Skip to main content

What says..

On the subject of conkers, parents delight in the fact that their offspring are allowed to collect – and actually play with – them: ‘They’re not wrapped in cotton wool – when it snows, they’re outside having snowball fights.’ Bravo. Tucked around the corner from the touristy high street and without grand gates or a long, winding drive, St George’s boasts something no other can: the imposing presence of Windsor Castle. Gone is the appointment of head boy or girl and there are no prefects, head chorister or sports team captains. These, it seems, were…

Read review »

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.

Other features

Choir school - substantial scholarships and bursaries usually available for choristers.

What The Good Schools Guide says


Since 2019, William Goldsmith. Educated at Radley and Durham (history and music). Teaching in his blood; grew up at Cokethorpe where his father was head (‘I was always playing schools’), and later Cranleigh where his parents took retirement jobs as maths teacher and matron respectively. Cut his teeth at a school in Cape Town straight from university, and from there all paths led to Windsor. Must have been a no-brainer for the governors when hiring: boarding prep experience (Ludgrove and Highfield); understanding the complexities of choir schools (St Paul’s Cathedral School, where he was director of music); and most recently, headship (St Leonard’s Junior School, Fife). Check, check and check. Who better to stop to the revolving door to the head’s office at St George’s from spinning?

Lives at the centre of school with wife Catherine (for the avoidance of any doubt she wears a badge identifying her as ‘head’s wife’) and three young sons. When they arrived, school ‘was trying to be all things to all people – not sure what it stood for’. At that point, he says, ‘it was hard to articulate the school’s vision’. Not surprising, given the frequent changes in leadership – he is the third head this decade. School was ‘crying out to be recharted on a new course’, he told us. Not one to let the grass grow – within mere weeks of his arrival a new strategy was born, Common Entrance confined to the archives and – with the full governing body ‘right behind the changes’ – St George’s became a PSB (Pre-Senior Baccalaureate) school.

His laid-back and likeable personal demeanour belies a laser focus on an all-inclusive vision; ‘I’m not interested in just sending children to Eton or Winchester… and I don’t believe in setting or scholarships,’ he announced in the first few minutes of our meeting. We were listening. Intently. Rather, his priority is delivering ‘transformational learning’, he says. Parents hugely appreciate the depth with which he knows their children, particularly when it comes to recommending secondary schools. Staff say he’s ‘absolutely amazing at what he does – and bringing everyone along with him’, and although we heard that not every parent was on board with the direction of travel, the vast majority respect his ‘clear vision’ and ‘drive’ and, for them, it’s all aboard the St George’s Express with Mr G stoking the engine.

From September 2024, the head will be Emma Károlyi, currently head of the Junior King’s School. She has a degree in classical studies and ancient history from the University of St Andrews and later became deputy head and director of studies at Loretto. An accomplished musician, she’s married to Julian, a languages teacher and head of university admissions at the King’s School, with two children, a son at Bristol Old Vic Theatre School and a daughter at St Andrews.


Many join in kindergarten or reception, with newcomers thereafter in most year groups. Hopeful choristers attend ‘chorister for a day’ event in year 3 with applicants considered on the basis not just of their voice and musicality but potential work ethic, academic ability and discipline. All choristers receive a minimum 50 per cent bursary from the chapel and can apply for more. Be warned, though, it must be repaid if the child or parent later decides choristership is not for them. For others, entry not formally selective.


Head minced no words in telling us that he ‘can’t bear senior school selection process’ and believes ‘the school has to fit the child’, rather than vice versa (for the record, we wish we heard this more often). Since his arrival, number of pupils staying in years 7 and 8 has doubled, with Bradfield, Wellington and Windsor Boys’ topping the charts for those leaving at 13+. Wellington by far the most popular destination in 2023, with eight leavers going there.

