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It’s early days for this new partnership school but so far so good, with parents ‘blown away’ by the ‘seamless transition’, ‘transformed facilities’ and ‘academics being as on point as ever’. Good for performing arts. Singing particularly celebrated, with three choirs – we enjoyed a splendid rendition of a Christmas number being rehearsed. Academically, there’s pace but ‘the kids don’t feel it,’ say parents. For parents wanting the personal touch, this school delivers...

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What the school says...

St. Andrews School was founded in 1937 and is a respected and thriving co-educational Prep School, set in 11 acres of grounds near Woking town centre. We seeks to create a nurturing and happy environment of trust and support in which all pupils are encouraged and enabled to develop their potential to the full.

At St. Andrews children feel secure and confident and are highly motivated to perform to the best of their ability in all aspects of school life. Children are prepared for entrance and scholarship exams to a wide range of independent senior schools and there are specialist teaching facilities for all subjects including science, ICT, music and art. The curriculum is broad and the school places great emphasis on music, sport and the arts. In a recent parent questionnaire the parents judged the staff as the schools strongest attribute.

We are very proud of our excellent on-site facilities including a brand new theatre, food tech room, classrooms, library and changing rooms together with an all weather sports surface, sports pitches, tennis courts, cricket nets and a swimming pool.
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What The Good Schools Guide says


Since September 2023, Dominic Fitzgerald BEd (Edinburgh) NPQH, who oversaw the merger between St Andrew’s School (where he was previously head since 2020) and Halstead Prep. Born in Ireland and raised in Scotland, where he attended Kirkcudbright Academy in Dumfries and Galloway. ‘My mother was a primary head, so teaching was in the DNA,’ he told us. Worked in both Scotland and the north of England in senior and all-through independent schools as housemaster, pastoral lead and director of sport, before moving to London into the prep sector, where he became senior master and head of year 8 at Fulham Prep before moving to Homefield Prep as deputy head.

Parents feel he had a ‘rocky start’ (not all parents were up for the merger) but that he ‘managed it sensitively’ and ‘kept the warm, welcoming feel of the schools throughout’. ‘He is definitely trying to lead from the front – and the school needed that,’ said one. We found him refreshingly chatty and frank – there was no sense of him trying to sugarcoat everything with slick marketing speak. Parents say he ‘really listens’ and ‘flexes things on the back of what we say’. During a period of such transformation, you’d be mad not to, he shrugs.

Lives on site with wife, Sarah, a lawyer, and their two young boys, one in reception and one waiting in the wings. Cites sport as his big passion – rugby, mainly – but it’s more a case of watching than playing these days, with spare time at a premium.


Since September 2023, the new partnership school has gone co-ed and expanded up to age 16, welcoming pupils into year 9 from September 2026. Pupils largely come as they are to nursery (from age 2) from where they expected to continue through the school. Most others join in either reception or year 3, othewise later in years 7 and 8. Entrance at these points (or others, if there’s space) via school report and taster day (and follow-up assessment in maths and English if deemed necessary ‘just to check they can access the curriculum’). Some, but not all, years oversubscribed so always worth making an enquiry. Currently, two-form entry, expanding to three from age 3, then dropping back down to two at year 7.


The current year 6s have the opportunity to become (with automatic entry) the first senior school pupils of 2026 (graduating from year 11 in summer 2029) but it’s too early to tell how many will stay. For now, many girls leave at 11+ (Halstead only went up to this age) and both girls and boys at 13+ (St Andrew’s kept 80 per cent until this age, the rest were mainly girls leaving at 11+). Popular 11+ options for girls include St Catherine’s, Tormead, Guildford High and St Teresa’s. Popular 13+ options for boys are Hampton, RGS Guildford, Halliford School, Reed’s and Cranmore. And for co-ed options at 13+, it’s mainly St John’s Leatherhead, Lord Wandsworth College, Wellington, King Edward’s School, Witley and St George’s, Weybridge. In 2023, 39 scholarships.

