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What says..

Not so much social Surrey, more those looking for value, but not a hothouse. All wanting an all-round education and an unthreatening atmosphere for their daughters, that, even so, pushes them to their full potential. Generally a friendly, relaxed lot....

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What the school says...

Prior’s Field offers a distinctive route to high achievement. It’s a school where girls are encouraged to grasp the opportunities created for them – from designing and racing electric cars, performing in master classes with world acclaimed musicians and exhibiting their art in national galleries to setting up businesses in the sixth form. It’s where they can be happy and inspired by talented teachers and enjoy positive, engaging relationships.

The conclusion of independent school inspectors in March 2016 was that Prior’s Field pupils are “extremely well educated”. The school received the highest accolade, ‘excellent’, in all nine areas of inspection – an exemplary standard, similarly achieved in its previous inspection five years ago.

Prior’s Field offers 27 subjects at A-Level. Girls go on to a wide range of universities, including Oxbridge, to study courses as diverse as medicine, philosophy, law and music.

Excellent facilities include an all-weather sports pitch, tennis academy, superb Creative Arts centre and separate Sixth Form House. Boarding is at the heart of the school: refurbishment of the Junior Boarding House includes ‘extra bouncy’ carpets in bedrooms and sparkly bathroom floors, at girls’ request. Development of a combined Music, Science and Technology centre, to meet growing pupil demand for these subjects, is underway.

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2015 Good Schools Guide Awards

  • Best performance by Girls taking Art & Design (Photography) at an English Independent School (GCE AS level)
  • Best performance by Girls taking Art & Design (Textiles) at an English Independent School (GCE AS level)
  • Best performance by Girls taking Design & Technology Textiles Technology at an English Independent School (GCSE)

Sports

Rowing

Fencing

Shooting

What The Good Schools Guide says

Not so much social Surrey, more those looking for value, but not a hothouse. All wanting an all-round education and an unthreatening atmosphere for their daughters, that, even so, pushes them to their full potential. Generally a friendly, relaxed lot. Approximately...

Head

Since September 2015, Mrs Tracy Kirnig MA PGCE, previously deputy (and for one term acting) head of Caterham School. She has taught religious studies in co-educational and girls’ boarding and day schools in the maintained and independent sectors. She studied religious studies and philosophy at UCW Aberystwyth, followed by an MA in education at King’s College, London and a PGCE at St Martin’s, Lancaster.

Academic Matters

Not the top academic school in the county but possibly the most rounded and least competitive. The school does not totally agree with this, saying it’s more that ‘Prior’s Field girls are not unhealthily competitive. They can be when they need to be, as in sport and when winning the Surrey Schools’ Problem Solving Competition in 2013’. School says they are now attracting more girls at the top end of the ability range and parents are confident that they are capable of dealing with all sorts. Certainly their results are more than acceptable, and the fact that it ‘does not feel like a pressure cooker’ enables girls to learn and develop at their own speed. Set in maths, English, languages and the sciences from day one, but this is flexible and not definitive. In 2015, 37 per cent A*/A grades at A level and 55 per cent A*/A at GCSE

High quality teaching with average age of staff at 42, around a quarter of whom have been at the school for over 10 years. Average class size 15, never more than 22. Pupil:teacher ratio approximately 8:1. A parent said ‘their main strength is that they focus on an all round education’. That is certainly born out by the range of subjects they can study, plenty of extras and a huge variety of clubs and activities. Just reading the possibilities is mind boggling – especially in such a relatively small school.

Each girl is treated as an individual and, because the school is not overly selective, the focus is not solely on her intellectual achievement but also on finding the best path for her to follow to develop her personality and confidence. This also encourages most of them to stay on for sixth form, where a girl can pursue pretty well any course or combination of courses that she likes. We met one, on her own, doing AS level food technology, thrilled at the individual help she was being given.

Flexible and inclusive approach to SEN. Anything beyond mild unlikely to be catered for. Prefers to do as much as possible within the classroom situation; anything more may involve individual or group support lessons, charged for as an extra. G and T also treated within the classroom, with an extension programme for scholars. EAL tuition also available.

