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St. Catherines vs Guildford High vs Tormead

(32 Posts)
Schoolcircles Wed 23-Jan-13 17:30:14

I would really appreciate some more views on these schools.

We are moving to the area from N London and DD has so far been offered a place at St Cats and Tormead and we are waiting to hear re GHS.

DD didn't really like Tormead after the exam day -but I realize we haven't given it much of a chance and welcome any positive views.

My preference (and DDs) is currently for St Catherines - because of the flexi boarding option in DD's opinion, and for me because it seems to allow girls to participate in a lot more activities than GHS, even if they aren't brilliant at them all.

I have formed the (possibly incorrect) opinion that GHS tends to be VERY academically focused and has less time for other interests. My daughter is strong academically, but wants to do drama and sports etc to gain self-confidence outside academics. Looking on their website, GHS only seems to offer lunchtime clubs in most activities and nothing much after school (except for squad sports, and DD is not a shining star at sports but wants to play them anyway). Lunchtime only activities concern me, as I'd actually like DD to take some healthy downtime at lunch and chat with her friends rather than feeling the need to cram in an extra-curricular every day between lessons - whereas an extracurricular after school would be fine.

On the other hand GHS is obviously an outstanding school, doing most things right, more down to earth than St Cats and closer to town ..... And I've heard some rumblings about issues with stress at St Cats - but surely stress gets the better of a minority at all high achieving schools? I am more interested with how well each school deals with stress on its students. I've also heard St Cats is a lot posher. We are not particularly posh but I've never been put off by that. People are people. Just as long as DD doesn't get teased for not being wealthy.

GHS has regular socials with RGS, a great school. St Cats doesn't seem to be paired with any boys schools (is it just 1 social with Eton?). This may be a concern when DD gets older and wants to meet boys.

So, as you can see I am going round and round in circles! IF DD does get offered a place at GHS, the first choice for many, --- would I be silly to turn it down in favor of St Cats? Or will going to GHS mean that DD won't get to practice and learn something new because they will encourage her to play to her (already over-developed at her current school) strengths.

DD is a bright and a gentle soul who is currently in a very supportive group of friends, none of whom are going to any of these schools. She gets on best with bright, sensitive girls and is not keen on "girly girls" or boy bands or the latest fashions etc. (yet!) I am looking for a school that will give her the chance to meet some like minded girls, learn to get on with different personalities, and where she can also improve in drama and learn some new sports without feeling like she's bad at them before she's even begun. But also, of course, a school that stretches her academically and gets excellent grades.

No school is the whole package I know, and these 3 schools are all extremely good. DD is lucky to have such great schools as an option. I would appreciate more insight into each of the schools cultures so I can find the best fit for us. Thanks! smile

Nosilayrrehs Wed 23-Jan-13 21:44:43

GHS is superb! My friend's children go there (I have never met such lovely children - bright and proud of it but with lots of other interests too - sport, drama, music). I also have a friend who teaches there (having taught at several other school) and she says that it is without doubt the best school she has every come across (kids happy, stimulated and polite). Others simply pale incomparison. Sadly my DD didnt get in ;-( Common belief is that if you get offered GHS grab it with both hands...good luck and very well done to your daughter. She has done brilliantly.

Happymum22 Wed 23-Jan-13 22:35:20

I have written a lot of replies about GHS so sorry to repeat if you have already searched previous threads.