Our view

The school is the result of a merger in September 2023. Pupils in nursery to year 2 are based on Halstead School’s old site, now known as Woodham Rise, while year 3s move over to the old St Andrew’s School site, now known as Church Hill House. The two sites are about a five-minute drive apart, with shuttle bus so you can use one drop-off and pick-up point (initial teething problems now solved, apparently). The school is expanding in age too – so while St Andrew’s used to finish after year 8 (and Halstead after year 6), the newly merged school is extending to year 11.

For the original Halstead parents who signed up to a pint-size, boater-wearing, girls-only 11+ prep, the change to a co-ed 16+ school that’s double the size and on a split site, is huge: ‘It was a massive shock and some families left,’ confided one mother. Original St Andrew’s parents also had some adapting to do: ‘We were worried because we all felt Halstead was much more traditional and academic – would it change our culture of more relaxed, but still successful, learning?’

Good news is that families who stayed (the majority) feel the school(s) could not have handled the change better, and that any fears were allayed. ‘They were transparent and positive right from the beginning and are doing a great job of bringing together the best bits of both schools,’ said an original Halstead mother, while an original St Andrew’s parent told us, ‘For the first time, the school feels genuinely co-ed as St Andrew’s used to be very boy-heavy.’ Much was done to prepare pupils too (eg ‘managing friendship’ sessions) and parents tell us they ‘wasted no time’ mixing and making new friends.

Woodham Rise, for the younger pupils, is set off a wide residential road in Woking and has, as one parent put it, a ‘warm welcoming atmosphere’. The original three-storey Edwardian house is home to most of the classrooms, as well as science labs and ICT suite, while the adjacent modern wood-clad building is vastly more spacious and includes dedicated art and food tech rooms and a multi-purpose hall used for sports, drama and assemblies. The dining hall is separate and possibly the most peaceful we’ve experienced at lunchtime, maybe because the food is so good – chef gets a special commendation from all and we can report the shortbread was divine. A library is in the making – ‘We want it to be really wow-factor,’ says school. Outdoor areas have been updated to provide new play areas, gardens, multi-purpose surfaces and a sensory garden.

Church Hill House, where children move over from year 3, is much bigger (11 acres) with, for example, sports facilities that the original Halstead parents could only dream of. Again, there’s a traditional converted old house, plus newer (2019) block with modern classrooms and facilities including food tech and performing arts facility, with 200-seat theatre. Parents say it has everything you could wish for, and a DT facility is in the making.

Academically, there’s pace but ‘the kids don’t feel it,’ say parents. ‘There’s much higher pressured schools nearby,’ reckoned one. Pupils, it would appear, are too busy filling their lapels with owl and star badges, gained from voluntary maths, and spelling challenges, to notice adults’ high expectations of them. ‘Outstanding’ teachers work hard to inject fun into lessons – there’s ‘spot the mistake on the board’ (‘nothing gets past the pupils’) to constructing Stonehenge from Wotsits and Bourbons. ‘We’re not all about books,’ says school. Self-motivation and independence are encouraged from the start, and there’s a push on ‘life skills’, such as being creative and collaborative. There’s a bigger focus too on preparing for 11+, with VR and NVR entering the curriculum earlier – we saw a totally engaged year 6 class swotting up on verbal reasoning terminology, all hands in the air or scribbling away. Lots of cross-curricular – so books studied in English are often performed in drama or brought into the IT suites.

Specialist teaching from nursery in music, sport, MFL (Spanish and French are taught throughout, Latin from year 5) and outdoor learning. For the latter, pupils wrap up in school scarves and waterproofs for at least a double outdoor lesson linked to the curriculum each week, whatever the weather. Place value in maths is taught using acorns and there’s mini re-enactments of the Great Fire of London. We enjoyed the sweetest early architecture lesson for a spirited group of reception pupils who proudly presented their bug hotels. From year 3, specialist teachers are added in science, computing and drama – and from year 5, there are specialists for everything. Setting in English and maths from year 4.

