Skip to main content

What says..

Sport often heads the bill in terms of public profile. Given number of accumulated trophies (they’ve multiplied, marched out of the sports block cabinet and captured an adjacent space) this isn’t ... Still has report cards, something we’d thought had departed yonks ago, where teachers comment on each lesson. They're used sparingly – and effectively – says school. There's official blessing to attend climate change strikes and sustainability is a growing issue. Little need for traditional ‘discipline’ says school, on account of expectations, ethos and values. Don’t go in for ...

 

Read review »

What the school says...

Tormead is one of the country’s leading independent girls schools located in Guildford, Surrey. We are very proud of our school and its ethos of encouraging each individual pupil to develop her talents to the full in a happy, caring and supportive environment. Our academic expectations are high, and we value our students’ impressive record of examination successes and university places. ...Read more

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

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

Since 2010, Mrs Christina Foord BA MPhil. Age ‘Fifties,’ she volunteers. Original plan, to be a doctor, sensibly changed when realised she didn’t like science and opted for languages instead. Studied English, completed MPhil and then gave in to imperative to teach.

Love of subject drew her to more academically able pupils and taught English first at Queen’s School, Chester, then Bromsgrove School in the 1990s. Married, had children and when this proved incompatible with boarding school life (husband was a houseparent), left to run historic moated house. Subsequently moved to Skegness as house parent and teacher at state boarding school, then to St Catherine’s, Bramley in 2003 as a lower sixth boarding house mistress and English teacher, where she joined the senior management team in 2007 as assistant head.

Funny, down to earth, self-deprecating - walls of her nicely appointed study are shorn of any identifying detail. ‘Don’t like photographs of me.’ Terrific one-to-one. Felt by parents that doesn’t necessarily do herself justice in front of a larger audience. ‘Not naturally happy behind a podium,’ says one. (Mrs Foord disagrees).

Trusted by parents, liked and respected by pupils and takes endless trouble over both. Knows all her pupils, juniors and seniors by name (they’re pleasantly surprised to be recognised) and attends umpteen events.

Aware of need to ensure that classically good but quiet pupils are encouraged to achieve in every direction. ‘We try to make them visible.’ Regrets the few who aren’t (may leave with excellent grades but ‘who won’t have a special time here’). It won’t be for want of trying. Pupils agreed. ‘The school gives opportunities, it’s your choice to take them,’ said one.

‘There for absolutely everything,’ says parent. Since departure of previous junior school head, in the school’s wording, she ‘has taken a more involved part and leads a newly formed Junior School senior team. Parents like consistency with much praised senior team providing hands on expertise.

Attractive study has enviable views over - and second door leading to - the grounds, though despite self-description as a free spirit, she’s far too social to use it as an occasional emergency exit and makes a big thing of face-to-face contact with all - during GSG visit, was dispensing eco-friendly water bottles to staff – only stipulation was that they must be collected in person.

Notable for ability to see things from a different perspective (also enjoys involvement in timetable creation – like a cryptic crossword). Parents who want to discuss benefits of staying or leaving, for example, say that her approach will consider only what’s best for the family. Similarly, sixth formers with an English Lit-related issue have seen her morph from head to hands on teacher and dispense on the nail wisdom. ‘If you ask, she’s completely there. Amazingly good,’ says one.

A good sport too, recently consenting to (pre-arranged) kidnap – and an annual drenching by sixth form leavers on muck up day. Unsurprisingly, highlight of the job is working with the young, low point ‘things that get in the way of the above.’

Academic matters

One of a trio of high-achieving girls’ schools in the Guildford area, resulting in inevitable (and, we got the impression, distinctly wearying) comparisons between the three. This school, it bears repeating, is academically successful but deliberately not as selective. Doesn’t stop expectations being justifiably high - results generally good but pressure felt to be several notches down - and all the better for it. ‘None of us sees a B grade as a failure – as long as I can say we’ve done our best by a pupil,’ says Mrs Foord.

A school for enthusiastic triers rather than rebels. From reception tinies who’d been at the school for just a few weeks to upper sixth veterans contemplating life post A levels, the girls’ desire to do well for themselves and for their school came across loud and clear.

Parents – especially those who work – get the reassurance that everything happens just as it should. STEM subjects in particular are a big feature here, with maths and physics two of school’s most popular A levels and even juniors having their own science and tech room. Linguistic ambitions are similarly well supported - junior pupils start with French, adding Spanish and Latin plus German and Greek to seniors.

