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Tormead, Guildford High, St Catherine's

(83 Posts)
CanadianInGuildford123 Wed 27-Sep-17 23:49:19

Sorry to post as I know this has been done to death, but does anyone have any recent experience with the Guildford area private schools? My two girls will be entering Year 3 and Reception next year and we are extremely torn as to our preference of school!
Having visited them all, I know that they are all amazing schools and we would be lucky to be offered a place in any... However, trying to decide which would be the best fit for our girls and family is going to be a challenge.
My first impression of GHS was that it is potentially not as warm/nurturing as the others, however I know that 2 hours spent on a school tour isn't enough to truly know a school.
Our eldest daughter is a bright and caring child who would flourish woth positive reinforcement and guidance. I'm not sure how well she would cope with extreme pressure. She is quite well rounded and would love to be involved in lots of different sports/music/clubs I'm sure - but I'm not sure that she would be the absolute best at anything at the end moment and so I worry that she may not have the opportunity to participate at the most competitive of these schools.
Any thoughts at all / experiences with these schools would be hugely appreciated!

Auroborea Thu 28-Sep-17 09:02:25

My daughter is in year 3 at GHS, she's been at the school since reception. We've been very very happy with the school, and so has DD - she can't wait to go back to school during holidays and already has a firm view that she wants to stay for the senior school. Quite honestly, we have experienced no pressure, in fact the school is in many ways amazingly laid back - it is the girls that tend to want to take part in everything and sometimes need reminding not to overload themselves with the extensive extracurricular etc. We do find the school to be very nurturing, every teacher DD has had so far has been lovely, and so is the head. I also know people with girls at Tormead and St Catherine's who are happy - they are all great schools and girls are spoilt for choice around Guildford! I would say do the assessments at all three and see where your girls get in and where they would like to go - DD knew after the assessment that she wanted to go to GHS as that's where she enjoyed the assessment the most. smile

CanadianInGuildford123 Thu 28-Sep-17 10:16:10

Thank you so much for your reply, it's such a big decision! That is likely what we will do, take the test for all 3 and then go from least I'll then be able to delay making an actual choice until January smile

YellowFlamingo Thu 28-Sep-17 17:58:49

Another GHS parent...
It honestly is so laid back! The pressure rumour comes from it being potentially the most academically selective school, not anything to do with the school itself - once you are there is it very relaxed. The girls are so happy and just love learning. We found it very nurturing. DD goes to school, does the work there, does the set homework and a few clubs. That is it. There is no extra tutoring or pushing. Most parents are the same.
I very much saw it that if DD got a place then it would be right for her.

Tormead wasn't for us. I can't put my finger on it. It is great for some. I find the fact the sixth form is so small (around 20) because lots of Year 11s choose to leave off putting. At GHS and St C most stay on. I feel there is more pride and love from the girls in these schools. BUT this is talking about 16 year olds... you are looking at the prep which is so different. Just mentioning as they are all-through schools so the senior dept is worth thinking about to save having to go through 11+.
St Cats is great. Friends are v happy there. It is more of a country school atmosphere. The prep is meant to be lovely. Some aren't keen on the senior school head as she is a little old fashioned and formal. I would send DD there happily though.

CanadianInGuildford123 Thu 28-Sep-17 20:13:47

Thanks YellowFlamingo!
I've had a few people say that about Tormead...we had such a good feeling about it, I'm worried that we've missed something. I did think that the head mistress wasn't a strong public speaker (to put it gently) which put me off a bit - though that doesn't necessarily reflect on her ability to run the prep well.
St Cat's was lovely, and they have extensively refurbished many areas which was nice. As you say though, quite rural and I can't quite decide if that's a good thing or not. It would mean signing up for a lot more of a commute (as we live quite close to Rydes Hill school it will mean a trek through town).
I suppose first steps is seeing where both girls get in, the decision may well be made for us.
It's really helpful to have such positive comments on GHS - my daughter preferred it over the others but as she's 6 I'm not sure how much thought is going into it (I have a feeling it's because the head mentioned Tae Kwon Do as one of the extra curriculars 😂)

YellowFlamingo Thu 28-Sep-17 20:57:25

Good luck with the decisions. As you say, do the tests and see where they get in, then decide.
Your commute to St Cats isn't too bad - there are lots of back routes.
Rydes Hill itself is a good choice if you decide a smaller very traditional prep would be for you. They feed into GHS, Tormead, St Cats and others.

