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St Catherine's Bramley. 2013 entry

(48 Posts)
Schoolcircles Thu 24-Jan-13 16:45:29

My DD has been offered a place here and we all like the look of it.

As we are moving to the area from North London I would appreciate some comments regarding the school culture and the achievement and happiness of the girls who go there.

It seems to offer so much in terms of extracurricular activities and it looks like it offers a lot of opportunities for parents to get involved, which would be great for out-of-towners like us. I also like the idea of flexi-boarding for DD (and so does she). Its academics are great.

I'd welcome all general comments, and I particularly wonder the following:

Do the girls themselves feel they miss out being away from town? Are they nice to each other? Are the parents friendly and involved? Is staff morale high? And do the girls get to mix with boys regularly when older?


Arianrhod Sun 12-Mar-17 14:00:49

Thanks Guerilla, my partner, my daughter and I are actually signed up to their next open morning week after next, to see what we think.

GuerrillaShoppa Sun 12-Mar-17 11:02:41

Hi - just to say that I have 2 daughters at Tormead and it's definitely worth a look. Ultimately, you just have to go with your gut instinct as to which school will suit your daughter best. If it helps, I believe that the current head of the girl choristers at Guildford Cathedral is a Tormead 6th former and there are at least a couple more choristers in the school.

Arianrhod Mon 06-Mar-17 13:51:11

Thanks weary, it definitely does help! Agreed about GHS, I hate the fact that it's even more city centre, but then, GHS isn't on my list of places for DD to go, despite her wanting to go and look at it.

I absolutely understand no school is perfect, and you're only shown what they consider to be 'the best' on open mornings, but that and gut instinct - and talking to other parents - is the only thing really that we can go on when choosing. For me, at the moment, St Cat's is where I think my DD will be happiest .. but I haven't seen Tormead, so perhaps I should give it a fair crack of the whip and go to the next available open morning. There are a few of us who weren't considering Tormead (mostly because of the perceived academic standards being lower than, say, St Cat's - but I understand this may have changed since the headmistress changed who was, herself, deputy head at St Cat's previously) but I think we're all coming around to the idea that it's worth going to have a look.

Incidentally I didn't feel the open morning at St Cat's was staged in any way, the girls who showed us round both times were different in their approach and had a different angle on the school. But obviously what suits one family won't suit the next, and as I said earlier, it's difficult to really get a good feel of how it is to be a part of the school from an open morning, no matter how many you attend.

My DD, incidentally, is very musical, which is another reason we favour St Cat's for her. Neither of the other schools we've seen so far have the strength in music that St Cat's does, and that has to be factored in for us. I'm not aware of Tormead's strengths or weaknesses in the music dept, but the fact that there are several choirs (DD sings in two choirs now), orchestras/ensembles and huge variety of peri lessons available, adds weight to our liking for St Cat's.

weary12 Mon 06-Mar-17 13:24:33

Arianrhod. If you think Tormead has a city centre location then GHS is even closer!! My Tormead girls are never in the centre of Guildford, though they do travel by train. It is city centre in the sense that there is little grass but it is not like RGS, which is next to all the shops! If your DS isn't sporty then the lack of grounds may not be relevant. They travel to Surrey sports park for some of their sport, both during the day and extra-curricular. There are loads of very bright girls at Tormead, it just has a slightly larger range than GHS. Most of the parents, including us, chose it over St Cats and GHS because of the less "cut-throat" approach. Many of the parents chose to not sit their DS for GHS, it's certainly not full of GHS knock backs!The open day at Tormead is much less staged than at St Cats and you will be shown around by year 8 girls and everyone gets a turn at it (typical of the can-do attitude of the school). What you see on the opening morning really is a taste of what you get. No school is perfect, for example we hate the no appointment approach at parent evenings!! Hope this helps.

Arianrhod Mon 06-Mar-17 12:57:31

Following this thread with great interest, as just in the process of choosing a senior school for my Year 5 daughter (currently at Halstead Prep). We've seen St Cat's, PF and SWPS so far; loved loved loved St Cat's, didn't like SWPS, differed with OH in that he liked PF and I didn't. DD is very bright and wants to look at GHS, but she's not a competitive girl in any way and I don't think she would thrive there, so we're looking but only because she's asked; I don't really have any intention of her doing the CE for GHS.

