'. No exams until 11-plus, no academic prizes. Lots of sporting laurels, though, and smashing music and drama. To get in — well, you know the score: 400 or so names in the ballot for 22 places at 4+ (siblings get priority); an assessment day for 7+ entry. Tutoring won't swing it. 'I'd like parents to trust us,' says Mrs Lowe. 'We know the kind of child that will fit in.' Leavers are set for life; a third go to St Paul's Girls. 'But we work hard on the message that it's the right school for the right child,' says Mrs Lowe, and that might mean Wycombe, Cheltenham Ladies' or Lady Eleanor Holies. We don't know what they're putting in the Bute House water, but we'd like to bottle it.

- Tatler Schools Guide

An outstanding prep school, Bute House manages to combine solid substance with flair and panache.

- Good Schools Guide