GU24Mum Thu 28-Sep-17 21:37:48

I've got a DD in GHS currently in Y2 and we're really happy with it but share the other PP's views that all the schools (including Rydes Hill) are all slightly different from each other but they are all great options.

CanadianInGuildford123 Thu 28-Sep-17 22:22:18

We did consider Rydes Hill at the start of the process, but now having seen all the others I feel that it doesn't have as broad a range of offerings available - and just doesn't have the resources of the larger schools. I'm sure it's excellent and the girls there seem quite happy, it just feels a bit stuck in the past (or at least not on the forefront of technology!). Sad though, because I could literally toss the girls over the fence to go to school...

Tormeadmum Thu 28-Sep-17 23:59:08

We have a daughter at Tormead and we couldn't be happier. The school is academic, nurturing and successful . Our daughter is thriving. All schools have a different feel to them and we looked around all three of the guildford school, we knew immediately which one would suit our girl. They are all different , i suggest you go for your gut instinct , the school that suits your daughter, her personality and the one who's ethos strikes a chord with your family's values and personality. Tormead isn't 'posh' or 'pushy' it attracts girls from all backgrounds and with all sorts of abilities and makes the best of them. All three schools have strengths . Visit them, look at the girls that go there and the ethos and follow your instinct and you won't go wrong. Later on, if it doesn't work out, plenty of girls swap between the three at all stages so it isn't a decision which cannot be changed . Good luck with your decision ,

Bekabeech Fri 29-Sep-17 07:18:28

Oh please don’t be seduce by iPads. Or new concert halls.

sometimesinthefall Sat 30-Sep-17 16:35:56

Tormead parent here. It is a very lovely school with plenty to offer for every type of girls. The Head Mrs Foord is brilliant and has brought great improvements to the school. The former head of Juniors has just left and been replaced by a super-dynamic leadership team of teachers.

CanadianInGuildford123 Sat 30-Sep-17 23:12:14

Thank you Tormeadmum and Sometimesinthefall your comments are very reassuring! I really liked Tormead and also felt instantly comfortable at St Cat's. I think that I desperately want to be enamoured with GHS but can't seem to get there. My youngest daughter and I stopped by on Friday to drop a form off and I just wasn't feeling it - though I don't know why.
I have to say though, I asked one of the receptionists how parents manage pickups and drop offs (because I have never managed to park anywhere near to the school) and she laughed and said "with a lot of swearing and tears..." which was fairly uninspiring - though I realise this isn't a deciding factor and I'm sure all have drop off / pickup issues!

My husband and children have still yet to see St Cat's so hopefully they'll all have a clear favourite after that smile

Bekabeech - why do you warn against iPads and concert halls?

Bekabeech Sat 30-Sep-17 23:29:35

I warn against them because at present there is a bit of a competition for who has the shiniest school. So almost constant building work at Guildford area schools (and the spread of iPads from Tormead to the others, something that would be criticised in the state schools).
What you really are looking for is excellent teaching, where your DD’s interests and talents will find their place and where she as a person will thrive. That doesn’t need iPads (not the best device for learning in my opinion) or even concert halls. (Or as in one school I visited the best parent car park and great dining hall).
So I wouldn’t write Rydes Hill off just because it doesn’t offer those things. Convenience can be worth a lot.
And I’m pretty unbiased as my DC are all out of that age range, and I’ve known lovely girls at all the girls schools in the area, and lots of other schools too.

CanadianInGuildford123 Sun 01-Oct-17 11:34:09

Thank you for the input Bekabeech, you're right that we shouldn't get caught up with what is the shiniest. We liked Tormead/St Cat's not because of the technology, but because of the overall feel of the schools. I think technology is certainly something that can be used to enhance (not replace) excellent teaching but will not be our main deciding factor.
As I said my daughter is quite sporty and interested in music/instruments which I didn't feel were particular strengths of RH - and extra curricular offerings seemed a bit limited. Teaching is, I'm sure, excellent, and I know the girls go on to GHS/Tormead etc from there.
In the end though I feel that we would be choosing it mainly for convenience which doesn't feel right!