Majority of girls leave in year 6 for the likes of Heathfield and Sir William Perkins’s, while boys move to Reading Blue Coat at this point, plus small numbers to other local preps with top academic scholarship or CE in mind. St George’s Weybridge also scoops up boys and girls at 11+ and a few go to ACS Egham to continue the IB programme. We felt a tiny bit sorry for the five remaining year 8 girls we met, waiting to take up their places at Wellington and Bradfield; school says that more girls would like to stay but parents are concerned by lack of certainty around year 9 intake in local day schools.

Interestingly, for a school not preoccupied by scholarships, the list of awards must be rather irksome for those that are. Unsurprisingly, the majority of these are for music (five in 2023), most recently for RGS Guildford, Eton and Wellington College.

Our view

Starting a school review with ‘once upon a time…’ may be a Good Schools Guide first, but in the case of St George’s it feels more than apt. Here we found a school not just on a journey but on something akin to an adventure; its quest: to offer something out of the ordinary to local parents from its unique, fairy tale setting. Tucked around the corner from the touristy high street and without grand gates or a long, winding drive, St George’s boasts something no other can: the imposing presence of Windsor Castle, with its own staircase (120 steps – we counted) leading up to the historic chapel for which it has provided the choir for nearly 700 years. At the base of this, a modest walled garden, complete with outdoor classrooms (used for ‘reading sessions and toasting marshmallows’, according to our pupil guides), adventure trail and Astro, used on rotation by year group for the standard break-time football frenzy. Beyond, through a locked gate, and via a bridge over a picturesque stream (royal swans in residence) lies the site’s real magic: Home Park Private, de facto back garden to the royal residents of the Windsor Castle estate, and location of St George’s sports’ pitches and playing fields.

Charming kindergarten has its own playground with kitchen, dinosaur table, mini basketball, Wendy house and climbing frame. The recently refurbished pre-prep offers bright, cheerful learning spaces showcasing autumnal displays of conkers and leaves at the time of our visit. On the subject of conkers, parents delight in the fact that their offspring are allowed to collect – and actually play with – them: ‘They’re not wrapped in cotton wool – when it snows, they’re outside having snowball fights.’ Bravo. The entire school has the feel of a place that has been swept clean physically and metaphorically with the proverbial new broom, with pristine pastel-shaded walls adorned with motivational mottos, brightly coloured tables and chairs in the dining hall and informative screens aplenty. Gone is the appointment of head boy or girl and there are no prefects, head chorister or sports team captains. These, it seems, were icons of a bygone era which has now made way for what parents describe as a ‘progressive, all-inclusive, non-competitive school’, with ‘all year 8 pupils now given the opportunity for leadership in different ways’, according to head.

Academic ethos is that ‘every child can be a top performer’. ‘We don’t talk about ability or potential, just high-performance learning.’ From the outset, learning is focused on a ‘skills development framework’, giving pupils the opportunity to develop at their own pace and topics changed frequently to keep teachers fresh. Staff have free choice within their subject to teach to their own interests and expertise – ‘It’s as broad as you want it to be,’ one told us. Teachers – several of them Goldsmith hires – seemed genuinely excited by this breadth, describing the new approach as ‘a breath of fresh air’ and invigorated, particularly in practical subjects such as science, that they could focus on ‘skills rather than exam content’. We witnessed this first-hand with a year 8 science class intently working on a Hooke’s Law experiment, all under the gaze of the lab’s resident gecko.

Technology is used to enhance learning and incorporated seamlessly into the curriculum – all pupils have Chromebooks from year 3; parents as well as pupils attend workshops in digital citizenship. Parents commented on ‘loads of fantastic teachers’, although a minority questioned whether teaching at the very top of the school was strong enough across all subjects to win awards to the most academically competitive schools and expressed concern at the lack of a scholarship set. Our view is that parents in this part of the Thames Valley have many schools to choose from that market themselves on such an offering. St George’s promise is to turn out ‘real world ready’ young people and we felt it had the ingredients to uniformly and convincingly deliver that.