All my 3 DDs went/currently are at GHS. It really is just a fab school. With regards to extra curricular, my DDs all had quite different interests but there definately is loads and after school as well as during lunch times. My DDs used to spend most days a week just chatting with friends, DD said at xmas having left (she is now at uni) she misses the lunchtimes just sitting in the garden or form room or a random corridor chatting and laughing with her friends. They definately are not running from lesson to lunch to club to registration every day. DD used to do something probably two lunchtimes a week in lower school and as she got older more of it was after school. DD also always says she misses just the atmopshere, so supportive and buzzing and there is a real sense of pride and celebration in the school of being a 'GHS girl'.
There is lots of opportunities to be in productions where rehersals are after school, there is (probably more limited than st cats- good friend of mine taught there) opportunities to do recreational netball/lacrosse/rowing/lots of other sports as well as competitive. GHS has the advantage of offering lots of new different sports through clubs and lessons like hockey, rowing, fencing etc and they introduced a house system a few years ago which brought lots of opportunities for the non-top sports players to have a go as well as lots of informal competitions like house cooking, frisbee, monopoly, singing and all sorts whcih let them all get involved in a non-pressured environment.
The school really does fit all types of girls, the year groups are of about 100 and so girls do quickly find their type of friends who they are happiest with. I don't know many from DD who left a year and a half ago's year group who didn't have a wonderful close group of friends who aren't still in touch. There is a good sense of respect and acceptance for each others differences and very little bitchiness.
The high pressure and pushy rumours are not at all true. DDs had relatively little homework most of the time and the only pressure came from being in an atmopshere of 99 other very bright girls in your year group, rather than from the staff. This atmopshere does no harm and creates very self-motivated and ambitious girls who want to do well and 'work hard, play hard'.
The RGS is a big advantage, DDs all by sixth form had a mixed friendship group and had parties etc with the RGS boys, two of my DDs had boyfriends from RGS. DD3 is at GHS now and just starting to mix with the boys now they are 16.
Having had one DD graduate and one at uni, they and their friends have turned out lovely girls. They have brilliant sense of humour and work-life balance, the friendship they have is incredible (I am always so jealous!!) DD who has graduated is now living in London with old school friends, they are all in top jobs in their own very varied fields. DD works for NSPCC head office, the others work for deloitte, a law firm and another a medic. I saw them encouraged by GHS from sixth to choose a career they were really passionate about and interested in. They all were so motivated to get internships and the right work experience to get the graduate jobs they wanted. This also reflects the type of families who send their DDs to GHS, it is a very professional and hard working group of parents, from all sorts of income brackets. More importantly, the girls are very balanced and do know how to relax and keep things in perspective.
The pastoral care at GHS is really wonderful, my DDs have all needed a fair bit of support at times through family trauma or smaller issues but it has been there before i've even had to mention an issue and I've always noticed teachers are so approachable and respectful of the girls.

I could go on all day about the school, it really is the best choice I ever made. DDs love it too and really thrived their despite being 3 really different types of girls.

Heard good things about st cats, one thing my friend (ex teacher there) said is while their leavers destinations are good, about another third of the year group go off on 'gap years' because they dont get the grades and then tend not to go to uni. A lot have the attitude they don't need to go to uni as family can afford to set them up with a business or job or whatever. DOn't know how true this is. The new facilities are breath taking and the school is much more traditional boarding school than GHS.

I would certainly take a GHS place over St Cats (unless the boarding is essential) and definately either of them over Tormead. Tormeads a great school but quite love or hate, its perfect for some girls but not for others.

Igloo100 Wed 23-Jan-13 23:27:09

DD is at GHS, looked at St cats a lot though and know a good friend with a DD there.

I second what happymum says, GHS is really outstanding and you can't beat it. DD is thriving there having joined a very shy girl who was always nervous to join in with things. She is now invovled in so much, taking part in productions, having not ever been on the netball team or really that sporty (although liked sports) at her previous school, she found she loves lacrosse and is also on the swimming team despite being far from the best. So certainly wouldn't worry about her being pushed into what she is already good at, DD used to do lots of music but didn't want to join the choir. I knew she was focusing elsewhere and would rather she did things she enjoyed. I don't think she has found school push her to join in with anything, they highlight girls who do NOTHING and encourage them to join something but don't push them to do loads of acitivites if they don't want to. For them, one thing is enough and balance between being busy and having down time with friends is important. They really do just want the girls to be happy and enriched rather than having goals of making the school a powerhouse which wins everything. (They do very well at most things though just because of the nature of having very intelligent well rounded girls)

DD quickly settled in and found a group of like minded girls. The staff are very on the ball and the school does seem to have given DD a lot of motivation without being pushy. As happymum said, it is the girls driving themselves in the academic atmopshere that means they become determined to do well, not the school being pushy.

