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Girls Schools South West London and Guildford way(29 Posts)
Hi - DD1 will be sitting pretests in 2021 and due to the pandemic I missed a number of open days so don’t really feel I have a good feel for many of the schools that DDs headmistress has recommended we look at. I was wondering if some current parents could share their up to date views on the following schools and what type of girl would be a right fit?
Guildford High School
Wimbledon High School
Lady Eleanor Holles
Surbiton High School
St Catherine’s Bramley
They are quite spread out but we live in the middle so journey times are all similar. Any views would be much appreciated....I’m
Particularly interested in extracurricular provision and how inclusive it is and also the learning culture.
Quick feedback is:
GHS - academic, for dd who are high achieving
WHS - slightly different entrance process which can lead to dd being knocked out at first stage
LEH - dependent on school coach system shared with Hampton. a long way to travel for a concert/ parents evening, looks for a confident dd in entrance process
SHS - large and sporty, good transport links so dd from west London/middx and Surrey, entrance process without an interview which helps some dd.
St Cats - far out of SW bubble, you may end up driving up and down A3 for friendship links.
It would help if your dd wants hockey or lacrosse and if swimming is important - no swimming at SHS.
Thanks Singinrain! That’s very helpful! DD1 is very sporty - she plays hockey but has tried lacrosse before so would probably be happy to play that too and continue with her hockey at her club. Not fussed about swimming. Her priority would be to play sport fixtures every week - she’s realistic in that she knows she may not make the A team at senior school but she would still like to have a chance to compete.
GHS - academic, but as it is out of London it isn't quite the same highly pressured, pushed girls. I think competition to get it is slightly less than the London girls schools - but only very slightly! It has new facilities, in a lovely town and a good mix of girls. Buzzy but friend with DD there says pastoral side has improved massively over last 5 years.
WHS - agree on entrance process, new head this Sept but had a very enthusiastic, strong Head who has made the school quite buzzy.
I'd say GHS and WHS are the most similar on your list.
LEH - Hampton link is a positive but most girls' schools have some similar links. I have heard it being called impersonal but this is just hearsay.
SHS - big, sports are strong, girls find their crowd as it is large
St Cats - very different vibe. Much more country school (boarding option too). Very traditional. Lovely school but a very different option. Great facilities. Bit marmite - there has been a quite negative thread on it recently if you search.
Yes - I saw the thread on St Cats which was quite worrying as this was a school actually had a chance to visit and I really loved it. I thought perhaps it might be academic enough without the pressure of the “super academics” - and smaller in size to ensure girls get more of an opportunity to be involved in sport/drama/music etc. I had heard that the very large schools like surbiton can sometimes make it impossible to do anything unless you are doing it at an elite level..... Part of the reason we wanted to go private was for the extracurricular opportunities.
WHS hockey and netball teams are excellent, their B teams are often set to play A teams of other schools to be of equal ability. Most girls in the first years of senior school are able to play if they wish as they have A to E teams playing matches.
If you live in the middle are you around Epsom? You have skipped straight over Sutton High which is between Guildford and WImbledon. Less academic than Wimbledon and therefore easier to get into much less of a pushy vibe. Plus of course some outside space.
We are In Esher so not looking at Sutton as a bit far. I have a DS1 at KCS and DS2 at RGS so know we can manage the logistics in both directions as they take the train. It’s a shame KCS doesn’t take girls until 6th form as I think it’s the perfect school - I guess I am really looking for the girls equivalent 😄 as DD1 is very similar to DS1 both in terms of academic ability and love of sport.
DD is at WHS and is very happy. Lots of the girls have brothers at KCS. The only thing I’d say is that there don’t seem to be many girls ( at least in DDs year) that come from Esher etc. About half seem to come from Wimbledon and then most others seem to be from Putney, Wandsworth, etc with a handful from Fulham. There will be girls from other areas of course but in terms of having friends vaguely locally it may not be the best choice. I think boys at KCS tend to come from further afield as there are so few boys schools around.
That’s a good point rainydaysss - DH is quite happy for DS1 to hang out in south west London where most of his friends live but I know he would be happier for DD1 to have friends closer to home so Guildford High is probably the best choice from that perspective (as so many of the girls come from esher/cobham/oxshott). It’s probably a little bit easier to get into as it’s out of the whole crazy London scene where there are 10 kids for every place. Still doesn’t mean she won’t have a bad day on the day of the exam though so need to be happy that the second (Or third!..or fourth!) choice is somewhere you’d be happy with.
Anyone out there with a daughter at St Cats that really loves it? Would be good to hear some nice reviews as it does seem like such a lovely school when you go and visit
I have experience only of GHS. We live south of Guildford so most of your list wouldn't have been an option. St Cat's was, but I was put off by the fact that it is not well served by public transport and by the fact that it is a boarding school (I had a concern that day pupils might be a bit left out at a boarding school).
The quality of sport at GHS is excellent, particularly netball and lacrosse. I'd say there are good opportunities for competition across the ability range in the lower years, but less so as the girls get older where there is more of a focus on the best players.
Music and drama are also excellent, especially music, with several orchestral ensembles and numerous choirs, as well as smaller ensembles. These cater very well for girls at all levels of ability.
As the girls get older there are formal opportunities for socialising with the boys from the Royal Grammar School (as well as lots of informal socialising on the train): these include some mixed music and drama activities, including annual music tours, and mixed general studies lessons in the 6th form.
My girls were very happy there and I would definitely recommend it. NB the youngest left a couple of years ago so I'm not completely up to date.
GHS does seem to tick all the boxes - you never hear anything bad about it. Fifthtimelucky - was it a bit of an adjustment for your daughters to come from prep school/local primary probably being the cleverest and feeling like you were good at everything to suddenly be surrounded by so many talented girls...and for the first time in your life perhaps not being in the first team or the lead in the school play etc?