Extra support with MFL and maths is offered to those still needing to take Common Entrance. With a distinct lack of exams and academic rankings, though, we wondered how progress was tracked and concerns picked up. Pupils are class taught until year 6, giving teacher ‘helicopter vision’, says school, and parents agreed that teachers identified and addressed any issues very quickly. InCAS (adaptive online progress testing) and CAT4 tests are performed twice yearly to ensure all are on track. The school is now an IB World School, accredited to deliver the International Primary Years Programme.

Full-time learning enrichment coordinator, who has previous experience of working within a special school, is supported by three part-time staff and a specialist on the mainstream team. Around 40 pupils on register; school can support all levels of dyslexia and dyscalculia, and mild ASD and ADHD. Parents describe support as ‘amazing’, telling us that head was available at a moment’s notice when concerns arose and describing ‘lots of handholding’ with SEND diagnoses and management. Department also supports the most able with extension classes, especially in maths.

‘Clientele has changed,’ head told us. No longer a trad crowd, more parents running tech start-ups, entrepreneurs, doctors and still a handful of Eton beaks. Vast majority very local; plenty whizz in on scooters or on foot. Minibuses have recently been added to ferry pupils to and from Maidenhead and Gerrards Cross, with Ascot set to follow. Head hoping to scoop up those keen to escape the hothouse grammar crammers. Some come by train from Twickenham and boarding choristers from even further afield. Handful of Forces children as school is registered for Continuing Education Allowance.

Head wants families ‘who buy into’ the ethos and the IB mission statement to embrace diversity. The boy/girl ratio is 65:35 overall but skewed heavily towards boys in the upper years. We noticed boys talking over their female counterparts on several occasions, although parent view was that there were no equality issues. The only prep school we know of that flew the rainbow flag for the whole of Pride month; same-sex parent families not uncommon. Healthy representation of diverse ethnicities, reflective of the local area. Black History month in full swing when we visited, with Marcus Rashford and Martin Luther King featuring across art and computing projects, among others.

Wellbeing is top priority; head has background in mental health and aspires for all staff – and parents if they are so inclined – to receive mental health first aid training. Focus on this is ‘really hot’, thought parents. PSHE has had a ‘huge overhaul’, with a discussion-based syllabus and spiral curriculum running through the school; thorny issues tackled in age-appropriate ways from reception onwards, eg year 1 learn to ‘consent’ to share toys. The wellbeing hub is a cosy space where children (and occasionally parents) can ‘just potter in’ for a chat or to pet Olive, the school’s resident standard poodle. Head of safeguarding and mental health spoke of ‘working in partnership’ with families, and parents found a recent ‘wellbeing coffee morning’, where issues such as girls’ interaction with TikTok were discussed, extremely useful – ‘better than a one-to-one appointment,’ thought one. ‘Mind-up’ meditation sessions pepper the school day; we sat in on a short ‘brain break’ session with a very wriggly reception class who taught us a thing or two about naming parts of the brain.

Parents speak of ‘blissfully happy’ children and appreciate school’s bijoux size, a notable selling point in comparison to some local competitors. Community focus keeps things down to earth; St George’s works in partnership with 13 local schools, recently hosting a science day for local primaries and sharing learning with other teachers on an ongoing basis with mental health training days and inter-school poetry and art competitions.

And so to music. Although only 19 pupils are full choristers (three of whom are girls), their discipline and focus sets the tone for the rest of school. Director of music’s enthusiasm is ‘contagious’ and garners participation from pupils of all musical abilities – ‘It’s about finding out what excites each child and finding a way in,’ he told us. ‘Creating a life-long love of music is the driver,’ and with up to 150 peripatetic music lessons per week, he’s obviously succeeding. Although the focus is strongly on singing (‘If you’re not into choral music, you soon will be,’ said one parent), there are brass, woodwind and string ensembles and whole-class violin lessons in year 3 (the latter played with a professional orchestra in the gala concert).

