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‘Pace and breadth’ mark the school out, according to staff. Parents do indeed see it as the pacey option in the area. Nobody says ‘hothouse’ except in wanting to dispel that reputation, and we agree that Churcher’s is not one. Careful selection means that most here can keep up – the right school for a confident, able child – but they’re not...

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What the school says...

Churcher’s College is an independent day school for girls and boys aged 3 to 18. We offer an inspiring education with opportunities for pupils to flourish and grow both inside and outside the classroom.

Excellent examination results are clearly important, but we place equal significance on the development of self-esteem, moral values and leadership enabling our children to become responsible and selfless citizens ready to succeed in the world.

Just one hour from London, the school is located on two beautiful countryside campus sites in Hampshire. Our Junior School and Nursery is nestled in leafy Liphook, just ten minutes from the Senior School and Sixth Form in Petersfield, both boast generous on-site playing fields and unrivalled facilities.
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All-through school (for example 3-18 years). - An all-through school covers junior and senior education. It may start at 3 or 4, or later, and continue through to 16 or 18. Some all-through schools set exams at 11 or 13 that pupils must pass to move on.

What The Good Schools Guide says


Since 2004, Simon Williams BSc. Grew up in north Wales but boarded at Kingswood School in Bath; then Durham (biology) and PGCE at Cambridge. Cut classroom teeth at KCS, Wimbledon; head of science at Newcastle-under-Lyme School and then deputy at Warwick School. Moved his young family to Petersfield when the Churcher’s job came up because he thought the school would be a lovely place for his kids. All three of them have now flown the nest, but Mr Williams is still going strong and has now lived in Hampshire longer than anywhere else.

Hands-on head. Refs the rugby, umpires the hockey, interviews the applicants, every single one. Teaches study skills to year 7s. As a result, Mr Williams ‘knows absolutely everything that’s going on, good and bad’, say his staff. Prizegiving, that great annual test of ‘does the head know who’s who?’, is a breeze for Mr Williams: ‘there’s no need for kids to come up in a set order, he knows exactly which certificate to give to each of them’. ‘Very human’, say parents.

Takes pride in assembling diverse pupil body – ‘I need my loud ones, my quiet ones, my adventurers, my stay-at-homers’ – and retains a strong sense of pupils as individuals (easier said than done in a school of this size). No USP here, he says: ‘it isn’t more important to be a fly half than an artist’; ‘we encourage the children to have fingers in lots of pies’. ‘You can’t predetermine what a child’s going to be’, he says, citing his own children – teaching, royal marines and medicine not necessarily the paths he’d have predicted for them. Loves the school’s ‘energy, purpose, laughter’, ‘without the charging or bashing’ that you might get elsewhere.

Head of junior school since 2016, Ffion Robinson, previously head at Lady Eleanor Holles Junior School and assistant head at King’s House School, both south-west London. Again, choose the school for family reasons, escaping the city when her children were young: ‘when I came for interview and saw the duffel coats and the wellies lined up, I thought this is right’. What’s more, the ease of transition into senior school ‘takes the sting out of 11+’ (a sting she knows well from her London days) and allows for a more ‘normal’ experience of junior school.


Date of registration taken into account at 3+, though taster day identifies those (only a few) who might fare better in a less demanding setting: ‘they don’t have to be geniuses, but they need to be able to cope with the pace’. Further intakes at 4+ (now with two form entry) and then 7+, predominantly from local primaries. Learning behaviours and social communication important; reference required from previous school. Siblings get priority – ‘we love helping our families’. Much more competitive at 4+ and 13+ than 3+ and 11+ respectively, so get in early if you can. Interview important at 11+ and 16+ to ensure cohesive cohorts; everyone interviewed by head. Year groups grow to 150 at top end; boys currently outnumber girls in senior school though junior numbers are even.


Majority transition to year 7, though pupils still sit entrance exam. Parents ‘buy into the school as a one-stop shop – they only have to make that decision once’. Those who ‘won’t thrive’ taken aside by the end of year 5 for a conversation about plan B (‘very strong guidance’, one parent describes it as). Three scholarships from junior school to Churcher’s College last year.

From seniors, between 10-15 per cent leave after GCSEs, usually to sixth form colleges. Head describes approach to UCAS as ‘less alpha’ than elsewhere. ‘They will go to the university that they feel will fit them best’. Exeter, Cardiff, Birmingham, Leeds, Nottingham, Bristol, Newcastle, Nottingham Trent, Cardiff Met, Durham, Loughborough, Swansea, Bath, Southampton, Bournemouth, Bristol, UWE, Liverpool, Imperial, Kingston, Reading and Surrey have all featured recently. A gentle lean towards the applied or vocational: business, psychology, economics, engineering all popular. Four to Oxbridge in 2023, and seven medics.

