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  • Charterhouse
    Admissions Office
    Godalming
    Surrey
    GU7 2DX
  • Head: Dr Alex Peterken
  • T 01483 291501
  • F 01483 291507
  • E [email protected]
  • W www.charterhouse.org.uk
  • Charterhouse is an English independent day and boarding school in Godalming, Surrey. It educates boys and girls from 13-18. It was founded in 1611 on the site of the old Carthusian monastery in Charterhouse Square, London.
  • Boarding: Yes
  • Local authority: Surrey
  • Pupils: 955; sixth formers: 393
  • Religion: Anglican
  • Fees: Day £38,367; Boarding £47,535 pa
  • Open days: Check school website
  • Review: View The Good Schools Guide Review
  • Ofsted report: View the Ofsted report
  • ISI report: View the ISI report

What says..

Pupils will try anything. One had discovered an unlikely hobby in reeling (‘I’d never even heard of kilts before I came to Charterhouse’); another was keen on dissection society, despite the fact that ‘the rat smelled'. Beautiful new entrepreneurship hub enables collaboration: chairs on wheels; interactive whiteboards everywhere; Macbooks strewn across the conference room table. Pupils who thrive here really are those that give back, though – this is no place for a teenager who wants to sit in the library with their books all day, or...

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What the school says...

Charterhouse is a beautiful school in a 250-acre campus – a wonderful setting for the whole community to live and work together and a splendid backdrop for teaching and learning.

Surrounded by a world of opportunity and connected by a feeling of belonging, each pupil at Charterhouse is educated to embrace life’s full potential, and empowered to carry this into their future. A Charterhouse education prepares for both academic success as well as laying the foundations for future professional, social and personal fulfilment. Shared values are central to school life, enabling each pupil to be themselves. Everything at Charterhouse begins with kindness. ...Read more

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Curricula

International Baccalaureate: diploma - the diploma is the familiar A-level equivalent.

Sports

Unusual sports

Equestrian centre or equestrian team - school has own equestrian centre or an equestrian team.

Fencing

Shooting

Sailing

What The Good Schools Guide says

Headmaster

Since 2018, Dr Alex Peterken. Previously head of Cheltenham College; before that, a housemaster here for 12 years. PhD in school leadership from Surrey. Got an early taste of what was to come as head boy and head chorister at the Prebendal School, Chichester; thence to Eton as a music exhibitioner and Durham, with a choral scholarship, to read theology. Not nearly as establishment as the narrative suggests, though. Now with six children of his own, Dr Peterken has been there, done that and we enjoyed his relaxed, open manner, the sense that he is one of us: ‘Often schools underestimate how blooming difficult being a parent of a teenager is.’ Modern and normal, not trying too hard to be trendy: always a tie, sometimes a touch of stubble.

Returned to stabilise Charterhouse after a well-documented wobble – previous head just wasn’t the right fit, say parents, and so, Dr Peterken explains, ‘Humpty Dumpty had to be put back together again, but the fact that I had worked here in the past really helped.’ A school generation later, everyone’s moved on, and anyway they’ve been busy: move to full coeducation couldn’t have come at a better moment. It's been ‘an absolute honour’ to oversee it, says head, who ‘evolved’ Cheltenham’s co-ed offering in his previous role. He’s determined that Charterhouse will not be a boys’ school with girls tacked on – a message reinforced by staff throughout our visit. As we write, just under 40 per cent of pupils are girls; existing houses are being transitioned to ensure that girls not just plonked into new ones; school’s language has become less patriarchal. Focus now is ‘being co-ed, rather than going co-ed’, as staff put it.

His role, Dr Peterken says, is ‘at least half CEO – a real tension for all heads – so I have to think carefully about making sure I don’t become disconnected’. Clocked a boy that morning wearing trainers with his uniform: ‘He admitted that his room is chaos so I’ve asked house staff to help him have a go at that.’ Teaches every year 9 on rota, giving him the chance to ‘take the temperature’ on food, pastoral care, technology etc.

With three children still at prep school, Dr Peterken and wife Henny are in the thick of it. Those school gate friendships are an effective ‘window into affordability’; ‘It’s quite funny when I spot someone I know sitting in the back row at an open morning.’ Sings with the Charterhouse Choral Society whenever he can, though he’d missed evensong the night before our visit because his son (sixth form here) had broken his leg on the football pitch. It’s remarkable that, according to parents, ‘He always has time to talk something through with you, or a nice thing to say about the latest concert or performance.’ Hats off to him.

Entrance

Appeal has broadened since move to co-ed. Entry at 13+ by pre-test and assessment day. Most places offered in year 6; a third held back for late registrations in year 7. Scholarship assessments in year 8. Register by autumn of year 11 for 16+ entry: exams after half term and offers before Christmas.

