Skip to main content

What says..

We see the work of one published poet also an artist in the stunning art studio, quite the biggest we’ve ever seen, allowing each upper sixth student to have their own ‘nest’. Fascinating projects in progress include one from a student developing her own religion and researching curses and another who is building a ‘city to the lost creativity of children’ in wax. Naturally, several are...

Read review »

What the school says...

Based in beautiful Surrey countryside, Woldingham is a leading independent boarding and day school for girls aged 11-18. Founded in 1842 by the Society of the Sacred Heart, pioneers of women’s education, Woldingham is one of the UK’s oldest girls’ schools. Set in 700 acres, yet only 20 miles from London, Woldingham is easily accessible. With a train station in the grounds, the school is only 25 mins from Clapham Junction. By car it is only 20 minutes from Gatwick and 45 minutes from Heathrow Airport. In 2018, Woldingham was awarded ‘excellent’ by the Independent Schools Inspectorate across all areas.

Woldingham girls achieve excellent GCSE and A Level results with students taking up places at a wide range of national and international universities including Oxbridge and Russell Group. However, Woldingham is not a ‘hot house’ – the intake is deliberately broad.

Education at Woldingham extends well beyond the classroom. More than 80 extra-curricular clubs take place each week and girls are encouraged to try a range of different activities from sport to performing arts, from creative arts to academic enrichment and personal development.

Woldingham’s beautiful and extensive grounds provide a wide range of excellent sporting facilities with girls competing at local, regional and national level across a range of sports. The fantastic purpose-built art studio enables girls to be bold and experimental. Music and drama are based in a performing arts centre which boasts a 600-seat auditorium where girls perform regularly.

Woldingham is a Catholic school which welcomes girls of all faiths or none. The Sacred Heart values - Intellect, Faith, Social Awareness, Community and Personal Growth - are at the core of a Woldingham education.

Pastoral care is exceptional. Woldingham‘s unique THRIVE programme promotes emotional well-being and enables every girl to develop resilience and self-worth.

Woldingham has a balance of boarding and day girls, with an increasing number of local girls taking the option of flexi-boarding. Boarding facilities are excellent. Younger girls share small dormitories and girls from Year 10 upwards have individual study bedrooms. Boarders come from the UK and a wide range of overseas countries. Woldingham’s international perspective means girls are well prepared for the increasingly global careers market.
...Read more

Do you know this school?

The schools we choose, and what we say about them, are founded on parents’ views. If you know this school, please share your views with us.

Please login to post a comment.





What The Good Schools Guide says


Since 2016, Alex Hutchinson (40s) MA (Oxon), PGCE (Bristol); took on the headship after a year or so as deputy. Her first degree was in chemistry and she continues to teach once a week. Ever since her first post at Clifton College she has gained her experience in girls’ schools. Head of science at St Mary’s School, Ascot, she then moved north as head of sixth form at Central Newcastle High. Add to this her experience as head of sixth form at ‘out and out London day school’ Wimbledon High before joining Woldingham and she presents a very solid proposition in particular to the London parents looking to take their daughters out of the city.

Mrs Hutchinson believes in being ‘comfortable and clear about who we are: we’re very confident that we deliver an excellent education across all levels. Girls here are not just the academic stars but those who have different things to offer’. Still, she’s convincing that a girl destined for A*s will achieve those just as well here as anywhere – ‘we’re never going to take the foot off the pedal in the classroom.’

We meet in her parent-friendly office with plump soft furnishings, beautiful full-length windows and student artwork. We find her to be very friendly, engaging, carefully prepared with an attractive delivery that could see her a broadcaster in another life. In common with many pupils, her mother attended the school. She lives within sight of her office with her husband, also a head of a local independent school, dog and cat. She plays hockey twice a week. Somewhere amongst the rose pergola walk and lawns there must be a veg patch too as she likes to grow her own. The students feel warmly towards her and love the fact that she lives ‘just there’ and find her accessible in other ways: ‘she’s not like one of those heads where you walk past and just smile’. Parents tell us: ‘like a breath of fresh air, her enthusiasm for the school and the girls knows no bounds.’ Another: ‘fantastic, young, enthusiastic and very approachable.’