Lots of lovely technology too. School is ‘Apple Distinguished’, Gives everyone (from year 5) an iPad, teachers are good with tech. Cynics might see this as the chance to help Apple add to its bottom line but school stresses ‘the technology-rich environment [which] sparks creativity and intellectual curiosity in girls, whilst preparing them for life beyond school and in particular, the workplace.’

At prep stage, it all, ultimately, leads to preparation for demanding 11+ (entrance to senior school isn’t automatic and some pupils also sit exams for other senior schools). ‘I didn’t realise how stressed my daughter was until afterwards,’ says one mother.

Parents single out calm, experienced year 6 teachers - expert in keeping exam nerves to a minimum. Pupils confirmed this. ‘Our teacher told us that if we took the exam today, she would expect us to pass,’ says one.

We saw plenty of impressive work in junior school lessons, from long division in year 6 to biscuit making in reception, girls clearly confident about trying and trying again if didn’t succeed first time round. Junior School’s strategies include providing independent study sessions (from year 5), early encounters with specialist teachers from the senior school and a focus on high performance learning – HPL, with junior pupils commendably fluent in explaining that it ‘explores the big questions...like what would happen if the moon fell down.’ (Converted to a high profile tourist attraction was one upbeat suggestion).

Homework a non-negotiable from the off, with reception pupils reading every night, is purposeful - used to reinforce lesson content – and timed so nobody is working into the small hours. Other sensible measures include recently introduced ‘No bag’ policy, girls carrying only items needed for next block of lessons. Some, initially confounded by extra planning required, took a while to convince. Teachers, on the other hand, reckon it’s added around five minutes (previously spent in bag faffage) to effective teaching time, and were instant converts.

Progress is monitored with twice yearly assessments (reasoning, English, maths with science added from year 3), girls requiring ‘extra support and stretching’ identified and helped. Beacon programme that runs across the school gives the intellectually curious (not just scholars) their own extra curricular programme – from real time dissections to book analysis.

For the casual visitor, JS lessons are quiet – even unnervingly so. ‘Do you ever make any noise in class?’ we asked junior pupils (softly). ‘If we’re whispering, that’s fine,’ answered one in matching pianissimo. (Loudest noise we encountered was spontaneous round of applause for year 6 pupil correctly pronouncing and defining ‘automaticity’ – new to us – in a long division lesson).

Praise for exceptional teaching continues into the senior school – all good, some ‘outstandingly outstanding,’ as one parent puts it. There’s a maths team so dedicated that when one pupil worked through 44 past GCSE papers and presented them for inspection, all were marked, though star of the staff room award (based on pupil mentions) currently goes to senior school biology teacher who creates own extensive online resources.

It’s quiet here, too. Reassuringly, sixth form block, with areas for collaborative work, was loud and convivial and senior girls spoke of considerable interactivity in lessons, from mock debates (GCSE history) to writing on the windows (geography) and – for sixth formers - license to challenge teacher. ‘Love that aspect of coming up with our own ideas,’ says one.

Girls normally take 10 GCSEs (awarded 76 per cent A*/A, 9-7 grades in 2019) – slight drop over the last two years recently, not felt to be a major issue by parents and no mega subject slippage - with options including Greek, computer science and DT. Once through to the sixth from, girls choose from over 20 A level options (67 per cent A*/A, 87 per cent A*/B in 2019) and a few GCSEs (astronomy, photography and Italian). Full A level menu offered even when, as with politics and Ancient Greek, only one or two sign up.

Sixth form transition signals a welcome shift to more informal relationship with teachers. ‘They’re not just standing up at the front and lecturing,’ says pupil. Extras include Horizons – a weekly lecture programme and Sixth Sense to help with transition to adulthood, covering eclectic topics ranging from car insurance to creating knockout CV.

All feeds back into one of schools’ strengths, frequently mentioned by parents and the girls themselves - the extensive support for pupils and reassurance for parents, turning mountains back into molehills (even if sizeable ones) so far less of an ordeal than they might be.

Monitor progress through the school. Subject departments flag up ‘any girls who are causes either for concern or rejoice,’ (sic) and do it well, striking difficult balance between helping and smothering. ‘They make it obvious that they are there to help but won’t make you do it.’

Everything is recorded, including (rare) detention marks on overview sheet and discussed at twice termly progress and wellbeing meetings with tutors. Parents say approach is particularly effective and not felt to be punitive.