Shank2 - I was really interested to see you say "Went to pf as less pressure. Relevant homework or preparation for next lesson but also has time for normal activities.", as we were told, on our visit there, that the girls only had time for Prep after-school OR an activity, not both. It's one of the reasons I didn't like it, despite seeing it twice (private tour and then again with DD for open morning). That, plus I just didn't get the feeling that DD would be stretched there. I don't want her stretched so far she's hurting (IYSWIM), hence not GHS, but I just got the feeling that PF is too relaxed. Lovely girls, lovely atmosphere, headteacher drove me batty with her speech, which was completely read from a script and displayed no real energy or enthusiasm, which the St Cat's head had in spades. Anyway, purely my opinion, but I was very interested to hear what you said.

DD is going back to see St Cat's for a second time this week (third visit for us) and GHS next week. I hadn't considered Tormead, as I don't like the city centre location, but having heard good reports about it (and from seeing weary12's comments, thank you, they were very useful, especially as DD is totally non-sporty!) I'm now wondering if I shouldn't at least go and have a look. Problem is, open mornings can put on a totally different face to things than the girls may actually encounter when going to the school. PF, for example, had a fantastic open morning, lots of hands-on activities for the girls, which DD loved - but it was held on a Saturday, so it could do these things, where all the other senior school open mornings are held on a normal school day, and as such can't put on these glitzy activity sessions. I did find it a little unfair, presenting a very different image of the school to one that was seen during a normal school day (OH and I saw it on a school day as well as that open morning), which of course is why DD isn't making her own choice about where to go as she can't see through this! She gets a say, of course, but she doesn't get the final choice.

Anyway, watching with great interest .. smile

Gummygirl Wed 15-Feb-17 10:43:49

My daughter just started at St Cats and is loving it. Girls have all been welcoming, teachers are very good and I feel that the form teacher knows my daughter really well. My personal view, and one that does seem to come up in various studies, is that girls are particularly challenged in the area of confidence, more so than boys. If you know your daughter is able, then go where she is likely to feel happy and confident, but at a level that will still engage her. It's a hard balance to get right, but the truth is that at reception and the early years, it's hard to know exactly how your child will pan out. Take comfort from that fact that it is possible to change schools as you get more information, and it is something that's done, so nothing is set in stone. And girls are adaptable and as a rule will make new friends if they do have to change schools. We are fortunate to be in an area which has schools that can cater to girls at pretty much any level so go with what feels right and make any adjustments along the way.

Back to St Catherine's--we are very pleased with our choice and feel it's the right balance for our daughter, but what's right for her isn't necessarily right for everyone. I did just want to put a word in for the school, because like others on this site, I knew nothing about the schools and used forums like this to try and form an opinion. I found a lot of strenuously pro-GHS opinions, some mixed ones on St Cats but enough positive ones to be encouraging, and very few mixed ones on the others, so good on Tormead mum for speaking up. In the end, we did what everyone else probably does, visited the school, spoke with staff, went with our gut feel. Kids change, schools change, so good to keep an open mind. I see St Cats as being the right school all the way through at this stage, but I wouldn't have a problem sending my child to any of the other schools we looked at, if it turned out to be the correct next step for her.

GuerrillaShoppa Fri 03-Feb-17 13:08:25

Just to say that, contrary to popular belief, people do turn down GHS in favour of the other schools - I know of at least 2 in the last 2 years. But then GHS does have a vested interest in peddling that view......

roseshippy Wed 01-Feb-17 20:43:33

the girl at st catherine's said she just spent her time working and she was doing weekly boarding despite living nearby in order to get more work done. it seemed slightly odd?

shank2 Wed 01-Feb-17 17:49:23

Went to pf as less pressure. Relevant homework or preparation for next lesson but also has time for normal activities.

roseshippy Wed 01-Feb-17 17:23:20

"turned down Tormead for PF use to lack of pressure."