Academic matters

In 2018, 67 per cent A*-A/9-7 grades at GCSE. Highlights include Latin and all of the sciences, with consistently good results across English and maths. Meanwhile at A level, 61 per cent of grades were A*/A. Popular subjects include English literature, maths, biology and history whilst the artists in particular shine.

Girls are expected to study a language (not necessarily modern, could be Latin) to GCSE; Mandarin is a club. Most sixth formers take three A levels. Further specialism introduces A levels in textiles, psychology, media studies, government and politics and classical civilisation.

Oxbridge support starts in the lower sixth with girls assigned a teacher to support their applications one-to-one. There is no fear of being made to feel like a ‘geek’ for being good at something, say parents. Girls interact with their subjects outside of the grounds: a lower sixth student was joint winner of a recent Cambridge history prize, with successes also in 'teen tech' and poetry competitions.

Almost 25 per cent of staff have been working at the school for more than 10 years. A parent commented: ‘The girls seem to relate well to both the male and female teachers. They respect them and feel that they can easily approach them if they need further explanation with a subject that they find tricky.’ A girl we met thought: ‘They are here to support you as a person, as you grow into yourself’. We watch an upper sixth economics class where the teacher sits inside the circle of desks giving detailed essay feedback.

Maximum class size is 22 up to GCSE then 14 in the sixth form. Lower sets have smaller numbers so that students can receive more support. One mother said: ‘During the first three years they do not believe in setting pointless holiday homework, they believe the girls work hard enough during term time’. Hurrah.

An experienced learning enhancement department provides support for standard numbers of girls with SPLDs such as dyslexia but also small numbers with ADHD and autism spectrum disorder. All are screened on entry. The majority receive ‘light touch’ support, only a few receive direct support and a reduced curriculum.

There is a significant programme of carefully thought through support for girls with EAL needs. Unusually, some one-year GCSE students (usually girls from Spain and Mexico) are prepared for the Cambridge English ESOL examinations.

Games, options, the arts

Sports facilities are not lavish given the space – plans are afoot - and a parent’s view that ‘sport is average, but music and drama are outstanding’ and artists in particular shine, does seem to fit with the picture of the school on view today, although there are some noticeable sporting successes, recently in hockey and netball. Main sports also include swimming, tennis and athletics, with aerobics, lacrosse, table tennis and squash added in higher up the school. There is a dance studio and an indoor tennis dome. The school is notable in supporting its elite athletes, currently including cross-country, skiing, lacrosse, modern pentathlon, carriage driving – enabling them to take part in term time without falling behind. No timetabled football but soccer club is popular and cricket is coming.

Slightly less than half the school has individual music lessons, including singing. Some stand out performers have places in national orchestras. Musicians gave two concerts on a tour of Prague recently.

The most recent ISI report commented on ‘the quality of writing not as fluent as speaking, particularly in the sixth form’ – which the head finds incomprehensible, given the number of poets and writers the school produces. We saw the work of one published poet, also an artist, in the stunning art studio, quite the biggest we’ve ever seen, allowing each upper sixth student to have their own ‘nest’. Fascinating projects in progress include one from a student developing her own religion and researching curses and another who was building a ‘city to the lost creativity of children’ in wax. Naturally, several are heading to art school.

With Carey Mulligan a notable former pupil, it’s not altogether surprising to find drama facilities of such a high standard: the 550 seat theatre is stunning, with a flexible stage and space for a full orchestra. Helping girls to settle into year 7, everyone takes part in a production, most recently Roald Dahl’s The Twits and The Witches. Very professional-looking production posters from former years line the staircase. Higher up the school the number of shows is limited but there are opportunities to take part in backstage work. Drama available at GCSE and A level.

Pupils are far from just sequestered away in their valley. Computer science students have recently returned from a trip to Silicon Valley; year 11s and sixth formers spent four days in Berlin; year 9s visit the battlefields of Ypres and geography students enjoy an annual trip to Iceland. Eighty clubs on offer: Mandarin, archery, tap dancing, coding, dark room photography, rock-climbing and dissection caught our eye. Day girls are encouraged to stay for extracurricular activities but are free to go home from 4.30pm. Sports matches and supervised study with friends until 6.30pm. Transport is provided to facilitate this and many stay. On Saturday mornings, Saturday Active for year 7 to 10 boarders provides a range of activities.