Currently expanding day pupil numbers (aiming for 150 altogether). On average, more than four candidates for each place – A3 corridor is major stomping ground. Edgeborough School merged with Charterhouse in 2021 (though pupils go through the same admissions process). ‘We are highly aspirational rather than highly selective,’ says head.

Process of house selection starts once offer has been accepted. Academic scholarships at both entry points, as well as art, drama, music, sport.

Exit

Small handful after GCSEs. For year 13s, Exeter, UCL, Durham, Newcastle, Kings, Edinburgh perennially popular. In 2023, 19 students to North America including USC, Boston University, US Santa Barbara, Northeastern, Columbia, UMich, Babson and Wesleyan; weekly counsellor meetings and on-site SAT preparation available. Others to Canada, Italy, Spain, Hong Kong and Cyprus. They’re ‘very on it with the uni stuff’, pupils say: ‘My UCAS advisor is a total brainbox about universities.’ Finance, accounting and business always attract a lot of interest. Growing talk of degree apprenticeships. One medic in 2023, and seven to Oxbridge.

Latest results

In 2023, 72 per cent 9-7 at I/GCSE; 55 per cent A*/A at A level (83 per cent A*-B). IB average of 34. In 2019 (the last pre-pandemic results), 71 per cent 9-7 at I/GCSE; 53 per cent A*/A at A level. IB average of 34.

Teaching and learning

Sixth form (‘spec’ here, short for ‘specialist’) teaching cultivates a self-starter approach, setting them up for undergraduate life. ‘If I have a single free, I’ll chat in the buttery, but I’ll get some good work done in a double or triple.’ Beautiful new entrepreneurship hub enables collaboration: chairs on wheels; interactive whiteboards everywhere; Macbooks strewn across the conference room table, Silicon Valley style. First three years have iPads; specs can choose.

Post-GCSE options broad; zero pretentions when it comes to offering less traditional subjects, though psychology and PE are now on the menu. Maths and economics dominate in terms of numbers; English, sciences and history also popular. Smaller subjects – art, Latin, classical civilisation – get higher proportion of top grades, unsurprising given that school does not pretend to be super selective. One fifth choose IB, though school hopes this will grow. Languages (French, Spanish and German) small at A level, faring better in IB, where Italian and Mandarin are also available. Fewer than half of IB students take the easier maths option (A&I), but it’s there for those that need it.

A level specs all take either the EPQ or the entrepreneurship diploma and a further elective (eg Ivy House leadership programme). After all, head says, schools like this are no longer ‘a route to a job for life’, and ‘practical things like business entrepreneurship’ are crucial. Philosophy ‘flying off the shelves’, boosted by interest in ethics of tech. As they choose sixth form subjects, pupils reflect on the skills they need to develop, too. ‘You’ll know we’ve done a great job when your child is 30,’ school says; in Charterhouse Inspires series, recent OCs talk about ‘gruelling process’ of graduate recruitment.

Head describes academics as ‘strong with a healthy sense of perspective’. ‘We’re not a London day school,’ he says, bowled over by the ‘sheer will of so many of them to do so well’.

Learning support and SEN

Everyone screened on entry; 14 per cent get SEND support. School ‘getting better’ at understanding individual learners. Teacher differentiation accounts for majority of support though further intervention available. Cogmed training used to develop working memory and support those with ADD. Touch-typing courses also available.

Lifts in some (not all) buildings, and timetables can be rearranged to accommodate those with reduced mobility. School has catered for pupils with hearing loss in the past.

Very little EAL intervention required, though 23 per cent are multilingual.

The arts and extracurricular

Stop press: jazz hands have arrived at Charterhouse, a school where chapel choirs have traditionally ruled the musical roost. Even in early rehearsals, Legally Blonde looked to be a belter, pupils sounding fully American (‘You’re breaking up with me? I thought you were proposing!’) and looking seriously sassy. Productions supported by actor-in-residence (‘SUCH a nice man!’ gushed everyone we met); pupils stage manage everything. Dance scholarships imminent, once snazzy new studio is built; dance GCSE under discussion. Drama A level thriving, ‘not just tacked on as a fourth’.

Meanwhile, classical music continues at a high level; chapel choir’s rehearsal of Fauré’s Requiem gave us goosebumps. Individual lessons for 25 per cent of pupils (not a huge number, relatively). Most, but not all, houses have pianos and a music room.

Major building work in art and DT when we visited, due for imminent completion. Design engineering A level is ‘industry-ready’; ‘it’s creative STEM, the cross between maths, science and art,’ says department. Specs currently designing robots that will compete to throw, catch and do pull-ups (perhaps headed for first XI glory?).

Pupils will try anything. One had discovered an unlikely hobby in reeling (‘I’d never even heard of kilts before I came to Charterhouse’); another was keen on dissection society, despite the fact that ‘the rat smelled bad’. Recent speakers include Jeremy Hunt and Steve Brown, Paralympic rugby captain. ‘I love boarding because I love being busy,’ one said; ‘I do get FOMO,’ said a day pupil, ‘and often stay for stuff in the evenings.’