Do you mean Tormead has too much pressure? Or not enough? Or that PF is unpressured? We are going to PF on Saturday.

shank2 Wed 01-Feb-17 15:29:06

I could not be happier at P Field- turned down Tormead for PF use to lack of pressure. Very happy school - top grades have been achieved that could have not have been bettered at GHS or Termed or St Cats.. The difference between PF and the other schools is that they take a far wider range of abilities- however they all do very well according to what their ability is. Know of other girls at PF that turned down all the other 3 schools - it is an alternative school that achieves very well.

roseshippy Wed 01-Feb-17 14:06:05

I should say BUT no-one turns them down. I suspect some of the other schools get a similar number of applicants per place but are over offering, so in reality the chance of getting in really is 1 in 3 at GHS where as it's probably more like 90% at St Catherines or wherever.

roseshippy Wed 01-Feb-17 14:01:26

We went to GHS today. It seemed like they hoover up all the brightest girls, it certainly felt like there were lots of clever children there.

They said they get 3 applicants per place, which is not so much, and no-one turns them down.

One girl had failed to get into Tiffin but got into GHS. I don't really know how that works in that the top private schools get much better results, but apparently Tiffin has more demanding entrance requirements.

Not sure if it's the extra cash the private schools have or if the interviewing makes a difference compared with children crammed to do silly tests for years.

weary12 Wed 01-Feb-17 08:49:13

I have 2 girls at Tormead. Both of them also got places at St Cats and from what I have heard I think we dodged a bullet! We just didn't like the feel. Tormead is an academic school, much closer to St Cats than Priors Field. GCSE results are over 80% A*/A. All children sit higher level IGCSE (unlike Priors Field where quite a number sit foundation- not that this is mentioned on their website!). If you have a very bright/ resilient child then St Cats is probably wonderful- but I'm sure that sort of child would go well anywhere.

Tormead really does a great job at trying to include everyone. It's not a very sporty school so if that is the most important thing then St Cats might be a better choice. Having said that the A team selections at St Cats are pretty cut throat- similar to GHS.(my DS knows a few girls at St Cats)

At the end of the day you want your child to be happy and then they will do well. I wouldn't be too bothered by the difference in GCSE/A level results between GHS/St Cats/Tormead. They will only do well where they feel valued, have a good friendship group and are happy.

roseshippy Wed 01-Feb-17 01:41:18

Interesting thread . The head is a sort of no-nonsense posh matron type who talks about girls needing this and girls needing that in a sort of 'we are unapologetically a girls' school'. [I don't think boys schools do this , it's sort of assumed that boys get what they want]

I didn't get the impression the girls were particularly up themselves, but it's hard to tell just from a visit as you never know. There was a reasonable degree of diversity and the girls didn't look like they had just come out of the set of Legally Blonde. But it did seem the Head wants them to be go-getters, flitting between essays and lacrosse games, so perhaps that's the 'pedestrian' thing rather than more conventional concerns about money or whatever.

There was a complaint about the stack ranking system, apparently the girls are placed in a rank for everything throughout the school, but only on attainment. This happens at my son's school as well though?

I do get the impression that they take whoever didn't get into GHS, and possibly Tormead (which is about 15% cheaper, so £20k over 7 years, which counts for something - plus better located unless you live in a small handful of villages south of Guildford

Thinkpad123 Wed 23-Nov-16 22:13:04

Hi Confusedbyschools, we seem to be in similar situation, although live in Guildford (happy to help you in anyway). We have been offered a place at St Catherine's and GHS for reception (for Autumn 2017) and would really like to speak/learn from parents who have made this 'difficult' decision earlier - as its not an easy one. We are leaning towards GHS as we have limited information on St Cat's as compared to GHS. It would be very helpful to get a view from parents who have made a choice for St Cat's recently over GHS and why?