Year 7 and 8 boarders have a separate block, Marden. It’s tidy but plain, plentifully kitted out with sofas. Décor-wise, if we had been told the over-50s lived here we would have believed it, but what does that matter when you have all of your friends here to crowd around I’m A Celebrity and share in the odd yoga class? The upper sixth block is next door and they’ve recently initiated a year 7 movie night so that the older girls don’t seem in any ways remote or intimidating. Years 7, 8 and 9 share a room, from year 10 girls have their own, with sixth formers getting en-suites: compact, but modern, fresh and functional, perfect for studying. Boarders are free to go home at weekends from 4.30pm on Friday. There are often boarding house pets, whether that be elderly Doris or a new, highly anticipated puppy. Flexi-boarding on hand: simply sign up for one to two nights a week a term in advance.

Background and atmosphere

Founded in 1842 by the Society of the Sacred Heart, 100 or so years later at the end of the Second World War the school of 100 pupils moved to Woldingham from Roehampton. Main house is all highly decorative Victorian red-brick without and dark panelling within. Plainer 20th century additions and conversions form a courtyard and then a Millennium building smartly houses arts.

The grounds, complete with cattle, horses and the odd deer, extend to a staggering 700 acres, a secluded wooded valley on the edge of the North Downs. Along the two mile drive and you’re likely to encounter only the odd rider. The school does feel quite isolated, even if in reality it is not. Sixth formers are allowed to take the train into London at weekends (with planning) and clearly relish the privilege.

It no doubt adds to the family feel that the girls we meet are emphatic about. When the head tells us about a year 7 pyjama day we imagine the whole school wearing pyjamas to lessons every day – who would know? As for snow days, we can’t think of anywhere better. As the head says, ‘we’re good at relaxing – staff v girls "Would I lie to you?", pancake race, inter-house go-karting…’ A mother confirmed: ‘There is a charming sense of fun about the school – even amongst sixth formers if they think no-one is looking.’

Pastoral care, well-being and discipline

‘We are absolutely a Catholic school’, says the head – just the odd statue and religious painting on view. One third of girls are Catholics, but almost more integral to the school are the values of the sacred heart: faith, intellect, community, personal growth and social justice – ‘it’s very tangible for us, it’s how we make decisions,’ says the head. Girls no longer wear uniform to mass on Sunday but all faiths attend, even if it is just for a moment of quiet reflection.

Day and boarding pupils are allocated to one of four houses and tutor groups are also arranged by house. The first Saturday of the autumn term is a house festival of dance, music and costume making.

The health centre is staffed by qualified nurses and a counsellor is available. With gender in the news we quiz the head on gendered vocabulary: ‘I say "girls", but I would say that I’m aware of this every time I use it, which was perhaps not the case a year ago’. Each parent mentions the relative lack of pressure their daughters find here. Marden has an adventure playground and the head agrees girls may be able to ‘stay younger for longer’.

Parents are all praise for the pastoral care: ‘Excellent. If there is an issue the problem is dealt with kindness and discretion. Invaluable,’ is typical. Little need for sanctions. Digital matters are the greatest challenge now, with posting something inappropriate online warranting an immediate suspension. In years 7 and 8 the school takes away devices, from year 9 girls are allowed to self-monitor, and boarders in years 7-10 hand in their devices at night. Sixth formers enjoy some uniform privileges such as their own suits, shirts and jumpers as well as taking on responsibilities as ‘ribbons’, one of the most charming traditions of the school, where they wear sashes and take on house or school leadership roles.

Pupils and parents

Who might the school suit? ‘Not one stereotype of girl’, says the head. Parents agree upon ‘girls who respond to encouragement rather than pressure.’ A predominance of west Londoners and those from nearby Surrey and Kent. More than 100 from overseas, predominantly from Hong Kong and China but comprising 30 nationalities. ‘A complete mix of backgrounds, ethnicity and relative wealth, from the daughters of Russian oligarchs downwards but all part of the school community,’ said a parent.

