Guildford High Junior v St Catherine's Prep (Bramley) - recent experiences?

(20 Posts)
Auroborea Sun 24-Nov-13 11:08:55

DD has an offer from both for reception entry, and I am agonizing over the choice (I know we are very fortunate to have it). We have to make the decision in the next few days. We love both schools from what we have seen, academically there isn't much between them from what I can tell, St Catherine's has the edge in terms of space and facilities but Guildford High much more convenient for us location-wise (DS at Lanesborough). I've looked through every past thread that I could find - very helpful, but many seem to be about the senior schools or not that recent. I am really interested in recent experiences of the junior/prep bits. In particular, if you have a daughter there, is she happy (and are you)? DD is reasonably confident and very eager academically, she is showing some signs of being both sporty and arty/creative (although so difficult to tell at this age what their interests are going to be). She says she wants to go to Guildford High (but then she is only four). Any experiences gratefully received.

DalmationDots Sun 24-Nov-13 17:54:14

Congratulations on two offers- how fantastic!
My DD went all through GHS (and my DS through Lanesborough/RGS). DD loved it and thrived there. She was a quieter type but never felt pressured or sidelined. She felt comfortable and accepted there, no stigma about being clever or geeky. There are big rumors that GHS is super pushy and a powerhouse, which I disagree with. DD never had excessive amounts of homework or felt pressurised, I think this mostly comes from parents anyway and IMO the school was fairly laid back when it came to work and only made a fuss when things were serious, in a good way. DD did sports but wasn't musical, the GHS sports is fantastic. I'm sure you saw the sports centre. The lack of space was irrelevant for DD, you have to remember that building is much bigger to a 4-11 year old child than to an adult.
The atmosphere is unique in that you have 50 very bright girls who are all wanting to learn and achieve. They develop a love of learning which takes them far in life! My DD is now at uni and still very close with GHS friends, as are most of her year group. She looks back on her time there with great fondness and pride (But is also very well grounded and has a definite work hard, play hard attitude!)

GHS is the more known academic one whereas St Cats is probably almost as academic but more a posh prep school. I have heard wonderful things about St Cats Prep- although less good things about the senior school. At GHS almost all go on to the senior school, whereas at St Cats a lot go on to other schools locally. I find GHS a bit more down to earth and with the times.
What did you feel looking round?

I personally would snap up a GHS offer, if you have a place then she is likely to thrive there and it works much better with Lanesborough. It is very tricky, i'd say for prep the schools are on a par, but for senior the two schools are very different in terms of atmosphere and suit fairly different types of girls. Thinking long term might help you decide as well.
I hope someone else comes along to give a more balanced view, obviously having had such a good experience of one (and only know the other by hearsay) I am biased!

DalmationDots Sun 24-Nov-13 17:55:51

Just realised I forgot to say- my experience is not recent - DD is now 21!! But I do know of current junior school parents who are similarly pleased.

surreyworkingmum Sun 24-Nov-13 21:51:44

GHS all the way. Simple choice. The facilities for sports are more than adequate. You'll spend your life in the car with St Caths.

AliceInSandwichLand Mon 25-Nov-13 07:19:14

I didn't reply sooner as I have not had girls at either junior school; my daughters both did/are finishing the seniors at GHS. However, I have known zillions of people with girls at both schools, senior and junior, and really both are great schools for the right girl. I think the difference between them in a nutshell, which really only matters in the seniors, is that GHS is a town school, which means much more independence for older girls during and after the school day and contact with RGS boys, which I personally have found very good things, while St Cats is in part a boarding school and thus has some intake influenced by that, and is more isolated geographically so that girls are limited to the school bus or car to get there.
We chose to use local prep schools when the girls were little rather than commuting to Guildford by car, and never regretted it. It made no academic difference at all in the long run.If you are already very near GHS then I just don't think, personally, that it would be worth the stress of years and years commuting by car to Bramley, until she's old enough for the bus. I drive along the A281 at rush hour several times a week, and it can be a grim journey.
And you can always change school later if it seems right - you don't have to stick with it forever if you don't want to!

DalmationDots Mon 25-Nov-13 08:41:31

Definitely agree with Alice who seems to have said it better than me. GHS is a town school, St Cats is a traditional country boarding school.

HomerPigeon Mon 25-Nov-13 13:42:51

My DD started at GHS junior school this term (not reception) and is loving it. We are finding it quite a caring environment and not competitive on the way I have heard others say it is on MN.

If your son is at Lanesborough then purely on a practicalities point of view you would be mad not to go for GHS. How on earth will you get them both to school if one is in Bramley??

Auroborea Mon 25-Nov-13 19:40:11

Thank you for all your replies - quite a strong consensus in favour of Guildford High then! Dalmation, that's wonderful that your daughter has such lovely, happy memories and friendships from GHS - I would love my DD to have this one day. HomerPigeon, thank you, it's reassuring that you are finding the school caring. You are all right on logistics, I know that some people do the Lanesborouh - St. Catherine's run, but it can't be easy. We are leaning towards GHS for this reason. On going round, GHS did have a real buzz, whereas St. Catherine's felt really idyllic - the Good Schools Guide says 'peaceful cottage garden' and I thought this was spot on! So we loved both schools for different reasons, but we are probably a better match with GHS (not posh and will never own a pony). Thank you all for helping me clear my head!