GCSEs a particular focus with school springing into action – contacting parents, for example, requiring attendance at compulsory subject surgery or appointing a staff mentor who’s not a subject or form teacher - goes through commitments every week and adjusts timetable as necessary. ‘An amazing system,’ says parent.

Though school can in theory support a range of needs, most common difficulty by far is mild dyslexia (around 80 pupils in total). Also have two pupils with visual impairment and one with high functioning autism. One-to-one support offered via learning support teachers – funded by parents - who will also attend parent evenings but stress can’t support complex and severe needs requiring ‘highly specialised support and facilities.’

Still has report cards, something we’d thought had departed yonks ago, where teachers comment on each lesson. Used sparingly – and effectively - says school (detention marks are more common), and designed to help with organisation, punctuality or focus.

Teachers clearly like school’s overall approach – around a third have been here for a decade or longer, average age early 40s, and only one vacancy (for a teaching assistant) when we checked the website before visiting. Commitment – if social media presence is anything to go by - is uninhibitedly impressive. No day (including weekends) goes unmarked with less than a tweet or five, some well into double figures.

School is clearly making itself as unleavable as possible with sixth form teachers who already know you inside out, ‘I knew I wouldn’t slip under and be ignored, and subject extras, like chance for A level language students to converse with a range of invited native speakers from different professions. Sixth form class sizes normally 12-15.

Games, options, the arts

Numerous opportunities seized with relish even by the very young. Activities run from archery to ukuleles in juniors, art to Young Enterprise from year 7 with girls choosing from ‘a list of activities appropriate to their age.’ (From list, hard to see which, if any, wouldn’t fit this definition...).

Every junior school child participates in at least three clubs a week, choices vetted by teachers. Minimally selective choirs and orchestras seemed particularly popular. ‘Everyone does at least one, many do five to six,’ confirmed one junior pupil. Older pupils (particularly sixth formers) take the lead in house events which can often be the focus for substantial amounts of charity-related activity, including recent Children in Need event.

Of the numerous school trips (Ecuador, Galapagos), recent highlight has been a trip by 15 girls to Nepal, part of a long term initiative to support two local schools there involving reciprocal pupil and staff trips. Jointly organised with RGS – main focus for collaboration between the two schools, though some parents would like more. DoE also offered.

Parents who start off wondering how daughters will cope with all these delights are reassured by clued up staff who keep a close eye on the potentially over-committed and take swift but diplomatic action if likely to impact on academic performance. Leads to useful lessons in prioritising, ‘accepting the inevitability of not being able to do everything,’ says parent.

Arty and musical thrive here with LAMDA exams to grade 8 and numerous productions. One parent commented that music – though high quality – was less high profile and possibly perceived as slightly ‘less cool’ than other achievements. While it’s not necessarily the place to find ad hoc rock group mash ups at breaktime this doesn’t seem to bother talented performers. Recent Oxbridge music scholarship and thriving take up of the full orchestral range, from portable harps with removable legs to trombones, with 300 weekly lessons delivered by 22 peripatetic teachers.

Sport often heads the bill in terms of public profile. Given number of accumulated trophies (they’ve multiplied, marched out of the sports block cabinet and captured an adjacent space) this isn’t a school that’s deficit in bragging rights, now reflected in copious tweets. (Web still features some older write ups consisting of terse, single sentence descriptions glossing over the boring bits like the scores - ‘Hard fought match that could have gone either way,’ – and presumably did.)

Prep sport has improved in recent years, think parents, though the school message – joy of taking part rather than do or die – won’t suit all parents. Netball and tennis happen on site, with hockey and swimming at Surrey Sports Park, athletics and rounders at The Urnfield.

Swimming, athletics, netball and hockey all strong - recent successes for U19s netball team – joint first in county prelims while U14 hockey squad secured Surrey County Plate). Star sport throughout the school, however, is gymnastics whose exceptional national elite squad regularly scoops big prizes (list of recent achievements surpassing all other sports put together – regularly awarded Best School in ISGA national championships), with regional, development and participation teams also offered (inclusive approach features in other sports, too) – so there’s something for everyone. Impressively resourced, with iPads used to create bespoke fitness regimes and lots of talent spotting among juniors, while new year 7s can attend a holiday training programme during summer holidays before they join.

Sports teachers aren’t just good at bringing out the best in the keen but not naturally gifted, as well as the talented – all teams, down to Fs in some sports, have fixtures - but exceptionally good at the pastoral side. Girls told us how much they valued them as informal mentors -‘phenomenally supportive’ is a typical comment from parents and pupils.