Games, Options, the Arts

Good space within the school grounds and sports hall for all the usual activities, especially since recent addition of large all weather pitch. Only small covered swimming pool, so girls taken to Surrey Sports Park for lessons. About 45 per cent take part in some type of competitive sport during the year – either extracurricular or inter-house matches. Some 35 winter and 21 summer teams compete locally and regionally against other schools. Several pupils also reach national level, or higher - one of their tennis players reached number 90 in the under 14 English ranking and others have represented their country in riding, kayaking and skiing. The seniors can choose their own sports, whether they be competitively physical or more along the yoga/pilates line.

Wonderful art on display, the standard appearing exceptionally high. Plenty of opportunities to follow various courses and techniques. Talent abounds; several go on to do degree courses using their well nurtured creative ability. When we visited the textiles department, some sixth form girls were creating extraordinarily complicated designs for an A level millinery project. It really would seem that this school is able to cater for anything anyone wants to learn.

Music also important. Around half of the girls play, ranging from grade 1 to diploma level, on a variety of instruments. They can try orchestral, pop and rock music and learn music theory. Singing also important, with several choirs.

And, of course, there is drama: a whole school production – usually a musical – each year and a lower school play. Everyone is involved in something – on or off stage. Other smaller plays and productions as time and curriculum dictate. Several girls follow the LAMDA courses, and RADA lessons are also offered. Some even go on to drama school and a stage career.

Plenty of outings and expeditions, and after-school clubs cover a wide range of interests. D of E programme which included a trip to Norway for the gold recently, and some girls also follow the national Sports Leaders programme. Then there are trips to France, Spain and further afield. Lucky were those who went to Malaysia as part of the World Challenge.

Boarders

Sixth form building is very grown up with own café and common room, and self-decorated, individual bedrooms for all. The overseas pupils get slightly bigger quarters – ‘they have more stuff to store’. All looked great fun. Good boarding facilities for 11-15s. The younger children share double rooms, the older ones have single rooms but can choose to share if they prefer. Lighter supervision as girls go through the school – older pupils complete prep in bedrooms to help foster independent learning skills. Bathrooms look a bit shabby but, we gathered, there are refurbishment plans. A couple of common rooms for them to relax in after school is over. Happiness is paramount.

Plenty of flexibility with weekly boarders (most popular option) leaving school Friday night or Saturday morning and returning Sunday or Monday morning – though welcome to join weekend activities. Will also do best to fit in day girls wanting one off stays at school. Each year group has different activities - boarders also meet for themed suppers. Trips include ice-skating, bowling, theme parks, London museums and galleries, theatre visits, meals out, concerts and (naturally) shopping.

Background and Atmosphere

Founded in 1902 by Julia Huxley, the granddaughter of Thomas Arnold of Rugby and mother of Aldous, the only boy ever to have attended the school. The main school building was designed by Charles Voysey and, externally, provides an interesting contrast to the extremely modern facilities that have been created inside over the last 10 years. All very well done, his oak hall and staircase remain, as well as his quirky motifs, and the Gertrude Jekyll rose garden is still there for the girls to run round.

The first stop on our tour of the school was the main hall, where all the juniors were seated on the ground in circles drawing small falcons perched amongst them. We had arrived on a cross-curricular day involving problem-solving in mathematics, feathers, flying and sketching, encouraging enthusiasm and the desire to find out and discover. This appeared to typify the general adventurousness of the school, the imagination brought to engaging the pupils and the importance they put on cross-curricular learning.

No uniform; supposedly some limitations but looked pretty relaxed to us. Black suits and jackets for formal occasions. Open, relaxed pupils perfectly happy with the all girls' situation. They said they have ‘good relationship with teachers’. Small classes, average eight, some just two to four pupils.