HomerPigeon Mon 25-Nov-13 22:39:47

Auroborea, there are a lot of spanking new 4x4s at GHS but also a fair few clapped out Golfs/Mondeos and we are firmly in the latter camp. I don't feel too out of place, everyone's pretty friendly and lots of the mums have proper jobs etc as well.

DalmationDots Tue 26-Nov-13 14:07:12

I second HomerPigeon there are some very wealthy families but also a lot of very average families where parents are working their arses off to afford it or grandparents are paying etc.
It doesn't have any air of snobbishness and it becomes irrelevant to the girls. Very very few own ponies!!

Auroborea Tue 26-Nov-13 19:51:20

Yes, that's us in the working the socks off camp, DalmationDots! Sounds very much like the Lanesborough mix at GHS. Good to know that you don't feel too out of place, HomerPigeon.

Auroborea Wed 27-Nov-13 17:55:49

An update: decision made. We'll be accepting Guildford High and turning down St. Catherine's. I am sure there'll be a very happy family on St. Cat's waiting list! Thank you for sharing your experiences.

DalmationDots Wed 27-Nov-13 21:15:16

Good to hear, great choice! And it is lovely that you have ended up going with the one your DD expressed a preference for.

Flyingmum23 Thu 06-Nov-14 15:47:15

St Catherines - more views please?

I wanted to get some views on St Catherines as it seems the best choice for us at the moment. I thought Tormead is a changing school and even though I loved the Junior, I though the senior was lacking. Guildford High seems to be the best of the three however after having visited twice, It did not tick for me and I'm worried but girls in the medium low range suffer of confidence. Any views on St Catherine's?

Culture, pastoral care, mandarin classes, sports.. Are girls more likely to stay for activities after school than the town schools? How is their math capability and Spanish capability? Which are the strengths and weaknesses on the school?

Thanks a lot.

Flyingmum23 Sat 16-Jan-16 15:26:15

Update

I got no replies but went with StCats at the end despite the other two schools are closer. She loves it. She settled very quickly and is a happy girls school where they care for each other. No brainer.

PennyBrite Fri 22-Jan-16 18:47:55

It's a fab school. You won't regret it. There's a lot of stuff about it being 'posh' which is lazy talk, just as it is to sum up GHS as pushy.

Gummygirl Sat 30-Jan-16 01:43:54

Hi Flyingmum23 and Pennybrite, glad to see some recent feedback re St. Catherine's. We were somewhat underwhelmed by the prospect of another school in Guildford despite its excellent reputation so would like to go for St Catherine's as it hit all the right notes for us and it's DD's first choice.

We are returning from overseas and looking to buy in an area that will balance the need to be close to London for work but also be a reasonable distance from school. We were initially looking at Guildford, Mayford, Worplesdon and maybe Hook Heath. We heard that there's a school bus service run by parents for girls in the area so seemed like a good compromise. That said, we're now wondering if we should go for Shalford or Godalming which are further away from London but closer to the school. Guildford would still be the first choice but I don't like feeling limited in housing options to just one area.

Would love to hear from you or anyone else on this. Would be especially interested in anyone living between Guildford and Woking-- is it a fairly workable arrangement? Many thanks

PennyBrite Sat 30-Jan-16 03:34:38

Hi Flyingmum23. It's good news in terms of transport which has radically improved recently with more options.
There's a coach from Woking which also picks up at Mayford and a return bus service to Guildford Station every day.
There are also coaches from Farnham, Haslemere and Liphook. Most buses are run by parents. If you get in touch with the school they will send you contact names of the mums who coordinate them.
This is a great area in which to live. Did you see the Countrylife article about the top 7 places to live in Surrey? Most of them are within easy reach of St Cat's and commutable to London if that's a requirement. I live near Farnham which is a lovely Georgian town with some nice villages and although not cheap (!) offers slightly more bang for your buck than Guildford, although it's a longer London commute with fewer trains. Sorry for long post.
Wherever you live, you won't regret it! Happy house hunting now you've found St Cat's!

Flyingmum23 Sat 30-Jan-16 09:06:23

There is a bus from Guildford station at 8:10 am to the school so your daughter or yourself are to be happy to be able to do that. If you were living close to London road (GHS) you could do one stop to Guildford station. I live in Guildford as I thought it was better for teens. I have moved a year ago. If there are a number of girls in the same area parents can organise a bus. I think there is a need of 5/6 people to make it worthy. I do know girls that come from Weybridge and Walton on thames with this arrangement (London Waterloo 27 min). The key is to be in school by 8 am as the traffic to come back if the parents are driving is terrible. To give you an indication my DS is driven to school and it takes 13 min from Guildford however it takes 30 minutes to be back home.

Woking is a good place for commuting to London and there is a bus to the school. Hook Heath is the best spot in Woking but I personally do not like the atmosphere of the town, but it is practical and affordable option!

Worspledon is more semi rural and within one stop to Guildford station to pick the school bus and good for London.

Farham is a very nice place if you can handle a longer commute!!

Most girls in primary live in Bramley, Godaming, Shalford, Wornesh with a few from Guildford (as these tend to go to Tormead or GHS) and a few in Haslemere and even Leatherhead. Most of the girls go to senior school so take that int consideration for your DS social life. People that live in these villages tend to to drive to Guildford for the train and most mums stay at home. In the senior school, the girls come from everywhere!

Gummygirl Sun 31-Jan-16 11:50:46

Thank you both for your comments. Flyingmum, very helpful to know about the traffic from Bramley back to Guildford. Will definitely inform our decision.

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