Latest results

In 2023, 74 per cent 9-7 at GCSE; 58 per cent A*/A at A level (81 per cent A*-B). In 2019 (the last pre-pandemic results), 71 per cent 9-7 at GCSE; 62 per cent A*/A at A level (85 per cent A*-B).

Teaching and learning

‘Pace and breadth’ mark the school out, according to staff. Parents do indeed see it as the pacey option in the area. Nobody says ‘hothouse’ except in wanting to dispel that reputation, and we agree that Churcher’s is not one. Careful selection means that most here can keep up – the right school for a confident, able child – but they’re not sweating blood or tears. ‘They work them hard but there’s lots more besides’, parents tell us.

Junior school nurtures independence. The 5Rs (responsible, resourceful, resilient, respectful, reflective), each linked with a cartoon animal, give pupils something tangible to pin their learning habits on (‘I was a resourceful squirrel yesterday’, one chirps). A shame that the model doesn’t move into year 7 with them but we saw plenty of sixth formers embracing their inner squirrel, even without realising it. A-level physicists researching particles (‘make sure you’ve got a couple of mesons on your list’); year 8 historians using sources to figure out how the railways developed. Languages taught in fun, engaging ways: ‘Simon Says’ in French (‘Jacques a dit asseyez-vous!’) or The Very Hungry Caterpillar in Spanish (‘La oruga muy hambrienta’, in case you wondered). Indeed, these children are expected to be hungry to learn; a ‘positive atmosphere of ambition’, says school. At sixth form, steady numbers taking EPQ.

Classes average 22 up to year 9; 15 in years 10 and 11; nine in sixth form. Fantastic science facilities at senior school: sciences, including psychology, popular at A level. At junior level, maths mastery programme ‘forces you to look at the subject in lots of ways’; can’t be rushed, all about deep learning. Doesn’t slow them down in the long-run: top set take GCSE a year early and then do additional maths qualification in year 11. We saw great enthusiasm for simultaneous equations in the GCSE class that we watched, despite it being a dark November afternoon. Maths and economics are big A levels.

Set for maths and English from year 4 with support sets smaller, ‘We won’t ever have a small top group, that’s elitist’, school says. A level results vary between departments, and though there were more A*s last year than anything else, there’s a definite smattering of Cs and below. That’s no criticism: school looking for rounded personalities, not robots, at 11+.

Tech only used to enhance teaching and learning. Banks of laptops, iPads, Chromebooks around both sites. Lots of coding glory: school has won Lockheed Martin CodeQuest four times and ‘a string of gold medals’ in the Oxford University Coding Challenge.

Art, computing, DT form creative arts and technology faculty; share resources, facilities, expertise. We saw textiles club in action, creating colourful prints on fabric. Individual year 13 booths in art studio; work thoughtful and often provocative, dealing with issues like attitudes towards menstruation or body image with eye-catching visuals. One room becomes a photography studio; students use Adobe from the off. Lots of experimenting with materials and techniques, pushing artists beyond their comfort zones.

Academic life spills into extra-curricular: lively programme of speakers on everything from Napoleon to neonatal medicine; annual magazine, ‘Ink’, for scholarly student articles; we stumbled across year 11s launching model rockets, part of Schrodinger Project for young physicists.

Learning support and SEN

Five per cent on register with one-to-one support available. School ‘don’t claim to be set up particularly for SEN,’ says one mum, ‘but they’re very good to a point and they’ve done well by her’. No stigma, and teachers ‘exceptional’ at offering extra contact time to students who seek it out. Typing club ‘by invitation only’ for those that struggle with handwriting. Occupational or speech and language therapy available. Very few with EAL.

The arts and extracurricular

Year 7 ‘Fresher’s Fair’ sets tone: pupils get a taste for everything. Around 60 per cent take individual music lessons in junior school as do 35 per cent of seniors. Each junior class forms an orchestra in lesson-time to gain ensemble experience (the catch: they’re not allowed to play their usual instruments). Choirs, orchestra and even a school samba band develop musical breadth; informal teatime concerts build confidence whilst a few perform in assembly, too. ‘We allow them to find their avenue’, school says. At senior site, beautiful new music school has ‘consolidated’ music; orchestra performs grown-up work like Mozart’s Requiem or Beethoven’s fifth. When not performing in new auditorium (acoustically engineered, of course), they’re touring to cultural spots like Geneva, Lake Garda and the Rhineland.