Background and atmosphere

School was originally founded in 1905 in a private house and moved to current 10-acre site site close to the station a decade later. Survived financial crisis in the 1930s, kept growing between the wars led, as official biography says ‘by succession of determined headmistresses.’

It’s greener than location might suggest, junior and senior buildings on either side of a leafy road. Delightful junior guides quick to reassure us that nearby shrieking comes from boys’ prep next door and is nothing to do with the school.

Juniors occupy three main buildings, one the original boarding house. Grounds are very attractive – recent landscaping and extensive planting very popular with school community, with mothers ‘driving back and forth to look at them,’ reported pupil and a stunning area for reception children that’s a cross between Tellytubby land and the Science Museum, with bright green (artificial) grass, a warren and a hand-pumped water fountain for first hand experiments in pressure and water flow.

Inside, buildings, with exception of rather cheerless strip lighting in communal areas, are homely and comfortable, reception classrooms particularly jolly. Rooms had that absence of friendly clutter that comes at start of academic year – will fill up over time, we’re told.

Juniors quickly get to grips with numerous staircases - ‘a bit of a rabbit warren,’ confirms teacher and space is well deployed. Library was being used for a French horn lesson when we visited (silent readers were presumably elsewhere). Unusually, year 6 pupils don’t have their own classroom, instead registering in the science block and moving between locations for all their lessons) – apparently brilliant for cultivating good organisational skills.

Senior site well resourced, compact and easy to navigate. All the essentials are well covered, from good-sized auditorium and multisports hall and smaller gym – to performing arts centre featuring shiny new piano in foyer (we did wonder if notice telling these girls whose sense of care for their surroundings is unmissable, ‘you may play it but please do be careful with it,’ might kill the spontaneity).

Highlight is re-development of the main building – home to main teaching area, impressive dining hall with sophisticated self-shutting windows, DT room, efficient library with ‘find that book’ online system (unfortunately can’t yet advise on location if accidentally misplaced). Features grey-carpeted central corridors illuminated by natural light from the classrooms on either side.

Even the displays are appropriately swish. Selection of striking and technically accomplished artworks feature (Alsation with balloon strikingly disconcerting), together with illustrations of school trips. No postcard sized snaps and explanations – it’s all large, beautifully mounted photographs that speak for themselves.

Pastoral care, well-being and discipline

School values include ‘bringing out the best in our girls.’ Hard to define but everyone seems to know what it means.

There’s little need for traditional ‘discipline’ says school, on account of expectations, ethos and values. Don’t go in for lists or rules – here, it’s down to codes of conduct (senior girls sign up to it at start of every school year).

Seniors can bring phones to school but must be turned off. Sensible dress code – one pair of studs, hair can only be loose from year 10, when a small amount of makeup is allowed. ‘The less the better. You don’t want them in front of the mirror going “Do I look all right,”’ says parent. Sixth formers wear own clothes, engaging in well-mannered interpretation of dress code (off the shoulder tops the most recent battleground). ‘Treated like adults to a certain extent,’ thought one.

Teachers deliver merits and two-tier commendations with public praise in assemblies for good work and behaviour, while any good civic deed can result in a ‘good egg’ merit. Detentions can be given though surpassingly rare in junior school, when pupil would instead be asked to complete a suitable task instead. Escalate to gatings and – ultimately – exclusions and suspensions for more serious offences – though rare to vanishing point for this to happen.

House systems ‘develop positive relationships,’ striking the balance between the frisson of rivalry and cooperation. ‘Competitive enough where it can still be fun,’ says sixth form house captain.

No shortage of people to talk to. Juniors encouraged to talk to class or any other teacher if they, or a friend, needs a helping hand.

All sixth form staff, from the head down are allocated one or two tutees. Form tutor is the starting point for conversations but pupils are encouraged to speak to any members of staff they feel comfortable with. Pupils do their bit, too, with year 10 peer mentors and ‘supportive friends’ – prepared to share own experiences with others going through something similar.

Wellbeing Centre widely praised by parents, whether their daughters had used it or not. Used as a drop in centre and as focal point for more serious issues, such as eating disorders, offering safe space, subtle supervision and – if girls have to miss school – managing work in way that works best for them and reduces stress. Senior pupils are offered up to six free, confidential sessions with counsellor. Flexibility - ‘treating everyone with respect and dignity,’ – will also inform approach should the school have transgender pupils.

