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The school prides itself on being ‘a lively, vibrant place where girls blossom personally, intellectually and socially’. When we visited the place was a hive of activity. Girls were busy rehearsing for their inter-house music competition and everywhere we looked small groups were enthusiastically practising their song and dance routines. The school walls are full of artwork and motivational posters – we spotted one declaring that ‘mistakes are proof that you are trying’...

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What the school says...

Girls at Guildford High School learn how to learn, how to think creatively and how to take responsibility for their work. The school is characterised by excellent teaching, high academic achievement of pupils in all areas; outstanding pastoral care, an exceptional range of extra-curricular activities. We have well-motivated pupils within a cohesive school community. ...Read more

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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

Head of junior school

Since 2016, Mike Gibb BA PGCE NPQH (40s). Educated at Taunton School, followed by Royal Holloway, University of London, where he read economics. After graduating he went to Sandhurst and spent seven years in the army before deciding to retrain as a teacher. Did his PGCE at Canterbury Christ Church University, then taught geography, RE and maths at Westbourne House School, becoming head of boarding and a member of the senior leadership team. Was deputy head here for five years before being appointed as head.

He describes the school as ‘really vibrant and exciting, with a lot of laughter and fun’, adding that ‘it isn’t a desks in line sort of place’. He still teaches ‘a little bit’ – mainly computer science and humanities.

His wife is head of a Dorking comprehensive and they have two grown-up children. In his spare time he enjoys singing in his church choir, golf and walking.

Entrance

Selective entry by assessment and interview. For entry at 4+ girls visit the school twice. During their first visit their language, number and general cognitive skills are assessed. On their second visit teachers look at their social skills in a group environment. ‘We try and make it as gentle a process as it can be,’ says the head. ‘They are not expected to read and write. We are looking for children who are ready to learn.’ The entry process for 7+ places is more formal. Girls take written papers in English and maths, have lunch with their peers, tour the school and take part in fun activities. Competition for places is undoubtedly stiff. Around 60 to 70 girls compete for 32 to 36 places in reception every year.

Exit

The majority moves to senior school. There is no entrance assessment at that point – once girls join the junior school the expectation is that they will go right through. Of the very few who leave after year 6 some choose boarding and one recently went to ballet school. If there is an academic issue the school flags it up as early as possible, certainly by year 5.

Our view

The junior school is housed in a separate building on the senior school site. Junior girls frequently visit the senior department (they have lunch there every day) and the two buildings are so close that as they come down the stairs they can spot senior girls working in the science labs. Every corner is well used – the art room recently expanded into the eaves – and the science lab is spacious.

The school prides itself on being ‘a lively, vibrant place where girls blossom personally, intellectually and socially’. When we visited the place was a hive of activity. Girls were busy rehearsing for their inter-house music competition and everywhere we looked small groups were enthusiastically practising their song and dance routines. The school walls are full of artwork and motivational posters – we spotted one declaring that ‘mistakes are proof that you are trying’.

Teaching at this high-achieving school is a combination of traditional and innovative, offering academic rigour, practical work and a lot of fun. The Sunday Times placed it top of the prep school league tables recently although the head stresses that these aren’t the be-all and end-all. ‘Yes, league tables are great,’ he says, ‘but it’s not why we come to school every day. We are far more interested in the development of the girls and the characters they are turning into.’

Girls study 14 subjects, with Mandarin taught in key stage 1, Spanish introduced in year 1 and French from year 3 (languages are all taught by specialist teachers). ‘The girls are very enthusiastic,’ says the head. ‘They think it’s cool to learn and they want to learn new things.’ The girls work hard in school and with that in mind the junior school has endeavoured to reduce pupils’ homework. ‘They take their reading books, spellings and tables home but when they get home they need to be going to Brownies or ice skating – things like that,’ says the head. Strong emphasis on reading. All pupils have a reading journal and the school is keen on encouraging girls to read the classics. The current year 6 cohort have discovered a penchant for Agatha Christie, says the head. We particularly liked the mural running the length of the main staircase, spiralling through centuries of monarchs, wars and historical events. A few girls have learning difficulties or special educational needs – such as dyslexia and dyspraxia – but ‘not a huge number,’ says the head, ‘because the pace is so fast here.’

Everyone is involved in drama productions and most girls play at least one musical instrument, many of them performing in a group or orchestra. Years 5 and 6 recently sang Berlioz’s Te Deum at the Royal Albert Hall, while the Festival Choir sang Wassail in Southwark Cathedral. Sport is a key part of the school right from the start. The youngest girls do gymnastics, dance, games, athletics, mini tennis and rounders. Swimming is introduced from year 2 (using the school’s 25m indoor swimming pool) and from year 3 girls have five PE lessons a week, including swimming all year round, netball, cricket, tag rugby, football, athletics, rounders and tennis. Netball, gymnastics, athletics and swimming are particular strengths of the school, with girls regularly winning national and county championships. There’s a raft of extracurricular activities, with more than 80 clubs (everything from chess to yoga to IT) each week. In year 2 girls go on their first residential visit while year 6 girls get a trip to France at the end of their time at the junior school.

All the girls belong to one of four houses. As they progress through the school they get the chance to sit on the school council and year 6 girls take roles as prefects and house captains. As in the senior school, pastoral care is the number one priority. A peer mediation scheme encourages pupils to use listening and negotiating skills to resolve ‘any small difficulties’ and teams of peer mediators take responsibility in ensuring that playtimes are happy and disagreements are defused before they can escalate. Girls wear a smart but practical uniform of tartan pinafores (skirts for year 5 and 6), pale blue shirts and navy blazers.

Pupils come from Guildford itself, as well as towns like Woking and Esher – mostly places within a 20-minute drive. A few travel in by train with older siblings but the majority are brought in by parents.

A top-notch, happy and caring school. Bright girls who are keen to learn and want to get involved in everything from the performing arts to sport will thrive here and go right through the senior school to boot.

Special Education Needs

Guildford High Junior School is selective on entry and welcomes bright pupils. Dyslexia or any other type of learning difficulty or special need is not a barrier to entry or to accessing the High School curriculum. All teaching staff are trained through inservice training to support pupils with learning difficulties and our experienced special needs co-ordinator organises appropriate assessment and one to one special needs support as required by individual pupils; this involves additional costs for parents. 09-09

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

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