What it’s like
Founded at Liège in 1642 and run by the English Canonesses of the Holy Sepulchre.
When the nuns were compelled to leave during the French Revolution, it was
reopened at its present site in 1799. England’s oldest Catholic girls’ school,
now with a lay headmistress, it welcomes all pupils in sympathy with its ethos.
Magnificent buildings provide excellent facilities. The main building is a Tudor
palace (built by Henry VIII for Anne Boleyn and once the home of Mary Tudor),
set in a beautiful 120-acre estate with excellent playing fields and sporting
amenities. Its co-educational prep school is on the same site. Academically
selective, standards are high and examination results consistently good. There
is a massive commitment to music. It is very strong in drama and dance (many
productions) and art (sixth-form students exhibit their work locally). A wide
range of sport and games and high standards are attained. A variety of
activities caters for most needs: voluntary service activities have gained
national awards; there is an impressive record in the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award
Scheme. Justice and peace issues are important to the school’s ethos.
Pupils & entrance
Pupils: Total age range 3–18; 700 pupils, 90 day boys, 610 girls
(430 day, 180 boarding). Senior department 11–18; 420 girls.
Entrance: Main entry ages 3, 11 and 16 (also some at 4, 12, 13, 14). Own
entrance exam used; for sixth-form entry, minimum GCSE grade B in sixth-form
subjects. Variety of skills and a sympathy with Christian values welcomed. State
school entry, 25% of intake at 11, plus 50% to sixth form.
Scholarships, bursaries & extras 14 pa scholarships: 10 academic, 1
art, 1 drama and 2 music (6 at 11, 1 at 13 and 8 at 16). Some sibling bursaries.
Parents expected to buy only a few textbooks that are to be kept; extras usually
under £100 per term, maximum £250.
Parents 50% live within 30 miles; 20% live overseas.
Head & staff
Headmistress: Mrs K A Jeffrey, appointed 2002. Educated at universities
of Oxford (PPE), Maynooth (theology), Surrey (PGCE) and Open University (MA
educational management). Previously Deputy Headteacher at Marist School, Ascot,
and Head of RS at Woldingham.
Teaching staff: 43 full time. Annual turnover approximately 10%.
GCSE: In 2003, 57 pupils in Year 11: 100% gain at least grade C in 5+
subjects. Average GCSE score 59 (58 over 5 years).
A-levels: 44 in upper sixth. Average final point score achieved by upper
sixth formers 315.
University & college entrance 98% of 2003 sixth-form leavers went on
to a degree course (13% after a gap year). 32% took courses in medicine, science
& engineering, 35% in arts and humanities, 8% in performing arts and 24% in
business, economics and accounting. Others typically go on to HND or secretarial
courses or straight into employment.
Curriculum GCSE, Vocational A-levels, AS and A-levels. Approx 20 GCSE
subjects, 21 AS-level, 18 A-level.
Sixth form: Most sixth formers take 4 subjects at AS-level, 3 at A-level;
AS-level general studies and eg GCSE expressive arts are additional options.
Approx 15% take science A-levels; 41% arts/humanities; 44% both.
Vocational: Work experience available.
Special provision: Special teaching and ancillary help for physically
handicapped; specialist EFL and dyslexia staff.
Languages: French, German and Spanish offered at GCSE and A-level; also
French AS-level; Italian GCSE as an extra. Regular exchanges (to France, Germany
ICT: Taught both as a discrete subject (2 lessons a week) and across the
curriculum (eg data logging exercise as part of geography field trip). 50+
computers for pupil use (14 hours a day), 33 networked and with email and
internet access. All Year 11 pupils take GCSE short course and most take CIT.
Music: Over 60% of pupils learn a musical instrument; instrumental exams
can be taken. Musical groups include year-based ensembles, choirs, orchestras,
wind ensembles, pop groups. Choir has appeared at Westminster Cathedral, St
Peter’s in Rome, St Mark’s in Venice and on BBC 1. Various pupils are members of
county youth orchestras.
Drama & dance: Both offered. GCSE and A-level drama exams may be taken.
Majority of pupils are involved in school productions. Pupils regularly gain
places at major drama schools eg LAMDA, Rose Bruford, Oxford, as well as on
Art & design: On average, 30 take GCSE, 8 A-level. Pottery, textiles,
photography also offered. A number continue art to degree level.
Sport & activities
Sport: Netball, hockey, gym, health-related fitness, tennis, athletics,
rounders, swimming compulsory in Years 7–11. Optional: badminton, volleyball,
trampolining, aerobics, short tennis, basketball, step aerobics, tae kwando,
cricket, table tennis and football. RLSS exams may be taken. Regional and county
hockey and netball players; county swimmers.
Activities: Pupils take bronze, silver and gold Duke of Edinburgh’s
Award. Community service optional at age 15. Voluntary service runs playgroups,
visiting the elderly, handicapped club; Justice & Peace group works with
homeless, adult literacy group etc. Over 30 clubs, eg all sports, crafts, chess,
maths, ballet, drama, music, French, riding.
Uniform: School uniform worn; formal occasions only in sixth form.
Houses & prefects: Competitive houses, for sport, public speaking etc.
All members of upper sixth have positions of responsibility.
Religion: Compulsory attendance at Eucharist on Sundays, assemblies,
house prayers, etc. Many other opportunities.
Social: Debates, choirs, social events with other schools. Theatre and
opera trips. Trips abroad arranged most half-terms and holidays. Pupils allowed
to bring own bike or caged pet to school. Meals self-service. No tobacco
allowed; sixth form permitted limited alcohol under supervision and on special
Discipline Pupils failing to produce homework once might expect
discussion with tutor; any involvement in illegal drugs can lead to expulsion.
Boarding Single study bedrooms for Years 9–11, others in single/twin
rooms. Separate sixth-form house. Resident SRN. Central dining room. Pupils can
provide and cook some own food at weekends. Exeats – vary with age (on the
principle that some weekend time at school allows pupils to benefit from
boarding but contact with home encouraged). Weekend visits to local town
allowed, dependent on age.