DD's good friend had a big family death last year and I was so impressed with the pastoral care, they really helped all the girls and provided so much support. As happy said, they are a really approachable bunch who just have so much genuine care for the girls. I remember speaking to a sixth former at the open day who said she was excited to have a place to study at (I think it was) Durham university and was ready to start a new challenge, but also really sad the most incredible 7 years were coming to an end and she felt like she was 'part of the big GHS family'. For a fairly large school with such a big reputation it was really warming to hear how she felt so valued and proud of her school. I really hope DD is saying such positive things about the school in a few years time when she is about to leave!

Hope this helps, feel it is repeating Happymum's post a bit but I couldn't agree more with her. I hope someone with St cats knowledge comes alopne to balance the decision a bit more!

Schoolcircles Thu 24-Jan-13 01:04:29

Wow! Thanks for all those very positive comments. I feel a lot happier about GHS now. It sounds like all your DDs are having a great time. Of course, my DD might not get in !!! Fingers crossed for tomorrow's results. Meanwhile, I would welcome some comments about St Catherines too, as Igloo says, for some balance. Preferably from someone who has a girl there - but all comments welcome. Maybe less St Cats mums use mumsnet?

Jiddle Thu 24-Jan-13 08:52:27

How old is your DD, OP?

BeckAndCall Thu 24-Jan-13 11:07:44

It's mostly all been said but I too always reply on a GHS thread!

You are concerned that there are not enough opportunities for activities at GHS - don't be. Activity overload is far more likely!

If your DD is joining at year 7, which I think she is, in the week before term begins she'll have a netball course and in the first half term she'll have a lacrosse course to get her started. And they have loads of teams so lots of girls get to play, not just the firsts and seconds.

Many activities are at lunchtimes rather than after school, that's true, but there is plenty before school too (who else loves 7.30 cross country?!). My DD does something every lunchtime but that still gives her chance to talk to friends - and they're all doing different things, at different times.

The music and sports departments are really important at the school and seem like an equal voice in determining the girls timetables - neithe take second place to the academic programme. And drama is really important too and some really good quality shows are put on - this term will be guys and dolls jointly with the boys school, for example.

The one thing that put me off st cats is the getting home - the coaches don't leave until after prep, so they get back really late ( although if you pick up its probably different). But my DD has delightful and happy friends from all three schools, so I'm sure much is personal preference and how you 'feel' about the schools.

( but why would you turn down a place at the Sunday times school of the year!)

Schoolcircles Thu 24-Jan-13 13:10:49

DD will be going into Year 7 Jiddle.

Schoolcircles Thu 24-Jan-13 16:57:50

Thanks for all your comments. I'm pretty convinced GHS is an outstanding school. Does it involve the parents much? It's pretty much between GHS (fingers still crossed) and St Cats. I've opened a separate post regarding the latter to see if I can get any more information.

Jiddle Thu 24-Jan-13 17:08:20

I think they are all good schools OP. Entering at age 11 will mean your DD will join with lots of others so should make friends easily and no doubt would enjoy her time at any of those 3 - lucky girl! I don't know so much about St Cat's but have friends with DDs at GHS and they rave about it. Likewise Tormead is increasingly popular and not just as a fallback for GHS.

alison985189 Thu 24-Jan-13 21:35:21

Schoolcircles - plus in St Catherine's into the search box. There are quite a few thread about the school already albeit they are a year old or so.

alison985189 Fri 25-Jan-13 13:16:00

I'd be really interested to know what you decided if you didn't mind sharing. I might be in the same predicament next year!

Issy Fri 25-Jan-13 17:35:46

I have a daughter in Y7 at St Catz and a good handful or so of GHS ex-6th formers have worked for me as summer nannies over the last couple of summers (they've all been lovely!), so I'm very happy to share my experiences via a personal message.

Two general thoughts: GHS, quite rightly, places a big emphasis on academic achievement, and I have heard from ex-6th formers that GHS can be a dispiriting experience if you're in the bottom quartile academically; even if that still puts you in the top few % nationally. We were told by DD's school that she would probably pass the exam, but could end up in that bottom quartile, so we didn't put her in for GHS. If that is a concern, it's not unusual to ask your school to ask GHS where your daughter was placed in that year's entrance exam cohort.