‘We must be the only school around with a Head of Adventure’, school reckons; the offering here is certainly very impressive. Journey begins in year 8, when almost all sign up for OSCA (Outdoor Survival, Challenge and Adventure); had just completed ‘stir fry challenge’ on their tranjias, an essential skill for new adventurers. Year 9s start Duke of Edinburgh and CCF. Felt like every second student was in camo when we visited, getting ready for that afternoon: magnificent ‘parade, paraaaade, SHUN!’ before cadets were told that Operation Christmas Cracker would be starting next week. Ten Tors challenge in Dartmoor every year; regular World Challenge expeditions to far-flung places (Mozambique coming up); school entered 30 of their heartiest into the Devizes to Westminster Canoe Marathon this year. Training was six months of ‘capsize chaos’ and ‘portage hell’; team came home with silverware in two junior doubles categories. Hats off to families who supplied strategic hugs and jellybeans during the three-day race.

Junior schoolers follow The Guild, a D of E-style scheme involving research, volunteering etc. ‘Spiralling programme’ of outdoor education and residentials, building confidence without mum and dad. All staff bring classes outside: what better setting for an Anglo-Saxon role play or a day of Iron Age skills with flints (‘they realise it’s not as easy as it looks’)? Year 5 learn water skills; year 6 go on two residentials.

Noticeably a school that engages the whole family. Senior school offers boarding week in a day school structure: ‘Saturdays are sport, Sundays adventure’. Lots of parents volunteer to facilitate this. We’ve never heard of so many mums and dads helping at weekends, even some whose children have long since left: ‘We get rid of the kids and keep the parents!’, staff say. A ringing endorsement of the school’s approach to extra-curricular and the community generally.


Gym, courts, fields aplenty at the junior school, including a low ropes course and trim trail; everyone uses pool at senior school. Super space at senior school given how central it is within town: lots of all-weather pitches, nets, 10 acres of playing fields etc all onsite.

Rugby: touch for younger boys and girls (‘very much little boys outside getting cold and wet’, says one mum), and older pupils can continue with it – so, theoretically, everybody can engage without playing contact. Hockey, netball, cricket, tennis also major sports; football available too but predominantly recreational. Swimming popular and successful, in part thanks to gorgeous pool – built in 2012 but still feels brand new, loads of natural light and, best of all, not that wall of chlorine that usually makes us grimace as we enter such places. We watched as Drake house edged towards victory in the middle school house swimming gala, nobody squeamish about being in their swimming things in front of peers; even head had gone barefoot for the occasion.

Coloured teams to end of year 4, ‘so there’s nobody who’s always been on the Cs’. ‘Mixing it up is better for them all; those who are stronger learn humility and supporting their peers’. Lots of variety, all the way up: year 4s were playing pop lacrosse, oblivious to the freezing weather in their shorts; mixed netball popular with sixth formers; school introduced ‘capture the flag’ sessions in response to demand. Director of sport’s ambition is ‘to make everyone comfortable with sport’. Not as simple as participation; it’s about leaving school with the confidence that sport is something that can be enjoyed, ‘that they can walk into a spin class and feel like they belong there’. Sixth form ‘run club’ a prime example: ‘if they want to run, they can run; if they want to walk whilst they debate I’m A Celebrity, they can do that too’. An unintimidating, healthy approach to getting teenagers moving.

Ethos and heritage

Happy birthday to Churcher’s, who recently hit the big 3-0-0 (we missed the tercentenary fizz, more’s the pity). Founded by the will of a local businessman to educate boys for the merchant navy, the good ship Churcher’s has since added girls (1988), a junior school (1993) and a thousand pupils. A grammar until those were abolished in 1979, there’s a nice sense here of ‘old but not stuffy’. From the little sailing boat on uniforms to houses named after seamen of old, Churcher’s swashbuckling history is part of its charm. No notable merchant sailors amongst more recent alumni. Instead, there’s novelist Rhidian Brook, actor Alex Lawther, Sir Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust, Callum Chambers and Tim Rodber, football and rugby respectively.

Pupil numbers have grown significantly. Sanctions clear to those that sail too close to the wind: strict on drugs and alcohol expecting pupils to maintain high standards even outside school. Intentionally wide corridors soak up hundreds of teenagers as they move around the school. ‘You don’t get the feeling of 1,000 kids’, says head, ‘until whole school assembly on a Thursday morning’. In Petersfield, school acquired land to build on as well as more playing fields; juniors moved to 14-acre Liphook site, growing by a third.

One school across two campuses. It’s a long time to spend within one institution, but parents say the move to year 7 feels like progression – new site, new uniform, two-thirds of a new year-group. There’s transition again into sixth form, based in Ramshill, a smart new sixth form centre with common room, toaster, dedicated teaching rooms.

Pastoral care, inclusivity and discipline

A big school: how do you make sure nobody slips through the net? House system crucial: head of house provides continuity of care throughout years 7 to 13. ‘We’ve worked hard to create a talking school’, deputy says. PSHE curriculum delivered by form tutors and external providers. Every child has a personal tutor within their house. Teaching staff deliver sports and adventure activities, which helps develop trust. All staff have mental health first aid training. Nevertheless, a busy place, and although school nurtures resilience, it’s probably not right for an exceptionally sensitive soul.