A perusal of old girl careers throws up a number of mum-preneurs as well as a varied clutch of famous names. Interior designers including Neisha Crosland, also Louise Mensch, Vivien Leigh and Clarissa Dickson-Wright. And Carey Mulligan. Old girls may get married in the school chapel and come in for business breakfasts to share their experiences.


There are 60 places available at 11+, 30 at 13+ and 20 at 16+. Occasional places at 12 and 14+. Candidates for 13+ may apply in year 6 for deferred entry (same online test as for 11+) or in year 8 for standard entry. Assessment day includes an English writing paper, group interview and fun creative activity. The school is looking for pupils with interests beyond the academic, with reasonable adjustments for SEND. Sixth form candidates are examined in two of their chosen A level subjects and a general paper.


Around 20 per cent leaves after GCSEs, with places filled by incomers. An incredibly broad range of university courses, which speaks of inspiration well beyond the purely academic – quite a few budding criminologists, digital media specialists, vets, anthropologists, electrical engineers, land economists and art historians. Three medics in 2018; Bristol, Edinburgh, Birmingham, Durham, Cardiff and Exeter popular. Five off to the US in 2018 and one to Hong Kong.

Money matters

Not prodigiously well endowed so bursaries and scholarships unlikely to play a major role. Academic and co-curricular scholarships are offered at 11+, 13+ and sixth form, designed to recognise exceptional achievement, intellectual curiosity and persistence. Awards typically cover five to 20 per cent of day fees. No need to be stratospherically accomplished for music scholarships as potential also recognised. One scholarship to a local girl each year and two in science. Bursaries are intended for girls who demonstrate strong academic potential and where the financial circumstances of the family will make attending Woldingham impossible. Forty students are in receipt of a bursary, a few up to a life-changing 100 per cent of fees.

Our view

Girls are sure to find a home from home in this Catholic school which welcomes all and promises fun, fabulous dramatic and artistic opportunties, strong academics and the chance to be young for a little longer.

Independent schools frequently offer IGCSEs or other qualifications alongside or as an alternative to GCSE. The DfE does not record performance data for these exams so independent school GCSE data is frequently misleading; parents should check the results with the schools.

Who came from where

Who goes where

Special Education Needs

Woldingham is able to cater for students with a variety of mild specific learning needs. The Learning Enhancement department provides support to enable SEND students to reach their full potential; the department’s approach is highly collaborative, involving the student, their parents, and teachers. The needs of most SEND students are met with ‘light touch’ support, provided mainly through the high quality teaching, dedication and commitment of staff and delivered daily in the classroom. Those students needing additional support receive targeted individual or small group intervention by highly specialist staff.

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder
Aspergers Y
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders Y
CReSTeD registered for Dyslexia
Dyslexia Y
Dyspraxia Y
English as an additional language (EAL) Y
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
OTH - Other Difficulty/Disability
Other SpLD - Specific Learning Difficulty
PD - Physical Disability
PMLD - Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulty
SEMH - Social, Emotional and Mental Health Y
SLCN - Speech, Language and Communication
SLD - Severe Learning Difficulty
Special facilities for Visually Impaired
SpLD - Specific Learning Difficulty Y
VI - Visual Impairment

  Zoopla sale properties   Zoopla rent properties   Hide Zoopla markers

Powered by Zoopla

Who came from where

Subscribe for instant access to in-depth reviews:

30,000 Independent, state and special schools in our parent-friendly interactive directory
 Instant access to in-depth UK school reviews
 Honest, opinionated and fearless independent reviews of over 1,000 schools
 Independent tutor company reviews

Try before you buy - The Charter School Southwark

The Good Schools Guide subscription

GSG Blog >    In the news >

The Good Schools Guide newsletter

The Good Schools Guide Newsletter

Educational insight in your inbox. Sign up for our popular newsletters.

Countdown to the first day of term


The Good Schools Guide 22nd edition is out now, and for a limited time get a one month free subscription with any purchase of The Good Schools Guide 22nd, or The Good Schools Guide to London.