Second, I'm not sure it's quite accurate about the St Catz leavers not getting their grades and so not going on to university. I'm sure that it happens to a few girls (I even have first hand experience of it happening this summer and last summer to a GHS girl!), but given that 73% of St Catz 2012 A levels were at an A or A* and 92% an A*/A or B, I don't think it can be a very common experience.

ChiswickLu Fri 25-Jan-13 21:07:53

Message deleted by Mumsnet for breaking our Talk Guidelines. Replies may also be deleted.

alison985189 Sun 27-Jan-13 12:11:17

Hi Chiswicklu,
Why was your message deleted?

Sticklebug Sun 27-Jan-13 15:52:01

How did she get on with GHS exam? A friend of mines daughter got her letter yesterday. She did not get in - apparently it was one of the strongest admissions they have had.

esherry Mon 28-Jan-13 09:37:49

Hi, does anyone know how many places there are on offer in GHS going into year 3? Thanks

esherry Mon 28-Jan-13 12:14:25

Schoolcircles - let me know if your DD gets in. My 7 yr old has just been offered and will be going there in Sept from a state school. She will know nobody so if your daughter gets in and you want the children to meet up before hand just let me know.

Schoolcircles Sat 09-Feb-13 17:59:42

Thanks to everyone for the advice. It's been great to hear positive comments on all three schools. Unfortunately, DD didn't get into GHS - - -which was a surprise to us TBH - - - but sometimes that's just the way things roll. We are so proud of DD for getting into the other two schools anyway, where she did very well in the assessments. The real positive is that this has automatically solved our dilemma! Both DH, DD and myself preferred St Cats because of the boarding option and the after school extra-curricular programme, but we were agonising over potentially turning down the "best school in Britain". (I believe it was that title in particular that was causing us so much angst - how could we throw away an opportunity like that?) Now we don't have that option, we are very happy to go with (what was always) the best fit for our family and our family circumstances, and I'm certain DD will thrive at St Cats. Esherry, your daughter did a great job getting into GHS and its a real shame our DDs won't be going to the same school - I wish you and yours happy times at GHS. I think the upshot is, as Jiddle says, that all three are excellent schools. smile

CarrotsAreNotTheOnlyVegetables Sat 09-Feb-13 18:49:55

School - the "best school in Britain" does not really exist - each child is different and there is no universal "best" school. Sure, there are the schools which are top of the league tables, but those results are gained by the individual DCs attending the school, not by the school itself. GHS is very selective and has a lot of very able applicants, so they are able to offer places to the most academically able. Not surprisingly, this able intake get good exam results. However, would this environment be best for your particular DD?

Your DC will be going to the school that you felt from the start was the best fit for your DD and your family. Congratulations, I am sure she will be very happy and will thrive there. smile

BeckAndCall Mon 11-Feb-13 07:18:30

I'm glad this turned out well for your DD, OP. I'm sure she will be delighted with st Catz.

(carrots 'the best school in the country'' title comes from the Sunday Times - and it's actually, 'independent school of the year' rather than 'best' - and it's based on their mix of factors not just academic results)

CarrotsAreNotTheOnlyVegetables Mon 11-Feb-13 18:43:23

Oh didn't realise that, Beck. Yes, I know its a very good school and know several people very happy with it.

Though I stand by my point that it will not be the best school for every DC so OP is wise to go with her gut feeling of what will suit her DD best.

BeckAndCall Mon 11-Feb-13 18:49:15

Couldn't agree with you more, carrots

ShipwreckedAndComatose Mon 11-Feb-13 18:51:27

I do agree with you carrots, completely.

It seems to me that the most important thing is that the child is happy and that the parents have full confidence in the school. That seems to be the case here, great news op!

esherry Fri 15-Feb-13 20:33:19

Schoolcircles - really well done to your DD for getting into St Catz - GHS and it are quite different school - both equally lovely from what I hear - so if your GUT tells you that your DD would thrive in one over the other it will ALWAYS be the right decision.

SERENDIPITY at its best.

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