With choristership comes great responsibility. Boarding is necessary to accommodate choristers’ hour-long rehearsals (held in the historic castle ‘song school’) and evensong commitments. Described by head as ‘ordinary children doing extraordinary things’, their day starts with instrument practice at 7am (compulsory piano plus one additional instrument). Services for religious holidays, including Christmas, are part of the deal, with choristers in school, ‘working’, for the duration. But fear not, Santa visits while they’re singing at midnight mass and school hosts Christmas lunch for 150 family members – ‘magical,’ says head. Parents describe the opportunities offered to choristers as ‘amazing’ and describe children delighted to have found others ‘just like me’. We met pupils who had sung at both the Queen’s committal and the marriage of Prince Harry – all acknowledged the enormous privilege but had clearly taken it all in their stride – ‘they just went out to play afterwards’. ‘It’s perfectly doable to be a chorister and an A team cricketer or footballer,’ said one parent, and many are. The chapel and school operate independently from one another and we did hear one or two comments that logistical challenges could be managed better between the two. Non-choristers can sing in either the chamber choir, ‘supers’ or T-voices (T for training), the latter open to all. Curriculum music takes place in an all-singing (no pun…), all-dancing classroom with iMacs, keyboards on every table and its own recording studio.

Drama on curriculum in years 4 to 6, with workshops carried out alongside English for years 7 and 8. Productions take place in the Old Court Theatre (most recently Treasure Island) and years 7 and 8 performed a promenade of As You Like It in the summer term, complete with wrestling scene in the gym. ‘Outstanding – and great fun,’ said parents. Performances tend to be plays with music rather than musicals and all who want to participate can, whether on stage, as crew or even composing scene change music. Other creative pursuits well provisioned – DT lab boasts 3D printer, saws and vacuum former for moulding plastics and we wandered round a vibrant art room, Mona Lisa etchings in process.

Sport ‘a pillar in the curriculum to match academic philosophy’, with focus on sporting values, not winning, and every child encouraged to find the right sport for them. ‘Definitely not too gung-ho,’ said one parent; every tournament is a ‘festival’ with no winners announced. ‘Ultra-inclusive’ with every child from year 3 upwards playing in fixture every week and we gathered it really wouldn’t be a place for super-competitive sporty parents. ‘Great for a kick about, though,’ said one. Minor grumbles from parents that because site is controlled by royal household, facilities are limited and pupils often bussed off to use facilities elsewhere. It can’t be any great hardship, though, to have use of the Eton College pool for galas or Windsor CC’s cricket ground for first XI matches. On site is a functional gym which multi-tasks for judo, fencing, assemblies and, of course, hymn practice. There’s a perfectly adequate indoor pool, used for weekly lessons, water polo and boarders’ free swimming, plus squash, badminton, table tennis, ultimate frisbee and Gaelic football also on the menu. And, should these busy children have an energy left at the end of the day, an extracurricular programme offers some 65 after-school options per week – all the usual suspects plus astronomy, Masterchef, rowing, lacrosse and repair shop. We were impressed how many our year 8 guides managed to squeeze into a week – helpful that homework is minimal, even at this stage.


School has made huge investment in boarding facilities – we toured the girls’ corridor and couldn’t recall ever having seen nicer accommodation (or plusher carpet). Hugely popular and oversubscribed, especially for boys as choristers take the majority of places. Pupils given a boarding ticket ‘for sleepovers’ in year 4, ‘a bit like one for the Hogwarts Express’, smiled head. The icing on the cake is the boarders’ kitchen with its huge country style dining table used for afternoon teas and chats with the much-adored grad students.

The last word

A place where, in the words of one parent, ‘children can be children’ and ‘even the chefs are friendly’. If your heart is set on following the traditional, well-worn path of public school via Common Entrance, move along. Families who want a liberal, outward-looking education delivered by bright-eyed teachers in a small and nurturing urban haven (plus castle) may find their child’s happy ever after here.

Special Education Needs

Leavers' destinations

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

Buy Now

GSG Blog >

The Good Schools Guide newsletter

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