Pagwatch Sun 01-Oct-17 11:54:09

I pulled my daughter from Tormead because it has gone down the pan.
Mrs Ford is dreadful. I had meetings with her where she had made no attempt to prepare at all, had no idea who my daughter was in spite of having awarded her several prizes and having been fully briefed on her when we first expressed our intention to move her.
The decision to hitch their wagon to iPads is ludicrous. The girls are not exempt from writing in exams but spend all day typing so don't practice.
My daughter was spending all her time being given work sheets as homework to prep for exams. She was told not to interrupt by asking questions and this impression was cemented by parents evening - a miserable round of teachers working through a list of results, class medians and knowing little about the girls.
Since she left we've been contacted by other parents asking about her new school. When we went Mrs Ford wrote to us and the head of DDs new school all indignant and horrified that we were going and that the head had accepted us.
They are losing decent staff and replacing them with those prepared to do exam cramming. Its circling the drain imo.

It's such a shame. It was a brilliant school. The prep school is still pretty good. It's the senior school that's deteriorating at pace.
I still know parents from there and most frustrated and currently underwhelmed.

Pagwatch Sun 01-Oct-17 12:09:42

The desperate desire to go 100% iPad was a really good example of the appalling decision making imho.
The cons vastly outweigh the pros.
The lack of handwriting practice is an obvious one. Also the fact that the girls immediately link message systems onto their pads so homework becomes an excercise in endless interruptions unless you make them switch it off.
It's impossible to know if they are working or doing something else because, unless you look over their shoulder it could be work or it could be YouTube.
encouraging a child to look at a screen all day rather than looking up at the teacher or the board or their classmates is not a good idea for communication skills, social skills or indeed physical well being. My DDs tendency to periodic headaches has disappeared since she left.

Obviously some girls can cope with all of this and some girls will still thrive at a Tormead because it's got great fascilitites, a smart intake and lots of other good qualities. But the head is driving it downwards because she's clueless and would trumpet lessons via an Apple Watch if she felt it made them look super cool and technologically advanced. Mostly though, when brilliant teachers leave because they are not the schools most valued asset it's a bad sign of things to come.

CanadianInGuildford123 Sun 01-Oct-17 15:14:34

What years did your daughter attend if you don't mind me asking? Where has she gone to?
If there was only 1 girls school my life would be infinitely easier I think...

Tormeadmum Sun 01-Oct-17 15:21:10

I am surprised by your comments Pagwash. It doesn't sound like we have experience of the same school . My daughter is in the senior school , so perhaps I know you??? I too was nervous about an over-dependence on iPads initially and indeed perhaps in the early days they didn't get it quite right, but I think the balance has been made now and my daughter finds hers a useful tool . She certainly does more than enough writing.

As for the teachers, I find your comment unfair. There are many fantastic and inspirational teachers at Tormead, some not so good, the same as everywhere. But you'd be hard pushed to find a more caring staff at any school.

It is normal at private schools to have parents with strong views because they rightly feel that as they are paying for the education it has to be right but what is right for one child is completely wrong for another . Just as many girls settle happily into Tormead having come from other schools, where they have been unhappy as leave , it's about finding the right fit. As I said before, gut instinct is a fantastic indicator of whether it is right for your child or not.

Pagwatch Sun 01-Oct-17 16:18:14

That's so true. As soon as there is a choice we start thinking that one school is the perfect choice and every other is wrong when the reality of course is that our child is likely to settle in, make friends and do just fine whatever we choose.
I'm not going to start getting into which year DD was in or some arse will start trying to work out who I am or if they know me or DD. I understand that people feel defensive if their child's school is being critiqued so I would never criticise Tormead to a current parent or add to a thread talking about how great it is. I just gave my views as you are currently choosing and asked for opinions.
My experiences and opinions are of course just my own and I'm sure many girls love the school and have parents who, like Tormeadmum, are totally happy.


we clearly have different experiences and different views but I'm not sure that because you have a great experience and are perfectly happy with the staff etc that your view is fair and mine isn't. Yours is, as you say, based on your how your child experiences the school.
My experiences formed my view. They are not born of a belief that because I am paying that it has to be perfect specifically for me. I felt unhappy and I moved my daughter. You are happy and yours remains there. Neither of us is wrong so I won't assume you are misguided in your opinions if you can assume that mine are similarly genuinely held.

I'm not sure if we know each other and I'm not sure why that would make any difference.