Sport

A glorious patch, 250 acres of playing fields, courts and pitches galore. Football remains a big thing (no rugby, bar the odd informal game of touch); hockey and cricket ‘massive’ too, according to pupils. Early days for girls’ sport, and new traditions take time, but progress is being made and female footballers now play on Big Ground, where the offside rule was invented back in the day (our straw poll revealed that most Carthusians don’t understand it, either). Nonetheless, ‘The boys’ football final is the biggest thing I’ve seen in my life,’ says one girl.

Core sports (football, hockey, tennis, cricket for all, additionally netball for girls) run by term. Non-core sports (everything else under the sun) run throughout the year. Sports centre open to community members too: ladies doing their laps when we visited; gym not open to sixth formers during frees (which are, pupils pointed out to us sensibly, ‘intended for study’).

‘Sport is not what makes school life, but it’s crucial and we all play three times a week,’ specs told us. Charterhouse Athlete Programme supports top sportsmen and sportswomen, including scholars.

Boarders

Singles, twins or quads in year 9; from year 10, twins or singles; all upper sixth in singles. Some are en-suite, others share bathrooms. Accommodation varies between houses, and it’s worth looking into it if you feel your child would benefit from a particular set-up. Fifteen houses, all vertical, have their own personalities: some with sumptuous oak panelling and original Victorian pigeonholes; others are light, double-glazed, en-suite. Day pupils are members of boarding houses.

Boarding more flexible than it was. Sunday chapel now on Friday, allowing boarders to return to school on Monday morning: ‘If I was a parent, I wouldn’t want to bring them back on Sunday,’ says head. Parents can take you out to dinner on a Wednesday – Pizza Express in Guildford is current fave. What’s it like if your parents aren’t local? We dug around: most do leave on a Saturday afternoon, including overseas boarders who’ll stay with friends or guardians, and school doesn’t encourage them to stay, parents said. ‘You get close to those who stay,’ says one, loyally; ‘I get really comfortable here,’ says another, ‘and I like going to Waitrose on a Sunday’ (presumably for guacamole?).

Ethos and heritage

Founded in 1611 by Thomas Sutton, merchant and civil servant, who, ‘through shrewd investment became one of the wealthiest men in Jacobean England’ (no wonder they’re all doing economics). First home was Charterhouse Square, near Smithfield, in a former monastery. Founder’s Day is still at the London Charterhouse, where school’s coat of arms hangs outside the pub (‘I go in for a pint before an event,’ says head, and no, it’s not on the house). Like many a Londoner before and since, school moved to the outskirts of Godalming in 1872. More land followed, along with Sir Giles Gilbert Scott’s magnificent chapel (1927) and some less magnificent (but comfortable nonetheless) 1970s boarding houses. A particularly lovely campus; pupils commented on how much they enjoy the sweeping views of the original Victorian Gothic buildings as they cross the grounds to lessons each morning (albeit not quite in those words); we loved the South African cloisters, a memorial to OCs who died in the Boer War, a peaceful, contemplative place.

A bit of lingo to learn; pupils enjoy the quirkiness of ‘beak’ (teacher), ‘quarter’ (break time) and ‘banco’ (homework). Some modernising, partly in line with coeducation: head, not headmaster; head of house, not housemaster or mistress. ‘Covid allowed the getting rid of lots of tradition and hierarchy,’ one pupil tells us astutely, ‘which the school just never reimposed.’

Houses remain key to identity (for parents, too, who get to know heads of houses well). House singing bigger and better every time; ‘We were robbed!’ says this year’s gutted runner-up. Northbrook (whose colour is green) very proud of the inflatable avocado they sourced for sports day.

Uniform unashamedly smart. Culottes or trousers for girls. Ties for all but spec girls. We were pleased to see many small acts of rebellion on our travels, shirts untucked or top buttons unbuttoned. Moving around the school without a bag is a spec privilege: younger pupils leave backpacks wide open, hung over one shoulder, contents practically tumbling out; specs hurry between lessons with armfuls of textbooks, pencil cases and ring binders, presumably feeling very sophisticated but perhaps secretly wishing they had something to put it all in.

We love a school motto: ‘God having given, I gave’ (in Latin, naturally), reads Charterhouse’s. This is, indeed, a pretty blessed place: Victorian buildings soar heavenwards, surrounded by the greenest and most manicured of pitches. Pupils who thrive here really are those that give back, though – this is no place for a teenager who wants to sit in the library with their books all day or retire to their bedroom.

