Smiles start here, with the Head, and radiate down through the charming Head of the Pre-Prep to the teachers to the girls. Or maybe itâ€™s the other way round. Either way, what a lot of smiles!
The Good Schools Guide is often written by parents, but always for parents. The Guide does not take advertising from schools nor are there any fees or retainers paid. Thus, it is able to be impartial. The authors visit all the schools themselves and talk to pupils, staff, heads and boarding staff. They also undertake research about schools from a variety of external sources including parents. Their reviews are intended to be portraits of the schools and not inventories of their assets and achhievements. They are, however, subjective and there is no guarantee of factual accuracy. However, such is its growing reputation and integrity that all schools view it with great respect. St Catherine’s is proud to be represented in its pages.
HEADMISTRESS Headmistress: Since 2012, Naomi Bartholomew MA BEd Cantab (40s) who was educated at Portsmouth High School and went on to read English and education at Homerton College, Cambridge. She spent two years in south west China with the VSO, then taught in state and independent primary schools. Five years as head of English at Yateley Manor was followed by the Deputy Headship at St Catherine’s in 2009. We previously called her “calm, clever and warm”. Think Miss Honey, if Miss Honey were the extremely effective head of a top girls’ prep. Smiles start here, with the Head, and radiate down through the charming head of the preprep to the teachers to the girls. Or maybe it’s the other way round. Either way, what a lot of smiles!
Entrance: Roughly 50 applicants for 32 places at 4+. A few more join in years 1 and 2, but entry is most competitive at 7+ when the school has only four official new places. A few certified brainboxes join in year 5, often from local state schools. Apply by October of the year before you’d like your daughter to start. Exit: Roughly three quarters (some years more) will proceed to the senior school after sitting the 11+ (maths, English and, somewhat unusually, science) alongside all other applicants. Others aim for local schools like Prior’s Field, Cranleigh and Tormead, or to board further afield. The Head meets all year 5 parents to discuss future schools. “There’s no weirdness about it - it was really useful,” said a mum.
Learning taken seriously, but never dreary. Remarks: The fun starts in the bright and welcoming preprep with two small classes of 16 and specialist teachers for music, games, ballet and computing. Learning taken seriously, but never dreary. Weekly pre-prep assembly bestows “Kindness Awards”. Class sizes expand slowly as the girls move through the school. Academic focus gradually ratchets up as girls approach 11. iPads compulsory in years 5 and 6, with parents voicing the usual pros (they’ve gained so many skills!) and cons (they’re addicted!). SEN department, known as “Academic Mentoring”, serves around 20 girls with mainly low level problems, from organisational challenges to mild dyslexia.
The school’s neat as a pin outside appearance belies a labyrinthine interior, with the feel of a medieval town of courtyards, gardens, walkways and overlapping buildings. The senior school across the road serves as a steam valve with prep girls shepherded back and forth for swimming, dance, chapel, lunch and some games. Some snazzy spaces, like the stylish purple and green IT room and the new science lab opened in 2018 by (local) educator and broadcaster Maggie Aderin-Pocock. Dance is fabulous and the teaching inspirational. Reception and year 1 have ballet timetabled. Thereafter, the ambitiously named St Catherine’s School of Dance offers a wide range of lessons and coaching. “It’s my belief that dance, like French and music, contributes to their education,” says the Head. “We’re not necessarily about creating ballerinas.”
Dance is fabulous and the teaching inspirational. Music is for both the expert and the merely eager. Everyone tries a string instrument for a term in year 2, then recorders in year 3 (plus a go at some brass). The result is that well over half the girls play an instrument and there are loads of informal concerts spread through the year. NB The school hall now possesses a glorious pipe organ donated by a local music lover. More drama offered than when we last visited. It’s taught weekly to years 3 - 6. Big “play with music” (“not a musical!” the girls insisted) is a very large deal for year 6 in their final term when entrance exams have faded into the mists of time. Girls (and parents) think there’s still room for more!
Games are a big part of life for many of these competitive girls, and standards are high. Lacrosse is introduced in year 6. Swimming is a major sport, and the girls use the senior school pool once a week from year 1. Efforts have been made to include one and all, but match selection remains selective according to parents of less gifted sportswomen. Immense range of clubs from construction to knitting to music tech helps augment the shortish school day. “Girls need to stay for after school activities if they want the full education the school offers,” a mum told us. And most do. Nice to see chess taken seriously. The resident International
Chess Master holds a weekly session and the school hosts a national girls’ chess competition which recently saw the largest number of girls on record in the UK gathering to play the game of kings. Parents are universally grateful their girls are here. The school is popular with families fleeing London who may prefer St Catherine’s to the more citified Guildford options: “If you’re moving out of London, you’re really not looking for an urban school,” one parent explained. “You join a nice, welcoming community,” said another. Coaches bring girls from Farnham, Haslemere, Woking, East/West Horsley and Clandon. School opens at 8am but parents can drop off at the senior school from 7.50am. Boarding showing green shoots, with a few occasional Year 6 boarders and increasing numbers of parents asking about it.
Parents are universally grateful their girls are here.
St Catherineâ€™s Preparatory School Station Road, Bramley, Guildford, Surrey, GU5 0DF 01483 893363 email@example.com www.stcatherines.info
Pat ron: Her Royal Hig hne s s, T he D uc he s s of C ornw al l Registered Charity Number: 1070858
Good Schools Guide - St Catherine's Prep School, Bramley