Pupils and parents

Parents speak of perils of living in Surrey bubble and while the epicentre probably not a million miles away, pupils speak of increasing horizon-shifting volunteering with charities such as RISE, Brighton based domestic abuse charity. ‘Every member of the 6th form volunteers locally, at care homes and local schools,’ says school.

There's official blessing to attend climate change strikes and sustainability is a growing issue - water bottles now in use throughout the school, trying to reduce portion sizes at lunch time (kitchen waste here, as elsewhere, is significant).

Majority of families live within 15 mile radius of the school, many first time buyers, considerable percentage are working parents. ‘Not one class or type of people,’ says parent.

School offers popular wraparound care – breakfast club from 7.30am, after school till 6pm (first 30 minutes devoted to homework). Open to all, take up increasing in older prep years (youngest are normally waiting for siblings, who finish later). Unusually, even reception children can travel on the school buses – sensibly escorted and scanned on and off, with older girls appointed coach monitors. Seniors can be onsite from 7.30 with supervised homework rooms from 4.15 -6.00pm

Most lifelong friendships between parents made (as so often) in junior years with sufficient evening get togethers to ensure that even commuting mothers and fathers get the chance to feel part of the school community. Total immersion for some parents but no pressure - can be involved as much or as little as you want and ‘parents are lovely, friendly and welcoming,’ says a mother.

Entrance

Main entry points are in reception, year 3, year 7 and year 12. Will ‘aim to offer places to sisters of current pupils,’ but not a given. For reception places, – assessments take place in November. School is realistic about range of candidates – some girls will be familiar with phonics, others won’t, so instead look for girls who are confident, willing to have a go at a task and to ask for help if needed.

At 7+, assess in maths, English and reasoning during day at the school. Same subjects for year 7 - no interview but ask for references/reports from current school. For sixth form, offers based on predicted GCSE grades (normally expect minimum of eight, five at A/7) and interviews.

Generally good with new pupils including those joining at less standard times. Current juniors see life through seniors eyes with frequent trips over the road - to netball courts for matches and school halls for productions. ‘An easy progression, not a massive jump’ says parent.

School appoints year 9 ‘aunts’ who show new year 7s the ropes (also organises familiarisation visits at the end of year 6). Friendship clashes (and bullying, too), helped by annual shake up of classes and tutor groups – nips cliques in the bud.‘Better to have five friends and not one best friend,’ says parent. Only drawback for parents with so many groups was knowing who to go to with a query. ‘You need to know where to start and when to expect a response,’ thought one.

Exit

Lose largish numbers (up to 30 – around a third) after GCSEs. Head – phlegmatic about departures – says the school has an optimum 110 in sixth form (maximum would be 130). But works well with 45 in each sixth form year ‘as long as it’s the right 45 – girls who want to be part of the community.’

Absence of subjects such as A levels business studies can be a factor. For others, it’s perception that local highly rated to state sixth form college offers greater credibility when it comes to Oxbridge applications (none in the last two years from here though historically two or three). In 2019, biggest leavers’ popular uni destinations included Birmingham, Nottingham, Warwick, Durham and York, with three off to study medicine.

Money matters

Scholarships (academic, all rounder, art, drama, music and sport) knock a mere 10 per cent off the fees. There are bursaries, all means tested, some short term to get current families through a sudden crisis, others (awarded at 11+ and sixth form) covering up to 100 per cent of the fees. School is deliberately vague to number available – work loosely on five per cent of fee income but ‘not an endless pot.’

Our view

May never head the list for anyone judging a school purely by headline results. For others, winning combination of good leadership, terrific teaching and nth degree care and attention for their bright, motivated daughters should be just the ticket.

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

Tormead is academically selective and its students do very well in public examinations, but the school is particularly proud of the achievements of its dyslexic students, many of whom achieve high examination honours. Two such former students recently obtained Oxbridge firsts. Dyslexic students in both Junior and Senior school are taught in mainstream timetabled lessons, but are also supported by a team of specialist SEN teachers who meet them for weekly sessions. There is some flexibility in offering tailored programmes for students with other special needs such as moderate auditory or visual impairment, diabetes, epilepsy and cystic fibrosis.

Condition Provision for in school
ASD - Autistic Spectrum Disorder
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

  Zoopla sale properties   Zoopla rent properties   Hide Zoopla markers

Powered by Zoopla

Who came from where


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

The Good Schools Guide subscription

GSG Blog >

The Good Schools Guide newsletter

The Good Schools Guide Newsletter

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

The Good Schools Guide manifesto for parents