A wordy and erudite collection of alumni: Jeremy Hunt MP (Head of School in his day) and Lord Liverpool make up the political offering; Max Hastings, the Dimbleby brothers and Lord Rees-Mogg are the journos; William Thackeray, Ralph Vaughan Williams and Robert Graves bring the creativity; Genesis bring the cool – the band formed whilst at the school in 1967. One imagines John Wesley, founder of Methodism and another Old Carthusian, would’ve had a few things to say about that, but luckily he was long gone by the time prog rock rolled into town.

Pastoral care, inclusivity and discipline

Carthusians describe themselves as ‘really friendly’. House families – a new initiative – encourage ‘genuine friendships between year groups’. Mixed-house dining – at Oak or Central Dining Room, depending on house location – helps with bonding. ‘I can’t work in Oak during the day, because there are people to chat to.’ Summer weather allows for more socialising, and parents wished there was more mingling in the winter months. Head raised this, too: ‘We are working on more social events, more social spaces.’ Houses grouped to encourage low-key socials: ‘It was chilled, we played charades and ate Crunchies,’ a spec says of the previous night’s activities.

Discipline is restorative, non-judgemental; ‘We only part company when someone doesn’t buy into that approach,’ school says. Pupils gated on first vaping offence and tell their parents themselves (mortifying); second offence is suspension. ‘Everybody gets to make a mistake and people know they have a second chance.’ Early suspicions that girls were getting special treatment, or getting away with more, have settled. ‘We are very definitely co-ed now!’ laughs pastoral deputy, who’s au fait with the challenges that the new dynamic brings and quite confident that all Carthusians are equal in the eyes of the disciplinary team.

Mobile phone policy reasonably (though not exceptionally) tough: nobody has a device in their room overnight until upper sixth; access to them gradated so that year 9s don’t see their phones nearly as often as lower sixth do. ‘Even though they’re teenagers they’re also children, they appreciate firm boundaries,’ says head.

Heads of houses live with their families on site; a gaggle of staff toddlers run around at Sunday brunch. ‘They see me in my own life, juggling my own family,’ says one. Tutor teams work within houses, providing a second layer of pastoral support. Food is good. Lunch generally healthy-ish (excellent fish and chips), supper more of a treat: fajitas, pizza, burgers. House butteries, complete with Nespresso machines, are a social hub and provide facilities for simple cooking, though the fridge we peered into seemed to be filled predominantly with posh guacamole.

Pupils proud of the tradition of servant leadership here (this is where Jeremy Hunt learnt his trade, after all). Pupil action committees, chaired by monitors, aim to make the school better, ‘for example, banter vs bullying’. Chapel the previous day had been about being an active bystander; ‘It’s better when it’s from pupils because we understand what it’s like,’ a committee member explains.

Inevitably, and rightly, move to full coeducation has brought the spotlight onto relationships between girls and boys; girls joining sixth form have historically reported a rather testosterone-heavy culture. Parents feel this is changing and we found inclusivity to be prominent on the agenda. All staff wear ‘We Belong’ lanyards, tied in with school’s EDI strategy. Sex education is taught co-ed – ‘of course boys need to know about menstrual health’ – and school’s a Rainbow Flag Award member. Pastoral staff thinking sensibly about how to manage questions of sexuality and identity in a boarding environment.

Pupils and parents

Most, including boarders, live within an hour. Overseas pupils account for 26 per cent: biggest contingents are from Hong Kong, mainland China, Italy. Growing American market (‘they like the co-ed vibe’).

We spoke to parents from all sorts of backgrounds, industries, outlooks, united by a willingness to trust the school with the education of their offspring. The wrong school for one prone to micromanagement. Pupils, similarly, need a ‘can do’ attitude and a fair amount of resilience. They’re confident, enthusiastic, willing to have a go; those that aren’t can go unnoticed, we hear.

Money matters

Fees in line with similar schools – not quite top of the league, but right up there. Thus school uses both transformational and partial bursaries to keep the demographic broad. Preference goes to those who gain a scholarship or an award.

The last word

Look closely, parents, and you will observe a cultural shift underway in deepest Surrey. These new Carthusians that you see are still footballers, but now they are footballers who also belt out cheesy American ballads in front of an audience and – goodness gracious – there are even girls, too, playing on that hallowed turf, probably mastering the offside rule as we speak. Charterhouse’s new offering is a tried-and-tested one: more day pupils (tick), more family-friendly boarding (big tick), full coeducation (mega triple tick). We suspect that families in the know will be tapping their toes in delight as this compelling formula brings Charterhouse twirling into a new era with a jazzy flourish.

Please note: 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

As the current Code of Practice requires, we are ready to take all necessary steps to ensure full access to our curriculum for students with any type of disability. We do not, however, specialise in any particular area of SEN. Whilst our entrance exams do not discriminate on SEN grounds alone, it should be remembered that we are a selective school.

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder Y
Aspergers Y
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
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

Who came from where


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