The 11 per cent of children on the SEN register (mainly for AHDH, autism and dyslexia) can have group or individual sessions at no extra cost, although many find the support in the small classes enough. The department is well staffed, overseen by full-time head of inclusion (in charge of SEN and the gifted and talented), plus full-time SENCo and three part-time learning support teachers, alongside multiple TAs (who are in every class in pre-prep, then used for more targeted support from year 4). Teachers get lots of neurodiversity training (including celebrating difference), and the parents have an SEN working party to feed back their views. One EHCP when we visited. ‘The care we have had is something else. There are no limitations, everything is easily adapted,’ said one parent.

Good for performing arts. Singing particularly celebrated, with three choirs – we enjoyed a splendid rendition of a Christmas number being rehearsed. From year 3 there are timetabled taster sessions on a range of instruments, and around 70 per cent of pupils learn at least one. Pupils race through their grades and most leave with grade 4 or above, although a parent said you get ‘some quite painful sounds at the concerts from the ones who have just started too – they get them all out there’. There’s a whole-school orchestra, plus ensembles and guitar group. Lots of music scholarships. Drama fabulous – the theatre is fully utilised, with all year groups doing a play (although everyone agrees years 6 and 8 are the best!). LAMDA popular, and there’s lots of cross-curricular so if they’re learning about Roald Dahl in English, they’ll probably squeeze in a play too. Same for art, which flourishes on both sites, with displays absolutely everywhere, eg Bayeux tapestry, and pupils recently mummified their own toys!

Perhaps not the sportiest local school, say parents, but that ‘there’s lots of it’, and most are more than happy to top up outside school. School says this is ‘historic opinion rather than truly accurate’ and that ‘of the other local schools in the Woking area, we regularly win the majority of fixtures’. Not that the philosophy is ‘win, win, win’ – more an ethos of ‘sports for all’, which parents approve of. Girls do hockey, netball, cricket; boys do football, hockey, cricket. Everyone does tennis, swimming and athletics. From year 3, four sessions a week of PE and games.

‘Endless’ (50+ at last count) after-school activities to suit all ages and interests, from science, debating (run by head) and LEGO through to all the (very popular) sporty ones, eg fencing. Lots of trips to enhance learning, with residentials from year 4, including biennial ski trip and year 7 trip to France.

For parents wanting the personal touch, this school delivers. Maximum 18 per class in pre-prep and up to 20 in prep. ‘We know our pupils,’ says school. Parents concur. ‘They really do nurture individually,’ said one. Staff are ELSA trained, and there’s a counsellor on retainer. We were impressed that staff go off to see children at eg sport or theatre events outside school.

Pupils bright, polite and well-behaved. When they do make mistakes, school takes a restorative approach. ‘We find sitting down with them to discuss what happened much more beneficial than a punitive approach.’

Good ethnic diversity, which is celebrated, and the school has done a lot of work on diversifying the curriculum, eg year 5 study apartheid, year 6 Windrush and year 7/8 the British Empire and slavery.

Parents are a ‘really, really normal bunch’, we heard – the kind who value a solid education over flash facilities. Mostly very local and majority are dual income families who make full use of the excellent-value wraparound care available (7.30am-6pm). Not a place for ‘edgy competitiveness’ or the ‘need to look good at the gate’. School buses available mornings only (no demand after school, apparently). New uniform still in development – and currently awaiting parental views – but it’s set to be ‘traditional with modern twist’.

Money matters

Middle-of-the-road for fees in the area. Just over three per cent (school is looking to increase this) on means-tested bursaries, available up to 100 per cent. Academic, music, art, drama and sports scholarships from year 3, worth five to 10 per cent fee remission.

The last word

It’s early days for this new partnership school but so far so good, with parents ‘blown away’ by the ‘seamless transition’, ‘transformed facilities’ and ‘academics being as on point as ever’. Importantly, it has kept the family feel. There are more (and less, for that matter) academic schools in the vicinity, but this one hits that middle ground perfectly – a place where sparky kids can excel while having a lot of fun along the way.

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