Wriggle45 Mon 14-Nov-16 22:20:33

Don't know the school other than a friend'S child is happy there in g at 7... one of my best friends moved to Bramley from Tooting pre having their first child and loves the change - lovely house, friends and surroundings.... sounds like a good move to me if you want countryside (personally I'm very happy in my suburb inside the M25... lol)

Confusedbyschools Mon 14-Nov-16 21:32:20

We have been offered a place for entry to reception from 2017. Would appreciate anyone's views as we are moving out of London, so do not know the local feeling etc

PennyBrite Sun 01-Mar-15 13:11:38

Why condescending? It certainly wasn't meant that way. We are all fortunate if we have health, happy homes and a good start in life. That is what many of the st cat's girls have inherited. Many of them, including my daughters and their friends, cannot 'help' where and to whom they were born, but once they become independent they can choose to give something back. What would you prefer they did?

notfromsurrey Sun 01-Mar-15 12:34:42

In response to PennyBrite, I am not labeling the girls who attend St Cats as superior but rather directly quoting how they refer to regular people as 'pedestrian'- so take that how you will. Your comment about 'giving something back to the world'-condescending or what !!!

PennyBrite Sat 28-Feb-15 08:13:06

Notfromsurrey has not sent her daughter to the senior school but both mine went and I can assure you look down their noses at no one. On the contrary, they and their friends appreciate they had the good fortune to be educated at St Cat's and now want to give something back to the world. Yes, St Catherine’s is in a beautiful village, in an AONB, which, unsurprisingly, attracts some very successful and prosperous families who send their daughters to the school. However, it is unfair to label these people and their daughters elitist or superior.

notfromsurrey Wed 11-Feb-15 14:06:38

Having worked at the Prep School, I would avoid the Senior School like the plague. The problem is that they breed a certain type of girl that looks down their nose at ordinary people and refers to them as being ' pedestrian'.Much of this attitude might emanate from the parents and The Head admittedly but I wouldn't want my daughter mixing with these type of girls.

esherry Sun 25-Jan-15 08:10:11

panther300...coudl you please PM me. My daughter has been offered a place and I'd love to speak (even virtually) with someone with first hand experience of the place. Many thanks

Issy Tue 07-Oct-14 21:57:50

I've come back to this thread as I was one of the posters who replied to Schoolcircles' original post at the beginning of 2013.

Informed3: I'm so sorry you have had such a bad experience. It sounds as if you and your daughter have had a very tough time and I'm glad she's happier now.

I appreciate that at any school parents and children can have very different experiences and outcomes, so I can only speak from my own experience of St Catherine's and that of a few close friends who have their daughters there. Admittedly we haven't pushed St Cats' pastoral care to the edge - yet - but where we and our friends have had issues, the pastoral care has been excellent. I've raised concerns about both DDs recently; one important, one less so. Form tutors and the house mistress listened to my concerns, took them seriously, agreed and implemented a plan and followed up with me. I didn't involve the Head - I didn't need to - but when I next bumped into her she clearly knew about the more serious issue and the plan to address it.

The buildings seem fine and some of the facilities are astounding. I can't comment directly on the food as I've never eaten it. DD2 likes it. DD1 is unimpressed by it, but she's a teenager and resolutely unimpressed by most things, including my cooking!

We too are sadly not a 'premier family' - D Team all the way - but we have been treated as one.

PennyBrite Tue 07-Oct-14 15:32:22

I have had 2 daughters through St Cat's and all I can say is that I do not recognise what has been said in a very negative way about the pastoral care. My daughters had their issues - most girls do- but at all times I felt the staff really knew both girls individually and went the extra mile to ensure they were happy at school. Grumblings were nipped quickly and efficiently in the bud before they got out of hand. Kindness was something which was encouraged A LOT.
St Cat's is a very friendly environment. Neither daughter was EVER bullied nor did they see bullying which may seem unbelievable in this day and age but is true. Both girls were happy and appreciated they were cared for and in a great environment in which to learn and have fun. I met lots of their friends, none of whom were obese or anorexic (although I am sure every school in the land, including St Cat's does have such pupils).
Neither of my daughters excelled in anything i.e. bright but not precociously so, being general all-rounders, but whatever their interests, they received lots of support and encouragement. I am convinced they achieved better results at St Cat's than had they gone to our local co-ed school (both girls admit I am right!) and they had a happy time too.
We are not a 'premier family' (whatever that may be) ; I always felt valued as did my daughters. Both my husband and I worked to pay school (and now uni ) fees. We found the other parents to be friendly, well-mannered and grounded- basically like their daughters!
If we had our time over again, we would not hesitate to send our daughters to St Cat's.

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