Down at junior’s, heartthrob is Pippin the cavapoo: an excellent listener, apparently, and blends immaculately with the thick carpet in the head’s office – v tasteful. Termly resilience lessons and coaching from psychologists in ‘BOUNCE’ programme; masterclasses available for parents, too.

Inclusive topics and texts woven into curriculum and culture throughout. Both senior and junior schools point out fairly homogenous catchment: ‘leafy Hampshire’ not an ethnically or socially diverse part of the world, so ‘we have to work extra hard’. Junior library books slowly reflecting more diversity; images on display in assembly or around the school ensure pupils don’t have a set view of what a family should look like. Staff good at making things topical – lots of debate about World Cup in Qa’tar when we visited – and sixth formers ‘increasingly politicised’, teachers think. It’s ‘not tolerance, but acceptance’, says junior school head.

Approach to discipline conventional: not overly strict, but 1,000 teenagers need to be carefully managed. Relationships between staff and students relaxed and mutually respectful: lots of ‘hi Miss’ and ‘thanks Sir’ as we walk around. Calm, purposeful atmosphere in classrooms – noisy at lesson changeover (‘boys quite boomy’, we wrote in our notes) but in a good-natured way. Shirts certainly meant to be tucked in, sixth form certainly meant to be in ubiquitous ‘business attire’. ‘They’re clamping down!’ pupils bemoaned, but uniform strictness an eminently sensible approach: make an untucked shirt the ultimate rebellion and it allows year 10 to flex their muscles without trying anything naughtier. We found Churcher’s students wonderfully normal: ‘short back and sides’ the order of the day for boys; the odd girl with nail polish on; we even spotted a clandestine mobile phone on someone’s lap. No complicated hierarchy of school ties or blazers. Hooray for real teenagers, not the slicked-back-hair-y, firm-handshakey ones that we meet so often on our travels.

Fab new dining room – ‘enhanced lunch offering’, says school – should make lunchtimes less of a scrum. Parents praise the hot food now, saying it’s more filling after ‘a long period where they would live on paninis’. Bacon butties for early birds, though apparently they get gobbled up quickly.

Pupils and parents

Working families – ‘GPs, accountants, some London commuters, some not’ – from the area, lots quite involved in school life and taking nothing for granted. Wraparound care at minimal or no extra cost makes lives easier. Natural catchment has expanded up into Farnham. Happy gaggles walking up the hill from the train station in the morning, laden with kit – must be pleased it’s downhill on the way home. Lots of others arrive via school bus network.

Money matters

Foundation formed in 2012 to fund means-tested transformational bursaries up to 110 per cent. School simultaneously keeps fees competitive to allow access to a wide (or at least, wider) cross-section of the community.

The last word

You’ll find every opportunity you could hope for here at Churcher’s, the huge offering in adventure, sport and the arts providing an excellent ballast to all that hard work. Indeed, parents reckon they’ve hit gold. ‘Big enough to give a broad offering but small enough to know and care’, says one, delighted to have found a school where her children can sail all the way through to 18 and on to great things afterwards.

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

We offer a broad and challenging curriculum that enables pupils to achieve their potential in all areas, and caters for their individual abilities, needs and interests. Our Learning Enrichment Department in the Junior School recognises individuality and supports pupils, parents and staff by offering children differentiated support and specialist learning provision as required; all children are given opportunities to become independent learners through reinforcement and stretched to maximise achievement and reach their personal best. Similarly, at the Senior School, alongside an emphasis on differentiation in the classroom, there is a range of additional provision for those at either end of the academic spectrum. For those who have specific learning difficulties, along with individualised educational plans for support in the classroom, there are individual lessons available from the Curriculum Support Department to improve, for example, literacy and study skills. In addition there are a number of programmes providing group support outside the classroom; for example, Springboard for pupils who need a boost to academic self-confidence; lunch-time activities such as spelling club and handwriting club; and workshops on anxiety and keeping positive in exams. For those at the other end of the academic spectrum there is provision for the gifted and talented within our Elite Performer Programme.

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders
CReSTeD registered for Dyslexia
Dyscalculia Y
Dysgraphia Y
Dyslexia Y
Dyspraxia Y
English as an additional language (EAL)
Has an entry in the Autism Services Directory
Has SEN unit or class Y
HI - Hearing Impairment Y
Hospital School
Mental health Y
MLD - Moderate Learning Difficulty
MSI - Multi-Sensory Impairment
Natspec Specialist Colleges
OTH - Other Difficulty/Disability
Other SpLD - Specific Learning Difficulty Y
PD - Physical Disability Y
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 Y

Who came from where

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