Same buzzy atmosphere throughout the rest of the school. State-of-the-art facilities everywhere. High tech science wing housing six laboratories. New creative arts section, everything to stretch imaginations. Music corridor including composition room full of computers. Everything bright and airy. Incredible DT room, where one pupil was working on her GCSE project – a very modern-looking circular rocking chair. Some other wonderful small creations, and the beginning of an idea for a hovercraft – ‘that will take at least two years to put together’. Their last such major engineering project, a solar powered car, has qualified for the national final at Goodwood each year since. Here was a teacher positively brimming with enthusiasm. The old biology lab, now relocated to the science wing, has become a food technology room suitable for MasterChef. And the library, possibly the lightest one we’ve seen in many trips round schools, is well equipped and resourced. School is acceptably proud of it.

Pastoral care, well-being and discipline

Sympathetic, positive head of sixth has been there for many years and never had a problem with drugs, drink or smokers. Says girls give each other lots of support and the vibrant PSHE programme really does seem to work. Appears to be true throughout the whole school, where it is incorporated into daily routine. Sixth form have one-to-one sessions with their tutor each week, and form tutors meet all girls regularly. We were told ‘there is a real yes culture’, ‘staff do seem to care about their students’. Small school, so really does become ‘one big community’ where every one cares for everyone else. Nobody should slip through the net.

Pupils and Parents

Wide range, local and further afield; day girls, weekly, flexi and full time boarders. Not so much social Surrey, more those looking for value, but not a hothouse. All wanting an all-round education and an unthreatening atmosphere for their daughters, that, even so, pushes them to their full potential. Generally a friendly, relaxed lot.

Approximately 10 per cent from overseas, four per cent Oriental, the rest from all over. Good bus service for day girls. Interesting former pupils: Sam Cam’s great grandmother, author of National Velvet, Enid Bagnold; Baroness Mary Warnock, educationalist and philosopher; Lily James, actress; and prominent editor and stylist Grace Lamb.

Entrance

Now this is different: all those registered for 11+ are assessed in the November prior to entry. They sit maths, English and verbal reasoning papers, have a group interview with a member of staff followed by lunch and an afternoon trying their hands at circus skills. Parents get feedback from the school and girls return in January to take more maths and English exams. Places then offered to approximately one in three.

Exit

All over. Some leave at 16+ on the hunt for mixed sixth forms but the majority stay on and leave after A level for an exceptionally wide range of higher education establishments – including Central Saint Martins, Southampton and Exeter - to study courses as varied as structural engineering, architecture and adult nursing.

Money Matters

Several scholarships available at all entry points, worth up to 20 per cent of fees; exhibitions worth 10 per cent. Quite a few bursaries which could be worth 100 per cent. Some means-tested sixth form bursaries for locals who will need top GCSE grades in chosen subjects. Forces children eligible for 20 per cent discount and daughters of old girls get 10 per cent. A school, ready and willing to help.

Our View

If you are looking for a school that will provide a broad education, excellent facilities and get the best out of your daughter in an unpressurised environment, then this could be it. In this high flying, girls’-school-rich corner of Surrey, it provides a refreshing change, nurturing rather than hothousing, unearthing each girl’s strengths and teaching her to use them.

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Special Education Needs

Prior's Field School has a whole-school approach to special needs provision. The majority of our special needs pupils have mild dyslexia/dyspraxia and typically, provision will include a session each week with a specialist teacher as well as sympathetic help in class.

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder Y
Aspergers
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders Y
CReSTeD registered for Dyslexia
Dyscalculia
Dysgraphia
Dyslexia
Dyspraxia
English as an additional language (EAL)
Genetic
Has an entry in the Autism Services Directory
Has SEN unit or class
HI - Hearing Impairment
Hospital School
Mental health
MLD - Moderate Learning Difficulty
MSI - Multi-Sensory Impairment
Natspec Specialist Colleges
Not Applicable
OTH - Other Difficulty/Disability
Other SpLD - Specific Learning Difficulty
PD - Physical Disability
PMLD - Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulty
SEMH - Social, Emotional and Mental Health
SLCN - Speech, Language and Communication
SLD - Severe Learning Difficulty
Special facilities for Visually Impaired
SpLD - Specific Learning Difficulty
VI - Visual Impairment

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