I also wonder what the St Cats and Tormead (the other Guildford girls school) feel about Guildford high girls?
If you like St Cats and KCS and want other similar options then what about St John's Leatherhead which is co-ed but flying at the moment and have heard of very happy parents. The Senior management has a few ex GHS teachers including the Head who was deputy at GHS. I think the deputy head of St John's came from King's. I know it doesn't mean it will become those schools but certainly means likely overlaps in ethos and ways of running it.
I think you will like GHS based on what you said you like about St Cats. Unless it has changed, it was always known as super academic and scary but once inside was so relaxed, full of opportunities, good facilities and a focus on wellbeing too now. I think St Cats/KCS type of schools do the social side better because of the slightly more formal and traditional aspects of those schools. I think the more old-school house system style schools do more in terms of focusing on manners, confidence, managing friendships and mental health (not through talking non-stop about mental health and self-care but teaching habits like keeping busy, getting involved, enjoyment of being part of something bigger, talking things through with housemasters/mistresses etc). But this is on hindsight and comparing my own two DD's schools somewhat.
PS both my daughters had friends who lived in Esher but most GHS girls live closer to Guildford. There would definitely be lots of driving up and down the A3 if your daughter went there.
In other directions, my daughters also had friends in Woking, Farnham, East Horsley, and as far south as Petersfield, so you'll probably end up driving much further than Guildford.
OP: My girls were at the local primary school and didn't really have to adjust in the way that you suggest because there was very little by way of drama or competitive sport in their school!
More generally, one daughter had stood out academically at primary school and hated it. She was very shy and just wanted to be the same as everyone else. GHS was perfect. She never shone there, because it was not in her nature to want to shine, but she was very comfortable surrounded by similarly bright classmates and ended up at Oxford.
The other was less bright and did feel a bit overwhelmed by some of her classmates. She was later diagnosed with dyslexia, which helped her confidence a bit and made her realise that she wasn't stupid. She had five offers from RG universities and is now happily at her first choice.
As to what girls at the other Guildford schools think, I'm not sure I'm in a position to comment! I think Tormead is an excellent school but it suffers because many parents apply, like I did, as a back up to GHS. I hope that doesn't mean that the GHS girls consider themselves superior to the Tormead ones, or that the Tormead ones feel inferior, but I think that could be a risk for some, especially those at Tormead who have older sisters or prep/primary friends at GHS, or those at GHS who have siblings/friends at Tormead.
St Cat's is a bit different I think. The impression I always got was that the girls thought themselves a bit superior socially, but admittedly that's from a fairly small sample! I know one parent who chose it over GHS because she wanted a more isolated location and didn't want her daughter to be in the town and to travel by train, and I did get the impression that some St Cat's parents were a bit precious and over protective. Again, a small sample!
One thing that might be helpful to know is that GHS is really good at induction for new year 7s. It might not be an issue for you but there are quite a few children who are the only one going from their school, and don't have a ready made group of friends. Mine were in that position, although they did know at least one other person from extra curricular activities, which helped.
They have three days of netball just before the beginning of term, so by the time they start school they will already have made new friends and become used to the commute. They also split up the girls from the junior school so that there an equal number in each class in the senior school, and they allocate the rest according to their travel patterns. My girls were in the same class as others who lived in the same area, including the ones they already knew. They all travelled in by train together, so quickly built up a strong friendship group.
Sorry. This has turned into a bit of an essay! I got carried away.
Fifthtimelucky - I loves your essay! So much good information! I really hope I have a chance to go back to see GHS and St Cats with DD1 as I think it would confirm my impressions. In regards to St Johns, I did like the look of it (very pretty campus) but DDs headmistress thought she would be better suited to single sex, at least up until 6th form.
@myfriend, it sounds like LEH would be a good fit for your dd too and the bus with Hampton makes it a bit more social. Most of the time its a really quick journey from Esher too.
I saw LEH and really liked the feel of the place - nice and airy. My only worry was it’s a bit in the middle of nowhere - I wonder where the girls all go to meet up outside of school. The Guildford schools have Guildford as a hub and DS1 (at KCS) tends to meet friends in Wimbledon so I would assume Wimbledon high would be the same....but I’m not sure about the Hampton/LEH kids? (Clearly I’m thinking about how much taxi service I might need to provide! )....DH would like to lock DD up in a convent until she’s 18 but I am a little more realistic...
Just as an aside - Tormead is not on your list? Any reason why?
I think the Hampton boys tend to meet up a lot in Kingston, although that may be just the ones I know!
I think one of the downsides with LEH is that there's nowhere to go after school. DD went through a phase of a quick after school starbucks etc and it was a quite nice social thing to do.
My three DDs went to Sir William Perkins's School. Very grounded, lots of opportunities in sport, drama, music. I recommend it.
Headmistress said Tormead didn’t have enough sport otherwise it probably would have been on the list....another good school and have lots of friends with happy girls there...
My DD was at St Cats from Y7-Y13, leaving a couple of years ago.
The school has some outstanding strengths and my DD, who is unusually well-balanced and insouciant, was very happy there. However, I wouldn't recommend it: the pastoral care doesn't adequately address mental health issues, attitudes to feminism, sexuality, gender, race and 'white saviours' are vintage early 90's and its ethos lacks compassion.
I'm happy to provide a more detailed and balanced review if anyone wants it.
Halftermbreak - I would be interested in finding out more as your comments reflect some of the other things I’ve read on this site.
I have friends with girls at St Cats who are very happy - lots going on and a good mix of boarding vs day, UK CE foreign/diversity
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