YellowFlamingo Sun 01-Oct-17 17:26:36

I second pagwatch's views with the caution of PP who said with such great options we assume one is 'right' and in reality most girls will thrive at any of the schools. And as pagwatch points out if they don't, you can move.
I have friends with DC at Tormead and know a few teachers there. The comments on it changing from the view of it being a nurturing, academic school with an excellent reputation to it loosing numbers and having an impersonal head. As I said previously, the sixth form numbers really say it all.

CanadianInGuildford123 Sun 01-Oct-17 20:24:07

I really appreciate all of the assistance - although my husband is interested, in the end I'm going to be the one who is most involved in the girls education (and doing the potentially very lengthy school runs if we go with St Cat's) so I'll ultimately have the final say. Having views from those who have experience is extremely helpful.

I'm sure that all are excellent choices and the girls will ultimately settle, make friends and enjoy wherever we end up (and if not, we can move them later on).

Nowhere will be the perfect fit for every child and I'm sure everywhere has it's good and bad points - my problem is that a tour almost certainly gives a slightly rose tinted view of things!

After trawling through all of the schools information today I feel I may have been too hasty with Rydes Hill - DD currently goes to a very small infant school and despite its size it has been excellent. There will be a new head from Christmas I believe as well who may just shake things up a bit...

CanadianInGuildford123 Sun 01-Oct-17 20:25:32

I should have added thank you fro bringing up the point of 6th formers leaving, I hadn't been aware of that and it is certainly something to think about

IvySquirrel Sun 01-Oct-17 21:12:46

I have boys so no direct experience, but I must live very near you as I'm near Rydes Hill.
If I were you I'd definitely go Rydes Hill til 11 then choose a secondary when you're at that stage. My boys were in state primary and went to RGS. It hasn't disadvantaged them at all.
I can't think of anything worse than driving a school run across Guildford for years.
I know families with girls who have been very happy at Rydes Hill, GHS & Tormead. Everyone will have different experiences!

GuerrillaShoppa Sun 01-Oct-17 22:09:27

There are certainly more than 20 girls in each of the 6th form years at Tormead - check out the Leavers' Destinations section of the school's website and count for yourself! - and here for the most recent ISI educational quality inspection report (which was glowing ) .

I agree with Tormead Mum that you should go with your gut instinct when choosing the school for your daughters and, as she has stated, just because you choose one school for them now, doesn't mean that you cannot choose another for secondary level or A Levels later down the line, should you feel that the "fit" is not right.

My girls have stayed for Tormead Senior School; we are very happy with it and they are thriving, challenged by the work and are actively involved in both sports teams and music and drama productions.

We chose the Tormead way over other local schools - any girl is welcome to try her hand at any activity, no matter how lacking in initial ability or talent she may be (!). This encourages perseverance, which I think, is a valuable life skill. I think that some local private schools concentrate on excellence in everything to such an extent that, instead of fostering a "give it a go and see what happens" attitude in their pupils, encourages specialisation in particular areas far too early and makes some girls incredibly risk-averse at trying anything that they do not feel they can comfortably "ace".

This is hardly a helpful philosophy to take forward into life beyond school and can produce overly-anxious young adults, who lack the resilience to persist at things they find initially difficult (I am repeating what I have posted on another thread, so apologies if you have previously read this but I think it is an important difference between the Guildford girls' schools.)

I agree that there were some initial parental concerns about Tormead's headlong rush to use ipads. There has been some rowing-back on this by the school in the last 18-24 months and we feel that the correct balance for their use has now been struck. Feel free to PM, Canadian, if you have any specific questions.

CanadianInGuildford123 Sun 01-Oct-17 22:34:49

Thank you GuerrillaShoppa for the very detailed and helpful insight (as well as the offer of a PM). I will definitely have a look at the inspection report - I just read through the Good Schools Guide for all and they raved about Tormead.

Ivysquirrel - the commute is definitely a worry for me, particularly for St Cat's as it would mean signing up for potentially a 2 hour commute in total every day (or at minimum 1 1/2 hrs).
Rydes Hill was initially appealing for this reason, but (among other things) a big issue is that it ends in year 6. My eldest would need to move on for year 7 when my youngest starts year 4, which I imagine would be a difficult year to move her in. Alternatively, we could move them both when our youngest enters year 3 - at the start of year 6 for my eldest which would be equally hard. Finally, we could move the youngest in year 3 to have them in separate schools for that year and then cross our fingers that my eldest gets in! It all seemed a bit too much worry for the sake of a 15 min drive to Tormead smile

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